1 Timothy 4: “Put Your Own Mask On First”

1 Timothy 4:12-13 (NLT) 12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.

Being a youth pastor for eight years I used this verse often to encourage my teenagers to realize that they should never be looked over because of their age. Although this scripture does have value to teenagers, it has even more value to a brand new senior pastor who took over an incredible church at the age of 32!

Truth is, when we read this passage in context, Paul was writing to a young pastor named Timothy. The word “young” used by Paul is actually a word that indicated “a grown-up military age, extending to the 40th year” (Lock). Through careful scrutiny of the scripture we can conclude that Timothy was roughly 30 years old at this point. We also know that Paul was probably around 70 when he wrote this letter.

So when we read this passage again, we begin to see what exactly Paul is indicating in this passage. Paul is not only encouraging Timothy, but he’s also encouraging him to be an example to all believers…

  • in what you say
  • in the way you live
  • in your love
  • your faith
  • and your purity

He goes onto to instruct Timothy to do three primary things…

  • focus on reading the scripture to (the church)
  • encourage the believers
  • and teaching (the church)

Paul continues… 1 Timothy 4:14-16 (NLT) 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.

I read and re-read these words I can’t help but be reminded of the call that God has placed on my life. My hope and prayer is that I too will live and lead in such a way that my life will be live in honor to God. I especially appreciate verse 16 and the warning to, “keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching.” It sounds pretty common, but there’s something very important to glean from this teaching. Pay attention to the order that Paul instructs Timothy:

  1. Keep a close watch on how you live
  2. Keep a close watch on your teaching

The priority for a pastor is not to focus first on the teaching and let it spill over into their life; instead the focus should be on the way they live, which will spill over to the way they teach. Again we see Paul making sure to focus on the next priority:

  1. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation
  2. Stay true to what is right for the sake of the salvation of those who hear you

Again, the first focus should be your own salvation, THEN the salvation of others.

Put Your Mask On First

Many times in ministry I sit with people who are struggling with guilt over who they should help first, themselves or others? I typically tell them this analogy.

If you pay attention to the flight crews announcements before a flight, you will often hear the following announcement. “In the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from the overhead panels…  Parents traveling with younger children should first secure their own mask, and THEN their child’s mask.”

The Takeaway

Like an unconscious parent is useless to help their children, so is a pastor or ministry leader who doesn’t take care of themselves spiritually, first.

 

1 Timothy 3: “Elders, Deacons, and You”

Paul continues to write to his young protege Timothy regarding leadership in the church. Paul’s desire at this point is to basically right out the resume for an elders and deacons in the church. In my tribe (Church of the Nazarene), we do delineate between elders and deacons, but we view those as pastors in the church and not lay leaders. Although here in Paul’s letters there is no distinction between whether her’s referring to pastor’s or lay leaders, it’s safe to assume that at this point they were looking for “qualified” lay leaders to serve as pastors in the church.

The Pastor and The Mule

In the life of the church there are men and women who are called by God to lead the church and Shepherd God’s flock. I do believe that everyone is called to serve God and advance his Kingdom, but for pastors, their call comes with a higher level of accountability. Remember the words of Jesus’ brother James concerning the role of teachers in the church, James 3:1 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. 

But someone needs to step up, someone needs to lead the church that way God wants it led; that means sometimes taking the initiative.

A farmer’s mule once got very sick, so the farmer called in a vet who, after a thorough examination, gave the farmer some very large pills. “Give the mule one of these pills 3 times a day, and he’ll recover.” The farmer takes one look at the pills and says, “Hey doc, how am I supposed to get these pills down the mule’s throat?” The vet smiles and says, “Easy. Find a piece of pipe wide enough to fit the pill into. Put one end of the pipe into the mule’s mouth, put the pill in, and blow on the other end. Before he knows what’s happening, the mule will swallow the pill.” The vet drove back to his office, but a few hours later the farmer comes staggering in looking terribly sick. “Man, you look awful! What happened!” The farmer replies, “THE MULE BLEW FIRST!”

