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Grace to You

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 1:1-2
“To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from
God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:1-2).

Mail call is an important moment in a soldier's dreary day. A letter from home with
photo enclosed is treasured for weeks. Today we find our mailboxes full almost
every day, yet how quickly we dispose of unsolicited items as we search for a
precious personal letter. We treat email similarly, touching the delete button quickly
while seeking a rare note written just for us.

Though Paul’s letter might fall into the category of bulk mail, we dare not toss it
aside as being impersonal. In fact, this letter to the Ephesian believers has been
called “the greatest, most relevant of all the apostle's writings.” Offering a grand
combination of Christian doctrine and duty, the letter begins on a note that connects
vitally with you and me. Whatever this day or season of life may hold for us, these
are most welcome gifts of His love: grace, the daily enabling of our wise God that
carries us through challenges, and peace, the settled assurance of our Savior's
presence reminding us that we are cherished by Him.

INSIGHT: Go through this day savoring your Lord's gifts of grace and peace,
offered to you from His heart of love.

Lavished on
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 1:1-10
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in
the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).

Our family joined with others in the community to raise funds to alleviate world
hunger. Offering our children a candy bar of their choice on the completion of the
10-kilometer walk proved to be a sweet incentive to finish the course. But one son
found this chocolate opportunity to be a dilemma. There were so many wonderful
choices - which candy should he select?

Today’s reading highlights the incredible array of blessings available to believers.

According to God's eternal, and therefore sure, decree to share heaven with us, He
bestows on us such bounteous gifts. And we are not limited to one! Indeed, the
blessings not only fit us for life with God, they prompt our best expressions of
worship. The more we read Ephesians we sense how easy for Paul to get carried
away with accolades to the One who has blessed us.

Which treasure impressed you today: “chosen to be holy,” “adopted as His sons,”
“given grace freely,” “forgiven sins,” “assigned deep knowledge”?

INSIGHT: Let your heart overflow with praise as you reflect on God's blessings.
They are only starting points to explore the riches of God's favor on you.

To Be Holy
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 1:1-10
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . For he chose us in
him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight”
(Ephesians 1:3-4).

A father sent his children to school with the words, “Don't forget that you are a
Johnson!” This was his way of reminding them of their responsibility to act and
speak according to how he was raising them. Also, they could draw strength in
recalling whose they were - together.

Similarly, we find Paul’s words both reassuring and instructive. We do belong to

God; we are intended to be recipients of his divine and multifaceted favor. Through
faith in Jesus Christ as our Champion and Savior, we are joined to God, adopted by
Him. Now we bear his family name and nothing can separate us from His Father-

Not only are His blessings ours, but we learn that He intends for us to bear His
likeness. Thus, the goal of Christian living is perfection and a blameless character.
How good to know that, though living blamelessly is certainly unreachable on our
own, through Christ, God will complete in us what He has intended from “before the
creation of the world.”

INSIGHT: Our daily prayer should be that God will work in our hearts so that our
attitudes and actions increasingly bear His likeness.

Chosen, Included, Marked

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 1:11-14
“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,
who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

With four older siblings, our youngest daughter was always overcoming the label of
“baby” in the family. During her final high school year and with the others away from
home, she adopted the spare set of keys to our second vehicle. Though neither the
car title nor its maintenance obligations belonged to her, she displayed the keys as
a sign of privilege, however limited.

Throughout his opening lines Paul makes clear who is the key to our obtaining
heavenly blessings. Notice how frequently in the initial paragraphs he uses the
phrase “in him” or “in Christ.” The full privileges of adoption into God's family are
something that none of us secured on our own. Rather, all that God has purposed
to do for us He plans and implements in Jesus Christ. Christ is the instrument in
each stage and aspect of our life as God's adopted ones. Through Him alone our
redemption is both accomplished and applied. This is why Paul also can write that
even the blessings that come to us rebound ultimately to the praise of the glory of

INSIGHT: Jesus is central to all creation, and central to your life now and
throughout eternity. Honor Him today with your love.

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 1:15-23
“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may
know the hope to which he has called you” (Ephesians 1:18).

While working toward a graduate degree, I am seeking to hone my knowledge and

skills. At the same time I sense awe in how much there is to know of God, His
purposes, and His rule over our complex world.

