The PATH, July 6-12, 2020

Theme: This week we continue studying the book of Ephesians.  Someone once said that the question when we approach Ephesians is not so much what we will do with this book, but the question is what will this book do with us.  It is a powerful testimony of the grace and power of God.  The book has a two fold focus, and it is Jesus and the church.  Paul wants us to see how the grace of God changes and empowers the church to be the light of the world in the midst of a crushing darkness.

Monday – Ephesians 6:16

One of humanity’s basic needs is the need of shelter.  Having shelter protects us.  Paul tells us in verse 16 that we are to take up the shield of faith in every situation.  This shield, much like a shelter protects us.  It is a basic need that we have.  We need our faith to protect us and to give us wisdom.  We need our faith to help us stand strong against that attacks of the evil one.  We need our faith as Paul says here in “all situations.”

The word faith means trusting that what God says is true.  We are to trust what God says in all the situations of life.  When discouragement comes, take up the shield of faith.  When temptation rages, take up the shield of faith and know that God has told you to stay away from the things of the world.  When the devil whispers in your ear and reminds you of your past sins and tries to accuse you and convince you that you are no good and that you are useless, take up the shield of faith and believe that God loves you, that Jesus died for you and that your sins are forgiven.  When the devil attacks in another manner telling you how great you are, take up the shield of faith and tell him that you are nothing without Jesus.  

Take up the shield of faith in all situations.  In other words trust God and walk with Him at all times.

Tuesday – Ephesians 6:17

Next we are told to take the helmet of salvation.  Our salvation is precious to us and it helps guard what is precious about us.  This helmet of salvation enables us to make decisions with a Biblical, Gospel centered mindset.  It helps us filter our thoughts through the lens of the Bible and “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.”  This helmet of salvation lets us know that we fight a battle in our minds everyday.  The battle against hopeless, pride, worthlessness and temptation.  Guard your mind and guard your thoughts.  Realize that salvation is the most important thing in the world and keep your mind turned to Jesus.  

We are also given here an offensive weapon, which is the sword of the Spirit or the word of God.  When we are attacked we are able to rely on God’s word.  It leads us as we go into battle, we must keep it drawn as we march forward, and it must be every before us.  God’s word gives us strength to go on the offensive, even against those things in our lives that don’t need to be there.  With the sword of the Spirit we can perform a little “spiritual surgery” and cut the things out of our lives that don’t need to be there.  God’s Spirit working through God’s word can reshape us and remold us into what we were created and redeemed to be.

Wednesday – Ephesians 6:18-20

We are to put on the armor of God so that we will be ready to handle whatever life, and self, and the devil throws our way, but here Paul reminds us that we must undergird that armor with prayer.  We are to fall on our knees and pray at all times.  We may be covered in the armor of God but we are still dependent on the Father for wisdom, for leadership and for provision.  We may have His armor but we still need Him so we are called to pray at all times.  And as we pray we are to engage with God, we are to be alert.  We are not to go on cruise control or just go through the motions but we are to be alert and pray with perseverance.  We are to be devoted and determined when we pray.  Talk to the Lord about your situations and don’t give up. Paul then makes a personal request “pray for me as I share the Gospel.”  If Paul needed prayer, we certainly do as well.  We should be passionate about praying for one another and about praying for Christian leaders.  Pray for wisdom for them.  They need it (I know I do) as decisions are made in the days of Covid-19.  Pray that they would also have the boldness to share and to speak God’s word.  After all, the word of God is especially needed in our world today.

Thursday – Ephesians 6:21-24

Paul closes the letter by reminding the readers of a very important and often neglected calling that we have and that is to encourage one another.  Paul is most likely in prison as he writes these words but he is still so concerned about the believers at Ephesus that he wants to send Tychicus to them to “encourage them.”  When was the last time you did something to encourage another believer.  We should be willing to go out of our way to encourage one another because after all the days are hard.  

We must take time to encourage one another because we need one another.  We need each other’s prayers and we need those words of encouragement.  The world is filled with discouragement, let us be just the opposite and be people of encouragement.

Friday – Ephesians 1:5-6

These verses form the theme of the book of Ephesians and they certainly bear repeating.  The last 3 chapters of the book tell us how we should live as Christians and the first 3 chapters tell us the wonder of the Gospel that gives us the motivation for living that way.  The Gospel and its beauty and splendor are summed up in these 2 verses.  God has adopted you into His family.  Through the blood of Jesus Christ we are now in the family of God. We were children of wrath but now we are children of God.  Not through what we do but through what Jesus did on the cross.  Through Jesus we are adopted into the family of God and in the ancient world when a child was adopted into a family that adoption was permanent.  You could disown a biological child but you could not disown an adopted child.  They would be a permanent part of the family.  We have been adopted into the family of God through what Jesus did on the cross and that adoption is permanent.  Take time to thank God for that today!