The moral of the story is somebody has to take the initiative—even in the church.

1 Timothy 3:1-13 (NLT)  is the place where we find Paul building the resume of both “elders” and “deacons.” The term translated overseer in the NIV was first used outside the church to refer to supervisors of various sorts. As a description of one level of church leadership, it appears in Acts 20:28 and, again alongside “deacons,” in Philippians 1:1.

Elder and Deacon List

Criteria for an Elder:

  1. Above reproach: Because it stands at the head of the list, it means: “Not liable to criticism as he would be if he failed in any of these qualities”
  2. Husband of one wife—completely faithful to his wife
  3. Exercise self control
  4. Live wisely and
  5. Have a good reputation
  6. Enjoy having guests in his home
  7. Able to teach—not just teaching gift; but spiritually prepared to teach others truths
  8. Not be a heavy drinker
  9. Not be violent
  10. Gentle
  11. Not quarrelsome
  12. Not love money
  13. Manage his family well
  14. Not a recent convert
  15. Respected by outsiders

Criteria for Deacons:

  1. Well respected
  2. Have integrity
  3. Not a heavy drinker
  4. Not dishonest with money
  5. Committed to the central truths of the faith
  6. Have a clear conscience
  7. Manage his family well
  8. Be faithful to his wife

Here’s something interesting to note about the two lists, the focus of the list is not the duty of an elder or deacon, but instead the focus is on their reputation both with believers and unbelievers.

This is a list for anyone to aspire too today. You don’t have to be a pastor to live to this standard, but as a pastor, you really don’t have a choice.

1 Timothy 2: “Pray for ALL People”

1 Timothy 2:1-6 (NLT) I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people (not just some people, all people). (NRSV) I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

Remember, Paul is teaching a young pastor the finer points of leading a congregation. So understanding Paul’s intention only helps us to understand the scriptures intention. He guides young Timothy to teach different way of communicating with God. Supplications, Prayers, Intercessions, and Thanksgiving: These terms are not limited too, but instead describe the wide categories of our communication with God.

 Supplication

Supplication is simply asking for something. Prayer should never be all asking, but it should ask in bold confidence from God’s Word.

I remember a story about a little boy who prayed and prayed for a BMX Bike. He even got on his little knees, by his little bed, folded his little hands, and began to pray a huge, bold prayer for God to deliver him a brand new BMX bike. He continued to pray that he would know God loved him if he God got him the BMX bike. He would know that God is real if the BMX bike showed up at his house.

His mother, who was with him, said, “buddy, God is not someone to be bartered with.” She continues, “You can’t blackmail God into doing what you want Him to do.”

Fast forward… Christmas came and everyone in the family knew what the little boy wanted for Christmas. As the mom came down the steps she realized there was something missing from the nativity scene on the mantle. Going over she realized that Mary was missing and there was a note in her place. The note read:

Dear Jesus,

If you ever want to see your mother again you’ll get me that BMX bike I’ve been praying for. 

Love,  Timmy

You see, it’s funny when a little child does it, but it’s not so funny when adults do it.

Prayer

Paul is referencing here the broad communication with God through the use of the word “prayer.” All of these aspects are aspects of prayer.

Intercession

Intercession refers to the requests we make on behalf of others. As we pray, there should be time when the needs of other find a place in our prayer before God’s throne. There are times in my life when God brings to me the needs of others. In those moments I realize that my needs are far less than those around me. Ezekiel 22:20 (NLT) “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.

Did you catch that? God was looking for just one person to stand in the gap of the wall, but he couldn’t find even one! Intercessory prayer stands in the gap for those who are perishing. Intercession is praying to God so that he won’t have to destroy the person who’s far from him.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an essential part of our walk with God. It’s simply recognizing God’s sovereignty. Paul indicated that every time we pray we should include a time of thanksgiving (eucharistias).