Paul’s words in our passage are a magnificent example of the knowledge that is
supremely vital. This knowledge lies at the heart of what we saints may hold dear.
But an appreciation of our status and resources is not simply an

adornment, like a certificate we frame and display prominently. Rather, as God

enlightens us, the realization of His blessings is to be implemented daily in our life

We are privileged to know and enjoy intimately the very presence of God, our
glorious Father. Books have been written on this subject alone. We invite God our
Father to educate us, therefore, about the hope He has given us, about Christian
community, and about the powerful assets available to us who believe.

INSIGHT: As we grow in our understanding of God, we learn what to request as we

pray for our family and friends.

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 1:11-23
“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over
everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything
in every way” (Ephesians 1:22-23).

Paul closed the first chapter by asserting that Christ is literally the Supreme One of
the universe. There's much in Creation that impresses, such as the breadth of the
galaxies, the power of the seas, the diversity of plant life, the complexity of the
human mind. All of these result from God's creative authority.

At His sovereign decision, history becomes the arena for God to fulfill His pleasure.
Christ is to be the climax of all God's working. Though the world is in disorder and
disintegration because of sin, God has set in motion its reordering and
reintegration. We know this is true because we, believers in Christ, can glimpse
small examples of God's activity. United with Christ we discover our heritage, our
unity, and our very own places in this grand scheme.

We anticipate the unfolding of what God has set in motion. Until Christ's
appointment is fully implemented, we seek to reverently illustrate His supremacy by
yielding ourselves as His servants.

INSIGHT: Live in anticipation that some day every knee will bow before King Jesus
and every tongue will admit that He is Lord.

Made Alive
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 2:1-10
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in
Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable
riches of his grace” (Ephesians 2:6-7).

Despite the love of my sister-in-law and her husband for their adopted son, he is
largely dysfunctional as a result of being born with alcoholic syndrome. He simply
cannot get along with anyone else and shows this by lying, stealing, inflicting pain,
running away, and destroying things. His psychological problems require a genetic

In a similar way each of us is dysfunctional, and in our natural condition helpless to

live properly. While the Apostle has spoken lavishly of God's high calling, he now
clarifies forcefully our real predicament and desperate need. To be sure, our
dilemma is beyond repair: we are dead, because of our sin and unbelief. We are
objects of God's rightful condemnation, and deserving His wrath. We are without
hope and resource, and our destiny is horrifying!

Notice, however, the grammatical change in verse four: But . . . God! He has made
us alive - though dead - and has raised us to live meaningfully and fully to His high
honor. What a rescue!

INSIGHT: We are God's craftsmanship, made to show the “incomparable riches of

His grace.” Can you imagine a greater destiny?

Created to Do Good
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 2:1-10
“For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which
God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

Our new kitchen counter was an immediate hit. Fashioned by a woodworking friend,
the new surface so beautifully replaced the old scarred counter that it seemed to
pump fresh energy into those preparing meals for our household.

Once our lives were marred, deteriorating, ruined thoroughly by the sinful nature
within. No real beauty or goodness, no heartfelt adoration of our Creator, no
genuine faith could emerge. We deserved God's disfavor and His verdict of death.
Nothing could change it. How desperate we were.

Reviewing Paul’s letter to the Ephesians allows us to appreciate more deeply the
kindness of God to us, who deserved none of His intervention. Lovingly, however,
God set in motion a plan to bring us back to Himself, to cover our wrongdoing, and
to refashion us for lives of complete devotion to Himself. Not only are we rescued.
We are recreated - not by anything we had done or ever could do - and, in union
with Christ, reborn, chosen to be holy (see 1:4).

INSIGHT: What a high calling is ours! Doing good in an unsightly world, we reflect
our Savior, for we are His work of art.

Brought Near
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 2:11-22
“You were separate from Christ. . . . But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far
away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2: 12-13).

Separation is not only a matter of geography. A parent and child can be estranged
from one another, though living under the same roof. Two neighbors may ride the
same bus every day, yet know little of one another, their interaction limited to polite
greetings. Or two residents of the same town may be unable to appreciate one
another because of socioeconomic differences, cultural, educational, or language

Paul’s words are forceful, not merely figurative. We know by experience what it
means to be excluded, mistreated, or to suffer discrimination. A corollary of sin's
deadly infection among us is that it drives a wedge not only between our Maker and
us, but also between people. Throughout this section of the Epistle, Paul, however,
emphasizes a new reality. It has been instituted not by mere well wishes or
government policy, but by the real and completely sufficient sacrifice of Jesus. That
which alienates and separates us from one another really has been resolved in the
cross of our Savior.

