Monday, January 31, 2011

Ephesians 4:1-3

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Questions to consider:
  • What do you think "the calling to which you have been called" is?
  • What might it mean to live a life worthy of that calling?
  • What does it mean to bear with one another in love?
  • What might prevent you from "bearing with one another in love"?
  • How can you maintain the unity of the Spirit?
Possibilities for prayer:

Humility, gentleness, patience, and love are all qualities to which we can and should aspire. Today, let's think of the ways in which we might have fallen short in representing these things and ask God to show us ways in which we ca grown ever stronger into them, that we might lead lives worthy of the calling.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ephesians 3:20-21

20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Questions to consider:

  • What power is at work within us?
  • What does it mean to accomplish "abundantly far more" that we can ask or imagine?
  • To whom are we offering glory through this prayer?
Possibilities for prayer:

Let's, quite simply, pray this prayer today. Recognize God's majesty, and offer praise and glory in response, along with a prayer that future generations would be able to have the same recognition of who God is and what should be done in response.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ephesians 3:18-19

18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Questions to consider:
  • Who are all the saints to whom the author refers?
  • How do you understand the concept of something that "surpasses knowledge"?
  • What might it mean to be filled with all the fullness of God?
Possibilities for prayer:

This portion of Ephesians 3 is a prayer in itself: the author desires for us to comprehend the breadth, height, length and depth of God's love, amongst other things. In this season, the song "How He Loves" has been a powerful and meaningful one for our church community, as we go through the book of Ephesians. Its message is quite simple, really-- just attempting to convey the way that God loves us.

Let's pray along with the author of Ephesians that we might begin to even marginally comprehend the various immeasurable measurements of the way in which God loves us.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ephesians 3:14-17

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.

Questions to consider:
  • What do you think is the significance of the statement "from whom every family in heave and on earth takes its name"?
  • What might be "the riches of his glory'?
  • What do you think it means to be strengthened in your inner being? Where does that strengthening come from?
  • What does it look like to be rooted and grounded in love?
Possibilities for prayer:

The idea of working to strengthen one's body is not unfamiliar to most of us--we've likely all seen the commercials on the TV or heard them on the radio, inviting us to join and make our bodies stronger. But here, the author prays for the strengthening of our inner being through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let's pray that prayer for ourselves today, that the Holy Spirit would strengthen our very souls, giving us the courage to be honest, faithful, to serve God, and to love well.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ephesians 3:7-12

7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God's grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. 13 I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.

Questions to consider:
  • To what gospel is the author referring, to which he has "become a servant according to the gift of God's grace"?
  • What are the boundless riches of Christ? Have you experienced them?
  • Who do you think are the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places?
  • What is the "eternal purpose" to the author refers in verse 11?
Possibilities for prayer:

Verses 11 and 12 state that we have access to God through Jesus's sacrifice on the cross. This seems to suggest that we no longer need an earthly intermediary in order to communicate with God. For people alive at the time that this letter was written, that was likely a big deal. The Jews had definitely been communicating with God through the use of priests in the temples, but here we are told that Jesus serves that role. Have you ever stopped to think about how incredibly awesome it is that we can hold court with God, the Most High? And we are told that these communications can occur in boldness and confidence, as opposed to fear and trembling. As you pray today, take some time to reflect on the amazing fact that you are talking to GOD and offer a prayer of gratitude for the fact that it's just you and God participating in that conversation.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ephesians 3:1-6

1This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles-- 2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God's grace that was given me for you, 3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Questions to consider:
  • Who are the Gentiles to whom the author refers?
  • What is the "commission of God's grace that was given to [the author]"?
  • What is the mystery of Christ? Why was it not previously revealed?
  • What metaphors does the author use to help us understand the relationship that the Gentiles now have to Christ and the others who follow him?
Possibilities for prayer:

What do you think about when you think of the word "heir"? There are a couple of different ways to think about the word--someone who gets property or possessions left to them because of a will, or someone who is in line to take over a position or office. It's kind of interesting because it seems like both understandings of the word are relevant in this passage. We, who count among the Gentiles, are now counted as heirs to Christ: his treasure is our treasure, and, in many ways, his "office" is our office.

