Monday, 30 June 2008

Imitate God

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. - Ephesians 5v1-2

This almost sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Imitate God? Not only that, but we are instructed to “imitate God as dear children.” We all know that children do tend to imitate their parents.

One of the earliest anti-smoking ads back in the seventies showed a father and son washing the car. The dad used the hose and the boy used a squirt gun. When the dad washed, the boy washed. When the dad wiped his brow the boy did the same. When they sat down the boy crossed his legs the same way the dad did. Then the dad lit up a cigarette and laid the down. The ad faded to blank when the boy reached out to pick up the cigarette pack. Effective ad, but it did show the reality of children imitating parents.

As God’s children we need to examine our lives to see if we indeed imitate our Father. The first test in the passage is that of love. “Walk in love,” we are told. And what is the pattern for imitating God in live? “As Christ loved us and gave himself for us,” is our pattern.

I have to wonder how often people look at my love and think of God’s love. Do I love like He did? Do I really imitate Him when it comes to love? Do I love with the kind of that would give of me completely?

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4v30-32

“Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit” is a verse we often use in theology class to show that the Holy Spirit is a person, that He has personality. Even though I have preached through Ephesians I don’t think I have ever delved into the specific context of the passage.

The whole context, both before and after of, “Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit,” is dealing with relationships among believers. Specifically, the context is the words we use toward each other and the motivation behind those words. In the previous verse we read, “let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth.” In the next verse we see “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”

Why did God put. “Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit” where He did? I really don’t think it was by accident or out or coincidence. Could it be that a major way to grieve the Holy Spirit is by mistreating each other? Could we grieve Him with every cruel word we say? Could we really grieve Him when with things like bitterness, wrath, anger, and speaking evil? Could the Holy Spirit really be bothered by things like that when there is so much “worse” going on? Doesn’t He have more important things to be concerned with?

“Be kind to each other and tenderhearted.” What a wonderful summary to the passage this is. But that is not the end. Look what follows – “Forgiving one another.” These things are going to come up. We are going to blow it. Our loose tongues are going to spout things we shouldn’t. Sometimes we are going to be the recipient of those words. When that happens the word of God still has the answer – “Forgiving one another.”

Mt sin always grieves the Holy Spirit. From the context it is clear that is surely true when I mistreat my brother with my words and my attitude.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

No corrupt word

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. - Ephesians 4v29

There are certain verses that, no matter how many times I read them, really stab at my heart with conviction. Sadly, this is one of them.

We all know that the tongue is the greatest enemy we face. James makes that very clear. I suspect that we all know the same from experience. I think that’s why we have to be reminded so often about the importance of our words.

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth.” How clear can that be? I look back at how often those corrupt words have come out of my own mouth. As I sit here I can remember the looks on friend’s faces as something has popped out of my mouth that caused damage. We often think about this verse in the context of “bad language.” That may be true, but the context here is in the light of communication in the church.

Corrupt words are those words which are rotten, corrupt, and worthless. I don’t think there is a lot of explanation needed here. We all, I am sure, can think of the corrupt words we have said that have caused damage.

On the other hand we have the words that we should speak – good words, edifying words, and grace words.

Which of these describe my normal use of words? What an intriguing question.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Work to give

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. - Ephesians 4v28

Why do we work? There are all kinds of answers to that question aren’t there? For some it is literally to put food on the table. For most of us it is simply a matter of paying the bills. We may be fortunate to be able to buy a few extras and a few nice things to make life for comfortable. Some may go beyond that and work to buy more “stuff” and have bigger and better. Then there are some who are obsessed with possessions and work to buy more just so they can have more. Some work as an escape from home, to get away from the pressures of family for a few hours. Some work for the craic (good time, enjoyment) that comes with being with workmates. Some are even workaholics and just work because they feel that they must.

We all know that the jobs that God gives us are our own ministry. Whether we hammer nails, clan toilets, stock shelves, teach, preach, work in an office, manage a shop, or whatever our job is the place where we serve the Lord. That job is our pulpit where we can serve Him by loving others and seeking to share Him with our co-workers.

