Serving the Right Boss: Sermon from Ephesians 6:5-9

Some of you may have heard your children or grandchildren react to something said or something on TV with the word “cringe.” It’s to cause feelings of embarrassment or awkwardness, to shrink, shirk, or wince, reacting bodily. If you are a fan of the sitcom, “The Office,” the character of Michael Scott plays on that to comedic effect. Yet, not everyone finds cringe so funny. And sometimes, for various reasons, folks look at passages of Scripture and find them cringy as well.This is one of those passages.

Given our history, any talk about bondservants/slaves and masters leaves us with an odd taste in our mouth. In fact, a superficial reading of this passage without understanding Paul’s aim here will look bad and then move on. But let’s make sure we get some things right.As we’ve seen over the last two weeks, Paul has dealt with what some commentators call “household codes,” learning about the roles of wives, husbands, children, and fathers. This paragraph of Ephesians 6:5-9 will feel a bit uncomfortable, given our troubled history of past and present. We’ve learned much about slavery, but also in our day with sex trafficking of young girls that happens in the shadows of our major cities all over the world, Christians have long stood against the enslavement of human beings.Yet, we also see how Christians in the past used the Bible for their own self-righteousness to justify the enslavement of other imagebearers.

So, for us, Paul’s seeming omission of telling the masters to free their slaves and telling those in slavery to obey these masters as they would the Lord needs some discussion.I’m hoping that this sermon will accomplish several things. One is to show that what Paul actually says does not contribute to the perpetuation of slavery but its ultimate abolition. Another is to show that the slavery we read about here in Ephesians is not the same as the slavery, say, of the American South. But lastly, lest this devolve into a mere history lesson: though this addresses matters of household slaves, this can also help us with understanding the relationship of employee and employer.

For more information about our ministry, go to http://www.arbc.net.

Moving Away or Moving On–What to Do Next When Leaving a Church You Loved

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

We live in a transient area of the country. Over the last 18 months, we’ve had approximately 70 move out of our city (Denver) from our church of 150-160 pre-COVID. Whether it is the politics, the market, or just wanting to live in a place that suits them better. Some have opted to go to other churches in the area that provide ministries that they hope will help them grow in the faith or have environments for them and their children. 

Whatever reason you have for moving away or moving on, here are some things from this pastor that I recommend you doing.

Moving Away

If you’re considering moving away from the town or city to another town or city:

  1. Pray over whether this is truly God’s call. Yes, politics play their role. Yes, the market can be steep. Yes, our homelands can call us. The true question is, “Is God really calling you to move?” He may be calling you as followers of Jesus to stay in a city or town as part of your Great Commission task. Then again, He may not! Before one does anything of this magnitude, pray and ask God for wisdom. Ask others to come along as well!
  2. Come talk to your pastor. He has spent months, even years, prayerfully and carefully shepherding you and your family. He does not see you as a mere cog in the ecclesiastical machine but as part of the family of God. Let him in on what’s happening with you and your family, especially a big move such as this. He has had conversations like this dozens of times in the past and provides not only care but some wisdom in moving on.
  3. Begin looking for another church that preaches unashamedly from Scripture and cares about each other and their community. Most churches have websites that provide information about the church. Along with seeing if they have environments for particular demographics, look at their Statement of Faith, listen to their sermons, and look at their calendar. Their Statement of Faith shows what they believe, and their calendar shows whether they are doing anything with what they believe.
  4. Consider, too, the neighborhood. Living near your church (or your church being near you) would be ideal. You will be a part of the neighborhood and community you and your church are trying to reach. 
  5. Check out the schools (if you are parents/grandparents with children living at home). Our schools are not just educational outlets but mission fields. If you opt to homeschool, what are some ways your family may become engaged in communities who are more and more drifting away from God’s design and values? 
  6. Talk to the Chamber of Commerce to get a feel for the community culture in the area. 

