Monthly Archives: December 2011

Unblushing Prophets and Transformed in 2012

Jeremiah 8-9

God is angry because things have gotten so badly that even his own prophets and priests don’t blush at the evil around me.  I try to always be very cautious about this.  Entertainment and communication have broken down so many of the barriers that might once have existed between Christians and the secular world.  Sometimes its scary the things that I see every day that should make me blush…but don’t.  Bill preached a great sermon on this several years ago about how we become numb to sin because it’s so prevalent in the world around us.

I will give you both a positive and negative example from my life of how I deal with this on a regular basis.  I never watch horror movies (this is an easy sacrifice for me because I don’t enjoy being scared).  A major reason I don’t watch them is just because of the evil and violence.  I also watch very few rated R movies.  Leah and I try to eliminate them from our house because it makes it too easy to stop being shocked by sin when it becomes entertainment.  However, I find myself struggling to not talk like the world but to make sure everything I say is wholesome and beneficial.  It turns out that having a two year old who repeats EVERYTHING I say provides me with an opportunity to think about what I want coming out of his mouth.  If I don’t want him saying it, my Father probably doesn’t want me saying it.  So that’s something I am working on.  And if I was being really honest, I would probably need to cut a few television shows as well.

It’s so important that the leaders (and not just appointed leaders, but respected Christians) in Christ’s church recognize and blush and confront evil and sin when they see it in the world.  Israel didn’t any more, and that was a problem.

Colossians 3

There was a study done several years ago that showed that golfers who said to themselves, “I am going to hit this ball onto the fairway” before swinging the club actually had better scores than a sample group that didn’t.  (I admit that I don’t remember the exact details of the study and I heard about it on the radio, but it sounds true.)  Colosians 3 includes the same idea for Christians.  If you focus on the things of God and think about the characteristics that he desires for us, then you are more likely to live that life.

However, if you find yourself thinking about anger, greed, lust, conflict, slander and filthy language then it’s likely those things will fill not only your thoughts, but your actions.

So today is one of those fun days when our readings fit together.  Jeremiah reminds us the danger of getting comfortable with sin.  Colossians reminds us that we should think much more on the things of God and we will become transformed people.  So as you do (or don’t) set goals for 2012, maybe it’s time to think about what you need to take our of your life and what you need to be adding.

Happy New Year and thanks for continuing to join us on this journey through God’s Word!

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Posted by on December 31, 2011 in Bible in One Year


Holy Freeze Tag – Know Jesus, Know God

Jeremiah 6:16-8:7 

God’s people were playing a form of Holy Freeze Tag, treating the Temple of the Lord as a safe place where they cannot be caught. They would go about their day, doing whatever they wanted, oppressing the poor, steal, murder, burn incense to Baal, etc. and then run to the Temple of the Lord and say, “We are safe!” God then points them to Shiloh to remind them what He had done to the people there who acted the same way.

Being a “Sunday Christian” is like playing Holy Freeze Tag. As long as you get your communion on Sunday, listen to a sermon, and sing some songs, you’ll be good with God the rest of the week and you can do whatever you want. Being God’s Chosen People is not a title it is a vocation. We are called to a way of life, not just a way of worship.

Colossians 2:8-23 

V.8-9 “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,”

I’ve been in ongoing conversation with a friend of mine who is in a deep search for what she believes about God. She struggles with different aspects of God and through our conversations I’ve come to realize how essential this verse is to our understanding of who God is. In short, you have to know Christ in order to fully know God.