Yet here Paul gives us another reason to work. “…let him labour, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has a need.” One of the reasons we have to work is so that we can help others when they have a need. I hate to say that though I have done a little of this, it has not been a priority for my resources.

How many of us can honestly say that we work in order to give?

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Don’t go to bed mad

"Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, neither give place to the devil.” - Ephesians 4v26

Over the years I have sadly watched home after home deteriorates and collapse. I have seen best friends part company forever. I have seen churches destroyed over petty issues. I have seen physical and emotional violence and abuse in relationships in homes and churches.

I think I can say fairly that in the majority of these cases something happened that made someone angry. That anger grew and festered and developed. Eventually wrath and anger were replaced by bitterness. Then, as we are warned, that bitterness has defiled far too many.

We are going to get angry; there is no doubt about it. Something sets us off and we “see red” and logic loses out to emotion. That’s why God says to “be angry.” That emotion is from Him and He can use it to deal with situations that need to be dealt with. But God does not stop there – He says, “and do not sin.” The problem is when that anger produces sin instead of a resolution to the issue at hand. Anger should seek to resolve the problem, not focus on the person who has made us angry.

So God graciously gives us a time frame. “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.” I personally do not think this is figurative. I take it literally to mean, “Don’t go to bed angry.” Anger that festers through the night and into the next day can be terribly destructive. I wish I could tell you the number of times that I have had to ring people late at night and sort out my own anger. I am not always able to deal with the issue, that might be able to wait till tomorrow, but I do need to deal with my anger.

I wonder how many problems in homes, friendships, and churches could be avoided if we determined, by God’s grace and in His strength, never to go to bed angry?

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Renewed in the spirit of your mind

that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. - Ephesians 4v22-24

Bear with me please as I attempt to develop my own thoughts on this concept of the old and new man. I have been fascinated by this topic for years now. We can’t argue that the Bible tells us in Romans that the old man was crucified with Christ. We can’t argue that is any man is truly is in Christ he is a new creation. Yet we still find references to the old man in the New Testament.

If, as I mentioned yesterday, the topic is not literally the old man, but his conduct, then perhaps I can think through this thing. Put off the conduct of the old man like you would a set of filthy garments. Then be renewed in your mind. Cleanse yourselves with a mind renewal; a renovation if you will. Then, don’t put on the filthy clothes you just took off, but put on the conduct of the new man. That conduct is created according to God and is seen in true righteousness and holiness.

The old man is dead. I don’t think we can argue that. But from the grave he still calls out for attention. “Remember me Roger. Don’t let me go. Honour me by the way you act and with the thoughts you dwell on.”

It is only when I have a transformed mind that refuses dead Old Roger’s call from the grave that New Roger can have the freedom to walk in true righteousness and holiness.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Wearing the clothes of a dead man?

that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,
- Ephesians 4v22

I am just making a brief entry this morning since I have not formalised my thoughts and Paul deals with this in more depth in Colossians.

It is important that we are instructed in godly living, especially since it has been made abundantly clear that we are no longer bound by the law. Not only is the law no longer in effect, but Romans tells us that the old man was crucified with Christ. If the law has no power over me and my old man is dead, why do I still live such a wicked life?

Paul instructs us here that we have a constant responsibility to be putting something off. He tells us that we are to be putting off the old man. But, we have already been told that the old man is dead. How can we put off something that is dead?

Again, this is a developing thought here. Perhaps the key is in the phrase “concerning your former conduct.” Maybe it is the conduct of the old man that still affects me that I need to be putting off.

Paul is saying that we need to be stripping this away. A brief illustration and I am done for now.

I wonder if we can say that we need to no longer be wearing the clothes that suited the old man: those things such as lust, covetousness, jealousy, and anger. All of those things suited the old man, but they do not suit the new me who is in Christ. When I wear those things, am I wearing a dead man’s cloth?

If so, why do I insist on wearing the clothes of a dead man?

