December 3, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Ephesians 6)

Submitted by Jin K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 6:1-3, 5-8

  • Consider the prominent place of the command for children to obey and honor their parents.  What would be the heart of God behind this command? 

The heart of God behind this is to create a posture of submission. After all, since birth, children do not know what is good for them and what is appropriate. As a father of two young children (the oldest one being 2 years old), it is evident that they do not know what is best for them even when it comes to eating. They don’t even know how to eat, when to eat, and this need for instruction and guidance spills out to other important areas of necessity for them including sleeping and hygiene. So it makes sense that the heart of God behind the commandment to obey and honor one’s parents isn’t to promote blind following but to create good habits of comfort with authority which inherently requires submission. To not be well practiced in this would be counter to the basic posture of a servant and follower of Christ.

  • How does the call to obey and honor human authority figures sit with me?

The call to obey and honor human authority figures used to not sit well with me. I used to think that people were not trustworthy. Much of it came from the advice of my parents. And it made sense since no one is perfect after all. But over the years, I’ve realized that though no one is perfect, human authority figures can help me to improve in whatever I want to get better at. I experienced this firsthand in sports through my coaches, in classes through teachers and professors, and in my jobs through senior coworkers and bosses. And I’ve learned that this is also the same when it comes to my spiritual growth in Christ. When it comes to loving people and trying to minister to them, I’ve learned that I’m actually pretty bad at it and need a lot of improvement. And I’ve benefitted tremendously from spiritual leaders who were able to provide me feedback, give me suggestions, and answer my questions when I needed guidance. I’ve also been able to witness human authority figures love others, love God, and see how that looks like in their everyday lives as they have to juggle obligations with regards to their daytimes jobs, children, marriage, family, and friends. And it makes me want to learn from them more and imitate their level of commitment and capacity that always has a lot of room for Christ and other people. And I’ve learned not only by observing them but by submitting to their authority, words of truth, words of encouragement, and instruction. There have been countless times when I’ve been skeptical about doing things but based on wanting to trust their advice, I would do it and would be pleasantly surprised. So though I naturally don’t like to be told what to do or be obligated to others, I am more open and willing and eager to obey and honor human authority figures in my life because as someone who has failed more and have a more realistic handle on who I am, I see that I need a lot of help.

Ephesians 6:4, 9

  • Reflect on the charge to the fathers to bring up their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  What are the relational requirements for this to happen, and how am I in this regard?

One relational requirement is that the father is relationally connected to God. After all, how can he bring him up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord if he doesn’t know how that’s like with respect to God? Another relational requirement is that the father has credibility with his children. Though the father may be able to administer the discipline and instruction, it would be futile if the children do not receive it well. And the credibility is largely based on the father’s level of discernment on how much the children can handle. When would be appropriate to be unyielding vs. not pressing a point all that far? Being too overbearing can create a sense of frustration within the children that they cannot do anything right and so, will not even bother trying to submit and receive discipline and instruction. I certainly have seen this case in many people. But for the father to be too yielding means lack of guidance for those who are in sore need of it. At the heart of this relational requirement is proper discernment in guiding someone out of love. The reason is that it is not a science where one principle always applies. Sometimes, anger is appropriate and other times, it is not. And the proper discernment comes to those who are well practiced in loving people. Another relational requirement is fondness between the father and children. There needs to be proper balance between discipline and instruction, and affection and warmth. Otherwise, it will be more difficult to receive such discipline and instruction from the father.

As for how I’m doing in these areas, I definitely need a lot of improvement. For my connection with God, it is something I am frequently fighting on a daily basis. Adjusting to now being a father of two, being entrusted with more ministry responsibilities, learning to love and raise up people with a different set of needs than what I am otherwise unfamiliar with – it is easy to be more caught up in the tasks I have to do rather than the greater spiritual need to connect with God. When it comes to loving people, this task-oriented mindset also spills over. I can be more focused on “getting the job done” in saying the right things, trying to get others to “doing the right thing” without going through the more patient and hard work of loving people. That is, being more creative in developing affection and fondness, learning more about others for clues on how to better discern what is going on inside their hearts and what I can do to help them advance spiritually. And on a more general level, I need to love more people so that I am better practiced at discerning and reading people in what they can handle and not handle and how to optimally “instruct and discipline” rather than in a mere mechanical way without appreciating the nuances of the situation. So the main lesson for me is that there is no shortcuts to loving people and it is something I need to do more in terms of focusing more on developing relational strength rather than simply administering instruction and discipline.