A friend’s church up in Michigan has the practice of encouraging new converts to only read the Gospels for a year. They encourage this because they want to make sure that their new Christians know the voice of Jesus. Too often we hear philosophies of the world and think they are the voice of Christ. Many American ideals are contrary to Christ’s teachings but we buy into them as though they are Gospel. There are many of these philosophies in our culture but one example is that we are entitled to “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” While I love this about our country, that we are a land of opportunity, this “entitlement” has moved many Christians to the mindset that “God wants them to be happy” and therefore whatever makes them happy is fine by God. You’re not happy in your marriage and someone else comes along who makes you happy, it must be ok by God because He after all does want you to be happy. This is just one example of many.

v. 16-17 “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

I have a friend who has recently converted to Messianic Christianity. This means he is now a Jew who believes that Jesus is the Messiah. Over the past few weeks he has been aggressive with his fellow Brothers and Sisters in that we should not celebrate Christmas because it is a pagan festival that was brought into the church. He also rants often about how we should be keeping the Sabbath and that Sunday worship was an invention of Constantine. I make it a practice to not engage in debates with people on Facebook…and really with people in general who are quick to give strong opinions without listening to others. That being said, this verse has a lot to say for the discussion he is looking for. If you celebrate Christmas, don’t let anyone judge you for that. If you keep the Sabbath, don’t let anyone judge you for that. What matters here is that these things are kept in proper view. They are merely shadows of Christ. Worshipping them would be the equivalent of falling in love with the silhouette of woman, failing to see her true beauty. In all things, let’s keep our focus on Christ who in him “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”

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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Bible in One Year


Ignoring Punishment and In Christ

Jeremiah 4-6

It’s moving to me to see how passionate Jeremiah is for God and for his people.  He, like any great leader, is truly invested in both the people he leads and in his message.  At times I can just imagine how much he is hurting to deliver the messages he is being given by God.

During today’s reading I was reminded of something Carter did several weeks ago.  We are working on Carter staying in his chair during dinner until everybody is finished.  So he knows that if he gets up he goes straight to the timeout chair.  When he jumped down from his chair on this particular evening, I reminded him he would have to go to timeout if he persisted.  He turned, looked at me thoughtfully and simply said, “I’ll go timeout.”  He was ready to choose punishment over obedience.  This wasn’t going to stand, so I quickly reply, “OH NO!  Tonight if you get out of your chair it’s a swat on your hand!”  He turned around and looked at me and offered me his hand!  My jaw dropped.  “NO NO…tonight the punishment is a spanking!”  When he turned around and stuck his little bottom out my head almost exploded.  I knew I couldn’t actually spank him when I was this mad so he was quickly in timeout while Leah and I pretended to eat his dinner that he hadn’t touched.  He quickly got the point and sometime later when I decided to like him again he came back to the table and ate.

This is God’s situation in Jeremiah 4-6.  You ignored my punishments.  You refused to accept my rebuke.  God has battled and struggled and worked with Israel and they worship everybody and everything but him.  They only trust themselves and others with no faith in Yahweh.  God can’t handle it any more.  Israel has to learn.  The time for timeout and swats has passed.  Compete and utter destruction is coming.  Enemies will march into Jerusalem and do the unthinkable.  The time has come for drastic measures because timeout didn’t work.  God is willing to watch his children suffer because he knows it’s the only way to truly bring them home.

Colossians 1-2

If you skimmed the Colossians reading today, go back and reread 1:18-22.  It’s so beautiful and powerful.  It’s the undoing of the fall of Adam and Eve.  It’s the description of a world where Jesus has reconciled everything back to God.  It’s the shepherd who found the lost sheep and celebrated.  And it happened through the man, Jesus of Nazareth, who being a man, was also deemed worthy to have the fullness of God dwelling within him.  What does that mean?  Probably a lot of things we don’t think about and probably not some things we do.  Was Jesus a man with all the limitations of a man?  Yes.  Did God allow all of his fullness to live in Christ?  Yes.  So was/is Jesus God?  Uh…yes and no.  Clear enough…nope.

That’s kind of where this passage leaves me when I read it.  Many volumes have been written on the topic, but what I want to say here is that God did something in Jesus that made him the first.  The first of the Resurrected.  The first of the Church.  The first of the Kingdom.  It happened because Jesus, with God’s fullness in him, was willing to be made the least.  He gave everything.  Because of that, he became the first of the New Creation and now we are invited to join him.  We can now have God living in us.  When we are in Christ, God is in us and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault!

If you can read Colossians 1 and not be moved or get chills then you probably aren’t paying attention.

