Praying in Confidence

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Ephesians 6:18-20 Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. As for me, pray that when I open my mouth, I’ll get a message that confidently makes this secret plan of the gospel known. I’m an ambassador in chains for the sake of the gospel. Pray so that the Lord will give me the confidence to say what I have to say. 

Now we are getting toward the end of the book of Ephesians and Paul is shifting his focus on teaching the people to asking for prayers for himself and his ministry. Normally when we ask prayers for ourselves, we will ask about physical healing and for circumstances to improve. This was not the case for Paul. Not once does he ask to be free from the prison he’s been placed in or asking for people to pray for any physical limitation or condition he may have or may be going through. All he says is “Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time.”

Our lives should be constant prayer. We should have lives that reflect constant communication with God. What kinds of things should we pray for? We should pray for our situation and for God to be known through the situation. We should pray for healing: physical, emotional, spiritual, relational. We should pray for other people, our leaders, our family, our friends. We should pray for and about anything. Praying keeps our focus and attention on Christ and we are better able to see the world through His eyes than solely through our own eyes.

Paul asks for something unique, in a way, that he would like people to pray for. He doesn’t ask for his situation to be improved in the way that we might. He asks for the confidence to speak the message of Jesus Christ to any and all people he encounters – especially the guards. His life is in prison, at this point, and he is asking to be able to speak the peace of Christ to those who are guarding him and all those he is able to encounter.

So, who is it around you that needs to hear the message of Jesus Christ? Who is it that you will encounter that you will need the courage and confidence to speak the truth about Christ? The truth is all people need Christ. Many people just don’t know that’s who they need. Maybe there is a part of you that doesn’t feel confident enough in the gospel. This may be God reaching out to you right now to show you that He is with you and is giving you the confidence and the words to speak when they are necessary. The only “magic formula” for presenting the gospel to others is trusting in the power of Jesus Christ to help give you the words and equip you at the time you need it.

The power of the gospel is that is changes everything about us, especially about what and who we pray for.

#TheGospelChangesUs

Guarding

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Ephesians 6:10-17 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. 

As Paul is wrapping up his letter, he teaches about the most important thing we need to do in our lives.He has already talked about the relationships we have with those around us, and those in our families; now he is talking about our relationship with God. So in this, Paul is showing what it means to keep God as our guide and power of strength to live this life in a manner that is worthy.

How can we keep our hearts and minds focused on the power of God as we go through the day ahead? We have the opportunity to put on the tools and “armor” that will protect us, save our hearts, and guard our minds against those things and attitude that take our focus away from God. What is really fascinating, to me, is the manner in which Paul describes how we can allow God’s power to be our guiding force in our lives. We simply “put on the full armor of God.”

This imagery may conjure up negative images for some people, but this is really an important thing for us to do each day. When we get up for the day, we put our clothes on to protect our physical being, so why not put on the clothing that God provides to protect us emotionally and spiritually? So, Paul goes into the items that we should “put on” to help us allow God’s power to work in us and around us. There are so many forces around us that we are battling and that are fighting for control of our minds, emotions, spirit, relationships; but God provides a way to protect us from those things that are trying to pull us down and go against God.

We should put on the “belt of truth.” This means that we are allowing God’s truth to be wrapped around us so we constantly are reminded it is God’s truth that is holding us together and keeping us intact. Over our hearts, we wear the “breastplate of justice/righteousness” to guard our hearts from following those situations and ideals that culture can and does embrace but is not as God intends. Then we always have to have the “shoes” on our feet. This is what allows our feet to move so that we can travel to those who need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. We can pick up the “shield of faith” to block those attacks that attempt to destroy us. The “helmet of salvation” protects our minds and allows us to meditate on God’s word and presence around us. The “sword of the Spirit” means we have the word of God ready within us so we can speak truth to people in love.

