Relationships and Getting Prepared (Ephesians 6)

The-book-of-Ephesians

As we all know, marriage is not the only relationship that we have in this life (aside from our relationship with God). We are also sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, and slaves and masters. These relationships must also display the same sacrificial love that I spoke about yesterday. Paul writes, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right (6:1, NASB). No matter what we are to listen to our parents. It is even one of the big 10 rules God gave us, the Ten Commandments. When we obey and respect our parents, we show our understanding of God’s authority over us. Just like our parents did when we were little, God sometimes asks us to do thing that we don’t quite understand. We must obey what our Heavenly Father is asking of us, in order to show him honor and glory.

Paul then turns his eyes on parents. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (6:4, NASB). I know it says “fathers”, but honestly it can be applied to mothers as well. As parents, we should not intentionally do things to harm our children. In speaking about prayer, Jesus asks these questions to the crowd at the Mount, “What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?” (Matthew 7:9-10, NASB). Jesus is talking about God taking care of us, and having our best interests at heart. This same relationship, should be the one that we have in relation to our own children. Care for them and have their best interests at heart.

Some of you may have given your screen a second look when I said “slaves and masters”. I assure you that this relationship still exists in its most basic form, only today we call it employer and employee (or government and citizen). As slaves, it is our duty to obey the authority placed over us. We get this from another of Paul’s writings, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” (Romans 13;1, NASB), or in Jesus’ own words “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11, NASB). We should treat all authority over us as if it where actually God giving these commands (so long as it aligns with God’s Word). As masters, we are to realize that everyone under our authority is a loved creation of God. We cannot abuse these people and exploit them so that our lives can become a little easier. No matter what, we are not the true masters. Everything has been given to us on loan from the real master in Heaven.

Finally we come to the armor of God. I know that I have heard dozens of sermons and read tons of teachings on the subject of the armor. All I will say is that this armor represents our need to be secure in God, and be prepared for the battles that face us everyday. At some point, we will be questioned for our faith. Someone will ask questions that can shake you if you are not prepared. Knowing who we are in Christ, and knowing what God’s Word has to say to us, is the best thing we can do to prepare for that day. It’s coming, are you ready?

Paul teaches us how to live out our day to day lives in this chapter. No matter what, you have one of these relationships facing you today and the need for preparation for battle. Spend time in the Word everyday. That is my best suggestion I could ever make. Don’t just read your Bible, that doesn’t count. Simply reading your Bible is an intellectual exercise that will barely scratch the surface of what Scripture can do for you. Pray through the Bible. Ask God to show you what you need for the day. Ask Him to enter into your time with Him. This allows us to be prepared for the battles, and helps us to be more like Him in our relationships. It’s hard to be imitators of someone we do not spend much time with. So spend time. I provided some Psalms to pray today if you need some help getting started. But give this practice a chance. It will help you polish your armor and get you ready for the day.

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 4-6

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Is Anyone Thirsty? (Isaiah 54-56)

Book of Isaiah

 

In their sin and disobedience, Jerusalem became shameful because it was not bearing fruit for God. They openly rejected His ways and teachings. So God, in His righteous anger, decided to punish His people for disobeying. However, in today’s reading, God promises that when they return to Him, He will gladly take them back. He will bless them with abundance they have never known. They will no longer have to suffer through the shame and disgrace brought on by their disobedience. “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood.” (54:4, NLT). He makes a promise to them that will last forever, just like He made with Noah. “Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth, so now I  swear that I will never again be angry and punish you. For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken.” (54:9-10, NLT). No enemy will ever overcome them, so long as they remain faithful to God’s way of life.

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink — even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or mink — it’s all free!”  (55:1, NLT). God offered the Israelites a gift that they would not have to pay for, they simply needed obedience. He tells them to feed off of Him. Physical food would only feed their bodies, but they need more that simply eating bread and meat. They need God’s word to live off of as well. He knows that unless they seek after Him, just like they will seek after food everyday, the Israelites will have problems keeping their end of the covenant God wishes to renew with them. He tells them that His word produces fruit, and it will prosper where ever He sends it. He wishes to give it to the Israelites so they can become fruitful again. He reminds them that they cannot understand His mind. “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (55:9, NLT). Men cannot understand all that God knows and thinks. Our minds are small and feeble in comparison to His. There are times where God calls His people to do things they don’t understand. He reminds them that the  proper way to behave is in obedience to Him.

