A Very Personal Walk through Ephesians – 36

Embracing God’s love for me

36. Armor of God, Part II

Ephesians 6:13-18. “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (NLT) 

Continuing the ten principles derived from this passage, which began in post #35: 

2. The second principle from this passage is that I must protect myself by preparing to avoid or defeat the plan of the evil one. His objective is to get me to distrust and disobey my heavenly Father, the One who loves me and made me His own. I protect myself by putting on or using each of the weapons Paul lists. The verb forms in this passage indicate that the believer is to have prepared ahead of time for the attack that will be coming. I do this by embracing the following “weapons:”

  • Truth
  • God’s righteousness
  • Peace that comes from Jesus’ Good News
  • Faith
  • Salvation
  • God’s Word
  • Prayer 

3. Truth – I am to focus on and depend on what I know is true about God and about myself. First, I need to know what is true, and I learn that primarily through Bible study. The Holy Spirit opens my eyes and mind to what God is communicating to me through the Bible. It is also helpful for me to learn truth from those who have greater skills in understanding the Word through their scholarship, such as commentators, teachers, and preachers, so that I don’t twist the meaning of the passage to what I want it to say. 

I also learn truth through recognizing what God has done and is doing in the world and in my life. God has brought other people into my life to speak truth to me, often in small group relationships or discipleship/mentoring opportunities.

Once I identify truth, I need to apply that truth to my experiences and continue to remind myself of what is true. For instance, the evil one may try to convince me that I am not worthy of being loved, but the truth about God’s love is overwhelmingly demonstrated in His Word and my experiences. When I focus on the truth, I recognize that my negative thoughts are based on untruths and need to be rejected immediately. 

4. Righteousness – Part of the needed preparation to stand firm in the face of temptations is to receive God’s righteousness by accepting Christ as my Savior and imitating His righteousness by doing what I know is right. Being sensitive to the Holy Spirit and responding to Him immediately is an essential part of having a clear conscience, able to hear from God when He is instructing me on how to react to temptations. 

5. Peace – The good news that Jesus brought can bring peace to those who believe it. I no longer need to be worried about my eternal future or my direction in life. I can experience peace by fully trusting in God, not worrying about anything but asking God for what I need and thanking Him for what He has done. Then He will send me His peace. (Philippians 4:6-9). I know I am more likely to ignore Satan’s temptations when I am feeling peaceful, not anxious, so this is especially important for me to remember and practice. 

Father, please help me to practice these qualities and actions that You have provided for my protection from the temptations that would lead me away from experiencing Your love and peace. I need to walk with You every day, depending on You to help me stand firm against everything that pulls me away from You.  Amen.

From the personal devotional notes of Peggy McKechnie, certified life coach and follower after God’s own heart. You are invited to contact Peggy through ChurchHealthMinistries.com.

Dear Reader, this series on walking through Ephesians will conclude on this Friday, June 25th. I hope these posts have been a blessing to you. Could you tell me in one sentence what your most helpful take-away was? Also, would you be interested in walking with me through a series of posts on another passage or book of the Bible? You can comment on this post or write me at ohnpcoach@gmail.com. I appreciate your input. Peggy

A Very Personal Walk through Ephesians – 35

Embracing God’s love for me

35. Armor of God, Part I

Ephesians 6:10-12. A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (NLT)

I am going to take my time going through this passage about the armor of God. It is too easy for me to read it quickly and simply acknowledge the figures of speech but not apply the words to my life. This time, rather than considering each piece of physical armor, I’m going to focus on two aspects: 1) what are the truths behind the figurative language of this passage? and 2) how can these truths be applied to one specific issue in my life that has been a challenge to me? I have been praying about this specific issue and feel that it could be a form of spiritual warfare. I have had occasional, specific negative thoughts that, if entertained, can lead me to doubt God. I have been learning how to stop the thought as soon as I recognize it and I feel that God has been helping me to control my thoughts to be pleasing to Him. I am hoping that studying the armor of God with this approach will take me beyond each metaphoric weapon to a more practical and specific application to my life. [For readers of this post, I encourage you to identify an issue in your own life for application of these principles.]