Again, remember who Paul is telling Timothy to pray for. He’s telling him to pray in Thanksgiving for… kings (Nero) and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

Paul wasn’t just telling Timothy to pray, he was telling him to pray for those who were actively persecuting the church! This is my point for today: When we pray, we need to pray prayers of supplication, intercession, and thanksgiving; even if it means for those who desire to kill us. Pray today for ALL People!

1 Timothy 1: “Who’s Your Timothy?”

Timothy

We first meet Timothy in Acts 16:1-3. Remember? Paul shared in Acts 16 that he found a young disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish Christian mother and a Greek father. His story and Paul’s story look quite similar. In fact, Paul believes in Timothy’s ability to reach both Jews and Gentiles that he encourages Timothy to be circumcised. Now that’s commitment! Listen to Paul’s recommendation of Timothy in Philippians 2:20 (NLT) 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare.

Paul has written many letters during his ministry and they each can be categorized into two different categories: Church Epistles and Pastoral Epistles. 1 and 2 Timothy is the start of Paul’s Pastoral Epistles and are personal letters he wrote to Timothy, a young pastor in a new ministry. As we will read, these letters are intended to both encourage and instruct.

1 Timothy 1:3, 18-19 (NLT) When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees.  

18 Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles. 19 Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear.

Who Is Your Timothy?

These aren’t just idol words from Paul. These are words that are heart felt and personal to a person he even referred to as ” his true son in faith (v.2).” These are words from a mentor to a student; from a spiritual father to a spiritual son.

My wife and I had the opportunity to serve together for eight years in full-time ministry. We were at a point in our leadership that while my wife oversaw birth through 6th grade, I was fortunate to oversee 7th through 12th. So between the two of us, we were responsible for helping shape spiritual maturity from birth to graduation! No pressure! We found that the number one way to be effective in ministry was consistency. In a world were the average youth pastor is at a church for sixteen months…yes, you read that correctly, sixteen months, consistency is something that is seriously lacking in our churches. One of the other keys to effectiveness was mentoring.

Although we mentored LOTS of kids and teenagers, and I could tell you story after story, I want to share with you one. Joe was the kinda quiet, kinda squirrelly kid in the children’s department who was friends with everyone. This trait didn’t leave him later in life as Joe was the chameleon personality you relished in your youth ministry. Not only was Joe a great kid, but Joe had parents that afforded him time to help out at the church. He wasn’t one of those kids that needed to be at the church to stay out of trouble, he was one of those kids that was bound and determined to make a difference in the world.

My wife and I had the privilege of mentoring Joe, in fact, he’s now serving full time in a great church as the head of their media department. This is not a surprise considering he ran the sound for our worship band even in high school. The coolest thing for us was watching Joe grow and mature to the incredible young man he is today. We even have the opportunity next week to watch him get married!

Let me ask you… who is your Joe? Who is a person or persons in your life that you are pouring into and encouraging? Many people would say, “well, you’re a pastor.” You know what I say to that? Malarky! The call to mentor, or dare I say disciple, is a call to each and every believer. These mentoring, disciple-making, modeling relationships are not just from Pastor to people. These relationships are from pastor to people, and people to people, and even people to pastors, or at least they should be. This is exactly the relationship we find in Paul and Timothy.

Philippians 4: “Worried Sick”

One day after school I was off on one of my many adventures and completely lost track of time. Needless to say, school got out at 2:45, I was supposed to be home by 3:00, and dinner was served promptly at 5:15. At this point, it was something like 5:30 and I still had five to six minutes of walking to do.

Needless to say, I started running home, trust me, I knew I was dead meat when I got there. I finally got home and my family was just finishing up from dinner…not good. You know it’s bad when your sister won’t make eye contact and has that look of disbelief. I walked into the kitchen, when my mom uttered the famous mom phrase, “Where have you been, your father and I have been                             . You know it… “worried sick.”

There have been many times that mom has said, “I was worried sick.” I remember thinking one time, you don’t look sick. But think about that expression: “I’ve been worried sick!” If you didn’t know any better you would think, is that even possible? Can you worry yourself to the point of being physically sick! We know the answer to that…yes!