The PATH, June 29-July 5, 2020

The PATH, June 29 – July 5, 2020

Theme: This week we continue studying the book of Ephesians.  Someone once said that the question when we approach Ephesians is not so much what we will do with this book, but the question is what will this book do with us.  It is a powerful testimony of the grace and power of God.  The book has a two fold focus, and it is Jesus and the church.  Paul wants us to see how the grace of God changes and empowers the church to be the light of the world in the midst of a crushing darkness.

Monday – Ephesians 6:13-17

When you are cooking you don’t leave an ingredient out or the food simply won’t turn out right.  The same thing is true on a much more important level with the armor of God.  Paul says you don’t pick and choose what piece to put on, nor do you piece it together instead you are called to “put on the whole armor of God.”  We need all of it, every single piece to protect us and to lead us into battle.  

This life can definitely be a spiritual battle and if we think we can handle it without the full armor we are doomed to failure.  Of course it should also be noted where the armor comes from, it is the armor of God.  It is not our armor but God’s armor.  He is the one who gives it to us and He is the one that puts it on us.  When we go into battle we are to wear His full armor which means we are to be fully trusting in Him.  Victory comes through obedience!

Tuesday – Ephesians 6:13

The battle cry has been sounded and we truly are at war.  It is a spiritual battle, Paul will remind us and the only way that we can be victorious is to be outfitted with the full armor of God.  Paul says when we are dressed by God in this way for battle we can be victorious.  In fact that is the only way for victory to be obtained because as Paul says here the days that we live in are evil.  

It is a reminder to us that this world is not our home.  The days are evil, we have something better waiting on us and it certainly ties in with what John says in 1 John 5, “we belong to God and the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”  These days are definitely evil but we shouldn’t add to the evilness instead our desire should be to Jesus.  After all we belong to God.  We are His children so let us live as He lived and for His glory!

Wednesday – Ephesians 6:14

You are able to stand firm when you are outfitted with the armor of God. That brings to.mind a tree with its deep roots standing strong in the.midst of a fierce storm. It may lean and sway but it stands. The world is evil, it is a difficult place and sometimes the storms may almost knock us down but through the power of God we are able to stand.  

Stand with the belt of truth.  What is truth is the question that many people have asked.  The answer is truth is a person and His name is Jesus.  So we stand through Him and in the truth of His word.  That is the beginning of us being able to stand a relationship with Jesus who is the truth and then reading and trusting in His word because His word is truth.

Thursday – Ephesians 6:14

We are also told to stand with the breastplate of righteousness.  We might be tempted to believe that this means that our actions must be righteous but that is not Paul’s primary point.  The breastplate is a piece of armor that someone else must put on you so what Paul is alluding to here is that you cannot make yourself righteous.  You are only righteous through the blood of Jesus.  His righteousness covers you and protects your heart and your most important organs.  To go into battle without His righteousness means certain death.  

So through the power of the Holy Spirit be clothed with the breastplate of righteousness and be thankful as the word says, “that God made Him who knew no sin to become sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  

Righteousness is all about Jesus and not about us. If you know Jesus you are clothed in His righteousness and declared righteous now live that way each and every day.

Friday – Ephesians 6:15

We may like to go barefoot around the house or in the backyard or at the beach but shoes are important.  We are told to put on the “shoes of the Gospel of peace”.  These shoes represent the fact that we are to be ready to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ at all times but it is more than that.  During the New Testament times of a person was a slave they did not have shoes.  So we are given shoes by our Savior Jesus Christ.  He has redeemed us and set us free.  We are no longer slaves to sin.  That freedom is wonderful and because of it we should certainly walk with Christ and run to tell others about Him. 

The PATH, June 15-21, 2020

The PATH, June 15-21, 2020

Monday – Ephesians 6:1-4

Obedience is not a word that we like at all.  We want to do what we want when we want and that desire is within us even when we are children.  Paul says here that children are to ” obey their parents in the Lord for this is right.”  It is right because children have to learn right from wrong, they have to learn how to live.  But there is something deeper in display here, we are to learn obedience because that teaches us humility and it teaches us to listen to authority.  God is the ultimate authority and as we learn obedience as children we are learning a principle that will benefit us throughout life: we are to live in obedience.  We must walk daily in obedience to God as He is the ultimate authority.  We must treasure His word and His Spirit and walk daily in His ways.  We don’t like the word obedience but living in obedience to God truly is a foundation of life. 

Tuesday – Ephesians 6:1-4

Paul continues his thought here on the family unit and this demonstrates to us that the family is a bedrock of society.  Here we are told not to obey our parents but to honor them.  This is of course a direct reference to the 10 commandments. Some would say that the 10 commandments are Old Testament and therefore don’t apply today, but Paul would strongly disagree.  Instead of invalidating those commandments Paul validates them here by directly referring back to them.

It would also seem that Paul has in mind here what happens to adult children.  As adults we no longer have to live in obedience to our earthly parents but we still are called to honor them. 

Honor them by the way that you live.  Honor them by loving them and honor them if necessary by helping them and caring for them.  

As we honor our parents at any age we are honoring God.  We are living how we were created to live.

