Monday, April 25, 2016

To the glory of God the Father!

Paul did not know that his letters would later be divided into chapters.  Previously Paul talked about coming to the end of this life and being with Jesus and wanting that very much but that God has purposed him as an apostle with special work to do in this part of the world, and as far as Paul was concerned, he had more work to do.

He told this very special church that they too had work to do and that in so doing it, they might go through some suffering, but he charged them to stand together in whatever they faced.

Without missing a beat Paul begins this second chapter and issues what seem to be conditional statements but are truly indicative affirmations offered with a literary flair.  Consider them in the Good News Version with a little less flair.

 Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another.

He tells them that they are so close to making his joy complete—that is a continuation of his first chapter thoughts about these folks and the fact that they really get what it is to follow Jesus—that just sharing the same love and passion that Paul has for Christ with others will put some icing on this cake.

How can they do this?

Set aside all selfish ambition.  That should ring a bell with putting off the old self and putting on the new.  This line of though should sound very familiar.

Don’t give in to that cheap desire to boast in ourselves.  Be humble.

Be humble to the point that we regard others more than ourselves.

Whoa!  Hold your holy horses there Paul.  Regard others more than we regard ourselves?  Consider others better than ourselves?

Loving our neighbor as we love our self is tough enough.  This charge ranks right up there with Jesus telling us to love our enemies.  How can we do that?

Regard others more than we do ourselves makes for good seasoning now and then but as a main course, really, who can do that?

Here and there, maybe, but as a way of life, how can we regard, esteem others more than ourselves?
Really, how can anyone do that?  How can we do this consistently?

Paul answered the question that he knew would be on the minds of his readers.
 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

In most of your Bibles, this passage is probably set apart or italicized or made to stand out in some way, sort of as if were from another scripture.  It is more likely that it is an early Christian hymn or poem or even a believers creed of some sorts.

It is also likely that it was composed by a Jew and not a Gentile as it has a definite chiastic structure.  This form puts the main thought of the poem or the song in the middle.
Note that these verses begin with Jesus in heaven with God, then not considering equality with God something to hold on to.  Next he humbled himself as a servant and as a human.  Next, and this is the center of the poemhe humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

In this single sentence we have the gospel in miniature—God’s love for us poured out at the cross.

Now we see the assent.  He is exalted.  At this name every knee will bow.  At his name every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord and this will be to the glory of God.

This is a wonderful poem or song or whatever literary form it took in this first century and it contains some of the most abused words in these modern days.

How many times have you heard a Christian retort in some way, “Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!”  We use it to retaliate when we think someone is blaspheming the Lord.

We use it to say, “God’s gonna get um.”

“One day, oh one day, you will be on your knees saying Jesus is Lord!”

You had better say it quickly or it is going to hurt and hurt a lot.  God is going to force this confession out of everyone.


Really?  That’s how it’s all going to manifest itself?
Jesus stepped down out of heaven and became flesh, lived and was tempted as a man, was tortured as a man, and died as a man—an excruciating death on a cross—just so his Father would later inflict so much pain that everyone everywhere would say the words, Jesus is Lord.

Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, he is King of kings and Lord of lords, and Dad still needs to strong-arm his creation to exact such praise?

The God who is not slow in coming but waits with patience so that all may come to salvation will suddenly set aside his everlasting love for a quick fix to hear that his Son is Lord? That might make for a great Shakespearean play, but hardly seems consistent with the God that has been revealed to us.
God will not be mocked.

How then would he arrange for forced confessions?
Why would he desire false gratitude?
Why would he manipulate our lips to say what he longs to hear from our hearts?

Many think, how else will every being everywhere—heaven, earth, and under the earth make such a profession?  Really, many have rejected God and Jesus; how could they utter these words except under duress? 

How could these universal professions be made without the brute force of God imposed on these unbelievers?

Just for a moment, consider the blindness that has taken over the world.  We have eyes to see but the world has been blinded by Satan and the gospel of truth is veiled to them.
But what would happen if this blindness was taken away?

What would happen if every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth that was blind could suddenly see?

