Comfort Your Hearts

Ephesians 6:22. “Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.”

Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter to the Ephesians.  He didn’t know how much longer Rome would let him live, and he knew the people in all the churches he’d helped establish prayed for him and wanted news of him. It was for this reason that he sent men like Tychicus to take his letters to the churches. Not only would the messenger deliver the letter, which was usually read to the entire body; he would also bring news of Paul’s health, his legal status,  and whether there was any hope that he would be able to visit them again.

As far as we know, this epistle was written in a.d. 64.  Best estimates are that Paul died sometime in a.d. 65-68. He felt. toward his converts, as a loving father does toward his children. He considered the fears they would have for his well-being, That is why his benedictions are often so tender.


Ephesians 6:21. “But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things:”

Acts 20:4 tells us that Tychicus had accompanied Paul into Asia, with several others. He is mentioned again in Colossians 4:7 as a messenger from Paul to the church in Colosse, and again Paul describes him as a faithful minister and fellowservant. Paul mentions him again in II Timothy 4:12, and again in Titus 3:12.

Apparently Tychicus was a member of Paul’s retinue, and stayed with him through his imprisonments, bearing letters and news from Paul to the churches, and back from the churches to Paul.

What a privileged position! To be so close to the one God chose to pen so much of the New Testament, talking with him, serving him, being the messenger back and forth between him and the people in the churches he’d helped establish.

Sometimes the most obscure people in the Bible had some very precious, very important tasks to fulfill.  I think Tychicus was one of those.

Ambassador in Bonds

Ephesians 6:20. “For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Paul wrote  this letter to the Ephesian church from a position of bondage. He was a prisoner of Rome,  because he would not stop preaching Christ as God.  In Rome, Caesar was God.  Paul would eventually die for his boldness in continuing to speak boldly for the sake of the gospel.

I’ve always loved this phrase,  ambassador in bonds.  It teaches us that we can still maintain our testimony for Christ, still preach the gospel, still offer those around us the freedom of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul knew what he ought to do, and he did it.

Paul Asks for Prayer

Ephesians 6:19. “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.”

Some have painted Paul as a man of unusual courage.  Maybe, but this verse indicates to me that he was just as human as the rest of us, and he wasn’t too proud to admit it.  Paul did not think more highly of himself than he ought to think.

I’ve wondered what might have been going through his mind as the Roman soldiers tied him to a whipping post for the first, second, third time. Surely there was fear.  A Roman scourging was no small punishment.  Some died under it. There had to be a degree of fear.

Al the other physical brutality he endured?  He was stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked, snake-bitten, and more. I can’t imagine he just  shook it all off fearlessly and went about his business.

But this verse is not a litany of complaints.  What he is asking is that no matter what may be his next episode of fear, he wanted prayer that he would open his mouth to speak the truth, the mystery, of the great love of God, because that was his mission from God and he couldn’t let fear get in the way.

I think perhaps his last few minutes of life, as they beat him before beheading him, were perhaps the most fearless moments of his life.  He knew he was soon to see the Savior that he served.

Praying Always

Ephesians 6:18. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in  the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance, and supplication for all saints.”

We need the armor for the battle, but without undergirding prayer, we won’t use the armor as well.

We are to be praying always. That doesn’t mean we spend 24/7 on our knees, because God knows we have to work and take care of the family and so on. But we are to spend as much time as we can in focused prayer. We are to be always in an attitude of prayer.  I do some of my best praying when I’m alone in the car, radio off. Multi-tasking, I guess, but that’s just a good place for me. Also while I’m swimming.  Hmmmm.  Seeing a pattern here. I do better with praying when I’m moving.

We are to pray with supplication.  Begging. Pleading. Beseeching.

And we are to pray for all the saints. Everywhere.  The ones we know, the ones we don’t.

A young man in Germany reported being assaulted for wearing his kippah, the head covering that identifies him as a Jew. We need to pray for him.  Is he a believer?  I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. We need to pray, because the persecution of Jews, Christians, women–it’s all an attack of Satan, and it’s leading to nothing good.  Pray. God is our power source. We need to be plugged in.

The Helmet and the Sword

Ephesians 6:17. “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

The helmet protects the brain, the eyes and nose, and the back of the neck.

The Bible tells us that “as a man thinketh, so is he.” If Satan can tempt us to think unbiblically, he has made a major victory. It is our thinking that motivates our emotions, words, and behaviors.  I wish I’d had a clearer understanding of this principle when we were rearing our kids. The importance of teaching them to think biblically cannot be overstated.  Biblical thinking eliminates pride, anger, selfishness, malice, rebellion, jealousy, disobedience–well, it’s the antidote to sin, obviously.

The Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is the only piece of offensive armor we have. Everything else is defensive, for protection but not for hurting the enemy. The Sword, however, is the very best offense there is.  Jesus used it against Satan when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness after 40 days of fasting and praying. Each temptation was answered with a direct quote from God’s Word  (Matthew 4).

In order to wield the Sword effectively, we MUST use it daily, studying, memorizing, taking into our thoughts and hearts the truth of the Word of God so that we can effectively use it in the spiritual warfare that surrounds us.

I’m still committing verses to memory on a regular basis.  It takes me longer than it used to, but it is so well worth it.  Also, I’m finding that there are passages I’d forgotten I’d memorized until something comes up, usually in my office, where the passage is perfect to respond to a client’s needs.  Sometimes I have to look up the reference, but my computer always finds it in just a few words.

 For the word of God is quick (alive), and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12.

Shield of Faith

Ephesians 6:16. “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”

This portrayal of the devil is nonsense, of course. He’s never that obvious, and I don’t believe he has horns or a tail of the lower body of a snake.

However, he does shoot fiery arrows at us. Despair, doubt, lies, fear, hatred, countless temptations to indulge in wrong thinking and wrong behavior.  One of his favorite “arrows” is wrong interpretation on scripture, casting doubt on the very foundation of our faith and doctrine.  The Bible clearly states that ALL scripture is inspired of God (II Tim. 3:16-17) and is profitable.  No one part of God’s Word can be set aside as not so important. It’s an all-or-nothing deal.

Our faith, founded in God’s Word and strengthened by the Holy Spirit of God, is a piece of armor that we can move, when necessary, to deflect all the arrows Satan throws at us to keep us from standing strong in the battle for the truth.  He won’t settle for a simple frontal attack. We have to understand that he is NEVER guilty of telling the truth; that if we are entertaining wrong thinking, Satan is doing a happy dance.

There are many verses I cling to when I find myself struggling with fear, doubt, and all the rest.  One is Psalm 119:165. “Great peace have they which love Thy law; and nothing shall offend (trip, cause to stumble) them.”

Another is Philippians 4:4-8, which teaches us the importance of supplicatory (begging) prayer, the deep peace of God, and the importance of biblical thinking.

Keep your faith strong. Be in the Word. Pray. Stand.

Prepare your Feet

Ephesians 6:15. “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”


Paul knew very well how Roman soldiers dressed. He had plenty of prison time to observe the details of their uniforms, and he applied that knowledge in a wonderful object lesson in this passage.

When we go to war, we need to protect and  fortify our feet.  Cleats on the bottoms help the soldier to dig in and stand firm.  A leather piece up the back protects the achilles tendon, and the toes are also covered.

The preparation of the gospel of peace.  Isn’t that an interesting phrase?  There is some controversy over the exact translation, because this Greek word for preparation is not used anywhere else in the Bible.  There are no grounds for comparison.

I’m going to go with the interpretation that seems to make the most sense to me:  We need to be prepared for battle, and we need to know the gospel, and be ready to offer the gospel, wherever we go.  It is the gospel, after all, that brings true peace.  The idea of protection of the feet with the Word of God is completely consistent with all the other armor.

I read through some other erudite explanations of this phrase, and they all made some sense.  However, they also seemed to be making much more out of this homely item, a battle shoe, than Paul probably intended.  We’ll know when we get to heaven 🙂

Teens and Suicide

Not a happy topic for a Sunday afternoon, I know.  Not a topic any of  us wants to discuss, or even think about.  Teens, after all, should be at the threshold of life, excited about what the future holds, looking forward to whatever comes next.

Instead, the latest statistics, according to several sources I checked, show that suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people 15-24 years old. In 2010, the three main causes of death for this age group, in order from first to third, were unintentional injury, homicide, and suicide.

The older a person is, the less chance there is that he will die violently by his own hand or by homicide.  People ages 65 and over rarely commit suicide.

So what has happened in our society, that our kids are killing each other and themselves at such an appalling rate?

This is not a scholarly research paper; it is an opinion piece. I’m basing it on my life experience, age 69, and observation of teens over the years during which I reared my own four, taught many, and now am counseling professionally.  So here’s what I think, not necessarily in order of importance, but just as things come to mind.

God got legislated out of our education system. Instead, we now offer courses in sex education, self-esteem,  and anti-bullying strategies. Courses of this nature were supposed to decrease teen pregnancy, violence, crime, drugs, alcohol, and so on.


I grew up watching Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver, programs in which the parents were smarter than the kids and the father truly was the head of the home, and everybody sat down to eat dinner together.

Today, our kids are growing up watching things we never dreamed would be on TV. Violence, blatant sex, complete disrespect for parental authority, and kids who are all smarter and funnier than their parents or teachers. And kids’ language these days includes words even the “bad boys” wouldn’t have used in front of girls.  They drop the F-bomb  without even thinking about it. Violent language comes from angry people.


