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How do we Keep the Unity of the
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.
Saints, Slaves, Prisoners
Christians are called saints or
holy ones. We are those specially set apart by God to represent Him here
in this world. We are also called slaves. Before we were saved we were
slaves to sin and after we are saved we are slaves to righteousness or
God according to Romans 6: 17-23. But Paul was something that very few
of us are. He was a prisoner of the Lord.
When Paul was making his last
trip to Jerusalem, prophets told him not to go because he would be
imprisoned. He knew that they were right about his being imprisoned, but
they were wrong about whether he should go. He knew he would be
imprisoned, but that ultimately he would be carrying the Gospel to Rome
and even to Nero because of his captivity. Men meant it for evil, but
God meant it for good just as Joseph told his brothers after his
imprisonments (See Genesis 50:20).
As a result of his
imprisonments, he also had time to write letters that are benefiting us
today. It is possible that these letters would never have been written
apart from his imprisonments. Paul took his imprisonments as
opportunities not as obstacles. While men put him in jail, he considered
Himself to be a prisoner of the Lord, not a prisoner of the Romans.
What was Paul's Concern?
We know we are saved by grace
and not by works. Ephesians 2 makes it clear that we who are saved have
nothing to boast about. Yet, the saved do represent the Lord on this
earth and we are told that men will know we are disciples by our love
(John 13:35). While we are not saved by our works, true salvation is a
new birth that should work a change in us. That major change is love.
Since Cain and Abel it has been easy to hate and to kill and destroy.
But the Lord wants his people to be different. He wants us to love one
another. He wants us to be unified since that is the work of the Spirit.
Satan divides and conquers. The Lord saves and unifies. Satan wants
others to die for us that we might have some kind of peace through
intimidating power as seen in our international wars and gang conflicts.
The Lord died for us in order to change all that. I realize that only
true disciples can really appreciate this command to love one another,
but do those of us who claim to be disciples really exhibit this love as
we ought? It should result in unity in our Christian relationships.
There are some qualities that
we need to accomplish this. They are spiritual qualities. They are not
representative of the way we think naturally. Those qualities are
lowliness, gentleness, and long suffering. In addition, being patient
with people who exasperate us is what bearing with one another in love
probably means. If we were able to exhibit these qualities, I am sure
that we would be able to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of
Often when we talk about
keeping the peace we do it by giving up Truth. However, I do not think
that Paul wants us to give up any God-given convictions or Truth, but he
does want us to be patient with those who disagree with us. We need to
give people time to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord.
Control of the Spirit vs
Control of Christians
As Paul goes through this
practical section of Ephesians, he makes it quite clear that what we say
and how we say it is important. He says that each of us is to be filled
by the spirit. That is we are to be like a hand puppet that is
completely controlled by the hand that fills the puppet. We are no
longer controlled by wine (the wrong kind of spirit), nor are we to be
controlling others. We are to be controlled ourselves by the Holy Spirit
which means that we are controlled by the Word of God (See Colossians
I am personally convicted that
if we grieve the Holy Spirit by the things we say and do we will never
enjoy the blessings of a life controlled by the Holy Spirit. A life
controlled by the Holy Spirit might land us in jail; and I for one am
not ready for that so I have a ways to go to be Christ-like or even
The Questions that I keep
I realize that there is a
battle going on between the wicked spirits and us according to Ephesians
6. I keep wondering if I am fighting the right battles and the right
enemy. Why are Christians known for fighting each other rather than
being known by our love? Do we need to ask ourselves if we have really
been "born of the Spirit?" Or have we just signed up for what
we consider to be a good philosophy and a better lifestyle. To whom are
we slaves? Who does have us in prison?
for the week of October 4, 2015
So They Despised Him!