  • What is the heart of God behind the command to the “fathers” (v.4) and “masters” (v.9)?

The heart of God behind those commands is that those in authority positions are not to abuse it. Their positions are not to be burdensome to those under them. They are to be sensitive to the needs of the people they have authority over and to take good care of them. This is in stark contrast to the times when people in those authoritative positions had free reign to abuse those under them, without any regard. God’s envisioning of authority is very different. It is to further love and growth, not for further expression of human abuse of power and pride. So the fathers and masters he is addressing actually have a higher form of responsibility.

  • How do I typically treat those who are in weaker positions?  

As I increase in my responsibility ministries and am given more titles and authority, I’ve been noticing that being mindful of those in weaker positions is something I need to actively do. If I’m not careful, I can be gruff, unloving, rude, and not appreciative of the effect of what I might have people in weaker positions. Yet it is easy to be this way by default because there are more concerns now on my plate, more people on my mind, more logistics to take care of, and it is easier to just wanting to get tasks done, furnish simple information transfer. However, the long-term effect can be that those in weaker positions turn out to be just like this way when they move up to the seats of greater authority. And this would not be good. It’s raising more unloving people just like me. And I appreciate all the more of what disciplines my spiritual leaders have exercised in being gentle, kind, and loving by default, rather than abrasive and rude and uncaring. This is how God wants to stretch my heart as he tries to raise me up. And the real test of love is how am I treating my neighbor, how mindful and considerate am I of them, especially those in “weaker” positions.

Submitted by Kan L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 6:1-3, 5-8

  • Consider the prominent place of the command for children to obey and honor their parents.  What would be the heart of God behind this command? 

The prominent place of the command for children to obey and honor their parents reveal God’s value on proper human authority and order at a very basic level.  The Christian concept of freedom is not one of irresponsible freedom where one can do whatever one wants to do.  God cares a lot about respect toward human leadership starting from most basic level of parenthood.  He is the one that puts it there to begin with.  The same extends to servants’ relationship with their masters.  They are to respect their masters with sincere heart as they would toward Christ.  I think the general principle is that God wants people to respect authority.

This is no license on behalf of the authority figures to abuse their power and do whatever they want as well.  God here calls parents and masters to relate to their children and servants properly as well.  Parents are supposed to teach their kids “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Masters are supposed to relate to their servants as their servants are called to do so toward them, which meant service and sincerity of hearts.  The passage suggest that that the authority figures play the role of representing God or being God’s instrument for teaching people about serving him in some ways.  Parents are the role model and teachers who instruct their children about God.  Also, in serving the masters, the servants get a chance to direct their service toward God.

I think through submission to parents and serving one’s masters (or other forms of authority like a manager, superior…today), God can tangibly teach people how to relate to authority and to him ultimately.  The call to submission to authority can seem oppressive but when there is genuine respect and submission toward proper authority, such relationship can actually be very rich.  I just think about the example of children have really good parents and obey them.  They can learn so much and their respect, admiration, proper fear, and desire please their parents is actually healthy, very helpful toward them and beautiful.  I think about servants and masters, royal servant-hood toward good masters is rich and beautiful as well.  I think to sum it up, the call to submission for children and servants and the call to proper leadership for masters and parents is really meant for us to thrive.

  • How does the call to obey and honor human authority figures sit with me?

I don’t have anything against human authority necessarily.  I actually grew up with good parents and had good teachers and church leaders all my life, and along the process, I actually learned a lot from them.  But I do see that there is a rebellious part inside of me.  I don’t outright rebel, but can be stubborn with my own ways when it comes down to how I want to conduct my life or approach various things.  I will listen, try to obey and actually try to learn from authority figures in my life, but I know that inside resilience to have things my way.  It has surfaced through me outright disobeying or holding on to my ways in small things.  I had to repent each time.  This kind of pride also comes out in my marriage as well.  I guess my wife is not really my leader but there is this part of mutual submission and in that way she does have authority over my life.  I find myself sometime just don’t want to do certain things simply because she told me to do so.  I can’t really explain the rationale behind this kind of rebelliousness except my basic pride and ego and being childish in wanting to have things my ways.  This is one thing I want to repent of once again as I do see it come up frequently.

