Some really good new articles

This devotion from Swindoll is really good:

This Desiring God article about crying and emotions is really good as well:

Enjoy and God bless, 

Pastor Steve

An Introduction to Ephesians (Eph. 1:1-2)

An Introduction to Ephesians, God’s Letter of Encouragement in our Salvation in Christ (Ephesians 1:1-2)

Prepared and preached by Rev. Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Evangelical Friends Church in Poland, OH

Sunday, July 2, 2017


It is good to be here. It is wonderful to begin my pastorate with you on this day. Pastor Bobby has served faithfully as your pastor for twenty-nine years, wow! He was about my age when he was called as your pastor, maybe a couple years older than me. When I retire as your pastor I will be about his age as well. I hope to serve as your pastor a long time. I praise God for Pastor Bobby’s many years of service. To put it in perspective I think I was seven years old when Pastor Bobby was called as your pastor. I look forward to serving the Lord alongside Pastor Bobby and building a close relationship with him. I look forward to serving the Lord alongside all of you.

Today, I wish to introduce Ephesians to you.

Think about the freedoms we have.

In the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, VA, there’s a special display for a rickety, home-made aluminum kayak. This tiny, makeshift boat seems oddly out of place in the midst of displays for impressive Navy vessels and artifacts from significant battles on the sea. But a bronze plaque tells museum visitors the story behind this kayak’s heroic makers. In 1966, an auto mechanic named Laureano and his wife, Consuelo, decided that they could no longer live under the oppression of Cuba’s totalitarian regime. After spending months collecting scrap metal, they pieced together a boat just barely big enough for two small people. Then Laureano jury-rigged a small lawn mower engine on the back of the kayak. After months of planning and on a moonless night, they set out into the treacherous straits of Florida with only their swimsuits on. They had enough food and water for two days. After 70 hours, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued the couple just south of the Florida Keys. Was it worth the risk? Laureano said, “When one has grown up in liberty, you realize how important it is to have freedom. We live in the enormous prison which is Cuba, where one’s life is not worth one crumb. Where one goes out into the street and does not know whether or not one will return because the political police can arrest you without any warning and put you in prison. Before this could happen to us, we thought that going into the ocean and risking death or being eaten by sharks, is a million times better than to stay suffering under political oppression.”

The Los Angeles Times reported several years ago the story of a man and wife who died in their fifties and they found them dead in their apartment and the autopsy revealed they both died of malnutrition. What was interesting was that when the police found their bodies, which had already begun to decay by the time they were discovered, they searched the apartment and found in the closet a whole pile of little paper bags and they opened the little paper bags and found a total of $40,000. It’s a little ridiculous to die of malnutrition, and have $40,000 in paper bags in your closet.

Understand that you are all spiritually rich. You are wealthy in Jesus Christ. He is our Lord and Savior and He has blessed us with spiritual wealth. Ephesians teaches us of our awesome salvation in Christ.

 My theme today: Paul writes Ephesians and encourages us about our rich salvation.

I have an application for you: Be encouraged by your salvation, surrender to the Lord and share Jesus with others.