What would happen if the truth was set before everyone and everyone had eyes to see?

Would they not drop to their knees and cry out, “Jesus is Lord!”

Would they not know that God got everything right from start to finish?

Would the love of God not be so overwhelming that all everyone could do would be to profess and confess and proclaim the love of God in these words:  JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!

Now at this point, eternal destinations may have already been settled.  I don’t know and I am not asking you to contemplate the soteriological aspects of this.

What I am asking you to do is to consider these verses in their entirety.  What we often do is leave off the very last part.  All of this—from stepping out of heaven to become a sacrifice for our sins to being at the right hand of the Father and especially at the profession that Jesus is Lord—will be to the glory of God!

Think on these words—to the glory of God—for they very much take us where Paul leads his readers.  Paul says to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Work out salvation?
Fear and trembling?

I thought that salvation was a gift and perfect love casts out fear?  And you would be right to think that.

Paul is telling us to live out our salvation—this wonderful gift that only God could give—and do it as the most important thing we will ever do—to give it the gravity that it deserves.  Live out the rest of your life not worried about heaven and hell but focused on bringing glory to God.

For God is now working in us and we are living our God-given purpose.

Do you remember the words holy and blameless or pure and blameless?  They have come up a few times in Paul’s letters.

God made us this way now we are to live this way.  Our very lives are to bring glory to God.  That is in everything that we do.

In this dark world, our lives should stand out like the stars in the sky.  The world constantly complains about anything and everything.  We give thanks in all things and stick out like a sore thumb.

As we live out these days of salvation, many of which we will live here on this earth and in these bodies that we are wearing now, we are to bring glory to God.

How do we do that?  How about let your light shine before others so that others can see God’s glory in the good that you do.

How do we do that?  How about growing closer to God to the point that you live in Jesus and he lives in you so that you may ask anything in his name and it will be given.  I have been crucified with Christ.  Christ lives in me.  Put aside selfish ambition and vain conceit.  Let Christ live in us so we ask for the very things that God so loves to give.  That brings glory to God!

How about, bear some fruit?  Does the fruit that we bear in service to God not also bring him glory?

How about doing the work that we have been given just as Christ finished the work that he was given?  What work?  We don’t have to reach back too far to remember, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  Let’s take Christ to the world for the rest of our lives.

What work?  How about the Great Commission:  Make disciples, baptize, teach—all done with the authority and the accompaniment of God through Jesus and the Spirit.

How about love that abounds in knowledge and insight and discernment so that we know how to live a pure and blameless people and produce the fruit of righteousness?  Yes, that should sound familiar as it came from the previous chapter.

How do we bring glory to God by living out our salvation?  We do it in the very words that we speak.  Peter reminds us to speak as if our every word were that of a prophet.  Speak as if every word matters, because it does.  Our language is considered, prayerful, and godly and it brings glory to God.

Our service is done in God’s strength, not our own.  God works in us and we live out his will through the purpose that he has given us and that brings glory to God.

The very purpose of humankind is to bring glory to God and enjoy him vey much.  We are to live out our salvation bringing glory to God in everything that we do, and we should enjoy this fantastic relationship that we have with God through his Son so, so much.

Paul tells his readers that his life is being poured out.  He is still running his race.  He is still taking Christ everywhere he goes and where he can’t go he sends friends and writes letters.

Paul explains what’s going on with Timothy and Epaphroditus.  Why?  Paul is not just mentor and teacher; he is family to these people that he writes.

We are family.  Theology and living out our salvation are very important but we never forget how connected we are with each other.

We are all running a race of faith and have a very personal relationship with God through Jesus knowing that God’s own Spirit is right here with us in this day and this time and in this crazy, sometimes dark world.  Our relationship with God is very personal, but it also calls us to connect with other believers.

Consider the people with whom you congregate to worship and serve the Lord.  We are connected.  We are commissioned to connect with those blinded by their unbelief.

How do we do this?

Oh how I wish it were through the crafting of words and sentences, properly referenced, grammatically succinct, and phonetically poetic.  Sometimes it is, but mostly what I write and speak is to those who already have eyes to see.