As I look back at how God has blessed me through authorities and leaders, I see how blessed I have been.  I want to take some time to remember some of these things and let them remind and challenge me to commit to be humble, submissive and treasuring the authority figures he has placed in my life.  I think about my parents and various other close relatives who have showered me with love as I grew up.  They modeled for me how to relate to people, be honest, and be generous.  I think about the school teachers that took a personal interest in me and help me develop some basic skills and competencies in various areas.  I think about my Christian high school teachers who dedicated all their time and energy into teaching us, taking us through all sorts of sports, trips and fun activities, and taught us bible studies weekly so we have no time to fall into other sinful temptations.   I think about each of my leaders here, and there is just so much to be thankful for.  Through them, I not only go to know the gospel, but personally experienced and learned all the elements of an Acts 2 church and got excited about ministry.  I think about what I learned through each leader and I know I would not have been able to learn these things anywhere else in the world.  I would not trade all that I got to experience here in this church for anything else and most of these things directly come from or are made possible by the leaders here.  As I review my life, it’s very clear how prominent is the role of spiritual authority and leadership, and how I have been so richly blessed through them.  Of course then, it makes sense for God to challenge me to submit and honor such authority.  It’s not only for my own good but it’s also right.  Even as I recall the leaders God has given me, I see my desire to be humble, to draw close, and to really learn from, and find ways to honor these people in my life growing once again.  I want to make these things my commitment and also let this be a chance for me to give thanks for the good authority figures and leaders in my life.

Ephesians 6:4, 9

  • Reflect on the charge to the fathers to bring up their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  What are the relational requirements for this to happen, and how am I in this regard?

The relational requirements for this to happen is that the father is that the father has to be present, and know the child’s various needs and am doing many concrete acts of love and service to take care of those needs.  That’s the most basic aspect of the relationship.  Beyond that, the father has to how to communicate, discipline and instruct the child in the right way.  It starts with basic mannerism and extends to all other others of life.  Lastly, the father has to model for the child what it means to follow God and teach it to the child.  The father himself has to be a godly man, know God’s word, know spiritual discipline, have zeal in serving God, and then impart that kind of vision upon the child.

As I think about what it takes to raise a godly person from childhood, I realize that so many things have to happen first, and there is so much work that has to be done, even in just raising the child to be a decent human being who knows how to handle himself and relate to others, which I think is part of the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  But it doesn’t stop there.  Now, the child needs to know, love and fear God, which is a whole other set of teaching and disciplines.  So how am I in this regard?  I realize I myself fall so far short of meeting the requirements to be that kind of a parent who can raise my future child or people under me in this way.  I can fall short even in terms of basic acts of love and service because I am a very self-centered and lazy person.  I fall short of being able to teach younger ones in the discipline and instruction of the Lord in that my own spiritual discipline and bible knowledge need to grow, so I can model for them the right way to approach those areas.

The few things I can really work on now is really just basic acts of love and service as well as conviction and knowledge of God’s word.  I am about to actually be a father.  I remember having a conversation with my leader regarding how to prepare our hearts to be a father.  He shared some stories of how others have done so.  For me, I see my laziness around the house and slowness in terms of basic acts of service toward my life.  I know when the kid comes, the demands for just basic acts of service will grow tremendously.  I need to prepare by just being servant-like now, being there to clean each day, stay on top of the needs around the house and be quick to respond when my wife asks for help.  Another way is to use the extra time I have to really read the bible.  I always remember how my leader went away and pretty much read the bible as a full-time job for sometime and was so impacted, amazed and overwhelmed at the end that he was weeping as he finished Revelations.  I really want that to be my experience as well.  Reading/studying the bible all the way through is also what he said as an example of what someone did to prepare for fatherhood.  I know I need all the spiritual resources for that and God’s word is really the one thing I need to start with, not just for parenthood, but also for ministry.

