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Ephesians 5

4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.

Here is one remedy for the sexual obsession. Stop talking about sexual stuff. As far as it is up to us, Christians are to jump off of the sexual bandwagon. If we are hanging out with people who are joking about sex, obsessed with sexual conversation, whatever the talk, it is possible for us to graciously not participant.

We don’t have to make a big deal about where someone else is coming from, condemning them from an air of moral superiority, it’s just we are given the power of the Holy Spirit to resist these temptations ourselves. It’s not about being a prude, it’s about being a witness for more important things in life. Like who we are in relationship to our loving heavenly Father and how we can desire to bring joy to him in the way we live our lives, including the way we speak.

ME

How could you choose to graciously not participate in obscene stories, foolish talk and coarse jokes, if you haven’t done so already?

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Ephesians 5

3 As for fornication, uncleanness of any kind, or greed: you shouldn’t even mention them! You are, after all, God’s holy people.

In our society- sex, sexuality, sexual identity, romance, anything related to sex- is everywhere. Sex sells.

Sex is used to influence our buying choices, sexual issues raise funds for our political parties, and sexual content entertains us endlessly. It seems like half the news, three quarters of all entertainment, and 90% of all advertising is somehow, someway related to S-E-X.

But the Bible says, hold on a minute. Stop the obsession. What in the world is going on here? This is about porne, the Bible word translated, “fornication.” This is sexual obsession, sexual greed, and it tarnishes our relationship with God and others. As followers of Jesus we are to be “set apart” for God’s way of living.

We are to avoid fornication – the casual sex that demeans and cheapens not only the participants but also the gift of sex itself. But the best way of doing that is to work at taking it out of our mind altogether; and the main way that happens is removing it from our speech.

OK…sure…that’s easy…

ME

In one day, try counting how many times are you exposed to some kind of sexual content/ innuendo/ message. Don’t go looking for it, but just notice:)

Francis1januarius

John 1

4 Life was in him, and this life was the light of the human race. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

In 1819 King Francis 1 of Naples is visiting the National Archeological Museum of Naples. There is an exhibit of recently discovered wall paintings and artifacts well preserved from the city of Pompeii which is buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius just after the time St. Paul lived, in 79 AD. When the King, wife and daughter see the erotic paintings, phallic symbol jewelry and household items with various couples and groups having male-female, male-male, female-female, and group sex in all kinds of positions- well- that was enough. Embarrassed and angry, King Francis closes down this part of the museum and has them put the erotic stuff in a secret locked room. It will still be accessible, but only for an extra fee and only to “people of mature age and respected morals.”

Finally, the entrance to this Secret Museum of Naples is bricked up in 1849, but later it is opened to the public, then quickly closed again. So, all in all, it remains closed the majority of time for almost 200 years. Finally it is reopened briefly in the late 1960’s, then closed, until now it remains permanently open, since 2000. What do we learn from this?

Sex is big in ancient Rome. There is nothing we see today that wasn’t already part of the Roman culture. Recreational sex, group sex, prostitution, homosexuality- at least in the cities of Rome, anything goes.

St. Paul is right in the middle of this culture, a Roman citizen himself, and now he is dealing with Romans who have become Christians, Paul is addressing the huge leap these new Christians have to make that puts them totally at odds with Roman culture.

From the earliest days of Christianity, sexual relationships are reserved in marriage between one man and one woman. So, for the average Roman, Christian sexual teaching and practice is absurd.

What about today? Our world, when it comes to sexuality, is similar to Paul’s world. So, what Paul writes in Ephesians 5 is a very relevant teaching for us today.

ME

Have you ever seen erotic art in a museum? What was your response?


Keynote

Ephesians 4

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.

We are created to work. Remember Adam and Eve are to care for the Garden of Eden from the beginning. Taking care of the fruit trees and the animals. Work isn’t meant to be a curse. It is only when humans turn away from God that work becomes a burden. Being wired to work has a positive impact on our lives in many ways, and a negative impact when we are not working.

For example, short-term aid for people who have an emergency is helpful, but long term aid where the private sector or the government simply gives away what is needed to survive works against how we are wired.

You know the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

By the way, this is true, but I would add an addendum. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; Teach a man to fish and make sure he has fair access to the market and the infrastructure that supports the market and you feed him for a lifetime.” Just saying.