Kids in my office tell me that “everyone” knows where to get drugs.  It’s easy. And if you need money, you can always sell drugs yourself.  Yeah, sure, it’s dangerous, man, but you know, you only live once. And if there is no God, then there is no heaven, no hell, nothing to fear, no authority to respect. We’re all just animals, after all.


Why are so many kids choosing death?   So many possible causes. I can’t believe the number of kids I see who are worried about what their sexual orientation is!  You don’t need to even be thinking about that at 12 or 14  or 16—at least, not in the world I grew up in.  But sex education today often includes “tolerance/diversity training” as well, and all the different options are presented to kids in a way that makes them wonder–am I straight? Gay? Bi-sexual?  Maybe I’m really the opposite sex trapped in this body.  I need to experiment to see what I really am.”  Kids are confused, worried, and stressed out because they’re being given information they’re just not ready for.


Bullying?  Oh yes.  Social media has given bullies, who are ALWAYS cowards, a wonderful  tool for their evil. They can hide behind their PC’s, or their phones, or whatever devices they use, and never have to see the fear and anguish their nasty behavior causes their victims.

Depression and anxiety are epidemic among our kids, contrary to all the glowing predictions that were made if we could only teach them to love themselves just as they are.  Our kids are afloat on a sea of anti-anxiety, antidepressant meds.  Prozac is the one most-often prescribed for kids, because  most of the others create side effects of worsening depression and suicidal ideation and behavior.  Isn’t that ironic?  The medicine can make the problem a whole lot worse! And if we depend on the medication and do not help them learn how to think about what is true and good—-


Pornography is also epidemic.  Easily accessed,  free for the looking.  Kids can even go online with other kids anywhere in cyberspace on their X-Boxes and access porn.  What?  You didn’t know that?  You need to monitor your kids’ history on their devices.  You may be in for a shock.

Cop-hatred, racial hatred,  hatred for any authority, hatred for anyone who has something someone else wants, hatred against the wealthy, against the poor, against religions and nationalities–it’s so much worse than when I was growing up.  Our nation stands divided on issues that most people agreed upon  55 years ago when I was in high school.  A simple thing like the Pledge of Allegiance, for example.  I don’t remember anyone refusing to say it, or the words “under God” creating angst for anyone. I did have one teacher, fresh out of college in 1968, who challenged me about a verse in the Bible that he found offensive.  Why me?  Because my dad was the pastor of the only Baptist church in town.  Baptists are Bible-bangers, and this teacher wanted to shake my faith.


So what can we do?  In this age of both parents working overtime, how can we take better care of our kids?

I know this is an old argument, but I want you to consider that we’ve painted ourselves into the corner with our belief that we have to have all the STUFF we have these days; that our kids MUST have all the coolest clothes, shoes, electronic gear, etc. Or what?  Well, they’ll be uncool.  They’ll be teased.  They’ll be bullied.  They may get depressed.

What if all the parents in a school district  agree together that they weren’t going to support all the expense of being cool?  That they were going to monitor their kids’ electronics EVERY DAY; that there would be no more wi -fi access in their bedrooms, no more computers, iPads, iPods, tablets that they could take to their rooms, slap on the headphones, and do whatever they please?  I’m not saying they should never have electronics.  I’m saying we parents need to realize the dangers out there and be busy about protecting our kids. Sure, they’ll be upset.  They’ll get over it.

What are we teaching our kids in our own homes?  Do we ask them what goes on in history, health, science, literature? Do we monitor what the schools are offering our kids? Or have we given up all our parental authority to the schools, the “experts,” who tell us that some incident or the other is an “in-school issue, and you (the parent) do not need to concern yourself with it”?

My high school principal tried that one on my dad back in 1960 something.  It’s not a new philosophy.  The principal lost that round and ended up apologizing to my dad. How about that?

Here it is:  Kids need parents.  They may think they need us only as a money supply, but they need us to be an active, involved, interested participant in their lives.

Sadly, there are some who are doing that, and are shocked and heartbroken to find their child has taken his own life anyway.  That’s because kids are very good at masking what is really going on, and a parent truly may not have a clue until it’s way too late.

It’s a difficult world our kids are growing up in. Please, do whatever you need to do to shepherd your kid through these crucial teen years when he’s being asked to make decisions about things you and I never even thought of until we were much older.  If that means decreasing your income, isn’t worth it?

Our kids are our future.  It’s SO worth it, whatever it takes.

I want to end this on a positive note.  It’s high school graduation season all over the country.  Every year, one of our local newspapers puts out an edition on the cream of the crop students from all over the district.  There are a lot of them; high achievers, dedicated volunteers, planning for an exciting future.  Wonderful. We have parents out there who are still turning out quality kids.

Be that parent.