Jesus told the disciples that when the Holy Spirit came, they would be able to do even greater works than he did, and that promise is extended to us. Of course, with that comes some responsibility, just as it does for an earthly heir. Are we, as Christ's heirs, filling well the office he left us? Today, let's take some time to ask God to show us ways we can step more fully into being heirs to Christ--in word and deed--and take steps to see those things happen.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ephesians 2:19-22

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Questions to consider:
  • How is it different to be a citizen as opposed to an alien in a country? How do you think this metaphor is useful in understanding God's kingdom?
  • Who are the apostles and prophets referred to here?
  • Why is it important that Christ is the cornerstone of the household of God? Who is included in this household?
Possibilities for prayer:

The final verse of this passage makes a strong suggestion: we, the now citizens and members of the household of God are to be joined together into a temple in which God can dwell. Put more simply, we are to be a people or community in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. We may think carefully about whether and how the Holy Spirit dwells in us as individuals, but how often do we think about the Spirit dwelling in our community? Today, let's take some time to pray for just that--let's pray for our church and community, that we would be united in Christ and together be a people in whom the Holy Spirit is pleased to dwell.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ephesians 2:14-18

14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Questions to consider:
  • What kinds of walls have been created in your life?
  • What does it mean for your life that the law has been abolished through Christ?
  • Do you feel reconciled to God?
  • How has peace been proclaimed to you?
Possibilities for prayer:

Do you sense the power and peace-making ability of God when reading through this passage? Through God’s power two groups that were once separate and indeed, hostile to one another are reconciled. And this reconciliation is important for our lives because it is the point at which gentiles (us!) and Jews are both able to interact with God, through the intermediary of Jesus. That’s a pretty clear statement power. Take some time to think about places in your life where you could especially use some of God’s power and ask him to step in and move powerfully.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ephesians 2:11-13

11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called "the uncircumcision" by those who are called "the circumcision"--a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands-- 12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Questions to consider:
  • What would your world look like without hope?
  • How is it changed through the hope of Christ?
  • How has Jesus’s blood closed the gap, transforming us from strangers and aliens to citizens?
Possibilities for prayer:

An existence without hope is a sad thing indeed. Without hope, it is difficult to experience joy, or be motivated to take action for change. If there’s no hope, what’s the point in just about anything? But fortunately for us, there is hope found in God and that changes everything. Take some time to appreciate the power of the hope we have in God, and try to make a list of the things in your life that are more hopeful because God is a part of it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ephesians 2:8-10

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Questions to consider:
  • What do you think it means to be save through faith?
  • What impact does the fact that your saving is not your own doing have on your response to Jesus?
  • What good works do you think God has made you to do?
Possibilities for prayer:

It is God’s grace that has brought us out of death--not anything we have said or done or thought to do--simply grace that has made faith powerful. That is a beautiful and hopefully transformational truth for our lives. Take some time to reflect on the grace that God has extended to you, especially in the context of the beginning of this chapter, which tells us of previous spiritual death. After reflecting, try to write out a prayer of gratitude for the grace you have been shown.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ephesians 2:1-7

You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Questions to consider:
  • What do you think the author means by “the course of this world” in verse 2?
  • What kinds of passions of the flesh do you still struggle with?
  • How have you experienced being made alive with Christ?
  • Do you feel that you have encountered the “immeasurable riches” of God’s grace? What does that look like for you?

