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A Chapter a Day: Ephesians 6

Ephesians 6, ESV

Children and Parents

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Bondservants and Masters

Bondservants,[a] obey your earthly masters[b] with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant[c] or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master[d] and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

The Whole Armor of God

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,  for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Final Greetings

So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.

Peace be to the brothers,[e] and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.


  • a. Ephesians 6:5 Or slaves; also verse 6 (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)
  • b. Ephesians 6:5 Or your masters according to the flesh
  • c. Ephesians 6:8 Or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)
  • d. Ephesians 6:9 Greek Lord
  • e. Ephesians 6:23 Or brothers and sisters
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Some Thoughts on Challenges

My former pastor taught a sermon last year on the source of all our struggles. In the moment I received his words as truth, I felt a rush of relief in my spirit. My body felt lighter and so did my mind. He taught from Ephesians 6:12 and though I’d read that passage numerous times before, I was able to comprehend it on a whole different level that day and every day since. His simple words were: “Our fight is not against people.”

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. ~ Ephesians 6:12

I had long since forgiven my dad for the destruction he reaped on our relationship and to our family. I had spent a number of years trying to build a relationship with him, but the last three years plus of his life I was “emotionally done” with him. I chose not to exert any more unsolicited energy on him. But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t willing to be available if/when he wanted me around.

I believe the challenges we face in our lives are all the same (source or nature) at ages 30 and 60 as they were at 3 and 6. We just process them differently and learn from different elements of the challenge.

For the past few years I’ve repeatedly had issues and conflicts with people in leadership positions who abuse their influence and authority (that may well be my biggest pet peeve for the rest of my days). The last three episodes have been in churches and the three episodes prior to those were in the work place. But the original episode (saga) was in my home with my dad. I haven’t always been able to see the link. But now that I am able to see that these situations are the same challenge in a different wrapper, I seek God immediately and constantly and ask, “What am I supposed to get from it this time? What did I miss last time?” I don’t want to go through it again if I don’t have to.

With each person/episode I learned something more about myself. With the first work situation, I quit the job (I became too stressed from the conflict). The second work situation, I sought God first, then quit in faith that he would provide a better situation for me. In the third work situation, I refused to move until God told me to. That led to the best job and boss I’ve ever had (current position).

With the first church situation, I confronted the leader (as instructed in Matthew 18:15-17 – directly, within the group and then took it to church administration). Nothing was done at any of the levels and I didn’t feel up for the fight, so I stepped away from the church. With the second church situation, I did the same process, however I felt released to leave that particular church (the same church as before, but a couple of years later). I’ve just stepped away from my third church conflict and I took the same steps (direct/group/leadership confrontation). In each of these situations, I have stood firmly on the word of God, but the first time, I identified myself as my mother’s daughter. The second time as my own woman (I’m too grown for this mess!). This time I snapped in my authority in Christ – I am a child of God (you betta recognize!).

The church conflicts got me to vividly see the controlling spirit that has been following me around. All of the people mentioned were attempting to control some aspect of me – my mind, my life, my behavior, my beliefs, my actions. There were some very deep moments of helplessness and hopelessness throughout the years. Moments of disbelief and unbelief, long periods of self-doubt – mostly before I began consciously acting on faith. By and large, the more I’m bombarded by the controlling spirits, the more I resist. The more I resist, the stronger I become. This is only possible through my foundation of belief, faith and obedience to God’s Word.

So, though the challenges present themselves in the guise of people and I am confronted with occasional fears of inadequacy, I am now aware going in, that the outcome will increase me spiritually and the fruit of the spiritual growth will manifest in my physical life. This awareness is the result of years of process. Five years ago, I met each challenge with a woeful cry and a pitiful, “Why me!” Now I’m likely to warn my opponent that they’re not ready for what I’m going to unleash!

