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This morning I want to focus upon some new year’s resolutions that each of should consider for ourselves, but before we delve into our topic, I thought you might enjoy a few stories of failed resolutions: A story is told that At the beginning of a new year, a high school principal decided to post his teachers’ new year’s resolutions on the bulletin board. As the teachers gathered around the bulletin board, a great commotion started. One of the teachers was complaining. "Why weren’t my resolutions posted?" She was throwing such a temper tantrum that the principal hurried to his office to see if he had overlooked her resolutions. Sure enough, he had mislaid them on his desk. As he read her resolutions he was astounded. This teacher’s first resolution was not to let little things upset her in the New Year. Or how bout this one…A son called his parents to wish them a happy new year and when his Dad answered the phone, He asked his dad,” well Dad, what’s your new year’s resolution? His dad replied, To make "To make your mother as happy as I can all year," When his mom got on the phone he asked. her the same question. His mom replied my resolution is "To see that your dad keeps his New Year’s resolution." Or some of you may have given up on resolutions taking the same attitude as the characters in the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes: The cartoon character Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes once said, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I’m so far behind I’ll never die.”
Henry Blackaby, the author of Experiencing God, tells this heart wrenching story about a situation he encountered early in his ministry. He writes, “The first funeral I ever conducted was for a beautiful three-year-old. She was the first child born to a couple in our church, and the first grandchild in their extended family. Unfortunately, she was spoiled. While visiting the little girl’s home one day, I observed that she loved to ignore her parents’ instructions. When they told her to come, she went. When they said, "sit down," she stood up. Her parents laughed, finding her behavior cute. One day their front gate was inadvertently left open. The parents saw their child escaping out of the yard and heading toward the road. To their horror, a car was racing down the street. As she ran out between two parked cars, they both screamed at her to stop and turn back. She paused for a second, looked back at her parents, then gleefully laughed as she turned and ran directly into the path of the oncoming car. The parents rushed their little girl to the hospital, but she died from her injuries. As a young pastor, this was a profound lesson for me. I realized I must teach God’s people not only to recognize His voice but also immediately to obey His voice when they hear it. It is life” (preachingtoday.com).
RELATIONSHIPS IN EPHESIANS 5 & 6
Paul was sending a slave back to his master, and he was concerned that Philemon's gracious treatment and this slave's escape and rebellion not be seen by other slaves as an opportunity to copy Onesimus' earlier, rebellious example. These other ideas are not big problems for the Colossians, but Paul briefly mentions and explains them.
What does a believer at home look like? First ask what is my primary identity or identities at home:
Then there is a basic guideline that applies to you because of that identity.
* Wives are in submission to their husbands
* Husbands love their wives
* Children obey their parents
* Parents do not provoke their children
* Slaves obey their masters
* Masters treat their slaves justly and fairly
Each of these guidelines are defined more specifically or given a rationale.
* Wives submit ... because it is appropriate
* Husbands love ... in spite of the temptation to fight
* Children obey ... because it pleases God
* Parents do not provoke ... in order to encourage your children
Introduce the elephant
There is a big thing here about slaves and masters and it raises several questions:
* Is Paul condoning slavery?
* Does it have anything to do with a society where slavery is not tolerated?
* Is there anything at all we can get out of it?
Paul is not condoning or condemning slavery. He is acknowledging it as a reality. For the most part, since it is not a reality in our world, some like to draw connections between Paul's instructions and employment. That is ok, as far as it goes. But at any given time, we may quit our jobs and go somewhere else. It has strong implications for people who have little flexibility or who have unusual power. Perhaps few jobs are out there. This gives bosses more power.
Here Paul has little to say to slave keepers. He says all that somewhere else. Mostly, he speaks to slaves like Onesimus, the slave who is delivering this letter.
So to slaves and keepers, Paul says:
Be fair and be just. Always be aware of the treatment God, your master, gives you. Don't be harsh, but treat slaves with respect. Some ancient writers took his instruction to mean that masters should provide well for their slaves, even paying them for their work. But none of us keep slaves. Suffice it to say that if you hold an unusual amount of power over anyone, it is wrong for you to exploit that power and it is right for you to treat him with respect and fairness.
