How to be a good father

Ephesians 6:1-4 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

I thought about writing on verses 1-3 today.  It was tempting, as I could get some good instruction in there for my kids.  But then I realized that my kids do not read my blog (the oldest is 9), so I guess I will go ahead and write on verse 4 instead.  Chances are there are some parents out there that will be reading.

As Fathers, we are told not to exasperate our children.  This word “exasperate” means to frustrate, irritate, or annoy extremely.  I am kind of bummed out by this verse, because sometimes it is fun to annoy my kids.  I’m talking about the stuff like dancing crazy in the car to embarrass them or asking them the same questions over and over again that they ask me.  It’s fun, but apparently I’m not supposed to do that.  Unless this verse means something else.

Good news – it does.  The second half of this verse gives us the context of exasperation.  There’s this pivotal word sandwiched between the first half of the verse and the second.  This word is “instead.”  In other words don’t do this, do the opposite of it, which is…   And the second part of this verse tells fathers to bring their kids up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  So I have two choices: I can either bring my kids up in the training of the Lord, or I can not do that and exasperate them.

So that’s what this means!  Exasperating my children is simply this: not giving them the ways of the Lord. It is failing to teach them and set moral guidelines for them.  It is forgetting to deposit truth and life into them.  Failing to do this will leave them confused and frustrated.  They will grow up and not have a compass to guide them.  They will get lost in the shuffle of life and swallowed up by the world.

Even though this is all true, fathers do not take the time to teach their kids the ways of God.  Instead, they either count on the Sunday school program to do all the teaching or they decide to teach the child nothing and say they are giving him the choice to decide for himself.  Either way, dads are relegating their responsibility to someone else. The latter method (letting them figure it out themselves) is especially destructive.  Why?  Kids want to know what their parents stand for.  Chances are, when the kids discover that their parents stand for nothing, it will create insecurity and mistrust.

So dads, how are you doing?  Are you bringing up your children in the training and instruction of the Lord?  You’ve got to ensure that this stuff is happening within the walls of your home.  Please, do not exasperate your children.  Choose the “instead” option.

What’s a Corona doing on a Christian blog?

Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Does contrasting drunkenness and being filled with the Spirit seem odd to anyone besides me?  On the surface, this seems to be a strange pairing of items.  Maybe it would have make more sense to contrast living by the sinful nature to being filled with the Spirit.  Or maybe contrasting murder with a life of love.  But drunkenness versus the Holy Spirit?  What’s that all about?  When I feel like picking up a Corona, I’m supposed to speak in tongues instead? There’s got to be more to this statement.  And there is.

Around the time that the book of Ephesians was written (around AD 60), there was a strong movement of false religion.  One in particular, was called the Cult of Dionysus.  This false god Dionysus, was said to be the god of wine.  Somehow this cult made its way from Asia to Greece.  Oh boy, it was a crazy religion.  When they gathered together, they got completely drunk and wild behavior followed.  It was completely unrestrained.  They would dance, play music, and do lots of other stuff I won’t mention here. Nonetheless it was popular.  In fact, powerful Greeks often forced their Jewish slaves to participate in Dionysus worship.

Now we know that the Jewish people didn’t agree with such things.  But to the outsider, it may have looked like some of these Jewish people were participating in this kind of stuff voluntarily.  So it became all the more important to have a clear separation from this false god.  This separation was needed for more than health or moral reasons.  This whole cult was about more than just getting drunk.  It was a counterfeit spirituality. These people would get drunk and say their intoxication was actually a filling of the spirit of this false god.

Paul being the good apostle that he was, didn’t want the church getting all mixed up in this mess.  There needed to be some pretty clear distinction between the two.  This is important for us to understand.  Paul’s statement about getting drunk on wine went way past the bottle.  It went to the counterfeit spirituality that the bottle represented in that culture.  More accurately stated, Paul’s heart was: don’t mess around with this false spirit, be filled with the real Spirit of God.  Stay away from the stuff that rips God off.  And remain in Him; remain filled with the Holy Spirit. Sure, some people might think you are drunk like they did in Acts chapter 2.  But soon they will find out that there is a real power flowing out of your life.  They will see that it isn’t fake.  They will discover that when you wake up in the morning, you aren’t hungover.  You are just filled.

