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Showing posts from August, 2019

“We Are at War”

BIBLE READING: Ephesians 3- Philippians 1
Make no mistake about it, we are at war!The stakes are too high for us to become complacent and content with the status quo, we must be prepared.Our enemy is intelligent, crafty and is equipped with devises that make weapons of mass destruction look like bottle rockets. Even though his weapons are only described as darts, they are called “fiery darts”.When it hits, it may only sting a little bit, but the fire that ensues will destroy anything and everything in its path. Paul issues us a stiff warning in Ephesians 6.10-20 that we must pay close attention too.When the Devil comes… and he will come, we must be prepared or else he will overtake us. The good news is that God has provided for us everything we need to be able to “stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6.11).He calls it the Christian Armor, and it is composed of things that are much stronger than a million layers of Kevlar.The components of this armor are stronger than anyt…

“Suffering for Christ Sake”

BIBLE READING: Philippians 1
Here, suffering is represented as a privilege in the cause of the Redeemer, a declaration which may sound strange to the world. Yet, this sentiment frequently occurs in the New Testament. It is said of the apostles in Act_5:41, that “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” Col_1:24. “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you.” 1Pe_4:13. “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.” Compare Jam_1:2 and Mark_10:30. We see that it is a privilege to suffer in the cause of Christ: (1)We then resemble the Lord Jesus and are united with him in trials. (2)We have evidence that we are his if trials come upon us in his cause. (3)We are engaged in a good cause, and the privilege of maintaining such a cause is worth the Suffering. (4)It will be connected with a brighter crown and more honor in heaven.
It is no small privilege that God has honored you in permitting you to suff…

“Praying at all seasons in the Spirit”

BIBLE READING: Ephesians 6
The apostle does not put praying among the Christian armor.Had he done so he would have referred to it as he did all the rest, to some of the Grecian armor.As he did not, we conclude that his account of the armor is ended and that having equipped his spiritual soldier, he shows him the necessity of praying in order to successfully resist those principalities, powers, spiritual wickedness, and rulers of the darkness of this world with whom he has to contend. The panoply, or whole armor of God, consists of the girdle, the breastplate, the greaves, the shield, the helmet, and the sword, a complete set of armor. As was the custom of the Grecian armies before they engaged, they offered prayers to the gods for their success. The apostle also shows that these spiritual warriors must depend on the Captain of their salvation and pray incessantly, being always in the spirit of prayer, so that they should always be ready for public, private, or mental (all prayer), alway…

“Be Imitators of God”

BIBLE READING: Ephesians 5
Children generally resemble their parents.There is often an uncanny family likeness which prompts even the most casual observer to exclaim, "The very image of his father."Is there something in each of us that would make others think of God? The “old man” stands for the collection of habits, sayings, and doings that characterized out unregenerate days.The apostle says those days are to be put away suddenly, instantly.Evidently this is possible, or such a command would not be issued.Men speak of a gradual reformation and advise a partial turning from evil.God, on the contrary, bids us to treat the evil past as a company of soldiers, bandits and outlaws.There is a greater reason for this as the old man becomes corrupt.Even Martha could not bear the opening of Lazarus' tomb.He had been dead four days and the odor of corrupt flesh would most certainly have been present. The word "imitate" is from the Greek word from which is derived “mimic”. …

“He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth.”

BIBLE READING: Ephesians 4
These words are a conclusion of Christ's descent from heaven, from his ascension there, for if he had not first descended from heaven, it could not have been said of him that he ascended.“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” (John 3:13, ESV)  Paul, along with the whole New Testament church, believed in the preexistence of Christ with God, before the world was, worshipping him as Lord, Saviour, King, Creator of the universe, Sustainer of the universe, or as Paul himself titled him, King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15). When it is declared of Jesus Christ that he ascended, the necessary deduction is imperative: that he also descended! How could a member of the Godhead otherwise ascend? How could the Holy One, with God in the beginning, "the same was God", how could He have ascended without first descending? This verse, far from being a translation, is one of the most eloquent passages in…

“The Mystery of God”

BIBLE READING: Ephesians 3
“…and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.” The word that we properly translate "fellowship", was used among the Greeks to signify their religious communities.Here it may imitate the association of Jews and Gentiles in one Church or body and their agreement in that glorious mystery now so fully opened relative to the salvation of both. Instead of "fellowship", many of the manuscripts, as well as that of the chief Greek fathers, read "dispensation” or “economy".Some of the best printed editions of the Greek text have the same reading, and our common text has very little authority to support it.Dispensation or economy is far more agreeable to the scope of the apostle’s declaration.He wished to show them the mystery of bringing Jews and Gentiles to salvation by faith in Christ Jesus, which God had kept hidden in his own infinite mind from the beginning of the wo…

