08-26-18 PUTTING ON THE ARMOR OF GOD

PUTTING ON THE ARMOR OF GOD

Ephesians 6: 10-20

 

Since 1977, When George Lucas released his first “Star Wars” film, people across the globe have become familiar with “The Force.” Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi tells his protégé, Luke Skywalker to “Use the Force.” Now tying down what George Lucas meant by the Force is a slipperier challenge.  It was not a force field of impenetrable strength, nor did it allow a character to fly. One source says “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power.”  In our world people would love to have power at times of terror or anxiety. And we are not the first to feel that. Through the ages people have sought a spiritual power connection, not just for offense, but also for defense. Years ago, the legendary St. Patrick, said to have rid Ireland of snakes and to have brought Christianity to the land, is also said to have put words together that became a legendary prayer. There is a long version of his prayer to God, but the shorter and more familiar version I put at the top of our bulletins:

I bind myself to Thee today, in the strong name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three….Christ be with me; Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Notice how he envisioned Christ completely with him, surrounding him, and with the power of God present. Through the ages Christians have called on the power of God to protect them in their times of need. And there are times, like the description that Paul used in his letter to the Ephesians, when he encourages others to put on the “armor” of God.  The Romans warriors in his day all dressed in armor for protection. So the Ephesians would be used to seeing armor. Aside from certain films, an outing to Medieval Times Dinner Theatre, or a visit to Rome, you may not see people in armor! But you know what it looks like. In Paul’s day, the Roman army could be brutal in its attempts to keep the Pax Romana, which was “the Peace of Rome;” forced peace! Although it was the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus, Paul was not crucified in large part because he was a Roman citizen. But when he was transported to prison, he was chained to a Roman guard. Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter, and his description in chapter 6 referred to the very armor his guard wore! In the days of chivalry, a damsel in distress might have swooned when her knight in shining armor appeared! Knights were saviors and rescuers! In the Roman Empire, and in the Middle Ages, knights actually wore armor, as did their horses in some instances, so an arrow would not easily take their lives. Armor was created mostly for defensive stances rather than offensive ones; it was made to protect and defend. Armor, whether shiny or colorful or black, is designed not primarily as a weapon, but as protection. As Paul describes it, our task is to put on the spiritual armor of God to bring Christ to the world.

Paul used armor as a metaphor for the Christian spiritual protection. Paul is not a literalist, but he is a wordsmith. Paul calls himself a prisoner (3:1) and an “ambassador in chains.” As he does on other occasions, he turns a weakness (being a prisoner) into a fulfillment of God’s purpose. He does not ask for Christians to physically fight other people (“our struggle is not against enemies made of blood and flesh, but rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this present darkness; against spiritual forces of evil.” The armor, therefore, is to withstand the wiles of the devil. (6:11). Soldiers of an empire fight against flesh and blood. What kind of armor does a spiritual soldier need? Paul says we will need the whole armor of God, never forgetting to don every single piece. Actual knights have little protection if they fail to put on all their pieces.  Football players cannot provide strong defense without pads protecting muscles and vital organs. Like a knight, or an athlete, or a first responder, we cannot forget our equipment before we go into the world. Paul first said: “Fasten the belt of truth around your waist.” Lawrence W. Farris has written this: “Truth is the most basic virtue, but in a world of spin, purposeful deception, and deceit, it becomes even more precious and crucial.  The dark powers are led, at least metaphorically, by the ‘father of lies’ (John 8: 44), and truth is spoken in the name of the One who is ‘the way, the truth, and the life.’  The temptation is to take up the methods of the enemy, to let noble ends justify ignoble means, to fight fire with fire. [But Christ had a different message.] The fire of evil is fought not with fire, but with the waters of baptism; the lies of the Evil One are resisted with God’s truth.” So first, we need to put on the belt of truth. Second, we need the breastplate of righteousness to protect the heart of the believer. If our heart is taken over by a corrupter—whether an enticing woman, a charming but corrupt man, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing, we have nothing left with which to balance our judgments. Our decisions will need rational, linear arguments plus heart and grace. Each day we need to put on righteousness, that is, the ability to make right decisions. So first: the belt of truth. We cannot make headway in the world if we cannot distinguish truth from lies. Second, the breastplate of righteousness: use your heart as the deciding factor for action. Third put on your spiritual shoes each day. Spiritual shoes give you the protection to not only stand longer, but also walk farther and to run faster for Christ. We have a gospel to share and the gospel goes nowhere fast without messengers! We are the messengers of the good news of salvation! “Paul misquotes Isaiah 52:10 when he declared: “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace.” Beautiful feet? No! Beautiful sounds of feet running to bring the gospel! Here’s how Isaiah originally said it in chapter 52:verse 7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news.” If such good news does not get shared, people have no place to turn except to the bad or untruthful news around them. Fourth, arm yourself with the shield of faith. In ages past, actual shields provided considerable protection against enemies! Personal faith, joined with the faith of thousands around us, reminds us that there is strength in numbers. A shield of faith, when held arm in arm with other Christians, can keep your faith from buckling. Fifth, Paul called for a helmet of salvation, to protect what we have learned. Without our minds to process what is around us, people under stress may fall prey to evil ones, thereby encouraging people to imitate the worldly persons around them instead of imitating Christ. A hymn like “Take Thou our Minds, dear Lord,” is not a plea for God to take our minds so much as to remold our minds, guide our feet, and form our words. Again, the images are often metaphorical and not literal. Christ needs us to not relinquish our minds to enemies, or to people who are just out for political or personal gain. Instead, always try to have the mind of Christ.