1 Samuel 10:26-27 And
Saul also went home to Gibeah; and valiant men went with him, whose
hearts God had touched. But some rebels said, "How can this man
save us?" So they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he
held his peace.
remember what it was like to be chosen last for teams in gym class. I
remember the disdain people had for those of us who worked for our meals
in the cafeteria. Everyone wants to be popular. We want to be the
cheerleader everyone looks up to, the quarterback everyone envies, or
the homecoming king or queen. We want to be accepted and popular. It
hurts to be bullied and rejected and treated like scum. Yet, that is
just what happened to Saul and that is what happened to the Lord.
But sometimes people are dead wrong about
whom they want on their teams and as their friends. I remember
surprising the leaders in gym class by beating some of the best athletes
in my class in the 50 yard dash. I remember people wanting to be my
friend in the cafeteria when they realized that my job was not busing
trays and cleaning dishes but selling candy at the candy counter. I had
a “professional” job where I could meet and talk to all the students
as they left the cafeteria.
The Bible says that we are all like
sheep, led astray by those deceived by Satan who is really our
adversary. We accept those who are evil and reject those who are good
because of our prejudices and because of our own desire to be accepted.
We judge people based on appearance. God knows the heart.
was chosen by God to be the first King of Israel. Some say he was the
people's choice, and he was the wrong choice. But my Bible says that He
was God's choice. 1 Samuel 10:24 says, “And Samuel said to all the
people, 'Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen, that there is no one
like him among all the people?' " Now he may have been the Lord's
choice because the Lord wanted to teach the people a lesson. But the
people had wanted a king and now the Lord had chosen a man to be their
king and some of the rebels didn't like it. After all, Saul was from the
tribe of Benjamin and that tribe was almost wiped out by the other
Israelite's because of the immorality in the tribe (See Judges 20 and
21). Surely, they must have thought that it would be improper for a man
from Benjamin to rule over them.
Lord Jesus was also God's choice. He was born of a virgin, born in the
right place, born at the right time and with the right lineage. But He
too was despised and rejected. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted
with grief (Isaiah 53:5). The rebels of His day envied Him because He
did have people who believed in Him and who followed Him. They couldn't
argue with His miracles because they had seen them including the one
where He raised Lazarus from the dead. They couldn't argue with His
teaching because they knew that He knew what He was talking about. His
teaching was with authority. They couldn't argue with His attitude
because they had to marvel at the gracious words that proceeded out His
But He was from Nazareth, a despised
city. His father was Joseph, a carpenter. He wasn't a priest according
to Jewish law nor was He a Pharisee or a Sadducee. He had not joined the
influential political parties nor had He gotten involved in the
political strife of His day. He wasn't rich. How could this man save the
children of Israel? After all they wanted a king that would fight and
the Lord didn't even have an army.
the popular way is always the broad way that leads to destruction
(Matthew 7:13). Multitudes cried “Crucify, Crucify!” on that fateful
Friday nearly 2000 years ago. They were led like sheep to the slaughter.
They didn't realize that the way they were treating the Lord was the
same way others would treat them and their children in the future.
But there were some whose hearts God
touched and they realized that Saul was God's choice to save them from
their current enemies. Likewise, there were some at the cross that
realized that this Man was in fact the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
This is the one who would be able to offer a just and righteous
forgiveness of sins. Colossians 2:13 reminds us that Christ made us
(believers) alive together with him, “having forgiven us all our
trespasses.” For those of us whose hearts have been touched, Christ
has forgiven us. He has born our punishment. The burden of sin is gone.
We often have trouble forgiving ourselves; but the Lord, our creator,
our God, has forgiven us. What a blessing!
My heart has been touched. The Lord Jesus
can save us. I have trusted Him. I believe that the best present I can
give Him is to thank Him for His great love wherewith He loved us
(Ephesians 2:4). I have done that and I hope you have as well.
for the week of October 11, 2015
Calling of Matthew
5:29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And
there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down
identify with Matthew (also called Levi) because he was a tax
collector. As a former CPA, I know what it is like to collect
taxes for a government that people resent and then to charge them to
tell them what they owe. People didn't think it was fair when I
spent hours in consultation with them, in research on the tough
issues, in time spent putting little numbers in the proper little
boxes, and then getting charged $100.00 or less for the final product.