We minister to a blind world with light and truth.  We have eyes to see.  We are not blind.  We already profess that Jesus is Lord!

We know this to be the truth, but so much of the world is blind to this truth.  How do we reach them?

How do we live out our salvation by taking the gospel of light and peace and love and life to them?

By our language and our love and our discernment and by being a light in this very dark world.  We bring glory to God by living as the people that he made us to be—holy and blameless.

We take the model of Christ’s humility—this kenosis of setting aside his divinity to become human and even die for our sins when he could have remained at the side of the Father and simply condemned us in our sin.  We regard others more than ourselves.

We truly cannot do that, at least with any sincerity, unless we are living for God.  We cannot constantly live at this level of humbleness without God living within us and us living for him.  We too must empty ourselves—not of divinity as Christ did—but of selfish ambition and vain conceit.

For God through Christ has placed himself inside of us already.  Now we are to live out, work out, this divine life that we have been given.  Christ indeed lives within us.

We look forward to the day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord not desiring retribution upon  the blind, but hoping—knowing it will happen before I see it—that the blindness will be lifted and truth will prevail.

That brings glory to God.

Those confessions and professions that Jesus Christ is Lord bring glory to God!  Everyone will speak them with their lips but they will come willing from every heart.

For those of us who have eyes to see today and know and have professed that Jesus is Lord and God raised him from the dead, let us empty ourselves of everything that makes us feel like we are better than those who are blind. 

If we are to live according to God’s will and act according to his purpose, we must have the attitude of Christ Jesus--

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
 but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
     he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.
 Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth
 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

To the glory of God the Father.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

To Live is Christ. To die is gain.

For the most part, politics and pulpits don’t mix.  Not so today, for now is the exact time to bring politics into the middle of everything, Roman politics that is.

Philippi was a Roman Colony.  It was established by Phillip of Macedon in 357 B.C. and Octavian, who you know better as Caesar Augustus, had established the city as Ius Italicum.  That is to say it was as if the city were on Italian soil.  

Roman law prevailed in all courts.  Many taxes placed upon other conquered areas did not apply.

The city was heavily populated with Roman war veterans.  By the second century the main east-west route—the Via Egnatia—would make Philippi quite the crossroads of the empire.

Philippi did not have a Synagogue.  That’s right, there must have been fewer than ten faithful Jews in this massive metropolitan area.

Remember in Acts 16, on the Sabbath, Paul led his team outside of the city to a river where he thought that what Jews there were might gather for prayer.

Paul liked to begin bringing the gospel to the Jews first, however many or few there were.  Then he proceeded to proclaim the good news to the Gentiles.  There were not many Jews in Philippi, but by the time of his letter, there was a church, and evidently it was a thriving church.  It was a church that Paul truly loved and it served the Lord in Rome East.

It was a church that had grown out of a populace that liked being Roman.  In other parts of the empire, the Romans were the force to be tolerated.  You paid your taxes and didn’t stir up trouble and you could enjoy as much of your local lifestyle as the Romans would tolerate.

In Philippi, your lifestyle was the Roman lifestyle and most people liked it.  Yet, out of this comes a church—followers of the Risen Lord.  Philippi was in fact the first church that Paul established in Europe and he had great affection for this body of believers.

We should not envision a handful of believers, but a church that warranted leadership among its people—bishops and deacons and surely many ministry leaders.

Paul writes to Philippi from Rome, probably at the end of a two year bit in prison around A.D. 62 and from the empire’s capital.  Timothy is with him, not likely incarcerated as Paul found himself; though it is unlikely that Paul is treated as a common criminal.  He was a Roman citizen.

Paul begins his letter by thanking God for this group of believers, a special group of believers.  They were a group that knew they were on a journey.  God was working with them and they were confident that God would finish what he started in them:    being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

These are more than just wonderful words.  This verbiage acknowledges that these believers knew they were on a journey, walking a path, or for the more athletic among them, running a race.  God was working with them in their lives and Paul was thankful that they “got it.”