Possibilities for prayer:

The first several verses explain the ways in which sin has caused spiritual death in our lives. But you’ll notice how the author uses the past tense--”You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived”--which already seems to offer a sense of hope, the promise that in the present tense, you are no longer dead. And then we get to verse 4: “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us...” The “But God” strikes me as important, as it prefaces some seriously important information about God’s redemption of our lives. Let’s make that “but God” our prayer today. No matter what the situation, circumstance, concern or source of confusion that may be tempting you to doubt or fear, simply pray the “but God” prayer--But God knows you, has grace for you, sees you, and most importantly, loves you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Ephesians 1:20-23

20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Questions to Consider
  • What does it mean for your life that the power God employed in raising Jesus from the dead (v. 20) is “for us who believe” (v. 19)? (Presumably “for us who believe” means something like “for our sake” or “on our behalf”…)
  • Try drawing a diagram of the cosmos, based on the account given in Ephesians 1. Where is God? Where is Christ (trace his path through this passage)? Where are the authorities and powers? Where is the church? Where are you (is this one way to think about being “in Christ”)?
  • For whom has the cosmos been reshaped? (v. 22)
  • What rules, authorities, powers, dominions, and “names” shape your life and your world? What does it mean for your life that Christ is seated far above all of these, that they are situated under His feet?
  • What does it means that the church is the body of Christ and His “fullness,” especially given that He fills all and is over all?

Possibilities for Prayer

Let’s reflect before God: What names we are tempted to put above Jesus’ name? What powers are we tempted to trust more than His? Let’s lay these down and ask that Jesus, indeed, have authority over all of them for us.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ephesians 1:15-19

15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

Questions to Consider
  • What evidence has God shown us of the greatness of His power (see v. 20 below)? What evidence has God shown you in particular?
  • Who are the saints? (The Greek for “saints” is literally “holy ones.” Recall that “holy” means “set apart.”) How could you love those who have been set apart for God (within ECV, in other faith communities, others)?
  • What is the theme of Paul’s prayer for us? How much of your life is oriented around knowing God? What would it look like to make this a focus of your life?

Possibilities for Prayer

Verse 17 is Paul’s prayer for us. Pray for a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we could come to know all that vv. 17-19 describes. Let Ephesians pray vv. 17-19 over you; or pray these verses over someone in your life whom you’d like to come to know all that God has for them.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ephesians 1:11-14

11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

Questions to Consider
  • Verse 11 says we have obtained an inheritance. From whom? What kind of relationship does that imply we have with God?
  • What relationship is there between those who “first” set their hope on Christ and those who later hear the word of truth?
  • What is this inheritance? Do we have it yet? Are we still in some sense waiting for it?
  • How about our redemption (our release from slavery)? Do we have it yet? Are we still in some sense waiting for it?
  • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the unfolding of God’s plan?

Possibilities for Prayer

This short little passage uses the phrase “the praise of his glory” twice. “Glory” literally means “brilliance” and is often taken figuratively to mean something like “reputation.” God’s glory is built through the things God does because of what they reveal about who God is. A more theological definition of glory, then, would be something like “the brilliance of God’s love. for the beloved.” Ephesians says that we are to live for the praise of God’s glory (v. 12), that the ultimate end of God’s plan is the praise of God’s glory (v. 14). Given what we’re learning about God’s plan to free us from sin, adopt us as His own, and give us His Holy Spirit, we have a lot of evidence of God’s love—we’re seeing God’s glory. Let’s give Him praise and ask that not just our prayers but our lives could praise God’s glory.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ephesians 1:7-10

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Questions to Consider
  • The Greek word translated “redemption” here often refers to the money one would pay to free a slave. Following that metaphor, to what were we enslaved such that God had to buy our freedom? (Does this have anything to do with “the forgiveness of our trespasses”?)
  • What is the divine mystery which God has revealed? (see 3:5-6, 5:32; “mystery” is an important concept in Ephesians)
  • Does verse 10 (“gather up all things in him”) give us any insight into how we should understand “in Christ” in verse 9 and elsewhere?

