Ephesians 5:31-33 — Conversations with God

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Lord Jesus, everything You have created seems to have a paradigm in heaven.  And here You are saying through the apostle Paul that our marriages are analogous to Your marriage to the church.  Our marriages are meant to picture Your relationship to us.  Just as we have become one flesh through marriage, you have become one with Your church.  There is this unbreakable bond you have with us that You will never abandon.

We are to submit to You as our “husband” and follow Your direction.  And You love us enough to die for us and have actually done that.  So we should mimic You in our marriages and demonstrate to the world what it means to be in relationship with You.  Why would You tie Your image to our weak attempts at modeling our relationships after You?  You know how much we have failed and are going to fail.  Does this not frustrate You endlessly?

Somehow You value this connection and are unwilling to back off from calling us to imitate You.  You are always modeling what it means for us to love one another and be committed to each other and how order should be kept in a chaotic world.  You’re our marriage manual, our marriage Counselor and Mentor by example.  Your interaction with Your church is our couple therapy.

Make my marriage a credit to Your character.

Ephesians 4:11 — Conversations with God

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers…

You have always given generously to Your church, Lord Jesus.  The apostles You trained and gave to us and those You called after Your ascension have continued to provide a solid foundation upon which to build.  I love that they have been able to speak authoritatively for You without being overbearing or controlling.  The truths they were able to communicate in that first 60 or so years have faithfully guided us all these centuries.

Your prophets have been faithfully leading us all these centuries, as well, and those with prophetic gifts still serve to keep Your church on track.  Their insight from You has served as needed correctives and positive vision to lead Your church.

And the evangelists — what an extraordinary gift You have given us in men and women who faithfully proclaim the gospel and help people find an entrance into Your family and the church!  We need them and we need the pastors and teachers who faithfully, week after week, serve to train and equip us for ministry to each other and to a lost and dying world.

Lord, You have always supplied Your church with exactly what we need.  Please help us to recognize the gifted persons You have placed among us and not despise their gifts.  If You think we need them, we do.

Ephesians 4:1-6 — Conversations with God

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  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.

Lord Jesus, I want to walk in a manner that is worthy of Your calling.  You called me from absolute darkness to brilliant light.  You forgave all my sins, past, present and future.  You gave me Your Holy Spirit to live within me and help me to be all You made me to be.  You brought me into the fold of the promises to Israel and made me part of a sacred temple and holy family of redeemed ones from every nation.

It only seems right, then, that I show all humility and gentleness, rather than treating any believer as less than me or expecting others to submit to me.  I should show tolerance and patience to all my brothers and sisters in You.  I should never fail to work hard at promoting our unity, the unity to which the Holy Spirit called us.  I must seek to preserve the bond of peace You died to create.

And so I acknowledge one body and one Spirit.  Your true followers among Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox churches are my brothers and sisters, my arms and my legs, and those who have a share in the Spirit.  We share the same hope of our calling — life with You forever.

I acknowledge one Lord, You, my Savior, and one faith made possible by Your death and resurrection. There is only one baptism and I must not refuse anyone into my fellowship who has submitted to it.  And Father, I acknowledge You as the only God and Father of all, who rules over all that is, is using all that occurs to complete Your plan, and who is in every believer in the most intimate and grace-filled of ways and even at work in those who have not yet submitted to Your rule.

Ephesians 3:20,21 — Conversations with God

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Father, I’ll admit it…I think small.  If Jesus had told me to feed the 5,000 I would have done what the disciples did and have failed to see the possibilities with Jesus there.  But I’m also afraid to think big.  When I have had an occasion to try believing  something big and it didn’t turn out I’ve felt disappointment and foolish for expecting something so outrageous and it not happening.

I’m helped by Paul’s admission (he does include himself in the “we,” right God?) that he asks less of You than You are able to do.  I take from his words that he believed You were more than willing to do beyond what we ask or think.  That encourages me.  I have seen You demonstrate this on more than one occasion, but I still struggle to trust You.  I’m sorry.