Wednesday – Ephesians 6:1-4

Paul highlights the importance of fair and loving treatment in verse 4.  Fathers are supposed to treat their children fairly.  They are not to stir them to anger.  That means that they are to be fair with them, not lay extra burdens on them and not discipline them unfairly.  

Paul takes this command to a different level when he adds: bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  Its not enough just to love your children and be fair with them.  Nor is it enough to just teach them about life.  We as parents (fathers especially) also have a holy calling to teach our children about Jesus and about His ways.  We are to teach them to walk in His ways and part of that includes teaching by example as we walk in His ways personally. 

Thursday – Ephesians 6:5-8

The word slavery in our society has such evil connotations that we don’t even like to read it, but here when Paul talks about slavery it was not the slavery of 19th century America.  That slavery was a horrendous evil and sadly throughout the years some have used these verses to justify slavery.  Make no mistake about it this is not Paul’s intention.  His intention is to say that whatever situation you find yourself in it life make sure that you are living in obedience to God. 

If you are a slave then even do that with all your heart.  Serve with obedience and remember that whatever you do you are doing it for God.  This principle applies to our work lives or our school lives,  do you job, participate in your studies with all your heart because you are doing it for the Lord.  Everything that you do you must do it for the glory of God.

Friday – Ephesians 6:9

Paul not only addresses slaves but he also writes to those in charge of slaves.  He tells them to treat them with love and fairness.  Why? Because their true Master and your true Master is Almighty God.  In other words no matter what your lot in life all people are equal under Almighty God.  All people are created in the image of God and because of that all people are equal.  Paul writes very short succinct commands here but if people truly lived them out, our homes would be different, children would grow up knowing that they are loved and valuable and all people would be treated with fairness and equaliy.  Our society may want to silence God but God’s ways are always best. 

The PATH, June 8-14, 2020

The PATH, June 8-14, 2020

Theme: This week we continue studying the book of Ephesians.  Someone once said that the question when we approach Ephesians is not so much what we will do with this book, but the question is what will this book do with us.  It is a powerful testimony of the grace and power of God.  The book has a two fold focus, and it is Jesus and the church.  Paul wants us to see how the grace of God changes and empowers the church to be the light of the world in the midst of a crushing darkness.

Monday- Ephesians 5:28-29 and 1 Corinthians 13

If anyone ever doubted that theology should impact life, Ephesians 5:28-29 serves notice that it should.  Paul is talking about Christ and the church.  Jesus loved His church, His bride enough to go to the cross and die so that they (we) could be redeemed.  When Paul thinks about that he logically applies it to marriage.  When a man and a woman are married, they truly become one flesh and so husbands are to love their wives just as Jesus loved the church.  That is a lofty commandment and in reality an impossibility because we are unable to love as Jesus loves, but Paul’s point is that we should love and treasure our wives.  Husbands are to be forgiving, encouraging and prayerful.  They are to lead by example and to display kindness and grace.  Why? Because that is what Jesus does.  He loves with 1 Corinthians 13 love and we as husbands are called to do the same.  This lets us see our calling but it also shows us the  – importance of marriage.  Marriage is a holy gift from God and it should display the love of Christ.  That is why we pray for marriages and for families.  Take time to do that today.

Tuesday -Ephesians 5:30

We are members of the body of Christ.  What a wonderful and blessed privilege that is.  The church again is not something we go to, but instead it is who we are.  We are members of the body of Christ, and as people look at us we should display Jesus.  Paul has already made that point about displaying Him in the home, but it becomes obvious here that we are to display Him regardless of where we are.  We are members of the body of Christ.  We are His hands and His feet.  This culture that we live in may want to silence the church, but in reality our message and our love empowered by the Holy Spirit of God is exactly what this world needs.  Pray for the church today and as you pray ask God how you can make the local church a better place.  Ask Him how He wants you to be involved as a member of His body.  The reality is that every single part of the body has a purpose and the same is true with the body of Christ.  You have a purpose and you have a calling.  God has “good works prepared in advance for you to do.”  Find out what they are and then get active and involved for the glory of the Father.

 Wednesday – Ephesians 5:31

Paul goes back to the illustration of marriage here, quoting the words of Jesus on marriage, “that a man should leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”   The Greek word that is used there for “hold fast” means to be glued to.  That is a beautiful picture of marriage.  Glue is messy, it is smelly, it is sometimes painful, but it is also very useful and depending on the project it is necessary and beautiful.  All of those things can be said of marriage.  It is beautiful, but also messy.  It is sometimes smelly and painful, but it is useful and wonderful.  Again let Paul’s words remind you today to pray for marriages and to treasure your spouse if you are married, and to be thankful for them.

Thursday- Ephesians 5:32

Again Paul slips back into some glorious theology as he says that his illustration of marriage points to Christ and the church.  Jesus loves us and we are glued to Him.  He loves us when life is messy (or smelly) or painful.  He loves us when life is wonderful.  He makes us useful and gives us purpose.  He loves us with a beautiful amazing grace and His love is an unfailing love.  This passage highlights the eternal nature of the love of God and because of that the eternal nature of the church empowered by His love.  When you look around at this terrible and sometimes frightening world it is good to be reminded that nothing can prevail against the church.  Jesus told us that when HE said, “not even the gates of hell shall prevail against the church”.  So be thankful today for His unchanging love, for His permanence and for His gift of the church.  

