Ephesians 1:1-2

As you can see from my last post, I was jumping in to what I thought was the meat of this epistle, and bypassing the standard, “boring” greeting that Paul and other first century writers put at the beginning of their letters. But then, as I was reading commentaries in order to delve deeper, and to more fully understand Paul’s letter, I came across a series by Pastor Chuck Smith who founded Calvary Chapel in Yuma, Arizona. Though he passed away in 2013, his messages live on, pointing the way to Jesus, and helping people like me (and hopefully you), to see the grace and beauty of God’s Word in a deeper way.

What struck me, in the very first sentence, was Pastor Smith’s thought of us writing this letter. The first part of the first verse, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,” says so much more than just the words. And I never realized that until Pastor Smith suggested substituting your own name. For me, it would read, “Bonnie, a motor vehicle cashier by the will of God.” Wow! We are not all apostles or teachers or Whatever, but we are all called to Something by the WILL OF GOD. And no matter what that something is, we are called by His Will, and we are all ministers in one way or another within that calling. We are in the place God has put us, for a reason. No matter the job, remember what Paul said later in Ephesians, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the LORD, not people.” (Ephesians 6:7 NIV).

In the second half of verse one, Paul states whom he is addressing with this letter. In the ESV version of the Bible,, it says, “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.”┬áThe King James Version, however,┬ásays, “to the Saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” There’s been lots of speculation from experts about this sentence. In some of the old manuscripts the city of Ephesus is there, and in others it’s not. Some experts, such as F. F. Bruce, say that this is what they call a “circular letter,” meaning that it circulated from city to city within Asia Minor, and each city inserted their own name.

When it comes to the difference in those in Ephesus “and faithful in Christ Jesus” (ESV) , or “and TO THE FAITHFUL in Christ Jesus,” (KJV), I know which one I pick to be right. I have no idea if it is or not, but I pick the King James Version. If this is correct, then this letter is actually written to all of us. In Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Gill says that the Arabic version says, “and to them that believe in Jesus Christ; with all of their hearts, to the saving of their souls; who look unto Him, venture on Him, rely upon Him, and trust in Him for life and salvation, and who shall certainly be saved.” (My emphasis added). So, from this standpoint, this letter is to each and every one of us. It’s not just for those in the churches at ancient Ephesus, or Asia Minor, it is for all who claim Jesus as their personal Savior, then, now, and forevermore.

And then Paul calls for grace and peace. Chuck Smith points out that it’s always grace first, then peace. Everywhere in the New Testament, grace and peace are paired, and grace comes first. He posits that we can not know the peace of God until we fully understand His grace. And that, my friends, is a subject of a different post! Grace and peace, coming soon. Or, perhaps you want to begin exploring that on your own.

Here are some things for you to think about until the next post:

If you were writing this letter, how would the opening greeting read? Are you in “the will of God” in your job? If not, can you get there? Can you bring glory to Jesus in your present position? Do you know the peace of God, or are you still seeking after His grace?

 

Sorry – Falling Behind

Yeah. So, remind me of my goal. A Bible Study every week, right? Ok. So, what had happened was….

Missed you guys last week. And why? Because I just didn’t get it done. Do I have an excuse? Nope. Have I been writing? Yes I have, but the Bible Study is stuck in my head. I can’t seem to get it out onto the paper. (Yes, I mean paper. I do my first draft long hand.) 

There’s been so much going on in my head, and in the world, and in life, and everything. It’s like I just can’t seem to keep up with all the thoughts, feelings, and Word I feel I need to speak or write out. 

This morning produced the beginnings of what I believe will be a very good story. The plan had been to come home after church and work on the Bible Study until it was time to meet with my small group. But God intervened during a conversation in the parking lot when I was trying to leave church. While we were conversing with the young man who has questions about who he is as a child of God and a young African American make, a young woman drove up, got out of her car and said, “Y’all prayin’? Can I get some?”

It was a beautiful thing as real church happened in the parking lot for nearly two hours after “church” ended. And that’s what it’s supposed to be about. You go on Sunday in order to get refilled and refreshed, and then you take it outside the walls, into the community. We are called to seek and save the list. And if you get filled enough, and refreshed enough, if you are in tune enough to be hearing His voice, you don’t even need to seek the list because they will walk right up to you and start asking questions. Yes, it was a truly beautiful thing.