Finally, at long last we are given but one offensive weapon: the sword. Sword is such an oddly spelled word for its pronunciation, isn’t it? SWORD! But this odd spelling includes the letters w-o-r-d. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. This is our weapon (the Bible) and, rightly interpreted, God’s Word is our weapon, interpreted by Christian minds and guided by God’s Holy Spirit. That Word judges and instructs both the believing community and those it seeks to rescue from evil. So this is what we need to put on each and every day: The belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of God’s Word.

As we sang for our response today:  “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in his strength alone; the arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own. Put on the gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer. Where duty calls, or danger, be never wanting there.”

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                          August 26, 2018                                                                               

08-19-18 GIVE THANKS

GIVE THANKS

Colossians 3: 12-17

 

Wedding these days are often very carefully planned and very expensive. They are productions! I’ve had beautiful young women spend as many as 8 hours before a wedding ceremony with make-up and hair specialists! The groom? Well, he gets fitted for a tux and shows up! Countless photos are taken of the new couple. And that is appropriate. What I hope is that couples spend plenty of time planning for their marriage instead of just planning for the ceremony! I counsel them and encourage them to think about their lives together. We have people in this congregation married over 70 years!  Even though their looks have changed, (as mine have over my 40 years of marriage) interviewing those kinds of couples might be most helpful; how have they supported each other in every stage of their lives?

 

But beyond Christian marriage, throughout the ages people have written books on how to live the Christian life. In monastic times,
The Rule of St. Benedict was counted on as guide for living.  Chapter 40, for example, is titled: “The Proper Amount to Drink” and is loosely based, it says, on 1 Corinthians 7:7: “Everyone has his own gift from God, and another that.” I told you it was loosely based on that text! I goes on to say: “It is with some uneasiness that we specify the amount of food and drink for others. However, with due regard for the infirmities of the sick, we believe that a half a bottle of wine a day is sufficient for each. But those to whom God gives the strength to abstain must know that they will earn their own reward.” [The Rule of St. Benedict in English, the Liturgical Press, 1982, p. 62]  So now you have your guidance on wine, if you dare to follow it! Through the ages there were other guide journals. In the late 19th century a Scotsman–Oswald Chambers–was born, and in the early 20th century he published a masterpiece of Christian guidance called My Utmost for His Highest. I got a small new translation of it as a gift from a colleague in 1994; and an expanded edition was given to me 10 years ago: it is 1500 pages long based on books of the New Testament that only take up less than a quarter of the Bible! Goodness. But there is much food for thought in those pages. In 1988 Richard J. Foster made a splash in spiritual circles with the publication of his book Celebration of Discipline. In it he addressed the inward Christian disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, and study; and the outward disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission, and service. It has been republished just this past February. Then in 2002 who could forget the publishing splash when Rick Warren published the Christian guidebook called The Purpose Driven Life?  Millions of copies were published, unabashedly described by the author on the dust jacket: “It is the blueprint for living in the 21st century.” Well we can go to the translations and interpretations of the Bible that all these people have published, or we can go to the source ourselves!  When I was in seminary, word of the publication of a new commentary spread across campus liked wildfire! We all wanted to read what some great Biblical scholar had to say about the Bible! My Old Testament professor, Dr. Bernard Anderson, said this to us one day in class: “It is amazing how much light the Bible can shed on those commentaries.”