They got that part.  Paul did not have to dread writing to these folks.  This was a letter than surely he had looked forward to writing at least as the next best thing to visiting.

Paul writes, with a little license here, “I really miss being with you guys.  Well, maybe not the prison stuff, though God did use that for good and surely for his glory.  I just miss being among you.”

Paul wants this group to know more discipleship and fullness in their relationship with God.  He doesn’t remind them that they are holy and blameless before God.  He prays for their discernment that they can live out what they have been made to be.  It seems that in this area, Paul has less explaining to do than he did with the Galatians and Ephesians.

These believers “get it” and Paul prays that they may discern what is best as they live out lives of love.    Where in other letters he counsels to make the most of every opportunity; here he prays that these Philippians will excel in their opportunities.

It is the difference between praying,” I hope the tomatoes make it” and “Look out neighbors, you are getting some tomatoes this year!”

Paul was writing to a church that understood much and now he hoped they would do wonderful things.

Paul next described his own circumstances in what we might call some win-win language.  He was in chains for preaching the gospel and because he was there others were inspired to continue to preach the gospel.

Some inspired by Paul’s dedication and perseverance.  Others were inspired by the fact that they could keep him locked up if they kept preaching this gospel of Jesus.  Paul looked at it as a win-win.  Christ was being preached.
That gets under my skin just a little bit.  Preaching the gospel of Christ from false motives just seems wrong.

Sometimes I hear a preacher somewhere and wonder, does this guy really believe what he is saying?  He or she just does not come across as sincere to me.  Sometime later—sometimes much later—in the course of a seemingly unrelated conversation, I will hear how a message from that same preacher made a big difference in someone’s life.

So I am reminded of what Joseph said to his brothers after their father, Jacob, had died and been buried.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Paul goes beyond considering his imprisonment.  He considers his very life.  What if his life was demanded from him?

Good!  I am so ready to be with Christ!  Yes!  If they want my head, they won’t have to drag me to the executioner screaming and kicking.  I am sure that Paul already had a first draft of his letter to Timothy bouncing around in his head:  I have run the good race, fought the good fight…

Paul continued, if I am to live on, it is to bring more to Christ.  Paul was not looking for an earthly retirement plan.  If he lived, he preached.

This is a complicated model here, so I will review it once more:  If Paul was alive, he was preaching.

To live is to preach Christ and bring more to know him.

To die, well that’s a victory celebration all its own.

Paul said, I am living the ultimate win-win.  To live is Christ and to die is gain.

Personally, Paul surely wanted his victor’s crown now, but there was so much more to be done.  Paul had checked off being shipwrecked, snakebit, stoned, and run out of more towns than anyone to date; but there was still a gospel of life and love and peace to be preached.

If he lived, he preached, and Paul would preach for as long as he could, though he did not dread crossing the finish line in this world.

It is amazing the outlook that you have when you know your purpose in life.  It is amazing the things that you will accomplish when you can enjoy the paradox of living this life to the full and eagerly wanting what comes next.

As the NBA regular season wraps up, it is interesting to watch the teams headed to the playoffs.  Some play to continue their rhythm.  Some rest key players.  Some are fighting just to get in and may expend themselves just getting there.

Paul already knew there was victor’s crown in store for him.  He didn’t need to be rested.  He did worry about making the playoffs.  He would play every minute of every game until he died, not for him but so that others may know the life that was in store for him.

To live is Christ.  To die is gain.  Paul lived the ultimate win-win.

Paul returns to the Philippians with counsel:  Stand.  Stand as one.

Paul tells these believers that he loves so much that they will come under attack.  While Paul told the Ephesians to put on the full armor of God; he tells the Philippians to stand as one man.  They are to be one in the Spirit.  They are to live in one accord. 

In this oneness, they will stand and prevail but they will also suffer for Christ.  This suffering is not punishment.  It is privilege.  Recall the excitement of the followers of Jesus who having come before the ruling council were released mainly because of the argument of a godly man named Gamalial, but not before they were whipped.

