Archive for November, 2014

Wives, husbands, and now, children, parents, slaves and masters.  Paul is leaving the Ephesian church without excuse about Christ’s call on their relationships.  In Ephesians 6:1-9, his focus is on honor, respect, and obedience.  He begins with children.

Children, obey your parents; honor your mother and father.  This command was one of God’s ten most important laws ever given.  It even comes with a promise of wellness.  What it does not come with is conditions.  It does not say, “Obey your parents when you agree with them” or “Honor your father and mother when they have been honorable to you.”  It says nothing about obeying when we feel like it, when we’re not busy, or after we have finished whatever it is we were doing before they instructed us.  The most difficult times to obey and honor our parents is when we think we know better than they.  Unfortunately, we often think so from birth.  Ere goes the curse.  God’s Word offers no concessions in this command by way of age, intellect, busyness, or stress.  He does graciously offer a promise of well-being if we obey Him in this.

Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, no matter how old we are, God commands obedience and respect towards our parents.  Children who do not obey and honor their earthly parents are often hard-pressed to be found honoring and obeying God.  It is a prerequisite to learning obedience and respect towards him.  Why?

Because God said so.  In turn, he will take care of their tendency to be harsh, impatient, and unkind with us.  God’s command to fathers is just as clear as his command to children.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Paul wouldn’t have to say this if it were not a man’s tendency to err in this way.  Children expose our immaturity in the areas of patience, self-control, selfishness, love, kindness, gentleness, peace, etc.  God is also interested in mothers’ action towards their children, but it is understood here that their role is to follow the lead of their husbands in all things.  God laid the primary responsibility of patience, correction, and Godly instruction of children on the shoulders of fathers.  Because dad is the leader, the buck stops with him.  His wife and his children alike will often behave as he has led and shown them to do.  Therefore, God warns fathers not to discourage, frustrate, or otherwise purposefully anger their children.  Kindness counts, dads.  Teach your children well.  Fathers who do not obey God often raise children who do not obey God.

Finally, slaves.  In our culture, employees.  Do your work honestly, with subordinance, and genuinely.  Recognize that you are working for God, and God will repay you for your excellence.  Likewise, masters, or employers; bosses.  Do not rule with a heavy hand or abuse your authority.  Remember that you, too, have a master and he will not favor you for any earthly reason on the day of judgement.

And this is often my daily prayer:

God, help me to be a better child.  I know I do not honor you when I fail to honor my parents.  Help me to be a better parent.  I know my children will not grow up and obey you if I do not deal kindly, patiently, lovingly, and gently with them now.  God forbid they turn away from you because of my disobedience!  Help me to be a better worker in all that which I have been given to do.  I fall so short so often wasting time and sloughing off into an attitude of selfish laziness.  Help me be a better manager over that which I’ve been given charge.  Redeem my relationships at home, at work, and in the church.  Forgive me; forgive me; forgive me; forgive me.  God, give me grace where I have so often erred in these most important matters.  Amen.


Read Full Post »


I have three daughters.  I often watch them when they play.  One likes to be in charge, one like to play alone, and one likes to have all the attention.  This personality dynamic makes for some interesting games…and fights.

The one who likes to be in charge always wants control over what they will play, when, where, and how.  Her demands exasperate the loner who is not so concerned with group activities.  Just about the time when Little Miss Bossy and Little Miss By Herself begin to bark at each other, Little Miss Princess stops getting doted upon and begins to wail.

Punishment ensues.

With different personalities, there must be different kinds of correction.  If I simply say, “Stop fighting!” it doesn’t usually help them understand how they need to change.  One needs to stop being a bully.  One needs to learn how to cooperate and share.  One needs to learn how to take a backseat once in a while.  It’s my job to show them how.

Any time more than one personality tries to work together, weaknesses – which also happen to be strengths in some contexts – are revealed.  Fortunately, Jesus, in his great wisdom, is able to correct us all with one stop-fighting swipe.