Also, because we are wired to work we see how being unemployed can be so devastating. Not just because we don’t have a job and money coming in but there is that sense of accomplishment that comes from being wired to work. Being idle for an extended period of time is not helpful; it works against our very being.

Being wired to work also speaks to the concept of retirement. If retirement simply means traveling, enjoying recreation, and seeking pleasure, then retirement will quickly become a burden. God only rested on the seventh day, he didn’t stop working. When we imitate God, we imitate the one who creates the world and everything in it over time. God labors, he doesn’t just snap his fingers like Samantha in Bewitched.

And a key reason we work is not only to provide for our family. When we work as God designs, we have enough for our needs and then more that we give for the needs of others.

Imitating God, we are generous in helping others out. We are generous in supporting people we know who need help in their lives. We are generous in giving offering to support the spread of the good news of Jesus through our church. Just like God is generous, we are generous.

And when we are generous, something wonderful happens. God trusts us more with what he gives us and so he gives us more. A wise person knows you can’t out give God.

ME

When people receive their subsistence from the private sector or the government for their needs long term, how is that helpful? Unhelpful?

angry-driver

Ephesians 4

26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Anger is a potent force. Anger brings tremendous damage in our lives. Anger affects us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Anger damages relationships, anger destroys physical health, and anger separates us from the love of God. Not that God doesn’t love us, but we can’t recognize and receive that love if we are consumed by anger.

Most anger is sin. Most anger comes out of our own sense of pride. Our inflated egos. Want to know when people are the most egotistical and prideful? Watch how they drive.

How dare you cut me off? I will accelerate and cut you off. How dare you go too slow in my lane. I will follow closely, almost touching your bumper. I have somewhere important to go and so I will weave in and out of traffic. That will teach you to get in my way.

You can tell a lot about a person’s overinflated ego by the way they drive. Now if you are that driver I just described, just know God is ready and able to help!

Anger can quickly turn to rage. And rage is the emotional source of so much damage to relationships. So much hate, crime, assault, murder, war, and destruction are committed in a vat of rage.

Dallas Willard said, “There is nothing we can do out of anger, that is not done better without.”

So, is anger always a sin? Not necessarily. There are injustices toward the weak and vulnerable that should make us angry, for example. No, anger doesn’t have to be sinful, but it becomes sinful when we wallow in it for any length of time.

Hence, Paul says here, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry…”

What may start as anger that is understandable, quickly becomes a place where the devil can take up residence.

Martin Luther said it this way.

‘You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

Or I recently heard another great phrase for this. “Anger is not necessarily a sin, but it has a short shelf life.”

So, how can I have anger, but not sin?

An example from what we previously talked about will help.

I have anger toward people who use foul and abusive language against others, especially the vulnerable. But, I can’t let that anger take up residence. So, if I hear that kind of language, I will quickly call it out. Even with strangers, but especially if I am in relationship with those who are using speech that may be hurtful.

And I expect my family members and friends to call me out if they think I am being hurtful with what I am saying. To hold on to anger and not call it out gives birth to grudges and negative energy against someone else. That’s always sinful.

We can learn to be the kind of people who don’t easily get angry. The key to not getting angry is to learn not to take offense. When someone attacks us or tries to bring us down, it is usually our own Inflated sense of self that causes us to be hurt in the first place.

If you already realize you are the adored son or daughter of a loving Heavenly Father, nothing someone else does or says can make that any less true.  There is no need to be offended when you know your identity rests in the Father.

And there are times you may have allowed yourself to get offended, when the other person didn’t even mean to bring offense. You may feel slighted or hurt when it is actually you who have misunderstood where someone else was coming from. Again, don’t let the sun go down. Either let your anger disappear or talk about it. The devil loves grudges.

ME

Watch how you drive and when you see someone else drive in an ego-inflated way, pray a prayer of blessing on them.

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Ephesians 4

29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

This is one of the top Christian blindspot verses in the whole Bible. What is a blindspot verse? A teaching from God that is directly violated by many, but hardly ever considered. In Christian families and Christian churches, we directly violate this particular teaching time and again from generation to generation. So often, what comes out of our mouths is not good, it is not helpful and it is not encouraging.

The Bible says, “Speak the truth in love,” but it is only in kind and tender relationships that we can “speak the truth in love.” We may think we are being helpful, but we don’t have the spiritual maturity or skill to speak in such a way that gives helpful feedback. Instead we say things in a way that is heard as harsh criticism and shame.