These men were excited because they were persecuted for the name of Jesus.  When you stand for God so much that you stand out from the world to the point that the world has to do something, that’s something to get excited about.  That’s standing in the company of the prophets.

That’s a good standing to have.

If the world hates you because you look too much like Jesus, then be happy about it.  If the world can’t tell the difference between you and the man living just for himself, take note.  

If you were accused of following Jesus, pray that you are not acquitted.

But stand with your fellow believers as one. 

That’s a good rallying cry.  It might even make a bumper sticker or a Facebook post, but what exactly is it to stand as one? 

We will get a little more from Paul later, but for now, there should be no divisiveness among us.  Remember Paul’s counsel to the Ephesians to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.

We revere Christ so much that getting our own way is not even a factor.  There are church leaders.  Converse with them.  Share your opinions.  Discuss things to your heart’s content but put aside all personal agendas.   Set aside everything in you that says, “Well, it’s got to be this way.”
If the decision is that the carpet will be bright blue and the dishwashers battleship gray, then get excited about it.  If we are going to sing Holy, Holy, Holy for 19 consecutive Sundays, then put on your Lord God Almighty voice and lift the roof!

For we may be attacked by the world for following Jesus but we will not break ranks.  We stand in one Spirit, in one accord, as one person.

And the world is going to hate us for it.  We may suffer some because we follow Christ and we should thank God that we are not being mistaken for those who follow the ways of the world.

I don’t know that everyone can get to the point where we say to live is Christ and to die is gain, but I hope we are on our way to that point.

I pray that the things of this world matter less and less to us and connecting people with real and eternal life matter more and more each day.

I hope—that is I believe it before I see it—that we will lead many to Christ in whatever days we have left on this planet in these bodies, and that this purpose will be the most satisfying experience that we will know in these days.

I petition God and each of you that we stand as one, putting aside any selfishness and personal agendas, and willingly put forth our gifts and talents to be God’s love in this world.  For when I read Paul’s words to the body of believers in this very Roman city, I hear him speaking to this body of believers in the heartland of America.

I see us moving towards desiring to share Christ more than we long for our heavenly rewards.  I see people with such diversity ready to stand as one in reverence to the Lord.

I am blessed to stand with you as we stand as one in following Jesus.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Please pray with us in this ministry

Sometimes there is tension in working the margins of society.  Children come to the church building knowing that they will receive love when they arrive.  They know it.

Where’s the tension?

Many of their parents do not know that they are here.  Others just send them out and will expect them to find their own way home.

Well, that’s on them—the parents—right?  Right?

Sort of—once they get to the church building we feel a responsibility to take care of them—but many arrive well before there are adults present to supervise them and keep them safe.  We do our best to make contact with the parents but that seems to be the challenge of this century, at least in this locale.

We have not given up on the parents but focus mainly on loving the kids even without connecting with the parents..

So for now, we pray and ask you to pray for the safety of so many children dropped off at high speed or absent from their homes with our without their parents knowledge or concern.

The children know that they are safe here but we pray and ask that you pray that they are also safe coming and going, and even within the home itself.

God’s model is for the child to learn the ways of God from his or her parents.  So many have abandoned that way.  We continue to call these parents home, encourage them, and even challenge them but they have grown deaf.  We will not quit but in the mean time we love the kids and bring them up in the way they should go for as long as we are with them.

Pray for those who love these children.

Pray for these children.

Pray for the protection of all who seek God’s Kingdom and his righteousness and that God will send legions of angels to protect all of us as we minister in a world that grows darker each day.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Engaging Ephesians

Engaging Ephesians with homiletic enthusiasm:  AKA growing in grace.

The church located at Ephesus was not one plagued with problems or being led away from one true gospel.  Surely they had their battles, but most of all they were a group of believers who were ready to grow in God’s grace.

Are you worshiping and serving in such a body of believers?  If so, perhaps these messages will help you too grow in his grace.