Recent culmination: I met with my most recent former pastor a couple of weekends ago regarding an email argument with one of his small group leaders and myself. The issue at hand is that the church is teaching a “condensed summary” of the Bible (the target audience is new believers). It’s a ten week series; I sat in on the first week a few weeks ago. There was misinformation in the summaries from the word “go.” There were a lot of questions in the group and the group leader had no answers and didn’t direct anyone to the Bible. The next day, with the intention of helping, I emailed the group members who were in attendance (and whom were on my FB) and provided viewpoints on a couple of their questions with a lot of scriptural sources to look at (I was clear that they should research for themselves). The group leader took offense and told me to run any emails to the group by him first and that I was basically speaking in direct contradiction to what this church teaches. Then he labeled me a reformist and a couple of other theological terms. All of which I rejected in my final email to him – in the same email I identified myself as “simply a child of God who grounds herself in His Word.” The small group leader forwarded the emails to the pastor who asked to speak with me that week. Can I tell you, had I not been through all the other “situations” with manipulators and controllers, I would not have been ready or prepared for him? Since this whole bru-hah started, I had been meditating on Ezekiel passages, 1 Kings 13 and 2 Timothy 2.

The pastor’s game was to show himself as a “friend.” I had already identified him as the old prophet from Bethel in 1 Kings 13, seeking only to lead me to a spiritual death. I had already determined he was not going to win the battle for control of my spirit (i.e. what I feed my spirit (whose words)). Had the Holy Spirit not put the above passages before me right before all this broke out, I perhaps would’ve gone down, because as I told the pastor, ultimately, I want what was on offer at that church – I want to belong someplace, I want to connect with people, I desire a community, I’m looking for leadership and I would rather not stand alone. Yes, his community-minded church offers all that, but as I also shared with him, community is nice but it doesn’t trump a personal relationship with God. I am not going to believe any man, group or organization over the Word of God – no matter the level of education or years of experience. If their words do not ring true or line up with the Word as I read it and understand it, I have to remove myself their influence. It’s paramount that we not only cultivate our personal relationship with God, we must also protect and nurture it. Cultivation, protection and nurturing by nature means limited, reduced or no exposure to harmful elements with a focus of positioning, directing and feeding that which is being cultivated, protected and nurtured only good, healthy food for growth and strength. That’s how I view my relationship with God and by extension my other personal relationships.

What was the deciding factor to move on from this last church situation? The pastor’s defense of teaching the condensed summaries was that the Bible is derived from oral history (i.e. how are we to know that what is written is as it was said thousands of years before it was put to paper?). I replied that all scripture is inspired by God. He replied that so are the condensed summaries. Before I shut myself up, I reiterated that no one should be taught a man’s version (re-writing) of God’s word with no direct foundation of God’s Word – i.e. they need to be directed to the Bible. From there, they will develop an ear to hear anything he or any other man has to say. The role of a pastor is to teach the undiluted word of God. Interpretation is fine; the Word of God is only manageable in bites. Re-writing and omitting? Not good.

All this to say – challenges build us up – whether they are perceived to come from ourselves or from others. The whole design of our life will be affected by how we handle them. I’ve learned that the worst thing I can do is run away and bury my head in the sand – nothing changes that way, least of all me.

Know that you are blessed in your struggles and God is glorified when you face and persevere in your challenges.

Be blessed.

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Combating Spirits in the Church

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. ~  Ephesians 6:12

God is good!

This report is over two years in the writing. I didn’t dare write a word of it for over a year while I was in the midst of it. Then once written I wasn’t comfortable sharing – my disappointment was too raw. As I’ve been told since, there’s no hurt like a church hurt. Now the tenderness from this episode has eased and I can share in hopes of offering support for your walk.

The “Church”

I joined my first church in April 2007. Before that I was what I call a “professional” visitor. I visited one church for nearly eight years. Another I popped into on special occasions. Others I walked into by invitation or curiosity. I never thought of joining any of those churches. Within three months of visiting my current church, I felt the Spirit encouraging me to join. I remember my conversations with God during services – He was urging me to get up during the Invitation.

I don’t think now is the time, I told him. (This was before I started working on my obedience!) What if this isn’t the right church? What if these people aren’t the right people to fellowship with? What if… I was listening to Him, but I wasn’t ready to obey. The urge to get up for the alter call didn’t stop, His voice got louder. After a few conversations, I realized  the decision to join wasn’t really mine. That was the church I was supposed to be at.  My only “choice” was when I was going to obey His directive. By that point I knew I was going to do what I was being told to do. In an effort to buy time, I started bargaining. I’m not dressed right today, Father…. I wore the wrong shoes… my hair isn’t right… everyone’s going to be looking at me…. Can’t we do this another way?