Lastly, thinking about what it takes to raise a child to fear God, I just know I don’t have what it takes to do that in myself.  It’s the same in ministry.  God has to fill in the lack.  That’s why I am also so thankful that I actually get to part in a church like this where we do it together.  Here Paul takes to fathers, not a singular father.  I am not sure if he original intends to point out that raising a child is a communal project by doing this.  But I know it’s just true that I can only do so with every together in this church.  I am just thankful I have so many brothers and sisters where we can really help each other along the way.

  • What is the heart of God behind the command to the “fathers” (v.4) and “masters” (v.9)?

I think God’s heart is really for the “fathers” and “masters” to share in his heart toward people.  In both cases it’s an overwhelming call and responsibility to relate to people under them carefully.  The father has to teach the child to know and fear God.  The master has to lower himself to relate to the slave in the same way as God calls the slave to relate to him.  But that’s the kind of heart God has toward us.  He takes on the burden of raising us even though we are so sinful, rebellious, and just weak and foolish so many ways.  God is our master and he lowers himself to relate to us with humility, sincerity of heart and much sacrifice.  Through this command, I see how high God’s vision is for us and how much he wants to share his heart with us.  We may not be literally a father or master, but in some way we all play the same function to younger ones in our lives or people we are actually ministering to.  I am challenged by the call but also just touched and moved that God would trust us so much and want to share his heart with us so dearly.

  • How do I typically treat those who are in weaker positions?  

I know I don’t treat people in weaker position with the picture God paints here for fathers and masters.  Looking at the my core self-centeredness that I have been struggling with lately, I know how often, I just think about myself, my own ego and how I appear to other people.  I don’t have such father-like heart to weaker ones and have been trying to just grow in my basic sense of compassion and learning to put myself in another person’s shoe as opposed to being so quick to think about how I am or can be better than that person.  The command to fathers and masters here really challenge me once again to take on those same roles for people under me.  Given my recent conversation with my leader regarding with my struggles with my core self-centeredness, I need to create a new route in my heart by making it a practice to first put myself in that other person’s shoes.  I need to have this habit so that I won’t just first think about myself and forget about what that person goes through.  I can do this through journaling and just recalling my relational pattern find chances when I fail to do this toward situation where I am supposed to have compassion in, repent and actually think through what that other person must be going through.  This is a first step to grow in compassion especially for the weaker ones in my life.  I think God would want me to have that heart of compassion first toward the weaker ones.

Personal Prayer

Father, as it’s an incredible privilege that you call me to share in your heart as a father and master toward the younger and weaker ones in my life.  I confess just how self-centered I have been and just want to repent once again for failing to live up to these two roles.  As I review my life, I see how much I have been blessed by authority figures and church leaders in ways beyond my imagination.  Now I get to share in your heart and be that same kind of blessings to the people around me.  Please help me to embrace this role by just first starting to grow in service and compassion toward the people in my life.

Submitted by Esther L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 6:1-3, 5-8

  • Consider the prominent place of the command for children to obey and honor their parents.  What would be the heart of God behind this command? 

The heart of God behind this command is for us to obey and honor our parents is one of respect and love. It is fitting and right to honor my parents because of all the love and sacrifice poured out to bring me to where I am today. Additionally, God always has our best interest in mind and he wants us to have flourishing relationships. In v3, God clearly states his desires are that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.

  • How does the call to obey and honor human authority figures sit with me?

The call to obey and honor human authority figures for me used to be based mostly on fear. I would be a good trooper and obey and honor human authority out of fear of getting in trouble, wanting the authority’s approval, or just out of personal benefit. This made me really passive. When instructed so, I would abide but not out of my own personal initiative, but more in compliance as duty, obligation, and what I should be doing.

After years of being a Christian, I am beginning to understand the heart of God’s command to obey and honor human authority. Now, I want to obey and honor human authority because this is how God designed our lives to flourish and it is very fitting to honor them. God is not asking us to blindly follow all human authority. Like the commentary states pretty clearly what obeying and honoring our parents depends on “the age of the child and integrity of the parent.” As a student, honoring and obeying my parents meant being a servant at home, helping with house chores or whatever need was there that I could help and being responsible with my time as a student and finances. Now that I am married and independent, it is still important to love/serve my parents concretely and spend time building our relationship, but my decisions are independent from them.

