Friday, 31 January 2014


and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, - Ephesians 1.19-20

I think that most of us have at one time or another tried to do things in our own power. We can be like children says ‘I can do it myself.'

Every time I have tried that though I have realised just how far I fall short. My strength is weak. I am frail. In fact I am pretty much powerless. It just doesn't work. 

But what if we could harness the power to raise from the dead? What if we had available to us the power to raise Jesus from the dead and set Him up in heaven with Christ? What could we do if we could avail of that power?

The wonderful truth is that we have that kind of power at hand. Paul prays that we would know the exceeding greatness of God's power. Not just His power, but the exceeding greatness of His power which He shows to all who believe.

And the basis of the exceeding greatness of His power? That power is the mighty power by which Christ was raised from the dead and then lifted Him up into the heavenlies.

How can ever see ourselves as weak and powerless in serving Christ when God offers us that kind of power? 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Light in darkness

the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, - Ephesians 1.18

Sometimes it can be hard to see the good and the hope. As Christians have been writing for centuries it seems like the world and the church along with it are just getting worse and worse. The world of darkness around us just keeps getting darker and darker. In can, at least, take some commiseration from the fact that the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before felt the same way.

150 years ago J.C. Ryle wrote this: The time present, no doubt, is not a time of ease. It is a time of watching and praying, fighting and struggling, believing and working. But it is only for a few years. The time future is the season of rest and refreshing. Sin shall be cast out. Satan shall be bound. And, best of all, it shall be a rest for ever. It is written--"Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Cor. iv. 17, 18.)

So how do we keep that in mind?

Paul here prays that believers who have the eyes of their understanding enlightened. That is, of course, the only way to see the future. The problem is that we allow our eyes to be drawn to the darkness instead of the light. It is man’s nature to reject the light in favour of the darkness.

But we have hope, we have all the riches of Christ at our disposal, and we have an eternal inheritance. We find the light we need to cling to that in God’s word. We aren’t going to have hope unless we spend time in the light of the Bible.

Instead of getting down and discouraged let’s spend time in the word of God dwelling on the hope of eternity, the riches of Christ, and our assured inheritance. 

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Getting to know Him


that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, - Ephesians 1.17-18

What does it mean to know God. What does it mean not to just know about Hum, but to really, well and truly know Him?

Paul's prayer here is that God would give us a spirit of wisdom and reveal to us the knowledge of himself. And then, as a result, our understanding of him would be enlightened.

The thing about knowing God is that because of our human limitations not a one of us could ever have any hope of knowing him. To a certain extent man can learn a lot about God, but really knowing him is a different matter. We cannot really get to know him without him acting to open that knowledge to us.

But he invites us know him. God wants us to know him. Paul prays that we would know God.

So how do we get to know someone?

The only way. We can get to know someone, I mean to really know someone, is for them to open up and for us to spend time with them. God has opened himself us, he wants us to know us better. Now it is up to us to spend time with him getting to know him.

What is our part? We talk to him. We read his word. We fellowship with others who know him. We are not going to get to know him better by spending time with the world.

He does his part. We have to ask ourselves if we do ours. 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Praying for you

I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: - Ephesians 1:16

In the last few days I have seen a couple of great answers to prayer for others. They have found a bone marrow donor for Michelle. Matt found the wedding ring he thought he had lost. A dear friend heard from the Justice Department and finally has permission to stay in Ireland. We have seen God carrying a family through illness. 

We have a great responsibility for each other. Paul said two things about the believers in Ephesus. He remembered to thank God for them and he prayed for them. 

I think one of the greatest parts of praying is praying for those who are close to us. We know them. We personally know their hurts and pains and their joys and their victories. One of the nice things about pastoring a small church is that we get to know the people deeply and intimately. 
Because of that we can pray with knowledge. Paul tells the Ephesians that he makes mention of them in his prayers. Isn't a comfort when we know that people we know and care about are praying for us? It makes a huge difference when we are having a tough time to know others are praying. 

Knowing all that doesn't it make it incumbant on us to pray for each other? Should we not be always looking for a chance to give thanks. 

Give thanks for each other. Pray for each other. That sounds like a pretty good way to get along doesn't it? 