Possibilities for Prayer

If we suppose that our “redemption” has much to do with being forgiven our trespasses (our sins), then the imagery being employed suggests that we’ve been enslaved to Sin and, through the blood of Christ, God purchased our freedom from Sin (a pretty standard Pauline idea, actually). How have you experienced sin as an enslaving force in your life? Does that resonate for you—that is, the idea that sin (stuff you do that isolates you from God and from other people) constrains your freedom and works against your best interest? What would liberation from that enslaving force mean for your life? Let’s pray and thank God for His offer of liberation from sin. Let’s ask for God’s wisdom and insight to help us comprehend the richness of God’s grace and ask for the courage to live into the freedom from sin made available through the blood of Jesus.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ephesians 1:1-6

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Questions to Consider
  • Who is the primary actor in this passage? (Who is the subject of most of the verbs?)
  • Three times (vv. 1, 3, 4), the author uses the phrase “in Christ” (this phrase is used some 20 times in Ephesians, including 7 times in this chapter). What does this mean? How ought we imagine this? (spatially? figuratively (if so, how)? some other way?)
  • Where in your life do you see the spiritual blessings God has given you?
  • What does it mean to you that God chose you before the foundation of the world?
  • What would it look like to “be holy and blameless” before God? (“Holy” means “set apart.”) How is that different from what your life looks like now?
Possibilities for Prayer

“Chosenness” is a tricky idea for a lot of people. Often we can wonder whether we are “chosen” at the expense of someone else not being chosen. Just sticking within the text in front of us, Ephesians doesn’t seem to worry much about folks that aren’t chosen (in fact, for Ephesians, it seems like all are chosen…). At any rate, for Ephesians, this much is clear: “we” were chosen. God thought of us—thought of you—before the world was founded, and has offered you every spiritual blessing in heaven. Have you accepted these gifts? Have you accepted your adoption as a child of God? Why not pause and ask God what it might look like for you to walk into those blessings and into that adoption?

Does your life reflect an abundance of spiritual blessing and a regular awareness of your adoption as a child of God? I wonder if we would experience more of those good things if we lived into the holy, blameless life that God desires for us. How could your life be more plainly “set apart” for God, dedicated to His purposes? Pray for the conviction of God’s Spirit to show you where you can walk in greater obedience to God’s will.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Psalm 55

1 Listen to my prayer, O God,
do not ignore my plea;
2 hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
3 because of what my enemy is saying,
because of the threats of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering on me
and assail me in their anger.

4 My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen on me.
5 Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
6 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
7 I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;
8 I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.”

9 Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words,
for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
malice and abuse are within it.
11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets.

12 If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
I could hide.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God,
as we walked about
among the worshipers.

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
let them go down alive to the realm of the dead,
for evil finds lodging among them.

16 As for me, I call to God,
and the LORD saves me.
17 Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
18 He rescues me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.
19 God, who is enthroned from of old,
who does not change—
he will hear them and humble them,
because they have no fear of God.

20 My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.
21 His talk is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.

22 Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.
23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked
into the pit of decay;
the bloodthirsty and deceitful
will not live out half their days.

But as for me, I trust in you.

Questions to consider:

  • Determine the divisions in David's thought here.
  • What is his first reaction to the horror of his suspicions?
  • What is the change in his emotions as his suspicions become more well-founded?
  • What does he want from God for the enemy? For himself? On what basis?
  • How can David be so sure of the outcome?
Possibilities for prayer:

Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.

Do you believe that verse 22 is true? So many of the psalms seem to have a similar theme running through them: life is difficult, frightening, and often ugly, but trusting in God is the only way to make it through. This verse seems to suggest a similar thing: by trusting in God, we will never be "shaken." Maybe there have been times in your life when it not felt like that was the case, and you have felt shaken to your very core. But there's an important introductory piece to this message of hope; a command to cast your cares on the Lord is given. That doesn't mean idly saying "I'm giving these things to you, God" but continuing to bear their burden. It means surrendering them, wholly and completely to God with confidence that God can take care of them, and you. Today, let's pray for the ability to genuinely surrender our cares and burdens, and the faith to be truly sustained by God.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Psalm 54

1 Save me, O God, by your name;
vindicate me by your might.
2 Hear my prayer, O God;
listen to the words of my mouth.

3 Arrogant foes are attacking me;
ruthless people are trying to kill me—
people without regard for God.

4 Surely God is my help;
the Lord is the one who sustains me.

5 Let evil recoil on those who slander me;
in your faithfulness destroy them.

6 I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you;
I will praise your name, LORD, for it is good.
7 You have delivered me from all my troubles,
and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.