Monday, 23 June 2008

Every part does its share

from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. - Ephesians 4v16

Did you ever think of how the body works together? Every part, even the smallest part, has its role to play in a task. As I sit here typing this entry my legs are supporting the little computer on my lap. They are working together to keep it balanced. My eyes are seeing the letters as they enter the page. The fingers of my hands seem to know where to go on the keyboard to find the right keys to translate the thoughts in my head into words on the screen. If my ears hear a “ding” they will know something needs my attention. (Funnily enough, as I typed that I heard a ding, someone was IMing me). The whole concept of translating thoughts into typed words requires intricate cooperation. My fingers are not working on their own either – my hands are moving and the muscles in my arms are controlling that action. Not only that, but as I work on this I am aware of all that is going on around me, I know that the sun is shining, that I am listening to the radio online, I can even feel the threadbare carpet under my feet.

How does all of this happen? How can I do all of this complicated work? It happens because every part of my body, in intricate and detailed cooperation, controlled by the head, is able to accomplish a task.

Paul is saying the came thing in this verse. Every part of the body, working effectively as each part does its share, causes growth through edification. If I don’t do my part the body will compensate. However, the body functions best when every single part does its share. The head, Jesus, is in control. All the rest of the body works in smooth cooperation. I really don’t want to let the rest of the body down.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Speaking the truth in love

but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head Christ
- Ephesians 4v15

As I get older I am learning more and more about the importance of balance. One area which we rarely see balance is in this area of truth and love. It is obvious, I think, that there is more here than a husband’s reply to his wife’s question, “How do I look in this?”

Speaking the truth is in the whole context of building and edifying the body of Christ. There are times when part of that task includes correction and instruction. Sometimes that is not comfortable. Sometimes it means confrontation.

When that time comes there are two way to handle it. One can focus on the truth, which is after all vitally important. But sometimes the truth can be spoken in a way that is harsh and cruel. I have heard preachers from the pulpit ranting and raving and screaming. What they said was the truth, but the way they said it showed no love or compassion.

I have heard others speak who spoke with such love and seeming compassion that they never quite seemed to get to the truth. Plenty of “love” but no truth accomplishes nothing.

I think that’s why we have to be reminded to speak the truth in love. If we leave out one or the other the message is going to have no affect. We will be wasting our time.

We can never sacrifice love for the truth. We can never sacrifice the truth for the sake of love.

Balance. How much more clearly can that be put than, “Speak the truth in love?”

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Tossed to and fro

till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, - Ephesians 4:13-14

I am not an old man by any means, and I have not been a Christian for an exceptionally long period of time. I those thirty or so years though I have seen all kinds of fads and trends come though the church.

It seems like every few years something comes along that captures the church’s attention. The “Prayer of Jabez” was one of those. An author wrote a book in which he said that if one prayed the Prayer of Jabez every day for 30 days they would see God do wonderful things for them.

There have been plenty of other examples. Some are much more dangerous than this. New ideas, new thoughts, and new doctrines seem to come out of nowhere and catch the church my storm. Sometimes these seem new, and sometimes they are just recycled old ideas brought back and modernised.

One of the reasons for edifying and maturing the body of the Christ is to ensure that it is not swayed and moved every time this happens. The church is not meant to be static, keeping to the principles of God’s word it will grow and adapt for times and cultures. At the same time when it comes to the teaching of God’s word, the doctrines, these are rock solid and unchangeable.

We are not to be like spiritual children, swayed by every spiritual ice cream man who drives be with his music playing and plethora of temptations which surely have destroyed far too many children’s evening tea,

Its about time that we grow up and stop being drawn by the tinny music of the ice cream van

Friday, 20 June 2008

Equipping the saints

for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, - Ephesians 4v12

When I finally learned the meaning of this it changed my entire perspective of the ministry. I knew, and had been taught many times that the comma in the AV was often mistaken; making it look like the role of the four offices was for:

The equipping of the saints
The work of the ministry
The edifying the body of Christ

Instead of the proper understanding that the pastor and other offices are the simply equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. The job of the men listed in the previous verses is to hand out the tools so the labourers can do their job.

