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Saturday, 29 November 2014

Ephesians 6:10-12

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

The singsong words of an old school assembly hymn: Be bold, be strong! For the Lord your God is with you. This is not just any old command to man up, stand up, strengthen up. Our strength, our ability, is always dependent on his. Be strong, be courageous, do not fear, do not be dismayed, take heart, keep going, keep working because He is the enabling one, the forever with us One. (Joshua 1:9, Deuteronomy 31:6, 2 Chron 32:7, Psalm 27:14, Psalm 31:24, Isaiah 35:4, Haggai 2:4, Zechariah 12:15, 2 Timothy 2:1) We are strong because he is present.

And we had better realise just how much we need him. Don’t kid yourself. This isn’t any old battle. We are outnumbered, outsmarted, outthought at every turn. We had better get prepared. If we see the world only through secular eyes we have already lost: what we need is spiritual vision, to see what Satan is doing, to stop colluding with him in the lie of his nonexistence, the lie of his apathy. We have enemies. Real enemies. Who hate us and hate God. Get yourself to the armoury this morning – to your quiet space, to His word, to worship, to truth. Put on every implement that God has put at your disposal and get yourself enabled. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Ephesians 5:21-6:9

Instructions for Christian households: 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – 30 for we are members of his body. 31 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’32 This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 ‘Honour your father and mother’– which is the first commandment with a promise – 3 ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. 5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. 9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him."

And so the stickyness starts. Easy to get tangled up by the ins and outs of marital hierarchy and miss the main point. Christian households are cultures of mutual submission. Verse 21. We all have a responsibility to make more of others and less of ourselves. We are all called to copy christ in allowing ourselves to be subject to others, in humbling ourselves. And we do so for the sake of the world. Our marriages are not for ourselves but are representations of him. We are to show him off in the way we do relationship. We are to be the lone employee who loves a difficult boss, the children who ceaselessly honour our parents even when we don't think they should be honoured, the parents who refuse to stoop to anger and arguments and petty one-upmanship. This world cries out for another way, an alternative to selfish relationships, to treating others as commodities, to getting all we can and discarding, ignoring, avoiding those we perceive as unlovable. 

Rise up church! Be different. And do it because of him. Do it because you know what he did for us. He gave up everything to bring us to himself. We are to model sacrifice at every opportunity. Not nit picking about who should have the upper-hand in an argument, about who should be the first to give way. Paul's view of household relationships is cosmic. It's all about Jesus. No time for pettiness, for harbouring resentment, for constructing elaborate systems of family rules and getting annoyed when someone messes up. Submit to each other. All of you. All the time. And do it because it shows the world who he is. The bride is being made ready through the refining fire of relationships. His community is a crucible, iron sharpening iron, as we became less and be becomes more.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Ephesians 5:19-20

Be filled with the Spirit as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I have been pondering this verse for some time. We all long to be filled – continually filled – with the Spirit. But how? Paul’s answer is a little unusual: singing is not only the result of being indwelt by the Spirit, but the cause. “Be filled with the Spirit as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves…” A bemused bystander new to church might look and ask, “What is this, a bunch of adults gathering together for a sing-along?” David Platt suggests that the answer is a resounding, “YES!”: to be church is to be a singing people. ( We are a people who love to sing the praises of our beautiful King. We cannot help but praise Him name. 

But I don’t like singing. 

I think Paul would say – bluntly – it doesn’t matter. There is much talk about worship styles and whether church needs to include corporate singing and whilst I am hesitant to say that we must sing, that does, in fact, seem to be what the Bible says. (Psalm 96:1-3, Psalm 47:6) And it is for our benefit, not simply for his glory. We sing because we need to. We sing because others need us to. We sing what is true about God when we don’t believe it is true. We sing the scriptures to memorise and meditate, to get God’s word deep deep deep down in our hearts. (Colossians 3:16)We sing because it makes us feel good because somewhere, somehow, we are musical people, and God is a musical God. It seems a bit of a wacky remedy, but it is true: I feel better when I sing. God's truths are truer when I sing. A shut door, my guitar and a heart-felt (but often rather tuneless) voice serves my soul. And it makes him smile. 

But I don’t like singing. I don’t feel like singing. 

As my wise husband said to me yesterday, why don’t you just do what the verse says? It isn’t optional. It’s a command. Happy singing.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Ephesians 5:18

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit...

Drunkenness is more accurately translated as dissipation here rather than debauchery. Not simply excess but waste. Let's all go and get wasted. Literally. Physically and spiritually wasted. If "sozo" is saving. A - sozo is the opposite. It is precisely not-saving. Not-life giving. Not-sustaining. Drunkenness cannot save. Indulgence in worldly pleasures won't get you anywhere. Proverbs 20.1, 23.29-32.

Fill yourself up with something better instead. Just as the drunkard awakens questioning where the next drink is coming from - Proverbs 23.35 - so we too should be utterly dependant, desperately seeking the holy spirit's filling up. This is not a one off charismatic baptism but a daily quest, a ritual seeking, longing, needing. We share the addict's urgency. We must keep being filled up by him. We need to be thirsty. Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, those who know their need, their weakness, those who cry out as babes desperate for their mother's milk, those dying in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63.1. For they will be filled. Matthew 5.6.