Questions to consider:

  • What situation does God face here?
  • What emotions does he express in this situation? Toward whom? against whom? Why?
  • What is the basis for his plea for safety?
  • What descriptive names of God does he use?
  • What does David anticipate? What will he do in response?
  • What is your feeling about God's name?
Possibilities for prayer:

For today's prayer time, take some time to write out a psalm of thanksgiving to God. It doesn't have to have flawless structure or the perfect metaphors or images, but it should come from your heart. Once you've written it, read it aloud to God and make it your prayer to Him for the day.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Psalm 53

1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good.

2 God looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

4 Do all these evildoers know nothing?

They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on God.
5 But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
where there was nothing to dread.
God scattered the bones of those who attacked you;
you put them to shame, for God despised them.

6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

Questions to consider:

  • Compare and contrast this psalm with Psalm 14. Account for the similarities and differences.
  • List and consider the characteristics of the sons of men. How are these characteristics an extension of their basic attitudes toward God?
  • What is God's future for such people?
  • What kinds of attitudes about life and God do you consider foolish or wise? Why?
  • With what does God equate wisdom and understanding?
  • By the above definition, to what extent are you wise?
Possibilities for prayer:

The end of this psalm is filled with hope. The author of the psalm does not write, "If God restores his people," but rather, "When God restores his people." Do we have the same hope that David exudes in this psalm? Do we live lives that state confidently that God restores, rather than questioning the possibility of that restoration? Today, let's ask God to make us beacons of the hope we see at the end of this psalm, living lives that declare God's goodness in faith and trust.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Psalm 52

1 Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
Why do you boast all day long,
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
2 You who practice deceit,
your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor.
3 You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
4 You love every harmful word,
you deceitful tongue!

5 Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
6 The righteous will see and fear;
they will laugh at you, saying,
7 “Here now is the man
who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
and grew strong by destroying others!”

8 But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
for ever and ever.
9 For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good.

Questions to consider:

  • Identify and characterize the mighty hero.
  • What is the hero's main weapon? To what extent do you similarly use this weapon?
  • What will be the end of the mighty man? Why?
  • What will be the reaction of the righteous?
  • What qualities do you think David has in mind when he describes himself as a tree?
  • For what can you thank God now?
  • How would you entitle this psalm?
Possibilities for prayer:

There is a bit of a parable within this psalm--David tells of a "hero" who relied upon wealth and power that came from destroying others, both things that are fleeting in this world. The one who chose to trust those things, instead of making God their "stronghold", finds himself mocked in the end. David's image of a tree may help us to envision something strong and beautiful, growing healthier (flourishing, from the psalm) in God's presence. Let's make that our prayer today, that we might grow strong and beautiful as olive trees in the presence of God, seeking God as our stronghold and relying upon him rather than anything fleeting in this world.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ephesians 1:1-14

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 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. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Questions to consider:

  • What has God the Father done for you?
  • How are you to acknowledge God’s gracious acts?
  • What is the focal point of God’s plan for all history?
  • How does this fact help establish priorities for the furthering of God’s purpose in (a) your life and (b) the world today?
  • How can you express today the unity that is in Christ?
Possibilities for prayer:

One of the questions to think about today asks what the focal point of God’s plan for all history is. The text for today seems to indicate that it is about Christ’s coming to this earth and offering us redemption through his sacrifice. The idea of everything in God’s story (as told to us through the Bible) coming around Christ and his redemption is a pretty powerful one. Let’s reflect on what that redemptive power has meant in our lives, and take some time to thank God for that most gracious gift which we have been given, in order to be “holy and blameless” in God’s sight.