God shows His people how obedience to Him gives greater glory and blessing than following the will of man ever will. God picks two classes of people in Israel to speak directly about, eunuchs and Gentiles. He says that so long as they obey God, He will give them blessings beyond anything they could receive by man. “Don’t let the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will never let me be part of his people.’ And don’t let the eunuchs say, ‘I’m a dried-up tree with no children and no future.'” (56:3, NLT). God is not going to allow people who truly seek after Him live with the shame that these people groups have to live with. “I will bless those eunuchs who keep my Sabbath days holy and who choose to do what pleases me and commit their lives to me.” (56:4, NLT), “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant.” (56:6, NLT).  “For the Sovereign Lord, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people of Israel (56:8, NLT).

Just like in the days of Isaiah’s writing, God cares for His people today. He wants to bless us, and see us prosper. He doesn’t want to see us harmed, or have to suffer. Yet we constantly choose to disobey Him and have to live with the consequences of that decision. In order for us to have better in our lives, we have to seek God first. Whether that means for you, the first thing you do in the morning is study the Bible, or you have to go find one of those WWJD bracelets for a constant reminder. The point is that God has to be our first priority. While Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness after his baptism, he became hungry. The devil tried to convince him to turn a rock into bread so that way he could eat and be filled. But Jesus knew better. He turned and quoted Deuteronomy to the devil, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3, NASB). We have to realize that we need God more and more. It is not enough to make sure our physical needs get met, and only give God whatever prayer we say before dinner time. We live because God allows it. His word sustains us. We can only grow and hunt whatever food we eat, because God allows that to live. We should seek after Him first. This is the way we align ourselves in a right manner. We cannot be distracted by other directions, because God is our primary objective. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NASB). We won’t have anything to worry about or anything else to need, if the very first thing we look for in our lives is God.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 112-114

 

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Trust is the Most Important (Isaiah 49-51)

Book of Isaiah

After telling the Israelites that they will be set free from captivity in Babylon, He reclaims them to be His servant nation. He starts with how intimately He knows them, “The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.” (49:1, NLT). The Lord tells the people that He has given them the strength to do whatever it is required of them, to be His servants. Then, just as He had before, He begins to give His people promises for their redemption. He knows that they will have pain and He will remember it. “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls.” (49:16, NLT). He will bring them back to their former glory, but not for them. They shall become a beacon to the nations that point back to God, “I will make you a light to the Gentiles,” (49:6, NLT). It will be His power that accomplishes this restoration, not the work of man. God asks of His people, “Who can snatch the plunder of war from the hands of a warrior? Who can demand that a tyrant let his captives go?” The answer is a resounding nobody. Yet God reveals, “The captives of warriors will be real eased, and the plunder of tyrants will be retrieved. For I will fight those who fight you, and I will save your children. I will feed your enemies with their own flesh. They will be drunk with rivers of their own blood. All the wold will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.” (49:24-26, NLT). None can claim this same power that He wields, therefore, if it happens than it can only be God who has done it. God continues to describe His awesome power. “Why was no one there when I cakes? Why didn’t anyone answer when I called? Is it because I have no power to rescue? No, that is not the reason! For I can speak to the sea and make it dry up! I can turn rivers into deserts covered with dying fish.” (50:2, NLT).

Isaiah seems to take a break from speaking the words of God for a few verses and starts talking about being God’s servant in His own life. He states how morning after morning He is woken up and given new understanding for God’s will. He has to carry it out no matter what. This has lead him to being persecuted, beaten, and mocked for simply following the Lord’s instructions. Yet he has one bit of encouragement for his fellow Israelite, “See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side! Who will declare me guilty? All my enemies will be destroyed like old clothes that have been eaten by moths!” (50:9, NLT). He knows though, that men become proud and begin to claim that they are doing things by their own power, not God’s. But God has words for these people as well. “But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from [God]: You will soon fall down in great torment.” (50:11, NLT).

God brings forth a call for the people of Israel to trust in Him. Humanity has always had a problem with being able to trust the Lord, so He shows them ways that He has been faithful to them. He speaks of Abraham, who was old with no children and now exists as a once great nation (since they are now in Exile). He then looks to Moses, where He brought His people out of the land of Egypt. Yet the problem with trust seems to be what others think. God says, “I, yes I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear? … Will you remain in constant dread of human oppressors? Will you continue to fear the anger of your enemies? Where is their fury and ager now? It is gone!” (51:12-13, NLT). Yet his people know they have suffered His wrath before. God tells them, “See, I have taken the terrible cup from your hands. You will drink no more of my fury. Instead, I will hand that cup to your tormentors, those who said, ‘We will trample you into the dust and walk on your backs.'” (51:22-23, NLT).