INSIGHT: Through the cross, God has broken down the barriers that separate us
from Christ and from other people.

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 2:11-18
“He himself is our peace, who has . . . destroyed the barrier . . . in this one body to
reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their
hostility” (Ephesians 2:14, 16).

In 1954 five missionaries sought contact with a remote tribe in Ecuador. Though
they were aware of the tribe's hostile reputation, the five hoped to gain the group's
trust for the purpose of proclaiming God's good news to them. Many of us know the
outcome of that attempt: ruthless Auca warriors killed all five, including Nate Saint,
who piloted their aircraft.

We may not know that a generation later, the Aucas invited Steve Saint, Nate's son,
to remain with them. The tribe had put down their weapons long before to embrace
God's Son as their chief, and had begun traveling heaven's road. Little did Steve
anticipate that his decision to offer technical assistance in Christian community
development would lead to an extraordinary relationship. As he worked and taught
and lived among the tribe, his children began to love one elder as their grandpa.
Soon Steve recognized that the very one who had become his best friend and a
grandfather to his children had been the very one who had slain his own father!
INSIGHT: Such a reconciliation would be impossible apart from the power of Jesus'
blood to cleanse and His righteousness to change hearts.

Fellow Citizens
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 2:11-22
“You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and
members of God's household, built . . . with Christ Jesus himself as the chief
cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).

I was privileged in 2000 to participate in an international conference that drew

people from scores of countries. The spirit of brotherly affection was everywhere in
the air as we greeted one another each day, “Good morning, how are you, brother?”
Though we were obviously foreign to one another because of racial, linguistic, and
cultural differences, loyalty to Jesus Christ was the common denominator. In unity
we prayed, sang, and reflected on God's Word.

What an impressive array of conferences we were as we fanned out into the host
city during “free time.” Sharing our stories and our love for Jesus served to
strengthen the bond. While we certainly had believed in the invisible, universal, and
true body of Jesus Christ, the event was tangible evidence of its reality.

Our citizenship in God’s kingdom is a consequence of an action to which none of us

contributed. It was the real, reconciling death of Christ that joined us to one another
and to God.

INSIGHT: We sing about our unity in Christ, but it is a reality that surpasses a song.
Truly we are one in the Lord.

Being Built Together

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 2
“You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people. . . .
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives
by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19,22).

As we viewed the Independence Day fireworks extravaganza, one could feel the
anticipation building. Each burst of light was met with a chorus of oohs and ahs. But
it was the grand finale that drew the most applause as sparkling colors and a
deafening crescendo of booms climaxed the display.

One has a similar sense of satisfaction in the awesome statement with which Paul
concludes this portion of his letter. He had depicted the desperate straits of
humankind: dead in sin and, as a result, the focus of God's just wrath (2:1-3). But
God did not leave us there. Paul articulated that out of the darkness of our
disobedience and sinful desires, leading to our separation from God, He has
elevated us to a position of favor, hope, and meaningfulness (vv. 4-18).

By the end of the chapter, God’s grand display of grace reaches its apex: He
fashions the very ones who disappointed Him into a dwelling fit for a king - Himself!

INSIGHT: Eternity will be filled with praises to the Savior. We can anticipate these
glorious songs by singing from our hearts today.

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 3:1-6
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles -
” (Ephesians 3:1) “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus . . .” (Philemon 1)

Though I have visited others in jail on occasion, I have never been incarcerated in a
cell. My experience of prison's confining authority, therefore, is limited and brief. I
can only imagine the restrictions to one's liberty and leisure that bind a prisoner.

A second glance at the opening clause of Ephesians 3 surprises me. Notice that in
characteristic Pauline style the Apostle is carried away by new thoughts before
completing the sentence. I might have expected him to say that he was a prisoner
of Rome for the sake of Christ. After all, he was apparently under house arrest at
the time of this writing. His physical imprisonment was due to his preaching
activities, the content of which he has masterfully outlined in the first two chapters
of his letter.

But Paul describes himself as Christ’s prisoner. As captive to Christ, however, his
spirit is not limited or confined; he is wonderfully focused and freed for service to
the Lord.

INSIGHT: When we are captivated by Jesus Christ we can happily yield all so-
called personal licenses to His liberating rule.

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 3:1-6
“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel,
members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ
Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6).

