An Almost Impossible Task

21 03 2012

As we wind down to the end of our study of Ephesians we come to chapter 6:1-9, a treatise on authority and submission.  A large portion of this passage concerns the child/student/servant/employee’s response to authority and leadership, I am going to cover that next week.  Today, however, I want to talk about the proper use of authority as presented here.

We have all been there, working for someone who seemingly takes pleasure in making people Imageuncomfortable.  Whether it was because of a bad attitude, a mean spirit, or just a lack of understanding of how to lead, we cringed when we read in verse 5, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”  “How can I respect someone who disrespects me and treats me unfairly?”  you might have asked.

When instructing Timothy on how to grow the church, Paul gave this instruction, “Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily” (1 Timothy 5:22, The Message).  Even Paul knew that it takes maturity to be a leader, and without it, disaster could ensue.     Anyone who has any authority, whether a parent, a supervisor, a pastor, or even a babysitter, has the responsibility to use that authority wisely.  A Christian leader, however, has an even greater responsibility because not only is he or she responsible to the employer/congregation/etc., but that leader is also responsible to and representing Christ.

So what does it mean to be a Christian leader, whether in the church, the home, or the marketplace?  While there are only two verses, they are chock full of wisdom for us.  So let’s see what the author of Ephesians has to say.

Fathers,[Parents] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (v. 4).

Although addressing the home situation, I believe this instruction applies to every area of leadership.   Exasperate is a strong word with synonyms such as incense, anger, vex, inflame, infuriate. See irritate. (www.dictionary.com). The actual meaning is to make rough, provoke.   Some leaders take this way too far, thinking that they can never correct or redirect children, students, employees, etc., because they might get angry.  Not the intent at all!  We are not to intentionally provoke people to anger, to intentionally and without consideration overwhelm the individual.

While this verse might not seem to apply to the workplace, let me phrase it this way:  Bosses, do not provoke your employees to frustration and anger by making decisions without consideration, wisdom, and fairness, but remember that you are Christ’s example and representative in that workplace.  Remember to ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?”

Parents, remember that as you follow Christ, your children will learn how to do the same.  If you are arbitrary in your decisions, considerations, and parenting, they will learn to do the same, and quite possible consider your God to be arbitrary, too.

In educating our children and acquaintances concerning Christ, we need to remember Jesus’ purpose:  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Redemption, the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry on this earth.  Everything Jesus did or said had an ultimate purpose, that of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration.  As Christian leaders we should have that same purpose, doing business, leading, parenting so that those in our influence would see Christ through us.  Will we have to make hard decisions?  Oh yes!  But we make those decisions through crimson-colored glasses, ones that see them through the blood of Christ, seeing God’s purpose for the one with whom we are dealing, trying, as much as possible, to show grace along with justice.

Verse 9 confirms this , saying, “And masters [parents, supervisors, pastors, committee leaders, politicians] , treat your slaves [employees, children, church members, etc.] in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” 

I like how The Message says this:  Masters, it’s the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. He makes no distinction between you and them.

In closing, can I provide a few suggestions to help in following these ideas in our individual lives, especially if you are a person in authority?

  1.  Don’t correct anyone when you are angry.  Let the initial frustration and anger settle down so you can speak with clear-headed understanding about the situation.  Don’t react, rather respond.
  2. Do your research!  Be sure the issue you are responding to is actually what you understand it to be.  Don’t assume anything.
  3. Don’t take sides or try to please groups within the situation.  Be fair to everyone.
  4. Pray.  Pray.  Pray!  As a Christian man or woman, you are responsible to represent Christ in this situation.  Ask God to remove your emotions from the situation and to give you a heart of grace, mercy, and redemption, that you will make decisions that God can use, especially if your child/employee/etc., does not know Christ.

Being a leader is a hard thing to do.  Being a Christian leader is almost impossible.  My prayer for each of you today who finds him or herself in a position of leadership/parenthood is that you will take time to once again renew in your own mind the beauty of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness for you, and then pray and ask God to give you that heart for others so that, even if you have to make a hard decision regarding someone—what we might call “tough love”—they will know without a doubt that you are not being arbitrary but fair and loving, just like your Savior!

