“Life in the Combat Zone” (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 2, 2018

“Life in the Combat Zone” (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Have you ever been in a combat zone? I mean, a real, live, active combat zone. A place where bullets are whizzing past your head and explosive devices are ready to take your leg off. That’s a combat zone, and it’s a very dangerous place to be. You could be killed or wounded at any moment. Making it out of there alive is a very precarious proposition.

Well, guess what? You are in a combat zone, whether you realize it or not. Every Christian is. It comes with the territory. The battle is real, and the battle is on! The battle is raging, and there are no deferments, no going AWOL. You are in this battle, automatically, and it is a fight to the finish, a life-or-death conflict. So what to do? Be prepared for this battle. Because it’s going to come. There’s no avoiding it. Are you ready? Are you prepared? And so our theme this morning: “Life in the Combat Zone.”

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Published in: on September 1, 2018 at 7:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Most Hated Verse in the Bible” (Ephesians 5:22-33)

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 26, 2018

“The Most Hated Verse in the Bible” (Ephesians 5:22-33)

A couple of weeks ago I ran across an article on my news feed with the headline: “North Carolina GOP Candidate Preached Extensively on. . . .” Now I’ll tell you in a moment what he preached extensively on, but first let me give you an idea why this was even a story. You see, there’s a candidate in North Carolina running for Congress, and he used to be the pastor of a church. And of course his opponent and those who are backing him are looking for any dirt they can find on the guy. Well, apparently they went through his old sermons. And what did they discover? That he had preached, more than once, on something they found particularly distasteful, very incriminating–shocking, really. “Ah, here is what we’re looking for! Surely this will sink the man and doom his candidacy!” And of course this is why the news media all across the country ran with the story. So what was it that they found? What was so awful, so terrible, so outrageous? OK, now I’ll read you the full headline: “North Carolina GOP Candidate Preached Extensively on . . . Wives Submitting to Husbands.”

“Wives Submitting to Husbands”: Whoa! There it is! This evil man, this misogynist, this sexist bigot, had the gall, the audacity, to actually preach that wives should submit to their husbands! Where’s the rope?

Now it should come as no surprise these days that a Christian minister preaching on what used to be a traditional, commonly held belief–that this now is regarded as inflammatory hate speech, that it’s anathema, beyond the pale. The tolerant Left can’t tolerate such a thing!

But it’s not just the liberals and secularists who are aghast that anyone still thinks that wives should submit to their husbands. There are even Christians, church-going Christians, who don’t understand and even reject this biblical teaching. Perhaps even you have had some questions about this topic. And that’s why we’re going to take a look at it this morning.

The idea that wives should submit to their husbands is indeed taught in the Bible, in a number of places, most famously–or should I say, infamously–in today’s Epistle reading. The words come straight out of the first verse of that text, where it says, “Wives submit to your husbands.” And now you can see why I call Ephesians 5:22 “The Most Hated Verse in the Bible.”

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Published in: on August 25, 2018 at 5:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“From Darkness to Light” (Ephesians 5:6-21)

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 19, 2018

“From Darkness to Light” (Ephesians 5:6-21)

Have you ever come out of a really dark room into a bright, sunlit area? It takes a few moments to get used to, doesn’t it? Your eyes have to adjust to the new reality. But once they do, you have so much a better view of what’s around you and in front of you. No longer are you stumbling around in the dark, bumping into things. Now you can see clearly where to walk, what’s the right way to go. Well, that’s kind of how it is for us as Christians. We have come out of the darkness and into the light. It is the light of Christ we’re walking in now. And that makes all the difference. And so our theme this morning: “From Darkness to Light.”