You must learn to share with your sister” - this instruction, which often comes
across as pleading, is heard in most families with young children. We learn that
sharing, or enjoying certain benefits together, is an essential value in order for
children (and adults) to get along with one another. But the Apostle is issuing more
than a wish that we take turns in sharing God's benefits.

He has already spoken forcefully of God’s blessings made available to us as an act

of His grace. God applied those blessings through our redemption in Christ's death,
who effected not only the forgiveness of our sins, but also our reconciliation with
others. Now Paul takes the argument one step further: God has united these saved-
and-reconciled individuals into one body.

It is within God’s full plan of salvation, therefore, that we experience His blessings,
not privately, but together. This message of togetherness communicates a vibrant,
new community of productive harmony under Christ.

INSIGHT: There is a tie that binds you to other believers. It's part of your
inheritance. In fellowship with these believers, you can share your mutual concerns
and burdens.

God's Wisdom
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 3:7-13
“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should
be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians

I was one excited young man when the diamond selected was flawless, of excellent
quality. My intention was to place it in an appropriate setting and present it to my
wife-to-be as a sign of my love. It would also signal to the world that she was
reserved - for me! Thirty years later that stone still communicates its sparkling

In a far greater way God has chosen a setting to display his magnificent wisdom
and love to a watching universe. He has designed the church, the universal
aggregate of individuals whom He has reconciled, to showcase His plan. How
unlikely that Jew and Gentile, brought together into one body with real equality and
mutuality, should climax God's activity.

It is a staggering reversal of our worldly expectations that the church, so often

maligned and discounted, should portray God's beautiful working. The wonder of
God's plan is that you and I are called to display God's wisdom.

INSIGHT: How are you contributing to the body of Christ in its local representation,
such that the manifold wisdom of God is being revealed through you?

God's Wisdom Revealed

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 3:1-13
“The manifold wisdom of God should be made known . . . according to his eternal
purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11).

All of the choicest motel rooms in western North Carolina are reserved well in
advance of autumn. Each year thousands of nature enthusiasts come to the Great
Smokies and the Blue Ridge Mountains for glimpses of fall foliage in all its season-
changing grandeur. They don't seek a particular tree, however. All enjoy the
panoramic views of ridge after ridge of forest, carpeted in warm fall colors.

Paul makes no mistake about the expanse of God's work by focusing on his own
apostolic role. Rather, he helps us see the breadth and splendor of our Savior's
intentions: to clarify and magnify the wisdom of the immortal, invisible, only wise
God. Notice that God's instrument for such unveiling is the reformed, and still being
transformed, community of His believers. What Christ has accomplished by His
death and resurrection we together are commissioned to reveal to a watching
world. The portrayal of God's supreme wisdom is revealed to the extent that our
unity is visible.

INSIGHT: Do you long to show something of the living God to the world? You can -
by being a visible part of God's community of believers.

To Be Filled
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 3:1-22
“I pray that you . . . may have power . . . to know this love that surpasses
knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”
(Ephesians 3:17-19).

One of the challenges in reading the English translation of God's Word is to

understand meaningfully a word like “you.” Here, as in most of this letter, Paul's
intention is to address his thought to all of his audience together. Certainly this letter
would have been heard originally in a public reading. There would have been only
one copy, thus the recipients listened to this prayer as their beloved apostle's hope
for all of them - together.

If we today read aloud this heart-felt prayer, we might capture some of its essential
force by saying “you all” whenever that three-letter word appears. In doing so we
align ourselves with Paul's conviction that God's gracious purposes and our
experiences of these riches are to be received and applied in the context of body
life. The rest of this letter will teach us to live as the Father's family.

We rejoice to be counted among the saints and anticipate our Lord's answer to this
prayer, that we may be filled with the living God Himself.

INSIGHT: Regardless of how others see you, as part of the body of Christ, you
have been chosen to be a living example of what it means to be filled with God

Strengthened and Filled

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 3:14-21
“I pray that . . . he may strengthen you . . .to know this love that surpasses
knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”
(Ephesians 3:16, 19).

I began spending more time in the weight room, believing that the exercise could
strengthen my 50-year-old skeleton. As our bodies age - so professionals advise -
there are things we can do to guard our health despite advancing years. So I
worked out and was built up.

But there is no exercise plan nor nutritional supplement that can equip us to live in
the hope of our calling in Christ. No seven-step video series can accomplish what
the Spirit of God alone can and must do: strengthen us so that Christ may dwell in
the very center of our beings. Rough edges of personality must be smoothed;
hidden sins must be exposed and cleansed. From the center of our beings the Lord
then develops spiritual readiness to fit us for a joyous journey of devotion to
Himself. This strengthening is His activity.

