Friday, November 10, 2023

Grow Up

Ephesians 4:11-15

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Church is not a spectator sport where a crowd of people desperately in need of exercise watch a few people desperately in need of rest. God's intention for His church was for all of us to work together to spread the gospel, instead of having a few hired guns do all the work. The pastor and staff are directed by God to recruit, train, and empower church members to do the work of ministry.

Service builds the church. It gives people purpose and fosters friendships. It helps people feel like they belong. Equally important, service builds the individual members of the church to be stronger Christians. “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” (Ephesians 4:14)

Mature Christians have an unshakeable faith. The highest level of spiritual maturity is experienced when we become like Jesus in attitudes, perspectives, and actions. Most life's problems could be solved if people became more like Jesus. We need to grow up.

Truthful, loving communication is a key element to spiritual growth for individual Christians and the church. This is the opposite of the malicious gossip that can so easily infiltrate the ranks of “the body of Christ” and diminish it’s witness to the unchurched.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Unity is vital to the health of a church

Ephesians 4:1-6

The church is called to be unified in purpose and passion. Paul writes, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

We share the same faith, the same baptism, and the same God yet, disunity and division is common among our churches. When church members don’t work well together, the church is weak. Jesus said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:24-25)

Furthermore, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. The world will know if we are Christians or not by the way those who are believers act toward one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Considering this, Paul urges us “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-2) 

Humility is the cornerstone of unity. It represents an attitude that recognizes the worth and value of other people. Pride, on the other hand, tends to create conflict. When we put others’ needs ahead of ours, we foster harmony.

Gentleness is another characteristic that promotes unity. Easily misunderstood as weakness, it embodies the quality of moderation. It manifests strength under control, enabling perseverance.

Patience is the third trait mentioned by Paul. The word used here is synonymous with longsuffering, which is showing patience despite difficulties, particularly those caused by other people. Without patience, no group can be at peace. 

To live a life worthy of our calling in Christ necessitates that we treat one another with humility, gentleness, and patience. That requires the effort of the entire body of Christ for “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it...” (1 Corinthians 12:26). This is why Paul wrote, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Jesus in your heart

Ephesians 3:16-19

Paul prays "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” The word dwell means to move in and settle down. This much more than a visit and certainly more than a mailing address. This is a permanent change of address.

In the beginning, God dwelt with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They sinned and God could no longer dwell in their presence. Once the nation of Israel was formed, God dwelt with his people. First, in the tabernacle and then in the temple. But they continued to sin, and God’s presence left the temple.

However, through the prophets, God promised a new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). He would put his Spirit inside his people (Ezek. 36:27). To fulfill that promise, Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory (John 1:14). If you are a follower of Christ, your body is a temple.

He dwells in your heart. This is beyond your blood pumping organ; and more than the place where you keep your feelings. It is the very center of your personality. Your mind. Your will. Your soul.

Jesus paid it all and He wants your all. He wants to be the very center of your universe.

As a follower of Christ, you live by faith. The works you do for Christ are according to faith, or they have no eternal value. Furthermore, faith is itself the gift God.

Faith is the conviction that it is no longer you who live, but Christ lives in you. And the life that you now live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you. (Gal. 2:20)

I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in me and I in you,
you will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-5

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

A secret worth sharing

Ephesians 3:1-13

In Paul’s day, there were mystery religions that claimed to have secrets that could unlock the keys to life and happiness, but Paul understood that Jesus’ followers were the ones who truly understood this sacred knowledge. All one need do is open the Word of God, ask for the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to us, and put our faith in Jesus Christ.

In Hebrews we read that, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” (Heb 1:1-3)

From the beginning, Israel was the means through which God revealed Himself. God kept His promise of the Savior alive through His chosen people. They were carried from Egypt to the Promised Land to Babylon and back to the Promised Land. Surviving so that Jesus would come to earth as revealed by the prophets.