We all felt sheepish. We wanted the read the commentaries more than the Bible itself! So you, see, we are all guilty of wanting to ready what someone says about the Bible more than going to the source. Today, let’s go to the source. God’s Spirit can speak to our own souls as we read our Bibles again and again.

 

In two of his letters, Paul puts down the qualities needed to live a Christian life. . In both Ephesians, and today in Colossians, Paul has wonderful instructions about how we should live.  I often read it to married couples, but its original intention is to teach Christians how to follow Jesus! He says in chapter 3 beginning in verse 12:

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.”  That’s the intro. It says you are not an accident; not a happenstance. You are selected by God; chosen, and have a purpose in your life, part of which is to glorify God. That is our “Chief End” according to the Westminster Confession of Faith. But then, Paul calls followers of Jesus “Holy.” That means set apart, especially for God’s purposes.  So God watches what we do with the gifts and instructions we receive, and the challenges we face. And we are never left alone. We are called “beloved,” a fancy word that says you are deeply and irretrievably loved. Let that sink in.  I have talked to several people up in their years who have felt incomplete because they never heard their father tell them he loved them. But the Heavenly Father of Jesus not only loved him, he loves you and me too! God can complete what human beings sometimes leave incomplete.

“Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, weakness, and patience.” Every day it is helpful to think about wearing these qualities even as you wear your clothes.  “Compassion” means “a willingness to suffer with.” It’s a quality you might find in your parents, your partner, with church friends or nurses or caregivers.  It’s a willingness to suffer with someone else. Kindness is just what you think it is: showing love in gentle and thoughtful ways. But are you practicing it? Humility is different from humiliation. Humility is thinking of others first. Weakness is not being physically out of shape. It is a spiritual guideline to always remember that you can “do all things through Him who strengthens me.” That person, for Christians, is Jesus. And patience, well you know what that is right? Do you pray “Lord, give me more patience and give it to me now”? Patience is often in short supply in our fast-moving world, especially in traffic!

Bear with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

This is huge. We are called to bear with one another. Did you see the Disney film “Zootopia?” In it Judy Hopps becomes the first rabbit to become a police officer. In one scene she needs information from the Department of Motor Vehicles. She arrives and is waited on by a s-l-o-w–t-a-l-k-i-n-g sloth! I felt her pain as I visited with my mother in her retirement home- everyone moved so slowly! But because I love my mother, I learned to move slowly too.  Forgiving is included in the Lord’s Prayer, so I know it was important to both Jesus and the human race. We will spend a series of Wednesday evenings in October all on the subject of forgiveness! The bottom line is: if we want forgiveness from God, it is offered only when we forgive others. I wonder how many of us have Divine forgiveness offered, but not yet delivered, because we have not yet forgiven someone else?

Paul then says to be clothed in love– that is, Christian love; agape; unconditional love. That’s the empowering kind; not conditional love that is manipulative. And let peace rule in your hearts. If you can move toward peace, you are moving closer to God.