____________________________

A friend of mine always ends his video posts with this statement:  “Because of Jesus life is good!”  I have to agree.  Being in Greenfield a few more days per week and interacting with those from Ebenezer and the community has been wonderful.  In fact, we started the community Bible study on Wednesdays last week and had eight in attendance!  You are invited, and here are the details:  Every Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. (note new time) at the Senior Center on Allison.  We are studying Chuck Swindoll’s Dropping Your Guard:  Relationships in the Church.  If you have questions, call me.  ALL AGES ARE INVITED!

See you in church!

Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 393, Greenfield, MO  65661
revmkg@sbcglobal.net





Blessings, from God’s Perspective–Ephesians 1:1-14

16 09 2011

Some exciting changes are happening in the weekly Ebenezer article!  Beginning this week the majority of the article will be part of our Adult Christian Education program.  The article will,  therefore, be interactive, with questions and readings for you.  It will also appear on here on my blog and on Ebenezer’s Facebook page, so you can tell your friends and family about it!  You can post questions and/or comments here, and, even if you are not on Facebook, you can still view the articles there; you just will not be able to post without signing in.   Each week, you can interact with the lesson as above or by sending me questions and/or comments via e-mail (revmkg@sbcglobal.net), posting them on Ebenezer Presbyterian’s Facebook page (just search for Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Greenfield MO and click on the Facebook link)Of course, mail is acceptable, as well!

Starting Sunday, September 18, our Christian education hour will resume at 9:30 a.m. with a full-family emphasis.  The lesson posted in the Vedette and on Facebook will provide discussion for the adults present, and there will be lessons and activities for the kids, as well!  If you have been wanting to visit us, but wanted something more for your kids, now is the time to come.  We’ll be
waiting for you!

For this quarter we will be studying from the letter to the Ephesians.  Let’s get started!

Read:  Ephesians 1:1-14  (read it here at BibleGateway–http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+1:1-14)

You have all probably enjoyed the old hymn Count Your Blessings at least once in your life.  And to start this week, I’d like to ask you to take a few minutes to count your blessings.  That’s right, take out a pen and paper and just make a list of the top blessings in your life.  What are the things that you attribute as blessings from God?  Just take a minute.  I’ll wait!

No doubt your list looks a lot like mine:  family, home, children, maybe Jesus and salvation, church, friends, and on, listing things that are truly blessings to our lives.  Most likely, none of us has
listed anything negative on that list.  For example, did anyone list an accident, or an illness?  Did you list some trauma that occurred in your life or something that made you stop and think and reevaluate what you have going on?  In the first part of our study today, Paul talks about Spiritual blessings from God, “who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

When we consider spiritual blessings, we are at first tempted to think of “spiritual” things, like prayer, worship, meditation, the Word of God, etc.  While these are all spiritual blessings, this line of thinking unnecessarily divides who we are into distinct pieces, the physical versus the spiritual, and separates the concept of blessings into those that feed our earthly selves and those that minister to our spirits.   Paul, however, in this passage makes no such division.   Who we are, how we live, and whom we worship are all a part of the people God has called us to be.

V.4 :  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Jesus).

This verse says that God chose us before we were even born, before the world was created.  Many times we worry about whether someone will accept us or like us, whether we have the right clothes, the right look, etc.  But God chose us before any of that even existed.

Question:  What does it mean to you to be “chosen”?

Question:  How does it make you feel to know that no matter how you look, what you have, or where you come from, you were still chosen by God?

V. 7:  In him (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins . . . with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.

So, in God’s ultimate vision and wisdom Jesus was sent to earth, and by His sacrifice, we receive these blessings from God’s hand.  It doesn’t stop there, however.  Look at verses 11-12.  In him we were also chosen having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

Paul ties here together all the things in our lives that happen, the “spiritual” blessings and the physical turmoil, the good and the bad, the welcome and the unwelcome.  As Paul states in Romans 8:28:  We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

If God has called us to be adopted as children without respect to our station in life, background, looks financial status, etc., and He has (see v. 13), then we have this promise that everything in our
lives—whether seemingly good or bad—is a blessing, as it works God’s purposes in our lives, even when we do not understand what God might be thinking!