“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. ” ~Mark 10:42-45

I went over this passage with the girls yesterday.  The disciples were in the middle of a very important discussion about who was going to be superior to who.  I watched Little Miss Bossy’s nose crinkle as she began to understand.  Little Miss Loner asked if she was going to have to clean her room.  Little Miss Princess quickly went to fetch her beloved blanket and inserted her thumb into her mouth instinctively.  The teacher, well, the teacher remembered what her friend had told her on the phone just a few moments before the lesson began.  (Thanks Mama Bean!)

“No one wants to be a dish rag in God’s church, but God’s church needs dish rags – people who aren’t afraid to get dirty doing what no one else wants to; cleaning the messes others leave.  A dish rag.  A small, insignificant item that is very necessary for cleansing.  These are those whom God has given to be ignoble; despised; rejected; unappreciated; outcasts – just like he was.”

“…those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you.”

It shall not be so among you.

Jesus did not come to teach people how to be the boss.  He came neither to work in the corner alone nor bow in the limelight.  Jesus came to serve and to give for the good of many – which includes being a boss, a loner, a charmer, and a dish-washer alike.  The catch is that all positions have the same goal – service.  Who are we to think we deserve a better earthly position than he?

But we do.  We do, we do, we do.  And the disciples clearly did, too.

Perhaps if every day was more like Thanksgiving, we would all get along better.  On Thanksgiving, differences are useful.  Little Miss Bossy can organize and execute.  Little Miss Loner can prep and peel.  Little Miss Princess can practice hospitality and pose for pictures.  Everyone serves.  Everyone shares.  Everyone gives.  Everyone eats – together.  Let’s face it, it’s hard to be angry when you’re busy serving, giving, and being thankful.

When we are thankful, we recognize serving others as a privilege we get to attend to rather than a burden we are obligated to complete.  When we’re ungrateful, service is a monumental roadblock on the way to selfishness.

The disciples of Jesus Christ were the only twelve human beings ever to walk the earth who got to physically hang out with God day in and day out.  What privilege!  What advantage!  What opportunity!

Were these men thankful?  Not especially, no.  They were fighting about who had the biggest britches and it led to melancholy misery where there should have been joy and thanksgiving.  Lord, help us learn from their mistakes!

Whether you are Little Miss Bossy, Little Miss Loner, Little Miss Princess, Little Miss Dish Rag, or even President Business, (as the “Lego Movie” schooled us to call Daddy) give thanks.  We are privileged to be alive.  Thanks to some fearless, faith-filled pilgrims, we are Americans!  We have an advantage over most of the known world.  We have an opportunity to know Christ and study his Word!

Lord, help us stop fighting with our own brothers and sisters.  Help us appreciate our differences and work together to serve and to give our very best to each other every day.

Happy Thanksgiving, turkeys.  Love, Little Miss Dish Rag

Read Full Post »

Excellent. Thank you, J.S.

J.S. Park: Hospital Chaplain, Skeptical Christian


I want to tell you about my most horrifying church experience ever, because it began so ordinary and subtle, and I want to protect you from the nightmare I eventually woke up to.

I know there must be so many more terrible experiences at church and mine is not nearly the worst, yet I hope you’ll know that not every horror story about church happens in a cult of backwood druids sacrificing goats to chanting.  It can happen in the most mundane sort of atmosphere with a slowly tightening chokehold, until it’s too late.

Years ago, I befriended the lead pastor of a church ministry that was doing amazing things in the community and we first became friends over the phone. The pastor explained that every church in America was doing it wrong.  This really appealed to my discontent about the church culture, and our phone calls were filled…

View original post 1,916 more words

Read Full Post »


Confession is the place where honesty and repentance meet.  The Bible tells Christians that we ought to confess our sins not only to God, but to one another.  It’s one thing to be knowledgeable about theology and teach it.  It’s quite another to share personal failure in light of that theology while teaching it.  I would venture to say that most people, if they are anything like me, learn much more from the latter teacher than from the former.  That said, honesty and genuine public confession is not only hard to do, but also hard to find inside the church.  I do not believe it is because we do not recognize our sin.  I believe it is because of the reactions we endure when we are most honest about ourselves in the assembly.

