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.

Plain Language

Words and written language have always fascinated me. Discovering word derivations was a family sport when I was growing up. And I still find it hard to ignore a garage sale book on etiology of words, or familiar words that are commonly mispronounced, or language development, or grammatical errors in common use.  To me, exploring the origins of words is as exciting as a mystery, and reading examples of misused Oxford commas, as humorous as a book of jokes.

As a follower of Christ, the concept of communication through words is not only an interesting subject, but also holds deep spiritual meaning. The fact that God has chosen to use words as His basic and most precise method of communicating with us leads me to believe that He values words even more than I. How appropriate, then, that His Son would be called the Word.

Jesus is the communication from and about God, revealing who God is and what He wants us to know about Himself and His relationship with us. God uses words to reveal Himself and His will. The Bible tells us that God speaks to us through the collected words of scripture.

I was taught that the original languages of the Bible are particularly precise languages compared with earlier written languages, which one could associate with the sovereignty of God in timing the transmission of His words during an era of developed language. But with the centuries of cultural and linguistic changes, it has in some cases become more difficult to understand the words that the inspired writers used. It is as if we have to pull back several layers of curtains – translations, cultural changes, unfamiliar environmental references, etc. -trying to see clearly what God has communicated. This process is understandable and cannot be totally avoided. However, I am concerned about another curtain that unnecessarily shades our understanding of God’s words, and that is when we add an additional layer of theological terminology when teaching or preaching Biblical truth.

As in any academic study, using technical terms allows us to condense larger concepts into a word or phrase, making references to these concepts more manageable. But using theological code words in our teaching or preaching conversations can also cloud the full meaning that God wants to communicate to us. If we use the words gospel, grace, salvation, or even love without describing what we mean by those words, we may hinder the communication of God’s word to others. Listeners who are not familiar with the Bible or Biblical terms are likely to misunderstand or only partially understand the truth that is being presented.

Even those who have been trained in theological terms can benefit from the practice of using plain English to describe or define Biblical concepts. For example, the preacher in my childhood church defined grace as God’s riches at Christ’s expense, a description that, although clever, did little to help me understand the concept of grace. It wasn’t until I heard an illustration years later comparing the effect of justice, mercy, and grace, that I understood that grace meant being treated better than I deserved. A simple description of the word in plain English might have given me an opportunity to recognize and respond to God’s grace in my life years earlier.

Both my husband and I have personal stories about when we first understood certain deep theological principles as the result of reading Bible passages in a contemporary translation. Although we both were steeped in King James Version scriptures from childhood, and thought we understood that language, we were struck by the truth and power of the teaching when we read it for the first time in our everyday language. Suddenly the verses applied to us!

Similar stories are told by those in other countries who have been hearing the Bible in their trade language, and then hear it for the first time in their own dialect. They are often amazed and overwhelmed by the true meaning – and can understand and apply the truth in ways that were not possible before, now that their hearts as well as their minds understand clearly.*

Perhaps part of the intensity I feel concerning the use of plain language in teaching and preaching God’s truth comes from my experience for the last four decades as a nurse. I have seen the negative effects of using technical terminology in health care, and the serious harm that poor communication can cause. It has distressed me to discover that very little of what a patient was told in the medical office actually translates into understanding. One of my goals at work has been to help break the code of medical jargon for my patients. Accurate communication in any area of life is dependent on the use of words that are understood by the hearer.

So my challenge to those of us who teach or preach: we must consider what our listeners will understand by the words we use. If theological code words must be used for the sake of brevity, we must at least define or describe them in common language during the presentation. God is communicating His truth through the teacher or preacher. Anything we do to cloud that communication is dishonoring to Him. Our goal is to throw open the curtains and allow the light of God’s Word to shine into our minds with the truth about ourselves, God, and the relationship He wants to have with us. The gospel is only good news when it is understood.

*See Nehemiah 8:8-13 for a dramatic example of how people respond when they hear the word of God from those who “clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage.” (NLT)

Words that Lead to Meaningful Change

I was delighted to hear that our church was starting a short series of messages from the book of Nehemiah yesterday. I fell in love with Nehemiah chapter 8 a few years ago when I was in the midst of writing a blog (which I will repost today) on the importance of clear communication. You may fall in love too, when you read the dramatic power of what happened in that chapter. To get the full impact of the change that occurred in that story, read Nehemiah 8:1-12 for yourself.