 

At the bottom of this piece of instruction, Paul tells his readers that Whatever we do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

So with all the volumes of Christian help books that have been published, these 5 verses might just hold the key to them all. If you consult God before you do anything, or say anything, and you pray in Jesus’ name, it lines up the pieces of our lives. Like having a limp rubber band pulled taught, going to God in prayer at the beginning of a day can line up your purpose and lead you to honor God and others with words and deeds.

 

At the bottom of that section is the little reminder that is often forgotten. Give thanks. That’s it.  Give thanks.  Giving thanks changes the world. People feel appreciated when they are thanked for what they have given: a present, a financial gift, or whatever. Giving thanks changes the giver because he or she is acknowledged; and giving thanks changes the recipient because it develops a sense of gratitude instead of entitlement. And you know who we dare not forget to thank: G-O-D; for our lives; for being loved so perfectly; and for our salvation through Jesus Christ. For giving us creation with all of its wonders! These are reasons to give thanks to God. We could write a thank you note on paper or in a blog and address it to God; or we could include it thoughtfully, rather than offhandedly, in our prayers. A giver can tell if a thank you if perfunctory or genuine.

 

Giving thanks. Paul saved it for last, perhaps because it should be first in our hearts!  To parents, spouses, teachers, coaches, and to God: give thanks.

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                          August 19, 2018

 

 

 

08-12-18 LIVING AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT

LIVING AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT

Psalm 27: 1-4; Ephesians 4:25- 5:2

 

In a sort of testimonial, David in Psalm 27 gives us a masterpiece of faith: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” Notice that it’s not addressed to God; it’s addressed to whoever reads it or hears it. It’s a person taking a stand of courage against the tumultuous tides of the world. Artur Weiser, in his commentary of the Psalms, suggests that David “expresses fearless trust in God which enables him to face the future calmly and undauntedly in spite of many perils.”  [PSALMS, Westminster Press, 1962, pp. 245-246.] And James Luther Mays, Professor Emeritus of Union Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, says:

[It] begins with alternating interdependent declarations about God and self: God is light, salvation, [and] refuge to the psalmist—the psalmist fears no human being (vs.1) The declaration would hold even for situations like the slander of evildoers, (vs.2) and the attack of a hostile army (vs.3).  He so trusts the Lord. [PSALMS John Knox Press, 1994, p. 130].

 

Can you think of a time when you hit rock bottom? Perhaps you had a personal crisis; a financial problem; a problem with an addiction; or a problem with your job?  Who could you trust? Could you lean on the everlasting arms of God to carry you over the troubled waters of that time? Perhaps you found others on whom you could depend.  Sometimes the light of God can be reflected from the heart of a person we learn to trust. Some people live as children of light; they are trustworthy, confidential, and wise. If you have found such persons, you know who they are. As we learned over the past several weeks, God’s people always wanted a God they could see, and touch, and face. But God refuses to become what we want; God is who God is. What, however, if God’s plan was for certain human beings to carry around some pure light with them? One person who did it perfectly was Jesus Christ.  He was so sure that he said to others “I am the Light of the World.” When he said, “I and the Father are one” in John 10:30, he claimed the light of God for his life. So that’s one person who carried the light perfectly.  Light is so important; to go into a dark cellar one needs light; to drive through the dark of night one needs headlights; to walk through a dark path one needs a lantern, a lamp, or a flashlight. Light is vital in darkness.  No one can make a room so dark that a single match cannot illuminate it: that’s the power of light, and the weakness of darkness!

 

When the Apostle Paul was writing to the Christians in Ephesus, he knew what spiritual darkness looked like! The Ephesians were surrounded by spiritual darkness: people worshiped at the Temple of Artemis; people bought idols in the markets, and their Emperor demanded to be addressed as “lord and god.”  I shared that with you last week. That was the first century. Now we fast forward to the 20th Century and the time when the world was facing the crisis of World War II. When writing about the strength and value of a democracy, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote these words:

…We may well designate the moral cynics, who know no law beyond their will and self-interest, with the scriptural designation “children of the world;” or “children of darkness.”  Those who believe that self-interest should be brought under the discipline of a higher law could be termed “the children of light.”… [He went on to say] The [western] world came so close to disaster not merely because it never believed that Nazism possessed the demonic fury which it avowed. Civilization refused to recognize the power of class interest in its own communities. It also spoke glibly of an international conscience; but the children of darkness skillfully set nation against nation …. The children of light must be armed with the wisdom of the children of darkness but remain free of their malice. [THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT AND THE CHILDREN OF DARKNESS, Charles Scribner’s and Sons, New York, 1944; pp. 10-41]

 

Niebuhr’s conclusions seem alarmingly timely although written over 70 years ago. Notice how the children of light must know about the children of darkness; they should learn their ways without falling into moral decadence, blindness, or relativism. Some of the most vital information available for winning a war comes from your enemy, Espionage, as we know, becomes a vital resource for collecting information on an enemy.

 

The Apostle Paul in both his second letter to the Corinthians, and again in his letter to the Ephesians, equates followers of Jesus as children of light, and those who don’t know or deny Jesus as children of darkness. Can’t you hear the tempting words of the children of darkness: “Come on, everybody’s doing it.” We now hear of people hiding their taxable income from the IRS and of people hiding their large amounts in off shore accounts. We know that parents and their children work outside of the rules to obtain high SAT schools for college scholarships. Some will do anything for coveted scholarships. We need to know the ways the children of darkness operate, but not follow their paths.

 

Several years ago, a girl in one of our Confirmation Classes had a classmate say to her: “Christians have no idea what the Real World is like.” That’s another phrase the children of darkness say. Real world. It as if to say in the real world people have to lie, or cheat or steal to get ahead; they have to bend a few rules, do a few drugs, or sleep with others to get ahead. But the children of light should not be naïve; need to know what goes on in the ranks of the darkness. Ig’s good to know what quicksand is out there and the consequences those choices bring.  There are examples of children of light and children of darkness all around us. Daily decisions and temptations can have lasting effects. Let me leave you with the words of Ephesians from The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, by Eugene Peterson. In this section that has the title: “The Old Way Has to Go,” he records these great words starting with verse 17. Paul says:

 

And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there is no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God, but with reality itself.  They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.  But that’s no life for you! You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, and been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
Today, make any changes necessary in your life to become a better child of the light.

Let us pray: Dear God of Light, you have already placed your light in us; you gave us your essence as we were being created. But sometimes darkness and bad habits shroud the light in our souls. Help us to remove any shrouds within, to let your light shine before others: in what we say and what we do. We pray through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                           August 12, 2018

 

08-05-18 THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST’S GIFTS

THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST’S GIFTS

Ephesians 4: 1-16

 

Long before God formed me in the womb of my mother over 62 years ago, I wonder how the Holy One did it?  Did God, like a child, cut up my features like paper dolls?  Did God, like a teen in chemistry class, mix my ingredients together, and make me?  Or did God, just know how to put the right chromosomes together and then endow me with spiritual gifts- like wisdom, understanding, and respect for the Lord?  Who knows how God made me and gave me the gifts I have? Who knows how God made you? But it is clear that there is not a set recipe for any of us. Like snowflakes, we are all different. But like Christmas cookies, we are sprinkled with characteristics that make us unique.  Some in our midst serve God directly as a minister, a chaplain, a choir director, an organist, a Sunday School teacher, an usher, an elder, a or a person showing great hospitality.  Others have similar ingredients but their work took their gifts in other directions.  Some are excellent at medicine, some excellent with their hands, or with their hearts, or with their minds. There are so many professions, jobs, and important tasks that need to be done in our world.  And yes we can take a raw talent and hone it. With practice, someone can be good at sports, or at music, or at mathematics, or in construction.  As the late Mr. Rogers used to say to his television neighbors: “Each of you is unique. There is no one else quite like you!”  And so it goes.