Read with me Ephesians 1:1-2:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. Let’s talk about the passage.
    1. The passage begins with “Paul.” Paul is the sender. He is the author. Some more recently have challenged his authorship for various reasons, though they do not hold any water. It is very clear by Biblical Scholars that Paul wrote this letter inspired by the Spirit. Some people say that Paul did not write this letter because he does not talk about specific people and issues. Some say he did not write this letter because he acts like he does not know them.
      1. One of my sources addressed that:
      2. The Gospel spread so he would not have known everything about the groups it spread to in modern day Turkey. The question of Paul’s apparent unfamiliarity with his readers can easily be explained. The ESV Study Bible says: Ancient archaeological evidence has shown that Ephesus controlled a large network of outlying villages and rural areas up to 30 miles (48 km) from the city. Also, Acts 19:10 reveals that reports of Paul’s preaching during his stay at Ephesus had radiated out to “all the residents of Asia.” Hence, Paul would not have been personally acquainted with newer pockets of believers in the Ephesian villages and rural farms that had sprung up since his stay in the city a few years before the writing of this letter.
  • Moreover, many have suggested that Ephesians in its present form stems from the Ephesus copy of a circular letter to several Asian churches that Tychicus was delivering in the course of his journey to Colossae, along with the letter to the Colossians (Col. 4:7–9). Therefore, the absence of personal greetings is no cause for surprise.
  1. The passage continues, “Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus…”
    1. As an application Paul was an Apostle of Christ Jesus (verse 1), this means we must take this letter seriously.
    2. Paul was an Apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will (verse 1), this means that he writes with authority over the church.
      1. As an apostle, which means “one who is sent,” this can mean that one is sent in a general sense, like a missionary. This can also mean, and in this case it does, that one, Paul, is sent in an authoritative position over the church.
      2. This behooves us to listen to these words.
  • Verse 1 also means that God has a will.
    1. This verse combats deists and open-theism. Open theism teaches that God does not know the future.
    2. Deists believe that God set up the world like a watchmaker who winds a clock and lets it go. The Bible teaches the opposite. God has a will. God is intimately involved in His creation.
    3. If God has a will then we must seek Him and seek His will.
  1. The passage continues: To the saints who are at Ephesus and who arefaithful in Christ Jesus: Paul wrote this letter to saints. It is encouraging to know that we are saints in Christ Jesus.
    1. In the New Testament we are always called Saints, not sinners, after salvation. As Christians, or, as I prefer to say, Christ-followers, our trajectory is towards Jesus, not sin. We are called to follow Jesus. We will miss up, but hopefully we are growing in Christ Jesus. Hopefully, the pattern is towards Jesus.
    2. How is that working out, let’s help each other out.
  2. Paul calls them faithful. You know as I read that and I think about an application, I hope I can be faithful in Christ Jesus. I will pursue faithfulness.
    1. Notice, we must be faithful to Christ Jesus. Faithfulness to family, to work, to our spouse, to our neighbor all fall under faithfulness in Christ. Jesus is our most important relationship. We must not make an idol of our job. We must not make our spouse our idol. We can do that. Jesus wants us to be faithful to our spouse, but He is first and most important.
  3. The passage continues: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
    1. Paul gives them grace and peace. This is from God, who is our Father, and the Lord, Jesus Christ. We are in a father-son, father-daughter, relationship with God, that is encouraging. We are family. Jesus is our Lord, this means surrender.
    2. We are so loved by God that He invites us into his family. This is called “adoption.” We have privileges of family. See 1 John 3:1).
    3. How awesome is it to be saved. As we get into Ephesians we see that the first few chapters are all about our salvation. Ephesians is rich in what is called “soteriology.” This means the study of salvation. Don’t miss this. We make many errors in Theology, like heresy errors, because we do not care to understand our salvation.
      1. I know, sure, some would say, “I don’t care how I am saved, as long as I am saved.” I can understand some truth to that. But, then how do we know we are saved?
        1. How do we know how to lead others to salvation?
        2. Do we know if we have to do anything to saved?
  • Do we have to do anything to stay saved?
  1. Do we have to be concerned of losing our salvation?
  2. What are we saved unto?
  3. What is our relationship with our Savior?
  1. Ephesians gets into these topics, not completely, but in many ways. The first three chapters of Ephesians are ripe with wonderful, glorious Theology. They are ripe, like a beautiful garden with our salvation.
    1. You know what it is like when everything is dead in the winter, no life in the trees, or the grass, yet no snow either. But then comes spring, everything is green and blooming and colorful and vivacious. That is Ephesians. Ephesians is blooming with salvation which means it is blooming with life.
    2. How many of you have seen the Sound of Music? Remember the beginning when it shows all these beautiful images of The Swiss Alps? That is Ephesians, it is rich, beautiful, wonderful!
  2. Mercedes, my five, almost six-year old daughter was with me looking at a newly paved parking lot and she said, “This parking lot is beautiful.” She had seen the old terrible parking lot at Wal-Mart and now she saw the new, fresh parking lot and just thought it was beautiful. Ephesians is beautifully written about our new life in Christ.
  3. We learn about our free gift of salvation.
  4. We learn that this gift is opened to everyone.
  1. Grace is a gift. Ephesians chapters 1-3 are all about our gift of salvation in Christ. By God’s mercy we are saved. We must share this salvation and we must also be encouraged to live for Christ.
  1. Let’s talk briefly about the location:
    1. The date: Because Paul mentions his imprisonment (3:1; 4:1; 6:20), this letter should be dated to c. a.d. 62 when Paul was held in Rome (Acts 28)
  • Let’s talk briefly about the overview of the book/letter
    1. Chapters 1-3 are Theology
    2. Chapters 4-6 are practical church matters encouraging unity and godly living and unity
    3. Constable writes: Norman B. Harrison considered Ephesians, Philippians, and Colosians as written to the spiritual man, 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians as written to the carnal man, and Romans as written to the natural man
    4. There are many themes but I wish to name a few: One scholar in Christ shares: For example, chapter 1 verse 7 talks about the riches of His grace, at the end of the verse. Chapter 3 verse 8 talks about the unsearchable riches of Christ. Chapter 3 verse 16 – the riches of His glory. So you have the riches of His grace, the riches of His glory and the riches of His Son. In other words, God is unloading all of His riches in the book of Ephesians. The word grace is used 12 times. And the word grace means God’s unmerited, undeserved kind­ness and favor. Grace is behind all of this lavishness that God pours out. So the word grace is used 12 times.
    5. The word glory is used 8 times. The word inheritance is used 4 times. The word riches is used 5 times. The words fullness and filled are used 7 times. And the key to everything is the phrase “in Christ” which is used 27 times. It is because we are in Christ that all of the fullness of all the riches of the inheritance of the glory of His grace is ours. Do you see? Because we are one with Christ in His church, because we are redeemed, this incredible fullness is ours. Maybe the sum of it all is in chapter 3 verse 20 – “That you might be filled with all the fullness of God.”


