What do you mean it’s an elephant?

There’s an old story of three blind men who are led to different parts of an elephant. One feels the tail and thinks it’s a paint brush. One feels the leg and thinks it’s a tree. One feels the ear and thinks it is a large leaf. By the information that each person had they made their best judgement. But when they got together and compared information they realized that none of them had the full picture. Then they worked together to find the head which clearly revealed that there was an elephant in the room.

This Sunday, we will begin a journey through the First Testament in our Bibles, exploring 14 different passages. There are common themes in these texts, and all of them are themes included in John’s Gospel (which we will spend the winter and spring studying). To put it another way, we are surveying the First Testament with an eye toward passages that inform our reading of John’s Gospel. Some of these texts will be familiar, others not so much. Some are confusing, some may seem irrelevant to our lives today, and some have been the point of much controversy, both inside and outside the Church.

One of the things I’ve noticed about some of these First Testament stories is that we learn them as children, such as VBS or Sunday School, and then never really consider them in depth as adults. When we think of the story of Moses and the burning bush (which isn’t actually burning…), our mind goes to the flannel graph images and summaries of our childhood Bible class teachers.

I am so thankful for the teachers that taught me to love the Bible! They taught very difficult, adult Bible stories in a way that my childhood brain could comprehend and appreciate. But when they taught me to love the Bible, they taught me to always study the Bible as well. And what I’ve discovered, especially with this portion of the Bible, is that we rarely spend the time studying these texts that we should. And when we do actually study them, or hear them taught at an adult level, there’s a certain shock involved. We remember the faithfulness of people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Miriam. We forget that they were also drunkards, liars, murderers, and extremely jealous. The stories are far more complex than our childhood memories convey. And when we only focus on the children’s story version of the text, we can miss the point of the story altogether.

The issue is not with the texts themselves, but how we read the texts. All of us come to Scripture with existing biases. I read Scripture through the eyes of a white, middle class, married father of three, recently moved to southwest Missouri from West Texas. That is my perspective. Someone who is middle eastern, impoverished, single, living in Europe will see things differently than I do simply because of their background and surroundings. They view the world differently than I do, and that’s a good thing! Just read the story of the prodigal son(s) with someone from an impoverished country. Most of us read that story not realizing that a famine plays an important role in the story, and in the repentance of the son. People who have suffered from famine pick up on that right away.

Proverbs reminds us that there is wisdom in having “many advisors.” If I am looking at something alone, I only see things from my point of view. But if I talk about it with others with different views, I can begin to see more of the picture.

Some have suggested that addressing controversial texts does no good. “It means what it says and says what it means, and that settles it!” But it doesn’t settle things, does it? The greatest clarity of Scripture I have ever found has come when discussing the text with people who have differing views. Though I may not agree with everything they see, I always walk away with a greater understanding of their view, my view, and most importantly the Word of God. Just this week, a new detail stood out to me in Genesis because I was talking to someone about the text. I’ve been on a mission to re-read Genesis 50 times. I’ve spent considerable time with this book, and I noticed something I had never considered before simply because I was willing to sit down and discuss the text with someone. Basically, I missed the point of the text and only discovered this by talking about it.

I have no doubt that God will do powerful things for us over the next 14 weeks, and through us as we study his word together. I also believe that all of us will discover things that we haven’t seen in these texts before. My prayer is we listen to the voices of “many advisors,” reexamine our view in light of others, but most importantly, we consider what the Scripture actually says, and grow in the grace and wisdom of the Lord. And when we do this cooperatively in community, maybe then we will better identify the elephant in the room.

See you Sunday!

Why does God allow bad things to happen?

Why does God allow bad things to happen?

That’s a question that gets asked frequently and if I’m honest, I struggle with an appropriate answer to that question.

Why did my friend die tragically even though he followed Jesus?

Why is my friend barely hanging on to life even though he’s a pastor leading people to Jesus?