The biggest point Paul makes in the passage is in the way a slave should behave. Again, none of us ever will be slaves, but every single person finds himself in the legitimate power of someone. This is not bad, it is real. So, how should we respond? With obedience.
What kind of obedience? The kind that has integrity. It does not matter whether or not the cat is away, the mice do not play. We work at the orders of others because it is right for us to do so. The quality of our work should never be dependent upon supervision.
Obey with sincerity and energy. It does not matter whether we like the work or not. We may not do it half-heartedly. We should do the whole job, we should do it well, and we should do it in good time.
Do it as if Jesus Himself was boss. Don't do it for the paycheck but for the reward He gives in eternity. God establishes the authorities in our lives. Even if we get away with shoddy, slow or grumbling work with our bosses, God notices.
Can you, and do you treat,
* every floor swept
* every gear shifted
* every shelf stocked
* every penny counted
* every customer served
As a stroke of work done for the kingdom of God?
Household operation, not employment is Paul's main concern. But whether in a home or a workplace, they are as much a witness as any religious word you speak. It is difficult to witness at home, and we must come to grips with the way a believer behaves at home.
Wives, submit to your husbands
This is not a popular word and more than one person has interpreted it as meaning that Paul hated women. and yet, Peter said the same thing.
It grinds against many women to hear this. Ladies, your impulse is part of the curse. One translation of the Bible puts the Genesis curse on the woman like this:
You will want to control your husband,
but he will dominate you." (Genesis 3 NET)
In this passage we begin seeing that the harmony between the man and the woman was damaged in the fall. The power struggle between them arises from the curse. The raw dominance of men in their homes is not part of God's original design. As part of the struggle, women, it says, will desire control over their men.
But Paul says submission is more in keeping with God's plan. It is appropriate. It is fitting. But I don't believe that it is indiscriminate and unconditional. I don't believe it means that her submission in sinful things is fitting.
I knew a woman who was determined to submit to her husband in everything, and he wanted to swap her out for the wife of another couple. She believed that she was meant to submit to this. This was clearly not a situation where her submission would have been, to quote Paul, "fitting in the Lord."
We need not go to extremes to clarify Paul's words. Our tendency to see things in terms of night and day can blind us to the beauties of the sunset. We forget that between black and white is not merely gray, but every color of the rainbow. When Paul says for the woman to submit, he is not commanding the ultimate and unquestioning submission due to a master or even submission that comes naturally because of strength or personality. He is encouraging a submission that is given for the glory of God.
Husbands, love your wives
The impulse to dominate can overwhelm a man. It can blind him to his own lack of gentleness. It can make him selfish and overbearing. Even around other men, a man's impulse to resolve all challenges with force is never far from the surface. Fighting does solve disputes, by turning overcoming problems into overcoming people. It is simpler. And any man who resorts to force to solve his issues is simple-minded. It proves only that he can indulge his own selfishness.
As much as a woman's desire to control her husband is part of the fall, a husband's urge to dominate her is. Husbands are meant to lead, not dominate. When a woman is being subjected to domineering physical, emotional or sexual abuse, her submission is not appropriate. Her protection of her health and safety and that of her children is more appropriate and fitting in the Lord.
Instead, men, love your wife. Do not allow the taming of your strength to make you bitter. Do not allow disagreements with her to sour your spirit. Do not be harsh. Do not be mean. Do not be abusive. Do not fight. These are not the features of love.
Both the love of the husband and the submission of the wife draw the other into their own example. Once again John Chrysostom says it better than I could:
"To love ... is the husband's part, to yield pertains to the other side. If, then, each one contributes his own part, all stand firm. From being loved, the wife too becomes loving; and from her being submissive, the husband learns to yield" (Homilies on Colossians).
Men, love is not a power struggle or a declaration that you are the tie breaker in every disagreement:
Love is patient
Love is kind
Love is not self centered
Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13)
I am afraid, men, that we have allowed this description to fit women better than it fits us. And we are the ones given the command to love.