There was a lady known in American history known as Hetty Green. Hetty Green was called “America’s Greatest Miser.” When she died in 1916, this is a long time ago, when she died in 1916 she left an estate value at $100 million. That’s a lot of money in 1916. But Hetty Green was so miserly that she said she ate cold oatmeal because it was too expensive to heat the water to warm it. Her son had a severe leg injury and it was so severe that she was delaying trying to find a free clinic where it could be treated and she delayed so long it had to be amputated. In fact she got apoplexy one time and hastened her own death by arguing the merits of skim milk because it was cheaper than whole milk. Now that’s a strange lady, folks. To die with $100 million in your estate and your son loses his leg and you actually encourage your own death and eat cold oatmeal all your life – that’s really not understanding how to use your resources.

Remember in Jesus you are rich. Understand and be encouraged by your great and awesome wealth in Christ.

But, don’t forget your first love. The church at Ephesus forgot their first love: listen:

Rev. 2:1-7:

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. ‘Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’

 How are you doing with Scripture memory? I propose we memorize this short letter together. Between now and the end of October I think we can do it.

Let’s learn Ephesians 1:1-2 in the next week.

Do you know Jesus? Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)




New Pastorate coming on Saturday

I have been delaying writing this for some time, but I believe the time has come. Last month I accepted the position as Senior Pastor of Bethel Friend Church in Poland, Ohio. On Memorial Day weekend I announced my resignation from First Baptist Church in Alliance, Ohio. Currently, I am sitting at my desk in the First Baptist office and it is like a home when all the children have been raised and are out of the house. Sure, the child care is active, so there is the normal activity in the building. But my office of six years and almost two months is empty of the books and items that made it personal to me. This is my final office day at First Baptist.

