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His Bride and His Body for Himself: Ephesians 5:21–33

 One of the most famous and powerful descriptions of the church is as the bride of Christ. This popular image comes from Ephesians 5 and is alluded to throughout Scripture (a fascinating book on this topic is God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery ). In this section of Ephesians, beginning in verse 21 (or verse 15, or perhaps verse 1, or even 4:25), Paul writes on submission in human relationships — while there are distinct individuals in every relationship described (marriage, slavery, families), they are to love the other person as if they were the same person. Here he talks about the relationship between husband and his wife, but he is primarily talking about Jesus and the church, “This mystery [marriage] is great, however, I speak to Christ and to the church.” – Ephesians 5:32 Head of His Body   “ …Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ…”  – 23-24a ESV  Here the image of a “head” is not th

The Church's Collective Purpose: Oneness with Jesus, Ephesians 4:11-16

What is the purpose of our lives, together as the entire church? Yes, we are to “love God and people” (Matt 22:37-39) and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19), but these are commands for Christians, not purpose statements. These are the actions by which we live out our purpose on earth but are not the same as our eternal purpose in itself (directly). The end goal of all Christians is to be “one with God”, or to have “union with Christ.” This is a major motif throughout Paul’s writing and is made the “clearest” in Ephesians. While reading the whole of Ephesians is the best way to grasp God’s vision of “oneness” with him, Ephesians 4:11-16 is one of the clearest passages on this as applied to the church, "[Jesus gave] [church leaders] towards the fitness of the saints for the work of ministry for the building of the body of Christ, until we all may arrive at unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God, into mature manhood [and] to the measure of the statu

Do Some Have Better Spiritual Gifts?

Does it ever feel like people you know are more “spiritual” than you are? Like they have more opportunities to influence people for God’s kingdom than you do? Do you ever struggle with the comparison game: “if I had more charisma, I could lead more people to Christ,” or, “why can they understand the Bible so easily and I can’t”, or even “they must be a better Christian than I am, look at all their talents they can serve the church with!” The struggle in comparing ourselves to others is a legitimate one that everyone faces—even the people who appear the “most talented” or “most spiritual” can struggle with this. Does God really bestow better spiritual gifts to some and not others?  The answer is both yes and no. Differing Gifts “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think ; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith . For just as we have many members in one bo

Words of My Mouth and Meditation of My Heart: Psalm 19:11-14

 Psalm 19 is one of the most popular psalms in the psalter.  It beautifully speaks about creation declaring God’s glory and the value of God’s revelation for his followers. While most of the psalm is objective, focusing its attention on describing what is outside of the speaker, it becomes subjective as it closes in focusing on the speaker himself. The closing lines to Psalm 19 connect what is external to the psalmist (God’s word) to what is internal in the psalmist, his own sin.  Verse 11 marks a shift from describing what God’s word is to how it impacts the poet (representing all believers). “Moreover, by them is your servant warned [illuminated]; in keeping them there is great [positive consequence].” – Psalm 19:11  The law of God illuminates the best way to live and it creates positive life effects. The psalm then leaves God’s law as its direct topic and moves to what the law is implied to reveal, personal sin. Secret Sin First, the psalms speaks of secret sins,  “Who can discern e

Jude's 3 Evangelism Tips (22–23)

Jude’s epistle is a short letter addressed to all Christians, imploring them to fight for the true Gospel against false teachers who have infiltrated the church. While originally wanting to address the doctrine of Salvation (verse 3), the circumstances of the day compelled Jude to write a letter of warning. Toward the end of his letter, Jude switches from addressing the problem of false teachers to how Christians should behave (verses 17 and 20). Specifically, Jude gives some tips for reaching people who are not connected with God, potentially those who have been led astray by these false teachers, “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” - Jude 22–23 Here, Jude is presenting a plan to engage three groups of those disengaged with Christ. This plan is not surefire a guarantee of their salvation, but the means by which we obey God’s will in an effort for them to be sav

What is Truth?

 Introduction We see the word "liar" and "lie" bantered about by many from all sides. When opinion is shared, or a story from current events is published, "fact-checkers" come out with the context, or sometimes just opposing opinions to counter the story. So, can we know the truth? When Jesus was on trial for blasphemy, disguised as "treason", Pilate asked "Are you a king?". Jesus answered that he was, and that his purpose was to "bear witness to the truth". Pilate reacted, saying, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38). Jesus remained quiet, but earlier he had told his disciple Thomas, when he had asked, "How can we know the way?", that "I (Jesus) am the way, the truth, and the life"(John 14:5-6). Later, in praying for his disciples shortly before his betrayal and trial, Jesus prayed to the Father: "Sanctify [my disciples] through the truth: Your word is truth." (John 17:17) But, what does th

The Lost Art of Honoring Your Parents: Deuteronomy 5:16

 What it does mean to “honor your parents?” In western society, this phrase may feel outdated, antiquated, and irrelevant. As believers in God’s Word, we know the Lord repeatedly admonishes us to honor our father and mother. Yet, our society gives us a different message, making it difficult to decipher how this applies in today’s world. “Honor your father and mother, so that your days may be long in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you.” — Exodus 20:12 Deuteronomy 5:16 elaborates upon this in more detail, “Honor your father and your mother, as Yahweh your God has commanded you , so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you.”  A Weighty Ask The Hebrew word for honor means, “to give weight to”, or “to consider heavy.” When you add weight to an object, like weights to a barbell, it makes it more difficult to carry but also more important to carry. If you carry a heavy weight incorrectly, it can lead to injur

Why Hasn't Jesus Come Back Yet?