There are ten principles that I have identified from the armor passage that I can apply to my life, particularly applying them to a specific issue in my life that needs to change. There is a lot of overlap in these principles, but they build on each other and strengthen each other. Each principle adds another layer of effectiveness in living the way God has planned for me as the Holy Spirit gives me “the desire and the power to do what pleases” God (Phil. 2:13). 

This passage directs me: 

 1. Fight this issue in God’s power, not my own power. I must be strong in Him. I am no match for the evil one, but God is. I need to recognize that I am entirely dependent on God for this battle and victory. I have tried and failed numerous times, proving to myself that I cannot change myself or win against this evil. But if I use the spiritual resources God has provided, “[I]  will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”

Focusing just on verse 10 – “Be strong in the Lord and his mighty power.” How do I get strong? By exercising. This requires action on my part, including changing my mindset, clarifying my beliefs, and taking action.  Today’s English Version translates verse 13 as “So put on God’s armor now! Then when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist the enemy’s attacks…” I want to be strong for the difficult days that I know are coming. Right now, my life is relatively easy; but either age or external circumstances or both will challenge me sooner rather than later. This passage is a reminder of the spiritual warfare going on in the world today. I am naive if I ignore this fact. 

I know many people today think it is strange to believe that evil spirits exist. But I remind myself that I believe in good spirits (God, angels). Why is it any stranger to realize that there are also evil spirits? I am naturally more comfortable attributing the evil I see in the world to certain “bad people” rather than seeing it as the demonstration of invisible evil forces. But I know that’s not the whole of reality. And I don’t know if my negative thoughts are coming from the evil one or from my own self-centered brain, but I know at least that when I dwell on negative thoughts that are not true, I am stepping into the devil’s trap and not trusting God. 

Is this recurrent negative thought like Paul’s thorn in the flesh (II Cor. 12)? Possibly. Whatever Paul’s thorn was, it was used by the evil one, yet God’s grace is able to overcome what Satan intends for evil. Here is a good reminder for me: Why didn’t God take away Paul’s thorn? 

A. to keep Paul from being proud

B. to demonstrate God’s power 

C. Possibly, to keep him dependent on God 

D. To demonstrate that joy can exist even in weakness. Paul said “I am glad… I take pleasure in my weaknesses” because God’s “power works best in weakness.”

I would like to develop the same characteristics in my life, even if they must come through a difficult experience.

Father, I don’t particularly want to think about evil spirits. It’s much more pleasant to close my eyes to evil and focus on love, peace, etc. Please help me to see the world the way it really is, and to be prepared for that realization and interaction by putting on the armor that you have provided for me. I am starting this morning by being alert and prayerful. Please make me aware of reality and sensitive to Your Spirit. And please make me strong in Your power, trusting You to do what is best in my life. Bring glory to Your name by Your power shown through my weakness.   Amen.

From the personal devotional notes of Peggy McKechnie, certified life coach and follower after God’s own heart. You are invited to contact Peggy through ChurchHealthMinistries.com.

A Very Personal Walk through Ephesians – 34

Embracing God’s love for me

34. Children and Slaves.

Ephesians 6:1-9.  “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have long life on the earth.” Fathers (or Parents), do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” 

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; Remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.” (NLT)

First, children. My takeaways from the passage concerning children are 1) that I am to teach our children (and grandchildren when I have the opportunity) the same things I want to learn myself. Basically, it is discipleship, learning about Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to make me more like Jesus. And 2) I am to treat my children the same way God treats me, with love and encouragement, but also with instruction and limits. 

Second, slaves. I have read that many of the members of churches Paul visited were slaves. The slaves worshiped alongside of the freemen and were accepted as brothers and sisters in the Lord. All members of the church are first and foremost, slaves of Christ (v.6).  I’m not going to get into the deeply troubling history of slavery here, but I think it is legitimate to apply the principles in this passage to my relationships with my employers. Paul’s instructions to slaves help me relate appropriately to my employers. As a slave of Christ, any other person with whom I interact will receive the respect and service that I wish to give to Christ, whether it is my employer, a family member, or a neighbor. (Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.”)

Father, please help me to serve others well, with the goal of pleasing You. Change my mindset so that I am intentionally serving You when I serve others. Amen.

From the personal devotional notes of Peggy McKechnie, certified life coach and follower after God’s own heart. You are invited to contact Peggy through ChurchHealthMinistries.com.