Mom, he’s copying me

Ephesians 5:1-2 1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Okay, get your whiny voices out and say this with me: “Moooooooooooom, heeeeee’s coooopying meeeee.”  Oh the dreaded copycat game.  Big brother hates it, little brother loves it.  For centuries, this little game of “say what big brother says” has been going and annoying older siblings tirelessly.  But the younger ones seem to revel in it.  Sometimes they do it to annoy, but most often they do it to emulate. They just want to be like big brother or sister. Regardless, big bro asks mom to make it stop.

So for centuries parents have been explaining to the oldest that the little one just wants to be like him.  They tell him to just have some patience and someday his little brother will grow out of it – which is only partly true.  And those tired parents then turn to the little one and try to explain that he needs to give big brother some space.  They kindly point out that it bothers him and that even though this little one wants to be like him, he should lay off a bit.  He should stop trying so hard to be like his big brother all the time.

Funny thing is, my heavenly Father has never told me to stop trying so hard to be like my big brother Jesus.  After all, Jesus was the firstborn and I am way down the line somewhere.  But I want to be like Him.  I want to act like Him and talk like Him.  I want to do the stuff that He did.   I want to do that copycat game with Him.  The coolest thing is, my Daddy in heaven doesn’t ask me to stop.  He actually encourages it.  He must think that my big brother is a really good role model or something, because He says that He wants me to be like Him. He wants me to be an imitator.  So I guess I will keep it up.  Maybe someday I will be just like Him.

If you don’t have anything nice to say…

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  Undoubtedly, you have heard this phrase.  You have probably said it to your friends or your kids or your spouse.  It seems as though this phrase is taken right out of Ephesians 4:29.  And in many ways it is.  But I think there is a bit more to Paul’s statement.  After all, he doesn’t mention not saying anything at all.  Keeping quiet isn’t one of the options given here.

So what is unwholesome talk?  It is not simply, unkind words.  This word unwholesome refers to something that is rotten, corrupted, bad quality, or useless.  This covers a much wider range of words than just cuss words.  We think that unwholesome talk means, “don’t swear,” but that’s not what he is getting at.  Paul is actually telling the Ephesians that they shouldn’t be using their speech in a useless way.  Let’s continue with the word talk. This word is obviously about speech.  It covers words that are said, topics that are discussed, and even doctrine that is preached.  The point here is that we are not to waste our words on useless matters.  That would include arguing about stupid stuff.  It includes jokes in bad taste.  It includes putting someone down.  It  includes talking poorly about our husbands and our wives.  That’s all unwholesome talk.  Why? Because it doesn’t do anything beneficial.  It is wasted, useless words.

Instead, the stuff that comes out of our mouths should be speech that builds others up.  It should be life-giving words.  Are we accurate when speaking about God?  Are we kind when we are frustrated?  Do we say things about people that will benefit both them and others?  These are hard questions to respond to, but they are the questions that point us to using our mouths for life.  If we are going to builders, it must start with our mouths.  And if it is going to start with our mouths, it must first start in our minds.  And if it is going to start in our minds, it must first start in our hearts.  Check yours.  When gross stuff comes out of your mouth, ask God to show you your heart.  Once your heart is right, you can then be the builder that God wants you to be.


Grasping the Love of Christ

Ephesians 3:17b-19 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

This is an awesome prayer right here, but it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.  At least on the surface it doesn’t.  The first part is Paul praying that they grasp the greatness of the love of Christ.  This word grasp means: to get hold of mentally; comprehend; understand. Let me use it in a sentence:  Paul I don’t quite grasp what you are saying here.  That is the word grasp – to get it, to possess the knowledge needed for understanding.  Then Paul goes on to say that you should also know that this love surpasses knowledge.  Wait a minute.  You want me to grasp the greatness of the love and also to grasp that it cannot be grasped?  (Oh good, I’m started to right like Paul now)

Pray tell, how does someone go about understanding that something cannot be understood?  I’m glad you asked, because I am going to tell you.  The only way that you can do this is by pursuing it.  And by “it” I mean pursuing the understanding of the object.  Once you get close enough to the object, you may find that the object itself cannot be understood.  It goes beyond your understanding.

I’ll continue.  When I didn’t really know God very closely and I didn’t know much about Him, I thought I had Him figured out. He seemed pretty simple really: a big guy in the sky wanting to love people and if they didn’t love Him back He would ban them to Hell.  I can laugh at this shortsighted view of God now, but to many people, that is who God is.  What I am finding, however, is that the closer I get to God the more I really know Him.  And the more I know Him the less He makes sense. If I try to sit down and intellectually ponder who God is, my brain might explode.  Why?  Because God isn’t that simple.  He far exceeds my comprehension. And yet I can say that I am rooted and established in Him and that I grasp who He is.  It’s just that part of that grasping is knowing that I can’t grasp Him.