Why did that child die even though we know Jesus loves her?

I truly wish I had the ability to understand the universe as God does, to know how everything works out, ultimately for good.

But I don’t. I can’t always see it.

What I do know, through the storm, when sorrow like sea billows roll, is this:

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.

Lamentations 3:19-26 NIV

We sing songs around that part of Lamentations…probably the best known section of the lament because of that. But the lamenter continues:

For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.

Lamentations 3:31-33 NIV

Did you notice that last part? He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. God isn’t diabolical and just eager to bring destruction on people. He doesn’t willingly bring these troubles to anyone.

I still don’t understand why we suffer, but I know that it’s not something God’s wants. He doesn’t willingly want us to suffer these afflictions and grief. And I do believe that his unfailing love brings compassion. Yes there is grief, yes there is suffering, but not every day is that way. Not every light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train. Sometimes it’s his compassion made new every morning.

Trust in the Lord. Hope in the Lord. Rest in the Lord. His mercies are new every morning, and he does not willingly bring affliction and grief.

May the Lord grant us all peace today.

These Old Boots

These old boots are my favorite pair, though they are not my most comfortable boots. They are my favorite, even though I don’t wear them daily. They are my favorite, even when they make my feet hurt. Why, you might ask?

Though I can’t remember what year I bought them, I know I’ve had them at least 20 years. I graduated from high school wearing these boots. They are part of my memories and decision-making that influenced the course of my life. I wore them while driving my first and favorite car (1967 Ford Mustang). I wore them in college as I dated my fiance, performed recitals and concerts, traveled to Germany for mission work, and stood at the altar marrying my wife.

I’ve worn these boots as a band director, receiving awards, performing some of the best music with some of the most wonderful people. I’ve worn these boots playing in bands with friends of all kinds. They’ve been part of music festivals, church services, jam sessions, and our beloved Corona-concerts.

They have been part of every ministry I’ve ever worked in. They’ve been on my feet for every wedding I’ve ever officiated, and every funeral I’ve ever preached. These old boots have been torn up, patched up, and polished so many times I’ve lost count. Yet they still serve me well every time I put them on my feet.

I guess these are my favorite boots for what they help me remember. You see, these are my favorite boots, because God has led me through so much while I was wearing them. They aren’t special, they aren’t magical, they aren’t particularly valuable. But they remind me of my journey through life with God.

To remember is one of the major calls of Deuteronomy. Moses wants the people to remember what God has done for them. His hope is if the people remember their God’s provision and blessing, they will seek to bless Him with their faithfulness.

“…do not be afraid…remember well what the LORD your God did…”

Deuteronomy 7:18 NIV

“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”

Deuteronomy 8:2 NIV

“But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.”

Deuteronomy 8:18 NIV

“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.”

Deuteronomy 24:18 NIV

Moses makes the point that we should not merely bounce through life day after day like a pinball, nor keep a checklist of rules. Instead, we remember. We should remember what God has done in the past, and expect his faithfulness and provision in the future. But we must remember to walk daily with him.

We must do this now more than ever. With the ever-increasing craziness of this world, it’s easy to get distracted and forget why we are here. We must remember. This is why every Sunday we stop to remember.

“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Luke 22:19 NIV

Remembering once a week isn’t enough, though. If we spend an hour a week remembering Christ and his sacrifice, there are 167 other hours each week that we forget.

There are so many ways to remember what God through Jesus has done for us. These old boots are simply old boots. But they help me remember.

So what helps you remember?

Unless You Repent…

“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Luke 13:2-5 NIV

DEVOTIONAL

Some followers of Jesus in Luke 13 seem to conclude that bad things happen only to bad people. Jesus is quick to remind them that judging others will not improve their situation. Casting blame and searching for reasons for every bad thing that happens simply doesn’t help. We stand before God, not compared to others, but based on our own heart.