Putting on this “armor/clothing” is us allowing God to transform our lives and to be the light in the world. Since we are to be the light of the world and reflect God’s image and grace to those around us, why not put on shiny armor that reflects light. The Gospel of Jesus Christ protects us and changes our lives from the inside out.

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Obeying and Respecting

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Ephesians 6:1-9 As for children, obey your parents in the Lord, because it is right. The commandment Honor your father and mother is the first one with a promise attached: so that things will go well for you, and you will live for a long time in the landAs for parents, don’t provoke your children to anger, but raise them with discipline and instruction about the Lord. As for slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling and with sincere devotion to Christ. Don’t work to make yourself look good and try to flatter people, but act like slaves of Christ carrying out God’s will from the heart. Serve your owners enthusiastically, as though you were serving the Lord and not human beings. You know that the Lord will reward every person who does what is right, whether that person is a slave or a free person. As for masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Stop threatening them, because you know that both you and your slaves have a master in heaven. He doesn’t distinguish between people on the basis of status. 

Paul has been talking about the life that God desires us to have. This life looks completely different from how we want to live, but it is the life that gives more freedom and more peace. Most of the things he has talked about so far seem fairly easy or at least simple to do, but now we come to this passage.

The end of chapter 5 has Paul discussing relationships in marriage and how the relationship should be between Christ and the church. This is an incredible picture because Christ is place in his right placement as head of the church. And now Paul goes into how children should behave with their parents and how slaves should treat their masters.

Children honoring and obeying parents? What kind of life would this look like? When we read this, Paul does talk about the parenting relationship as a two-way street. The children should honor and obey their parents because the parents have lived life and have important wisdom and guidance to pass on that will help give the children long lives and be able to navigate the challenges life can and does bring. The flip side of the relationship is the relationship from the parents to the children. Children are going to do things and say things that will cause the parents to become frustrated, so Paul is not talking about those times. Paul is talking about the rest of the times when parents have the opportunity to build their children up and instead actually tear them down.

Parenting is difficult and I am no where pretending to think I have all the answers or understand the unique situations each family faces. This is one of the incredible things about Scripture – that all aspects of human life are discussed. We can learn God’s will for individual families by spending time in prayer and listening for the voice of God as a family unit.

We do not like the fact that the Bible talks about slavery, but this is a different form of slavery than we might think of today. Again, Paul is talking about this relationship as a two way street. He says that if you are working for someone, then you should have the attitude that you are working for Christ and not the human boss. This does not mean to treat the human boss as a god; it does, however, mean that when working, we do our work as if we are doing it for Jesus Christ himself. This means we will do the best job we can do. The bosses are not to mistreat their workers. They are supposed to remember that the Master in heaven treated them with respect and this is how the workers are to be treated also.

There are many things talked about in the Bible we do not like to talk about; so this is one of the reasons I love to read the Bible and discuss it. There are so many things we can learn from Scripture and from discussing Scripture with other people. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not meant to keep us away from other people; it is meant for us to engage the culture and people around us. We become changed people because of the Gospel and we have the opportunity to show people and bring people the transforming message of Jesus Christ.

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Relationships

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Ephesians 5:22-33 For example, wives should submit to their husbands as if to the Lord. A husband is the head of his wife like Christ is head of the church, that is, the savior of the body. So wives submit to their husbands in everything like the church submits to Christ. As for husbands, love your wives just like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. He did this to make her holy by washing her in a bath of water with the word. He did this to present himself with a splendid church, one without any sort of stain or wrinkle on her clothes, but rather one that is holy and blameless. That’s how husbands ought to love their wives—in the same way as they do their own bodies. Anyone who loves his wife loves himself. No one ever hates his own body, but feeds it and takes care of it just like Christ does for the church because we are parts of his body. This is why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two of them will be one body. Marriage is a significant allegory, and I’m applying it to Christ and the church. In any case, as for you individually, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and wives should respect their husbands. 