My brother-in-law is stationed at a US Air Force base in Germany. He has a fancy military title, but basically he is in charge of the tools for the mechanics who work on jet engines. One might be tempted to say that his job is not really that big a deal. After all, he is not a fighter pilot carrying out bombing runs.

I would have to disagree with that idea. I admire him greatly. He sees the importance of having the right tools in proper repair. He is fastidious in his organisation of he tools and their cleanliness and repair. I saw tools that I would no problem eating with. Why is his job so important? Because without the right tools the fighter jets could not be serviced properly. Sometimes work needs to be done quickly and there is no time to root through a pile of tools. Without the proper “tool giver” the battle would be lost.

As tool givers the pastors have an important role, but not in the way we often think. We get to preach, teach, and exhort, something we all love. But that is not really the “ministry.” The ministry is what we give the saints to tools to accomplish.

May I always see my role as tool giver with the same intensity and devotion that my brother-in-law gives to his job.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

He gave gifts to all men

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men - Ephesians 4v7-8

First I will admit that I am looking forward in the text just a bit to get the context here. Paul has just been addressing the issue of unity in the Body. He stresses that we are all indeed one body with one God who is above all.

But now he goes on to say that though we are all one body we are not all the exact same. By His grace He has gifted us with different gifts and abilities to serve Him. He goes into this in much more detail in 1 Corinthians, but suffice it to say that we are not all the same. Our gifts are all based on grace; we might indeed call them grace gifts.

The key here is the phrase “to each one of us.” I think this is to remind us that even though we are one body we each have a role to play. All of our gifts are from God by His grace. None of our gifts is any less important than the other. Does that mean that we never share in others gifts? I can’t even imagine that.

Since Paul uses the body to illustrate gifts, let me try to do the same. If my eye sees something that I think needs attention I may first tune in my ear to try and find out more. If that doesn’t work I may call in my feet to move me a little closer, with my eyes and ears still working. It may get to the point when I may have to depend on my hands to step in intervene. All parts of my body, equally gifted for their tasks, working together to accomplish a task. If my ear said, “Oh, that’s the eye’s problem, I am not going to get involved,” nothing would get done.

One body, every part gifted to work together for one task. What a beautiful picture of the church.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The bond of peace

endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. - Ephesians 4v3

There are some things that bind us together as believers. The church, our Head, the familiness that we share, and love are some of the things that unify us. But there is opposition. Sadly unity is not the norm, but division seems to jump to the forefront.

It is obvious that unity is not natural; else we would not have to be reminded to “endeavour” to keep the unity. This unity takes work and effort. Each one of us has our own flesh which is selfish and divisive.

We can only achieve the unity of the Spirit in the “bond of peace.” I think the key here is that peace in the body comes before selfishness and self-centredness. Peace demands that we don’t cause offence, but it also demands that we don’t easily take offence.

It requires intense work, struggle, and effort to do this. I need to be constantly reminded of the importance of this bond of peace. I need to endeavour daily to keep the unity.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

With pacience supportinge ech other in charite,

…with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, - Ephesians 4v2

I chose Wycliffe’s translation for the title of this entry just because I like it. Yesterday I talked about lowliness. There are a couple more words that follow; gentleness and longsuffering. Each of these is tied into humility and unity.

I am focusing on the next phrase though because it is so timely. The Kew King James renders it as above. The AV has “Forbearing one another in love.” But I like the way Wycliffe has it, but I will update it for modern English, “with patience supporting each other in love.” (Although I personally prefer ‘charity’ there)

I always need to be reminded to lovingly and patiently support others. However today I am reminded of the blessing of being the recipient of said loving and patient support.

I know me. I know that there are times when I can be a very difficult person to lovingly and patiently support. Sometimes I speak or act without thinking through the consequences. When those times come I am glad that there are others who will heed the words of this passage.

Last night I needed to be the recipient of this admonition. We were with friends when something happened that irritated me, I was distracted by something else, and I spoke out in frustration. I was wrong in dealing with the situation the way I did. I needed the patient forbearing talked about here. Thankfully our friends were willing to “patiently support” me.