Summary: In chapter 8 we hear the story of the exiled Israelites coming back from captivity to their previous capital, Jerusalem, which was in ruins. Discouraged by their circumstances, the men, women and “all the children old enough to understand” (Neh 8:2) gathered together to hear Ezra read what we would call the first five books of the Bible. Not only did they hear the text read, but additionally thirteen leaders spread out among those listening and “clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage” (8:8 NLT). Many commentators suggest that the large crowd was divided into smaller groups so that the 13 leaders could translate and explain the information passed down from Moses. The people responded, shaken by their realization of their sins and then elated by God’s promises to them. After this, verse 12 explains “so the people went away to eat and drink at a festival meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.” (NLT).

The people of Nehemiah’s day did not just hear the Bible being read; they were instructed in what it meant. The power of the word of God, causing life change, comes from hearing and understanding. 

We, like the Israelites in Nehemiah’s time, initially approach God’s word by hearing or reading a biblical passage. The first step is understanding the words (E.g., What do the individual words mean?).  This level of understanding is foundational but may be limited to the surface meaning.

The next level of understanding deals with what the passage actually means (E.g., If this is true, what does it teach or explain about God, about other people, about me, about truth? What is the deeper meaning behind the surface meaning of the words)? 

Then, how does the passage apply to me and how do I need to respond to it? This is the level that the people in Nehemiah 8 reached when they understood God’s words. They understood God’s requirements, their needs, and God’s gracious provisions and promises for them. This is the level of understanding that brings about significant transformation. 

Hearing/reading the words > Understanding the meaning > Applying and responding > Life change (in this case, repentance, joy)

My personal take-away: It’s important to read the Bible. But if I want the Holy Spirit to speak to me through it and change me to be more like Christ, I need to meditate on what the passage really means, apply it to my life, and respond as He leads. I am grateful for the “leaders” God has placed in my life, in person and through books, to help me understand His word.

For more on the effect of language on presenting the message of the Bible, I encourage you to read the following post, Plain Language. 

Last Minute Advent Devotional – 11

December 24, 2020

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.                      Luke 2:6-7 (NLT)

Notes for adults and older children: 

And finally, it’s time for Jesus to be born! Sometimes the nine months of waiting for a child to be born can seem to take so long! The people in the Old Testament times had to wait a very long time to see the fulfillment of God’s promises since the early days of humanity. But now at last those who recognized Jesus as the Messiah were able to see God’s promises come true. 

For some people it takes a long time to experience Jesus coming into their lives personally. They know about him, but they are hesitant to believe and trust in him. When they do take that step of faith to receive the gift of new life in him, they become proof of God’s promises to be not only “God with us” but also “God in us.” 

And now we are waiting for the second coming of Christ to earth. Seeing the faithfulness of God in the past brings reassurance that God does keep his promises and that Jesus will return.  Christmas is a time to celebrate every way that Jesus comes into our world and into our lives. 

Notes for young children:

Sometimes it’s very hard to wait for something we’re looking forward to. We have to wait for birthdays; we have to wait to be old enough and big enough to do the things we want; and we have to wait for Christmas to open our gifts and watch others open what we are giving them. Mary also had to wait what may have seemed a long time for baby Jesus to be born. When the time came for his birth, Mary and Joseph were visiting Bethlehem, far away from their home in Nazareth. They weren’t in a comfortable place when Jesus was born, but probably Mary was so happy to hold baby Jesus in her arms that she didn’t mind having to use a manger for a baby bed. 

Sometimes when we have to wait, it makes us even happier when we get what we waited for. Waiting also gives us time to get ready for what will happen. Even though it may be hard to wait, there can be good reasons to wait. Sometimes God asks us to wait. We can be sure that he has good reasons for the waiting time. 


Dear Lord, help us trust you and to be patient when we have to wait for what we want. Help us to look forward to Jesus returning to earth. And in the meantime, please help us to love you and other people more and more. Thank you for sending Jesus to teach us about you and to forgive our sins. Thank you for Christmas, when we can celebrate Jesus’ birthday! 

Advent activities:

Sometimes we say that a certain thing was “worth the wait.” Share with your family at least one thing (person, occasion, object) that was worth the wait. Did the waiting make the results better in any way? What did you learn while you were waiting?

Last Minute Advent Devotional – 10

December 23, 2020

Everyone was expecting the Messiah [Christ] to come soon, and they were eager to know whether John might be the Messiah. John answered their questions by saying, “I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am — so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Luke 3:15-16 (NLT)

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  John 1:29 (NLT)

Notes for adults and older children: 

John challenged the people of his generation to not only repent of their sins, but to be compassionate to those around them. He told them to share their possessions with the poor and not to cheat others, saying that by caring for others and promoting justice they would prove that they had repented of their sins and turned to God. We may separate our personal religious feelings and beliefs from the rest of our daily lives, but John clearly states that our actions toward other people reveal what we believe internally. 