Friday – Ephesians 5:33

Have you ever watched a ping pong or tennis match?  It is back and forth, back and forth.  Paul’s writing here is much the same.  He goes from the church to marriage to marriage to the church.  It is a beautiful back and forth.  And as he closes his thought here he goes back to marriage to make the point that theology impacts our lives and our homes.  What we believe matters, and if we believe in the love of God, if we believe in His creative power, and if we believe in His purpose then we have to acknowledge that He has set up the family unit.  He has ordained marriage to be a husband and a wife.  The husband is to be the head of the family but he is to be driven by love and he is to lead by example.  The wife is to submit to his leadership and respect her husband.  That is God’s plan for the family and as the family lives that plan out, the family shows Jesus to the world.  Marriage is more than a love story between a man and a woman, it is a love story that displays the love of God.  So the purpose of marriage is not happiness but instead holiness.  The purpose is to show Jesus to the world for the glory of the Father.  

Thoughts on the Now

Matthew 19:14 – “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

I was adopted when I was 10 days old……life matters. I was privileged to serve as team pastor/coach at Averett University for 5 years, our team was racially diverse. The first chapel I spoke at, many of the black players sat on the front row and listened. I admired the people that they were and are… lives matter. I have friends who are police officers……blue lives matter. Many of my oldest sons best friends are Hispanic and the admiration and love I have for them and their families runs deep…….life matters. My middle son is autistic and we have fought battles for him. Ive seen people look at him and treat him differently but every day he teaches me about life……life matters. Im a pastor……Jesus said, “love God and love people.” In the end it will be all that matters………Jesus’ life matters.

Simply put only He is the solution. No racism with Him. No mistreatment with Him. No rioting and senseless killing with Him. Only forgiveness and love. Jesus loves the children of the world – whatever color or whatever else, He loves them. If your actions aren’t fueled by that love you are wrong, and your life is not what it was meant to be.

Pastor Jon

The PATH, June 1-7, 2020

The Path, June 1-7, 2020

Theme: This week we continue studying the book of Ephesians.  Someone once said that the question when we approach Ephesians is not so much what we will do with this book, but the question is what will this book do with us.  It is a powerful testimony of the grace and power of God.  The book has a two fold focus, and it is Jesus and the church.  Paul wants us to see how the grace of God changes and empowers the church to be the light of the world in the midst of a crushing darkness.

Monday – Ephesians 5:21

The word submission is not popular in our contemporary culture.  It is usually associated with images of dominance at its very worst or at the very least people think of a game of mercy or arm wrestling, with one person losing to another one and crying out “I submit or I give up”.  That is not what Paul is talking about here.  He is saying that we as believers in Christ should love one another so much that we are always putting people’s needs above our own.  We care about people and we love them without reservation.  We seek ways to keep peace between believers.  These words are extremely applicable in our world today because within the church there will be some that are convinced that Covid19 is a hoax while others are convinced that it is an extreme danger.  Others will fall somewhere in the middle.  Some will feel comfortable coming to church while others will want to wait.  Some will come in masks and gloves, while others will not want to wear a mask.  How do we handle that as believers? The answer from Paul in Ephesians is simple, we submit to one another.  We consider their needs before our own and we respect others thoughts, even if we think they are 100% wrong.  Just as a side note this does NOT apply to sinful actions that are contrary to the word of God, we aren’t called to respect those thoughts but in all circumstances we are called to love the people.   One way that we love within the church is through submission.  We don’t always have to have our own way, we as Christ followers are called to put one another above ourselves.  This is a hard verse.  Not hard to understand but hard to put into practice because it goes against the fabric of our being.  Paul however still calls us to “submit” and knows that we are capable through the power of the Holy Spirit working within us.

Tuesday – Ephesians 5:21

Paul’s call to submission is not just a legalistic rule that must be kept.   That leads to misery and resentment, instead we are called to submit to one another “out of reverence for Christ.”  We submit to others because we love Jesus.  This would seem to indicate that causing discord and division within a local church is a heinous sin.  When we refuse to submit we are driven by selfishness and pride.  Two sins that are in stark contrast to the ministry and life of Jesus.  Two sins that limit the effectiveness of the church in the world.  We are called to submit and to not live in selfishness but we are called to submit because we love Jesus.  The word reverence that is used here can mean “terror or fear” but it can also mean “astonishment” and “amazement”.  It is the latter that Paul has in view when he writes these words.  We are to be amazed at Jesus.  That amazement and that astonishment causes us to see that He submitted.  He submitted Himself to the will of the Father (see His prayer in the Garden), and He submitted Himself to us by putting our needs above His own and going to the cross.  When we see that it leads us to live a life of willing submission.  We realize what Jesus has done for us and we want to be like Him, which means living a life in willing submission to others for the glory of God.