It is good to be reminded of my responsibility to bear with others, but is also a blessing to be on the receiving end.

Monday, 16 June 2008

With all lowliness

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, - Ephesians 4v1-2

The more I read and study the word of God this time through the more I see that much of my philosophy of life and the ministry is mixed up and convoluted. I am one of those people who loves the limelight. I like being the centre of attention. Sadly I have far too often carried that over into my life and ministry.

As Paul switches from the principles of church work to the practicality of it he starts with an injunction to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” The very first word in his list of principles is “lowliness.” Today we use the word “humility” to express this thought. It is the same first principle Jesus used in the Sermon on the Mount.

John MacArthur and others tell us that at the time there was no word for this mindset in either Greek of Latin. Some scholars claim that this word was a neologism created by Paul under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to describe a trait which is at the first of the believer’s list.

The word used here deals with a lowness in the core of a being. It speaks of a lowness that comes from deep down inside. As we study the church we see this trait described over and over again. I have to say that it is a trait that I have rarely seen as an example in the decades of my Christian life. Yet, I can’t use that as an excuse – my flesh balks at lowliness because of my pride.

We were at a church in Northern Ireland this weekend. We were able to go to both the children’s club Friday night and the morning service yesterday. It is a little church of maybe two dozen. As I watched this church function I was amazed at their lowliness, especially their leaders. The leaders of the church functioned in perfect union and harmony. Each church member had their role and leaders led, but the key trait among them all was lowliness. Every one simply did their part. It was clear that no role was any less or more important than the others.

This is how the body of Christ functions. We have one head, Jesus. Each other part of the body functions together. The eye has no room for high-mindedness any more than ear, the toe, the tongue, or the hand. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 12 there is a clear indication that when God honours a part of the body He honours the least obvious part.

The question is not about seeing lowliness in my examples. The question is about how rarely I have seen lowliness in me. Am I willing to replace the limelight with the lowlight?

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Exceedingly abundantly

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, - Ephesians 3v20

I think that there are times in our lives when we find ourselves limiting God. The end of Ephesians 3 is full of amazing phrases that we could easily stop and examine in detail. The desire that we might be able to comprehend the incomprehensible Love of God is one example. Another example is the concept of being full of all the fullness of God. These all remind us that we cannot think the same as God. His ways are above our ways. His thoughts are above our thoughts. His love is something we can grow in, but never fully grasp. He desires to fill us with His fullness and to get us out of the way.

But there is another example of this difference between God and man that I want to look at this morning. “Now to Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think.” It seems that the reason we do not always trust God is various situations that we really don’t think He is able to do it. Why is that?

We need to remember that God is able to do more for us than we can possibly imagine. We can do, as the verse above says - “exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think.”

How amazing! God is able to more than we can even think about. He is able to do more that we can even know how to ask. It is so easy to try and keep God in our little man sized box limiting Him to what we can understand. We want God to do things that we can grasp.

Why does it seem we can never learn to trust the God Who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all we can ever ask or think?

Friday, 13 June 2008

Rooted and grounded in love

…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, - Ephesians 3v17

There is a lot I want to say about these few verses, yet this time through the Bible I am looking for little nuggets and trying to glean little bits that really “jump out” at me.

It is almost possible in this marvellous and grandiose passage of scripture on knowing the fullness of Christ and His dwelling in us to miss this one little phrase – “…you, being rooted and grounded in love…”

Although taken from the middle of a sentence, I think there is a truth here that we don’t want to miss. Paul is going to go on to understanding the fullness of God’s love for us. Here he says that those lofty heights of knowledge begin with a certain basic foundation. “Rooted and grounded in love.” Paul writes.

I guess my point today is that we need to always be aware of our roots. Sometimes, in a rush to contend for the faith we can forget our very foundation. It appears that unless we do stick to our foundations we can never really grasp the fullness of His love for us.

Bow the knee

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, - Ephesians 3v14

As I did my devotions this morning I could almost hear the words of a song sung by Christi Galkin. The song is “Bow the Knee” written by Chris Machen and Mike Harland. I use it here because I think it really captures what Paul is saying.