Such is the way with the love of Christ.  He wants us to fully understand to our maximum ability what His love is to us.  He also wants us to be okay with the fact that His love is so great that we cannot possibly fully grasp it.  That’s where peace really thrives.  It’s when we just sit back and receive, and it doesn’t make sense that we truly get to “know” it.  I, for one, appreciate not understanding God fully.  It means that there is a part of Him that I can be in awe of or even in fear of.  He scares me a little.  And I am okay with that.  When I say that His ways are higher than my ways, I can let go of the battle in my mind and let Him be God.  It is in that place that His incomprehensibly great love and peace flow into our lives.

Hostile Worship Environment

Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility

Have you ever worked in a hostile work environment?  How about lived in a hostile home?  It’s no fun.  The word hostile means: unfriendly, opposed, or aggressively against.  When you are in a hostile environment, you may feel scared or left out or even threatened.  It is no way to live.  The Gentiles knew the feeling of hostility.  They were not allowed to worship God the way the Jews were.  They hadn’t fulfilled the obligations of the law, therefore they could not commune with God.

Once Jesus came on the scene, things began to change.  He came for all mankind, not just a certain group of people. Paul was sure to preach this message.  But here in the church at Ephesus, there were still divisions taking place.  There were still Jews trying to convince the Gentiles that they didn’t quite measure up; they weren’t quite equal to God.  This caused problems that needed to be corrected.  Paul says in verse 14 that He [Jesus] Himself is our peace.  He has made the two one.  This seems like a strong enough argument, but Paul takes it farther.  He doesn’t just say that the two, Jews and Gentiles, are now one.  He moves into territory that would hit the Jews where it counted.  He targeted the temple.

There was great significance in the illustration that Paul used here.  The dividing wall of hostility was not just a figurative expression – it was a literal wall. It was a barrier in the temple that divided Gentiles and Jews.  It was set up in order that Gentiles would be kept out of the most Holy places.  On it the following words were inscribed, “Whoever is captured will have himself to blame for his subsequent death.”  This seems pretty hostile to me!  If a non-Jew was caught past these large inscribed stones, they were subject to death.  Wow.

This doesn’t sit too well with Paul, given the fact that Jesus came to make a way to God for all of mankind.  So he tells them that Jesus has removed the dividing wall of hostility.  It has lost its meaning, its significance, its purpose.  It is no longer needed.  This statement must have ruffled some feathers, I am sure.  Paul was going after a sacred element of  temple worship.  He didn’t care though, because it was wrong.  There is not a person more worthy to God than another.  There is not one more holy or more deserving.  There is not one who can draw closer to Him.  Jesus opened it up. He eliminated the barrier so that all could come.

Power Rangers

Ephesians 1:18-21 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

I was never a fan of the show Power Rangers, mainly because it was cheesy.  There’s this seemingly ordinary group of kids that, when necessary, morph into superheroes.  They have super strength, incredible fighting skills, amazing power, and terrible acting skills.  Where this power all comes from, I don’t know.  I do know, however, that often people with certain weaknesses have an increase in their other senses.  For example, those who are blind might have tremendous hearing.  Maybe the power rangers’ lack of acting chops leads to great fighting skills.  Who knows?

Enough about that.  Christians are like Power Rangers in our own right.  We’ve got weaknesses and some of us wear extremely colorful clothes.  That’s not what we have in common though.  It’s the extraordinary power that has been given us – we just seem to morph less often than those Rangers… spiritually speaking of course.

Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus that he wanted them to grasp the incomparably great power that was given to all those who believe.  And it seems that they didn’t grasp it, because he goes on to describe it.  It is the power of His mighty strength.  It is the power that raised Christ from the dead.  It is the power that seated Him at the right hand of the Father.  It is the power that gave Him authority that was far above all rule and authority – basically over everything.

That power has been given to those who believe.  It has been given to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Yet we walk around powerless.  We live our lives in the non-transformed, everyday living Power Rangers state.  It’s the Rangers minus the power.  That’s no fun, though, is it?  All we get is a boring, weak life marked by bad acting.  I want to grasp His power.  I want to really get it.  I want those super awesome fighting skills that can kick some demon derrière.  That only comes with grasping the power that God has given us.  His plan for us is not a weak, defeated life.  It is a life lived fully by His power and His strength.  Ask God to show you His power.  Ask Him to make it real in your life.  Then you, too, can be God’s mighty transformed Power Ranger!