Slaves and Masters

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Slaves & Masters

Ephesians 6:5-9

 

Slavery is a touchy subject, so let me start by saying that this verse is not condoning slavery in any way, shape, or form. Paul is simply using something that is common to them as an illustration. And, the truth is that their slavery was not slavery as we know it. In fact, the word used in this verse is the Greek word, δοῦλος doûlos, (doo’-los) which means, “bondservant.” Slaves in that day were basically indentured slaves. They owed someone a debt and had to work for that person until it was paid off. Sometimes, once that “slave” was freed, they chose to stay on with the master because he was fair and kind. At this point, the master would put the slave’s earlobe against the door post and drive a stake through it, identifying them as his doulos, or voluntary servant for life. If you look throughout the New Testament you will see where Paul, Peter, James, and Jude identified themselves as a doulos for Jesus Christ. If you’d like to know more about this term, I wrote about it in one of my earlier blogs titled, Doulos.

So, now that we have the whole master/slave thing out of the way, what exactly is Paul saying here? Like I said earlier, Paul is just using something that they can relate with to get a point across. This “slave/master” relationship can carry over to our “employee/employer” relationship. Unless you are self-employed you have, at some point, complained about your employer, and possibly even if you are self-employed. I wish I wrote full time, but I do have a day job, I manage a retirement community. I started with them about 5 years ago. This is a large company with retirement communities all over the United States and Michelle and I started working there a few years after it had been bought by an investment group. For its first 35 years, it was a family run company, but they sold it when the owner needed to retire, himself. For the first two and a half years we worked there, it was run much like the owner ran it. There were 2 management couples per community who lived on site. Then, about two and a half years ago when the government started raising minimum wages, the company had to recoup those costs, so they went to a 3-manager model, fired one fourth of their community managers, moved us all off-site, and gave the workload that had been done by 4 managers, to 3 managers. Then, they fired half of their Regional Directors and gave some of the work they used to do to us General Managers. I’d like to say that I never had a bad thought, or said a bad word about them, but I’m human. Michelle wasn’t fired but was made Office Manager at a huge reduction in pay and, coupled with the costs of living off-site, we lost one-fourth of our income, literally overnight.

So, yes, I have been guilty of talking poorly about my earthly “master”, but the one thing I did right is I made a concerted effort to keep working for them as unto God. Look at Ephesians 6:5, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” He doesn’t say to obey them if they treat you right, he says to serve them as you would serve Christ. He goes on in verse 6 to say, “Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.” Ouch! So, serve them like you would serve Christ whether they are watching or not. Why? Because Christ is always watching, plus it will show in your work. In today’s world, you not supposed to talk openly about Christ at work, but your boss will know if you are truly living for God and he will be watching. The pastor I grew up under, used to always say that your life may be the only Bible some people ever open. They are watching whether you know it or not.

Verse 7 tells us to, “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Ask yourself, “do I work enthusiastically?” “Does it look to others like I enjoy my job, or that it’s a chore?” In verse 8 he reminds us, “Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.” We will be rewarded if we don’t falter. We need to stay the course and endure to the end. Remember what Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

Paul only gives one verse to the masters, he says, “Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.” Ephesians 6:9. So, for those of us who are Christian bosses, we need to be fair and not threatening. We need to remember that we serve God, not man.

Don’t forget, those of us who are in a management position, we are servants and masters. We need to work for our master the way we would want those under us to work for us. We need to remember that our masters who are riding us for results are being ridden by their masters. So, if our master isn’t a Christian, and doesn’t act like one, we need to serve him as we would Christ that much more. And, if they ever ask you why you serve with such a good attitude, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” 1 Peter 3:15. Remember, you can’t get in trouble for sharing the gospel at work if you are simply answering a question that your boss asks. Just sayin’.

More Churches – Thyatira

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

More Churches – Thyatira

Thyatira was an interesting choice for Jesus to send a letter to in the Revelation. You see, Thyatira was a very insignificant city, in fact, according to Barclay, “The elder Pliny dismissed Thyatira with the almost contemptuous phrase ‘Thyatira and other unimportant cities.’” The only thing Thyatira had going for it was its trade guilds, it had more trade guilds than any two cities of its size, and it was known for making purple dye and purple fabric…the fabric of royalty.

This time, when Christ describes Himself, He comes right out and says, “This is the message from the Son of God” in Revelation 2:18. Then He goes on to describe Himself even further when he says, “whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze.” Again, He takes this from John’s description of Him in Revelation 1:14-15. So, what did He mean by eyes like flames? Fire often represents the Holy Spirit, as we see in Acts 2:2-4, another sign pointing to the triune nature of God. Fire can also represent refinement, as with metals, or judgment. The feet like polished bronze is referring to His steadfastness. Bronze was the hardest metal known at that time and the bronze feet represent that Christ is immovable. So, this description of Him is demonstrating His steadfast, immovable judgment on the people.