I understood their pain. They didn't understand the amount
of effort our convoluted tax laws require to make sure things are done
were hated in the Lord's days because they were Jews working for the
Romans. That was a “no, no!” They usually collected a
quota for the Romans and then often collected a little more (or maybe
a lot more) for themselves. It was no wonder that we see the
term publican with the word sinner so often in the Gospels. Prostitutes
were sinners of the moral variety, publicans were sinners of the
the Lord saw something in Matthew and Matthew saw something in the
Lord. When the Lord called Matthew to follow, Matthew “left
all” and followed Him. His occupation changed immediately.
His call was with a cost. When people follow the Lord
today, I wonder if they have ever paid any price at all for following
the Lord. We live in a self-centered society and following the
Lord is fine so long as it doesn't cost us any friends or memberships
at our clubs or time spent at our other places of entertainment.
We certainly don't want our business revenues affected. We
want our needs met by our “religion”. Matthew wanted his
friends needs met and he seems to have wanted to meet the needs of the
Lord because he made a feast. The Lord was the guest of honor
and Matthew's friends were invited. Apparently, there were
“religious” people there because they were critical of the company
that was invited. Matthew had invited “publicans” (his
friends) and sinners. Surely, the Lord wouldn't want to spend
time with them when he could spend time with the “upper class” who
could advertise and finance his ministry. But unfortunately, the
Lord didn't come to save the saved, he came to save the lost. He
didn't come to heal the well, he healed the sick. He didn't come
to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (the change of mind
that leads to saving faith in the Lord).
Change in His Occupation
was doing what most people who are newly saved or born again do.
First he left all. He saw the futility of living for time
when he could now follow the Lord who preached about eternal things.
Then he got concerned about those who were his friends and
acquaintances. Probably relatives were involved in this feast as
well though I can't prove that. He didn't preach to these people
himself, but he provided a feast so that they could meet the man who
had reached him. He is like a person who comes to a gospel
meeting and finds the Lord and then invites others to come and hear
the message. He is like a person who has a friend who has read
the Bible with him and has introduced him to the Lord who then invites
his friends to that Bible study.
is like a Nicodemus who came to the Lord at night and heard him.
It changed his life and in John 7 he asks those in his circle of
influence, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and
knows what he is doing (John 7:51) ?"
is like the Samaritan woman who met the Lord at a well at high noon
one day and found out that He was truly the Messiah. We read,
“The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and
said to the men, 'Come, see a Man who told me all things that I
ever did. Could this be the Christ (John 4:28-29)?'" The
old standard King James Version said that she said, “Is not this the
Christ?” She was not in doubt and she wanted others to know
that she was not in doubt.
people truly meet the Lord and trust Him it changes them. They
don't become “religious” but they do become concerned. They
are concerned about their friends and neighbors and they are concerned
about how they can best show their love to the Lord who died for them.
They don't become sinless but they do have a conscience about
sin. But I like the fact that the newly saved are usually the
best and most fervent evangelists. I sometime wish I had the
same courage and zeal that I had when I was first saved. I love
the words of the hymn that says,
I could tell Him as I know Him, my redeemer who has brightened all my
I could tell how precious is His presence, I am sure that you would
make Him yours today.
I can never tell Him as I know Him, Human tongue can never tell all
only can entreat you to accept Him. You can know Him only when
you make Him thine.
for the week of October 18, 2015
Strange, Isn't it?
John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place
for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am,
there you may be also.
Luke 23:43 And Jesus said to him,
"Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in
Heaven or Paradise
The Israelites look forward to completely
possessing the promised land again. The land had ups and downs, that is,
it had hills and valleys. It had the presence of the Lord as long as the
children of Israel worshiped Jehovah and Him alone. It was a place of
great blessing. The Christian today looks forward to being with the Lord
in a place that the Lord has prepared for them. In John 14 this place is
called the Father's house. For the thief on the cross who had turned to
the Lord for mercy in the eleventh hour, that place was called paradise.