I heard a doctor once say, “food doesn’t cause ulcers in your stomach.” It’s not what you’re eating that causes ulcers; it’s what’s eating you.

If not controlled, worry and anxiety can do a lot of damage. Worry and anxiety can affect your daily life: interfere with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and even job performance.

A WebMD article I read said, “Many chronic worriers tell of feeling a sense of impending doom or unrealistic fears that only increase their worries.” People who struggle with worrying are extremely worried right now that I’m writing about being worried. Anxiety and worry manifest themselves in many different ways, but you need to know that they don’t discriminate by age, gender, or race.

Worry vs. Worship

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Did you know; it’s utterly impossible to worry and worship at the same time! Did you also know that worship is a major spiritual weapon? The first line of defense to worry is to worship through prayer. Paul’s giving you permission here to offload your stress onto God. As one commentator put it, “Paul is telling us to take all the energy that is used in worrying and put it into prayer.”

The Blue Print for Prayer

In verse 6 Paul gives us a blueprint for what we can do when we begin to worry:

  1. Tell God what you need (prayer and petition NIV)
  2. Pray about everything
  3. Don’t worry/be anxious about anything
  • Prayer = General term for worshipful conversation with God.
  • Petition = Being specific to God about what you need. Notice it doesn’t say what you want.

4. Thank him for all he has done.

Thanksgiving is an important attitude to have when praying to God. Prayer combats worry by creating in us a thankful heart.

You need to remember that God didn’t create worry. Adam and Eve weren’t worried about being naked until after the fall. They didn’t even worry about what God thought of them until after the fall. In short, worry is the result of the fall when sin entered the world.

Glass of Water

How heavy is a glass of water? The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, it will have great impact on my ability to function during that day. In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes. And so it is with worry…

Philippians 3: “Running Toward Perfection”

Perfect

I can guarantee, simply based on the title of this reflection, that not many people will be eager to keep reading. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “running, it’s because you’re talking about running.” Ah, no. For some reason, as I have come to find out, the word “perfect” is quite the deterrent for people, especially Christian people. Many times when we hear the word perfect, especially associated with our faith, we tend to get a little antsy and want to change the subject. Changing the subject is one thing, but completely ignoring the word wont serve us any better.

Here’s the kicker: whether or not I like to talk about being perfect there’s two things here at work. On the one hand we can’t ignore God’s desire for us to be perfect, especially when we read Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matthew 5:48 (NLT) But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. The other thing at work is the fact I’m a pastor in a Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. This means, we put a high value on striving towards living a life of holiness. John Wesley himself would come under fire for his passion and desire to live according to what he read in scripture, just like the words found in Philippians 3.

Before we jump in I want to share one important misnomer: we don’t teach or strive to live in perfection in the sense of elitism, but instead to honor and please Jesus. We also don’t teach perfection in believing that it’s the only way to experience salvation. Instead, we teach perfection because it’s what God calls us too, not man.

Teleios

Philippians 3 is an important chapter for Wesleyan’s because we find Paul making multiple references to being both “perfect” and “mature.” What is important to understand is that both words are derived from the same Greek word “teleios.”

(v. 15)Let those of us then who are (spiritually) mature (teleios)…” But in verse 12, Paul isn’t speaking of maturity as much as he’s speaking of “perfection.” (v. 12) 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection (teleioō). Confused? Sure! It would be confusing to here Paul say, I don’t consider myself perfect, yet in the same breath counts himself in a group he describes as perfect.

You have to know that understanding verse 15 as “mature” is not wrong. In fact, like we’ve discovered “teleios” has many different meanings, with mature being one of them. However, it’s important to note that Paul isn’t confused on his word choice, but rather is trying to help us understand the progression of both maturity and perfection in our lives. Paul’s use of “mature,” and our understanding of “mature” are two completely different things. The difference in understanding “maturity” shouldn’t be measured by the clay, instead the difference should be determined by the potter.