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Posted by on December 29, 2011 in Bible in One Year


Wedding Dress – Worthy Life

Jeremiah 2:31-4:18 

The song posted above really captures what is being said in Jeremiah in the beginning of our reading today. I remember the first time I heard it years ago. It was a little offensive hearing, “I am a whore I do confess. I put you on just like a wedding dress and I run down the aisle.” The more I listened to the song the more offensive it became because I realized how true it was. All too often we see ourselves reflected in the accusations that God has toward Israel and sadly don’t see it.

When we read God’s Word, it should lead us to reflect on our lives and see what needs to be changed. Reading God’s Word without reflection and change is like walking up to God in your filth and trying to convince Him that you are clean. Luckily God gives this proclamation:

“‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the LORD,
‘I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,’ declares the LORD,
‘I will not be angry forever.
Only acknowledge your guilt—
you have rebelled against the LORD your God,
you have scattered your favors to foreign gods
under every spreading tree,
and have not obeyed me,’”

Colossians 1:1-17 

All too often, I picture the early church as being planted by Paul, Peter, John, and a few others. Reading Paul’s introduction today reminds me that as Christian’s moved throughout the world, they took the Gospel with them and communities of believers began springing up all over. Epaphras seems to be the founder of this church and Paul’s comments of “we have heard of your faith” and “since the day we heard about you” points to Paul probably having never visited this church but is writing this letter in order to encourage them.

I love reading Paul’s introductions because they are full of lists of what it looks like to be a follower of Christ. God has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,” therefore, “Live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way:”

–       Bear fruit in every good work

–       Grow in the knowledge of God

–       Be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience

–       Give joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his people in the kingdom of light.

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Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Bible in One Year


Jeremiah was a Prophet and Bickering Women

Jeremiah 1-2

Jeremiah is often known as “the weeping prophet.”  It’s not a very cheerful book.  Even among the prophets, who are known for being the bearers of bad news, Jeremiah is known for being a prophet who proclaims doom and despair for Israel and for the nations.

My favorite part of the opening chapters of Jeremiah is his simple objection to God’s calling.  “God, I can’t.  I am too young.”  We will see several times that Jeremiah tends to lack the confidence to be everything that God is calling him to, but his faith in God keeps him going.  I mean, compare this simple objection to Moses.  Moses gives reason after reason to reject God’s call.  After God reassures Jeremiah following his single objection he is ready to go.

As his prophecy begins, God is arguing with Israel.  Clearly, Israel denies their unfaithfulness and God responds by saying, “Don’t act like you haven’t been unfaithful to me.  Look at the evidence!  It’s everywhere!  You have chosen idols and false gods to worship, so let them save you.”  God also responds to what is undoubtedly complaining and lament prayers by saying, “Don’t accuse me of abandoning you.  You are the ones who left me.”  God, through Jeremiah is filing his grievances against Israel and preparing them for the judgments to come.

Philippians 4

Euodia and Syntyche are two women that are in the church in in Philippi.  They are fighting about something and its causing problems throughout the church.  They used to get along and work together for the Lord, but something has gone wrong and it’s affecting the church.  What is Paul’s advice for the church to help resolve this conflict?  You should fix your eyes on what is pure, honorable, lovely, admirable, etc…in the person you are having conflict with.  When we see what is good in one another God will bring peace to our lives and conflicts will subside.


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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Bible in One Year


Salvation Dialogue and Dirty Dogs

First of all, Merry Christmas.  I had a very special couple of days with Leah’s family.  Currently I am laying in bed with Carter while he talks to me about who ate the cookies and left the presents.  It’s been a big day here.  To nobody’s surprise, little boys who eat huge quantities of candy and cookies don’t sleep well.  Anyhow, while he doesn’t go to sleep I am going to keep him company while sharing some thoughts with you.  May God bless you and yours as much as he continues to bless me and my beautiful family.