 

When Paul was writing to new Christians in Ephesus, it was a very cosmopolitan town- and very pagan. In the city was a giant temple to Artemis- the goddess of the hunt and of fertility. People would come and pray to her. And in the harbor was a giant statue of the emperor Domitian—whose ego was as giant as the harbor creation- believed to be 27 feet high on top of a massive base; and the Emperor demanded that people address him as “lord and god.” That was the climate of Ephesus when the apostle Paul started writing to a group of Christians there, trying to talk them into believing in the one true God, and in Jesus the Christ-the anointed one-the one who came to save people from the darkness and guilt of sin.  It was not a fertile land for planting gospel seeds in Ephesus; it was rocky to say the least! But Paul used God-given gifts for the same reason they’ve been given to us: for the building up of the body of Christ, which is the church. They are not given to stoke our own ego; they are given so the Body of Christ can be equipped to face the wiles of the evil one, and the distractions of the world.  Even in our day, finding fertile soil for planting gospel seeds can be difficult. Some people let words from a horoscope guide their important decisions.  Some people leave choices up to chance.  Others find their answers—and sometimes their gods—online or in peer groups.  Some fall into the world of gaming and bit coins that can move from fun to the darkness of obsession or gambling.

 

Into the first century world and—by extension—the twenty-first century word, Paul writes that he is “a prisoner of the Lord.” That is not just a metaphor; Paul was an actual prisoner, imprisoned for his testimonies about Christ! Some of the most powerful letters historically are from those imprisoned for Christ; the German Christian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a 20th century example that wrote letters from prison.  But in the first century world, when people could often been seen in shackles (or fetters) against their will, Paul’s claim that he is indebted to Christ and no other. He is willfully shackled to Christ. The response to the Prayer of Confession that Glory chose last week declared “O to grace, how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to me; let that grace now like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee.”  We, like Paul, may choose to be a prisoner for the Lord. But here was the radical proclamation for the culturally diverse people of Ephesus: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the hope of your calling, on Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.” Goodness. That would really turn people on their heads when they first heard it! “One Lord!” (not Domitian)! “One faith!” (in a community of many faiths?) What a ridiculous idea people must have thought.  Paul had brought a giant culture-shift to them, and today he keeps grounding even us in Christ during the shifting tides of our fast-moving world.

 

Next Paul talks about gifts; and not just ordinary gifts but ones from Christ. He says “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive and he gave gifts to his people.” Then, like a commentator, Paul explains what he meant: “When it says ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had descended into the lower parts of the earth.” Maybe you wondered where the phrase “He descended into Hell” originated in the Apostle’s Creed; this is one place it is found in the Bible. Then Paul listed gifts; gifts different from the Gifts of the Spirit listed in Isaiah chapter 11. Referring to Christ, He says, “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles (that means the sent ones), prophets (another word for preachers) some evangelists (that is, people who share the gospel with others), some pastors (generally persons who oversee flocks called congregations) and teachers (the a high calling of helping others learn about Jesus and the Bible). All of that is to equip us for the work of ministry.  When I was ordained as a minister back on July 24th 1981, I chose those words from Ephesians to be on the cover of my ordination bulletin. Those words grounded me then, and now, to Jesus Christ.

 

Finally, Paul says why it is important to be grounded, and to use the gifts God has provided. “We must no longer be …tossed to and fro and blown by every wind of doctrine; by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.”  That described Paul’s world but it describes ours too, doesn’t it?  There are people all over our land who want you money, want your allegiance, and want your vote; many of them will say anything to get them! They can try to influence you over the phone, through the mail, by hacking your information, or in person.  This passage implores us to stay grounded, using the gifts God has given us to ward off those who would trick us, entice us, or try to win us away from the one true God.  We may not have a shrine to a goddess at the edge of town, or a huge statue of an emperor off of our beaches, but believe me, there are those with a desire for power and influence who want to turn your eyes from Jesus. Don’t let them! Keep Jesus in your sights.  We who love Jesus are part of God’s plan to change the world!  Together let’s serve our Savior, and no other. Together, let’s give glory to God, and no other. And we can, together, be grounded by the grace and the words of God in the commandment “You shall have no other gods before me”—spoken in love, from the source of love. An anemic body of Christ may fall; but a strong body will stand. Do your part to keep the body of Christ strong.

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                           August 5, 2018