Twice in these few verses, we are given the same statement: “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” My experience has been Christians often encourage others (and theirselves) to feel sorry about what they’ve done…show remorse for past actions. But that’s not what Jesus is saying here; the statement is not simply about feeling guilty about what has already been done. Jesus wants us to deal with our past and make changes moving forward.

Christ is calling us to not compare our situations with others…that creates a false standard… nor do we ignore the sins of the past and move on. Instead, we must face our wrongs and make changes in the present, so that our future is in accordance with God’s will.

Don’t ignore the past, but don’t get trapped in it either. We must not turn a blind eye to the ugly side of our past and allow those wrongs to continue. Instead, we compare our lives to Christ, make amends to God and others we have harmed by our sin, and then change our actions and systems to promote righteousness and justice moving forward.

This is exactly what David models for us in Psalm 51. After David committed murder to cover up his sexual wickedness toward Bathsheba, Nathan the prophet points out David’s sin. David’s repentance is captured in the words of Psalm 51. Read it slowly and notice how David addresses the past sins, makes amends to God in the present by seeking forgiveness, and then looks ahead at future actions he will do to change the course of his life.

And now the hard part. Take an honest look at your life. Is there anything in your past you haven’t dealt with? Are there any sins that still linger in the present? Have you asked God for forgiveness and direction going forward? Have you changed your actions so this sin doesn’t continue to plague you in the future? Good intentions are well and good, “but unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

PRAYER

Lord, convict us. Show us our sins and guide us to deal with the past before looking to the future. Help us remove everything from our lives that is sinful, remove our judgmental spirit, and help us reflect Christ, and Christ alone. Forgive us, Lord, for passing judgment on others, assuming their guilt, and presuming our innocence. May our repentance, our faith, and our fellowship show the world your greatness and love. Through the name and power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Amen.

Paul: The Offensive Apostle?

Paul was offensive. But probably not in the way you think.

We’re looking at the Ephesian letter each Sunday morning during our sermon time, and Wednesday nights we’re diving a little deeper into questions from those sermons, as well as trying to get our minds wrapped around Paul’s way of thinking. We spent our last two class sessions talking about “the powers” that Paul writes about in this letter (Eph. 1:19-21, 2:1-2, 3:10-11, 6:12, etc.)

Without reteaching those classes here, let me summarize by saying that Paul, his audience, and those who wrote the Bible as a whole recognized that there are many powers at play in this world that are either good, or evil. And when we get tangled up in serving those powers rather than serving Christ, it’s a huge problem. Though you and I probably aren’t tempted to wander into a pagan temple, we do dedicate a lot of time and resources to serving our own comfort, entertainment, hobbies, etc. Paul would refer to these things, as well as other spiritual and cosmic forces, as “the powers.” And sadly, sometimes we do serve the powers over and above serving Christ.

One of those powers is culture. For Paul’s original audience, your home would be structured in a certain way because the powers that be have mandated it. Let’s look at a couple of examples from names you will recognize that will teach us how a household should be structured in Paul’s time.

“Seeing then that the state is made up of households, before speaking of the state we must speak of the management of the household. The parts of household management correspond tot he persons who compose the household, and a complete household consists of slaves and freemen. Now we should begin by examining everything in its fewest possible elements; and teh first and fewest possible parts of a family are master and slave, husband and wife, father and children.”

Aristotle, Politics, 1:3

Aristotle makes it clear that the “state” must be run a certain way to survive and function properly, and the key relationships within the home are “master and slave, husband and wife, father and children.” Paul addresses these exact relationships in Ephesians 6, but I want us to understand what “the powers” of the day believe concerning the household. Let’s turn once again to Aristotle for clarity.

“Of houshold management we have seen that there are three parts: one is the rule of a master over slaves, which has been discussed already, another of a father, and the third of a husband. A husband and father, we saw, rules over wife and children, both free, but the rule differs; the rule over his children being royal, and the ruler over his wife is based on natural constitution. For although there may be exceptions to the order of nature, the male is by nature fitter for command than the female, just as the elder and full-grown is superior to the younger and more immature.”