Isaiah 62-65

These chapters have a dialogue between God and Israel.  God continues to promise great acts of salvation and redemption to His Children, but it’s clear that this description is about those who are obedient and faithful to God, and not just all of Abraham’s descendants.  The time has come that God has proclaimed the return of His Children to Jerusalem where God will fulfill his promises that Israel will be restored.  However, many have abandoned God and will have no part of this redemption. 

When Israel asks God why he hasn’t saved them sooner he simply replies, “I was ready, but nobody asked.”  Clearly there were some in Israel who cried out and asked God to save them, for we have examples of these songs and prayers in Psalms.  God’s point is that his people left him and so he had no choice but to leave them where they chose to be, in a foreign land worshipping foreign gods.  God didn’t leave.  Israel left.  As soon as they turned back to him He was ready and waiting.

I also love the imagery in this passage of God again being the one approaching from the distance looking like he had been treading grapes.  We are told that this is God coming back after killing Israel’s enemies.  It’s amazing how often in Scripture we see God’s people in need of saving, in need of justice, in need of a redeemer and we see God coming back with his feet soaked in the blood of His Children’s enemies.  Our God is one who fights for us…not with us, but for us.  All we have to do is stand firm and remain faithful and we will be on the side of the one who fights our battles.

Philippians 2-3

Paul can’t wait to send in the reserves.  He is worried about Philippi.  You have to think he is hearing rumors of division and problems that seem to keep creeping in to the churches.  He wants to get somebody in there, but he can’t make it since he is in prison (Philippians is one of the Prison Epistles).  He wants to send Timothy, but can’t seem to get him there soon enough, so he is sending Epaphroditus back to them.  Since the church in Philippi sent Epaphoditus to Paul, Paul’s resending of Epaphroditus is more about commissioning and empowering than navigating.  Paul wants them to listen to Epaphroditus in hopes he can help head off some of the developing divisions.

Like Ephesians, Paul is furious that some Judiazers keep trying to make circumcision part of the plan of salvation  This physical leftover of the old law was more than a medical procedure.  It was the most physical of the old commands that Jesus set people free from.  If they held on to that, they would hold on to everything and there would be no freedom in Christ.  So Paul speaks very harshly to these dogs who are bringing Jewish customs and problems into the church.  He tells the church to have no part in this and to get rid of those influences.  Clearly it’s Jewish problems causing the divisions in Philippi and he is dealing with them as quickly as he can.

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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Bible in One Year


Scope of Redemption and Humility

Isaiah 60-62

The most impressive thing about these chapters is the scope of God’s redemption of Israel.  God isn’t going to simply restore Isael to the way things were.  He isn’t going to help thm get home and leave them to themselves to repair and rebuild.  God is promising that the future is brighter than its ever been before.  The scope of this redemption is universal and unlimited.

This is true for us too.  God doesn’t simply put us back together when he redeems us.  He makes us better than ever.  The scope of our redemption is complete and eternal.  Christians aren’t as good as new…we are better than new.

Phillippians 1-2

By now, its probably no surprise to you that Paul’s letter to the Phillippians would focus on the need for unity in the church.  The beginning of this book ephasizes that the most important things in protecting unity is humility.  So often pride causes conflict and problems in churches. Also, when people follow the example of Jesus, they put others before themselves.  When we humble ourselves we put side pride while putting others first.  When we do this, there is no room left for conflict in churches.

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Posted by on December 24, 2011 in Bible in One Year


Fast for Nothing – Paul’s Captives

Isaiah 57:15-59:21 

The movie “Of Gods and Men” (2010) is a movie based on a community of French Trappist monks who lived in an impoverished Albanian community when unrest broke out in the country. Their main focus was to take care of the people of their community. Many of them were in constant need of medical attention. These were the sick, poor, widowed, and orphaned people that Jesus was constantly talking about. The catch is, the community around them was predominantly Muslim. When unrest broke out they were faced with the decision to stay and continue helping the poor and needy of this community or flee back to France where they know they would be safe. I don’t want to ruin the movie but I assume most of you probably won’t watch it since it is all in French. They decide to stay because this is the work that God has called them, to take care of the poor, sick, and hungry. In the end, they were executed for taking care of the people.