Wednesday – Ephesians 5:22-24

These verses have caused confusion and division in many cases, but they were never intended to.  Instead Paul is wanting his readers to see that the Gospel is so rich that it influences even how you live at home.  It is easy to display a Spirit filled life for 2 hours on Sunday but we are called to live that way more than just 2 hours on Sunday, we are called to be filled with the Spirit and live our lives to glorify the Father at all times, regardless of where we are.  This includes living that way at home.  Paul says part of that means that a wife should submit to her husband.  This is a picture of the church submitting to Christ.  It is something that should be done with joy and again “out of reverence to the Father.”  Wives don’t submit because they are less than their husbands or inferior to them, instead they submit so that they can show how the church responds to Christ.   It is not to be seen as a burden but instead something that is done with joy.  That joy is made possible by what Paul says in v. 25………

Thursday – Ephesians 5:25

Many times men love to quote the “wives submit to your husbands” passage but we forget what comes next.  “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church”.  That puts the focus directly on the husband, he is supposed to love the wife as Christ loved the church.  That means loving unselfishly.  That means loving without forcing your own way.  When a husband loves his wife that way, submission happens joyfully.  But it is not easy to love in that way.  We naturally want our own way and can become very selfish.  That attitude is detrimental to marriage and a poor representation of Christ and the church.  Which means that husbands are called to lay their selfishness and self-centeredness aside.  This is difficult but is made possible if the husband lives “in reverence for Christ”.  Jesus gives the power through the Holy Spirit to live and love in a God honoring way!

Friday – Ephesians 5:26-27

Paul cannot help but slip back into a moment of glorious theology here.  As he thinks about Jesus and what Jesus has done for us, he has to turn the focus away from practical daily living back to Jesus.  Jesus died for His church, which is His bride.  He died to make her holy.  Paul is not saying that baptism (the washing of water) is how the church is made holy, instead he is speaking with a metaphor of cleansing.  The blood of Jesus cleanses us just as water washed something clean.  The church is cleaned by the blood of Jesus and that happens through the preached word of God.  The blood of Jesus gives cleansing and we are exposed to that blood through the preaching of the word.  Jesus cleanses His church and then presents the church to Himself as His bride.  She is now without a spot or wrinkle.  She is without blemish and she is holy.  This is the church, the bride of Christ!  May we love the church, and serve Jesus through the church as we live daily for the glory of God.  

The PATH, May 25-31, 2020

The PATH, May 25-31, 2020

Theme: This week we continue studying the book of Ephesians.  Someone once said that the question when we approach Ephesians is not so much what we will do with this book, but the question is what will this book do with us.  It is a powerful testimony of the grace and power of God.  The book has a two fold focus, and it is Jesus and the church.  Paul wants us to see how the grace of God changes and empowers the church to be the light of the world in the midst of a crushing darkness.

Monday – Ephesians 5:18-19

Paul’s command here is two fold, “don’t get drunk with wine”, but instead “be filled with the Spirit.” While both commands are important, don’t be filled up with worldly things, but instead  be filled up with the things of God, the emphasis is definitely on the second part.  We are to be filled up with the Holy Spirit of God and when we are the Holy Spirit changes how we talk and  even changes our outlook on life.  If you are making melody in your heart to the Lord you have hope.  So because the Holy Spirit fills your life you are able to live with hope.  The Holy Spirit changes your outlook. Notice Paul does not tell the church at Ephesus to “sing and make melody in their hearts to the Lord” just when the circumstances of life are good.  His inference is that they are to do it at all times.  The Holy Spirit lives within them and He produces hope within them that is how they are able to “sing and make melody in their hearts to the Lord.”  Their outlook has been changed as they are no longer driven by the things of the world, but instead they are driven by the things of God.  

The same thing is true of their speech, they are now speaking “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another.”  This is a radical change of life.  They are now speaking words of hope, and words of joy to one another.  They are sharing Scripture with one another.  The Holy Spirit has filled them up and changed the way that they speak.  The book of Proverbs says, “out of an abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  That is certainly true here.  The people at Ephesus are speaking words of hope and joy to each other because the Holy Spirit has filled up their hearts.  The picture is clear, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is so wonderful that He even changes your outlook and your speech.  That is the power of God.

Tuesday – Ephesians 5:20

Paul tells us here to speak “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,” but certainly he means more than just speaking.  He means that we are to sing as well.  He does not say we are to sing perfectly or even in tune, but he does imply that we are to sing.  Why do we sing? We sing because God is so wonderful that you can’t just talk about Him, you have to sing about Him and sing to Him.  Singing engages your mind, your emotions and your spirit.  If Jesus lives in your heart it changes you and you want to love Him with all your mind, all of your spirit, and with all of your emotions.  The Gospel of Jesus should engage our emotions because it is wonderful to think of all that Jesus has done for us.  So we should sing to the Lord.