When Christians speak negatively with each other, in their homes, in their churches, it grieves the Father and weakens any influence for good we might have.  We are called to be encouragers not discouragers.

And language is not just about words. Here, I think of parents. The most foul and abusive language parents can ever use has nothing to do with the “s” word or the “f” word, or, heaven forbid, the “G-D-it” words. The most foul and abusive language a parent can use is probably silence. The lack of words. The most foul and abusive language ever is the language of silence where a child never hears this simple phrase: “I love you.”

Think about it. There are people you know who have parents who never said,  “I love you.” Some of you have parents who were never told they were loved by one of their parents. You may be the child of a parent who hardly ever or never told you or tells you they love you. I am so sorry. You may be the child of a parent who never praised you, only belittled you, who tried to tear you down over and over and over and over.  This is pure evil and sinful and they couldn’t be more sick. They possess sin sick souls. And here is the irony.

Those parents who are so cold and ruthless with their children may even have consider themselves strong Christians. They would never think of cussing! If they ever caught their child cussing, out comes the soap! How dare you say, “Ass?” or dammit?”  “Good Christians don’t swear!”

No how dare you shameful parent! You did not consider how precious your son or daughter is to their Father God? He adores them! How dare you!

If it were up to me, I would have a permanent bar of soap ready and available and I would wash out your mouth for not encouraging your child every second of every day. I would wash it out for eternity.

But, if I consider those parents through the eyes of God, I begin to realize what they must have gone through when they were children that they would become such a spiteful person later. This doesn’t excuse them, but it does make it possible to move toward forgiveness.

ME

When someone is using foul or abusive language, what is your response? Is there another way you could handle this?

Elouise Halverson and Pastor's granddaughter, Kaylee

Elouise Halverson and Pastor’s granddaughter, Kaylee

Our friend Elouise Halverson died on Monday and went to be with her Lord in the heavenly realm. We mourn the death of this dear lady along with all the family. The last couple of years Elouise was homebound, but we remember her joyful presence at worship and Prime Time and we miss her wonderful smile and laughter.

There will be a Graveside Service at Oakwood Memorial Park, 22601 Lassen St. in Chatsworth this Saturday, August 27 at 10 a.m.

Please continue to pray for Carla and the rest of the family during this time of mourning.

 

Ephesians 4

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted… 

Paul says get rid of all these evil behaviors, not just deal with them. How? He lists key antidotes. When you imitate God you look like this: Kind and tender.

Kindness is a sign that God is at work in your life. To be kind is to do things for others that lifts up their joy in life. Kindness is to help someone.

Now I haven’t always been the best model for our kids in their lives, but one thing I hope I do get across through my actions and words is an emphasis on kindness. I have always tried to stress kindness as more important than intelligence, talent in sports and/or the arts, being an entrepreneurial genius, and such. All the other attributes of life don’t matter if there isn’t kindness. It would be a loss. Our kids are pretty kind and we are thankful.

Many parents know how important kindness is and they live it with their children. Certainly that is the case with many of you. Now if you don’t think kindness is a key to success in influencing the world for good, think about this. In our own lives, we donn’t necessarily look up to the smartest, most talented, most charismatic or attractive people we know.  But we are always influenced by those who bring joy in our life and are helpful. Kindness matters. And the greatest kindness is to be tenderhearted.

To be tender is to be kind towards others when they are weak. It is easy to be tender when we know that weakness is just a part of life. For example, when we answer the call of a crying baby or when we help the older gentleman who drops something while he’s walking with a cane. We are tender when others are vulnerable.

But, the tenderness we imitate from God goes far beyond that. It is kindness toward those who are weak in ways that are negative to us. Being gentle with a mean person for example, rather than being mean back, or ignoring them. Giving someone who is filled with anger time to rest before we address the situation. Being patient with someone who is constantly complaining.

We aren’t here to excuse problematic behavior, but we are here to understand where someone is coming from.  When someone is showing weakness by being ungracious and irritating, thinking of what is behind the behavior helps. Thinking of what must have happened earlier in their life that influences their present actions and such. To be empathetic of what they have gone through or are going through.

To be tender is to lift up joy as much as you can in the present circumstances, somehow letting someone know you are glad to be with them in spite of the challenges.

ME

Has someone been tender with you when you were being a challenge to them?  What was that like?