Children obey your parents
Children are not inclined to do this. But if a child truly wants to claim to be a believer, it is how he or she will behave. It is not always fun or in keeping with our image of ourselves, but as children, we are called to obey. It is pleasing to God.
If a child wants to please God, this is his or her first instruction. Our parents are our first, best teachers and pastors. If you do as they say, you are exercising your first and most immediate obedience. It is good.
But, Parents, Do not provoke your children
There is a fine line of wisdom in parenting. You can and should expect obedience from your children, but you should also be wise in what you require and how you treat and speak to them. Our tone and the character of our expectations upon children should avoid demanding, but should encourage them in their obedience.
Allow me to confess my ignorance. I am not good with children, largely because I do not have any. It is easy for me to become the unwitting victim of their manipulations. I will not pretend to be a child rearing expert and will not presume to give you too much advice. My purpose here is to attempt to interpret what Paul is saying about appropriate and fruitful parenting. It is not much, only one line, so I will attempt also not to over-do it.
Pay attention to the responses of your children. If they are prone to anger in response to your treatment of them, perhaps it is time to try a new approach. It is a path for them to walk and you are their guide.
Their path is obedience. Your guidance determines how they walk:
* In anger and resentment
* Or in courage, curiosity and enthusiasm
In other words, the fact that your children obey you is not as good a gauge of your parenting as the spirit in which they obey. We sometimes think that if we get compliance that is enough.
I like the story that Stephen Covey tells in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. His daughter has a birthday party. After she opens her presents the children want to play, but she does not want to share her gifts with them. So Dr. Covey tries everything:
* He tries appealing to her better nature: It is nice to share
* He tries appealing to her gratitude: They just gave you the gifts, they were nice to you
* He tries bribery (in a whisper): If you share, I will give you some gum (to which she loudly responds in the hearing of the other parents that she doesn't want any gum)
* He threatens: If you don't share, I will punish you
* Finally he uses force: Over her protests, he takes some of the gifts away from his daughter and distributes them to the other children
You may think he did the right thing, but Dr. Covey believes that in her frustration, that particular lesson of the value of sharing was stolen from his daughter. He could have been more understanding of her desire to explore her new toys before, with a sense of security and generosity, sharing them with others.
I will not question his wisdom. I will only say that our goals sometimes need to be adjusted. We need to have loftier and more positive goals in many things, including child rearing.
A Father's Legacy
Jim Berg wrote about the state of the family: "The family, which should be the greatest refuge for the child, has become a domestic battlefield where a child is often caught in the crossfire of his parents' warfare. The time and energy that should be spent giving him the direction and training he needs to prepare him for life are drained by each spouse's preoccupation with protecting his 'territory' from the other spouse."
Psalms 103: 17 and 18 says, "But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children's children - with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts." Proverbs 10: 7 tells us, "The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot."
A study was once done on two men who lived in the late 1700's, both from the same state of New York. The first, Max Jukes, did not believe in Christ or in Christian training. He refused to take his children to church even when they asked to go. Many fathers today are like Max, they do not follow Christ and they see no value in Christian training. Some even invent ways or make excuses for keeping their family from the true things of God. Max's decision was very destructive to his family and costly to the state of New York. Max had 903 known descendants. One hundred were sent to prison for an average term of thirteen years, ninety were public prostitutes, one hundred forty-five were admitted alcoholics, two hundred eighty-five had social diseases, and three hundred were delinquents. The report estimated that the crimes and care of the Max Jukes' family line cost the state of New York over one million dollars.
The second man studied was the great Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards. He was an uncompromising theologian and pastor who lived to please God and was a man of prayer. The researcher found 1,394 descendants of Jonathan Edwards. His descendants included thirteen college presidents, sixty-five prominent lawyers, thirty-two noted authors, ninety physicians, eighty-six state senators, thirty judges, three congressmen, one vice-president of the United States and two hundred ministers of the gospel. It has been said that the family of this man of God never cost the state of New York a single penny for rehabilitation or for incarceration.
To keep proper bala...
RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT WE OVERHEAR
Matt Proctor in a recent Christian Standard said, "My wife, Katie, and I have 6 children- ages 16, 14, 11, 9, 7, and 3. We're not a family; were a small town!