Notes for young children: 

John the Baptist told people to get ready for Jesus, the Savior that God had promised. One of the most important ways they could be ready was to care for other people the way Jesus did. John told them to treat people kindly, not to cheat them or bully them, and not to think they were more important than other people. These are important ways for us to live, too. We don’t treat people nicely in order to make God think we are great, but because it’s the way Jesus treated people and we want to be like him.

Think of a person who has not been treated nicely.  For example, someone who was bullied at school. What could you do that would show how Jesus would treat them?


Father, please help us to see the people around us who need our help, whether it’s by giving them what they need or by making them feel better by the nice things we say to them.

Advent activity:

Christmas is a time of giving. What can you give that will help someone who needs help?  Gifts of time can be as important as monetary gifts. Today look for someone who is not on your Christmas list to bless with a special gift. 

Last Minute Advent Devotional – 9

December 22, 2020

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!…Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!”  Isaiah 40:3, 5 (NLT)

Notes for adults and older children: 

The prophecy in this passage was fulfilled when John the Baptist preached in the wilderness preparing the local population for the ministry of Jesus. John gave them the first steps to take so that they would be ready to hear Jesus. Before their hearts would be opened to hear the truth, they needed to recognize how needy and far from God they were. John called them to admit and turn from their sins and commit themselves to God, and God would forgive them .  

Notes for Young Children: 

Before Jesus started telling his good news on earth, God sent a man named John to get people ready to hear Jesus’ message. John told the people that they should admit that they did bad things and thought bad thoughts that were not pleasing to God. John said they needed to stop doing those things and instead turn to God and do what God says, and God would forgive them. This would help them understand what Jesus was going to tell them about how much God loved them and wanted them to be part of his loving family, even though they weren’t perfect people. John’s message was “get ready for Jesus.”

Can you think of a time when you knew you were about to do something that you shouldn’t, and you felt bad about it and decided not to do it? Or maybe you went ahead and did the bad thing, but then you felt bad about it and decided you would not do it again. That is just what John told people to do. 


Father, please help us to get our hearts ready to celebrate Christmas by showing us what we have in our lives that is not pleasing to you. We want to stop anything in our lives that keeps us from loving you and other people. Please help us “get ready for Jesus” this Christmas.

Advent activities:

Getting ready for an event you’ve been waiting for can be an exciting time. Get ready for Christmas by making handmade gift wrap. Take plain paper and color, paint, or draw on it; then use it to wrap a special gift for someone in your family. 

Last Minute Advent Devotional – 8

December 21, 2020

The Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The Virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).         Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)

Notes for adults and older children: 

Incarnation! God comes to earth in a human body so that he can be “God with us.” The Lord Jesus shows us what the Father is like and teaches us how to love God and live with each other. We get used to talking about incarnation, but the concept probably never entirely sinks in to our minds in its fullness. How can we understand what it means to have Christ living within us? Little by little the truth reaches us: not only did the Christ-God walk on our planet, but he entered into the thoughts and emotions and lives of his followers, and still does today when we open our hearts to him.

Notes for young children:

Long before Jesus was born God told his people that one day a woman would have a baby and name him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.” When God gave his people this promise, they were having a lot of trouble from their enemies. The promise helped them to feel better because, even though they were having a bad time, they knew God cared for them enough to send this baby to show that God was with them. God’s promise came true when Jesus was born. The Bible tells us that Jesus was the “Immanuel” who was promised a long time ago. Since Jesus was God, when Jesus was born, God was here on earth with us in Jesus.


Father, thank you letting us know that Jesus was God with us. Thank you that he told us what you are like and that you love us. Thank you for being with us even though we cannot see you. Help us to believe what you have told us in the Bible about your love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

Advent activities:

1. For adults and older children:

Aim to remind yourself at least 10 times in the next day that God is with you. Leave reminders (post-it notes, reminders on your phone, etc.) to help you remember. At the end of the day tell someone what difference this action made in your day.

2. For younger children:

Jesus had many names that were used to describe him, like Immanuel. Sometimes we give nicknames to our friends that describe them. What names would you give to your family members to describe something about them? For example, you could call Dad “Superman” because he does amazing things. Little sister could be “Happy” because she laughs so much.

Last Minute Advent Devotional – 7

December 20, 2020

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.                    Micah 5:2 (NLT)

Notes for adults and older children: 

Bethlehem is another reminder to us that God has a different set of values when he judges importance. While expensive gifts, lavish decorations, and gourmet foods can be fun at Christmas, most of us treasure memories of the intangible expressions of love and gratitude when we recall our favorite Christmas. Often God seems to pick the person, place, thing or activity that is least flashy to display his goodness to us. What small thing can you do today to express what you value most?