Chapter 2 – One in Christ
Chapter 6 – Under His Armor

Friday, April 8, 2016

Under His Armor

Paul takes a very didactic form in this chapter, the first part being something of a catchall segment.  Children, parents, slaves and masters are all provided with instructions for living.

Sometimes people joke that they wish life came with instructions.  The 10 on stone tablets seemed too hard, the other 513 even more difficult, and the extra regulations heaped on top of these by the religious hierarchy made living by the rules seem to be insurmountable.   But then came living by faith, but in our faith, Paul adds some specific counsel.

Children, obey your parents.  This following Jesus stuff doesn’t get you off the hook for obedience.  It is obedience that leads to a good life.  This goes all the way back to the fifth commandment.

This honor your father and mother stuff is good stuff with the promise of a good life.  Parents wish this had been hard-wired into our kids in the womb.  Our parents probably had the same thought.  But parenting is about bringing up children in the way they should go.  God’s design is that our children learn his ways from us.

So Paul’s counsel shifts to the father.  He says do not exasperate your children.  There’s a fun word:   παροργίζω (parorgizó) and it comes with a variety of meanings--Irritate, agitate, provoke, provoke to anger, annoy, vex, and many others.

The Greek roots mean “from close beside” and “become angry.”  Someone very close to another person knows exactly what buttons to push to move them to anger.

Fathers—parents—don’t’ push your kid’s buttons.  This does not mean do not discipline.  It means do not use manipulation to parent.

As parents, we all know that one thing that our child really values, and threatening to take it away all the time just keeps them on edge.  Our children should never doubt that God loves them and their parents love them.

There will surely be consequences for inappropriate behavior; but as parents we don’t push their buttons to produce the most antagonizing response.  Our goal—remember, we are the parents in this equation—is to lead our children to be the people that God made them to be, not to get caught up in some competition with them.  We are the parent.  We lead them, bring them up in the way they should go.

Many parents say or think, “But my kids surely exasperate me!  I ought to be able to get them back.”

We need to remember that we are the parents.  We can put our kids on restriction any time we want on some trumped up charge, but we must not provoke them to anger by pushing their buttons.

In defense of some bad parenting, but not in favor of its continuation, we must acknowledge that we live in a society that rejects most authority and the authority that we often accept is ungodly.  Sometimes parents feel like all they can do is push their kids buttons to get any sort of compliance from them.

Compliance is a long way from honoring your father and mother.  But remember mom and dad, our children are either learning from us or from the world and if our model is the same as the world’s model, then they are not learning God’s model.

In the previous chapter, we were counseled to be wise.  We were admonished not to live as the world lives.  We were charged to make the most out of every opportunity, and the biggest opportunity to put God’s wisdom into practice is with our children.

Don’t push them to the limit of what they can handle; lead them in God’s way.

Don’t provoke them to anger; guide them to understanding.

Be the wiser person in your relationship with your children.

Next we come to a part of Paul’s counsel that doesn’t seem to apply today.  He talks about slaves and masters.  Slavery is a concept that seems repugnant in this 21st Century, but it is still widespread.

In Paul’s day, some were slaves because of wars and the spoils of war.  Some became enslaved because of indebtedness.  Ouch!

The latter case seems to have not only survived but thrived in modern times.  The borrower is slave to the lender.  The average American family is $131, 000 in debt.  About $15,000 of that is in credit cards and the rest for our home, vehicles, and for many student loans.

Don’t think that slavery has left the building.  It has adapted most adeptly to the modern century.

So how do we apply Paul’s counsel to our debt to banks and corporations?    How do we live as slaves to our financial masters?

We do it in the same way as men and women were counseled to live 20 centuries ago.  We live to honor Christ in our servant and slave relationships.  We do not want to maintain our slave status.  Paying off our debt surely honors God and the financial masters of today.  We live up to our side of the agreement into which we entered and we do it with goodwill knowing that how we live has more to do with our relationship with Christ than it does with the lender.

Does this pairing of teachings seem interesting to you?