This transition is bitter and sweet. I am comfortable here. I know the names of everyone. I know the community. I know the building. I know the church. Both our children have attended child care here. Mercedes went through preschool here at First Baptist.  First Baptist has been like a family to us. They have all been supportive of our family. They have been supportive of me with Meagan’s disability. They have been supportive of our children. Yet, for various reasons we believed God was leading us out to Poland, Ohio.

On Saturday morning I will drive to Poland and begin putting my books on the shelves there. I will begin making the pastor’s study personal to me over there. On Sunday I will preach on Ephesians 1:1-2 there at Poland. On Sunday or Monday I will post that sermon to this blog. I will continue posting the sermons only they will be from my pastorate at Poland.

My prayers will remain with First Baptist and Alliance, OH.

2 Cor. 13:14:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

My love to all of you,

Pastor Steve

On Being a Spiritual Father


This is my final sermon as your pastor. It has been a wonderful joy to preach and teach the Word of God to you, His people. In Acts 20:17-30 Paul gives his farewell message to the Ephesian church.  In Acts 20:27 Paul shares: For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. The ESV translates this as I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole council of God. I hope and pray this has been true of me with you. I love teaching the Bible and I hope that has been made evident. I hope you have learned more Bible over the last six years. The church does have a pulpit, figuratively, not literally. The pulpit represents the preaching of the Word of God at the local church. Each of us pastors are accountable to God for this responsibility. I have carried this responsibility for just over six years. Pastor Gordon carried this ministry for seventeen years. The responsibility is heavy. It has been compared to a woman having a baby. It is heavy because there are spiritual dimensions, spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10-12). It is a 24×7 job. We preach and sit down and then wait for the pressures from Sunday sermon to kick-in. A lot of pastors talk about how hard Mondays are because they are hit from the Sunday morning pressure and reflection. There are articles written to tell pastors how to manage this post pulpit day. I prefer to simply eat chocolate and then I feel better.

God will lead you an interim and then another pastor to handle this pulpit ministry and I pray they also follow God’s instructions to declare the whole council of God. I appreciate and have been greatly honored to serve as your pastor these last six years. It has been a privilege to serve under the Lord in this pulpit ministry. Now, I preach my last sermon to you. Later, we eat chocolate.  

The church needs boys, the church needs men, the church needs dads.

John Fuller of Focus on the Family writes the following:

The United States is the leader in fatherless homes. The impact is breathtaking: 63 percent of youth suicides come from fatherless homes, and 75 percent of all adolescent patients in drug treatment centers come from homes without a dad. In his book It’s Better to Build Boys than Mend Men, Truett Cathy offers these startling statistics:

Children from fatherless homes are:

  • 5 times more likely to commit suicide
  • 32 times more likely to run away
  • 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
  • 14 times more likely to commit rape
  • 9 times more likely to drop out of school
  • 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances
  • 9 times more likely to end up in state-operated institution.
  • 20 times more likely to end up in prison[1]

Wow! Those statistics are quite startling. So, obviously fathers are important, we have an important role in the development of children.

But the reality is there are many children without a father. There are many children without a spiritual father. In the Bible Timothy was one of those children. He needed a spiritual father and Paul took care of that job.

Theme: I want us to look at Paul serving as a spiritual father to Timothy. I encourage you to take seriously your role as a spiritual parent. Make disciples of young people.

Let’s read Acts 16:1-3:

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

  1. Let’s talk about Paul and Timothy.
    1. We just read Acts 16:1-3 and in that passage we see that Paul met Timothy and was obviously impressed. From this passage we see that Timothy’s mother was Jewish but his father was Greek. Paul wanted to take him along. From all indications Timothy’s father was not a believer in Jesus. After this Timothy goes with Paul. We see Timothy show up much in Paul’s letters.
    2. In 1 Tim. 1:2 Paul writes To Timothy my true son in the faith… Paul compares Timothy to a spiritual son.
    3. Then in 2 Timothy 1:2 Paul again writes: To Timothy, my dear son… Again, we see Paul and Timothy’s relationship.
      1. They had likely traveled together for 10 years.[2]
      2. They obviously had a special bond. 1 and 2 Timothy are written to Timothy from the Apostle Paul while Timothy was serving as the interim pastor in Ephesus.
    4. Then, one more passage I will show you. In Phil. 2:22: Paul writes: But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.
  2. Let’s talk about serving as a spiritual parent.
    1. What is this like?
    2. It is not meaning simply going fishing together, though spiritual advise can be passed on during a fishing trip.
    3. It is not meaning simply activities. I am not talking about simply hanging out with someone younger than you.
    4. This is talking about discipleship.
    5. This is about mentoring someone younger than you in the faith and in the ministry. The Gospel is at the center of serving as a spiritual parent. However, understand the Gospel must be at the center of being a parent. Look at Deut. 6:1-9: These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
    6. Serving as a spiritual parent does begin with a relationship with someone younger than you, but it continues as you study the Bible together. As you model what it means to be a man or woman of God. Serving as a spiritual parent continues as you are going fishing or hunting or cooking together, but in doing so you are modeling and teaching how to be a man or woman of God. You are modeling service to the church. You are modeling and teaching evangelism, discipleship, worship, ministry and fellowship. Being a spiritual parent means that the Gospel is everything.
    7. If we do not teach our biological children the Gospel we have taught them nothing worthwhile. If we have relationships with others younger than us but we do not teach them the Gospel we have taught them absolutely nothing worthwhile. They die and it is the end of anything good.
    8. My youth pastor was my spiritual father. He was older than my father and he was living for Jesus and my father was not. He discipled me as he taught me the Bible but he also discipled me as we served the church together, we had lunch together, we worked together. He modeled integrity and Christian values. I remember going with him to pick up an old truck he was restoring. The man was signing the title over and said, “How much do you want me to put down that you bought this for?” This was because you have to pay taxes on every dollar so the seller was willing to just put down a dollar. My youth pastor had him put down the correct price. He modeled integrity. He modeled service. He modeled being a Christian father and grandfather.
  • Application: Serve as a paternal influence to others.
    1. Who has God places in your life for you to serve in that paternal influence role?
    2. Right down a name in your bulletin and take it home and pray about it.
    3. This may be your children and grandchildren.
    4. I know of someone who speaks at the men’s fellowship breakfasts. He talked about having a Bible study with his grandsons. He would buy donuts and meet them on Saturday mornings to study the Bible. Could that be what God is calling you to do?


I read the following:

Truett Cathy is probably best known for his Chick-Fil-A restaurants, and while I like the food he helped make popular, I’m most appreciative of the work he does to help boys who face the prospect of growing up without a father.

Mr. Cathy has been mentoring youngsters for more than sixty years. He runs a camp and a foster- care program designed to help give children of broken homes a second chance at life. It’s an inspiring program. Boys are matched with mentors and father figures, and some are even placed in full-time Christian foster homes. Many are given the opportunity to work side by side with Mr. Cathy on a beautiful farm in the rolling hills of Rome, Georgia.

Truett Cathy is a well-seasoned Southern gentleman. But he’s more than a nice guy with business savvy. He knows how boys think. Most important, he knows what they need: a father or— at the very least— a strong male role model. Mr. Cathy travels the country with a simple but strong message: you can make a difference! It’s better to build boys than to have to mend men.[3]

So, next time you complain about the next generation, pray. Pray that God would send you a young person to serve as a spiritual parent.

Do you know Jesus? Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)



[1] John Fuller with Paul Batura. First Time Dad, the Stuff You Really Need to Know. Moody Publishers, Chicago 2011. Page 22


[2] See George W. Murray, “Paul’s Corporate Witness in Philippians,” Bibliotheca Sacra 155:619 (JulySeptember 1998):316-26. Seen in Dr. Constable’s notes on Phil. 2:22:

[3] John Fuller with Paul Batura. First Time Dad, the Stuff You Really Need to Know. Moody Publishers, Chicago 2011.