There is an ever swinging pendulum moving through the church erring on the side of naivety, then suspicion; believing the best then thinking the worst;  superficiality then fear – all of which are understandable when seeking to be real with those who are likely to misread, mistake, misunderstand, and even misrepresent our true stories of trial and transgression.  In other words, when it comes to sin we either don’t want to know or we think we already do; we think either more highly or not highly enough of ourselves and our brothers and sisters; we either hide our real selves or we quake in our boots and bail before the words we need to share ever even come out.  And that’s just fine with everyone else because they probably really didn’t want to deal with it anyway -or so we think.

But we all have those stories.  The Bible commands us to confess that we might be healed.  The implication in James 5:16 is that if we do not confess and pray with one another specifically about our own sin, we will not be healed.  Still, the utter frustration and crippling fear that comes alongside nitty-gritty authenticity is limitless.

Therefore, at the risk of being painfully repetitive, I have a few more words to say.  I don’t want to be redundant.  Really, I don’t.  Beating a dead horse is no fun for the reader nor the writer.  But after writing on Ephesians 5 three times over the past year and considering it’s message on countless occasions of solitude, I cannot leave this text without one final hurrah.

The problem lies not in what I said.  the problem lies in what I did not say.  I wrote about the context.  I wrote about the warnings.  I wrote about the commands and I wrote about the consequences.  Theologically, I think I covered the bases relatively well – for a girl, that is, without a seminary degree or even so much as a religious sounding surname to speak of.

Honestly, though, I’m having a problem.  I cannot move on to the next passage with peace.  Every time I try, I stop.  I consider my error and I drag my full of faults and failures feet.  I end up back at the beginning of Ephesians chapter 5 and I flail around trying to figure out what fancy linguistic form will fit this fetish.

“Be imitators of God.”

That’s just the beginning of a 21 verse, 25 command discourse given by the apostle Paul.

The problem is that when I consider myself, despite the fact that I do desperately desire to imitate God, I don’t know if I veritably ever really do.  Because Paul tells me exactly what imitating God actually looks like.  He says, “walk in love.”  I walk in love – sometimes.  Really.  I want to.  But I also walk in anger sometimes.  I walk in frustration.  I walk in impatience, fear, doubt, and disillusionment, just to name a few.  I pray repetitively every day for God to help me stop being angry, frustrated, impatient, afraid, unbelieving, and disillusioned.  But the next day is often the same.  But that’s just one command.  Twenty four to go, right?

I go on in the text.  Be moral; be pure; do not covet…

Fail.  Fail.  Double fail.  I can’t even walk into Walmart without wanting something I don’t need.

…be clean; no foolish talk; no crude joking…

I’d love to believe that I’m sophisticated, classy, educated, wise, and reasonable all the time.  Well, even most of the time would work for me.  But the truth is that I’ve often been anything but.  Ignorance may indeed be my middle name.  I can’t help but recall the foolish, thoughtless words which have left my lips in days past.  And don’t even make me finish the verse where he mentions being thankful.  Doubtless I have been one of the most ungrateful, spoiled children God has ever fathered.

Don’t sweat the small stuff, right?  Problem is, no matter what people say, this stuff is not small!  Paul goes on to tell me that God’s wrath is coming because of these very things!  His wrath! You know, that force that strikes people dead without warning when they complain about the redundance of his bread showers?

Ok, now here’s the kicker: “Do not be partners with them.”

*Swallows hard*  Them?!  He’s talking about me.