This caused the Jews to think that their relationship with God was exclusive, and that God had no interest in other people groups. But the prophet Isaiah tells us,
    The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord...
    Even those I will bring to My holy mountain,
    And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
    Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar.
    For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.
(Is 56:7)

Paul called this a mystery, revealed to him and to us, that is meant to be shared. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Cor 4:2-3)

Are we being faithful? Just as God intended Israel to be the means by which the Savior came into the world, he intends the church to be the way the gospel is made known to everyone. However, our world grows dark with sin and evil. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” (Matt 5:14)

Are you being faithful? God has put you in a particular place with a unique story so that you can bring good news to hurting people. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Pet 3:15)

Prepare yourself. Study the Bible. Pray for opportunities.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Getting along

Ephesians 2:11-22

Paul reminds us, "remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Eph 2:12)

Gentiles (non-Jews) were excluded from the community of God's people. They were not allowed to enter the Jerusalem Temple's inner court on the pain of death. They could worship from afar, in a special area called the Court of Gentiles, but their presence in the Temple would render it unclean.

Jesus, however, reached out to those who were excluded. Paul says we are “brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13.) He reached out to the Samaritans and included them in the Gospel. The Pharisees called him a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Luke 7:34.) He preached to rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, insiders and outsiders.

Even those outside Jesus’ own group were included. His disciples once brought a report that one not of their group casting out demons in Jesus’ name. “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:38-40)

Jesus’ purpose was to create in himself one new humanity. Through the miracle of new birth Jesus makes it possible for diverse peoples to be reconciled “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation...” (2 Cor 5:17)

Paul writes, "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners & aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people & members of God’s household." (Eph 2:19)

Jesus broke down the barriers and removed the hostility. Our differences should no longer divide us. Through the blood of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit the church has a ministry of reconciliation between Jew and Gentile. Between Black and White. Between Anglo and Hispanic. Between Democrat and Republican.

Because we have made peace with God, we can begin to live at peace with one another as brothers & sisters in the family of God.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Look Alive!

Ephesians 2:1-10

Most of us want to fondly remember the past. After all, they were the good old days! Nostalgia, however, can cloud our memory and we forget the painful parts. And, so, the greatness of the past continues to grow in our memory.

But Paul remembers it differently. “You were dead in your transgressions and sins,” he wrote. The good old days were not good because we were disobedient. Instead of a Christian walk, we walked in the ways of the world. It was a death march. We were the walking dead. Rather than being children of God, we were children of wrath on the road to judgment. (Eph 2:2-3)

That’s all in the past. Paul says that God made us alive in Christ. All because of God’s mercy and his great, unmerited love for us. We have done nothing to earn our salvation. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)

Paul tells us that we are saved for a purpose. “We are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,” he writes. (Eph 2:10)

The prophet Isaiah tells us about good works. “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Is 1:17)

The prophet Micah also provides us with some insight. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:8)

In the past, we walked in sin; today we walk in the light. In the past we were dead in sin, today we are alive in Christ. By God’s grace, today we are ready to do the good works God prepared in advance for us.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Fellowship, Wisdom, and Power

Ephesians 1:15-23

Paul praised the church in Ephesus for their faith in Jesus, demonstrated by their love for all God’s people. The Book of Acts describes the early church as a close community: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47.)”

We need that level of “one another” commitment today!

Paul goes from praise to praying for wisdom, knowledge, and revelation (Eph 1:17-18.) Knowing God, allows us to stand up in this fallen world. A world that celebrates sin. A world that mocks God's Word.

But, it’s not enough just to know the facts about God. Wisdom is based on how we use facts. We must, therefore, continually seek out Godly wisdom.

To this end, Paul prays that God open the eyes of our hearts (Eph 1:18) so we can see ourselves in the light of our special relationship to Him. In doing so we will understand the “incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him (Eph 1:19-20.)”

This is no ordinary power. It is the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in heaven. It is so powerful that the grave cannot hold it. It is so powerful that death cannot end it. It is so powerful that time cannot diminish it.

We need to understand and tap into the power of God. His power is greater than our needs. His power is greater than our worries. His power is greater than our pain.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

You are blessed

Ephesians 1:3-14

There are many Christians today harboring feelings of inadequacy because they do not understand the blessings that they have in Christ. Some have either lost or never realized their identity in Christ. Instead, they see themselves as unworthy and ill-prepared to do God's work. This can create a Christian identity crisis that will stunt a believer’s spiritual growth.