Runners Run

I’m not a runner. I despise running. In fact, I look like Harrison Ford when I run; it’s just painful to watch. But if, and that’s a big if, I were a runner, I would need train in order to finish a marathon. Marathon runners don’t just wake up one day and say, “I’m going to run a marathon.” They have to train, and train, and train, and everyday they train is another day of perfecting their body to complete a marathon.

So it is in our relationship with Christ. Salvation isn’t the finish line, but just the start. Our spiritual marathon is a daily pursuit to perfect our spiritual lives. Paul focuses on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

15 Let all who are spiritually mature (teleios: mature, perfect, lacking nothing) agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. 16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

Happy running!

 

Philippians 2: “Be Humble”

Have you ever wondered why the type is offset in Philippians 2:6-11? Typically when we see the type set like this in our bibles it means the writer is quoting from other scripture. But notice here that the text isn’t in quotes, yet it’s still off set like it’s being quoted from another source. Well, many scholars believe that Paul is quoting not just from another source, but another song. In fact, many scholars refer to Philippians 2:6-11 as the Christ Hymn because they believe this was a song that was regularly used in the worship of the early church. This ancient Hymn reveals not just the truth of God through his son Jesus, but it also reveals what the early church believes to be true as well.

Before Paul gets the challenge of how the Philippians should live, he first needs them to answer a few questions. Truth is, we can’t do or even understand the full implications of what Paul is teaching without first answer the following questions from verse 1:

  1. Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?
  2. Any comfort from his love?
  3. Any fellowship together in the Spirit?
  4. Are your hearts tender and compassionate?

Before you go any farther, before you consider how you are to live and who you are to live for, you must answer each of these questions, especially number four! Here’s the kicker! Question four is not written to an individual! It doesn’t say, Is your HEART tender and compassionate, it says, “Are your HEARTS tender and compassionate.” Paul understands that it’s an individual that makes the whole, but he’s speaking to a faith community, not just an individual in the faith community. This is important when we recognize that verse two dives deeper into the role of the church. This is why commentators link verse 30 in Chapter 1 through the beginning part of Chapter 2. Re-read verse 30 (NLT) We are in this struggle together.

If our hearts are not tender or compassionate, then we need to stop, take stock, pray, work on that part, then proceed. One of the most powerful words in the passage is THEN! If you answered yes to the above questions; if you are affirming that this is the way you are living; if you can say your heart is tender and compassionate… (v.2) THEN…make me (Paul) truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. He continues: Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT) Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

If you pay attention to the progression in verses 1-4, you will see it progress from community to individual, but the theme for either is to be humble like Christ.

Be Humble

There is two ways to learn humility; the first way is to focus on the person of Jesus Christ. In that case consider the Christ Hymn: (v. 6-11)

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself (in obedience to God)
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

The Son of God went all the way down to the humiliation of the cross, showing us that he was a humble servant. Now he calls us to do the same.

John Wesley

As Raavi Zacharias puts it, “Fully stretched, John Wesley was 5’4.” Not exactly a towering presence when he walked up in front of an audience.” Get this:

  • Wesley traveled over 250,000 miles by horseback
  • Preached around 40,000 sermons in his life
  • Worked in 15 different languages
  • Wrote over 600 different pieces of literature
  • At the age of 83 he was angry with his doctor because his doctor wouldn’t allow him to preach more than 14 times a week!
  • At the age of 86 Wesley writes in his journal, “laziness is slowly creeping in, there’s an increasing tendency to stay in bed until 5:30 in the morning.”

Two summers ago I had the opportunity to visit the home of John Wesley in London and in the back of the property stands a simple sign that reads, “Reader, if you feel constrained to praise the instrument, stop, and give God the glory”

That’s humility.

Philippians 1: “Joy”

Tony Campolo, “Visible Joy”

I seem to be particularly dangerous when I get on elevators. Our society teaches us to turn and face the doors and stand there quietly. But in my younger days, I loved to turn around and face the others in the elevator with me and say something like, “You’re probably wondering why I called this meeting.”