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Published in: on August 18, 2018 at 7:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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“Put off the Old, Put on the New” (Ephesians 4:17 – 5:2)

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 12, 2018

“Put off the Old, Put on the New” (Ephesians 4:17 – 5:2)

“Clothes make the man.” I’m sure many of you have heard that old saying. “Clothes make the man.” The idea is that how you dress will affect how people perceive you–and maybe also how you perceive yourself. If you dress shabbily, in dingy, dirty old clothes, you will be perceived one way. If you dress your best, you will convey a different impression. “Clothes make the man.” Likewise, it’s a good idea to dress appropriate to who you are. If you’re a pastor, a clerical shirt is appropriate attire. If you’re a soldier, you wear your uniform when you’re on duty. And so it goes. You want to dress appropriately for your particular calling.

Now if that’s true it’s in the secular realm, it’s even more true in the spiritual realm. Clothes make the man–or the woman who belongs to Christ, as the case may be. And here I’m not talking about cloth-and-fabric clothing. No, here I’m talking about how you have been clothed with Christ, how you have put on Christ’s righteousness and holiness and character. That’s how you have been dressed. So that’s what you should wear, on a daily basis. Don’t wear the dirty old dingy clothes of your previous life. Put on the new garment of righteousness that is yours in Christ. That’s our message today, under the theme, “Put off the Old, Put on the New.”

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Published in: on August 11, 2018 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Unity and Growth in the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-16)

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 5, 2018

“Unity and Growth in the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-16)

Our text today is the Epistle, from Ephesians 4. We are now entering the second half of Ephesians. In the first half, St. Paul laid down the foundation of our life in Christ, that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing, according to the riches of his grace. Now in the second half, Paul moves into the practical implications of this for our life together as church and our life as individual Christians. Today’s text emphasizes the churchly dimension of our life together, that we walk together in unity and growth, in truth and love.

Unity and growth–these are great goals for the church, aren’t they? Everybody wants, or should want, the church to be united. Everybody wants the church to grow. This is true for our congregation, of course. But what kind of unity? What kind of growth? We’ll explore that today, how unity and growth come about and can be strengthened. And so let’s look at our life together as church now, under the theme, “Unity and Growth in the Body of Christ.”

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Published in: on August 4, 2018 at 9:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“From What We Were to What We Are” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
July 22, 2018

“From What We Were to What We Are” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

From rags to riches. From the outhouse to the penthouse. From worst to first. These are different sayings we have to express a big change, a big contrast, between the way somebody was and the way they are now. There’s some big contrast involved between the former miserable situation and the current excellent one. And, dear friends, that’s the way it is for us, because there has been a major change, a huge contrast, between our former status and our current one. And so our theme this morning: “From What We Were to What We Are.”

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Published in: on July 21, 2018 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Chosen by God, Redeemed in Christ, Sealed with the Spirit” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 15, 2018

“Chosen by God, Redeemed in Christ, Sealed with the Spirit” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Our Epistle reading today is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. In fact, this is the first of eight straight Sundays when the Epistle comes from Ephesians. And during this time, we’re studying Ephesians for our Bible class. I encourage you to stay after service for that. So this is an opportunity for you to dive in to this epistle and really explore it in depth. You may also want to read through Ephesians, perhaps even in one sitting–it’s only six chapters long–perhaps several times over the coming weeks. You will be richly blessed, I guarantee it.

How can I be so confident you will be richly blessed? Because this is God’s Word! This is the gospel, set forth in all its richness and blessing! St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians is a glorious gem, shining forth the beauties of God’s grace in Christ from every angle. Ephesians takes us from the grand cosmic sweep of God’s plan for the ages down to the practical realities of everyday life. It’s all here, in one midsize epistle. Christ, eternity, the cross, the church, grace, faith, good works, the new life in Christ, marriage, family, spiritual warfare–all these themes Paul deals with in this letter. The Epistle to the Ephesians is as helpful to the church in the twenty-first century as it was to the church in the first.