But whether paradise and heaven are the same thing or not, they are both
blessings. The unrepentant thief must have kicked himself around the
block when he realized he was condemned eternally and his fellow thief
had been saved to be with the Lord in paradise. He must have wondered
why he allowed his pride to condemn him when the means of his salvation
had been dying beside him on the middle cross. ALL he had to do was to
Heaven on Earth
Now the USA in 2015 is not heaven on
earth. It is not the kingdom of God. It is not heaven nor is it the
promised land. But it comes fairly close. When we listen to all of the
politicians telling us about the problems of the US and how they would
cure them, we get the impression that the US is like a broken marriage
that can't be repaired. One would think that we should all be forsaking
the country and finding shelter in other countries. But for some reason
the others come to us and except for retirees looking for a warm cheap
place to retire, other countries do not build walls to keep US citizens
out. Strange, isn't it?
Maybe we Really should Count our
If I could have chosen the country and
the period in time in which to be born, could I have chosen a better
country at a better time in history than the last seventy-two years? My
answer is no. Society was violent after Adam and Eve were forced to
leave the Garden of Eden. Cain killed his brother Abel. By Noah's time,
the imagination of man's heart was evil from his youth. I suspect there
were gangs, drug use, robbers, murderers, wars, exploitation and
immorality on a magnitude that was greater than what we experience
today. I wouldn't have wanted to live then. From Noah's day until the
Lord's day, there may have been peaceful periods, but they didn't have
flush toilets, hot showers (or maybe some did), automobiles, airplanes,
or space travel. They didn't have television, and they didn't have smart
phones. They did have disease and wars. In the dark ages, the peasants
were kept in bondage to those who had money. Most people could not read
or write. I wouldn't have wanted to live in any one of those periods.
The Blessing of our Current Day and of
our Current Country
I was born as World War 11 was coming to
a close. I have seen gang warfare and ethnic violence. But I have not
seen a war fought on our soil unless a person considers the terrorism of
911 to be a war. We have not had brother fighting brother in a civil
war. Our politicians may leave something to be desired, but so far they
have not fought duels like Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr where
Hamilton was killed. Thank God, the Lord didn't see fit to have me live
in those days.
I have seen the eradication of many
diseases that were once feared. My sister died of whooping cough. My
friends were crippled with polio. But most childhood diseases have been
controlled. I have never gone hungry. I have enjoyed running water and
flush toilets and automobiles. I haven't had to milk a cow but I have
plenty of milk in the frig. I can call my wife from my car when I am on
the road. Through the internet, I have “friends” all over the US and
Canada and in Europe and Africa and SE Asia and India. My children have
all gotten good educations even though I am not wealthy. They have good
jobs. They have lived in a land of opportunity and plenty. I have a
faithful good-looking spiritual wife.
People complain about social programs but
one social program saved my life. When I turned 65, I went in for the
preventative medical exams that medicare encouraged us to get. They
found that the “widow-maker” artery in my heart was 90 percent
blocked. I had no symptoms. But apart from medicare, I likely wouldn't
be writing this today. I don't complain about the cost of medicare
premiums which keep going up and up, instead I thank God for the
It is time to Give Thanks
I personally believe that there is a lot
that is right in this country. It still allows me to preach the Gospel.
It allowed the Gospel to be preached to me. It allows me to worship in a
Biblical way. And of course if I want to turn my back on God, I am
allowed to do that as well. Instead of being all upset about what we
don't have in this country, I would like to suggest that we start
thanking the Lord for what we do have. Maybe if we were thankful for our
blessings maybe, just maybe, the Lord would see fit to preserve them for
us. I would like to continue to live in the best country at the best
time that this world has ever experienced.
for the week of October 25, 2015