Once when I was in the elevator of a New York skyscraper filled with very serious-faced businesspeople, I smiled and said, “Lighten up. We’re going to be traveling together for quite a while. What do you say we sing?” Incredibly, they did! I don’t know whether they were intimidated by me or just wanted to have some fun, but businessmen with attaché cases in hand and businesswomen in their power suits joined me in singing, “You Are My Sunshine.”

When I got off at the seventieth floor, one man got off and walked down the hall with me, wearing a big smile on his face. I asked him, “Are you going to the same meeting I’m going to?”

“Nah,” he said. “I just wanted to finish the song.”

In Archibald MacLeish’s great play J. B., Satan is asked what he misses most about heaven, and he answers, “The sound of the trumpets!”

Indeed, to be in the presence of God is to be part of a glorious celebration. Sometimes that is hard to grasp when I’m in the pulpit looking at the somber faces of those in the congregation. I hear them say, “We know the joy of the Lord.” And I feel like saying, “Would you please notify your faces?”

Campolo, Tony. Let Me Tell You a Story: Life Lessons from Unexpected Places and Unlikely People (p. 55). Thomas Nelson.

Joy in the Church

If there’s one thing the enemy tries to use to counteract joy, it has to be sorrow. It’s important to realize that sorrow is as much a powerful weapon of destruction, as joy is for redemption. There are times when my prayer for the church is simply, “may the joy of the Lord be our strength.” There’s enough sorrow in the world already, what the world needs is a faith community willing to put it all on the line and live out what joy looks like, even in the midst of tragedy.

Joy in Philippi

As we begin reading in Philippians this week we need to keep in mind that the predominant theme of Paul’s letter is simply, joy. It’s incredible to consider that one of Paul’s “prison epistles” (The letters Paul wrote from prison) would include the concept of “rejoicing” and  “joy” over sixteen times in four chapters! My prayer for each of you as we read Philippians this week is to be filled with the measure of joy that Paul communicates. That we too would experience the radiant, powerful, positive, and triumphant message of God’s redemptive work for us, in us, and through us!

Philippians 1:9-11 (NLT) I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

Happy reading, welcome to Philippians!

Ephesians 6: “Armor of God”

Battle Axes

Hanging in the entryway of my family home was a large picture of a man wearing a full suit of armor. The armor was even complete with chainmail around the face. Hanging as an adornment behind the large picture were two fairly large brass battle axe’s with a spear on the end of each one. I didn’t figure it out until I was older, but the man in the picture was the King of Scots, Robert the Bruce. Even though it took me a while to learn who Robert the Bruce was, it didn’t take me long to figure out how to use a pair of battle axes hanging on the wall.

I for sure remember the time my friend Andy and I decided to have an old fashion sword fight around the house. Everything was going well until I ran our couch straight through. I did my best to hide the evidence, but the stuffing of the couch peaking through the seat cushion made it a little obvious. Come to think of it, I’m thankful the couch was the only thing that got run through.

One of the most quintessential analogies of all of Paul’s letters is found in Ephesians 6, The Armor of God. These are the last recorded words of Paul to the church in Ephesus, the culmination of his entire letter to a people striving to live out the Christian life in a pagan nation. Three different times in this chapter, Paul instructs the Ephesians to “stand firm (v. 11, 13. 14).” His instruction isn’t for an arbitrary reason, but because, “our battle is not against flesh-and-blood (v. 12).”

The Armor of God

Here’s the thing about the armor of God: God gives it you, but we’re instructed to put it on (v. 13). In fact, many of you may have the armor of God, but it’s useless because you, not God, haven’t put it on. You gotta know: A pile of armor sitting in the corner of your room will do nothing to ensure your safety against the attacks of the devil! God gives it, but you have to put it on!

Here’s the other thing about the armor of God: You don’t get to choose what pieces. The scripture doesn’t say to put on pieces of the armor, it says, “put on every piece of God’s armor (v. 13).” Notice who’s armor it is? It’s God’s armor, not yours. Your armor stinks! Your armor is what got you into this mess. We are in need of God’s armor.