There is definitely an element of corporate worship here, when we come together as a church and sing we are speaking words of hope, encouragement and love to one another.  The church service should be a time of encouragement as we encourage each other in the Lord.  Paul says “speak to one another ” and of course sing!  Encourage one another, love one another, remind one another of the Gospel.  It is our calling when we are church and when we are at home.  It is what we are called to do regardless of where we are.  It doesn’t come naturally to us but it does happen within us supernaturally as we are filled with God’s Holy Spirit.  He transforms us and gives us hope and joy, then we share that with one another.

Wednesday – Ephesians 5:19-20

We are told to speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs AND we are told to sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord.   What is meant by “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs?”  Well the first one is obvious we are to engage the psalms.  The psalms are the book of Psalms.  This book was the songbook of the Temple, it was the hymnal of Jesus and of the early church.  They sang these words when they gathered for worship.  What is a hymn? A hymn was one of the songs that was written by the early church.  We see examples of hymns even in the pages of Scripture.  Colossians 1 is part of a hymn that describes the supremacy of Jesus.  Philippians 2 is most likely the earliest hymn of the early church and it describes the humility of Jesus and how His life should affect how we live.  Revelation 4 and 5 are hymns that were sung in the early church as well.  These words describe the majesty and power of Jesus.  

A hymn is a song about Jesus.  Hymns are filled up with theology and they shape our thoughts about God.  Think about what you learned from the hymns that you sang as a child:  Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine.  My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.   Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  Victory in Jesus my Savior forever…….We could go on and on.  Hymns shape our theology and point us to Jesus.  

What is a spiritual song?  Certainly some of the psalms are spiritual songs and some hymns are spiritual songs, but a spiritual song seems to mean here a song that engages our emotions and points us to the goodness of God.  A “spiritual song” is like many of the praise songs that we sing in worship.  Songs like “Mighty to Save”, “Better is One Day”, “Redeemed”,……These songs engage our emotion and we sing them to God with all of our hearts.  

Three different types of songs are represented here but they all have one thing in common they all point us to Jesus and to His goodness.  They are also supposed to be continually on our lips and in our hearts because Jesus has changed us, forgiven us and filled us up with His Spirit.

Thursday – Ephesians 5:20

Paul is not giving us a list of things that we must do here, rather he is showing us what happens in our lives when we are filled up with God’s Holy Spirit.  Our outlook is changed, our speech is changed and we live a life of thanksgiving.  Tony Merida says as he comments on this passage of Scripture that “the result of being filled with the Spirit is renewed worship and renewed relationships.”  In other words being filled with God’s Spirit leads you to live a life of worship and thanksgiving and it leads you to live a life not focused on yourself but focused on other people and on the goodness of God.  When that happens we supernaturally live a life of thanksgiving.  We find things to be thankful for even when the situations of life are hard.  We rejoice even in the hard times.  We overflow with thanksgiving even when hopelessness and confusion reign around us.  We are different because the Holy Spirit resides within us.

Friday – Ephesians 5:20

Paul also reminds us of a wonderful truth here and that is that we can call God “Father”.  We give thanks to God “the Father.”  Again in the Old Testament God was not seen as Father.  He may have been referred to as the Father of the nation of Israel, but the thought of being able to approach God as a personal Father was unheard of.  The coming of Jesus changed everything.  Now we can approach God as our Father because Jesus has made us part of the family of God.  His blood took away the enmity between us and God.  Because of His blood we are no longer enemies, but we are friends, and not just friends but we are part of the family of God.  We can approach Him as Father and know that He loves us.  We can call Him Father and know that other believers are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Again Jesus changes everything!  No wonder we are called to live a life of thanksgiving.  How could we not? We are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, we can call God Father and we know that His Holy Spirit lives within us.  

The PATH, May 18-24, 2020

The PATH, May 18-24, 2020

Theme: This week we continue studying the book of Ephesians.  Someone once said that the question when we approach Ephesians is not so much what we will do with this book, but the question is what will this book do with us.  It is a powerful testimony of the grace and power of God.  The book has a two fold focus, and it is Jesus and the church.  Paul wants us to see how the grace of God changes and empowers the church to be the light of the world in the midst of a crushing darkness.

Monday – Ephesians 5:12

Shame is almost a foreign concept in our world today.  This was also the case in Paul’s day at least to an extent.  People who were unbelievers were practicing things that were shameful but it would appear according to v. 12 that some believers were also practicing some of those things.  The actual Greek term means “what is done by them”.  So the question arises who are they? Is it those who are unbelievers or is it those who are believers in Jesus.  The obvious answer is that Paul is talking about both.  There are some believers who are practicing sinful things and the lost are practicing sinful things as well.  To make matters worse it was something that was being talked about a lot.  

Paul’s point here is obvious.  If it is wrong to simply mention those things, it is definitely wrong to discuss them, and obviously it is wrong to participate in them.  His words are short and direct but they are a wake up call to the church.  Don’t talk about those things, don’t mention those things, and certainly don’t participate in those things.  Why? Because you ought to be bringing glory to God with the way that you live and with the way that you talk.  