How many times do I pray: help me to love, deepen my trust, broaden my

appreciation of Your presence? My prayers are His intentions, for He loves me.

INSIGHT: May God empower our feeble faith to grow strong as we bask in His plan
to fill us with Himself.

A High Calling
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 4
“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” (Ephesians 4:1-2).
Our society is thrilled with competition. Is not the Super Bowl one of the most
watched TV programs? Even those not interested in football are eager to see the
advertisers compete for commercial attention. In sports, business, school, even in
relationships, competition plays a very big role. There are winners and losers, the
powerful and the power-hungry. Everywhere we look there is an all-consuming push
to excel, to accomplish, and be better than the other guy is, to finish first - no matter

It is no wonder then that God’s society can seem so out of step with the
surrounding culture. It ought to be special: reflecting its call to be kingdom people,
Jesus people, the new humanity, a holy people. This is a high calling, reflecting our

Through these reflections in Ephesians, Paul gives us a glimpse into the church as
the very dwelling place of Christ and the unity that should characterize us.

INSIGHT: In what shall we strive to excel? “Make every effort to keep the unity of
the Spirit through the bond of peace” (v. 3).

Doing My Part
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 4:1-16
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament,
grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16).

I understand that ligaments, if injured, heal slowly. In fact, they may never heal if
they are torn apart completely. Having suffered a severely sprained ankle once, I
am reminded of the vital role that ligaments play.

The Apostle, divinely inspired, depicts the theologically rich theme of the church
with a simple, but graphic illustration: the human body. As no part of the body grows
or functions apart from the others, so we who are Christ's church mature and
become built up - together. There is simply no such thing as a celebrity Christian or
a solitary believer. It is the very plan of God to place each of us in dynamic interplay
with one another. We “ligaments” exist to work together, for the skeletal system and
organs depend on us for Christ's body's health and welfare.
To discharge my responsibility in this grand scheme, I must follow the way of
humility and patience, adoring Him who is our Head, accepting my role and fulfilling
my function by God's help.

INSIGHT: As part of our inheritance, you and I are called to accept that God has
graced us to be part of - not apart from - Christ's body, the church.

New Life Standards

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 4:17-5:21
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self,
which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22).

While bicycling in a strange city I got lost. My instincts, usually reliable for finding
my way, instead were directing me further from my destination. Until I held steady to
a new direction I would remain off the target.

Similarly, living according to the truth in Jesus requires first a decisive turn, a
conscious determination to stop following one's own desires. Such a direction only
leads to lostness and separation from God our Father. But having made the turn -
trusting in the complete forgiveness of God through Christ's sacrifice - we then
cooperate with God's redirecting guidance. Simultaneously we maintain our
determination to hold to the course that produces true righteousness and holiness
and enables us to participate in our inheritance.

Throughout this section of Paul’s letter we note his instructions as a reliable

roadmap that leads to life. Soon our heart's inclinations, our speech, our
relationships, our rights - all come under the transforming activity of our holy and
wise Father.

INSIGHT: As you review today's passage, identify one “putting off the old” about
which God impresses you, and invite the Spirit's transforming work in your life.

Building Others
Scripture Focus:
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful
for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”
(Ephesians 4:29).

A young man who had grown up in atheistic China told me what initially prompted
his interest in Christianity. “It was a book,” he said. “Crime and Punishment by
Dostoyevsky.” Something in the words of that Russian classic triggered soul
searching that led him years later to faith in Christ.

Many of us will never write a book. Few, if any, will publish a best seller or a volume
with life- changing influence. But our words, our very conversation, hold a power
that can effect wonders, even the edification of another person. Some might
counsel, “Be yourself. Let it all hang out. Just be honest.” For those who will imitate
God, there is another way: use wholesome words. Take advantage of your privilege
to build up others in their faith. Be sensitive to their needs and reach out to
encourage their growth in Christ. Get rid of all resentment and every bad feeling.
The test of our words becomes not just truth, but goodness, and the benefit to the

INSIGHT: If every sentence I spoke were the means of building or tearing down
another person, then how tall or sturdy would be the one toward whom those words
had been directed?