He goes on in verse 19 to say, “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.” So, as with the church at Ephesus, He starts out by complimenting them on what they are doing right. But, notice that He begins by saying, “I know all the things you do.” He’s about to compliment them, but lets them know up front that He knows it all…the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then He goes on to talk about their love, their faith, their service, and their patience. Do you recognize these? You should, because they are some of the fruits of the Spirit seen in Galatians 5:22-23, 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

It’s looking pretty good for the church at Thyatira, but then He hits them with, “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols”, in verse 20. So, there was a woman in the church leading them astray. She was obviously a woman of authority, some believe she could have been the pastor’s wife, but she was a self-proclaimed prophet. Now, this is where many churches are divided, and is where we need to take the Bible literally and in context. The Bible never says that a woman can’t be a prophet. In fact, if you look at the accounts of the birth of Christ, it talks about Anna who was a prophet, and there were many other examples. But, the problem here is that they didn’t do what they were taught. John says in 1 John 4:1, “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” So, the problem wasn’t that she was a woman, the problem was that she was a false prophet and the church didn’t test what she said against scripture, they just believed her. Jesus goes on to call her Jezebel. It is possible that her name was actually Jezebel, but it is more likely that Christ is using that name to describe what she was. So, let’s think about who Jezebel was in the Old Testament. She was found in 1 Kings 16-21, and in 2 Kings 9:30-37, and she was one of the evilest people mentioned in the Old Testament. She was the wife of King Ahab and tried to use her place of power to combine Israel’s worship with the worship of Baal, which included sexual sin and pagan practices.

In verse 21 Christ says, “I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.” Even this horrible, evil woman who was trying to lead the Christ followers astray, Christ gave time to repent. You see that? He didn’t just give her a chance, He gave her time, but she wouldn’t turn from her immorality.

In verses 22 and 23, Jesus tells them what He will do to her, and them, if they don’t repent and turn from their evil ways, He says, 22Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.” There are those who say that a loving God wouldn’t punish us. The problems with that school of thought are that, as we just saw, He always gives us a choice. He won’t make us do right, He wants us to choose Him, to choose to do right. And, secondly, He is a loving Father, and a truly loving father will discipline his children. First, to try to correct them and turn them back to the right path, and second to demonstrate to His other children that there are consequences to doing wrong, Proverbs 13:24.

He goes on, in verses 24 through 27, commending those who are victorious, and tells them that He will give them the authority to rule nations. Then in verse 28 He repeats that promise and tells them that He will give them the same authority His Father gave to Him. He ends verse 28 by saying, “and I will also give them the morning star!” So, what does He mean by this? If we look at the end of the book of the Revelation, we see in Revelation 22:16, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.” This is truly awesome! What Jesus is saying here is that if we are victorious, He will give us the greatest gift of all…He will give us Himself!

Of course, like in all the other letters, Christ ended this one in verse 29 by saying, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” He wants us to hear the warning to this church, and He wants us to be victorious and claim the ultimate prize…Him!

New Year’s Resolution

A Cedar Key Fourth of July
Photo by Michelle Pearson

New Year’s Resolution

I have heard many pastors talk about New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve heard some say they are a great thing and some say they are a bad thing. We hear it all the time whether it’s from pastors, or friends at work, or comedians, they are always talking about making resolutions on the first, that we will break on the second. I know, I’ve said it myself.

But, let’s think about just what exactly a New Year’s Resolution is. It’s nothing more than a goal for the upcoming year, and without goals, we will never get anything accomplished. But, we’re not here to talk about what I think, or what popular culture thinks, so let’s look at what the Bible says about goals.

In Philippians chapter 3, Paul starts out, in verses 1 – 5, by talking about what he was before Christ. You see, before Christ Paul was the most religious person around. He was not only a Pharisee, but he describes himself as a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He was circumcised when he was eight days old, he was a pure-blooded Israelite, which was very important in his religious circles. He even says that he demanded the strictest obedience to the law, not just of himself, but of everyone else. He was even, so sold out for his religion, that he persecuted and even killed the Christ followers.

So, before Christ, Paul had some very intense goals in his life. All of his goals were about keeping with the teachings of his religion. I know that some are thinking right now, “Aha, then goals are bad.” But, Paul goes on from here to talk about his goals in life, after Christ.