“There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Where God illumines ev’ry step we take.
There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us,
As we try to understand each move He makes.
When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him.

Bow the knee;
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.
Bow the knee;
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity.
And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King, bow the knee.

There are days when clouds surround us, and the rain begins to fall,
The cold and lonely winds won’t cease to blow.
And there seems to be no reason for the suffering we feel;
We are tempted to believe God does not know.
When the storms arise, don’t forget we live by faith and not by sight.”

Paul’s point is clear. In the light of all he said above and in spite of his present circumstances he chose to bow the knee to his sovereign and Lord. He knelt in obedience and subjection to the will of the King.

When we, like Paul, don’t understand the purpose of God’s divine plan, may we simply bow in the presence of the King.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Don’t lose heart

Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. - Ephesians 3v13

There is tendency for us to not see things the way God see them. I was talking to a friend yesterday about the seeming connexion between joy and suffering. It seems like these two things almost go hand in hand.

This doesn’t only happened when trial happen to us, but to others as well. Apparently there were those in Ephesus who were fretting over the fact that Paul was in prison. He had a joy that they did not have. They knew of his trials and tribulations but did not share in the joy with which he endured his trials.

I think the root problem is that they missed the same truth we so often miss – trials and tribulations are not bad things. They are to bring joy, and here, as Paul points out, they bring glory.

We tend to see trials and tribulations, whether they belong to us or someone else, as bad things. We do all we can to avoid them. We run from them.

Yet, God says that trials and tribulation produce joy and glory.

Lets not lose heart in trials; God has purposes in mind that we cannot imagine!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Less than the least of all

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, - Ephesians 3v8

Paul sets an example here that I need to be reminded of daily. In all that Paul did he never seemed to feel like he was worthy to do it. The phrase he uses here is must go hand in hand with ‘the chief of sinners.’

Paul had a proper few of who we are. To many Paul is the greatest of all Christians. He seems to stand in the upper echelons of Christendom. Yet, over and over Paul sees himself in a different way. He is not the master, but the bond slave. He is not the chief saint, but the chief sinner. He is not the saintliest of saints, but less than the least of all saints.

He grasped the fact that he deserved nothing. He grasped the fact that he was nothing. Every chance God gave him to serve was only by God’s grace.

If Paul is less than the least of all saints, what does that make me?

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

The whole building

…having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. - Ephesians 2v20-22

I love the word pictures God uses to describe his church. In this context He is still talking about the household of God, but He seems to take a slightly different tack. Now he addresses the church as a building.

This building has a cornerstone, on which all the rest finds its support. The cornerstone is Jesus Christ. The foundation was laid on the apostles and prophets and their teachings. But when it comes to the building itself, all the rest of us are growing together. We are being fitted together by Him. It is His work that is taking place. God uses everyone single one of us. Each building block is important. Once the cornerstone and foundation are laid every other stone is of equal importance. God puts each stone in its place to construct His building.

We are all being built, individually and corporately, as the dwelling place for the Holy Spirit? Is He always seen in me as He builds His new temple here on earth?

Monday, 9 June 2008

The household of God

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, - Ephesians 2v19

“I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.” These lyrics ring out as I read this passage.

Before I get to that let me say that as I read this passage I find amazing that we are citizens in God’s kingdom. At salvation we were naturalised into a new citizenship. What a wonderful blessing God provides for us!

Even more precious are words that follow, ‘…and members of the household of God.’ This simple truth, that we can almost take for granted if we are not careful, is astounding. From all over the world, from every nation, every tongue, every race, every colour, every creed, and every background God adopts into His family all those who put their faith in Him.

I can almost picture in my mind’s eye a vast family reunion. Children are running around, folks are grouped together chatting, some are playing games, maybe in one room people are gathered around the piano singing songs, someone is grilling on the barbecue, and there is just a wonderful spirit of family unity. Although the people here are male and female, tall and short, red, yellow, black and white, old and young, dressed in western clothes, robes, and every other garment imaginable, there is still a resemblance. As we look closer we see that makes them all alike. There is something about their appearance and their demeanour. It is an intangible, but something makes them look alike. Then we see the Master of the house, King Jesus. In my mind I see Him sitting with children gathered all around, holding as many on His lap as will fit, laughing with them and telling them wonderful stories.