A Very Personal Walk through Ephesians – 33

Embracing God’s love for me

33. Husbands and wives. 

Ephesians 5:21-30, 33. “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body. … So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (NLT)

This is a very difficult passage for me to study. In spite of the context, which I think “softens” the understanding of what submission means, I still find myself somewhat uncomfortable with the restrictions I see here. I know that living in this place and time has colored my view of male-female relationships. I’ll continue to study and pray for understanding of what pleases God. My study this time through this passage in Ephesians is focusing on the biblical principles that I want to influence my beliefs. 

This is what I am gleaning and applying from this passage:

1. Submitting involves us all. We are all (male and female) to submit to each other (v.21).

2. The motivation for submission is the desire to please God. Christ gave us the example of submitting Himself to His Father even when He would have liked another way, because He trusted His Father.

3. The purpose of submission is to accomplish something valuable. Christ submitted to crucifixion so that I could have my sins forgiven and become God’s adopted daughter. I submit to my husband in order to please God; the result, under God’s direction, is a marriage that works well. I decided before marriage that in his role as the head of our relationship, Allan would make the final decision in any important choice in which we disagreed. He agreed to seek and consider my input, but the responsibility of the final decision was on his shoulders. This agreement has served us well. In almost every significant decision we have come to agreement; we take time to pray together and individually and seek unity. Because he knows he has the last word, Allan doesn’t feel he has to fight to get his way in any situation. He often chooses my suggestion. He likes to say that in our 48 years of marriage he has only used the right to make the final decision six times, and 3 or 4 of those times he feels he made the wrong choice.  I am comfortable in the position of advising him and having an equal voice in the discussion, but letting him have the deciding vote.  

4. Submission is not an indication of ability or worth. Often it is needed for the smooth functioning of a process. For relationships, organizations, and society to function effectively, different roles are necessary.

5. We see examples of appropriate submission in many relationships. For example, at work I submit to a boss (follow her directions) for the purpose of accomplishing the goals of our department. I obey the directions of police at an accident scene for my safety and the protection of others. I accept the assignment given by a professor in order to complete the course requirements. These examples of submission are based on the individual roles needed to accomplish goals, promote safety, and enable relationships and organizations to flourish.

6. Submission is sometimes hard, such as when a boss is not fair, or a spouse disagrees with a certain course of action.

7. The spirit of submission in marriage is indicated by at least three statements in this passage. 

  • The scriptural instructions indicate voluntary submission. The wife is not forced, but willingly submits (and even joyfully submits especially when the husband is acting lovingly as Christ loves His church).
  • A wife submitting to a husband is compared to the church submitting to Christ. This is probably the key to understanding submission. The church doesn’t grudgingly strain to follow Christ’s leading. Instead, it finds its fulfillment, joy, and satisfaction in surrendering less worthy personal goals for the privilege of experiencing God’s love and purposeful lives together.
  • Paul summarizes the wife’s submission to her husband (v. 33) as respecting him. The husband has a more difficult command to love his wife the way Christ loves the church, sacrificing himself for his wife. Doesn’t this mean the husband is submitting his life to the best interests of his wife? 

8. Of course it is possible that this concept of submission can be distorted and misused if not under the loving direction of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, boundaries are crucial in a marriage relationship and no abuse is ever acceptable.

9. This passage is not teaching that all women must submit to all men. It is specifically addressing husbands and wives.

10. And finally, I admit that my natural inclinations are to avoid submitting to anyone. Like everyone else, I want my own way. But I also see the ideal of a marriage relationship with the husband loving sacrificially and the wife respecting her husband in the responsibility he has taken on. 

My take-aways: 

a. The church submits to Christ because it trusts Him. In my marriage relationship I choose to believe that God “has my back.” He is sovereign over all, including our marriage. I pray for more trust.

b. Submission does not mean being wimpy. This has been a struggle since the beginning of my marriage when I thought being loving was giving in and never criticizing. I now know that true love includes doing what is best for the loved one and requires truthful and sometimes difficult conversations and actions. I pray for more courage to be loving.


From the personal devotional notes of Peggy McKechnie, certified life coach and follower after God’s own heart. You are invited to contact Peggy through ChurchHealthMinistries.com.