In verses 7 – 11, Paul starts talking about his new goals, his New Life Resolutions, if you will. He says in verse 7, “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.” Once he realized that all his old goals were worthless, he took a step back and set new goals. This is something we all need to learn from. Maybe you have goals for this next year, or maybe even goals for the rest of your life. Step back for a minute and determine whether these goals match up with God’s purpose, or if they are worthless. Because, if our goals don’t align with God’s purpose for our lives, then those goals are worthless. In fact, Paul says in the beginning of verse 8, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

So, what new goals did Paul set? He sums up his first goal at the end of verse 8 when he says, “For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” So, his first goal was to throw out all his old goals and count them as garbage. The Greek word translated here as garbage, and in other translations as dung, is the word skubalon, which means, “any refuse, as the excrement of animals, offscourings, rubbish, dregs; of things worthless and detestable.” That’s how he looked at his old goals, so when we find goals in our lives that don’t align with God’s purpose for us, that’s how we need to see them, as skubalon. From the end of verse 8 and into verse 9 he says, “so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.” This should be our end game, our ultimate goal, to gain Christ and become one with Him! The Bible calls us the bride of Christ, and it also says that when two people get married they become one flesh, so that must be our goal, to become one with Christ. Now, I feel I need to say again that salvation is not about works, it’s about faith, but faith without works is dead. So, you will never be good enough to get to heaven, but if there is nothing to back up your faith it is worthless. James 2:19 even tells us, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” And, Paul ends verse 9 by saying, “For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.” And, we know from Hebrews 11:6 that it is impossible to please God without faith.

Paul goes on with his goals in verse 10 when he says, “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death.” He starts out by saying that he wants to know Christ. The Greek word translated as “know” is ginosko, which means, “to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of” and it is used as an idiom for intimacy. So, Paul was saying that he wanted to become intimate with Christ. There’s a song that I love called Your Love is Extravagant, and its lyrics say:

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, it is intimate
I feel like moving to the rhythm of Your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place
Your love is extravagant

You see, that’s how we need to know Christ. We need an intimate knowledge of Him. Paul continues in verse 10 to say that he wants to experience the mighty power that raised Christ from the dead, but he doesn’t end with the good stuff. Paul ends by saying that he wants to suffer with Christ and share in His death. That’s powerful! When was the last time that any of us prayed to suffer with Christ, or share in His death?

So, why does Paul have these goals? He tells us in verse 11, “so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” Paul wasn’t suicidal, he wasn’t looking to die, he just saw his ultimate goal as being with Christ in Heaven. As he said just a couple of chapters earlier, in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” You see, to the true Christ follower, death is not scary, because we know that it isn’t the end, it is the beginning of a new life.

So, as we set our New Year Resolutions, let’s keep this passage in mind. Let’s ask ourselves if these resolutions line up with Christ’s purpose for our lives. And, let’s start the new year right.

What is a Servant – Part 2

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

What is a Servant? – Part 2

So, to pick up where we left off last time, what can we bring to the Lord? The prophet Micah asked this question and then answered it, let’s look. Micah 6:6-8 What can we bring to the Lord? What kind of offerings should we give him? Should we bow before God with offerings of yearling calves? (plural) Should we offer him thousands of rams (what a king would offer Him) and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? (what every king put together would offer Him) Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? Here’s the answer. No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” This is service. Do what’s right, all the time. Bob Jones Sr. used to say, “Do right till the stars fall.” Love mercy! Not just God’s mercy on us, that’s easy, but we need to emulate that mercy on those around us, Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Walk humbly with our God. James 4:10 Says, 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”  And in James 4:6 it says, But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud but favors the humble.’” Do you want to know what service is? If we’re always doing right, and showing God’s mercy to everyone around us, and walking humbly with God, WE WILL BE SERVING.

Is there a price to serving God? Of course, there is. Nothing that is worth anything comes free. If it does come free, it’s just a blind sacrifice. Sometimes the price is financial, in fact, it often is. Sometimes it’s your time, again this is often the case. To tell you the truth, it will probably be both and more. But if we love God half as much as He loves us, we will gladly sacrifice for Him. Let’s face it, He gave His life for us, it doesn’t get bigger than that. Let’s look at Matthew 6:31-34 it says, 31 So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Notice, it doesn’t say we’ll be rich. If you’re listening to a pastor or teacher that tells you that you will be wealthy if you are living for God, walk away. The Bible never says anything like that. If that were the case, then Christ Himself wasn’t living for God, because He was homeless. He said Himself, Luke 9:58 But Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.’” The Bible also tells us Acts 14:22 “where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” And again, 2 Corinthians 6:4 “In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.” And, Paul said about the illness he had that he had prayed three times for God to remove, 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The verses go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

So, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you the Christian life is going to be easy, but I will tell you that the reward is great. Philippians 3:12-14 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus 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.” Believe me, when I say the prize is worth the trial.