This movie captures God’s desires in today’s reading. It seems that across the board, we have a pretty poor understanding of the purpose of fasting. If you were to ask what fasting is, most people would say that it is giving up food for a time. The focus then becomes a focus of a ritual of hunger. If you are fasting and nothing in your life is changing then you have fasted in vain. Fasting is a time of reflection that causes growth. But, this isn’t just about fasting. This is about worship. If we read our Bibles, pray our prayers, listen to sermons, join in taking communion together, sing praises, etc. and fail to take care of the sick, the naked, the oppressed, the wanderers, etc. then God wants nothing to do with our “religious practices.” This is a really hard one to swallow but it is a common theme throughout a lot of the prophets. We’ll see this more explicitly in Amos.

Philippians 1:1-26 

Philippians is typically referred to as the Epistle of Joy. While there is a great case for it being called this, I would like to present a slightly different approach to reading Philippians. There are two women who are fighting in the Philippian church, Euodia and Syntyche (chapter 4), and it seems as though Paul is possibly writing this letter to address these two women. The actual problem is never mentioned but Paul does call on the elders to step in and take charge. When people fight, the fight rarely stays between the two people. Alliances are built and churches are eventually split and souls are lost. I believe Paul is waiting till the end of the letter to address these two women in order for them to agree to everything else he writes about in regards to attitude of living (like Christ). Imagine nodding your head in agreement to everything that is being said by Paul and then all of a sudden he calls you out because you’ve failed to view your relationship with others sacrificially…

As for today’s reading, I love Paul’s attitude. And by “love” I mean…I wish I had the same attitude. His chains have become a testament of joy because he realizes that he has a captive audience with every soldier that sits down next to him. They become his listener in chains and he has them captive. He also has heard that people are preaching against him and his attitude is, well…at least the Gospel is being preached. There is a lot of pride that is lacking in Paul’s attitude. In many ways, he is setting himself up as an example for what it looks like to live a life in the example of Christ’s attitude.

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Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Bible in One Year


Eunuchs, Foreigners, Slaves and Armor

Isaiah 54-57

Some of the prophecies contained in this passage would make it easy to believe that God was going to set Israel up as a great earthly kingdom that would rule with great authority over all the nations.  “Your descendants will occupy other nations and resettle the ruined cities.”  “I will rebuild your city with precious jewels…and make your towers of sparkling rubies and your gates as shining gems” “Whoever attacks you will go down in defeat.”  If I am Israel reading this passage, it would be hard to fit Jesus into these expectations.

And yet, chapter 55 sounds more like it.  Anyone thirsty, come and drink…it’s free!  And what should you eat, except for the words and teachings of God.  That’s what matters.  Listen to them and find life.  This isn’t a Kingdom based on walls of jewelry, but one built on the word of God.  

And that kind of kingdom will even belong to eunuchs and foreigners.  Can you imagine being a eunuch who traveled all the way from Ethiopia to Jerusalem only to be told you couldn’t come into the Temple because you were flawed?  I would imagine that kind of person might want to read something like Isaiah 56 and dream of a time when God would again welcome eunuchs into his house.  They might even jump at the opportunity to have somebody explain it to them…wait…this sounds familiar.

And then the same chapter says that God’s house will be a house of prayer for all the nations.  I bet if God were to show up at his House on his Holy Mountain in Jerusalem and find Jewish leaders making a mockery and a circus out of the very courtyard that was used by foreigners to worship…I bet he would yell that very scripture to them and start tossing people out.  Or at least send his son to do it.

When you read Isaiah 54, you can see where Israel got confused.  But how did they miss Isaiah 55 and 56?  It’s moments like this that I am reminded the value of this venture to read the entire Bible this year.  When you only read chapter 54, you might be in a lot of trouble when God’s son shows up and you missed the rest of the book.