A Very Personal Walk through Ephesians – 32

Embracing God’s love for me

32. What does it mean to make music to the Lord in your heart? 

Ephesians 5:18b-20. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NLT) “…making melody to the Lord with all your heart.” (ESV)

The NLT rendering of verse 19 (“making music to the Lord in your hearts”) could refer to the songs I sing in my mind or those I sing out loud when I am alone, as well as when I am singing in a congregation. But the emphasis would be on soul-deep worship. 

The ESV wording implies energetic involvement in the process of making music to the Lord. According to O’Brien,* the ESV translation is more accurate. I am directed in Ephesians 5:19 to sing songs that build up other believers and that praise and worship God. But I am to do this enthusiastically, with my whole heart. Therefore, I sing with my thoughts (thinking about the words) and with my emotions. Often a meaningful hymn will cause me to tear up because of the combination of personally meaningful words and inspiring music. When words and music match in intensity and tone it stirs me deeply — to my soul. When I experience that deep emotion, I can turn its energy in the direction of God, praising Him for what is being expressed in that song. 

I wonder if this verse could also include more than just singing or what we usually consider as music. I wonder if there are other forms of praise that appear before God as worship. Expressing any creative or artistic expression, whether it is vocal or instrumental music, or painting, or artistic photography, or sculpting, or dancing…  Is it possible that if it comes from a grateful and worshipful heart it is translated into melody in the ears of God? 

Father, hear my songs of gratitude and praise to You. Listen to my songs of desire for You and confession of my sins. Attend to my aching laments and bend Your ear to my cries for help. Thank You for the gift of music and creative expression. You have made us as creative beings and we worship You through those efforts. Amen. 

*O’Brien, Peter T (1999). The Letter to the Ephesians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, p 396.

From the personal devotional notes of Peggy McKechnie, certified life coach and follower after God’s own heart. You are invited to contact Peggy through ChurchHealthMinistries.com.

A Very Personal Walk through Ephesians – 31

Embracing God’s love for me

31. Living moment by moment in the moment.

Ephesians 5:15-20 “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NLT)

One more day looking at how to live in a way that pleases God, focusing on mindfulness.

These verses help me apply what I was thinking and praying about yesterday [devotional blog #29 and 30]. I want to live more intentionally, and that includes being mindful.

In my New Living Translation, the title for this section is “Living by the Spirit’s Power.” It is the Spirit working in my life that makes it possible for me to learn to:

  • live like a person who is wise  
  • make the most of every opportunity
  • not act thoughtlessly (without thinking about it)
  • understand what God wants me to do. 

All of these together describe mindfulness, being entirely present in the moment, not on autopilot, fully engaging with what is going on now.

A mindfulness reminder: now is the only time I can praise the Lord, the only time I can be in His presence. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, only the in the present moment. 

This passage draws some contrasts.              

Not –    Foolish , Thoughtless, Drunk              But – wise, understanding, filled with the Spirit

Where am I in each list?

What is the opportunity today that I can make the most of? 

What is the opportunity that I see ahead of me in the near future? How can I be prepared to make the most of it?

My take-away: In order to be intentional in my living, I need to be mindful, living in the moment.

Father, please help me to live fully in each moment today. I don’t want to wish away any experience just because I am anticipating something in the future. You will be with me each moment today. Help me to be aware of Your presence. Amen.

From the personal devotional notes of Peggy McKechnie, certified life coach and follower after God’s own heart. You are invited to contact Peggy through ChurchHealthMinistries.com.

A Very Personal Walk through Ephesians – 30

Embracing God’s love for me

30. God, my role model, is intentional.

Ephesians 5:10, 15-20. “Carefully determine what pleases the Lord…. So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NLT)

To continue the thoughts about intentional living from yesterday: What I am beginning to see is that God is consistently intentional in how He deals with us. Earlier in Ephesians I saw that before any of us were born God had a plan for each of His followers. Recognizing His intentionality at least partially answers the question raised in 5:10, What pleases God? Ephesians 1:5 tells me that God’s plan for our salvation was His decision “and it gave him great pleasure” (NLT). God’s intentions are also seen in 1:11, “he makes everything work out according to his plan” and in 2:10, “the good things that he planned for us long ago.” His intentional, purposeful plans for His children bring Him great pleasure. That leads me to believe that when I live deliberately, it pleases Him. 