Notes for young children:

God often chooses little or unimportant things, and people who are little and not famous to do important things. He chose the little town of Bethlehem for the place where Jesus would be born. Jesus was the Son of God; he could have been born in a castle with rich, famous people giving him expensive toys, instead of being born in little Bethlehem. What else was little or simple about the birth of Jesus? [little baby; not in a fancy house or hospital; not in a fancy cradle; simple shepherds, not famous people, were his first visitors, etc.]

However little or unimportant we feel, God can use us to do great, important things as we love him and other people.


Thank you, Lord, that the greatest man who ever lived came in such a simple way. It reminds us that you value little and simple things and people. Please help us to treat all people as you do, with love, seeing them as important. And please help us to discover the important things you want us to do, especially in this Christmas season. 

Advent activities:

1. For adults and older children:

Read or sing O Little Town of Bethlehem.

2. For young children:

Make up motions to go with the first verse (or more) of O Little Town of Bethlehem. While the rest of the family sings the song slowly, show the motions.

For example:   “O” – hold thumbs and index fingers together to make and “O”

                        “Little” – hold thumb and index finger apart as if measuring an inch

                        “town” – hold hands above heads like a roof over your head

                        “Still” – stand with arms at sides and don’t move at all

                        “”lie” – lean your head to the side on your folded hands like a pillow

Last Minute Advent Devotional – 6

December 19, 2020

Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot – yes, a new branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  Isaiah 11:1-2 (NLT)  “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will fulfill the good promise I made. . . I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line.”    Jeremiah 33:14-15

Notes for adults and older children: 

Multiple prophecies in the Old Testament pointed to a descendent of king David who would be the savior. The image of a tender branch growing from an old stump is reminiscent of life coming forth from the tomb and new birth transforming a sorrowful person filled with regret. Jesus’ coming brought a fresh perspective on God’s love and mercy. 

Notes for young children:

Many years before Jesus was born, God gave promises in the Bible about what Jesus would be like and what he would do. He was going to help people understand God and how to be right with God. One of the promises was that Jesus would be like a little shoot or branch that grew out of an old tree stump that looked dead. What God was saying was that even when things looked very bad and people were tired of waiting for Jesus to come, they still could trust God to make it happen. Today we are not waiting any longer for God’s promise to come true. When Jesus was born he was the answer to God’s promise. Now as we wait for Christmas to come this year we can appreciate the importance of trusting God while we wait. 


Father, even when our circumstances look bad, we know we can trust you to keep your promises. Please help us believe that you will always love us and that you will give us peace as we trust you. 

Advent activities:

For the whole family: Go outside and see if you can find a little branch or shoot that is growing where you wouldn’t expect it to grow (for example, where a tree has been cut down but a branch has started to grow out of it). If you can’t find such a branch, snip a blossom or berry that gives proof that growth goes on even in autumn or winter. Put the little shoot or sprig in water and place it where you can be reminded that God keeps his promises – there is a reason to  hope!

Last Minute Advent Devotional – 5

December 18, 2020

And the Lord will be King over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord — his name alone will be worshipped.                  Zechariah 14:9 (NLT)

Notes for adults and older children: 

For many people this is the busiest time of the year. It’s easy to let our priorities get mixed up when there are so many things to be done. Even good activities can interfere with focusing on the best part of Christmas — a grateful celebration of God’s gift of his son. How can we make sure we don’t allow the superficial aspects of the holiday season to become more important than aspects that touch the heart and soul?

Notes for young children:

The weeks before Christmas can be very busy as we get ready to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with special foods, parties, and gifts for each other. It can be easy to forget that Christmas is about remembering Jesus’ birth, not just about getting presents and the fun activities we are doing. It is also a time for us to remember that Jesus will be coming back to earth again to become the King over all people and to live with us forever. We can take time out of our busy activities today to do what Jesus said was the most important thing in the world: loving God and loving other people. How can we love God today?  What is one loving thing you can do for another person today?


Father, please help us to focus on the most important part of this Advent and Christmas season: gratefully thinking about Your love in sending Jesus to be our Savior so long ago, and looking forward to his return to be our King. Please help us to love you and to love our family, friends, neighbors, and strangers the way you do. 

Advent activities: 

For the entire family: Do one random act of kindness today in secret. Think of one thing you can do that will encourage another person. For example, sneak into their room and make their bed without letting them know. Or leave an encouraging note anonymously.