Having just commemorated the ten-year anniversary of the attacks on 9-11, I tried to think about how such an event could be considered a blessing.  With so much suffering and loss, how could we look to it as a blessing to our country or to the individuals affected.  But as I heard many of the survivors and family members speak, I realized that many of them had done just that.  They had taken the tragedy and used it to find new and deeper meaning in their lives.  They had mourned their lost loved ones, their jobs, and even their lifestyles, but then moved forward to find a new purpose, for some a purpose that had not existed before the event.

You have been chosen to be a part of God’s family.  It doesn’t happen just because God said so, however.  Adoption occurs when you turn to Christ and accept the payment He made on your behalf though his own sacrifice on the Cross.  Then you will share in the redemption by his blood.  Once you are in the family, know this:  God is working in your life to make you, as Paul states, to the praise of his glory.  And, being that good Parent He is, God will use all means of blessings to bring you to maturity in that relationship.

ASSIGNMENT:

Take some time to slowly read Ephesians 1:1-14 again, stopping to contemplate Paul’s words.

Look again at your “blessings” list.  Having read this lesson, what other blessings might you add to the list, perhaps some seemingly negative things that have happened in your life?  Draw a line down the center of your paper and to the right of each of the blessings on your list, take a few minutes to record how that “blessing” has changed you for the better, how God has used it to make your life give glory to God.

See you Sunday!  Bring your notes with you!  Don’t forget, if you cannot attend Ebenezer but still want to be in the discussion, call, text, e-mail, write, or Facebook your comments and questions.  I’ll be waiting to hear from you.

Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
Greenfield, Missouri
revmkg@sbcglobal.net
417-844-0629

For more study, check out TextWeek’s list of resources for this passage:  http://www.textweek.com/pauline/eph1a.htm





Just Anger?

17 08 2011

I have been so blessed by all of your notes and e-mails regarding the articles. Please keep communicating. In fact, today I want to talk about one of those notes.

Two weeks ago, in the article “Which Direction?” I mentioned Jesus’ comment that anger is as bad as murder. One reader wrote in that I left out the phrase “without a cause.” It is true that the article left out that phrase, but it was for good reason. As you may know, the Bible translations that we have today, including the King James Version, came from copies of manuscripts, some in pieces, from the earliest documents the translators had available to them.

From the time each letter was originally written and delivered, it was hand-copied and then sent to other churches for their edification and strengthening. Unfortunately, when copying the letters, the copyist was not always consistent, and sometimes, the copyist would make small changes or additions to either explain, expand on, or soften the comments made, which is where we find ourselves in this conversation.

Let me say this from the beginning, I am NOT condemning the King James Version or any of its more current updates. The KJV was interpreted in its time and done by educated individuals. The truth is, however, that the phrase “without a cause” is only included in some of the manuscripts that currently exist. In fact, most scholars that I have studied believe that this phrase was added at a later time, after Matthew’s Gospel was penned, to soften the extreme requirement made by Christ. This is why most other translations and paraphrases, including the New International Version, which I use most often, eliminate the phrase from the actual paragraph and relegate it to a footnote, noting that this was most likely a later addition.

So what do we say about Jesus’ words concerning anger? Is it okay to have “just anger” against someone, to justify our anger according to righteousness?

Once again, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment” (NIV).

The word Jesus uses here, translated “brother” is adelphos, which here refers to a fellow disciple, whether man or woman. Jesus, then, is referring to those who are a part of the family of God, those closest to us, those with whom we worship and serve, and not only those within our individual congregations, but also those who worship in other congregations and denominations.

In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents six contrasts between the Law, that is, the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, and the higher standards of the Gospel, emanating from the righteousness of God. In fact, throughout the Sermon, Jesus puts before his listeners standards that are almost impossible to meet in our natural way of thinking. Can any one of us actually accomplish these on our own? In the natural person, are we really able to love our enemies, to be forgiving of those around us, to keep from anger, etc.? I don’t believe so.

Actually, even with the Spirit of God living within us we struggle with these “guidelines” from Jesus. These guidelines, as it were, call us to a much higher level of responsibility, one that is on the level of God’s values rather than our own.

Just or Righteous Anger

Is there such a thing as just anger, or a valid cause for anger? Can we be angry at those who sin against God and others? Perhaps, in some fashion, but consider Paul’s words in Romans 3:23,24, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” According to Paul, every one of us has fallen short, and therefore, each of us was subject to God’s judgment before we were found in Christ.

Paul goes on to speak to the Ephesians and the Colossians about anger, telling them to get rid of it, listing it with rage, slander, malice and other negative behavior (Ephesians 4:26, 31; Colossians 3:8). He instructs Timothy to teach the church to “lift up holy hands without anger or disputing.”

It is obvious that we, still in the process of renewal, will most likely fall short. We will get angry with those around us and with the evil that is in the world. However, If we use the phrase “without cause” to justify our being angry at someone, no matter what the offense, we are minimizing the high standard to which Christ has called us and risking a root of bitterness growing in our hearts.

You see, I can hold to high values, and expect others to do so, as well, but when I am dealing with others, I must remember that God’s anger is God’s to work out. My task is to represent Christ and His sacrifice.

My hope is this, that whenever I am wronged, or see someone being wronged, or become indignant against an individual, a people group or denomination, or, dare I say, a political group, that I will be able to submit that anger to God, thereby making myself available to even the worst offender, that perhaps, by some miracle, I might be able to share the grace of God.

You may be right—you may have been wronged—but what we have suffered pales when contrasted with that which was suffered by our Savior. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, and with the help of the Spirit of God, we can, as James instructed, be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19,20).

Hey, friends, keep writing. I love hearing from you!

Blessings,

Mary Kay Glunt
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
Greenfield, Missouri
P.O. Box 393, Greenfield, MO 65661
revmkg@sbcglobal.net





How Do You Give Thanks?

30 11 2009

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving Day. Most of us celebrated with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and stuffing. But some may have chosen a different fare. Whatever you ate, I hope you took a moment to give thanks before your meal—thanks for your family, for your home, for your friends, and especially for eternal life.

Your first question might be: Why do I need to give thanks?

The short list: Creation, salvation, eternity.

So the question is: How do you give thanks? Since we all “give thanks” by eating a big dinner on the fourth Thursday of November, I thought I would provide a few other ideas from God’s example to show how we can give thanks the rest of the year.

I can show thanks by following God’s example: Giving. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God gave what he had, Jesus, so I could be forgiven for my sins and be made a part of God’s family. If I am thankful for God’s gift of redemption, I can follow God’s example by giving of myself, my possessions, those things I value most, to help others find peace and hope. I can show my thankfulness by supporting my church and missionaries who are spreading God’s Word to others.

I can show thanks by following God’s example: Loving. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Most often we love someone because of something they did for us, but God’s love is without a prior cause, not because of anything we have done, or can do, or will do. This love we have received from God, providing a sacrifice for our sins when we could not redeem ourselves, demands a response from us. John continued, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (4:11). Jesus said, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44,45). We can show our thanks by extending the love of God to others as we have received it, without reservation or condition.

I can show thanks by following God’s example: Serving God. In the wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus by offering the world’s riches and power in return for his worship. Jesus responded, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only” (Luke 4:8). The world provides many enticements to turn our attention from God. It could be the continual acquisition of possessions and money. Other enticements include popularity, fame, and power. Jesus understood the seductive power of these things, and so He warned his listeners, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13). When I follow God’s example, I serve God and place my relationship to God first, trusting God for the rest.

I can show thanks by following God’s example: Serving others. As my example, Jesus served those around Him. He used His power to minister to others—healing, comforting, restoring. People came to Jesus because they knew He was willing and able to help them. I follow God’s example by serving others, as well. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). When I use my gifts, whether hospitality (which includes cooking, by the way), encouragement, teaching, and administration, among other gifts, to bless those around me, I am being faithful and following God’s example.

How do you give thanks? I know how you can! Recognize God’s gift to you, then respond by following God’s example and giving, loving, serving God, and serving others. The world will be a much better place because of your response to God’s gift.

Just a note: Thanks to Jack and Pat McKinley for the gift of the new nativity set on our front lawn. Drive by some evening and see the beauty.

On Sunday afternoon we celebrated the life of our good friend Beverley Crowell. It was wonderful to have so many people join together with us to remember her. Since I came to Ebenezer Presbyterian, Beverley has been an encouragement and a source of laughter. We all will miss her greatly.

One reason I enjoyed her so much is that she reminded me of my own mother, another person who loved to laugh, entertain, and make people happy. As a special tribute to Beverly and to her family, I am reprinting here a poem I wrote for my mother. Once again, our loss is heaven’s gain.

Many people say to me
“Your laugh’s so bright and full of glee.”
I tell them, “It’s not mine, you see.
My precious mom gave it to me.”

Oh, please don’t think her life sublime
with fun and laughter all the time.
She made ends meet, but there were times
she had to count out every dime.

Though everything was not the best,
with my mother we were blessed.
She made sure we were fed and dressed
And spread her cheer to every guest.

How did she smile and seem so glad
even when she felt so bad,
when it seemed she would explode,
struggling under life’s hard load?

Even so my mother laughed
and danced and sometimes acted daft.
For us she took her hurt and pain
and gave it back with joy again.

Ready smile and hopeful dreams,
laughing till I burst my seams,
love of music, love of dance,
These are my inheritance.





The Final Reunion

24 08 2009

We were privileged this weekend to see an old friend who traveled here from Colorado with a young adult group to minister to the homeless.  He and my husband worked together for several years, during college and seminary, and seeing him again was a blast from the past. 

I started to think about reunions today.  Whether a childhood friend, long missed family members, or fellow students, each of us has someone we want to see again soon.  The memory of my parents’ faces, whenever we would arrive in their driveway in Pennsylvania, made me long to see them again, as well.  But the distance between us is much farther than ever, now that they are both in heaven.  That distance will just make the reunion sweeter when it occurs.

How can I know I will see my loved ones again?  First of all, we known we will see heaven if we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  For many years heaven was an impossibility for us, a closed door.  But all of that changed when God sent His Son to Earth.  He walked as we walk and grew as we grow, but the difference between us was righteousness.  Jesus, fully God and fully human, was perfect and without sin, and He became the sacrifice for our sins and those of all of God’s creation.  This salvation and forgiveness, the mercy of God, is a free gift to anyone who believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior (Romans 6:23).

Once we have believed in Christ, we can rely on the promise that we will be with Him in heaven one day.  Unlike the disinterested watchmaker who set the watch in motion but then walked away, God continues His work and involvement in our lives and has promised a place for us.  “Let not your heart be troubled;” Jesus said, “believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am there you may be also” (John 14:1-4).

My grandmother, in her early 90s and bedfast, used to wonder why God had allowed her to live so long.  “I’ve lost all of my friends, my husband, one of my children,” she would say.  “What did I do that God doesn’t want me?”  I reminded her Jesus promised to build a home for her, and the angels probably had not finished the roof.  I was sure that as soon as the last shingle was in place, and the flowers were blooming, Jesus would call her home, and He did.  I believe she is waiting for me there.

Finally, the apostle Paul described our reunion with loved ones in his letter to the Thessalonians. 

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). 

A day will come for each of us when, whether through death or at Christ’s return to collect His Bride, we will meet Jesus face to face.  The most cherished reunion of all will be when we see our Savior.  The One we have known in our spirits will appear before us and welcome us into heaven.  Never again will there be loss or tears.  We will be with Him forever, along with our loved ones who have preceded us. 

Take every opportunity to let your loved ones know how you feel while they are with you, even if far apart.  But, be assured, if they have “fallen asleep” in faith, you will see them again as we celebrate eternity around the throne of God.

Blessings,

Mary Kay Glunt
Pastor, Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
Greenfield, Missouri








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