My recent readings in the Psalms demonstrate that God’s plans and purposes for His people are seen throughout Old and New Testaments, as seen in Psalms 138 and 139: “The Lord will work out his plans for my life” (138:8) and “Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (139:16).

My take-away: Reinforcement of the concept that living my life purposefully will honor God and bring Him pleasure, along with the reminder that it is God’s work in me (not primarily my effort) that fulfills His plans. I live within the biblical tension between His great power that accomplishes His plans, and my efforts to live intentionally by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, Father, for showing me not only Your consistency over the ages, but also Your intimate interaction in our lives. This is probably what amazes me the most about You. That the creator of the universe has inter-woven plans that include all of Your creations. I cannot begin to understand how that can be done, but I praise You for Your sovereignty over all of Your creation. Amen

From the personal devotional notes of Peggy McKechnie, certified life coach and follower after God’s own heart. You are invited to contact Peggy through ChurchHealthMinistries.com.

A Very Personal Walk through Ephesians – 29

Embracing God’s love for me

29. How can I figure out what pleases the Lord? 

Ephesians 5:10. “Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.” (NLT)

“…try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (ESV)

“…test everything to see what’s pleasing to the Lord” (CEB)

When I read this passage this morning, my primary question was “How can I ‘carefully determine what pleases the Lord’ today?” Would He be pleased as He watches me doing my chores, going to work, interacting with people, checking off each item on my to-do list? The conclusion I came to was – yes and no. I think that my Father would be pleased that I was serving and loving other people. But I think He would also be sad that I let myself get stressed by having to rush to work; that I didn’t ask for His help when I had that problem at work that I could not solve; that I filled all my “alone” commuting time entertaining myself rather than spending any of that time listening to Him. These responses would not be terrible, but they would demonstrate that I was living unintentionally. Although I periodically examine my life to see that I am heading toward goals I think God has planned for me, I too often drift through my days without specific thought about what would please God that day. 

I recognize that in this passage Paul is instructing the readers to be careful to determine what pleases God in the context of the darkness surrounding them, with immoral sexual practices and temptations present. Those are not my primary temptations, but rather the comfortable pattern of being busy doing tasks without a deliberate purpose in view. There are days when checking off items on my to-do list is my highest priority. The things I am doing are good and many are necessary, but I want to live a higher goal than that.

The verses surrounding verse 10 expand on this topic. In verse 11 the “deeds of evil and darkness” are characterized as “worthless” or “unfruitful” (ESV). They are the opposite of deeds that are purposeful and valuable. Verses 15 through 17 encourage me to “be careful how [I] live,” “make the most of every opportunity,” and act thoughtfully.  There is no room here for drifting through life. I want to live purposefully, intentionally doing what I know is pleasing to God. 

For me, that starts with actively exercising faith by trusting God in each situation, each day. What does that look like?

  • Meeting with God during my morning quiet time, not just reading a passage in order to complete that task, but taking time to listen to what the Holy Spirit may be saying to me through the Bible and prayer.
  • Making time for undistracted prayer before I leave for work, not just counting on praying while I drive to work.
  • Asking God for help with each challenge, big or small, that arises during the day.
  • (And giving myself grace when I forget each of the above. My goal is to increase in these areas. I know it will be a gradual process.)

Father, please help me to be intentional in how I follow You. Remind me during this day to be purposeful in my thoughts and actions. Show me how my experiences throughout the day fit together to help me grow and to bring glory and pleasure to You. Amen

From the personal devotional notes of Peggy McKechnie, certified life coach and follower after God’s own heart. You are invited to contact Peggy through ChurchHealthMinistries.com.

A Very Personal Walk through Ephesians – 28

Embracing God’s love for me

28. Living as people of light

Ephesians 5:8-9. “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” (NLT) ESV: verse 8, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”

Paul has described the change in his readers from “old nature” to “new nature” in chapter 4 and now he views this internal change from a different angle, from “dark” to “light.” It’s interesting to me that he does not say I was in the darkness, although I was, but that I was dark, (which is more obvious in the ESV translation) and now I am light. This is not just a matter of changing my environment; it’s a matter of changing my identity.  Paul is again emphasizing the supernatural change that occurs when Christ lives within us. I would love to exude goodness and righteousness and truth naturally, but I know that is not going to happen by my effort. I need to be changed by supernatural power, not by my willpower. 