Ephesians 6

Is this passage condoning slavery?  No.  It acknowledges that it exists and encourages both parties to act like Christ.  Remember, that Roman slavery was more like being a servant than what American slavery looked like several centuries ago.  I am confident that Paul would have taken a stand against the slavery that tortured people and tried to steal their humanity in our country’s history.  I think Paul was often more interested in changing lives and culture than he was in changing governments.  In fact, if you read Philemon you would see that there is an eventual expectation that a Christian slave owner of a Christian slave would eventually free his servant, since they were brothers.  If Paul had taken on the task of abolishing Roman slavery, he would have missed his primary goal of seeking and saving the lost and spreading the Gospel.  Perhaps there is some lesson for us in that example today?  (Side note: I love verse 9.  Paul essentially says, “Don’t threaten your slaves or…and then Paul threatens them.)

Much has been said of the armor of God.  Unfortunately, I have already said too much on too many topics today, so here is the abbreviated version.  This armor is mostly, if not completely, defensive.  It’s to keep you safe.  You don’t get a spear.  You don’t get a crossbow.  You don’t get flaming arrows.  You get armor and a sword (I have heard several say this was a small sword).  What are you supposed to do with this armor of God’s?  STAND STILL!  STAND FIRM!  All of Paul’s instructions about what to do with the armor involve you being steadfast and God winning the battles and doing the fighting.  When God marches Israel into a death trap between Pharaoh and the Red Sea, he knew it was the only way to keep them from running so he could fight their battle.  In Revelation, when God is soaked in the blood of those who opposed him, his followers stand nearby in clean white robes because they didn’t even have to get close to the battle.  God has fought our fight and Jesus won it all.  The battle is ours.  Our job is to accept God’s armor and use it to stand firm.  When we are willing to stand our ground and stand on faith and trust God to do the rest, then we have already won!

Finally, Paul requests prayers on his behalf.  Not that he is set free from prison.  Not that he converts more people.  Not that he can get somewhere or do something.  Paul’s request, “that God would give me the words to share that the Gospel is for Jews and Gentiles.”  Paul’s biggest prayer is that he can bring unity to churches with division.  How important is unity to Paul?  I think that tells us right there.

Congratulations.  If you are still reading this you have completed one of the five longest blogs of the year!  We are also now 75% done with our journey.  I hope God continues to bless me and you through the last 25%.  Also, somebody reading this post will be the 10,000th visit to the site since we started 271 days ago.

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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in Bible in One Year


Cup of Wrath – Submit?!

Isaiah 51:1-53:12 

At the end of 52 and through our reading in 53 we have a beautiful picture of the suffering servant we understand to be Christ. I have often gone to this passage for comfort and to be reminded of what Jesus did on the cross. Today’s reading has reminded me that we should not just look to this passage but look at everything building up to it to see the bigger picture of what Jesus did on the cross.

Looking back to the beginning of our reading, God says He has taken the cup of his wrath away from His people and they will never drink of it again. They will not drink of it again because they have become such great followers of God…far from it really. They will no longer drink of this cup because someone else will come along and drink it for them. This was the way Christ understood this reading of Isaiah. He was the one who would drink the wrath of God so that no one else would have to.

Luke 22:20, “In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’”

This new covenant has been established because God’s wrath has been poured out and will not be poured out again. It has been poured out in Christ for us. Death has been conquered.

We see Jesus agonizing over this cup in Luke 22:42, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Isaiah 53:10 – “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makeshis life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.”

So, because Christ has drunk this cup for us, we celebrate! We become the ones who other’s proclaim about, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”

Ephesians 5:1-33 

Our culture doesn’t like this passage about “Wives and Husbands”. But…they don’t like it for the reasons they think they do. They say they don’t like it because it is sexist and demeaning of women. The real reason they don’t like this passage is because in a world that tells you to be your own person, look out for your own interests, gain power over other, and do what you can do to become great, this passage says, “submit” and we simply don’t like it.

Wives, submit to your husbands. Husbands, submit to death out of love for your wives. The theme here is submission. It is not that women are inferior to men. Or society scoffs at submission because it is weak. Paul is calling the Church to a deeper way of living. A cruciform way of living. A life that is shaped by the cross. Submit to one another out of love.

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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Bible in One Year