When he looks up, and the children look up, then the adults, we see what draws them together. The all have His joy abounding in their faces. We see eyes sparkling with the joy of the Lord. They all resemble each other because they all resemble Jesus!

What a marvellous household we have, even here on earth. Wherever we travel we find our brothers and sisters. Their language and customs may differ, but we know that we are with family.

I am indeed glad I am part of the family of God!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

He Himself is our peace

For He Himself is our peace… - Ephesians 2v14

Peace is something that we all long for, but seldom find. When we do find it we discover that it is fleeting and transitory.

I realise that the context here is peace between Jews and Gentiles, and their peace with God. However, I think it goes beyond just that. Paul puts it this way, He Himself, Jesus, is our peace. I like the way the New King James translates this phrase. By translating “autos” as “He Himself” it captures the emphasis on the peace being Him; on who He is and own He own ability.

Jesus, and Jesus alone, is our peace. I think most of us have a problem with this. We tend to look for peace in our circumstances. We can base our peace on job security, paycheques, bank accounts, family security, possessions, a sound economy, the value of the dollar, or even the price of oil. The truth is that the price of oil is not my peace. My peace is not based on the fact that I am an American citizen. I cannot base my peace on the rises and falls of the ministry where God has placed me. I have been there and done that with all the things on that little list above. I know that they are not my peace.

Jesus, and Him alone, is my only source of my peace. He is the only one who is never going to fail me. He is the only peace that is permanent and enduring. When I look anywhere else for peace, I will always be disappointed.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Brought near by the blood of Christ

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. - Ephesians 2v13

Sin caused all kinds of problems. It made us into God’s enemies. It also separated us for God. The closeness that was present at creation was gone. Before Christ God worked though Israel, His chosen nation. It was through them that He gave the Law to further prove man’s hopelessness. This caused another division; the division between God’s chosen people and all others, who the Bible calls Gentiles.

These divisions were so great that nothing could span them. Yet, both gaps were spanned at once. When Christ was on the cross God tore down the “middle wall of partition” that separated man from God. He tore the veil separating the holy place from the Holy of Holies from top to bottom. The division between Jew and Gentile was once and forever gone.

Something greater happened because of the blood of Christ. Every human being, separated from God by their sin, can now be brought close to God by His blood. The most vast expanse ever to exist, the expanse caused by man’s sin, has now been closed by the greatest act of love possible when God gave His Son.

Without Christ we were far off. Indeed far, far off. Praise God that in Christ we are brought back into closeness with Him!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Not of, but for

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2v8-10

Grace – in and of itself it is an amazing word! In this context it is astounding – “by grace you have been saved through faith.” We have another opportunity for a great theological debate here, but let us once again leave that aside. These thoughts are not meant to be a theological treatise, but my own personal reflections.

Here I see a couple of key phrase. ‘It is the gift of God.’ Our salvation, and all that goes with it, is God’s precious gift. Despite the Santa Clause story a true gift is not based on its earning. If I could earn a gift it would be a reward, a payment, or a salary.

God makes that clear in the next verse – salvation is not a result of our works. It is indeed not “of works.” But it doesn’t stop there. We are His handiwork, His workmanship, even His masterpiece. The work that is done is His work.

Now we get to the “but for” bit. We are His workmanship, because He ordained before the very foundation of the world that we were created for good works. There is no option, no out. John MacArthur captured the thought in the tile of one of his books - “Faith Works.” True faith will always work, it was ordained long ago. James reminds us that if there are no works, then there never was any real faith.

Faith is never of good works, but it is always for the purpose of good works.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

In His kindness

…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 2v7

I have mentioned before that there are certain passages that are difficult to work through just because it seems like every single phrase, sometime every single word, is loaded in importance.