As an aside, this contrast between being darkness and being light reminds me that the “world” has so trained us that the most interesting things in life are those that involve darkness. For instance, the most popular movies, programs on TV, or news broadcasts are about murder, sexual sins, robberies, political misdeeds, etc. There is very little that would fall under the heading of what is good, right, or true. Those good stories would not sound particularly interesting or appealing. However, it is true that since the pandemic started, I have seen many more news broadcasts about people helping each other. Many of these positive acts of “light” have been performed by followers of Christ, but there are also many nonbelievers who have shown compassion and sacrifice for others. Perhaps this is an indication of the image of God in all whom He has created. 

What would a light-filled life and interactions really look like? Paul is going to explain this more thoroughly in the next 5 verses. 

Father, as Your daughter I now have light from You that gives light to my life. Christ in me is full of goodness, righteousness, and truth. Please help me to live according to my identity in Christ so that others may see Him in me. Amen

From the personal devotional notes of Peggy McKechnie, certified life coach and follower after God’s own heart. You are invited to contact Peggy through ChurchHealthMinistries.com.

A Very Personal Walk through Ephesians – 27

Embracing God’s love for me

27. What are my idols?

Ephesians 5:5. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. (NLT)

What idols do I worship? I’ve heard I can determine this by looking at how I spend my time, my money, and my energy (emotional, physical, and thought energy). I recognize that sometimes there are things in my life that are a higher priority or more alluring to me than God, that fill my mind and stir my emotions and could almost be obsessions. When I initially fell in love with Allan, he was nearly all I could think about. When my “perfect” job started it crowded out most other thoughts for a while. My ongoing thrill of having grandchildren brings me enjoyment that rivals other interests in my life. The enjoyment and refreshment of a new hobby takes up my thoughts, time, and money. Are these idols?

When recognized as gifts from God, and received with gratitude to Him, I don’t think these experiences and responses are sinful. But I am aware that they each have the potential of distancing me from God, as when they crowd my daily quiet time. But they also have the potential of drawing me closer to God when I thank Him for His gifts and use them to serve others and bring glory to Him. In these situations, I need to monitor the impact of the gifts by being aware of how they might distract me from other priorities and responsibilities. Focusing on thanking God for these blessings will help me keep appropriate boundaries and priorities.

Was Paul referring to these types of distractions as idols? I don’t think so. Some commentators, because of the obvious context of the passage, believe that Paul is referring here to unrestrained sexual greed as being idolatry. “All the important idolatries have always centered on those forces which have enough specious [deceptive] power to be truly counterfeit, and therefore truly dangerous: sexuality (fertility), riches, and power (glory). All idolatry is a form of covetousness,” wanting to get personal gain without acknowledging that the gifts and/or power are from God.*   

So what are clearly the real idols in my life, which I put ahead of my relationship with God? I asked a wise man today what he thought was the most common idol among American Christians. He said, “independence.” I can identify with that idol. Isn’t wanting to be self-sufficient, in control of my circumstances, and the solver of all my (and everyone else’s) problems exactly how I naturally respond to life? Why do I first try to control life with my plans and abilities and only remember to trust God with my cares when my own plans fail? In those situations, I want to “do it my way” without acknowledging that I need God’s help. My progress in exercising faith is slow, but I am learning.

Father I am aware of my tendency to run after the things that bring me the most immediate gratification. Please help me to love You more than them all. Turn my affections and attention back toward you as a response of gratitude. Please convict me when I am neglecting you for the things of the world, no matter how bright and shiny they are. My desire is to love you with all that I am and all that I have. And please help me to trust You quickly when I am in need. I want to live in truth, recognizing that I am completely dependent on You. Amen

* L. T. Johnson, as quoted in Andrew T. Lincoln (1990). Word Biblical Commentary: Ephesians. Dallas: Word Books, p 324.

From the personal devotional notes of Peggy McKechnie, certified life coach and follower after God’s own heart. You are invited to contact Peggy through ChurchHealthMinistries.com.