I know that in the context Paul is immediately referring to Your ability to reveal Your love for us and generate our love for one another and fill us to Your fulness.  It seems impossible to me at times that such rich love and unity within the church is going to occur.  But Paul is urging me to think big.

So help me think big (or at least bigger) about unity and love right in my own congregation (with maybe a little left over for the rest of the church worldwide).  Help me think bigger about all You want to accomplish in Your world.  And, of course, answer this prayer even beyond what I was able to ask or think.

To You be the glory!

Ephesians 3:14-19 — Conversations with God

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

There are many reasons to bow our knees before You, Father, but Paul’s reason is still a much needed reason for us to pray.  As diverse peoples who have been brought together under the banner of Jesus Christ we should probably expect to have some struggles with unity.  Indeed, at times it seems absolutely impossible for us to get along.  We are so self-centered and full of our own agendas, agendas we believe supersede anyone else’s in importance.

But we are all members of Your family.  So give us strength by Your Spirit out of the treasure chest of strength and riches You possess, so that the living, loving Jesus Christ might make His love known in our hearts.  Root us in Your love like trees that cannot be pulled out of the ground.  Make us ache to see unity among ourselves.

Give us all a comprehension beyond ourselves of the vast dimensions of Your love so that being filled with all Your fullness, O God, we might love each other as You love us.  When we realize how much You love us, surely we will love the ones You love.

Ephesians 2:19-22 — Conversations with God

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

I am not a stranger or an alien to You, Lord, nor to the household of faith.  I belong to You and Your household and share citizenship with all those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ.

Your house is built on a very sure and tested foundation, which gives me great confidence and a sense of safety.  The apostles and the prophets stand strong underneath us, bearing the weight of the superstructure.

Jesus Himself is that all important cornerstone.  He started it all off right and because your apostles and prophets are correctly aligned with Him and point faithfully toward His life and testimony, the foundation, and thus the house, is level and strong.

I am just one of many bricks or planks in this massive building.  You have carefully placed us stogether so that we might be a beautiful dwelling for the Holy Spirit, the person of the Godhead most responsible for leading Your church.  I definitely need to learn to get along with my fellow “bricks” so, Spirit teach me.

We have become Your temple here on earth to represent You and to enjoy Your presence.  Come dwell among us God.  Make us holy and make us vocal about the glories of knowing You.

Casting for Christians (Theology for Living from Philippians)

Bust of Menander. Marble, Roman copy of the Im...
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Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. (Paul’s letter to the Phiippians, chapter 3, verse 17)

One of our most ancient arts is casting, that is, the use of molds into which some liquified material is poured, allowed to set or cure, and then removed as a solid replication of the mold.  The mold, by necessity, is a work of art in itself and is able to be used over and over to turn out replicas.  Lifecasting is the art of taking molds directly from the human body. It is an ancient art form dating back to the time of the Egyptians where body casts were made as a means of transport to the next world.

One of the words used for mold is the Greek word tupos, sometimes translated as here in Paul’s letter, “example, model”.  Paul is urging his friends in Philippi to beware of false teaching that leads to wrong living.  But first he encourages them to imitate him and replicate the model he and his team have set for them.  They are the positive “mold” into which the Philippians may pour themselves to ensure they come out in the form desired by Jesus Christ.

Have you ever noticed that you become like those with whom you spend the most time or those whom you idolize or respect?  We have a proverb, “Bad company corrupts good character,” from the Greek poet Menander and quoted in our own 1 Corinthians 15:33 by Paul.  Paul is stating the corollary here in his letter to the Philippians.  Good company casts good character.

We need Christian casting.  We need not only teaching about how to live the Christian life, but molds into which we might be poured.  We need people with whom we might “hang” who know how to live for Christ and become our tupos, our example or model, and show us how to live.  This means we need to become tupoi (plural for tupos) ourselves, casting for other Christians who need a model or mold to fit into.

Are you in need of a Christian model?  Find one and hold on.  Do you need to become a Christian model?  There has never been more need for Christian casting than today.