Moving On

If you plan to move on to another church in your town or city…

  1. Pray about this. (See above!) In addition, pray so God will truly reveal the reason behind your desire to leave. Is the church embracing heresy? Is the sanctuary too cold/hot/warm? Is the music not to your taste? Are there true theological concerns at play or are you leaving for mere preferences? Are you able to grow? What standards are you using to determine whether a church helps you “grow?” Moving on from a church must not come from a knee jerk reaction. No matter where you go, challenges will exist due to every church having imperfect people in need of grace and mercy.
  2. Come talk to your pastor. (See above!) Along with this will come some awkwardness. Moving far away is one thing (this usually has to do with job or family care). Moving to another church in the same town is awkward because, likely, there is something about the present church that facilitates this move. Over the years, I’m shocked at how few come and talk to their pastors (not just me–this is a pattern!). Some may feel the conversations will do no good. Others do not want to hurt feelings. The reasons are numerous–and all of them. But don’t just … leave. Refrain from ghosting. Have that conversation before you decide to go. 
  3. Ask yourself, “Are you expecting too much from the church you’re leaving?” As mentioned in #1, no church is perfect because imperfect people populate them. All have challenges and all are reminders of our need for mercy and grace. Ed Stetzer warned pastors not to always be looking to the next church or idealizing another church. They have the same struggles just in different ways. God gives us four things that every church must have: preaching of the Word, making disciples, observing the ordinances, and engaging our neighbors. No church will do these perfectly, but every church must be on that trajectory. Christ builds His church in His way, not ours. Make sure the metrics you use are not mere preferential and consumeristic but grounded on the Person and work of Christ. 
  4. Have you been a mere spectator or a servant? Sometimes, people join a church but do not get involved. Sometimes this happens because the systems in the church do not provide on-ramps to those who are new to the church, thus only allowing those already established and entrenched to serve because they know the church’s “culture.” It is the responsibility of the church to understanding the giftings of the members to help them serve in the right lane, but it’s also the responsibility of the member to find a way to serve Jesus. None of us are called to be spectators but to run the play on the field, serving Jesus and each other all the while. Before you leave, ask yourself if you have tried to find ways to contribute to Kingdom work. If you have, praise God! If not, help become part of the solution.
  5. Don’t apply a “scorched earth” policy when you leave. While you should talk to your pastor and other key people if you plan to leave, refrain from the gossip that can accompany leaving. If you have grievances that you have prayed through and are grounded in Scripture, then speak that truth in love and leave with a desire to see the church you leave flourish. Otherwise, you’ll be tempted to leave making sure everyone recognizes that you’re leaving and that the church will go south without you and your gifts and your tithe (yes, some have leveraged that aspect of worship to their own gain), and on, and on, and on. Don’t make it personal or take it personal. Make it productive and constructive.
  6. Keep the friendships you’ve acquired. This should be obvious, but the awkwardness of leaving a church while staying in town often means lost or discontinued friendships. As Jim Croce once sang, “But it doesn’t have to be that way.” We are brothers and sisters in Christ, even if we choose not to attend the same church. We must have a kingdom mindset, not simply a local church mindset, when it comes to one another. The extension of mercy and grace applies here as well. People are not simply there for us and when we’re done, we discard them like an old toy. We are called to love another (John 13:34-35), mutually pouring into each other. 

None of these are easy–for people or churches! Praying about these decisions accompanied with open dialogues will certainly help everyone move forward in a Christ-like way.

What are some other things to consider?

You’ve Got a Friend: Good Morning Devotional for 10.15.2021

October 15 (JPG)

Good morning! Hearing James Taylor sing, “You’ve Got a Friend,” or Randy Newman sing on the Toy Story soundtrack, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” brings about an optimism much needed in our world. I was told a long time ago that if you have two to three good friends in your life, you are a blessed man. What is a friend? Let’s look at some examples.

David and Jonathan were friends: “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1).

Job had three friends who behaved as such–at least at first: “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him (Job 2:11).

Sometimes friends aren’t friends, just opportunists: “The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends” (Proverbs 14:20).

At times, friends show tough love: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).

Our spouses should be our friends: “His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem” (Song of Solomon 5:16).

In the Tent of Meeting, God spoke to Moses as a friend: “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).

In John 15, Christ called his disciples his friends because they knew his business. Jesus poured into them, cared for them, and was with them throughout the entirety of his three-year-ministry.

13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 

Jesus Christ, John 15:13-15

I pray God has blessed you with earthly friends, but if not, He has blessed you with one who gave His all for you–Jesus Christ. Christ as our friend always shows His love, and the bloody cross and empty tomb are standing testimonies of this friend who has always shown His love to rescue us from our brokenness.

Is Christ your friend? Repent of your sins and surrender your all and see what type of friend He would be!

You Think the Rockies are Immovable?: Good Morning Devo for 10.14.2021

October 14 (JPG)

Good morning! We live near the Rocky Mountains. As we drive out of our church and turn left on Arapahoe Road, we see Mount Evans with an elevation of 14,265′. The daily sight is as imposing as anything else you’ll see. In our flesh, we could not imagine anything else being any more immovable.

Those mountains and hills may disappear, but God reminds us of something else more imposable and immovable: his covenant love. Isaiah 54 follows a chapter outlining the attributes and actions of the Suffering Servant. God worked his covenant love and faithfulness through His Son who is Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11). The temptation is to believe that God’s faithfulness only exists as long as our circumstances are going smoothly, for when our circumstances are problematic–well, that seems more immovable.

Trust in God’s promises regarding His nature and work. Lean on His promises. Trust in His grace. Even now! Right now! The empty cross and the empty tomb show the veracity of this reality.

Dads Set the Tone: Embrace Your Role as Disciplers and Instructors of Your Children

Fathers set the tone of the home. Fathers and husbands are the thermostats of the home, while the moms are the thermometers. The husbands/dads set the temperature, but realize that wives/moms will indicate what exactly that temperature is as well–along with the children.

This past week, we switched over the boiler from summer to winter, throwing it over from cool to heat now that the weather is turning more into fall. Dads, we have a responsibility of switching that lever to the spot where it should moving forward. It’s our responsibility–we must not abdicate that role.

Could this be why Paul only addresses fathers and doesn’t include mothers in Ephesians 6:1-4? I really do not know but this I do know. The addressing of children (like addressing women/wives in the previous paragraph) was quite countercultural. But so, also, were fathers. In the Roman culture, childrearing was entirely the mother’s responsibility. Fathers did not engage in that area.