The Armor

  • (v. 14) Belt of Truth
  • (v. 14) Breastplate of Righteousness
  • (v. 15) Shoes Ready to Share the Gospel
  • (v. 16) Shield of Faith
  • (v. 17) Helmet of Salvation
  • (v. 17) Sword of the Spirit (God’s Word)

Here’s the last thing about the armor of God: We tend to forget that Prayer is a part of the armor.

Prayer

The last weapon might not seem like a weapon at all, but it is! We’re told in God’s word to pray with the Spirit’s power. We may ask, well how powerful is the Spirit of God? Well, Paul uses the word “boldly” or dunamis in the Greek. Like you’ve read before, this word is where we get our English word “dynamite.” Let me ask you this: Would it be helpful if you walked into every battle knowing the you had a stick of dynamite in your pocket you could use at any time? We’re told by Paul to, “pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere (v. 18).” 

Know that you have been given power and authority over the evil of this world. We fight this battle in the heavenly realms wearing the armor that God gave us. The only trick is that YOU have to put it on.

Ephesians 5: “There’s Nothing to be Afraid Of”

Growing up I never wanted to go to sleep in the dark. In fact, it was common in my house that the hall light always had to be on before I would even think about going to bed. What was interesting though is that I would wake up in the middle of the night and the hall light would be off. I didn’t get up or worry about it, I just knew that it meant my parents had gone to bed and were asleep in the next room. 

I can remember the days when I would go to sleep and wake up and the light was still on. All this meant was that my dad was still at one of the lengthy board meetings at the church. For some reason, not really strange to me now, but the light in the hallway was always a comfort to me. You gotta know, the hall light is completely annoying to me now! Now, just like in high school and college, I need the room to be virtually pitch black in order to get any sleep.

But think about that. Think about the tumultuous affair we’ve had with the hall light growing up. As a baby, you sleep in complete darkness, no problem. You hit three-four years old and suddenly there’s things in the closet and under the bed. You get to about 12-13 and suddenly darkness is acceptable again and may even be preferred. Either way, the thing to realize is that the light in the hallway hasn’t changed at all, it’s always been there, always on or always off, but faithfully it hasn’t changed… you have.

This reminds me of the words we read in Ephesians 5:8-14 (NLT) For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret.13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    rise up from the dead,
    and Christ will give you light.”

Picture this with me: There was a stage in life, spiritually speaking, that we too were overwhelmed and fearful of the dark. We might not have even realized it, but the darkness was creeping in and beginning to play tricks on us. You see, this is actually the reason why children, who once weren’t afraid, are suddenly afraid of the dark. At three to four years old, something wakes up in them, it’s called… an imagination. The normal developmental process of growing up sparks the use of their imagination, and they believe that what they see is very real. The reality, spiritually speaking, for adults however, is that what you see actually is real.

As we sleep in our spiritual beds, we begin to look around and realize that the shadows cast on the wall seems to be getting closer and closer. We enter into a proverbial, “Did you see that?” or “Did you hear that?” type of existence. But there’s good news for this spiritual condition.

There’s Nothing to be Afraid Of

Do you remember that moment when your parent walked into your room and said, “look there’s nothing to be afraid of!” Maybe you didn’t need that as a child, but if or when you do have a child, guess what, you’ll be there. In that moment the parent doesn’t just come in and say, “there’s nothing to be afraid of,” they do something very important; they turn on the light! The light is what exposes the truth! The light became the safety mechanism to help identify the reality. Here’s not only a scientific fact, but a spiritual fact as well: It’s impossible for darkness and light to co-exist.

Folks, for once our spiritual bedrooms were filled with darkness, but now we have the light of Jesus! So now we’re called to live as people of the light! There’s no reason to go back to sleep, we can now live with the light on!

Spiritual Bedroom

Today I want you to look around your spiritual bedroom and I want you to ask yourself, and God, this question: Is there anything in my spiritual bedroom that I need to allow God’s light to expose? Are their shadows on the wall or things under the bed?

When God sheds his light in us, on us, and through us; then we can truly say, “there’s nothing to be afraid of.” For the light makes everything visible.