Paul sets us straight. He writes, “Blessed be God the of Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, in Christ.” (Eph1:3)

Every. Spiritual. Blessing. He goes on to tell us that we are chosen and adopted by God, thus, receiving all the benefits of being a family member (Eph 1:4-6.) The Apostle John assures us, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (Jn 1:12)

Why, then, are some believers living under the stress, strain, and burden of sin? Especially since we are redeemed and forgiven (Eph 1:7.) We have been delivered from a death sentence through Christ's blood. Jesus Christ came and paid the price for our salvation.

It gets better. Paul declares, “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” (Eph 1:13)

The Holy Spirit reminds us that we are God’s children, entitled to the abundant life Jesus promises (Jn 10:10.) If you feel unworthy of God's love, know that none of us are worthy. “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” (Rom 3:23)

At the same time remember that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8)

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit guarantees our inheritance (Eph 3:14.) We are promised an abundant life now and a grander future. The Bible promises, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him.” (Is 64:4)

God the Father has blessed us "in the heavenly realms" and wants us to live according to that blessing. We are empowered, equipped, and enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let's start living like we are blessed in Christ.

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Planning wisely

God hates... a heart that devises wicked schemes... Proverbs 6:18


The human mind is capable of wonderful creations. We’ve explored both the ocean depths and outer space and are beginning to understand the building blocks of life. The advances in science over the last 150 years are staggering. Most have occurred in my lifetime. What will we see in the 20 years?


Sometimes, however, we use our minds for evil. Before the flood, God lamented that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5.)


Too often turn our imaginations to weapons of destruction. Chemists working with dyes discovered medical possibilities, but the cancer-fighting experiments were interrupted by WWI. Instead, the lab began to produce the chlorine and mustard gas.


Time and energy spent on weapons and warfare could help find cures for diseases, environmental degradation, and the devastation of poverty. When it is used for wicked imaginations, the mind, a bottomless well of ideas, turns deadly.


God wants us to stop planning pain! He hates a heart that devises wicked plans (Proverbs 6:18.) We can be very clever in planning to hurt someone who gets in the way. Whether it is for getting even or for advancing ourselves, God hates our scheming.


A mind surrendered to God refuses to delight in evil or scheme to hurt others. The Bible urges us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2.)


Deliberately set your mind on honorable things. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Wisdom in an Age of Terror

We are living in an age of terror. Our news reports are filled with violence: school shootings, road rage, mass murders at schools, parades, malls, churches… nowhere seems to be safe.

Proverb 6:17 tells us that “God hates hands that shed innocent blood.” Don’t we all? I know I do.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I supported the voices that called for war. I signed up for the National Guard. We demanded justice for the nearly 3000 lives lost. Ironically, our desire for payback cost the lives of 2500 more Americans in Afghanistan as the longest war in US history dragged on. Twenty years later we would leave, and Afghanistan would quickly revert to Taliban control. Perhaps, war was not the answer.

Following the 9/11 attacks, the world was on our side. Even Yassar Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), denounced the attacks. Democrats and Republicans gathered in front of the Capitol and sang “God Bless America.” That seems like such a long time ago. Partisan politics rules the day once more and we squandered our global good will. Perhaps, war was not the answer.

What if we had responded differently? What if we had not gone to war? Was there a better way? What does God do about hands that shed innocent blood?

Adam and Eve's son, Cain was the first to shed innocent blood. He killed his brother in a jealous rage. God reached out to Cain and offered Cain an opportunity to confess his guilt and show remorse and repent. When Cain rejected God’s grace and therefore received judgment, God still extended the mercy of protection on him.

In 2006 five girls were killed and six injured in a school shooting in an Amish community. The father of one of the girls urged against hatred. He said about the shooter, “He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he's standing before a just God".

An Amish midwife who had helped birth several of the girls murdered by the shooter reported that they were planning to take food over to his family’s house. She said, "This is possible if you have Christ in your heart."