Paul comes along and said, “Hey guys! Remember in the last portion how the Spirit tells men they are the head and are to provide godly leadership in marriages? That includes parenting. Step up, for God’s sake!”

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.” Children, yes, you are to honor your flawed, fallible, feeble, sometimes frustrating fathers–but dads, that doesn’t give you a blank check. Dads, remove those obstacles preventing that honor. Fathers, you are called to love your children by fulfilling their responsibility.

Tony Merida lists off some ways that parents can anger their children:

  • Failing to take into account the fact that they are kids.
  • Comparing them to others
  • Disciplining them inconsistently
  • Failing to express approval, even at small accomplishments
  • Failing to express our love to them
  • Disciplining them for reasons other than willful disobedience and defiance
  • Pressuring them to pursue our goals, not their own
  • Withdrawing love from them or overprotecting them.

“Discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Sure, dads are there to show their children how to drive, their boys how to shave and throw/shoot/kick a ball, how to treat their mom, etc. But while these are important, we are called to discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Proverbs 23:13-14 addresses the issue of discipline: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” Some fathers refrain from disciplining their children for various reasons:

  • They long to be friends with their children, thus they do not want to do anything that will make their children, not like them or make them sad.
  • Some believe it’s not their job to instill their values on their children but rather for children to come up with their own at the earliest of ages.

Not so. Discipline comes from the Greek word paideia which deals with training toward excellence. Body, soul, mind. Here are some ways:

  • Physical health: God gave us our bodies–we must take care of them. Sometimes your children will not want to take a bath or brush their teeth. They may not want to eat correctly or exercise. They may struggle to put their clothes away or make their beds (something I still struggle with, sadly). Taking care of your bodies and what you have. 
  • Intellect: Exposing your children to a wide variety of musical, cinematic, and literary genres helps them recognize the wide creativity image-bearers of God have–and encouraging them to use these things to the glory of God and the good of others is always the ultimate goal.
  • Spiritual health though is that which lasts into eternity. The spiritual disciplines: prayer, Scripture reading, discipleship, etc. Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

God has called us as dads to take responsibility for what He’s called us to do not only for ourselves but for the next generation. Some takeaways:

  1. We must know, understanding, and apply anything that God tells us about His design and the roles we play because Christ is the head of the church and we as the church are called to submit to him.
  2. We are called as a church to pour into those young families to help be all that Christ calls them to be–not abandon or abdicate that role because it may not be directly applicable to us.
  3. Maybe you have been convicted about how you as a child feel about your upbringing or how you as a parent feel about your childrearing patterns (or lack thereof). What do we do? We as children will need to forgive as Christ forgave us. We as parents may need to ask for forgiveness and talk to our grown children about some things that may have left hurts or scars.

Embrace this responsibility. God will give you what you need.

God’s Plan for Gospel-Centered Families (Ephesians 6:1-4)

God calls us to look to our marriages and families. As we saw last week from Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul called Spirit-filled Christians to live out the role He called them to lead as a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. God calls us as Christians to fulfill His role and design in what He has assigned us.

Paul again addressed a matter that, in Roman times, was revolutionary and countercultural. Last week, he address the role of wives, a gender who had no rights or privileges in that culture. Here, he addresses “children,” not just boys but all children. Amazing! Even from the time of Jesus, when he forbade the disciples from preventing the children to come to Him, Christianity has elevated the dignity of children higher than most other cultures.

Thus, when we look at Ephesians are reminded that the first half is the doctrinal half that shows our position in Christ and that the last half is how we put those doctrines and our position in Christ into practice, Paul shows the importance of look at marriage and family. God’s way is the, well, the way!

For more information about our ministry, go to http://www.arbc.net.

That Consistent Theme Throughout Scripture: Good Morning Devo for 10.13.2021

October 13 (JPG)

Good morning! Surrendering to Christ does not merely mean a change of thinking or lifestyle from our own strength. This means ultimately that God is with us and in us!

One of the consistent themes throughout Scripture is that God is with us and, for New Testament readers, Christ is in us and that we are in Him. What a joy to understand more of the promise of Christ never leaving us nor forsaking us.

This reality about our identity as being “in Christ” and about our position of “Christ in us” is our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Where does your hope lie?

A Treasured But Daunting Command: Good Morning Devo for 10.12.2021

October 12 (JPG)

Good morning! Many believers treasure this command, some calling this their life verse. And for good reason! Yet this is a daunting command: trust the Lord with all your heart? If that’s the case, this means there must be no room given in our hearts for any other… anything.

The following verse calls for us to not lean on our own understanding. Nhat Hanh once said, “Most of your suffering comes from the lack of understanding yourself and others.” There’s a ring of truth to this, although Scripture tells us that we have a lack of understanding of all around us because of our brokenness due to our desire to stray from God’s design.

By the power of the Spirit, we are called to acknowledge him in all our ways–to take every thought captive to Christ (see 2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The Spirit and the Word direct us in the paths Christ calls us to take. Do you trust Him to take you where you need to be? If not, why not?