We started with the prophet Malachi, so let’s end with him. Malachi 3:16-18 says, 16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name. 17 “They will be my people,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. 18 Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” We have been called to a life of service. Not serving ourselves, but serving God and serving others. If the Church in America was doing the job that God gave us, we would have no need of government welfare, we’d be taking care of each other and those around us. In the new year coming up, lets purpose in our hearts to stop bringing God blind sacrifices. Let’s focus on serving each other, our community, and the world. The Bible tells us to be a light to the world, so let’s focus on being a light this year. God bless you all in 2018.

What Is A Servant? – Part 1

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

What is a Servant? – Part 1

A few weeks ago, we talked about the Greek word, Doulos. We learned that this word means, bondservant. But, what exactly does it mean to be a servant? We’ve all seen maids and butlers on television shows, but what does it really mean. In Matthew 20:25-28, Jesus told His disciples this, 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Wow, so if we want to be great in God’s eyes, we must serve each other. That isn’t exactly the message we are getting from the mainstream media, is it? But, it doesn’t stop with simple service, because our perfect example is Jesus, who gave His life for us.

First, we must ask ourselves who we are serving. In Matthew 4 we read about the temptation of Christ. This is the story of when Christ was fasting in the wilderness and Satan came to tempt Him. In verse 10 Jesus said, 10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” In this passage, Jesus was referencing Deuteronomy 6:13 which says, “You must fear the Lord your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name.” Christ made it clear that we are to worship and serve, only the one true God. So many people today, including many that consider themselves to be Christ followers, serve Satan by serving themselves. We are a selfish generation looking only to please ourselves. We even see it in many popular pastors who preach that, if you are truly following Christ, you will have all you want. This message goes directly against what scripture tells us. In fact, 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Do you see what it says there? It doesn’t say we might suffer persecution, it says we will suffer persecution!

This leads us to the second thing. Where is our treasure? Jesus told us in Matthew 6:21, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Notice that He didn’t say that we’ll put our treasures where our heart is, He said that our heart will be where our treasures are. For example, if someone asked you about Aids in Africa, you probably wouldn’t know a lot about it. But, if you are giving your hard-earned money to Aids relief in Africa, you’ll probably be somewhat of an expert on the subject. You see? Where you put your treasure, that’s where your heart will be.

Take a minute to read Malachi 1:6-14. Malachi told the Israelites that they had defiled the Lord’s sacrifice by offering blind animals. Now, obviously we don’t offer animal sacrifices today, so how do we as 21st century Christians offer blind sacrifices and therefore defile the Lord’s sacrifice? For one thing, the Israelites didn’t like the expense of serving God. They were supposed to offer the most expensive sheep they had, but they were offering their junk, sheep that were worthless. They were giving God a worthless sacrifice. God expects our best, and He deserves nothing less. Stop and ask yourself, am I giving God my leftovers? Am I giving God my Junk? I know that I am often guilty of this.

Now, when we think of service, we often think of financial giving and that is definitely part of it, but there’s much more to service. The Old Testament is full of instructions to give at least a tithe, which literally means a tenth of your income. The New Testament goes even further when it tells us that the Church gave everything. If there was a need, they gave it, no matter what it cost them. In fact, they would even sell personal property and give that money when there was a need.

But, service doesn’t stop with money. Christians in America believe that as long as I give God an hour or two a week that we’re good. That is exactly why I have a problem with the concept of Sunday being “The Lord’s Day”. The Bible never declares Sunday to be the Lord’s day, a fourth-century pope did that after taking Acts 20:7 out of context. When that verse says, “on the first day of the week, we gathered”, it was not a declaration that Sunday was the Lord’s day, it was leading into a story, and talking about that particular service. If you go back eighteen chapters, you’ll see where it says, Acts 2:46 “They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.” Did you get that? They met daily. Psalm 118:24 tells us that every day is the Lord’s day. This one belief has caused many Americans to offer God blind sacrifices. We think, “well, as long as I give God His day then I’m good and the rest of the week is mine.” And, of course, giving Him, His day means going to a church service for an hour. This belief is absolutely untrue. Every day is His. Every breath we take is His. Every beat of our heart is His. If we were to only give God a tithe of our time that would be almost 17 hours a week. Compare that to the TV. Now, I know that some of you are saying, “I don’t watch much TV” and that may be true, but according to the A.C. Nielsen Co., “the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day.” Do the math, that’s 28 hours per week or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year. In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube. Here’s a crazy thought, what if we gave God the 28 hours a week we give to the media, that’d be a start anyway. Oh, and by the way, that’s just TV. It doesn’t take into account the time we spend on the internet, social media or our smartphones.

There’s more to say on this subject, so we’ll pick up from here next time.

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