As sheriff of this community, I (with my deputy, Katie) enforce certain rules, one of which we call "double trouble." The double trouble rule is this: If you hear a parent give a clear command to your sibling and then you proceed to disobey this command yourself, you will get in twice as much trouble." This is to short circuit the kid strategy of protesting, "But you told Carl not to jump off the roof. You didn't tell me!" Even when my kids are not directly addressed, they are still held responsible for what they overhear.
It's something similar with OT Law. As NT believers, the Law is not directly addressed to us, but we are still responsible for what we overhear. God left those Scriptures in there so we could overhear his heart. When we read OT Law, we are not responsible to obey the specific commands, but we are responsible for understanding the will of the God who gave those commands--the God we Christians love and follow.
For example, when a man slept with his father's wife in the Corinthians church, Paul did not demand that the law's penalty for incest be applied, but he did demand that the man be disciplined by the church until he repented. So while the letter of the law is not followed, the will of the Lawgiver himself most certainly is. One scholar argues that, without this OT law, Paul would "not have been able to define this activity as sinful."
The Law is a window into the heart of God.
Fr Mund Cargill Thompson
MOTHERS LIVE FOR OTHERS
We've got all sorts of people here this morning. One thing we have got a lot of is mothers. Some of you, your children are long grown up. But you have the experience of having been a mother. So? Well, every mother lives her life for another. And that is what the church is meant to be like. As former Archbishop of Cantabury William Temple put it, "The Church is the only society that exists solely for the benefit of it's non-members." Or as Jesus put it "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you"
Every Mother lives her life for another. Those of you who have been mothers - for the love of your child you have been through the excruciating pain of labour. For the love of your child you had yoru sleep broken as you wake to feed your baby and change her nappy. For the love of your child, you have massively reduced your social life - think how much more you used to go out before you had your child than you did when your child was young. For the love of your child, you structured our entire day around things like School drop off and School pick up times. And on top of all the practical things you did for your child, you spent your time constantly thinking about what would be best for her or him. Every mother lives her life for another.
Now, not all of us in this church are mothers. I, for example, have never been a mother. And of course there are other forms of self sacrifice too. But the mothers here are an inspiration to the rest of us. Every mother exists not for her own benefit but for the benefit of her children. We need to put that into practice in a different context. Every mother exists not for her own benefit but for the benefit of her children. We need to learn more and more to exist not for our own benefit but for the benefit of our non-members.
Of course - it's easy to romanticise being a mother. Frequently you will have thought "I don't want to do this", "I don't want to do that", "Do I have to?" - especially when it comes to having your sleep broken in the middle of the night. "Do I have to?" Yet for love of your child, you got out of bed, comforted her, fed her and changed her nappy. For love of your child you did not what you wanted but what was best for her. As a church too, there will frequently be times for each one of us when we say "I don't want to do this", "I don't want to do that", "Do I have to?" yet, if as parents we can do things we don't want because we love our child, then as Christians, for love of God and love of those who haven't yet come to faith, we will do not what we want but what is best for them.
Parents, if you get angry with your kids for something they do wrong, and you lose it, do you wait for your children to apologize or do you set the example and go to them? Teenagers, do you find it beneath your dignity to humble yourself to obey your parents’ reasonable expectations? I remember one time saying to my mother when I was 18, “this is beneath my dignity.” If she could have, she would have rolled her eyes and laughed but she was dumfounded that I would have displayed such a proud and haughty response. Demonstrating my lack of humility. Do we display this kind of attitude toward God when He speak to us?
“The Inevitability of Gradualness!” Hebrews 13:20-22 Key verse(s): 21:“(He) equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and every. Amen.”
“I was doing the right thing; but it seemed the harder I tried, the worse it got.” Did you ever feel that way? You set out to do the right thing, the thing that it your heart seemed right and good. With good conscience you set out to make things happen for good and, before your know it, things turn out bad. Obeying that still small voice within that called you out to serve, to assist, to make better, you ended up accomplishing the opposite. Why does God let things like that happen?
Sometimes, even when we “know” we are headed in the right direction, we still tend to get lost. In our hearts we feel we have done all the right things. We took time to think it through before we started. We even checked with the Lord before we undertook our plan. What more can be asked of a Christian than to pray, plan and execute? If that can’t guarantee success, what can? Perhaps the problem is that sometimes, maybe even often times, we too often base our actions on the outcome and not on the process. We surmise a plan to train up a child or help a friend because, after prayer and considerable thought, we envision the end of the process, the success of our own actions. Then, when we reach the end of the process and find that it just didn’t work out the way we thought it should, we are disappointed, even discouraged.
God is always more focused on the processes in our lives. For this is how He shapes us and strengthens us. Reaching our goals and realizing that we have accomplished what we set out to do, does little in the way of building character and helping us to conform to the image of Jesus Christ. Rather, how we get there is the important part, not necessarily what was ultimately achieved. It may mean that it will take multiple processes to reach the goal. But, so much the better when it is the process that is important.
One day Dwight Morrow and his wife, the parents of Anne Lindbergh, were in Rugby, England. After wandering through the streets they realized that they had lost their way. At this moment an incident occurred that entered into Morrow’s philosophy and became a guiding principle in his life. He stopped a little Rugby lad of about 12 years. “Could you tell us the way to the station?” he asked. “Well,” the boy answered, “You turn to the right there by the grocer’s shop and then take the second street to the left. That will bring you to a place where four streets meet. And then, sir, you had better inquire again.”
“This answer came to symbolize for Dwight Morrow his own method of approaching complicated problems,” writes Harold Nicolson in his excellent biography. “It implied in the first place a realistic skepticism regarding the capacity of human intelligence. It was in the second place an object lesson in the inevitability of gradualness. And in the third place, it was a parable of how, when the ultimate end is uncertain, one should endeavor to advance, if only a little way, in the correct, rather than the incorrect direction.” (Bits and Pieces, December 1991, p. 14.)
Although God has and will continue to do many things in an instant, His has always been a regime of gradualness. Even though He created the earth in but six days, He subjected time to the gradualness of His will thereafter. Abraham waited for decades for the promise of his son Isaac. It took Noah half a lifetime to build an...
“A Path We Feared to See!” Philippians 2:5-11 Key verse(s): 8:“‘And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even the death of the cross.”
We love so many things in this life! Yet, there is one thing so worth loving that is seldom afforded even the smallest of tender emotions; it is our will to obey. From an early time in our lives forward, obedience comes at a high price and is most often accompanied by only a grudging will to comply. Whereas we love to comply when our will and that of our overseer or parent are one, when the gap grows and differences occur, obedience because a manacle and not the blessing that God intended it to be.
Obey! That’s one word we just don’t like dealing with. It conjures up all kinds of subservient images. In a society where independence, self-determination and equality are held in such high esteem, how can something like obedience even rate a sigh? What it comes down to is this: we have a will and it is going in this direction. If your will matches up, fine! If it doesn’t, see you later.
I ran across a poem entitled Obedience by George MacDonald many years ago that was so moving I kept copy of it. I’ve folded and placed it in my Bible so that I would be inclined to pull it out and read it when life and my own willful desires become become overpowering.
I said, “Let me walk in the fields.”
He said, “No, walk in the town.”
I said, “I shall miss the light
“And friends will miss me, they say.”
He answered: “Choose ye tonight
“If I am to miss you, or they.”
He pleaded for time to be given.
He said, “Is it hard to decide?
“It will not seem hard in heaven
“To have followed the steps of your Guide.”
I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town.
He said, “My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?”
Then into His hand went mine,
And into my heart came He;
And I walk in a light divine
The path I had feared to see.
When we take the time to stop and reflect on the paths that we “had feared to see”, it would be good to remember the One whose obedience was perfect. Even He, whose will was more perfect than any man who ever lived, subjected Himself to the will of His Father in Heaven. He who humbled Himself despite the fact that He bore no sin and rightfully should have placed Himself above all creation, submitted to the will of One still greater. When we consider His willingness...