I attend a sister church of a church that was founded over thirty years ago in California. When I joined, my local church was about five years old.  At that time we had guest pastors, no permanent local pastor. The founding pastor came to New York every once in a while to conduct the service. I visited the church because of the founding pastor – I had watched his televised sermons for some time prior to moving to New York.

So I looked up during one service when the founding pastor was visiting and said, “Ok, Father, how about the next time Pastor is in town I’ll go up, accept the invitation and join the church?” That was my bargain. I sat back satisfied, thinking I had bought myself a couple of months of maintaining my visitor status. That was a time the Pastor came every two to three months.

The following week, there was a surprise announcement at the beginning of the service: The founding pastor had flown in and was going to conduct the service. I looked up and said, “Wow! You are really serious about this!” I stood up and joined the church that day. The day was made even more special because the founding pastor had flown in to announce the appointment of our new permanent local pastor, Pastor Starks. I had been attending Pastor Starks’ Bible studies since the beginning of that year, so I was beyond pleased with his appointment.

I had already been active in church activities, but after joining I put a finger into as many pies as I could. I knew right away that I was interested in teaching the New Members class eventually; I wanted to be one of the smiling faces greeting those new in Christ or simply new to our church. Anyone applying to teach the New Members class was required to participate in all of the church ministries (2-3 meetings or events per ministry). I attended each meeting and event cheerfully. From the summer into the winter I threw myself into learning all about this new entity I had committed myself to. We were only required to observe, but I usually participated. From the first meeting I attended for the Arts Ministry, I knew I would end up spending a great deal of my time with them.

Another Kind of Spirit

Mrs. W. was the leader of the Arts Ministry. She had a twenty year history with the original church in California and she ran the Arts Ministry as if it was her whipping post. This person did not have the heart, mind or spirit to lead anyone in Christ’s church, certainly not a ministry touching on so many lives. It didn’t take long for me to see Mrs. W for what she was – a bitter, mean-spirited, nasty bully. She was abusive to everyone – children, women, I had even witnessed her talking slick to the new pastor. I was horrified to see her yanking and pulling on people; outraged to hear her talking down to people. I had been at the church for less than a year at this point and didn’t think it was my place to check an elder. So, I spoke with the other women in the Arts Ministry. They all shrugged and turned away, “That’s just how she is. She don’t mean nothing by it.”

Then I spoke to the children. I told them they didn’t have to accept Mrs. W’s treatment. I encouraged them to speak to their parents about her treatment of them. Soon the children were getting kicked out of the Arts Ministry for questioning Mrs. W’s authority. Her retaliation was to ban and shun people when they spoke against her treatment of them.

One night we were working on a ten foot banner for the Christmas program. Mrs. W and I had already had some words earlier in the evening. I had been there since early afternoon listening to her foul comments so by the time she came at me around midnight the sugar and deference for my elders had worn off of my words. This was our last confrontation and I can’t remember any that came before it.

Mrs. W had a habit of snapping on people so hard grown women would start crying or stand in front of her quaking. I’m talking about women within her age group, 50’s to late 60’s. She did everything but curse you and your descendents – you’re stupid, you’re ignorant, you don’t know nothing, this is my world, you’re just a squirrel…on and on ridculousness. Then she’d end each meeting with a group hug and prayer. Her prayers were wonderful, eloquent and beautiful. However, I didn’t trust the speaker and tried to stay towards the outside of the group hug and if possible avoid touching anyone touching her. During most of these prayers, she would offer an apology at large for her abusive language and behavior. She would claim, “That was just Satan showing himself and I had to beat him down.”

Well, on this particular night before Christmas, we are sewing, pinning, and decorating a ten foot banner. Six of us were still working around midnight. Mrs. W started complaining about my speed. “Move, girl, you’re moving too slow!” I maintained my pace and told her, “You need to be happy I’m still here. I should’ve been in bed a couple of hours ago.” A short while later, I asked someone to pass me some stick pins. Mrs. W was closest to me. She grabbed a handful of pins and slammed them into my open palm.