Aristotle, Politics, 1:12

The Jewish historian Josephus takes a slightly different view than Aristotle.

“The woman…is in all things inferior to the man. Let her accordingly be obedient, not for her humiliation, but that she may be directed; for God has given authority to the man.”

Josephus, Against Apion, 2:24

Now that we know the views held by “the powers” of Paul’s day, let’s hear the Holy Spirit’s wisdom on how a household should be viewed, as relayed to us by the Apostle.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Paul, Ephesians 5:21 NIV

As I said before, Paul was offensive, but not in the way you think. The idea that everyone in the household would submit to the other because of Christ is scandalous! This flies in the face of the structure of the Empire. According to “the powers” of the day, everything is for the man’s benefit. Wives, children, and slaves all serve at the pleasure of the man of the house and only exist to bring him comfort. Nobody structures their relationships this way! But for Paul, it’s crucial to understanding and living out the Gospel in our lives.

Authoritarian hierarchy is the way of the powers. But that’s not God’s way. That’s not Paul’s understanding of the world. All household codes were written to the male explaining how they should rule/control those in their household. But Paul takes a different approach. Paul will speak directly to women, children, and slaves, instantly elevating their status! And notice how Paul speaks: first to the wife, then to the husband. First to the children, then to the father. First to the slave, and then to the master.

Do you see how upside down Paul’s approach to the household is when compared to the household dictated by “the powers?” Paul’s words are shocking and scandalous in an empire that is sustained by keeping power through the structure of the home. When the house operates like the Empire, you support and perpetuate the Empire.

But that’s not the way of Christ. That’s not the way of God’s Kingdom. That’s not the leading of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells his readers that every relationship with every man, woman, and child, regardless of class, or status, is filtered through the understanding that we all submit to one another because of Christ. This is the Christian household. This is life in the Spirit.

Join us Sunday at 8:30am or 10:00am at Countryside Christian Church as we worship together, eat the Lord’s Supper together, and unpack these relationships further. You can also join our 10:00 service online.

In the meantime, consider what it means to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

New Light in Old Texts

Why do we assume contradictory information is invariably wrong?

It’s a serious question. I encounter this phenomenon on an almost daily basis. Someone learns a new piece of information that challenges a currently held belief and instantly dismisses the information as false without the slightest thought that perhaps, just perhaps, their original belief was lacking.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105 NIV

A friend of mine likes to apply this verse by saying, “We walk by the light that we have.” Simply put, we live out our faith by what we know. We walk by what we have learned through God shining the light of his Word in our lives.

But what happens when his Word shines in a new way in our life? Do we change to walk in that light, or do we dismiss the light as false or misleading?

Please don’t hear me saying that God’s Word is false or misleading. I’m saying exactly the opposite! What happens when we discover something new to us in God’s Word that challenges our currently held belief? Will we walk in this new light, or will we cling to the old path because of its comfort and familiarity?

In the past I have applied for ministry jobs where a few churches provided lists of passages and topics that were not to be taught or referenced in sermons or Bible studies. Is this viewing God’s Word as a “light on my path,” something that could illuminate and correct my walk with God? Apparently for these congregations, all Scripture was not useful for teaching (perhaps 2 Timothy 3:16-17 could shine a little light in those congregations.)

Friends, why should we ever fear the Word of God? What could possibly lead us to censor the Bible in our assemblies? Even when…especially when it contradicts our beliefs, we should never fear the Word of God. Instead, we should dig into it deeper in order to see where the light might lead!

Two quick case studies of people encountering God’s Word with new light. Luke tells us of two disciples who had given up hope that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

“…we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”

Luke 24:21 NIV

Leaving town and dejected by the events of the previous week, these disciples had given up hope that Jesus was anything more than another dead prophet in a long line of dead prophets. But notice what happens. The stranger on the road with them shines some new light on the Word of God for them.