Imitating God
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 4:25-5:7
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just
as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to
God” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

According to many people, one of my sons resembles me very closely. However, he

does not have curly hair or blue eyes, as I do. And his shoulders are broader, feet
longer, and he is taller than me. He is also smarter! How then do they see

Those to whom God grants the miracle of adoption (1:5) and redemption (1:7) have
also received his mark (1:13). The Holy Spirit takes up residence in each one of us,
and begins to transform us into the likeness of our Savior. This is his doing and it is
marvelous. Given this unbelievable privilege of belonging to God, we are now
granted the responsibility to take on the Father's likeness.

Specifically, we are to imitate God by showing kindness to those for whom kindness
is not merited or easy to share. No longer, for example, do we retain a right to hold
grudges or nurse bitter resentment. There must be a genuine likeness between
God's way of forgiving and the forgiveness we grant. Then others will see God,
even in us.

INSIGHT: Make it your prayer to become more and more like Jesus in your
attitudes and actions toward others.

Living Life to the Full

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 5:8-20
“Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of
every opportunity because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Go for it!” urged the crowd as the football coach pondered his options just inches
shy of the team's first down. “Go for it!” heard the young man while deliberating his
chances of meeting the new girl in class.

American pop culture is almost always out of step without guidelines for living as
God's light in a dark world. Believers share, however, this urgency to make the most
of each moment, for we recognize that evil is actively seeking to thwart God's
purposes. I must seize each chance to demonstrate goodness and compassion,
contribute to society and family that which edifies, and point others to my Lord.

Of course, our perspective must be informed by the truth about what is important,
what really satisfies and what pleases our Creator. Continually learning to
implement God's point of view in a world dominated by feel-good ethics is
challenging. It takes thoughtfulness, wisdom, and prayerful attentiveness to God's

INSIGHT: Accept today as God's gift, an opportunity to live each hour in a way that
brings honor to Him as you point others to Him by the way you live.
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 5:21-6:9
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).”Do not use
your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love”
(Galatians 5:13).

I have no idea whether the Apostle would have fit into a modern Assertiveness
Training class had he sought to enroll. We sense, however, that much of God's
guidelines for living are contrary to what the world tells us and in which we are
subtly trained by an “enlightened” culture.

Up to this point in his letter, Paul has laid a convincing foundation for successful
living with God's blessings as the cornerstone. Subsequently we have learned to
appreciate the impressive unity with which the Lord has bound us together in God's
Society. It is in the daily dramas and tensions of relationships, however, that most
fall back on different counsel. But the Spirit, through Paul, shows us the way of a
fulfilling, satisfied life of relationships. The key is to maintain an abiding, deep
respect for the Lord Jesus Christ. From that reverence will flow the attitudes of love
and submission and mutuality that promise to transform all of society, including our
families, our neighborhoods, and our work places.

INSIGHT: Our relationship of submission to Jesus Christ enables us to live in

harmony with others.

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 5:22-33
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. . . . Husbands, love your wives. . . .
Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must
respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:22, 25, 33).

It is Christmas week as I reflect on these words from Paul's letter. Christ's example
of love and respect for the Father is easily lost in the frenzy of parties, presents,
and the press to be part of a merry holiday.

Lost in the simple and forever important instruction of these marriage guidelines is a
basic, Christ-like component. It offers us a key to all relationships, especially the
one most intimate. The themes - submission, sacrifice - are those that the world has
chosen to replace in a misguided drive to exist apart from its Savior.

Jesus was born for one purpose: to die. He submitted Himself out of reverence and
real love for His Father, thus emptying Himself of His rights, and made Himself
nothing during His incarnation. This attitude of giving up one's self completely is our
model, therefore. Nothing less will be adequate. Feelings ebb and flow, passionate
promises lack endurance. But the mystery of marriage lies in the way of the Cross -
Christ's and my own.

INSIGHT: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who . . . made
himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:5-7).

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 6:1-4
“`Honor your father and mother' - which is the first commandment with a promise -
`that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth’” (Ephesians

My wife spent her childhood in South Asia, her schooling in a British boarding
school. There she learned routines of etiquette seldom instilled in modern North
America. Imagine her consternation when, during the first week of middle school in
the United States, she got to her feet whenever a teacher entered her classroom.
Her classmates snickered.

Giving honor to our parents is not an outdated social rule to “keep children in their
places.” This scripture is another vital example of relationships in Christian
community. No matter what age a parent has reached, he or she merits respect.
Neither does the child's maturity or capabilities limit the respect due. It is incumbent
on each of us who has a parent to honor appropriately that one who first succored
and supported us.
To honor our parents is in keeping with our deep reverence for Jesus Christ, who
loved us and reverenced His Father to the point of humbling Himself for us.