We live in a world that stands against God. We cannot argue this fact. We constantly see laws being made that make being a Christian harder, we see laws being made and court cases being won against allowing the presence of God into our public lives. I know that the topic of homosexuality is very controversial, but it is a perfect example of this. The Bible teaches one thing, and the  world says something different. The beginning of Creation is another perfect example; the Bible says one thing, the world another. The list could go on and on. But God consistently offers us salvation for those who trust in Him. Paul writes to us in his letter to the Romans, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is agains us? … But in all these things [tribulations, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword (8:35)] we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:31 & 37, NASB).

This is not a call to blind faith that simply pulls things from Scripture and trusts others to know what is right. We are called to question everything, and discern what God’s will for us is (Philippians 1:9). Yet there are things that God is clear about and that the Bible teaches. If we are to believe that the Scriptures are God-breathed and infallible, this leads us to some pretty uncomfortable conclusions, especially if we have listened to the world too much. God said to His people, “Why are you afraid of mere humans?” Maybe this call is to stand up for what is true. Take a stand against the world. We may lose friends and make enemies. But people can only attack our bodies, God deals with our eternal souls. Who should you be more scared of, man or God who spoke you into being?

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 109-110

 

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Stay Strong (Isaiah 36-39)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading we leave behind all of God’s messages to the nations of the world, and enter into a story. We find that Assyria has invaded Judah and is preparing to hold Jerusalem under siege. The king sends a messenger to speak with messengers from King Hezekiah. King Sennacherib, of Assyria, began to taunt the people of Jerusalem and offer them anything in order to survive this siege if they only let the Assyrian army into Jerusalem. Hezekiah and his people refuse, and the king sends for the prophet Isaiah. The king asks for Isaiah to intercede for the people with God, and he delivers a message, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.” (37:6-7, NLT). After receiving more messages from Sennacherib, Hezekiah begins to pray to God for deliverance. That night God killed 185,000 members of the Assyrian army. When the surviving members awoke, they fled back to Assyria and the king went back to Nineveh. While the Sennacherib was worshiping his god, two of his son came and killed him. Then King Hezekiah became extremely ill, and was dying. Isaiah told the king that he would not survive this illness. Hezekiah then prayed to God, “Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” (28:3, NLT).  After hearing his prayer, God decided to bring Hezekiah out of his illness and give him 15 more years to live. After the news of Hezekiah’s recovery, King Merodach-baladan of Babylon sent envoys to give his best wishes and a gift. Hezekiah became so delighted by the gesture that he showed the envoys everything that he owned. Isaiah came to the king and asked about the men he showed around. Isaiah then delivered a message from God, “The time is coming when everything in your palace — all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now — will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left. Some of your very own sons will be taken away into exile. They will become eunuchs who will serve in the palace of Babylon’s king.” (39:6-7, NLT).

The thing I loved about this section was how it started. King Sennacherib threatens the people of Jerusalem by saying, “But perhaps you will say to me, ‘We are trusting in the Lord our God!’ But isn’t he the one who was insulted by Hezekiah? Didn’t Hezekiah tear down his shrines and altars and make everyone in Judah and Jerusalem worship only at the altar here in Jerusalem … Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you. Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the Lord by saying ‘The Lord will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian kin! … Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria? … What God of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (36:7, 14-15, 18, 20, NLT). Some of these comments seem very familiar to me, they just sound a little differently to us today.

As a Christian, my main filter in life is the Bible and my faith in Jesus Christ. This fact is the founding principle of my entire worldview. Because of this, I can seem to be an “idiot”, or “hypocrite”, or “bigot” (I’ve never personally been called this, but other Christians have). The problem is a world that doesn’t understand why I believe what I believe. The world wants to teach that there is no God, let alone salvation from our sins. It wants to teach that the only right way, is the way you decide is right and no one else. It wants to teach us that we cannot stand up for what is right when it stands in contrast of others. The problem is that with me there is a sense of wrong, but the world wants to teach us that there is no wrong.

I love this passage from Isaiah because it shows me that there will always be someone trying to convince us our beliefs are wrong. Sennacherib was trying to convince the people of Jerusalem that they were wrong to trust in God. Today people tell Christians they are wrong for trusting in God as well. I encourage you to stay faithful in your beliefs (so long as they are biblical). If you are facing difficulty, make sure to pray for the strength to get through these hard times. Stay in the Word, and spend some time in worship. God is powerful enough to help you overcome adversity. So what the world tells you you’re wrong? So long you stay true to the Word of God, and show love to everyone, that’s what matters most.

 

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