17th Sunday after Pentecost
How Can I Do This?
Text: Ephesians 4:29-5:2
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” The old proverb means that if you fool me or wrong me once, you got me. Shame on you for that. But if I let you do that to me twice, then it’s my fault for letting it happen again. Shame on me for that.
Usually our culture takes it to a third step after that. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me a third time, and I never want to see you again.” If someone is toxic and troublesome, and continues to bring that into my life or the lives of my children, I want nothing to do with that person. “I don’t need that in my life.”
But, we are Christians, right? Christians are different. Last week we were reminded by Jesus that we confront sin. We lovingly talk to people who sin against us to win them over. When they repent we forgive them. If they don’t listen you keep trying. We don’t give up after two or three or times. As God’s people we keep trying in love to win the sinner over.
Peter seemed to understand that some people are rather hard hearted. They might fool us or sin against us once, twice, or many more times. They might not listen and keep sinning. Maybe Peter was wondering how long this forgiveness business should keep on going. Maybe Peter was tossing out a number he thought was high to sound good. “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Perhaps he was expecting Jesus to say, “Oh no, that’s too many times. Only five or six.” Or on the other hand, maybe he was expecting Jesus to say, “Seven times? You would forgive seven times? Wow! You are so loving Peter!” Whatever he was expecting, Jesus certainly gave a response that he wasn’t ready for: “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Read the rest of this entry
3rd Sunday after Pentecost
By Grace I’m Saved
Text: Ephesians 2:1-5, 8-10
It depends on where you look and what you read, but researchers claim that there are somewhere between 10 and 40 new diseases or viruses that are discovered every single year. That’s a little scary. Imagine if only 100,000 people out of seven billion caught each new disease or virus. That would be one to four million people that doctors have absolutely no diagnosis or cure for. Right now research says that between all seven billion people in the world, 450 million years worth of quality life are shaved off the lives of humans each year due to infectious diseases. Now add to that new diseases that they don’t know how to cure! That’s a little scary.
Unfortunately, we know it doesn’t stop there. In addition to diseases and viruses, there are also plenty of deadly medical conditions out there. Some are extremely rare and incurable. Some, like cancer, are very common but very hard to stop. Sometimes even the best doctors, nurses, and specialists can’t do anything about these medical conditions and people are left helpless. That’s a little scary.
One condition in particular I know of is very scary. It’s a horrible condition or disease. When people become infected with it, it quickly goes to work. It affects nearly every aspect of a person’s life. It brings out the worst in people. It has terrible side effects. It’s conditions are impossible to stop. It is completely deadly. And worst of all, everyone has it. This horrible condition and disease that we all have is called sin. And it’s very scary. Read the rest of this entry
20th Sunday after Pentecost
Christ is Our Motivation and Model for Love
Text: Ephesians 5:21-6:4
“If you can only do this all the time, then you will never ever have any problems.” I say the same thing to every couple that goes through pre-marriage counseling with me. “If you can follow the words of Ephesians 5 perfectly, then your marriage will be the most enjoyable marriage ever.”
God’s instructions are clear and simple. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord . . . Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies . . . However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
What a clear and simple plan! Wives are to show humble, respectful love to their husbands at all times, just like believers do to Jesus. Husbands are to act as leaders and to show self-sacrificing love to their wives at all times, just like Jesus did for us. “Do that,” I tell people, “And everything will be just fine.”
The last paragraph of the second lesson today is similar. God’s instructions for children and parents are also clear and simple. “Children obey your parents in the Lord . . . Fathers, do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
What a clear and simple plan! Children are to obey the fourth commandment and thus obey their parents. Parents are to be patiently and lovingly instructing and training their children. “Do this,” we can tell children and parents, “And everything will be just fine.” Read the rest of this entry
Devotion Text: Ephesians 5:21-6:4
“But mom! She was touching my stuff!”
Anyone who has ever been around multiple children knows this fact: territory and privacy comes at a premium. Whether it’s the dastardly little brother who always seems to find his sister’s diary or the children who bristle at their parents’ intrusion, the more people that share a house the more trouble there seems to be.
So, our admonition today–along with the many great admonitions in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians–is: stop reading each other’s mail!
How many husbands wish their wives were more submissive, yet fail to love them as Christ loved the church. How many wives beg for their husbands to be more self-sacrificing, but take the leadership role that is reserved for men? How many fathers would get the obedience they desired if they worked harder on “not exasperating” their children. How many children bring the exasperation upon themselves by consistently disobeying and failing to honor their parents.
Here’s a hint, it’s all of them.
We live in a world dripping with sin and seeped in selfish ambition. These words in Ephesians are not meant to be held up to others, they are meant to be held up to ourselves! We have so little room to quibble with how the other members of our family have failed to live up to the expectations here when we have so terribly failed ourselves.
Instead, we love each other. We don’t love because the objects of our love have merit. Neither are we loved because of any merit in us. We love, selflessly, to mirror the love shown to us by Christ. Only Christ’s selfless love gives us the motivation to love one another and only Christ’s love gives us the model.
Prayer: Forgive me Lord, for all of the times I have failed to love my family in the ways which you have commanded. Let my heart be filled with forgiveness for them as well Lord, for the times I have not felt their love. Gracious Lord, come quickly to take us to be with you where our love will be made perfect along with all things. In your name, Amen.
Text: Ephesians 1:16-23
It is easy to get overwhelmed in this world. Exhaustion sets in when we realize that there is more that needs to be done when time is running short. Exasperation sets in when people and projects continue to add to our already long list of things to do. Downright depression sets in when we realize that no matter how hard we try to make things go our way they have a tendency to go the wrong way. The things we once found joy in become tedious. The people we always depended on let us down all the time. Life isn’t always bad but there certainly are more than enough hardships to make even a slightly optimistic person feel besieged.
In this overwhelming world it is easy to forget what Paul wrote in Ephesians 1. That is why my prayer is the same as Paul’s, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which [God] has called you.” Sections like Ephesians 1 make me feel sorry for the unchristian world. They have to face the hardships of this life with almost no hope, and even the things they do put their hope in will let them down sooner or later. But not us Christians, for us there is a power at work, a power that can give us hope no matter how bad things get. Even though this world may seem like it is spinning out of control, even though our lives will continue to be inundated with stresses and adversity we know that Jesus is ruling everything for our eternal good.
This power that protects us is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. And if it had the power to raise Christ from death we know it has the power to raise us from the dead. What awaits us when we awaken? “The riches of his glorious inheritance.” I don’t know exactly what heaven will be like but I do know it will be better than this overwhelming, exhausting, exasperating, and depressing world! Cling to your God. Continue to learn of his love. In his love you can have hope!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive us when we fail to remember your great love for us. Forgive us when we let the struggles of this world negate the hope we should have in Christ. Send your Spirit into our hearts to strengthen our faith and understanding of your plan to get us to heaven. Give us faith that trusts your eternal power. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.