INSIGHT: Jesus calls us to follow Him. When we become His disciples, we are
bound to obey Him by showing honor to our parents.

Serving Wholeheartedly
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 6:1-9
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you
know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is
slave or free” (Ephesians 6:7-8).

Servant leadership was the theme chosen by a friend in his closing remarks to
fellow graduates in Public Policy. People applauded with enthusiasm. Now four
years later, I wonder how many of those graduates can be characterized by
servanthood in their professional roles.

Perhaps serving sounds too much like being under the authority of another,
something very unpopular for a society that focuses on self-maximizing strategies
and magnifies “doing my own thing” without regard to others. How readily I too can
enumerate reasons why I feel I ought not to put myself at the service of children, or
parent, or supervisor. Such a course seems impractical until we recall whose we
are and the nature of our vocation (see 4:1).

Wholehearted service to those closest to us does not come naturally. It requires a

broader view and deeper motivation, that of serving the Lord wholeheartedly.

INSIGHT: Let us offer ourselves to serve the Lord with pure motives and to serve
those around us, knowing that we are also serving Him.

Standing Firm
Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 6:10-20
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God
so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. . . . Stand firm then”
(Ephesians 6:10-11, 14).

Boxing has never appealed to me. But many people actually cheer the battering
and bloodying that goes on during a match, including the jabbing, feinting, and
punching - all for the purpose of knocking out the opponent.

Our reading today assumes conflict in the Christian life. Paul's words are forceful
and urgent. We are in a struggle, without a question, and the opponent relentlessly
probes for our soft spots, our unguarded moments, when he can bruise us and
wound Christ in us. We dare not take lightly that such a conflict really does rage
around and near us. Twice Paul urges us to “put on” God's armor. In the process,
he outlines the various weapons and strategies that we must employ if we are to
enter into the fray effectively. The key to our resistance lies not in our determination,
but in His mighty power.

Until Christ’s final triumph, God equips us to hold our position and participate in
counterattacks against the enemy of our souls.

INSIGHT: As soldiers, we are called to arms. As part of our inheritance, we are

given assurance of victory in our fight against evil.

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 6:18-24
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With
this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for
me” (Ephesians 6:18-19).

Who needs to pray in our day? We have a host of scientific advances and
technological applications on which to rely. We can utilize public relations, ad
campaigns, and popular opinion to gain our ends. Entering the 21st century armed
with confidence and a history of conquest, we may puzzle over Paul's final urging.

Who needs to pray? Since the great Apostle himself asked assistance in his
ministry - ”whenever I open my mouth” (v. 19) - how much more do I need help! It is
because the days are evil (5:16) and we are engaged in a titanic struggle (6:12)
with a powerful opponent that we need to wield the sword of the Spirit and follow
our Champion's lead in prayer.

Herein lies the secret, perhaps, of basic Christian living: learning the art of
depending on God in every circumstance through requests, confession,
thanksgiving, and intercession. We are to weave prayer throughout the activities of
our day, knowing that God hears and answers us.

INSIGHT: Let's respond to Paul's encouragement that we bring before our

sovereign and wise Father all that affects us and His kingdom - by praying.

Beneficiaries of His Grace

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 6:23-24
“Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus
Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love”
(Ephesians 6:23-24).

The Apostle concludes this instructive and inspiring letter on the same note that he
began it: grace greater than all my sin and my imperfect grasp of God's grandness
and plan. During my yearlong journey to memorize this Epistle and reflect on its
personal impact, I have benefited from these lessons for vital spiritual living. Nearly
each time I review (one to three times weekly) God's Word comes to me in a fresh
way as His Spirit applies to my heart what I need to consider and live.

God’s grace - His unmerited favor to us based on His uncompromising faithfulness

to His promises - has been central throughout this letter. His grace has made us
alive and blessed us with redemption's riches. His grace has accomplished our
reconciliation with one another and with our God, and propelled us into an
adventure in living under His wise rule. And His grace has equipped us for holy
living. By His kind shaping influence, we too pass along His love, beauty, and
glorious call to other imperfect ones like ourselves.

INSIGHT: God's grace, His inheritance for you, brings untold wealth that permeates
every aspect of living on earth and throughout eternity in heaven.