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Luke 24:25-27 NIV

Notice this was not new revelation. We’re not talking about a new scripture introduced to the canon for these disciples. These were texts that these disciples likely had memorized, but no doubt had heard and studied at length. Yet somehow there was still some shadowy veil covering these texts for these disciples. It took a lifetime of Temple and Synagogue Bible studies, three years of Jesus’ ministry, a horrendous Passover experience, and a conversation with someone they didn’t recognize to shine light on these familiar texts in order for them to see the truth. In fact, they didn’t even realize who this man teaching them was until he broke bread with them (Lk. 24:30-32).

If this is what it took to shine new light on old texts for disciples that walked with Jesus, is it possible that we might have missed something too?

Luke also tells us of the ministry of Paul (another example of someone who found new light in old texts and began to walk a different path). Paul’s routine on his missionary journeys is to first go into synagogues and teach about Jesus using the Scriptures (the Old Testament in case you were wondering…more Gospel sermons coming from the first 75% of your Bible.)

Paul always went into these areas and found people who knew the Scriptures, and then proceeded to shine new light on the texts in hopes of leading them to believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Acts 17:11-12 NIV

Do you notice what made these Berean Jews “more noble”? They didn’t instantly reject anything that challenged their beliefs! Instead they studied their Bible! If Paul had said something that was incorrect, they would have found it. They didn’t feel the need to instantly dismiss Paul’s words as false when they challenged their belief. Instead, they compared this new light from Paul with the Scriptures they had read many times before and discovered a new revelation from the same old text.

If these faithful Jews who had poured over these Scriptures far more than you and I could find new light in an old text, is it possible that we might have missed something too?

You and I do not have a complete understanding of the Word of God. We never will! Scripture reveals to us the ways and mind of God, and yet reminds us that these ways and mind are simply unfathomable for you and I (Isa. 55:9).

Throughout our lives we must continue to read and study God’s Word because we will inevitably find new light in old texts ourselves. Something will leap off the page that we have never noticed before.

And when we discover that new light we must learn to walk in it.

Don’t cling to the old paths. Walk in the light, and embrace the Word of God.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 1:7 NIV

Unity of the Differents

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Ephesians 4:3 NIV

DEVOTIONAL

While writing to a church divided along racial lines (Jew & Gentile), Paul could have easily counseled the Christians to get along on a surface level, but worship separately since their customs and world views were just too different.

But Paul didn’t do that.

Instead, he reminds them of where their source of unity comes from instead. Their unity isn’t found in their ethnicity, or identical worship styles, or political views, or socioeconomic status. Their unity comes through their shared faith. Paul goes on to remind us that even though we are very different in some ways, we are ultimately the same in what God has done for us.

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV

Just because we may be from different places doesn’t mean our baptism was different. Just because we may not look the same doesn’t mean we serve a different Lord. Just because we vote differently doesn’t mean we have a different hope.

Because we place God first and above all, we share all of this in common. And it is here in our undivided commonality of faith that we find our unity.

PRAYER

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Help us remember that our baptism was an act of surrender, and allegiance to you alone. Help us listen to the unifying voice and guidance of the Spirit every day, for when we all listen to you, we will be one. Help us love one another, and truly be your children by showing the world your peace. Through the name and power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Amen.

My Father’s House?

Luke is a master when it comes to dropping subtle clues in his writings. From the beginning of his Gospel, Luke wants you to know that Jesus isn’t just an ordinary man. He is human, yes, but he is also God in human form. And Luke shares this with us in many ways throughout the early chapters of his Gospel.

In Chapter 2 we get a story that no other Gospel writer tells. I believe Luke must have gotten this from Mary herself, especially since he relays Mary’s inner thoughts (see 1:3, 2:51). Jesus disappears from the family caravan at Passover. Mary and Joseph cannot find him anywhere, so they return to the city of Jerusalem and find Jesus in the temple courts discussing Scripture with the teachers.

