Ephesians

Peace for the Ravaged (Advent Week Two)

This is the second of a 4-part Advent series posted each week before Christmas. Each post corresponds with the free Family Advent Wreath Devotional, available for download in the LAJ Shop. You can read the first week's post, Hope in the Darkness, here.

Peace for the Ravaged. An Advent Reflection from Leslie Ann Jones. #Advent #Devotion #Christmas

Have you ever tried to define the word peace? It's one of those big-concept words that's kind of hard to explain. Go ahead, try to put words to it. You'll probably come to the same conclusion that I did. Most of the time, when we talk about peace, we definite it in terms of what it is not.

For example, when I asked my daughters what the word peace means, they answered: "Not fighting." From the mouths of babes, y'all.

Peace is the absence of violence, the lack of enmity, and the end of strife. When fighting, discord, and hostility cease, peace is what remains. It is when all is as it should be. It's harmony. It's accord. It's good and right and the longing of all our hearts.

I've never longed for peace more desperately than I have in the past year. There's so much that weighs heavy on my heart. I wrote these words nearly six months ago, but they're still true today:

The news is bad and just gets worse. Christians are facing genocide in the Middle East. Terrorists are striking major cities left and right. People are fleeing from homes and countries, only to be rejected by the rest of the world.

And even here, in the United States, where things are supposed to be better, it's not. As if the worst presidential race in history isn't bad enough, it's quite apparent that we are a nation divided. Not just on one or two hot button issues, but on everything. We can't agree on anything. We squabble. We fight it out on social media. We point fingers. We lay blame. We call names. We spew vitriol. And worst of all, we kill.

It's horrifying and tragic and senseless. As I sit here in horror at the name-calling and mud-slinging and judgment-casting and hate-mongering and people-slaying, I think to myself, "This is what the Bible means when it says that the world is broken."

Sin divides. It separates us not only from one another, but also from God. But here's the thing: sin doesn't get the final say on this matter. Jesus does. Because Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

When he entered this world, he came preaching peace to those who were far off and peace to those who were near. And the peace he proclaimed is far more profound than we could ever imagine.

He put a stop to the enmity between sinful humanity and a holy God. He shattered the wall of hostility that separated us, reconciling us to God and carrying us into the presence of the Father. With his blood, he bought us peace. That's why Ephesians 2 says that Jesus himself is our peace.

Those of us who believe know that this present darkness will not last forever. Though sin continues to ravage the world, we're longing for the day when peace will reign eternal. The prophet Isaiah imagined it this way:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.

They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.


Isaiah 11:6-9

May it be so. Until next time, grace and peace.

Introducing Limitless: A Study on Ephesians

For a long time now, years even, I have felt the Lord calling me to a writing and teaching ministry. And although I've been actively teaching in church and writing curriculum here and there, I've never actually sat down and written a Bible study to teach in church.

Until  now.

Months ago, I began planning a women's Bible study for the summer. It would be an in-depth study of a book of the Bible that would equip women to study the Word and think through it critically. After much prayer and consideration, I chose Ephesians for the study.

Limitless is the result.

Monday night, I gathered with a great group of women from different churches and backgrounds, and we opened up the Word to read it together. It was such a sweet time of study and fellowship, and I felt incredibly blessed to be a part of it.

 

As I've prepared for this study, I've been completely overwhelmed by the limitless God we serve. He's so big, and his mercy, love, grace, power, and compassion are endless. The way he has lavished his riches on us amazes me, and I can't wait to see him more clearly as we go through Limitless this summer.

Because it's a summer Bible study, and because women will be in and out throughout the duration, I started a podcast of the audio teaching. That way everyone can keep up and stay in the loop even if they have to miss a group meeting.

And then I thought that maybe some of you would like to follow along with us, so I'm providing the workbook as a free download. Study and listen at your own pace, or follow along with us as we read the Word this summer. Click through the links below to access the podcast and workbook. I'd love for you to join us!

Writing Project: LifeChange Ephesians

small group bible study on the book of ephesians

The other day, I mentioned that I just wrapped up a major writing project, but I never shared any details about my latest work. In January, I commenced writing eight lessons for the LifeChange Ephesians series, published by NavPress. Basically, NavPress enlisted me to write group sessions to go along with a previously published Bible study on Ephesians {pictured above}.

I really enjoyed this project because it allowed me to walk slowly through the entire book of Ephesians. I realize that I'm biased, but I think it's a fantastic resource for a small group that wants to dive deeply into Scripture together. The study divides the book of Ephesians into 14 sessions, with a learner's book for participants to work through at home and lessons to work through as a group. I worked on the latter part, and now it's available for purchase.

life-change-ephesians

If you're searching for a study that takes a focused look at individual books of the Bible, the LifeChange Series is the way to go, and, of course, you should definitely start with Ephesians.

Until next time, grace and peace.