I don’t want to skip over the phrase in this verse that talks about being shown the huperballo riches of God’s grace. If I were to coin a phrase to fir here it might the ‘the above and beyondant’ riches of his grace. The riches of God’s grace go far beyond the mark. It is more than we can grasp and yet the prayer is that we might see His grace at work. Oh to see just a measure of these riches.

Yet, there is something else that intrigues me. I for one don’t often think of God’s ‘kindness.’ We think of His holiness, His love, His justice, and other ‘great’ attributes, but I don’t think we consider His kindness very often.

I like English and looking at English words. The word ‘kindness’ is from the word ‘kin.’ Kin refers to family and relatives. I don’t think we do the Greek word here any injustice by saying that this familiness extends to this aspect of God’s character.

I like the thought that God is kind to us. There may not be many ways that I can be like God, but I can be kind. And, by being kind I can manifest one of God’s traits.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

In heavenly places

…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, - Ephesians 2v5-6

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls—Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.’ (Habakkuk 3v17-19)

These two verses, tied together, have always intrigued, amazed, and encouraged me. As part of the marvelous passage following, “but God” is this little section that tells us that God has made us alive, saved us by His grace, and then, ‘made us ti sit together in heavenly places in Christ.’

As part of our many, many blessings we have this position of being lifted up in Christ into something the Bible calls ‘heavenly places.” I have always seen it this way. While we have to live in this present day and age, with all of its sin and problems and misery and hopelessness and despair, we also are able to live above it all.

No matter how bad it gets around us, no matter how hopeless it seems – even if there are no grapes on the vine, sheep in the fold, or herds in the barn we still live in the heavenly places in Christ. Not only that; we live there, not alone, but together in Christ.

This world is not my home, not even now. My citizenship and my residence is already elsewhere.

Monday, 2 June 2008

But God…

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, - Ephesians 2v4

It is amazing how two little words can turn things around so dramatically. Here is Ephesians 2v4 we have the little phrase, “but God.” We must look however at what comes before the phrase and what comes after it.

Before “but God” we read : “… ye walked according to the course of this world, … the lusts of our flesh… the desires of the flesh and of the mind… the children of wrath…”

A pretty ugly condition is depicted there. But look at the words after, “but God:” “… rich in mercy… great love … he loved us…made us alive …… heavenly exceeding riches of his grace … kindness.”

Without, “but God” we are hopeless and helpless. With “but God there is all hope and joy and grace.

Praise God for “but God”!

You hath He quickened

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins – Ephesians 2v1

There are certain phrases and words used in the traditional Authorised Version that I really like. This is one of those places. Somehow, to my own mind of course, “made alive” just doesn’t have the same ring as “quickened.”

This is a power packed little phrase. Our natural born state was death. Sin separated us from God from the time of our birth. There was no chance apart from Him. And yet, there was a time for those of us who are saved, where He quickened our hearts and lives. This English word was once used to describe the first movements a pregnant woman feels when her unborn child begins to stir. There would have been no first stirrings if Christ had not quickened us. I am not going to delve into the “predestination” aspects of this passage, but there can be no doubt that Christ did the quickening. He quickened me when I had no hope.

Praise God for His quickening power which has indeed, made me alive!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

All things under his feet

And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. - Ephesians 1v22-23

I really like the teaching on the church from the books of Ephesians. It helps us to grasp the amazing power that we have.

There are times when we don’t really feel like we have much power. There are times we feel totally weak, miserable, and hopeless. There are times when we feel like far from having the power of Christ, we have no power at all.

It is times like this when I have to act by faith, and not by sight. At the end of the day Christ is in charge of the church, His body. He is obviously, as God, over all, but there is a specific manner in which applies to the Church, for it is its head and we are His body.

This passage reminds us that we, as the church, have all the fullness of Christ in us. It is his fullness, not my weakness or inability to know how to deal with things that needs to carry me through.

This is a step further than the thoughts from yesterday. Not only is it the resurrection power working in me, it is all the fullness of Christ working in me.

May I ever rely on His fullness, not on the emptiness of my abilities.