What really stands out to me is the way Jesus responds to the question from his mother.

When his parents saw him, they were overwhelmed. His mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” But he replied, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2005), Lk 2:48–49.

Did you notice Jesus’ words here? Compare the words of Mary to those of Jesus. Who is the “father” of Jesus? According to Jesus, he was exactly where he was supposed to be…in his Father’s house.

The word play here isn’t accidental. This is just one small example of how Luke fills his Gospel with subtle (and some not so subtle) ways of reminding us of the true identity of Jesus. Next time we’ll look at the words of Elizabeth and what they tell us about Jesus.

(I’ll be dropping some of these every week since I will be reading this Gospel a lot between now and the time I start preaching through it in December. If you’re looking for a reading plan that will drill down on Luke’s Gospel before the end of the year, you can join me. Here’s a reading plan for Luke that my Small Group is going through, and here’s what I’m reading in addition to that.)

Peace and Quiet in the Chaos

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV

Paul writes Timothy in Ephesus who is ministering to a church that seems to be divided around ethnic and cultural lines. Men are fighting instead of praying. Women are one-upping each other in dress and allegiance. One woman is violently lashing out in some sort of teaching scenario. It’s chaotic to say the least.

Paul reminds everyone that we are to live “quiet” (ἡσύχιος) lives. Paul uses this word three times in this chapter alone. All throughout the chapter, as well as the chapters that follow, Paul advocates for peace and quiet in our lives…not silence…the Gospel is never silenced, but our attitudes towards others and towards the world is one of peacefulness and quietness in all godliness and holiness.

We don’t fight to get our way, we pray so Christ’s church can be an example of radical unity, and of godliness and holiness in the noisy and chaotic world around us.

Prayer

Father, our world is in turmoil and our nation is divided. Sadly, Father, our churches seem divided too. But Lord, you have called us to live peaceful and quiet lives, not lives of bickering and name calling. You have called us to be one as you are one.

So Father, teach us to pray for everyone in authority- our presidential and vice-presidential candidates, the leaders of other nations, our congress, our senate, our governors, our state representatives, our mayors, our city councils, our HOA boards…not so our will is done, but so that “we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

Help us not divide among party lines, but rather show the world a radical unity founded in our commitment to one another because of your son Jesus. And Father, when we live this way help us to reach those lost souls around us whom you want to be saved as well. Through the name and power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Amen.

Unity in a Divided World

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Ephesians 4:2-6 NIV

Devotional

Paul writes Ephesians to a church that seems to be divided around ethnic and cultural lines. Gentiles coming into the faith along with Jews makes for difficult church potlucks. Paul reminds us that no matter our background, ethnicity, social status, etc., we are all saved in the same way by the same Savior sent by the same God.

For three chapters Paul reminds his readers that all the barriers that once divided these two diverse groups have been destroyed through Jesus. “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…” (2:14) Paul was adamant about this diverse group of believers being unified in Christ.

Today Christ’s church finds itself divided by politics, polity, worship practice, ethnicity, and a multitude of other issues. If Paul were writing to the church in the U.S. today (or any other nation for that matter), what would he say about our unity? I believe it would sound very much like Ephesians. May we seek a unity within the body of Christ that amazes the world around us and glorifies our Father in heaven.

Prayer

Father, our world is full of proud and boastful people. Our national leaders seem to do nothing but provoke division and slander one another. Lord, help us to remember that you have called us to be different. Your Spirit inside of us should unite us above and beyond whatever could divide us. I pray that your Church will truly be one body, divided only by physical location, but never divided in purpose, mission, and fellowship. May we base our unity as one body in the common Spirit, Lord, Faith, and Baptism we share. And may our unity be a witness of your salvation to the world around us. Through the name and power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Amen.