The victim’s families forgave the shooter and invited his wife to their funeral. Resist the thoughts of violence and terror! Let self-control and love for God and the sanctity of life rule in your hearts. Surrender to God and let His power deal with your pain, your bitterness, your thoughts of revenge, your hatred.

Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Come near to God
and He will come near to you.
James 4:7

Monday, May 22, 2023

Wisdom for your tongue

God hates lying: the bold-face lie, the little white lie, flattery, and slander. He hates gossip, excuses, propaganda, and spin. He hates exaggeration, half-truth, and hypocrisy. He hates falsehoods, shading the truth, misrepresentation, perjury, false advertising, and embellishment.

Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us, “These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.”

And yet, many people believe that lying is OK in some situations.

Lying is the devil's language. We affiliate ourselves with him when we lie. Jesus says, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”  John 8:44

Lying can be cruel. The worst kind of lie is a deliberate attempt to hurt someone. It can destroy reputations and ruin lives. Potipher’s wife lied, and Joseph was sent to prison for years.

Some will lie to escape consequences (The dog ate my homework.) The motivation for this kind of lying is fear. Abraham lied about Sarah, saying she was his sister and not his wife, so he would not be killed to make her available for marriage.

Others will lie to impress. They puff up resumes or exaggerate accomplishments. Ananias and Sapphira suffered fatal consequences for trying to impress their church with inflated generosity.

Manipulation is another reason for lying. Jacob lied to his blind father so he could steal his brother’s blessing and inheritance.

Jesus said that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45.) If lying comes easy for you, you need a heart cleanse. “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10-19

Afterwards, we can follow this teaching, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices” Colossians 3:9-10

Saturday, May 06, 2023

Wisdom for your ego

Pride is a principal evil in human nature. It led Eve and Adam to sin in the Garden of Eden. It leads us to sin today. Haughty eyes (a proud look) is first on the list of things God hates (Proverbs 6:19-19.)

We have all seen the “proud look.” The popular athlete looking down at the kid in the band; the rich looking down on the poor; the attractive looking down on the plain. The pride of the heart is evident in the eyes. The prideful look is a look of contempt.

Pride reveals itself in other ways, too. In such actions as rudeness, disrespect, and impatience. The prideful care more about what others think than about being a better person and become defensive when their self-image is challenged. They fail to see their own faults, looking, instead, at others’ faults so they can feel better about themselves. Jesus asked, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

The prideful tend to look after their own needs at the expense of the weak, unattractive, or just plain in the way. The Bible teaches, “Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Philippians 2:4)

Pride separates us from God's power who resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5.) Humility is the cure for pride. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

Jesus set the example. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8)

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Wisdom for your wallet

The financially wise avoid debt. Proverbs warns, “The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is the lender’s slave” (22:7).


Or, as the Seven Dwarfs might sing, “I owe, I owe it'd off to work I go…”


The Bible doesn’t teach that all debt is wrong, but debt is a trap. Sometimes debt is unavoidable in an emergency, or you might secure a loan to make your life a little easier, but it is best to avoid borrowing unless absolutely necessary. Especially for something that will go down in value, like a new car. Rent-to-own plans are not a good idea, either, and payday loans can tangle you up in a deepening spiral of liability.


The first five verses of Proverbs 6 advise against co-signing a loan for a friend. It is dangerous for both financial and relationship reasons. You oblige yourself to pay a loan for a person that the bank does not trust.


If you find yourself in debt, get out of fast. “Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.” (Proverbs 6:5)


First, don’t borrow any more money. Don’t take out a debt consolidation loan. There will be fees, more interest and you’ll end up owing more money. Instead make the minimum payments on all your obligations and make extra payments on the smallest debt. When that one is paid off, work on the next smallest and so on. In this way, you are reversing the debt spiral in which you found yourself.


Commit any unexpected cash to reducing the debt and try to make some extra money. You can have a yard sale and get rid of your clutter or get a part time job. Even at minimum wage, a part time job will make enough to make a significant dent in your debt.


Keep going after you’ve paid off the credit cards and the car loans. Start saving to build up an emergency fund. Keep going. Start saving for your next car. If you can make a car payment, you can set that much aside. Make interest instead of paying it.


Be like the ant. “…it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” (Proverbs 6:8)