25So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not make room for the devil. 28Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Did you notice that in this passage Paul takes anger for granted? We will get angry. Anger, in and of itself, is not a negative reality – it is simply an emotion. We do not control our emotions, we feel them. We can only control our reaction to our emotions. While Paul recognizes the inevitable existence of anger in our lives, he also recognizes that anger (like any emotion) can open us up to sin if we do not allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify that emotion. To do this, we must acknowledge our feelings to God and open ourselves up to the work of the Spirit within our emotional framework.
We don’t talk a lot about healthy emotions in the Church. We have a tendency to get too heady or we let our emotions run away with us until they get unhealthy. Overreliance on our cognitive functions or the opposite extreme of emotionalism skew the truth that our emotions are good, God-endowed, and important to our overall wholeness.
When we feel we are touching something deep within our human experience. Anger, sadness, happiness, anxiety, and the like are all signals that we are alive! Each plays a role in our personal and spiritual development. What would it look like to say to God today: “I am feeling ____________ and I ask your Holy Spirit to meet me in that experience”? Instead, we oftentimes wrongly convince ourselves that we have to “get it all together” before we approach God. When we try to handle our emotions on our own, we only allow them to explode in unhealthy ways (even the so-called “positive emotions” can explode in these ways).
How might you experience God through feeling this week? Try the practice just mentioned. Find a moment of prayer in which you can offer God your emotions by saying, “I am feeling ____________ and I ask your Holy Spirit to meet me in that experience.” Who knows? Instead of ” making room for the devil” (as Paul warns), you might just make some room for God in the positive experience of emotion.
Kindness can be a rare commodity in our society. When have you experienced an act of true kindness from someone else? When have you been able to practice intentional kindness toward others? Consider these questions as you write this week about the importance of kindness and how kindness has impacted your life. How might we more intentionally grow into becoming a society of kindness?
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Cloud of Witnesses:
St. Peter the Apostle
Peter was know to be a little short-tempered and excitable. He cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. He called down curses as he denied knowing Jesus. He muttered something about building shelters during the high point of Jesus’s pre-resurrection ministry. And yet, God used him powerfully to change the world. Upon being filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, Peter began powerfully living into his nickname of “The Rock.” But even before then, he had a tendency of making powerful statements – like his confession of Jesus, in which he noticed him as the Messiah before most others noticed. Take some time this week to read the letters of 1 and 2 Peter, or the Gospel of Mark (Mark was a close associate of Peter and traditionally the Gospel of Mark has been considered Peter’s version of events as retold by Mark). Or read here about the traditions of his life that have been passed down through the generations. If God can use Peter to change the world, then perhaps God can use you too!
Listen to the song, Beyond Justice to Mercy by Susan Ashton. You can download the song here if you’d like. As you listen to this song, notice what it has to say about our interpersonal relationships, especially when these relationships are emotionally charged. What is more important to you and why – justice or mercy? How does God feel about justice and mercy? What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Pray for those ministries in your community that enable us “to have something to share with the needy.” For our church, that would mean praying for ministries such as the food pantry, the kitchen, Snax Sax, etc. For our South GA Conference, that would mean praying for such ministries as The Methodist Home for Children & Youth, Wesley Glen, Magnolia Manor, Unto the Least of His, Vashti, etc. As you pray for these conference ministries, click on the links to learn more about what they do for our communities in South GA. If you are outside South GA, pray for those ministries of compassion that meet needs in your area. Ask God to bless these ministries with resources and volunteers. Consider becoming a prayer of action through your own acts of sharing in these ministries.
Imagine your life as a large, sprawling house with many, many rooms – each of which representing an area of your life. Perhaps there is a family room, a work room, a finances room, a room of leisure, and a room of thoughts, among others. Take some time to mentally visit these rooms. How have you made space for God in these different rooms? How have you been intentional to, as Paul put it, “not make room for the devil” in these personal places? As you travel from room to room, invite the Holy Spirit to clear each room of sin and evil intentions. Ask the Spirit to anoint each room, so that your whole house will be full of light, grace, and the goodness of God. Picture the Holy Spirit taking long, lingering moments of rest within the house of your life.
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- What emotions have you felt?
- How have you allowed God to sanctify your emotions?
- How have you lost control of your emotions?
- What has God spoken to you through your emotions?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Spend a day only speaking encouraging words to others. Think it’ll be easy? Maybe not as easy as you think! Ask God to anoint you for a day of Spirit-empowered encouragement. Encouragement requires listening. Only when you listen to someone can you hear the ways in which they need encouragement. A person’s self worth is one of the most valuable things you can help build. Get to work building others up!
Breath Prayer: LORD God, still our hearts.