Monday, 27 January 2014

The Ephesian example

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, - Ephesians 1:15

I like the simplicity of this. The Ephesian believers had a reputation based on their testimony. This testimony had reached Paul's ears. It was widespread enough that Chrisitians in other regions had heard it. 

'I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.' 

What a beatiful testimony. The Chrisitans trusted God and loved believers. Or to be more accurate they trusted Jesus and loved ALL believers. 

There is not really a whole lot to add to that is there? I think I would be happy if I was known as a guy who trusted and loved others. 

Just think about the peace we would have if we could ever learn to do those things.  We wouldn't worry or fret or try to do things our own way or have a whole list of Ishmaels in our lives. We wouldn't bend the rules or manipulate to cheat in order to advance our own cause if we were truly trusting God. 

If we truly loved others disagreements would not turn into conflicts. Love would override selfishness. We would settle our differences and lovingly move on. 

Oh what peace we miss when we fail to trust God and love each other. 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Sealed and guaranteed

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. - Ephesians 1:13-14

I realise that I am not the world's greatest theologian. Far from it. I admit I don't get everything. I am quite certain I get a lot wrong. I am looking forward to the day when I get to heaven and I understand all the stuff I don't know now. 

One of the big questions that people deal with is whether or not our salvation is secure. Once we are truly saved are we saved forever, or could we really mess up and have God take it away from it, or just fall away ourselves? 

Here is the record. 

We heard the word of truth
We trusted
We believed
We were sealed with the Spirit of promise
We received the guarantee of our inheritance in the person of the Holy Spirit
We are sealed and guaranteed all the way till our redemption is complete
We are His purchased possession
All this is done to the praise of God's glory

We do three simple things. We hear, we trust, and we believe. God does all the rest. It is His work. 

I am grateful for God's sealing power. I am glad that He seals my salvation and not me. 

I hate to think of what it would be like if I was the one responsible for sealing my future. If did the sealing the sea would have been broken a long, long time ago. 

Praise God for a seal and a guarantee that cannot be broken!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

An the praise of His glory

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. - Ephesians 1:11-12

There are well and truly a lot of blessings in this first chapter of Ephesians. God has blessed us with so much that it is hard to get it all into just a few words.  

One of these blessings in my eternal inheritance. 

An inheritance is something that is laid up in store me. It is something that is coming. Though it is not here yet, it still is mine. 

Our inheritance is a shared inheritance with Christ. We are co-heirs with Him. All the fullness of Christ short of His deity will one day be ours. 

Peter describe the totality and the assurance of our salvation. Peter says it is:

Will not fade away

Buy even more then that is how this inheritance is preserved. My wonderful inheritance is preserved not by me or my work or my goodness or by anything else but by the power of Christ. 

If I could keep my salvation it would be to the praise of my glory. I did it, stayed saved, I kept my inheritance.  

But my inheritance, preserved and kept by Christ, is to the praise of His glory. I know for a fact that if I was in charge of keeping my inheritance it would be long gone. 

Friday, 24 January 2014

One - in Him

having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. - Ephesians 1.9-10

We surely live in a diverse and divided world. We seem capable of dividing over anything. We divide over skin shade. We divide over nationalities. We divide over gender. We divide over music. We divide over theological issues. We divide over preferences. We divide over standards. We divide over personalities. We divide over the stupidest stuff. In fact we seem to look more at ways to divide than ways to unite.

And then there are natural divisions. There are men and angels. There are the saved in heaven and the saved on earth. These believers were dealing the cultural division between Jews and Gentiles.

But one day, ah one day, God is going to put everything in Him back together through Christ. All of the natural divisions and all of the man-made divisions will be broken down. We will be one with those we squabble with today. We will be one with those dear saints in heaven. We will be joined together with the church past and future and live with the angels in heaven.

I don’t know. It seems like we all would be much better practising that unity now and stop looking for things to divide over. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Riches of His grace

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, - Ephesians 1.7-8

Redemption through His blood
The forgiveness of sins

I guess there are not any two things that I could be more grateful for. I have been redeemed, bought back, and adopted back by God as His son. And, I have had my sins forgiven. Those are all great and wonderful and amazing and powerful and impossible blessings. I thank God for doing the impossible.

But what I want to look at the power that made all this possible.

It all happened according to the riches of  God's grace. He made the riches of His grace abound to us. He did it all in His perfect wisdom and with exact prudence. In other words He did it all right.

Not dos what He does with an incredible and unfathomable power. He has the unlimited riches of His unlimited grace in store and. He has His unlimited abundance of power to supply it. The wonderful truth for me is that His grace will never run out.

I am really glad of that. If God's grace could run out I would surely have long ago used up my share of it.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. – Ephesians 1.6

There is a purpose in what God laid out before the foundation of the world. He designed us the the holily and without blame. He designed things so that we could be adopted as his children.

But He also designed us to live for the praise of  His glory. My life should be lived in such a manner that God is glorified through my praise. It is not just praising with singing and hand clapping and raised hands and amening and hankie waving, though all that may certainly be part of it.

Praise is much more deep seated than that. Praise is living out a life of praise in all that we say and think and do.

Because His glory has done something. It made us accepted in the Beloved.

Acceptance is something we alll seek. We want to be accepted by friends and co-workers and even people we meet. No one like rejection.

But there is one need for acceptance that stands out above the rest. The acceptance we really need is acceptance with God. But our sin gets in the way of that. Our sin separates us from Him and only He can do anything about it.

But God reached down from heaven in the glory of His grace to make a way for acceptance. To receive that acceptance all we have to do is to accept the acceptance His offers in the glory of His grace.

Praise God for opening the way for us to be accepted by Him. 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Prehistoric love

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, - Ephesians 1.4-5

I realise this is the same passage as yesterday, but it has something I don’t want to skip over. That is His motivation – God did all this in love. 

I mentioned the word prehistoric yesterday. We read about how God had plans before the beginning for us to be holy and blameless. We also looked at another plan – that we be adopted as sons into His family.

But there is something else we might miss if we are not careful. We know the basis and the motivation for God’s prehistoric plans for us. Before the beginning, prehistorically if you will, God’s love was already active. 

Get that? Before the foundation of the world God’s love was already in motion. Before ‘in the beginning’ anf before ‘let there be light’ there was already love. 

It was the love that prompted God to adopt  his enemies as His children. It was. His love that would one day send Jesus to the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. 

Isn't it a blessing and a comfort to know that before there was anything, there was love. And after it is all said and done there will still be love. 

What wondrous love is this? 

Prehistoric plans

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, - Ephesians 1.4-5

What do you think about when you hear the word 'prehistoric?' The first thing that comes to my mind is dinosaurs and cavemen. I know, that is not right, but that is what I think of. But then I have to ask 'what is prehistoric?' How can anything be pre-history for the believer? We have history from, literally, Day One forward. Our history starts with 'In the beginning God...' How do we go before the beginning? 

But we do know some stuff from before the beginning. This passage has a key teaching for us from 'before the beginning.' 

Before the foundation of the world God chose that His elect would be holy, without blame, and adopted as His children. I am purposefully skipping who the elect are, except to say that they are those who have trusted Christ. 

God ordained, before the beginning, that his people should live holy and blameless lives adopted as His children. 

Holiness though has seem to become passé. We like the idea of being adopted as God's children, but are not so sure about this holiness bit. Sometimes it seems like we want to be as much like the world as we can instead of walking in God's holiness. It seems to be more of an attitude of 'what can I get away with?' instead of 'how can I live holily?' 

God's plan for us, before the beginning, was that we live holy lives. Do our lives reflect that holiness? 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Every spiritual blessing

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, - Ephesians 1.3

This is another one of those ‘wow!’ verses. It is easy to just kind of read over it and fly by it without seeing what it is really saying. But it deserves so much more than that. 

Blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God deserves our praise. His name is blessed and we are to praise and honour and glorify and indeed bless Him for who He is. 

He doesn’t have to do anything to earn our blessing – but He does. He has already blessed us. And oh how. He has blessed us. 

He has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Every spiritual blessing. 

We may not every material 'blessing' because far to often those things can be anything but a blessing. All that 'stuff' can too often be a hindrance. 

But God blesses us with all the spiritual blessings. He gives us salvation. He gives us justification. He gives us positional sanctification. He gives us holiness. He gives us eternal life. He gives us adoption into his family. He gives us an inheritance that cannot fade away. 

The reason we have a hard time seeing these blessings is because they are the eternal things that the Bible calls 'the invisible things of this world.' We tend to focus on the visible and temporal things. 

God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Let's live as fully blessed saints no matter what the world sends our way. 

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Don't be deceived

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. - Galatians 6.7-8

It is stunning sometimes to see how many people are going through life with a ‘devil may care’ attitude about their lives. Mankind can deceive himself into thinking that it all going to be okay and that everything is sure to work out in the end. 

But the world can't get away with it forever. God is not going to be mocked. If a person spends their life of sowing the flesh the result is going to be that they will reap eternal corruption. It just makes sense, man mocks God when he takes God for granted or ignores Him. God won't be mocked. 

On the other hand those who sow of the Spirit will of the Spirit eternal life. 

What we sow is a reflection of who we are. No one, no matter how good we are we cannot sow the things of the Spirit unless we have the Spirit. 

It seems like we live in a world that is full of mockery of God, but one day it will tragically be over. Praise God that  he loves his mockers enough that He will save any who turn to Him. 

New creation

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. – Galatians 6.15

I don't think I get this concept of 'new creation' like I should. I think we see the idea of ‘new creation’ in at least a couple of days. In one way is the well-known passage that ‘if any man be in Christ he is a new creation.’ That is a personal application. When I became a Christian I was a new Roger. I was no longer the same old man. I became a Christian, one who has the power in Christ to live for Him. 

But that is not the topic here. Paul is speaking of another aspect of being a new creation. 

In Christ nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter if one is a Jew or a Gentile. It makes no difference what shade of colour his sin is.  It makes no difference if he is Irish or British or American or German or French or from any other country. It makes no difference, in our own culture, if he is settled or a traveller. It makes no difference. One name and one name only matters – that name is ‘Christian.’ All the rest is peripheral. All those barriers have really been peripheral since the Day One. 

All of us are descendants of Adam and Eve. We are all ‘made of one blood.’ The world has drawn up false divisions based on national borders or skin colour or facial features or whatever. But God created Adam and Eve and every one of us are related to them and to each other. There are no races but two – the race to destruction and the race to heaven. 

There is division in man’s race to destruction – but not in the Christian race. 

There is no room for false divisions in the Christian race. We are one. In too many circles racism and classism and nationalism still hang on. 

Are we a new creation, or are we bound by the world's false divisions?

Friday, 17 January 2014

No room for bragging

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. - Galatians 6:14

‘Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood'

This words are found in the hymn 'When I Survery the Wondrous Cross.' They wonderfully express the thoughts in Galatians 6.14. The song begins with a reminder of what brings about this kind of humility. 

'When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.'

Isaac Watts wrote this hymn as a communion hymn. The purpose of the hymn is to remind us of the meaning of the cross and how little all our best efforts are in the light of the cross. He wrote a verse he later omitted. 

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o'er his body on the tree;
Then am I dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

I think the last lines of this stanza really express what Paul is saying in the verse above. I have nothing to brag about. In view of the cross all my works are nothing. Supposedly Watts dropped this verse because he was afraid it sounded like boasting. I can see his point, I suppose, but I see that as my goal. When I look at the cross I should indeed be dead to the world, and the world's appeal should be dead to me. That is, after all, how the verse ends. 'The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.' The world only has a draw to me when I get my eyes off the cross. in the shadow of the cross the world is dead. 

So what is my response? Watts nails it 

'Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small,
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.' 

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Do good

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. - Galatians 6:10

Therefore, in the light of what we have seen over the last few days there is only one thing to do - do good. Do good to all. Especially do good to and for each other. 

The term ‘do gooder’ has almost become a term of mockery or scorn. I have to say I don’t understand that. How can doing good be something to be mocked?

With all the theology and all this teaching about works and the Law and man-made requirements and grace and all that comes down to this instruction – ‘do good.’ 

When Paul wrote to the Ephesian church he made it clear that God ordained before the foundation of the world that those who have been saved by grace through faith have not be saved my good works, but they are ordained to do good works as Christians. 

Sure, it says here 'especially those who are of the household of faith' but it starts with 'use every opportunity you get to do good to all men.'

I wonder how many of us are known as 'do gooders' who see every opportunity to do good to others. I wonder what a difference we could make if we did? 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Don't lose heart

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. - Galatians 6.9

Wow. I can’t even begin to tell you how often I have had to turn to this passage.  We are now nearly 16 years into this church plant and though we have seen people saved and baptised and growing and established in the faith this little church just keeps plugging along with forward steps and backward steps. 2013 was a really good and hopeful  year. As the year ended we had seen a lot of positive things happen. 

But as we enter 2014 we see a year of challenges. The economy is still bad and there is talk of a couple of families in the church moving away. 

It gets tiresome. It gets wearisome. And it can be tempting to lose heart. 

But this a verse where I really wish I could cop on and learn the lesson. In 2002 our ministry suffered a huge setback. Within a few days in my personal devotions, in family devotions, and In a little devotional I did with Eoin back then the same encouragement came up. 'Dont be weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.' 

In other words, don't give up just because things get wearisome. 

All these years on the message is the same - don't quit. We are not always going to understand why some people thrive and prosper in visible way as and some just plug away and never see anything spectacular. 

I read just last week about Jim Eliot's brother Bert. Jim is famous. He was a spectacular brilliant meteor flashing across the sky. Praise God for his impact. Praise God for that short but bright light. 

Bert was just a constantly shine light. For 67 years he quietly ministered in Peru. He won souls. He started churches. He pulled teeth. And yet nobody ever wrote a book or made a movie about him. He and his wife just kept faithful and reaped what God had for him. 

So what do plodders do? We should not lose heart. We can't give up. We trust God to allow us to reap the blessings of our faithfulness. 

Question is 'do I have the faith to not lose heart?' 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Burden bearing

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. - Galatians 6.2

As I walk around am out and about I always try to be aware of folks who are struggling with a burden of some sort. It might be a guy trying to push his car out of the road or a mother trying to get her pram in the shop door or a workman who just needs an extra hand for just a second. I can’t help it. It was just the way I was raised. If you seem someone who needs help and you can give it – you just do it. 

That is something that is easy to do if we stay aware and keep our eyes open to the needs and loads and burdens of others. You get trained early and you just do it. It is a good way to show our love for those around us. 

But what is harder to see is those who are carrying emotional or spiritual or their own private loads. We can't always see these as easily as when one struggles with a physical load. That doesn't mean that the load is any less real or any less heavy. 

One of the key elements of 'fulfilling the law of Christ' is to be aware of the burdens of others and try to help carry that load. It is sad that so much of there church are carrying around loads of worry and care and despair. Sure, they ought to 'cast all their cares on Jesus because he cares for them' but I know myself that that is not always easy to do. Sometimes we all just need someone to come along and day 'let me help you with that.' 

Let's keep our eyes and hearts own for those who are carrying a load today and then do what we can do to help, even if it only means that we know and care and are there for them. 

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Restore him

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. – Galatians 6.1

The last section of Paul’s letter to Galatia is chock full of how to apply the principle of letting our liberty give us opportunities to love and serve each other. 

Here is a wonderful example at the very start of chapter 6. 

What do we do when a brother falls and gives in to a temptation? Do we kick him while he is down? Do we proudly use him as an example of what happens if you don’t obey the rules? 

I am around a little while now. I have seen far too many cases where a brother stumbles or slips up or is 'overtaken in a trespass' and then, when he he needs Christians the most, is kicked to the kerb. We must be the only army that gleefully shoots it's wounded. That kind of fits in to the conceit and provocation we read about yesterday doesn't it? 

When we kick our fallen we make a terrible mistake. No, let me rephrase that. It is pure wickedness for us to kick our fallen. Paul says here that we are to restorethem. Not only that, he says that we are to do it gently. 

It is that gentle bit that seems to be especially difficult. We like to see him restored, but some times it seems that we are not going to see him restored before we really punish him to his fall. 

We had better be careful. The reason for their gentle restoration is that we may one day be in his position. We may also be overtaken and when we realise it and repent we are going to want gentle restoring for ourselves. 

Watch your attitude

Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. – Galatians 5.26


These are pretty ugly character flaws.

And yet right here in the middle of teaching about the flesh and the spirit and all the odious works of the flesh we have a warning against conceit, provocation, and envy. It may not seem to 'fit' at first, but I think there is a clear connection.  Two of them, at least, seem to fit right In the context.

Actually I don't think it is a difficult connection at all. I think it is pretty clear and pretty obvious.

If we are caught of up an system of 'do this don't do that' and we 'do this and don't do that' better than somebody else it naturally draws us the be conceited, or, as the wonderful old King James translation put it, vain glory. We can get all puffed up and think, 'oh, I do everything right, I must be a better Christian than so and son.'

That of course leads to provoking and prodding and poking at them for not following our list of good works. There is a tendency to put them down because they don't measure up to our own list of standards. In our false sense of spirituality we put them down because it makes us feel good.

On the last point I admit that there is a bit of conjecture. When we are bound by abiblical does and don'ts it is just barely possible that we envy those who live in liberty because they get to do things we don't get to do.

When we allow ourselves to be bound by man’s rules that are outside the remit of scripture  we get ourselves in all kinds of trouble.

Besides, if our standard is to love God and love our brethren I find that we get much more careful about our own dos and don’ts’ 

Friday, 10 January 2014

Crucified living

And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. – Galatians 5.24-25 

Those who are truly Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 

Okay, that sounds great. But what does to it mean? What does it mean that those who are saved have crucified the flesh? Paul writes about this in Romans 6-7. Basically the teaching is that when we got saved the old man was crucified with Christ and therefore the flesh has no power over us. 

But that's not how it seems to play out, is it? My flesh certainly dos not seem dead. It seems real and alive and I always have to fight with it. How can we be told that the flesh wars against the spirit, and then read that the flesh is crucified? 

The key is the next few words - with its passions and desires. We can't escape the flesh. That is where we have to live. But it's power was destroyed at the cross. From the grave it's passions and desires and wants and lusts and greed and selfishness cries out. That is what I must constantly put to death. 

We all know the experience. We are coasting along and seemingly doing fine when that little voice calls us back some particular passion or desire and the next thing we know we have slipped up and fallen prey. 

It doesn't make any sense, but we know it happens. 

But God's children choose to crucify or mortify those things. Obviously we aren't perfect, but as a rule we kick this things in the ditch though the power of the Holy Spirit and we more on in. 

I have to examine what I do when my flesh calls out from the grace. Do I yield to its powerless call, or do kill off those passions and desires? 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Works and fruit

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are:adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5.19-24

Based on who we side with, Flesh or Spirit, our lives are going to do work or bear fruit. The only question is what kind of works or fruit we are going to produce. 
The works of the flesh, as posted above, are simply terrible. They even sound ugly. This is what the flesh, left to its own devices, is capable of doing. Sure, not everyone in the flesh does all of these things. Some in the flesh may even do good things. But this is what man does without God. That is why no utopia has ever been utopian. 

Notice that the works of the flesh are works. It is what people do. It is natural. It is just what the flesh does. 

But look at the fruit of the Spirit. This is what the Holy Spirit produces in man. 

The works of the flesh are what happens when man just lets his flesh do its work, and those who consistently live that way have no hope of heaven. 

But when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in man and that man yields to His direction a new kind of fruit is produced to mark that man out. What kind of fruit does the Sprit produce. What fruit do I show if I am yielded to His control? 

Self control

These are character traits that make up the man who yields to the control of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We need to examine our lives to see if these describe us. If not we need to go back and check on that battle between Flesh and Spirit. If I am feeding the Spirit this is how I will live. 

What does my life show about me? 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The great fight

I say then:Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. - Galatians 5.16-17

I don't think a single one of us have any doubts that we are in a constant battle in our lives. 

In one corner we have our old enemy Flesh. In the other corner we have  the Spirit. These two are always going at it. Flesh fights against Spirit and Spirit fights against Flesh. These two simply cannot get along. It is a battle that started the day we got saved and will continue to the day we meet Jesus face to face. If we give in to the wrong one we can't do the things we know are right. 

It is a fierce battle. As Paul himself wrote in Romans 7 it is a frustrating battle. Follow Flesh or follow Spirit. Which do we choose? Which is going to win?

It seems pretty clear. If we feed Flesh it will win out. It we feed Spirit it will win out. I feed Spirit when I spend time in prayer and in the word of God or helping others or true Christian fellowship or loving people. 

I feed Flesh when I give in to its lusts and desires and cravings. 

I have to ask myself on a regular basis if what I am choosing to do, or not do, are going to support Flesh or going to support Spirit. Whose side am I on after all? 

Monday, 6 January 2014

The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat

But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! - Galatians 5.15

This passage always reminds me of an old children's poem that I occasionally come across when reading books to the children (and grandchildren now). It is about two stuffed animals, a gingham dog and a calico cat who just can't get along. They are always fighting until eventually...well, just have a read of it. 

The Duel
by Eugene Field (1850-1895)

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
'T was half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t' other had slept a wink!
      The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
      Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
            (I wasn't there; I simply state
            What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

The gingham dog went "Bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "Mee-ow!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
      While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
      Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
            (Now mind: I 'm only telling you
            What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh, dear! what shall we do!"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
      Employing every tooth and claw
      In the awfullest way you ever saw---
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
            (Don't fancy I exaggerate---
            I got my news from the Chinese plate!)

Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
      But the truth about the cat and pup
      Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
            (The old Dutch clock it told me so,
            And that is how I came to know.)

Did you see what happened there. The two toys fought so much that eventually with all of their scratching and clawing and biting they ate each other up! 

Silly, isn't it. A funny children's poem. Or is it more than that? 

Look what Paul says here. 'Beware if yiu bite and devour one another, else you eat each other up.' 

That little verse is so clear. All they biting and devouring and squabbling and fight can only result in one thing - mutual destruction. How many churches are littered with scraps of gingham and calico? It seems like there are times when Christians are more about fighting and biting and devouring then they are about getting along. 

We really had better learn to get along brothers and sisters. There is far too much calico and gingham flying around in our churches. The result will be no better than what happened in the poem. 

Loving liberty

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this:“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” - Galatians 5.13-14

'Well Roger, you certainly sound like you believe that we Christians can just do whatever we want since we are free in Christ.' 

Some folks would say, 'wow, that's great' while others might say 'you've become quite the liberal haven't you?'

Either of those responses could not be further from the truth. And all because of the passage before us today. Here Paul make the application we have been waiting for. 

'Yes, you are called to liberty, but don't use your liberty to satisfy your flesh.' 

Sure, we are free, but we need to be sure that we do use that freedom for ourselves. Remember the love we read about a couple of days ago? Well here is how it is made effective. Our liberty is not a license to sin. 

Instead our liberty is a license to love.  Through love serve each other. It really is not about what we can get, it is about what we can for others. What is the summation of the new law for us? Love your neighbour as yourself. 

Think about how our lives would be lived out if our lives were dictated by 'love your neighbour as yourself.' We wouldn't steal. We would avoid lusftul thoughts. We woildn't tempt each other with immodest dress. We would be respectful of each other. We would be careful of our testimonies. We would consider others in what we chose to do or not do.  

Yup, we are free in Christ. Absolutely. But let's make sure we are guided by serving and loving each other. If we did that we woildn't have to worry about the legalism that binds us to man's rules and traditions. 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

What happened?

You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?- Galatians 5.7

It can be easy to get a good start in godly living. A person gets saved, or makes a decision to really serve the Lord, and for a while everything goes well. But something always seems to happen. It may not be this particular error, but something always seems to hinder us in our walk. 

We have all been there. We have all seen it in ourselves and each other. 

It's a fair question. What happens to all those believers who seem to make a great start but eventually fizzle out? I have a lot of friends here who seemd at one time to be really on fire for God but eventually have become dull and lukewarm and maybe even are no longer living for Christ. 

Judging by the context and based on what I have experienced and seen I think I am going to put forth an idea. 

It seem to me in the light of the context that the thing that hindered them was the legalised living that was required of them. When a person is first saved there is a natural fire and fervency. There is a great start. But if they are not careful pretty soon someone starts loading them up with all kinds of outward expectations about what it means to be spiritual. They make it impossible to meet up to the expectations and pretty soon the new believer gets discouraged and just give up. 

Instead of being taught to live out their faith in love they are hindered by man made restrictions. Nobody can ever fully meet up to those kind of things, but everyone can love. 

Faith and love

For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. – Galatians 5.5-6

Well, we ‘finally’ get to the crux of the matter here. It is not about the Law. It is not about doing anything for the sake of doing. 

Paul says we wait, the power of the Spirit, for the full righteousness of Christ. We look for that final rightesousness through faith, not works. Circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing, neither does any other work. 

What matters is our faith out working through love. 

Love - there it is. 

Our faith is not worked out through the Law or any kind of works. Our faith is worked out and manifested and demonstrated and manifest and motivated through love. 

One of the reasons Christians have a hard time being faithful in service is because they try to serve out of obligation or pressure or a 'have to' attitude. No one likes to do anything because they 'have to.' It is tiresome and wearying and depressing and burdensome. Eventually we get tired of doing the 'have tos.' That attitude leaves far too many spiritual lives in ruin. 

That's why our faith works in love. It is love for Christ Love for others that motivates true living in the Spirit. Why else would Jesus summarise the whole Law with this - love God and love others? 

Let's forget another what we have to do. Let's instead let our faith work in love. 

Friday, 3 January 2014

Stand in liberty

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. – Galatians 5.1

The liberty that Paul writes about here is really important. It is important because it is based on the fact that Christ Himself set us free at salvation. 

And yet the reality is that there is always a temptation to be drawn back into the bondage of works. It is hard because for some reason people tend to find comfort in being bound by a list, written or implied, because then all we have to do is tick off the items on the list. We don't have to focus too much, just follow the rules. 

But that kind of living demeans the work of the cross. Christ has made us free and to any less is to lessen his work. 

Lest anyone think I am arguing for a license to sin be patient. All of this is going someplace. Just hold on for a couple more days. Paul has that well covered. 

But it meantime it is vital that those of us who have been freed by Christ to stand in that liberty and avoid man made entanglements. Stand fast in that wonderful Chrisitan liberty. 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Children of promise

Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. – Galatians 4.28

There is not a whole lot here, but I really like what it says. It is a special part of salvation. 

Isaac was a child of promise. God had promised old Abraham and his barren wife Sarah that they were going to have a son. When it didn't happen at first they tried their own methods to have a son. And Abraham had a son by Hagar. 

But he wasn't a son of promise. He was a son that fulfilled the letter of the Law. He was a son achieved by man taking things into his own hands without waiting on God. 

Eventually God sent a promise that Sarah would have a son. And she did. God fulfilled His promise when barren Sarah bore a son. It took a while in human terms, but God fulfilled His promise. 

Here we read that we too are children of promise. God has promised that all who put their faith in Christ will inherit eternal life. God made a promise, just like He did to Abraham and Sarah. God cannot lie. He will fulfill His promise. O what joy and hope we have in that promise that cannot be broken. 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Zealous to do good

They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.  - Galatians 4.17-18

It would be hard enough if we only had to death our own spiritual battles. It would certainly be bad enough if we 'only' had to deal with Satan and His attacks. 

But it goes beyond that. We have to be extra careful and extra diligent because false teachers of all sorts try to court us for their cause. The specific teachers here are trying to court us to the cause of living by rules and conditions. The cause of legalistic living they are trying to court us to is not good. 
They court us so that we will be zealous for their works. 

I will admit that there are times when the zeal of false teachers convicts me. I see their fervour and dedication for their cause and I wonder why I don't have that same kind of zeal. The problem is that their zeal is misdirected. 

Paul is a teacher. Any teacher can recognise that. While talking about their misdirected zeal he decides to teach about good zeal. 

'As zealous as these guys are with their courting you their side you need to be zealous in doing good work whether I am there with you or not.' 

One of the things Paul wrote to Titus about was the truth that God has called His people to be zealous of good works. The cults and false teachers are going to be zealous in their efforts to court believers in 2014. May God give me and may I live zealously in truly good works in the new year.