There is so much more in my head, I just can’t seem to get it out right now. If I tried to get it all down, well, perhaps in November when I do NaNoWriMo again, (National Novel Writing Month for those of you who don’t know), at be that will be enough time to get it done. So for this post, I’m going to let it go. Though this might be a little shorter than most, I feel like you need to have your own conversation with the LORD. It’s like the meme I mentioned a few weeks ago. We tend to listen in order to respond, not to hear. So I ask you, please, talk with Him. And then listen. Listen for the things H wants to speak TO YOU. He is speaking. But you have to listen. Listen to God. Focus on Him and He will talk to you. 
Sorry if this is a bit rambling, but that’s just the way things are in my head right now. Have a blessed week, and we’ll see you next week.

Tanzania to Texas – Part 1

Sorry it’s been longer than I’d planned between writings. I was studying for my final. But I’m back now. And I had said in an earlier post that I’d tell you the “I’m in Africa, man,” story later. I had thought it would be later than this, but something’s come up and I think now would be an appropriate time.

It all started in the Spring of 2004. (WOW! just realized it’s been 10 years! What a long, strange trip it’s been!) I was sitting at the bar when a friend, Scott, came in and started talking about going on a trip to Africa. He was in a quandary because they told him he needed to fund raise 1/3 of the cost of the trip. He said he could afford the whole amount on his own and felt bad asking people for money to pay for his “vacation.” “How do I do it, anyway?” he asked me.

I had just completed a fund raising effort for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, so I told him, “Make yourself up a letter and talk to EVERYONE you meet about what you’re doing. You never know when someone may slide a five down the bar and say, here, take this with you.” As I said it, I actually did slide a five down the bar to him. He laughed and said, “Yeah, I get it,” as he slid the five back to me. “But Scott, you never know when someone may slide a five down the bar to you and say ‘Here, take this with you.'” Again, he said, “Yeah, I get it,” as he slid it back to me. “NO, SCOTT, you never know when someone will slide a five down the bar and say “HERE TAKE THIS WITH YOU!”” He finally got the message and took my $5.

When he got home, I was the only one at the bar who wanted to know about what he really did while he was in Tanzania. Each time he tried to tell me, we’d get interrupted by someone asking if he saw elephants or monkeys. This went on for a few weeks and was getting quite annoying. (I did, however, get the story of how my $5 paid for a “female operation” for one of the women in the area. Yes, that’s right, just $5 paid for the entire procedure!) Finally, one day, Scott came in and as we were having the conversation, or the attempt at conversation, he told me that his church was having a free spaghetti dinner that Saturday and he was going to talk about his trip. I refused because I didn’t do church. There was no way he was getting me in those doors. We’d get around, eventually, to getting the story out at the bar. We tried again, and just as he was getting into it, someone ELSE came and asked about elephants and monkeys. I gave in. After all, it was just dinner and his story, uninterrupted, right!?!

So, Saturday I went to his house and got in the car with him and his wife, and off we went. It felt REALLY strange walking in to this place. But, there was no major earthquake and fire didn’t burst forth from the bowels of the earth as I entered. It was just like walking into any other building. But! Once we were there, once I was trapped with no way to escape, he dropped the other shoe – right on my head! “Oh, by the way, we have a Saturday night service and Pastor Scott is going to speak first.” Many unkind words, sprinkled liberally with expletives swirled in my head, but I was inside a church (semi-voluntarily for the first time in 40 years) so I couldn’t say any of them. I’m sure the look I gave Scott told him what I was thinking!

There I was, in the sanctuary of a church, sitting through a church service that I had no desire to sit through. And then it happened, just as Scott said it would, even though more expletives swirled through my head when he said it. “Don’t worry, Pastor Scott is really cool and you’re going to think he’s talking right to you.” And so he was. He was talking to me and he was making direct eye contact and his words were shooting into me and straight into my heart. And the tears started flowing, and my heart was breaking. To this day I could not tell you what he was actually talking about, but I know it was meant just for me. And afterward, we ate and Scott talked about Tanzania, and people and names and faces spun around me and it was all a big whirlwind.

All I really knew after that was that I had to go back there again. And I really didn’t know how I was going to do it, because there was NO WAY I wanted my family knowing that I was going to church! But there was no way I could stop myself from going. It would be over 5 years before I missed a Sunday from that first time. You might even say that I went religiously! (Sorry, it was there, I had to use it.) And I learned and I grew in my relationship with the LORD.