That moment has been frozen in my mind. I heard some of the women sitting around the banner inhale sharply and exhale nervous laughs. That shocked me too – that women could witness such abuse and not say a word. I saw the pins spread out slowly across my open palm with one standing up directly in the center with a bead of blood pooling around the tip. And then there was silence. I couldn’t take my eyes off my hand. I couldn’t stop staring at the long stick pin standing straight up in the center of my palm, in my blood. In a bewildered voice I whispered, “You drew my blood.”

She reached for my injured hand, “Let me see!” I pulled my hand back. She reached for me again. Another astonished whisper, “My mother never drew my blood.” What I was thinking was my mother wasn’t abusive to me. If anyone had the right to punish me physically it would have been her. I got through my childhood physically unscathed only to be accosted in the church? That didn’t sit well with me. I am not a child to be cowed or disciplined. Not that a child should have been in such a situation, but hopefully, you get the gist.

She reached for my hand again, grabbing for my wrist. “Let me see! I didn’t mean anything by it. That was the devil coming out…”

I grabbed her wrist, removing her hand from me and held it between us.   I looked her straight in the eye and continued in my quiet voice, “That was not the devil; that was you. Your impatience, your disrespect.” Her whole countenance changed, her face sort of drooped. She truly seemed to age before me. I dropped her wrist and moved away from her to continue working on the banner. A short while later, she cut her hand with a pair of scissors, letting out a near bellow. She looked over at me,  down on the other end of the ten foot banner, her eyes fiery, “I know you’re probably thinking that was payback, uh?”

I flicked her a glance, “Not at all. I didn’t cut you.” The woman started crying. For the first time she spoke an apology to me for slamming the pins into my hand. I accepted her apology and went back to work on the banner.

We were a couple of weeks away from our first holiday performance. We were scheduled to perform for the Christmas and New Year’s Eve service. I decided not to approach the pastor about her until after the final performance. I called the pastor’s office on the first day it was open after the New Year. I made an appointment for the following week.

I started my meeting with him by stating that I am somewhat sensitive. Not big-baby-sensitive but rather, I have a sensitivity to undercurrents that most people don’t pay attention to. Perhaps I didn’t explain myself well, because I believe my pastor mistook me for meaning I am easily offended and as a result my female emotions had me in a snit. He suggested I speak to his wife about Mrs. W, which didn’t make sense to me because the crux of my complaint was about inappropriate behavior within church leadership. I wasn’t having a “female problem” that only another woman would understand.

That being said, I did as I was told and met with the pastors’ wife. She listened and reassured me that Mrs. W meant no harm, that was just the way she was and as a “creative-type” her demeanor and behavior was pretty much par for the course.

I listened in growing disbelief. I provided a couple of rebuttals that made it clear I wasn’t interested in what I was being told. I was explicit in stating that Mrs. W should not be in a leadership position in the church and most especially not in charge of children.

The pastors’ wife looked at me and gently said, “You’re looking for excuses to leave the church.”

I replied with a slight negative shake of my head, “No, I’m looking for reasons to stay.”

Practical Application

We’re told in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” Mrs. W wasn’t interested in speaking privately with me.  Her words were more venomous between the two of us than they were in a group. Matthew 18:16-17 says, “But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” When I spoke to the pastor and his wife I gave them names of people who had had run-ins with Mrs W. and who had also complained and suggested they speak with those people.

I left the meeting with the pastors’ wife under the impression that she and the pastor had no intention of taking any action against Mrs. W.

My goal in looking for a church home was to find a place to fellowship with other people who loved God and who were trying to live Christ-like lives. I wasn’t and am not interested in a church home where I have to fight off abuse. And I’m certainly not interested in an abusive church home where everyone is okay with the dysfunction.