When it comes to spiritual authority, I really value and cherish my leaders and the burden and difficulty it is to love me and shape me to be Christ-like. Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning for that would be of no advantage to you.” As spiritual leaders they have a higher accountability to God and as my sinful nature will always be at war with my spiritual nature, I want to do what I can to make their service a joy as it is naturally a huge burden. They are human too and I can love them through serving them and taking more ownership over our ministry and really take my relationship with God seriously and serve out of that.

Ephesians 6:4, 9

  • Reflect on the charge to the fathers to bring up their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  What are the relational requirements for this to happen, and how am I in this regard?

The charge to fathers to bring up their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” is very difficult. The relational requirement for this to happen is to have a vision for what the child will become and being really intentional on how to get him there. Discipline is not emotionally very easy as the child or person being disciplined can be hardened and proud. This may require sternness, sometimes appropriate anger, and unbending authority on the part of the person giving the discipline. To bring up children properly in the lord, requires this higher vision for the kid, and the parent to surrender their emotional comfort and be willing to do what it takes to mold and shape the child to be a person of character and one who knows the Lord. I think another relational requirement is to know how to love and build up the relationship so that when there is discipline, there is trust between parent and child where they know they are beloved and don’t need to strive to be what they are not.

As a mom to be in about 3 months, this charge seems beyond what I can do on my own efforts. I am weak in both regards. I’m not very good at building up relationships as evident in how I am very action oriented but not very compassionate and don’t know how to sympathize very well or connect deeply at the heart. I feel lacking in my other relationships due to my own lack of relational qualities. I am also not good at having vision for other people as I tend to focus on the day to day and week to week activities and just get encouraged and discouraged based on what I can see with my own eyes. This is a reminder for me that I really need to turn to God in prayer in preparation as I will become a parent really soon and also that I need to lean on my leaders and other older sisters who have gone ahead of me and really learn from them concretely how to live this out.

  • What is the heart of God behind the command to the “fathers” (v.4) and “masters” (v.9)?

The heart of God behind the command to the “father” and “masters” is the flourishing of relationships with our children as well as those who are in weaker positions. Ultimately when it comes to our children or those with weaker positions, we are to live before God and treat them as the Lord would want us to treat them. The contrast of not heeding to God’s commands would be “provoking our children to anger” or having adverse relationships with those in weaker positions.

  • How do I typically treat those who are in weaker positions?  

Typically, I think I treat those in weaker positions with:

– Lower expectation:  I don’t really have much vision for them and because I may be able to do something better than them because of experience, I may engage in telling them what to do, instead of empowering them to become more and growing to do more.

– I lack the heart of a spiritual parent where I have vision for them and want to move them in that direction with whatever it takes. It’s easy for me to just think about week to week what students are coming out to, how they are responding to the messages or growing in relationships, but lack that heart of a persevering parent that is willing to risk and do whatever it takes to get them to the next step.

Personal Prayer

Dear heavenly Father,

Thank you for reminding me of how you intended relationships with authority to be like. I know that it is through my Christian commitments that I have learned to obey and honor my parents much more than I would have if I were not Christian. Naturally, I would not have cared about them much or even appreciated properly all the love and sacrifice they have poured out on my life to bring me to know you as well as provide the best for me.

The relational requirements for being a good parent are way beyond me. I am not a very loving person and I can easily be more task-oriented and lack vision for others in my life. Lord, especially as I am going to be a parent soon, there are a lot of new challenges that I know that I am not capable to handle on my own. Lord, I want to surrender this new child to you and ask that you would continue to prepare my heart so that I can lean on you and others in this body of Christ who have gone ahead of me and who are models to me of how to raise children up in the lord.  Lord, I really want to grow in love for others and learn to concretely build others up more in the lord and really learn to have your perspective on people in my life so that I can love others more properly and learn to not be afraid to discipline or speak the truth in love when the need is there to. Please forgive me for treating others in “weaker positions” with pride and lacking love and vision for them in my life.

Lord, thank you for seeing me with higher vision and for loving me throughout the years through the various people in my life and continuing to have a desire for me to grow to be more like you in all my relationships. Please continue to help me learn to do the same for others in my life.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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