Tuesday – Ephesians 5:13

Paul’s words in this verse are a warning to those that think they can sin in secret.  Their thinking is no one knows about it and I’m not hurting anyone so I can do what I want.  Paul’s words let us know that everything will be exposed by Jesus.  He is the light that sees all that goes on, and sin is still sin regardless of who sees it or who you think it hurts.  His light will illuminate sin.

However there is a note of good news in this verse.  What Jesus illuminates will become light.  When the light of Jesus shines into your life He can change and transform you.  He can show you your sin, lead you to repentance and change your heart.  That is the good news.  Yes there is certainly a word of warning.  Be careful if you think you are getting away with sin, but there is also a note of hope.  Jesus can change any heart and transform any life.

Wednesday – Ephesians 5:14 

The words here, “this is why it is said” point backwards to a saying that was familiar in the times of the early church.  Perhaps it is pointing back to some of the quotations of the Old Testament, such as a combination of Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah 26:19, and Isaiah 60:1, perhaps it is pointing back to one of the hymns of the early church.  We may not be sure what it points back to but we can be sure of the meaning.  The meaning is that those who are believers who have fallen into the sins of the world need to wake up.  When they do, Jesus will shine on them and lead them from a lifestyle of death to a lifestyle that gives life.  

This is quite the contrast.  When you chase after the sins of the world your life is lived in a lifestyle of death, and when you follow Jesus you are living life the way it was meant to be lived.  When you follow Jesus you are truly alive.  He takes us who are dead in our trespasses and sins before we know Christ and He makes us alive.  The warning is don’t sink back and live like death anymore, but truly enjoy the abundant life (John 10:10) that God has blessed you with.  Live the way that you were redeemed and transformed to live.

Thursday – Ephesians 5:15-16

“Be careful” is a saying that we don’t pay a lot of attention to.  It is simply a way of saying goodbye usually and when someone says it to us the truth is that we don’t go and intentionally be more careful than we would have before.  Paul’s words here are different.  They are words that we should definitely pay attention to.  “Be very careful how you live.”  In other words Paul is telling the church at Ephesus, live with intentionality.  Intentionally follow Jesus, intentionally fill your life up with the things of God, intentionally stay away from the sins of the world.  Don’t even talk about them or mention them.  Live intentionally.  

Live in the wisdom of God.  Don’t live in the foolishness of the world.  Make the most of the time.  Make the most of your life.  You don’t do that by following the world.  You don’t do that by living in darkness.  You don’t do that by mimicking the evil around you.  You do that by walking in the light, living in the wisdom of God and following Him.  Don’t waste your life instead follow Jesus with all of your heart, all of your mind, and all of your strength!

Friday – Ephesians 5:17 and Proverbs 2:1-9

“Don’t be foolish”, Paul says.  That word means don’t live in vanity, don’t live without wisdom.  Taken with what Paul has already told the church it means don’t live for yourself, don’t trust in your own wisdom but trust in the wisdom of God and live your life following Him.

“Understand what God’s will is.”  That is more than head knowledge.  It is more than just knowing what God’s will is even though that is certainly important.  We need to know in our heads God’s will for our lives, but here Paul also means that we are to live it out.  One commentator calls this “applied knowledge”.  Know the will of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit, apply that to your life and live it out.  

Proverbs 2 talks about pursuing that wisdom and then living in that wisdom.  Seek the wisdom of God, through the word of God and then prayerfully live in that wisdom each and everyday of your lives.  

Gazing Stock

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Hebrews 10:33 – “Partly while you were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions, and partly while you became companions of them that were so used.”

A recent news article says that some theaters now watch you as you are watching the movie.  Their is artificial intelligence software installed that watches you and digests how you respond to certain scenes in the movie.  The writer of Hebrews says that we are being watched, not by artificial intelligence software but by other people.  We are being watched by them as we go throughout this life.

Gazingstock is a word that we don’t use very much.  In fact until the other day it was a word that I had used a total of 0 times in my life.  The King James version of the Bible however translates the Greek word that is used in Hebrews 10 as “gazingstock”.   We are made a gazingstock, which as the word suggests means that we are being watched.

The Greek word that is used there is actually theatrizō   and it means “to look upon as in a theater.”  Other translations translate it as being “publicly exposed,” or “by being made a public spectacle.”  The idea is that the Christians that the writer was writing to were being watched just like they were on stage in a theater.  The actual word however runs deeper, it means that they are being watched and to an extent made fun of.  They are being watched in a negative way.  They are being watched and being ridiculed for their faith.

This is something that went on long before Hebrews 10 was written and it is something that continues even today.  People are still ridiculed for their faith in Jesus.  That is why the Bible gives us several words of encouragement and tells us on numerous occasions to stand strong or to press on.