“Burden Bearing”

BIBLE READING: Galatians 4-Ephesians 2
One of the greatest blessings we have as Christians is generosity of our brethren when it comes to bearing burdens.Paul reminds the Galatians that by bearing one another’s burdens, they fulfill the law of Christ.Having others help alleviate our burdens certainly reduces some of the anxiety and stress that comes with daily living.This blessing is not a license for us to hand over our burdens to the brethren. Notice the words of Paul, “…let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:4-8) Although Paul wants to encourage…

“Created for Good Works”

BIBLE READING: Ephesians 2
How carefully the apostle defines the true position of works in the divine life.Here he insists that we are not saved by our works so we would not be boastful.He affirms that the whole intention of God was that we should manifest our new life in Christ by a life of bearing fruit for Him. We are created in Him unto good works.Whatever good works may be demanded of you, dare to believe that you were created in Christ Jesus to do them.There is a perfect adjustment between the two.As God's crowning creation, mankind has been entrusted with the ability to choose his own path.He can choose to do good or evil.Our original nature includes a desire for whatever is good and the will to concern itself with goodness and righteousness.This is encompassed by saying that humanity is "in the image and likeness of God."

“Sealed in the Holy Spirit”

BIBLE READING: Ephesians 1

The definition of “sealed” or to seal up, in this instance, means to close and make fast with a seal, or signet, items such as books, letters, etc., so they would not be read.It is also used in the sense of setting a mark on anything, or a seal, to denote that it is genuine, authentic, confirmed, or approved, as when a deed, contract, or agreement is sealed.“Sealed” can also be applied to persons, denoting that they are approved, as in Rev 7:3: “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads."Nothing was to be injured until the angel should designate the true servants of God. Those who are sealed have been bought with a great price.It is wonderful that God thought it worth His while to expend so much on us!We cannot suppose that He will not make all He can of us!He will bring His estate under cultivation.There will be no corner of it that will not yield Him produce.Our Lord wills each of us t…

“Spiritual Giving”

BIBLE READING: Galatians 6
As Christians, we must realize that the progress of the Gospel in the world is no cheap undertaking.God has approved only one way for the church to be financed, and that is by the freewill offerings of the members.Sharing what we have with those in need ranks among the purest manifestations of religion. Those who take it upon themselves to preach the gospel in foreign fields must be supported.Paul asked the Corinthians concerning himself and Barnabas, "If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?" (I Cor 9:11).He posed this question after quoting from Deuteronomy 25:4: "For it is written in the Law of Moses, 'You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing" (1 Cor 9:9).In other words, those who were preaching the gospel were worthy of pay for doing such.Paul sometimes worked as a tentmaker to support himself, but he didn't refuse pay (support) from those who believed in his work and desi…

“Justification by the Law”

BIBLE READING: Galatians 5
Galatians 5 speaks about the problem of turning from the Law of Christ to the Law of Moses.There were Jews in Galatia teaching that in order to become a Christian you would have to obey the Law of Moses and submit to circumcision.Paul writes that their message was no gospel at all but rather a perversion of the gospel of Christ (1:6-9). Paul was dealing with one of the greatest requirements of the Jewish Law, circumcision.Earlier in the letter, he used the example of Titus, his faithful coworker, who was not compelled to be circumcised because he was a Greek (2:3). No evidence surfaces to suggest that the Galatians had any concern about rule-keeping.It seems unlikely that they, as biblically unschooled Gentiles, would want to bother with such abstract matters.This contrasts with the obsession of modern interpreters with the idea that one can earn his way to heaven through works. Even though we cannot do anything to put God in our debt, we know that good works ar…

“Elementary Principles”

BIBLE READING: Galatians 4
Twice in Galatians Chapter 4, Paul referred to the "elementary principles."In the first instance, the term refers to the Law that bound the Jews.The second involves Gentiles, and it has a dual meaning.The phrase "turn back" associates "elementary principles" with pagan idolatry (which the Gentiles had once practiced) as well as the Law (which they were embracing due to the Judaizers' influence.Neither of these had the power to save them. The Law served as a necessary tool leading up to the time when Christ would come.A child needs tangible help to understand abstract ideas.God used visible images and parables to communicate with Israel when they were in their infancy.Children today go to "elementary school" to acquire the basic tools of learning.They must know the alphabet and numbers before they can learn skills in reading and math.Without these basics, the whole process of education would be impossible.Once a child…

“Catching Flies and Gaining Brothers”