So, this is a passage that has been used many times in an attempt to keep women “in their place.” I do not believe this passage talks about that at all. This is a passage which shows that marriage relationships should be as highly valued as the relationship of Christ to the church. This is an incredible relationship which allows for each other to be the best they can be and grow in faith in Christ.

What does it mean to “submit?” I do not believe that it means to be in a lesser role as a servant in any way. What I do believe this passage talks about is how men and women process love. It has been said that men value respect more and this is how we fell loved and women feel love on an emotional level. Basically, each person has their own “love language” and in order to feel valued and loved by the other person, speaking in and communicating in that love language is important.

Think of what Christ did for the church. He was emotionally humiliated, tortured and put to death only to be raised up again. But he also did more, even before his death. He restored people to society, removed the illnesses and demons so they could be free, he healed people and brought the dead to life. This is what Christ did for his love, the church. Should we do anything less?

Giving respect may seem as a form of being second rate, but it is about allowing the other person to be built up and live into the gifts and life that God has planned. Showing emotional love, in our society, sometimes feels as if it is a sign of weakness to be vulnerable, but this is how people feel connected – emotional connection can be and is more powerful than physical connection. Both of these actions (love is an action not just a feeling) are ways of taking care of the other person’s needs which is compared to the metaphor of taking care of our bodies with the right food.

When each party in the relationship treats each other in the way that Christ treats the church (with grace and unconditional love), just think of our radically different our human relationships would be. We would be more in love with the other person because we put their needs before ours and showed it daily. We would feel valued and loved because it is the love of Christ through the other person that we would feel.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is incredible because it changes how we act toward each other and show love to each other.

Next…we begin Ephesians 6!

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Filled

Ephesians 5:15-21 So be careful to live your life wisely, not foolishly. Take advantage of every opportunity because these are evil times. Because of this, don’t be ignorant, but understand the Lord’s will. Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and submit to each other out of respect for Christ. 

Paul has been talking about how the Christian life should look. Part of me thinks that this life would be difficult; but then I realize it is Christ who equips us, fills us and gives us all we need. He is reminding the readers, and us, that life with Christ is not foolish, but it is very intentional in how we think and how we give thanks for what we have been given.

We have been given the invitation to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is not talking about a one time filling; but rather a filling that continually takes place. We are all called to allow Christ to fill us on a daily basis. Christ has identified himself as the Living Water. This means whenever we get thirsty, we get to be filled again with the source of Life.

Life is difficult and we have many differing opinions on how we should live and what our convictions should be, but there is the Lord’s will for our lives that is so much more than we could ever imagine. This will for us help us to navigate these “evil times.” How does this happen? Paul outlines what this would look like for us.

He says to be filled with The Spirit and not filled with the spirits of alcohol. The Spirit gives life and direction; the spirits in alcohol reduce our inhibitions and can cause depravity. How can we know someone is filled with the Spirit? It is how we speak to each other and our attitude. Paul is reminding us we should have an attitude of gratitude and when we speak to each other, we should speak in a way that brings people to faith in Christ.

When we believe in and accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are different people and as such we will treat those around us differently so that we live a life that is worthy of our calling and is a life which brings people to faith.

#TheGospelChangesUs

Light

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Ephesians 5:6-14 Nobody should deceive you with stupid ideas. God’s anger comes down on those who are disobedient because of this kind of thing. So you shouldn’t have anything to do with them. You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth. Therefore, test everything to see what’s pleasing to the Lord, and don’t participate in the unfruitful actions of darkness. Instead, you should reveal the truth about them. It’s embarrassing to even talk about what certain persons do in secret. But everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light. Everything that is revealed by the light is light. Therefore, it says, Wake up, sleeper! Get up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Have you ever felt like you were just going through the motions in life and did not really know where you were going? That is kind of like what Paul is talking about here. He is writing this letter to show people the life in Christ that is waiting for everyone. We can all live in such a way that would embarrass other people and even fill us with guilt. Paul is reminding the readers that Christ came to extinguish the former way of life and move us into this new life that looks so different from how everyone else in the world wants us to live.

Light and darkness are a key theme throughout the New Testament, and one of the things I have thought about is how much of a difference light makes. When the light shines, we can see the path we should be on and see obstacles that are in the path that are trying to trip us up and cause us to change course. But when we trust that Christ is guiding us, our entire life is different and has a different purpose – life has an incredible purpose!

I love how Paul brings to light the life that is dark, that is going away from Christ. This kind of dark life leads us astray and we only think about ourselves and what we want and how we’re going to get it. But Christ, invites us to a new way of life that encompasses the entirety of humanity and desires us to bring more people into the light. This kind of life, where we embrace the life Christ gives, produces more fruit (lasting rewards) than anything we could do solely by living for ourselves.

When we walk in ways of darkness (see the end of Ephesians 4 and the beginning of chapter 5), it is like our soul is dead and sleeping and we cannot see or experience the life that Christ has to offer. But Christ comes along and shouts to our sleeping souls, “Wake up sleeper! Get up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” This life is not always easy, but it is definitely rewarding and worth everything to have Christ shine his light on us so we can reflect his glory where ever we are and whatever we do.

#TheGospelChangesUs

Imitate

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Ephesians 5:1-5 Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that smelled sweet to God. Sexual immorality, and any kind of impurity or greed, shouldn’t even be mentioned among you, which is right for holy persons. Obscene language, silly talk, or vulgar jokes aren’t acceptable for believers. Instead, there should be thanksgiving. Because you know for sure that persons who are sexually immoral, impure, or greedy—which happens when things become gods—those persons won’t inherit the kingdom of Christ and God. 

Paul has been talking and teaching about the old life versus the new life. This is something that is of utmost importance because our faith in Christ is supposed to change us from the inside out. The power of the gospel is not just to show people heaven and bring people into the Kingdom of God; the power of the gospel is that it transforms and recreates us into new creations to live a life that is holy before God and we can bring people to faith through our life.

We are supposed to live like Christ; he was and is our example of how to live. How can we know how Christ lived? I would recommend reading the gospel accounts. Start with the Gospel of Luke to see the compassion of Christ, then go to the Gospel of John to see the divinity of Christ and the new life that comes from him. After that, go to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Reading all of the gospel accounts will give a great picture of who Jesus is and how we should imitate him in our life.

The first thing that Paul speaks against is sexual immorality. We live in a culture that is obsessed with this and the truth is we do not realize how much this has control over us. It is important that we do not live in a way that immorality does not live in us because we should view each and every person as a child of God and a beautiful creation of the creator. People are made in the image of God, we just help them realize that fact to guide them to faith in Christ. If we look at people with the wrong set of eyes, we end up devaluing them and it is much more difficult to express the love of God though Jesus Christ when they are hearing a different message from immorality.

Paul then goes on to teach about how we speak to each other. Our words have much more power than we sometimes remember. Our words can bring hope and joy, and then the very next minute bring devastation and fear. Instead of talking down to another person, what if our language, jokes, and communication exuded love yet truth? This is a much more effective way to bring people to faith because they feel as if they are truly valued enough to become who they are made to be.

Finally, Paul warns that sexual immoral, impure or greedy are actually serving other gods, which is idolatry. The first and second commandments God gave Moses was “You must have no other gods before me,” and “Do not make an idol for yourself.” (Exodus 20:3-4) Idols are anything that distract us from the One God. We may or may not have idols in statue form today; but we do have idols in our life: money, sex, power, and anything else that forces our attention off of God. For us to embrace all that God has to give us, we should be of singular focus and see the Creator working all around us and in us.

God does not want us to acknowledge Him some of the time; He wants it all of the time. We do this when we treat others as the precious creations they are and help them see their value, not only to us, but to the Creator of the universe. Our entire lives (attitudes, thoughts, actions, words, etc) should reflect Christ to all we encounter and show that we are changed. That is an incredible power of the gospel.

#TheGospelChangesUs