My mother only slapped my face twice in my life – age thirteen and sixteen. Both slaps were well-deserved. I had spoken to her belligerently and disrespectfully on those occasions. Prior to that, the last whuppin’ I had received was when I was ten years old.  Overall, I was a very well-behaved child. So, when, at age thirty-two, Mrs. W took it upon herself to physically reprimand me for a perceived slight, I truly had to think back to a time my body had been assaulted. Certainly, my mother never caused me to bleed even in her extreme anger, frustration and hurt over the way I was made to be the center of the turmoil in her life. Mrs. W had no authority. She had no right. She had no justification to lay an ill hand on me. Even though I spoke up when she did it to others, her boldness in abusing me… well let’s just say, she didn’t know who she was messing with.

She may have uttered eloquent prayers and statements, but I truly believe I am a child of God. If you’re coming against me, you’re coming against His power. I was just beginning to understand what that meant. Mrs. W. attacked me while I was just a newborn walking in the word. As much as I knew God was with me, I wasn’t looking for strife, most certainly not in the place I went to worship.

Personal Combat

I stopped attending that church. I was hurt. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly where I was hurt, but I was deeply wounded by the thought that I had committed myself to a house of worship that would harbor anyone in leadership with such a disregard for her fellow siblings in Christ. Not only that, but harbor someone who openly claimed the devil took control of her actions every now and again. If the pastor couldn’t see the error in that positioning, I was not about to keep my own spiritual growth under his tutelage. If he thought Mrs. W was okay then I would be exposing my spirit to the taint seeping from hers if I allowed myself to remain in an environment that supported her behavior.

I visited the church twice in the thirteen months of self-exile. Both times I left even more discouraged. During that year of spiritual anguish, I felt as if I was running away from a fight. But I knew enough to know I didn’t know how to fight the spirit controlling Mrs. W. I spoke against her. I brought her ways to the attention of the church. I followed scripture. Yet she was still in position.  That was a serious blow to me. Not to my belief in God, but to my belief in the basic good of man.

My main lessons during that time was listening and obeying.  Though my flesh felt like facing down the bully, I heard “Stay away for now.” Truly, I didn’t want to stay away for that long. There were many Sunday mornings I got up and got dressed and walked to my door, but couldn’t exit. And those two times I made it to the church were from sheer willful disobedience. I hadn’t been released to return, which is why the discouragement was so acute both times.

One day, early spring the year following my departure, I was told to return. I was nervous because I knew I would cross paths with Mrs. W. By nature, I am a forgiving person, however, I doubted my ability to be cordial to Mrs. W when our paths crossed. When I was able to commit to myself that I would greet her in love and kindness no matter how she looked at or spoke to me, I felt ready to ease back into the services. I started with a couple of Bible studies. I was encouraged when the first two visits were uneventful. I got  in for the Word and straight out.

Then one day I stayed after service to thank the Pastor for his message. His wife hugged me and said, “She’s gone. You can come back now.”

I was floored. I wasn’t expecting that. I thought the lesson was going to be on how to peacefully co-exist. I had been willing to let bygones be bygones.

The First Lady continued, “I’ve been praying that you would come back! I saw you a couple of weeks ago in Bible study and told the Father if I saw you again I would share this message. As a matter of fact, we received Mrs. W’s official letter of resignation the day before you first returned.”

I had a couple of other talks with her where she shared that the pastor couldn’t move against Mrs. W because I was the lone voice speaking against her. The people who had complained before me had dropped their complaints. The pastor wanted to be within the Word and required two to three witnesses. Two other complaints came in the months following my departure. And the church started efforts to remove Mrs. W from her leadership position and influence. By the time I returned she hadn’t attended in a couple of months and had officially severed her ties that week.

The battle wasn’t mine, it was the Lords’! That’s the lesson I came away with.  That experience was all about listening and obeying. He wanted use of my voice. And I spoke. Then He removed me from the taint of the fall out. If ever there was a situation that gave me hope, this painful period with my church did so. It was during that time that I learned to simply sit still and know the great I AM is God. I learned that all things will work to my good in His time. I learned that even if I am the only voice speaking out, I will continue to speak, because one voice can change things. One voice can encourage. One voice can speak for God when He is being grievously misrepresented.

“Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’ ” ~ 2 Chronicles 20:15-17