Our reading from Ephesians today is really the opening statement of this epistle. It comes right after a standard introduction, “Paul, an apostle of Christ, to the saints in Ephesus: Grace to you and peace,” etc. Then in verses 3-14, which is our text for today, Paul launches into a grand doxology, a great acclamation of God’s goodness, which sets the tone for the rest of the letter. It’s like he’s been thinking about all the rich blessings that God has showered upon us in Christ, and then he gushes forth with this torrent of praise for the triune God.

Paul’s mind surveys the whole sweep and scope of God’s eternal plan for the cosmos. It’s the big picture Paul is giving us here. He takes us from eternity to eternity, to see what God is doing in all of this, to reflect on the cosmic dimensions of God’s plan. It’s the big picture! But the picture has a purpose and a focus: God’s plan is centered in Christ. And the picture is not so big that it doesn’t include us. Because it does includes us, as we will see.

Now I think it will be helpful to look at our text today in three parts, according to the three persons of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And also in three parts according to the timing of God’s big plan and purpose: first reaching back before creation, then moving into history, and finally culminating in the life of the age to come. And so our theme this morning: “Chosen by God, Redeemed in Christ, Sealed with the Spirit.”

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Published in: on July 14, 2018 at 8:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Ascension: Past, Present, and Future” (Ephesians 1:15-23)

The Ascension of Our Lord
Thursday, May 10, 2018

“The Ascension: Past, Present, and Future” (Ephesians 1:15-23)

Today we’re having church on a Thursday. That’s because we’re celebrating the Ascension of Our Lord, a major festival in the church year that always falls on a Thursday. And that’s because the event it celebrates came forty days after Easter. It was that marvelous occasion when our Lord Jesus Christ, after his resurrection, ascended into heaven. And tonight we will see that this great event connects, ties together, the past, the present, and the future work of Christ. Because it does, our Lord’s ascension has great importance for us, for our past, present, and our future. And so our theme tonight: “The Ascension: Past, Present, and Future.”

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Published in: on May 10, 2018 at 1:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Real Jesus Is All You Really Need” (John 1:1-18; Ephesians 1:3-14)

Midweek Lenten Vespers
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

“The Real Jesus Is All You Really Need” (John 1:1-18; Ephesians 1:3-14)

In Sunday morning Bible class, we’re doing a study based on the book, “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? 12 False Christs.” And in these midweek Lenten services, we’ve been picking up on themes from the book, as well. “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? 12 False Christs.” The premise of the book is that in our society people come up with false christs to fit their own presuppositions and desires. The real Jesus does not fit their idea of what he should be like, so they redefine him, stripping away the parts they don’t like, and adding to him things they do like. And so they come up with a false christ who is different from the real Jesus we meet in the Bible.

For example, so far in the book we’ve met Jillian, the ethical hedonist, who redefines Jesus to be merely a mascot, who will cheer her on in her pursuit of pleasure. We’ve met Tamar, the religious pluralist, who reduces Jesus to just one option among many in the smorgasbord of world religions. We’ve met Mr. Darby, the possible atheist, who pays lip-service to Jesus as a good teacher but nothing more than that. And this past Sunday we met Wendy, the life coach, who sees Jesus as a sort of therapist who will help you have a happier life and who, if you yield your life to him, will move you up from being an ordinary, carnal Christian, up to being a first-class, super-spiritual Christian. That’s so far, and in the weeks to come, we’ll meet other people who redefine Jesus into a false christ of their own making.

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Published in: on March 21, 2018 at 7:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“It’s a Gift!” (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Midweek Lenten Vespers
Wednesday, March 14, 2018

“It’s a Gift!” (Ephesians 2:1-10)

You are a Christian. You are saved. You believe in Christ. You are heading for heaven. And in your Christian life, you do good works. Now the question arises: How did all this come about? To what extent does all of this, or any of this, depend on you? The salvation, the faith, the good works: Which parts are a gift, by grace, God’s doing? And which parts are up to us, our doing, our contribution to the equation? That’s what we’re going to explore today.

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Published in: on March 14, 2018 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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