And that’s where I stop.  That’s the part where I begin to wonder about all the things I thought I knew – chiefly, has he really saved me?  I’ve been all but convinced otherwise by some who say they know.  And if he hasn’t saved me, has he saved anyone at all?  I love the Bible.  I long for the truth.  Theology is the solitary subject I chose to study.  Nothing else has ever captivated me over the past two decades.  I puzzle over the height from which I fell.  I grieve over the great sin I have committed.  I console myself with the stories of David, Noah, Moses, and Peter.  Their worst failings play over in my mind like a broken record.  I wonder why God ever chose them.  I wonder why he chose me.  I realize that I am altogether terrified of the evil capabilities of my own heart.  I pray.  I confess.  I fast.  I mourn.  I seek peace and pursue it.  I repeat it all over again.  For just a moment, I find the truth.  I am that bad – and so are you.   I am far worse than any person has or ever will accuse me of being.  We are sinners.  That is why we need a Savior.  That is why we need Paul’s commands.  It is why the Ephesians needed a letter, a church, and a leader so invested in their progress that he was willing to lay down his likes, his liberty, and even his own life for the likes of them.

I do not live a life of sin, but there are times I have.  There are precious few kinds of sin I have left uncommitted – if any.  If any human is honest with himself he will conclude as much.

And that is why we must confess…in the church – to God and to each other.  We must confess.  We must stop reacting to one another’s sin as if we cannot believe it.  We must offer one another the same amount of grace that we, too, desperately need.  We must be honest about ourselves as well as with others.  And when we are, and they are, we must, must, must resolve to treat one another the way we want to be treated when we have lost a painful battle in the war against the enemy.   It’s one thing to be well versed in church culture and biblical truth.  It’s quite another to share personal failure in the midst of that background.  I would venture to say that most people, if they are anything like me, learn much more from the latter than from the former – teacher or otherwise.

Read Full Post »

Continuing on in his instructions to the Ephesian church, Paul makes clear the God-given duties of husbands and wives toward one another.  In short, they are thus: wives, submit; husbands, love.

Knowing that God would not inspire Paul with unimportant things, and that Paul had no need to command what comes natural to us, let us consider carefully what is written to us here.

Wives, submit.  Submission is surrender.  All wives are engaged in a war.  The war is not between we and our spouses.  The war is between our personal preferences, natural tendencies, selfish desires and our obedience.  Our deference is to be to our authority rather than our felt needs.  Because God has made the wives’ authority her husband as well as Christ, the focus meant to drive our every decision is this: Will this please God?  Will this please my husband?  Our duties to Christ are realized in the sacrificial acts of submitting, receiving, and obeying our husbands.

Husbands, love.  God defines this love as sacrifice, giving, and cleansing.  The husband’s sacrificial love actually leads to the progression of his wife’s sanctification.  His duty is to give all of himself solely to her as Christ does for the church, and to “wash” her with the Word of God.  The command indicates that it is the husband’s duty to nurture his wife through selfless love, provision, and teaching.

For both the husband and the wife, these instructions suggest a giving up of selfish interests in order to serve the other.  When both parties cooperate in obeying these things, their marriage becomes a picture of Christ and his bride – the church.

We will be blessed both by God and one another when we commit to honoring his ways rather than our own.  It will probably look something like this:

“The love which God requires from the husband on behalf of his wife will make amends for the subjection which he demands from her to her husband; and the prescribed subjection of the wife will be an abundant return for the love of the husband which God has made her due.”  ~Matthew Henry

Read Full Post »


I’m not into movies.  I can count on one hand the movies I’d enjoy watching a second time.  Most movies violate at least two Loriland principles: 1. Don’t make me sit still 2. Don’t waste my time.  As a rule, I generally avoid movies on days that end in “y.”  I do like reeeeally like popcorn with liquid heart stop syrup, though, which just so happens to be the solitary reason why I submit myself to the theater every once in a while.

Last night was one of those nights.  We took the kids to see Big Hero 6.  With a marshmallow looking robot as the lead role, I assumed it was a tossup as to whether I’d actually be able to keep my eyelids from drooping for the entire 108 minutes.  Quite on the contrary, to my amazement, I was pleasantly surprised with the depth of this story.   I laughed, I cried, and I learned.  And, because I am generally such an anti-movie Nazi, I figure I should at least give credit where credit is due.  For a kid’s movie, Big Hero 6 was surprisingly excellent.

