unity muscles

 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.  I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.  I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”  Jesus says {John 17:21-23}  [emphasis mine]

Unity.  So important that Jesus spent time praying about the unity of those that would follow him.  Even followers to come thousands of years later.  And Paul picks up this important theme & reveals in Ephesians 4 the keys to unity.

First he hits on how we should treat each other.  Humble.  Gentle.  Patient.  Making allowances for each other’s faults.  The enemies of unity are pride, harshness, bitterness, impatience.  Paul reminds us that we must treat each other well in order to unify as one body.

Then he hits on how we should behave.  Don’t steal.  Don’t lie.  Don’t use foul or abusive language.  These things are also enemies of unity.  They are divisive.  But using our hands for good, telling the truth, building up & encouraging each other with our words…these things bring about unity.

Paul sums it all up in the end:  Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

 Easier said than done.  Clearly.  Or he wouldn’t need to say it.  And Jesus probably wouldn’t have prayed it.  This is not a moment for shame & regret.  This a moment for change.  And while sometimes I’d like to read these scriptures hoping someone else might absorb them {you know you do it too}, truly the only thing I can change is me.  So.  I pray that my unity muscles {humility, patience, gentleness, support, encouragement} grow and replace the divisive qualities that sometimes are stronger.  And I pray the same for you.

Ephesians :: What’s it all about?

My timing may be a bit off, as we’re already on chapter 3 of 6 in Ephesians today.  But I really wanted to share this resource.

The Bible Project.

Along with several various Bible study tools, they have a fabulous set of videos.  This collection of easy-to-understand flyovers about the books of the Bible is excellent.  Quick & to-the-point, they’re a great place to start when beginning a new book study.

Here is the link to Ephesians. It will take you to The Bible Project’s YouTube.  Enjoy the video & then make sure & head to their website for more resources, videos & information.  Good stuff.


…through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 3:6 [NET]

I am

Let’s take a quick trip back in time to middle school today.  Rather, not?  That’s my thoughts on it too.  Middle school.  Awkward.  Changes.  Stuck in the middle between little kid and teenager.  Those years are not the friendliest {but provide some great images to laugh at in scrapbooks as the years go by}  There’s a whole lot of trying to figure out who you are in the those years.  Or perhaps better said, trying to figure out where you fit and what you’re worth.

For me, the year is 1988.  I was 13.  Hair was all the rage.  Big, big hair.  I have a huge advantage in this department as I come complete with naturally wavy hair with a texture that can get enormous given the proper product, teasing and spraying.  Lucky me.  I could {and did} spend hours {no really, hours} washing, drying, curling, teasing, curling some more, lightly brushing, more teasing, more curling…sometimes re-washing & beginning again to get it right.  It could drive me absolutely crazy.  {and likely the two males in my household too!}  But in my mind it had to be just so.  Because it wasn’t just hair.  It was “me”.  My identity & worth were all wrapped up in those mall bangs and big hair.  If it wasn’t right, neither was I.

Now, luckily I grew out of that phase & big hair is not quite the thing is was in 1988.  But sadly, I still carry around some of those middle school behaviors.  It might not be hair, but I do put my identity and worth in all kinds of things that are just as silly.  And it all comes back to the questions “Where do I fit?” & “What is my worth?”.  Us humans are a funny bunch that way.  We long for acceptance & a “pack”.  We long to belong.  And we manufacture all kinds of things to determine how well we’re belonging.

I look sometimes to who I know, what I have, what I wear.  Sometimes it’s in accolades, like Instagram followers or Facebook likes.  Sometimes it’s in what I drive or where I vacation.  Sometimes it’s still even hair {only this is highly unlikely and only immediately following a salon visit}  Whatever it is I look for my worth in all kinds of places and in all sorts of things.  Mostly all things that will eventually fail me.  And when I’ve determine who I am and what I’m worth on such shaky things, well…I’m bound to think I’m worth-less from time to time.

Great news!  I am not the sum of my good hair days and Instagram followers!  In fact, because I am In Him, my identity is all laid out and sealed and assured for, well, ever.  In our reading in Ephesians this week, Paul hits on this.  It’s easy to miss.  But here’s how you find your true worth & identity.  As you’re reading, mark every time Paul writes “In Him” or In Christ”.  Then list what Paul says about what we have “In Him”.  You’ll be amazed at what you find.  From there, begin to believe that those things are who you are & what you’re worth.  For.Ever.

Ephesians :: NT in 2017

This week our reading will take us through the Book of Ephesians.  You can find it here.

ephesians

A quick flyover of the Book of Ephesians:

  • Like Galatians, it was written by Paul.
  • It was written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome.
  • Ephesians has two main focuses.  The first 3 chapters deal with our position in Christ {our relationship with God – vertical}.  The last 3 chapters deal with our practices on Earth {our relationships with others – horizontal}
  • Main theme ::the community of believers God is building & how they should be living out their calling as His.

And here we go.  Week #2.

 

new morning

We sat at clinic yesterday to get post-chemo counts for the sweet ginger boy.  He said he was feeling pretty good & at this point in the process he’s usually spot on.  But the night before he’d been playing with an ever-so-slight fever of 100.1ºF.  I, of course, was a mess.  Fever is one of the few things that they stress over and over and over again as being important to watch.  So I did what any rational cancer mom would do, I set my alarm for every few hours to get up to check on sweet ginger boy.  He was thrilled {sarcasm font}.

His fever never spiked & actually by morning was back to normal.  Clinic revealed that his counts are awesome.  Everything seems to be progressing exactly as it’s supposed to.  What we have been praying for.

and yet…

Anxiety can creep into the strangest moments.  Waiting in the waiting room at the pediatric oncology clinic yesterday was a new patient.  About sweet ginger’s age.  Full head of hair, meaning she was just starting the process.  Her mom stood at the counter, trying to hold back tears while listening to the instructions for filling out all the necessary new patient paperwork.  In a flash I remembered all of it.  The fear.  The unknown.  The anxiety.  The absolute panic about schedules & routines & “normal” life being uprooted for this, this cancer.  And as we waited to go back to the cabana {yes, they call the rooms cabanas} I began to process how all that unknown had now become known &routine.  And I got…MAD.

Mad at cancer.  Mad at all the havoc it wreaks.  Every where it goes it brings chaos, fear, anxiety and tears.  Mad that it attacks children & babies.  Mad that it hits without reason.  Mad that it isn’t always “treatable”.  Mad that just as we’re thankfully finishing, others are just beginning on the cancer road.  Mad at all cancer represents.  Cancer just plain sucks!

But to sit too long in the swamp of my personal pity party is not good for anyone.  True.Story.  So this morning as the sun rises on the horizon, over the line of trees in our back acres, I remember that it’s a new day.  And while cancer is still here this morning, my Strength is too.  

 

Freedom!

Galatians 5 is chalk full of excellent stuff.  Freedom is the nail that Paul is hitting on the head in this particular part of the letter.  He’s already told the Galatians that they’ve lost their way.  They’ve traded in grace for works & he’s determined to set them straight.  {And I could use a little straight-setting on this very subject from time-to-time myself, so I’ll try to pay attention to Paul}

click picture for *FREE* printable

Grace is such a tough concept.  Our society is not necessarily built on grace.  Our economy is not really established on grace.  Our world, for right or wrong, tends to operate on an A+B=C mentality.  For example, put in the time+hard work=advancement at work.  Or eat right+exercise=weight loss.  Or pay attention in class+study=pass with good grades.  Or even help out at home+have a good attitude=happy parents who give you a phone.  Perhaps these are over-simplified, but I think they’re pretty accurate.  We tend to believe that if we do something + do something else we will get what we’re striving for.  A+B=C

And the converse we believe to also be true.  If I don’t do something and I don’t do something else then I will not achieve what I had wished for.  For example don’t study+don’t pay attention in class=failing the class.  Or eat like it’s December+sit on the couch & watch hours of netflix=gain weight.  This is the way we are conditioned from a very early age & it is reinforced at every turn.

But grace.  Grace throws this all to the curb.  Grace says you can fill A & B with anything you like in the A+B=C equation & the answer will always, always, always be C.  Grace covers up the A&B with the blood of Christ & results in C exclusively.

In Galatians 5, Paul talks about circumcision.  Circumcision was an outward thing that the Jews did to show that they were Jewish & adhering to the Law.  Basically, Jews were not Jews if they weren’t circumcised.  It was a requirement of the Law.  And whoever it was that Paul felt was causing the Galatians to quit running so well {vs7} was telling them that faith in Christ was not enough.  In addition, they also needed to follow the Law {be circumcised}.

For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.  {vs 4}  How very often do I try to make myself right before God by the things I do?  Likely too often to count.  How often do I try to plug the right A & B in the equation to make sure that C {God’s favor & salvation} is the answer?  I ignore that A & B are grace provided by Jesus & I have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with those.  This is freedom!  Real freedom.  I am not a slave to the A & B.  The exhausting attempts to be perfect or to ensure that A & B are exactly what God is looking for are not necessary.  I can stop {we can stop} trying so darn hard. We are free!

Before we get too excited that math does not apply in God’s economy & therefore my behavior is irrelevant, Paul addresses this also.  But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.  Instead use your freedom to serve one another in love. {vs 13}  It’s like he is reading my mind.  If no matter what I do, I always {as a believer of Jesus} get grace, then why wouldn’t I do whatever I please?  I think that answer is simply because if I understand the significance & sacrifice of grace I wouldn’t ever want to live however I feel {dabbling in all kinds of sinful activities that oppose God’s will}.  And lest I don’t know what those are, Paul lays them out in verses 19-21.  The list is extensive.  And I certainly have at times plugged some of those activities into the A&B of my life’s equation.  But because of forgiveness, the grace of God remains the same and salvation & God’s favor remain my answer.  Hallelujah!

Will I ever fully get it?  I hope so.  But I must admit there are times when I strive for God’s favor, when I try to earn my salvation when I am a slave to my behavior.  Every day, though, I can try to remember that grace is God’s gift, unearned.  And the world’s equation is not relevant in the economy of God.

Bible Study Tip

Half way through our first book in the New Testament in 2017 plan.  How’s it going for you?  Painless & stirring?  Confusing & uphill?  I’ll be honest, some of Paul’s thoughts, I just don’t follow all the time.  Not even in easier-to-read translations.  I wanted to share a Bible study tip that makes this a bit less difficult.

At home I use this Bible.  The New Inductive Study Bible.  I use the ESV version, but it comes in nearly any translation. {& as one of my seminary profs said once, “the best translation? The one you’ll read!”}  Anyway, this Bible is big, awkward, heavy and not carry-around-friendly whatsoever.  But it has some great Bible studying features that I really like. It’s perfect for at-home Bible reading/study.  This Bible is a great companion as you study book-by-book.  I highly recommend it.

 a bit deeper in Galatians

Things to think about:

  1. Jesus Christ is mentioned 38 times in the book.  Mark those in your Bible & make list of what you learn about Him from Galatians.
  2. Look for times when Paul asks questions.  Words like “brothers, you” & “foolish Galatians”.  List them & see what Paul is rebuking the Galatians for specifically.
  3. The Galatians struggled with grace vs. works.  Are you living under grace or works?  Have you accepted God’s grace for your salvation but you still feel you need to earn your salvation?
  4. Read Galatians 5:16-21.  If you are living under grace, under the control of the Spirit, you will not be able to life a life habitually controlled by the flesh.  Evaluate your walk according to these verses.
  5. What do you boast in?

I hope that these 5 things will help to keep you focused when Paul’s words seem to just go on&on.  Have a great Wednesday!

 

she who used to…

I likely won’t post after every daily reading.  But yesterday as I was reading Galatians 1, something struck me & I thought I’d share.

The first chapter in this letter from Paul.  To tell you the truth, reading those first verses in the first chapter of any of Paul’s epistles is usually skim-worthy.  It tends to sound a lot like blah, blah, blah, blah.  Paul can seriously write the longest, most drawn-out sentences of anyone.  {And I know long, drawn-out, run-on sentences well.}  So sometimes when I start reading a new book by Paul, the intro is just so many words strung together that I get bored.

But not this morning.

Beginning in verse 13 :: For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.  Paul was a really bad guy with a really violent & horrible past.  He did some pretty horrendous stuff.  He was not kind.  He was not loving.

Verse 23-24 :: They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”  And they glorified God because of me.  A guy known far & wide for his terrible treatment of others became a spreader of the Gospel message & others glorified God because of him. God took hold of him, crossed out that past {or at least wrote forgiven & free all over it} and turned Paul right way round.  Paul didn’t sit back assuming that his past disqualified him from the future God had.  He recognized the grace he’d received and freely flew to do whatever would bring God glory.

I don’t know about you…I’ve never stoned anyone to death…but there are things I’ve done & said that I’d wished I hadn’t. I have been a “she who used to…”  Sometimes I get stuck replaying the videos of those used to’s in my head.  over & over & over again.  This was a great reminder that, just like Paul, God will cross those things out or at least write grace all over them, letting them be “used to’s” in order to write new “is now’s” in my life.  Because of this grace of God I am free to drop the “used to’s”, embrace the “is now’s” and fly.  And so are you.

As we begin a new year, let’s quit getting stuck on the “she who used to…” so we can make way for all the “is now’s” He is wanting to bring to our lives for His glory.  Begin by listing that junk that you’re hanging on to.  Ask God what to do with it.  Make amends with those you’ve “stoned”.  Forgive those who have “stoned” you.  Ask God to forgive your behavior, attitude, words, whatever.  Then drop it and fly.  Because she who used to is now free.