 One of Jesus’ pivotal teachings is that he would bring an end to the world as we know it. Jesus made this promise over 2,000 years ago. The early church was convinced that Jesus’ return would be imminent because he said that he would be “coming soon” (Rev 22:12, 20).  Now here we are all this time later and Jesus still hasn’t returned. What’s the hold up? Why is there a delay? What is so exciting is that Scripture gives us a direct, explicit answer to this very question; we don’t have to make an inference or an implication. Peter shares God’s direct answer to this question in the third chapter of his second letter. The “Hold Up”  — More to be Saved The explicit answer is found in verse 9 (with some important context to strengthen his rhetoric), “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” It seems as if the Lord is taking a long time to return. Viewing this

God's True Character: Exodus 34:6–7

 Who is God, or more specifically, Yahweh—God as defined and worshiped in the canon of the Bible? Our instincts may lead us to the New Testament—the revelation of Jesus Christ. But how did the Hebrews (and later the Jews) understand who God was? We hear of the supposed dichotomy between the “God of the Old Testament”—wrathful, punishing, and selective and the “God of the New Testament”—loving, merciful, and inclusive . Yet one of the most important, if not the most important, thesis statements about God’s character in the entire Bible is found in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible/Tanakh). Its the most quoted verse within the Old Testament, Exodus 34:6–7: “Yahweh, Yahweh, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third an

Consolation for all Israel

A month has past since the world celebrated the birth of Christ. But the birth of any child is but a moment. What was the purpose of the coming of Jesus into this sin-cursed world? Two moments after the birth of Jesus set the course for his life's work. The first was his circumcision eight days after his birth. At that time, his name was confirmed by a priest to be "Jesus" (Gr. Yesou, Heb. Yeshuah), which means "The LORD saves". The name was familiar to all Jews as the hero who lead the people in conquering Canaan, the land promised to Abraham. It was a name given to countless boys in hopes that they would grow up to be the one to deliver them from tyrannical empire builders like the Caesars of Rome. On the eighth day a new week begins.  How appropriate that the eighth day of Christmas is our secular "New Year's Day".  The second moment, required by the Law, was the sacrifice at the temple on behalf of the child when its mother became ceremonially

Jesus The Disrupter: Luke 2:34–35

 Some forty days had passed and it was time for Mary to purify herself, according to Levitical law. By a miracle, Mary had bore the baby Jesus but had not slept with any man at this point.  Here we meet the famous Simeon, who had been promised to see the Savior in the flesh during his lifetime. He praised God and announced to everyone in the temple courts how the baby would bring Salvation to all people. CC-BY-SA Sweet Publishing Yet, those were not his last words concerning Jesus. Imagine Simeon holding baby Jesus in his arms and declaring the future Salvation, but then pivoting his stance towards Mary to speak a blessing to a her: “. .  . this child is appointed for the fall and [rise] of many in Israel, and for a sign that is [spoken against] (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34–35 ESV Jesus was the Savior, and this required a great disruption to people’s lives. He later said about himself:  “Do not think

The Sign of the Rainbow

 If you are like me, it is easy to take signs of God’s love found in nature for granted. The other day, when I was out walking, a ginormous natural sign hit my eyesight—a rainbow. I’ve seen rainbows many times, but on that day the Spirit stirred my heart, “Remember the rainbow!” I think there is more to the rainbow than what we make of it, biblically speaking. In today’s world the rainbow is used to represent everything from Autism awareness, to worldly views of human sexuality and gender, to a happy (and inaccurate) representation of the Great Flood that adorns the signage of Christian preschools. What does the Bible say about the rainbow? When the rainbow enters our gaze, what thoughts should come to mind? The promise of the rainbow has meaning for God, Humanity and Animal kind:  God  After Noah and representatives of all kinds of animals disembarked the ark after the Great Flood, God made a covenant with them all, setting a rainbow in the sky: “This is the sign of the covenant that

Soul-Searching: Psalm 139

What does it mean to search for something? A search is not a low-energy effort to find something. A search is a deep, intense probing that will not stop until something is found.  How do we search? We pour through our environment intently looking to find that which we are seeking. That is what we must ask God to do in our own hearts, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”- Psa 139:23-24 In Psalm 139, David is both asking God to and recognizes that he searches the heart. This idea of God searching our heart sandwiches (inclusio) the body of the Psalm, which describes God’s intimate knowledge of us in great detail, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down… and are acquainted with all my ways.”-  Psa 139:2 “Where shall I go from your spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heav

A Bad Trade-In (Jeremiah 2)

 What is the best, most refreshing water you have ever had? I know some of the best water I have ever had is an ice cold, bottled water or water from a cold fountain Say you had a choice between cold, refreshing and satisfying bottled water or a glass of lukewarm tap water- which would you choose? (Maybe a bad analogy) If you are like the Israelites or any other human being who has lived on the planet- we will often opt for the lukewarm tap water over the bottled water. It can be the same with God. That’s what God calls our attention to in Jeremiah 2. The Israelites had access to cold bottled water but settled for the lukewarm tap water. “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them”- Jeremiah 2:2-3 In the past, Israel experienced the favor and protection of God as they had total devotion, compl