The story is about two very intelligent, albeit orphaned, brothers.  The younger, Hiro, is a prodigy who lacks purpose; the older, Tadashi, is a college student who goes to “nerd school” to build a robot nurse named “Baymax.”

When Tadashi is killed trying to help someone, Hiro is driven to seek revenge.  Since Baymax was designed to be a nurse, he reminds Hiro saying, “I am not fast.”  He upgrades Baymax and makes him a fighter…but with his original healing-centered programming, Baymax can do no harm.

Through a journey of anger, retaliation, revenge seeking, and helplessness, Hiro truly becomes a hero.  When Baymax refuses to comply with Hiro’s anger, corrects him in love, and reminds him of the will of his beloved brother, Hiro finds his purpose.  When Hiro lets go of vengeance towards the deceitful enemies who have robbed him of so much, he is miraculously able to save them from their own reprisals and teach them what he has learned in the process.

Big Hero 6 rightly illustrates how useless it is to return violence for injustice done to us.  It does so in a way that adults cannot miss and children can easily understand.  It requites the bloodthirst in all of us with a subtle, simple message of forgiveness and love.  Baymax teaches Hiro, and us, to turn the other cheek and apprehend (not destroy) evildoers for the sake of the common good – not personal vendettas.  Big Hero 6 is truly a masterpiece.

My Baymax is the Holy Spirit.  He is the gift left by my big brother, Jesus.  He will never allow me to do harm no matter how much I’ve been wronged.  He is not fast.  The work he is programmed for is painstakingly slow.  He refuses to comply with my anger, insists I let go of vengeance, and teaches me how to work towards the salvation, not destruction, of my enemies by ever reminding me of the one I love most – Jesus.  The Spirit of God heals what is broken in us and shows us how to do the same for others – just like Baymax did for Hiro.

Bravo, Disney.  You did it again…on the back of borrowed capital from Christianity.

Read Full Post »

After Paul describes what a life changed by Christ looks like and reminds the Ephesians that they were forgiven, he begins chapter 5 with a “therefore.”  In other words, because of these reasons – God’s forgiveness and your new life – you must “therefore” be thus and so…

What must Christians be?  Paul says this:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. ~Ephesians 5:1-2

Imitators of God.  Because we are God’s beloved children, we are called to be like him.  Christ gave the world the most conclusive example of sacrificial love it has ever known.  Therefore, Paul tells Christians to imitate God, to walk in love, and to live sacrificial for others.  These commands are couched in familial terminology.  What child doesn’t imitate his father?  It is natural to want to do so – especially when we are loved.

Paul goes on to name quite a few things that are unnatural and forbidden for God’s children.  He tells us what we are not to be.  Paul insists that those who make their lives out of practicing sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, filth, and foolish and crude talk have no inheritance in the kingdom of God.  He warns Christians not to be deceived because many will make light of these very things.  Do not listen to them Paul warns.  God hates sin.  A life lived justifying and dismissing fornication, homosexuality, idolatry, envy, foolishness, or even rudeness or unkind fun-making brings God’s wrath upon us.  His wrath!  These things – the things unbelievers all around us wink and smile about – are the very things that shut them – and, potentially, us – out of God’s kingdom.  Little wonder why Paul insists:

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. ~Ephesians 5:11

Take no part!  No part.  Don’t wink at these things and look the other way when you see them.  Don’t get as close to these things as possible and expect to avoid them.  Don’t approve or applaud those who do them.  Take no part.  Expose evil for what it really is – what God says it is.  Consider all the commands Paul gives in this warning: look carefully; be wise; do not be foolish; understand God’s will; do not get drunk; be filled with the Spirit; sing hymns and psalms; give thanks; submit to one another.  And believe it, when you do, doubtless you will suffer for it just like Jesus did.

These are the everyday things we are exposed to in the world.  Every single day we have a choice.  Either we can participate and justify them or we can avoid and expose them.  The former separates us from God.  The latter proves we are his children.

Let no one deceive you.  Sin is not a non-issue.  Exposing it is your business.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »