Friday, 28 February 2014

Growing up

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, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him both who is the head—Christ— - Ephesians 4.14-15

We used to tease our children, and now we tease our grandchildren, about growing up too fast. We talked about tying a brick on their heads so that couldn’t grow any more. It was always good for a laugh, and they felt good about how big they were getting.

Of course we didn’t want that to happen. Some of the saddest stories I have ever seen are about children who never grow up. You see children who because of physical or mental incapacity just don’t grow up. And that is terribly sad.

I would never make light of that tragic situation, but it does illustrate what it is like when Christians refuse to grow up. It is not natural. That failure to grow is what makes us unstable so that we can be tossed about.

Growth is part of life. In a 'normal. life they will always be growing - and thus it is for the believer. If there is no growth something is definitely wrong. Paul says here that 'we should no longer be children...[but that] we may grow up into all things into Him who is the head - Christ.'

I think we need to ask ourselves if we are growing up. Are we any more spiritually mature than we were 6 months or a year or 10 years ago?

Thursday, 27 February 2014

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 4.15

I have always been challenged by this verse. And, I have to say, I am challenged by both aspects of it.

First, I am challenged by the instruction to speak the truth. Not necessarily simply by not telling a lie, but by really and truly speaking the truth. Truth is so much more than non-lying. Speaking truth means first of all that we speak. Sometimes speaking the truth means that we have to speak instead of staying quiet when something is wrong. Sometimes we remain silent when we should speak. It is easy to think that we can just not say anything and everything will just be okay.

We can do great damage by staying silent when we need to speak.

But we must speak sometimes, and it must be the truth. As they say in court it must be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

And then there are a couple of key words to go with speaking the truth. When we speak the truth we must speak it in love.

It seems like some people relish in 'speaking the truth.' They can even take delight in a sanctimonious spirit of superiority based on speaking the truth - but totally miss the love part.

It is easiest not to speak at all. It is even somewhat easy to speak the truth. But it can be much more difficult to speak the truth in God's love.

Isn’t it amazing how often love is as the root of all we are supposed to do? 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Tossed about

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 4.14

I remember reading a book not to long ago by a somewhat noted Christian author. He was writing about how we need to stop putting such an emphasis on hard line doctrine. This writer was telling us how we need to be flexible on doctrine. Doctrine is like a trampoline. It is there, but it must bend and stretch to suit our circumstances.

We have a trampoline in our back garden. The grandchildren, their parents, and even sometimes Grampy plays on the trampoline. I can see the picture of being tossed to and fro on the trampoline. Nothing is stable, everything bounces about. That kind of thinking is exactly the opposite of what Paul writes here. Paul says that we must have an anchor of stability in a storm tossed world. It is not enough that the doctrinal storms are out there - it is made worse by the trickery of men and it is made worse by the 'cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.'

The problem with this trampoline analogy is that not only are trampoline's unstable, but somebody else is bouncing it under our feet. 

In these troublesome times and with all this opposition we need to stay anchored - not jump on a trampoline. We have our anchor in Christ.

Hymnwriter Priscilla Owens wrote a great old hymn based on Hebrews 6.19 (This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,)

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.

It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
For ’tis well secured by the Saviour’s hand;
And the cables passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy the blast, through strength divine.

It will firmly hold in the straits of fear,
When the breakers have told the reef is near;
Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o’erflow.

It will surely hold in the floods of death,
When the waters cold chill our latest breath;
On the rising tide it can never fail,

While our hopes abide within the veil.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Till we all come...

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; - Ephesians 4.13

Our growth and our equipping has a purpose. We have a target we are, or should be striving to achieve. The saints are equipped to do the ministry till we achieve certain goals.

Those goals?

The unity of the faith
The knowledge of the Son of God
To perfection
To the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ

All of these goals have to do with a growing process. Paul even says that we minister ‘till we ALL come to..’ the things we listed above. That means that we never get to quit and we never get to stop striving to build each other up. The words just before this list explain the necessity of edifying the body of Christ.

So we strive together for unity, to know God, to mature, and to measure up to the fullness of Christ.

There are a lot of things we can focus on trying accomplish. The first is obvious. We have a ministry of reconciliation to draw men to Christ.

But we can't deny that we have a responsibility to each other to build each other up. That is our focus, not tearing each other down.  We need to understand that our focus is not us - but each other. When we do that we all continue to grow and grow and grow and grow.

We need to look for every opportunity we can to build each other up and help each other grow.

I wonder where that falls on most of our priority lists. 

Monday, 24 February 2014

Equipping the saints

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, - Ephesians 4.11-12

God didn't leave things to chance when it came to laying out plans for His church. He gave the members of the body gifts to serve Him. Then He gave a few jobs to certain offices.

Sometimes we get the idea that it is the job of these church offices to do the bulk of the work. Part of that I think is from a comma in the hold King James that made it look like the jobs of the officers were:

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

But that doesn’t seem accurate from what I have read and studied.

What is more accurate is this. God gave the offices listed so that they could 'equip the saints to do the work of the ministry and to edify the body of Christ.

We sometimes get the notion that it is up to the pastors and missionaries and evangelists and other 'official' offices to do the bulk of the work. But in actuality those in these positions are to give the church the tools to do the bulk of the ministry.

Now this really makes sense. As a pastor I am never going to be able to minister to the needs of the people that folks in our church can reach out to. I can't reach their neighbours and co-workers and associates like they can.

But they can. All people need are the tools. The word of God has the tools. All we need is to make sure everyone is equipped. The ministry is not just for the ministers – it is for all of us together. 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Endeavouring for unity

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. - Ephesians 4.3-6

In case we had any doubts about the importance of unity Paul makes something very clear. There is:

One body
One Spirit
One hope of our calling
One Lord
One faith
One baptism
One God
One Father of all

(Let me say, just briefly, and in case you can't tell, I like the way Paul writes in lists)

We have all of these things to draw us together and so little to really divide us. So why does division seem to reign?

There is, of course, only one cause - we are too selfish to be one. We have problems with oneness because we are not walking worthily. Instead of recognising that despite our marvellous diversity we still have much to unify use. Instead we focus on our differences and preferences and peculiarities. For a good part of my Christian life I tended to measure my spirituality on how separated I was instead of striving for unity in the non-essentials.

Our endeavouring, our efforts, our goal is to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We can't compromise on Biblical truth. We can't seek unity with error, but we don't need to separate on the dumb stuff.

Endeavouring to keep unity of the Spirit. What a great goal for us to strive for.  

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Walk worthy

 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, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.- Ephesians 4.1-3

I like Paul's instructions on how to walk. He does it all throughout the New Testament, and there are several instructions right here in the book of Ephesians. 

Here Paul tells us to 'walk worthy' of the calling we are called to. And then he gives some instructions on how to walk worthy. 

What is a worthy walk? What walk is worthy of what Christ has done for us?

It is a walk of lowliness
It is a walk of gentleness
It is a walk of longsuffering
It is a walk of forebearing in love
It is a walk of unity
It is a walk in the Spirit
It is a walk in the bond of peace

When I look at that list I find myself challanged. If I try to tick of the items I don't get very far before I see how unworthy my walk normally is. The list we see there is not a very popular one for the 21st century Christian man. I mean really - Lowly? Gentle? Longsuffering? Loving forebearance? Peaceful? 

That doesn't really sound very manly does it? 

But that's only because we have some really mixed up views of what a real man is. We have the idea that real men are gun toting, don't push me around, tough guys who border more on being bullies than being gentle. In fact, how many men want to be known as gentle?

If we are ever going to walk worthy maybe we need to review what it means to walk worthy and stop seeing the world as our pattern. 

Friday, 21 February 2014

In the church

Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. - Ephesians 3.21

What is the purpose of the church? Is it to win souls? Is it to go into all the world to preach the gospel. Is it to go and teach and make disicples? Is it to feed the poor? 

Sure, it is all of those things and more. 

We are the agency through which God has chosen to work in the world today. He works exceedingly, abundantely above all we ask or think according to the power that is at work in His church. 

And we are to give Him the glory. 

There are two ways to look at this challange to the church of course. The first and foremost is the church as the body of Christ. This is the church that has existed since the day of Pentecost, continues today, and will continue until the day we all gather together in heaven. 

Our job as His body and our job as local churches are to bring glory to God in all that we do. He didn’t design us and it is not His plan for us to go it solo. In His body He works visibly through local churches. We need to be careful to examine the priorities and purposes of our local churches. 

It is easy for our churches to get busy on all sorts of distractions. We need to be careful that we keep our true purpose, that of bringing glory to God im mind. Our churches can be busy about making a name for oursleves and having all the nice amenities and buildings and programmes and forget about our true purpose. 

Are we, The Church, seeking to glorify God in the world around us. And are we, as the church in our local assemblies, truly seeking to glorify and Him alone? 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Above all we ask or think

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  - Ephesians 3.20

So what can God do? How much can He accomplish? What can He do that we can't? Is there any situaton which is just too hard for Him to do? Can God do the thing that is consuming my life right now? Can He really carry me through? Can He really meet that need?

Our problem is, well at least my problem is, that I tend to judge my issues and challenges and problems based on what I can do to solve them. I forget that there is a much better 'solver' and a much bigger 'fixer' than me. My flesh doesn't like that. I like to be the one that fixes things and solve problems. My pride gets in the way of letting go of things for someone else to fix. 

The hard truth though is that there a lot of things I can't fix. I can't fix Michelle's cancer. I can't fix Matt's exhaustion. I can't fix the economy. I can't fix the fact that we got caught in the restn trap during the Celtic tiger and dont own a home. I can't fix these and so many other things. Even if I could I would probably make a royal mess of it. 
But we have a God who delights in doing what is impossible for us. We have a God who is not bound by our limitations. We have a God who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all we can ask or even think to ask. 

Is anything too hard for the Lord? No He is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal God who spoke the heavens and the earth into existance.

Nothing is impossible with God. 

Are any of the very real problems you and I are dealing with too much for Him?


He can do it. 
He can do it exceedingly well. 
He can do it exceedingly and with abundance. 
He can do it exceedingly and with abunance far above anything I can even think to ask or event think to think about.

And He does it through the great power that works in us. 

If I really believe He loves me and really believe that he can do exceedingly and abundantely how I can ever really doubt ot fear? 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

To know the unknowable

May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. - Ephesians .18-19

We sing a song at Kids Klub pretty regularly. I like it. It goes like this:

Jesus' love is very wonderful
Jesus' love is very wonderful
Jesus' love is very wonderful
Oh wonderful love. 

So high you can't get over it
So low you can't get under it
So wide you can't get 'round it
Oh wonderful love.

I love that song because I think it really captures this passage. Paul's prayer is that the readers would grasp how broad and long and deep and high the love of God is. The little children's chorus is a good reminder, but the great old hymn says it beautifully. The love of God is too great for us to ever really express. 

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

The love of God is beyond our knowing - but that should't stop us from striving for it. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Rooted and grounded

That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, - Ephesians 3.17

A little later in Ephesians Paul is going to talk a lot more about stability. Here though is the beginning of the discussion of the basics of stability. 

There are two things that we need at the very start. By faith Christ dwells in our hearts. But then we are rooted and grounded in one special trait. We must be rooted  and we must be grounded in love. 

Paul uses two different terms here to describe what it means to have a solid foundation. He uses the rooted and he uses the term grounded. Rooted deals with trees and plants. Grounded deals with architecture. 

We all know that great trees have roots. I have heard that root systems can be even bigger than the tree. If trees are not well rooted they are not going to last. Storms blow over the biggest and strongest trees if the storms are bad enough so if the root system is weak the tree will surely not survive. 

When buildings are built the foundation must go deep. If not the building will not last. It will eventually collapse. Many years ago a church i was going to decided to build a new building. The new building was going to be built on a slope. As the contactors started digging they found no bedrock so had to keep digging till they found it. There was extra expense, but we knew that if we didnt go to bedrock the building wouldn't last. 

The source of our root's nutition is love. The bedrock of our faith is love. Love is our rooting and our grounding. It is the love of Christ that constrains us to do what we do. It must be our motivation. 

Where is our rooting? In what are we grounded? Truly there is no other but Christ and His love.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Inner strength

That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; - Ephesians 3.16

We may not seem like much. And, in the great scheme of things, we are not much in the outer man. Our outer strength isn't much. We can't really arm ourselves or try to impact the world in a visible and physical manner. We are never going to have a mighty army or have great political power. Our strength does not come from human power or might. 

But we have a much better source of strength. We have a strength that really matters and really makes a difference. Our inner man is strengthened for those things that are really important and that  last for eternity. While all of our human strength has weaknesses and flaws and are apt to fail our strength for the inner man cannot fail. Our strength for the inner man comes from the riches of the glory of God and can never fail. 

My problem is that I too often depend on my own frail and weak strength for the outer man instead of the all powerful strength of God that empowers the inner man. After all, we don't serve by might and we don't serve by power, but we serve by the power of God and that power strengthens us on the inside.

Right now Matt and Michelle are going through a real test. Neither has any physical strength left. Michelle's cancer and chemo and radiation and drugs and transplant have wiped her out. Matt is dealing with the girls and the travel and pressures at church. There is no strength for the battle left.

But they are full of the strength for the inner man Paul writes about. Somehow, day after day after day they find that strength to carry on. That's not because it is their strength, but because they are tapping in to the riches of God's glory for strength for the 'inner man' (or woman in this case).  

It is that inner strength that endures. Outward strength will always fail - always. Inner strength, true Holy Spirit provided inner strength, will never fail - never. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

I bow my knee

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, - Ephesians 3.14-15

I understand here that Paul is just sayung that he was praying for the beleivers. 'Bow the knee' was a way to express prayer. But he could have just said 'Because of this I am praying for you.' But he used the precise words, "bow the knee.' 

'Bow the knee' of course is a sign of submission and capitulation. We bow down to the things that are important to us. We bow down to the things that we favour the most. 

Paul said he bowed his knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

But what do we bow our knees to? 

What draws our attention? Where is our real worship? 

Do we bow our knees to our stuff? Do we bow to other people? Do we bow down to the gods of this world? Do we bow to the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life? Do we bow to the thoughts of others?

Or can we say, like Paul, I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? Not only in prayer, as important as that is, but in every area of our lives. 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Boldness and confidence

according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. – Ephesians 3.11-12

When I think about praying, I mean really think about praying, it can be a scary thing. Who am I to talk to a holy, perfect, just, and righteous God who is the creator and sustainer of the universe?  How can I walk into His throne room and talk to such a God? What gives me the right? 

I don't have any right. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. 

I have no right, but I do have access. Not only that I have bold and confident access. 

What gives us that access? Why can we enter with confidence? How can I do it boldly?

We have that access through Christ. He is the 'captain of our salvation.' On the cross He opened the way of salvation for us, 

But he doesn't only provide access to heaven one day down the road. He provides access to God's throne room to us today. 

Hebrews tells us that because Jesus has been to earth and gone through what man goes through we can have confince and boldness when we go into God's presence. We have that boldness and confidence precisely because we can't do it ourselves. We must know that we are not worthy to enter God's presence. 

But I can enter - because it is not about me. It is about what Christ did in my place. God is God. He is holy. He deserves my respect and my fear and my awe and my reverence. And He hopefully has all that. 

But because it is not my merit. but Christ's, I can boldy adress my wonderful God and Saviour who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Friday, 14 February 2014

The least

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; - Ephesians 3.8

Someone has said that humility is that trait, that just when you think you have it,  you have lost it. Humility is the mark of the true believer.  Andrew Murray put it this way 'Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is, from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue. And so pride, or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil.'

Paul sets the human standard pretty high. Most of us, who if asked who the greatest Christian ever was, would have Paul high on our list. After all he was an apostle. He was a missionary who risked life and limb to preach the gospel and plant churches. He was imprisoned for his faith. He was beaten. He was shipwrecked. And on and on and on. 

But what did he say about himself? 'I am the least of all saints.' 

But wait a minute. Paul can't be the least of all saints, that has to be me! After all I know me from the inside out. I know things about me that nobody else knows. I know I am not worthy, but somehow I can still think sometimes that I am a pretty important fella. How does that kind of pride creep in where it obviously has no cause? 

Paul was in the place where he could say the rest of his statement. Only when we realise that we are nothing can God give the grace that we need to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. When we preach in our own wisdom and power and knowledge and ability we are limited to that only. 

But when I realise how unworthy I truly am then and only then can I preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The mystery cleared up

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), - Ephesians 3.1-4

I used to love to read mystery novels. I still do on occasion. Of course, Agatha Christie was and is one of my favourite mystery writers. I loved at the end when Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple would gather all the characters into a room and solve the mystery. To do so they would peel off all the layers and slowly uncover truths that had been there all along, but that we, along with the characters had missed.  There were there to uncover a mystery. 

Here Paul plays the detective as he unfolds a great mystery. It is a mystery which existed all through the Old Testament to be revealed at the last day. All the truths of God's plan were there in the Old Testament, but it was not clear until Christ. 

But now the mystery has been unraveled. All those little truths are cleared up. God has revealed it to Paul and he wrote it down so that we can know it. 

Let's not skip over that too quickly. God revealed the mystery to Paul though the Holy Spirit, then Paul wrote it down to the Ephesians could understand, and not only that, we have those words written down today so that we can understand it too!!

I had never noticed till a recent message in church. Here is a perfect example of the importance of the written word of God. God showed it to Paul. Paul wrote it down for us. We have it just as surely as Paul did. 

Praise God that we know the end of the book. We have already seen mystery revealed though the revelation of God's truth written down for us. 

I love to see a good mystery solved, don't you? 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A 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, - Ephesians 2.20

I am not an architect. I am not even a builder. But I have been on quite of few building sites. I do know that no building will last if a solid foundation is not laid. I saw evidence of that when I was in the states in the spring of 2011. While we were there a series of tornadoes struck North Alabama. Most of the houses there are timber framed and built on concrete slab. Because there was no real conerstone and no real foundation the houses were wiped away and in some cases nothing was left but a clean concrete slab.

The houses collapsed because they were not secure and anchored. They had nothing to give them strength.

So the church, the church that Jesus promised would endure, needed a soild foundation. It had to be a building that would last.

So God, the Master Builder if you will, had a blueprint for His church.

First He laid down a conerstone. Of course there is no other foundation that will last forever than Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone. Then He used the 'apostles and prophets' to complete the foundation. These early church offices were used to lay the groundwork. When there was no completed word of God the apostles and prophets were used to proclaim God's perfect word. God gave them signs and wonders to confirm their work. (I am not going to get into the 'cessationist/continuist' debate here. Interpret what I am saying how you will :) )

But He didn't stop building there - he continued to build with us, the living stones that make the church today. It is a building that doesnt stop on the 100th floor or the 110th or the 200th. It just keep on growing until Jesus returns and calls us home. We are growing together in holiness to be the perfect building He wants us to be.

All the living blocks of the building ate packed together. If you take out one block the building is weakened. We can't afford to do without any one of us.

Are we doing our part as living blocks as we grow together into a holy temple?

One new man

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace - Ephesians 2.14-15

For centuries the Jews had perceived a division. Any Gentiles who came into contact with them also were fully aware of the division. Jews and Gentiles didn't mix. The early church had to deal with the question of whether or not Gentiles could even be saved without becoming Jews first. 

That kind of division didn't suddenly end in the 1st century. Divisions continued on and continue on today. Sometimes those divisions, just as they did for the Jews and Gentiles, resulted in conflict. No matter how hard man has tried he has not been able to find unity. Every attempt at world unity failed simply because we are all different and we all have own own goals and desires and preferences. 

Time after time man has tried to find peace, and time after time he has failed. 

But there is hope for peace, real peace, abiding peace among men. That hope for peace only comes from the Prince of Peace.  Sure, He brought peace between God and man, but He also brought peace between man and man in Christ. 

He made peace between Jews and Gentiles. That was a giant step. It proves that He can provide peace between any groups of believers becaase He as made us one new man. 

That means no more Yankees and Southerners. It means no more Prods or Tadhgs. It means no more blacks or whites. It means no more travellers or settled. In Christ we find peace and in Christ we become one new man. 

One new man. That is God's plan. When are we going to learn to get out of the way?

Monday, 10 February 2014

Brought near

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. – Ephesians 2.13

This makes it all so simple. In Christ, and in Christ alone, all those who were once far off have been brought near. This is an amazing fact. Paul speaks here specifically to the Jews and Gentiles as he dealt with their previous divisions. He points out the neither Jew nor Gentile was anywhere near God just by virtue of where they were born or what nation they were a part off. All of them, every single one, were far off from God because they were all sinners. 

Man has tried everything to span the gap between them and God that came about because of sin. It is a gap that works cannot span. It is a gap that religion cannot span. There is only one thing that can span that gap. 

We are brought near only by the blood of Christ. 

The gap between sinful man and a sinless perfect God was immense. All of man's efforts fell short, for, as the Bible says, all have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God. 

We could never earn our way or, as one of our children said at one stage 'I can't jump up to heaven,' All we can do is to recognise our need and ask God to bring us close to Him. Praise God for the blood of Christ which can and does bring us near. 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

His workmanship

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2.10

Several years ago, when Waterford Crystal was still made in Waterford, we took a tour of the factory. All the crystal was hand blown with tools and ovens that had been in continuous use for many decades. It was fascinating to go room to room and look at every step of the process. Waterford prided themselves in the fact that they didn't sell seconds. If an imperfection was found at any stage the product was destroyed and the glass melted down for reuse. At one stage they had a spot where visitors could smash in imperfections into bits. 

On one trip we got to stop in the room where a man had just completed the piece to qualify as a master. It was beautiful. The light shining on it reflected and refracted to full spectrum of the rainrainbow had spent many, many hours on this piece. It was his pride and joy. 

I think that is the picture we of what this word 'workmanship' means. We are the workmanship of Christ. 

Think about it just for a minute. Think about what we were before Christ did his work on us. Just like the craftsman started with granules of sand and then formed the crystal in the heat of the oven then chipped and cut and polshed until he reached perfection.  God did the same work for us in creating us as His workmanship. We are His workmanship destined to do good works for His glory. 

Praise God for creating us and shaping us in fire and shaping and chipping and forming us to be His workmanship. May our work for Him reflect His work in us. 

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Not of works, but...

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 2.9-10

Let those who hold the truth, be careful to maintain good works, and so walk in all the holiness of the truth they profess; let them see that by no carelessness of deportment, by no want of integrity, by no neglect of the means of grace, by no exhibitions of unholy temper, by no worldly conformity, yes, by no inconsistency whatever, they bring a slur upon the holy doctrines they avowedly maintain and love; let them not be satisfied with maintaining a string of doctrines, unaccompanied with their sanctifying power: but let them see that with the truth in their judgments, they possess grace in the heart, and unspotted holiness in the life. " - Octavious Winslow

I have enjoyed reading a number of books  and essays by 19th century preachers. Most of them wrote a lot about our works matching up to our profession. There was a consensus among men of that time that true believers would always do good works and that if they didn't it was evidence that there never had been true salvation. 

I think they have a point. We are not saved by good works; there is no doubt about that. But at the same time God ordained from the beginning that we who are His children are ordained to do good works. He created us to do good works. 

If we could do works to get saved we could certainly brag about how good we are and what we did. We would not need Jesus. 

As we examine our lives I think we need to ask ourselves whether our own works accurately reflect the lives we are ordained to live. 

Non one's works can save them - ever. But anyone who is saved will do good works. 

Faith without works is no faith at all. Faith always works. It was ordained from the beginning. 

Friday, 7 February 2014

Lifted up

and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2.6-7

God not only saved us by His grace, but by that same grace He has lifted us up. I like the fact that we are already lifted up. We don't have to wait until we get to heaven to start enjoying the blessings of salvation. We are already citizens of heaven and have been lifted up while still here in the spiritual darkness of this present world.

What does this mean? I think Habakkuk spells it out clearly for us.

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.

It is easy to get caught up in all the problems and troubles of this world. It is easy to get caught up in it and jay live here among the muck and mire of this sin cursed world.

And in a sense we don't have any choice. But while we have to live in the muck and mire we don't have to wallow in it. We can focus on our heavenly kingdom now. We don't have to wait until later to start enjoying the benefits of heavenly living. It's a matter of attitude. I can get bogged down with the here and now, or I can remember that this world is not my home and that I am just passing through. 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

By grace

even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)… For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, - Ephesians 2.5,8

There are plenty of songs and hymns about the grace of God, and it is no wonder.

'Amazing grace, how sweet the sound...'
'Marvelous grace of our loving Lord...'
'It is all because of God's amazing grace...'
'Grace, grace, God's grace...'

Grace, to put it simply, is the unmerited favour of God.

I like the way some put it:


I hate to think of what we would be apart from God's grace.  Apart from grace God could have wiped out the world with a flood. Hey could have just torn it all down when Adam and Eve sinned.  He would be just as righteous just as just, and just as perfect had He chosen to wipe it all out and start up Creation 2.0.

But He didn't do that. Grace intervened. God, in His infinite love and mercy, sent His Son to pour out His grace on all who will receive it.

I love the words of the song. I love the way it expresses that it is indeed all because of God’s amazing grace.

Amazing grace O how sweet the sound,
That saved a poor sinner like me!
Though once I was lost, yet now I am found,
Though I was blinded, now I see!

And it's all because of God's amazing grace!
Because on Calvary's Mountain he took my place!
And someday, some glorious morning,
I shall see him face to face,

All because of God's amazing grace.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

But God

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, - Ephesians 2.4

And again we have those wonderful words, 'but God.' Without this particular 'but God' we would all be, as we used to say in Alabama, in a 'heap'a hurt.'

We were in serious trouble as we were 'children of wrath' and as we walked according to the course of this present world.'

But God:
Who rich in mercy
Because of his great love with which He loved us

I have a hard time coming up with the right words here.

A prefect, holy, righteous creator God deemed a wicked race of man worthy purely and simply by His mercy. His mercy was motivated by His great love. How can that possibly be?

It can only be because He loved us from before the foundation of the world and He acted on that love.

Praise God for 'but God.' 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Just as the others

in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. – Ephesians 2.1-3

We were all in a mess before salvation. All of us, no matter how good we thought we might have been, had a major problem. Were all ‘the children of wrath’ deserving of the full wrath of God.

And the lives of the world around us prove it. Sure, not every single person is always wicked. People do good things. But the whole race of man is cursed because of sin. That is why there is so much wickedness around us. We see all kinds of evil going on and wonder where the brutality comes from.

It comes from the fact that all men are capable of all kinds of wickedness. Man’s conduct naturally reveals it.

We might say we could never do that kind of thing. But before Christ we had no hope. As the children of wrath all we deserved was the judgement of a perfect God. 

We were all there once. But…

Monday, 3 February 2014


And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,… even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  - Ephesians 2.1,5

I know I should probably use a new word, but I love the way this verse sounds in the language of the beautiful old King James 'and you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sin...Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)'

The word quickened is a great old word. It is the old word for 'made alive.'At one point mercury was called 'quicksilver' because it looked like silver that was alive. But I digress.

The point is that before Christ we were all the real walking dead. We had physical bodies, we had souls, but spiritually we were dead before Christ. Our eternity was doomed.

But Christ stepped in. He brought new life. He quickened us, He made us alive, and He gave us eternal hope.

It is only in Christ that we have new life that replaces the old spiritual death. I could nothing to give myself life.

I can’t help but be reminded of this wonderful old song about our new life in Christ made possible by His quickening.

New Life in Christ abundant and free!
What glories shine, what joys are mine,
What wondrous blessings I see!
My past with its sin, the searching and strife,
Forever gone -- There's a bright new dawn!

For in Christ I have found new life.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

His body

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 1.22-23

There are several times in the New Testament where the church is referred to the body of Christ. I really like that analogy. I like that we are His body.

God could have used any means to proclaim his gospel and do His work. He could have proclaimed it in the heavens. He could have emblazoned it at every sunset. He could have written it rainbows.

But he didn't do any of that. He chose to use us, His body, as His hands and feet and ears and eyes and mouth to do His work. We are His hands to do the everyday work of serving. Him and meeting the needs of others. We are His feet to carry the gospel to the world around us. He uses us as His ears to hear the cries and His eyes to see the needs. He uses us as His mouth to proclaim His word and speak words of love and comfort.

And the wonderful thing is that He is the head over all. There is a real problem when the parts our body don't respond properly to instructions from our head.  The body is sick. The connections are not being made.

The same thing is true in Christ's body. When we don't follow the direction of the head something is surely wrong.

We are His body; He has filled us with all of His fullness. There really is no excuse for us not serving Him except our own lack of faith and lack of faithfulness. 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

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 1.22-23

In the greatness of the power of God we have the blessed assurance that God has put all things under Jesus' feet though the work of the cross.

I just want to look at one aspect of that today. I was called on Thursday night to do, believe it or not, my very first funeral. The lady who died was a Christian, saved several years ago, but who had been struggling with illnesses for several years and was in a nursing home here in Naas. Since I was the only local Baptist pastor the family contacted me. We did the first part of the funeral yesterday evening and the graveside will be this morning.

As I was looking and preparing and praying and deciding what to do I thought about a lot of passages, but didn’t think about this one until this morning.

All things have been put under Jesus’ feet, including death. Jesus, in His resurrection power defeated death once and for all. Death was crushed to death, as a popular new hymn puts it.  Jesus has put all enemies under His feet. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 15 that that the last enemy to be destroyed is death. When we celebrate the homegoing of a saint today we look forward to the day when all death will be crushed beneath the feet of our Saviour.

Praise God that all things, including death, are under the feet of Christ.