The word that is used for gazingstock means not only to “look upon with ridicule”, but it also means to “look upon with curiosity.”  People should be curious about the way we live as followers of Jesus.  We are called in 1 Peter to be a “peculiar people”, which means a people who live differently because they are set apart by God.  When you take these two Scriptures together it means that since we are set apart by God we should make people curious for God.  Since we are ridiculed for our faith, our faith should in turn make people curious about the God that we serve.

As followers of Jesus we truly are “gazingstocks”.  People may look at us and ridicule us, or they make look at us as contempt, or they may look at us and think they we are strange or crazy for following Jesus.  The reality is however that as they look at us we ought to make them curious about Jesus.  The only way to do that is to live with integrity, to live for the glory of God, and to live in humility.  When we live that way, God will take us and use us to make other people curious about Him.

The PATH, May 11-17, 2020

The PATH, May 11-17, 2020

Theme: This week we continue studying the book of Ephesians. Someone once said that the question when we approach Ephesians is not so much what we will do with this book, but the question is what will this book do with us. It is a powerful testimony of the grace and power of God. The book has a two fold focus, and it is Jesus and the church. Paul wants us to see how the grace of God changes and empowers the church to be the light of the world in the midst of a crushing darkness.

Monday – Ephesians 5:6

H.B. Charles says that “the peril of the unredeemed sinner is unbelief, while the peril of the redeemed sinner is misbelief.” In other words one of the dangerous things for a believer is believing wrong things about God.

That is Paul’s point in Ephesians 5:6 when he says “don’t let anyone deceive you with empty words.” Don’t be drawn away from the truth of the Gospel. Don’t be misled into thinking wrongly about God, don’t be swayed by false doctrine. What we believe about God matters.

The word deceived means to be led astray, like someone that becomes lost on a hike or a sheep that goes astray or a ship that gets blown off course by a storm. These things are all serious situations so Paul is saying that falling into false doctrine is a serious situation. Again what we believe matters.

This is why it is so important to know what you believe and to make the Bible a part of your daily lives. The word of God is truth and it helps us stand strong against any type of falsehood or temptation. So read the word, meditate on the word, pray over the word, and hold to the simple truth of the Gospel.

Tuesday – Ephesians 5:7

Here Paul tells us not to become partners with people who spread false doctrine. The word partner means to “join with”. Don’t join with people who spread falsehood. Of course before you join with a person you typically have to be around that person. So the people that you surround yourself with matter. We as followers of Christ should have friends who are not Christians so that we might introduce them to Jesus, but we do have to be careful to make sure that we surround ourselves with people who trust in the Gospel as well. If we surround ourselves with people who speak falsehood and purvey false doctrine then those things can influence us as well.

We need to surround ourselves with people who sincerely love Jesus and believe His truth. The book of Proverbs says, “iron sharpens iron”, and that is certainly what Paul is pointing toward here. Just as we can help each other and strengthen each other in our walk with Christ, if we surround ourselves with people of false doctrine that can rub off on us as well.

Wednesday – Ephesians 5:8

Paul says in 5:6 that “what you believe matters”. Then in 5:7, the “people that you surround yourself with matter.” And here in verse 8 he says, “the way you live matters.” He brings that out by telling the church at Ephesus, you used to be lost, you used to be “darkness” but now you are light. You are light because of your relationship with Jesus, now live as children of light. You have had your sins taken away and you have been declared righteous by the blood of Jesus, now live that way. Live as a child of God. Live as a child of light. Don’t live sinfully as v. 3-5 point out, but live differently because you have been changed by the power of God. Your identity is different, let that be seen in how you live.

ThursdayEphesians 5:9-10

Now that you have been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ live out your faith by being a person of righteousness, goodness, and truth. How you live matters. The word righteous that is used there means “right living”. It means to live in integrity. Because you have been declared righteous by the blood of Jesus and live in integrity. Don’t be false but be real. This certainly glorifies the Father and it also is a positive witness to the world. The world needs to see Christians who are real in their faith. Paul’s call is for us to be those people. Live with integrity.

Live with goodness. That word means virtue and generosity. It means to care about and love other people. Again how you live matters, so live caring about other people. Paul’s words here boil down to Jesus’ great two commands, “love God and love others.” Live for the glory of the Father all the while loving other people.

Paul adds to that and says we are to also live in truth. This means that the truth of the Gospel transforms us. His truth sets us free to truly live and to live with integrity and compassion. He sets us free to live life asking the question of verse 10, “how can I please the Lord?” “How can I live for His glory?” It is a question that we should ask each and every day.

Friday – Ephesians 5:11

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness. Paul is telling the church, “don’t waste your life”. The word fruitless actually means barren, like a tree that produces no fruit. If you chase after the things of this world your life will be fruitless. You will not produce fruit. What kind of fruit? Well Paul was just talking about pleasing God and loving people, so if you are chasing after the things of darkness and you are filling your lives up with sin you won’t produce the fruit of truly loving other people nor will your life be pleasing to God. Paul’s words here are big words, if you chase after the deeds of darkness you are truly wasting your life.

The reality is God has only given you one life so use it for God’s glory. Use it to please God. Use it to love other people. Love God and love others. It is truly what matters.