First Paul talks about bringing up our children and then about slavery, which in our time generally translates to debt.  Read the proverbs sometime and note this pairing (Proverbs 22:6-7)

Train children in the right way,
    and when old, they will not stray.
The rich rule over the poor,
    and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

Perhaps one of the best things that we can do for our children and their children is to bring them up in the way they should go to include the wise and godly use of money.
While it would be quite unusual to meet a slave owner in this nation, we do have instructions for these folks that likely apply to anyone who has subordinates.  Be good to them.  No abuse or threatening language.

Remember both master and servant, supervisor and subordinate have the same Master in Christ Jesus.  Our rank and authority here is very temporal.  Jesus reminded his closest friends and followers that if we want to be great in the life to come, we must be the servant of all in this life.

Paul changes gears from specific counsel to specific groups of people to some general counsel to everyone that has said, “I have decided to follow Jesus.”

We need to understand that we wrestle with our own human nature.  We struggle with the temporal pressures of the world—job, traffic, budget, family conflicts, busyness, and slow download speeds.

We need to understand that Jesus told us ahead of time that we would have trouble in this world and that we would be persecuted because we follow him.  In fact, Jesus said that we are blessed to be persecuted for following him.

So we wrestle with our own nature and the sinful nature of others that don’t like the fact that we follow Jesus, but we also must be ready to contend with evil.

Previously, Paul counseled us not to let the sun go down on our anger so as to give the Devil a foothold.  That was a single strategy for a single avenue of approach for combating the enemy and not giving in to sin.  Now Paul tells us to be ready for every form of spiritual combat.

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.   Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

How do you fight against spiritual forces of evil?  You gear up, cowboy up, and saddle up, that’s what you do.  Those terms are common to the world, so let’s say we Christian Up!

We put on all of our gear before we head out to face the day.  What gear is that?
·      Belt of Truth
·      Breastplate of Righteousness
·      Combat Boots are the Gospel of Peace
·      Shield of Faith
·      Helmet of Salvation
·      Sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.

This is an integrated system of body armor with a sword to boot.  It is integrated.  Any one item provides some capability but we are counseled to put on the whole armor of God.

Obviously, Paul is using figurative language to explain this integrated defense system; otherwise after someone confessed their faith we would hand them a helmet.  

Sometimes we do give them a sword but Paul counsels all of us to put on the complete armor of God.

Christian up and put on all of your combat gear.

The armor is not all that is integrated.  Our prayers are to be mutually supporting.  Yes, we pray for ourselves, but we also pray for each other. 

We are not just praying for people who have heart attacks, are pending surgery, or who have lost a loved one.  We pray that we may not only survive but that we may stand and stand strong against whatever attacks come our way.

We pray for each other that we may advance the gospel, that we will proclaim it boldly whatever our circumstances.

We must understand that even on days where we just expect the typical level of insanity that we know in the world; we dress for full scale attack. 

We must also understand that we go into a godless world on a mission every day from now until Jesus comes to claim us or these bodies give out.  We take the gospel and God’s love into the world every day.

On most days, we face apathy and ambivalence as our main adversaries.  On some days, we may be ridiculed; and on some days, we may be opposed by evil.

We are charged to dress for spiritual combat every day. We put on the full armor of God daily.

Paul wraps up this chapter and this letter telling those in Ephesus that Tychicus is headed their way.  He probably brought the letter and his coming permitted Paul to stick to mostly instructional matters in his letter.

The saints in Ephesus would want news of Paul and even something of an in-person assurance, but that would come from Tychicus and not this letter.

Paul concludes his letter with a benediction of peace and grace.  He has issued some serious counsel in this chapter and this letter, but it is counsel to fellow believers who are ready to grow in grace.

Paul’s counsel to children, fathers, and those in debt or in authority is about growing in grace.  Whatever roles and position that we have in this life, we can all grow.

So we conclude this letter understanding where we began—assured of being holy and blameless before the Lord and ready to grow in grace as we head into the trials and blessings of our days spent in this age, on this earth, as God’s kids who take a wonderful message of love into the world.

So let us consider Paul’s counsel, dress properly for the day ahead, and make the most of every opportunity to share God’s love and grow in his grace.