BIBLE READING: 2 Corinthians 12-Galatians 3
Due to the problems in the church at Corinth, the church needed a good dose of conflict resolution.Paul had already tried with his first letter, then again with his second letter and has now tried with a third and still much of their problem remains.As Paul closes out his letter to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 13, he offers one final attempt at repairing those broken relationships.“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13.11). These same words of wisdom can aid us today as we seek to get along with others as well.As we journey through this life, we will all certainly have to deal with difficult people.Many times, the difficulty has nothing to do with sin, rather with personality conflicts.Although we may not be able to control their reactions, their words or their emotions, we can work at controlling ours.…

“The Crucified Christ”

BIBLE READING: Galatians 3
While preaching in Galatia, Paul vividly described the atoning death of Jesus on the cross.Concerning his work in Corinth, the apostle wrote, "I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2).Paul was not saying that Jesus' death was the only topic he discussed, but rather that it was the core of his message.Later in the same letter, he wrote, "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (I Cor 15:3-4). The sacrifice of Christ must be at the heart of our message today.By portraying the suffering and agony of Christ as well as the meaning of the cross, we can help others appreciate God’s amazing grace.Looking closely at Jesus' death can help people recognize the offensive nature of sin for which He made atonement.It can also …

“The Mystery of Christ”

BIBLE READING: Galatians 2
One of the most important aspects of the peace that God brought into the world through Christ is the previously hidden fact that the old separation of His chosen people Israel from all other nations had now been removed in Christ.The "mystery" meant there would be a new situation between Jew and Gentile. The Bible is full of mysteries, but this one is so significant that Paul devoted considerable space to it in Eph. 3:4-11. His major thought is that in the 1,500 years when God was dealing with the Israelites under the old covenant, they were not, as they came to believe, His entire focus.They were a kind of object lesson, part of a "mystery" that God had in mind from the beginning of time.The once-hidden truth is that Christ was to be the Savior of the entire lost world.This was at odds with what the Jews had come to believe.He had indeed chosen them for His purpose, but His love, as was revealed by Jesus, was directed toward the whole &quo…

“Amazed”

BIBLE READING: Galatians 1
We sometimes sing a hymn with the line, "I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene."Anyone who comes to know the God-man will truly be amazed.Jesus shared the Father's glory before the world was, and it was through Him that the worlds were created.He was made flesh by the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit and a devout young Jewish virgin.This took place in an insignificant land and in humble circumstances.Jesus grew up as a worker in His earthly father's carpentry shop.He then went about teaching an ethic and a wisdom which religionists around the world concede to be superior to all other world religions.He gave credibility to His teachings by consistently living what He taught.This made a great impression on those who knew Him best.His followers testified that He died and rose again.That testimony continues to grip the hearts and minds of men.Its power draws people from all over the world into its realm of faith and transforms t…

“The Communion of the Holy Spirit”

BIBLE READING:2 Corinthians 13
Sometimes we hear these words spoken or maybe we have said them ourselves.  Do we really appreciate the depth of the meaning?  Communion signifies being in common.  It is used about our fellowship with one another (1 Cor 10:16) and with God (1 John 1:3).  The bond of such friendship is always through the Holy Spirit. How wonderful it is to have the privilege of divine fellowship.We need never be alone again, we can turn to Him for advice and direction at any moment, and we can draw on Him to supply every need.It is impossible to exhaust or even tax His willingness to counsel and comfort us.God is willing to enter any service or suffering with us.Surely, if we would give ourselves time to realize this marvelous fact, there would be no room for the despondency which sometimes threaten to deprive us of heart and hope. Of course, we must be very conscious of the holy disposition of our divine Associate.We cannot ruthlessly grieve Him by our harshness or impurit…

“When I am weak, then am I strong”

BIBLE READING:2 Corinthians 12
We don't need to discuss the nature of Paul's thorn in the flesh.  It is enough that he calls it "a stake."  This word in Greek can mean "a pointed piece of wood, a pale, a stake."  Whatever it was, it was of the flesh.  There have been many conjectures as to what the thorn was:  Tertullian, earache; Chrysostom, headache; Cyprian, many grievous bodily torments.  It is enough that Paul calls it "a thorn (stake)," as though he had been impaled.  It must have been very painful.  It must surely have been physical, because he could not have prayed three times for the removal of a moral taint and been refused.  It came from Satan, was permitted by God, just as in the case of Job, to buffet his servant.  It is likely that he suffered from weak eyes, or some distressing form of ophthalmia, hence the eagerness of the Galatian converts to give him their eyes. (Gal 4:15) God doesn't take away our thorns, but He communicates s…

“Inexpressible”

BIBLE READING:2 Corinthians 7-11
How do you describe something that is indescribable?How do you express a feeling that is inexpressible?How can you explain something that you can’t even put into words?That is the task that Paul has been given when He is attempting to explain to the Corinthians the magnitude of the gift we have in Christ Jesus.I would suggest that we would struggle with that task as well.We could use words like unconditional love, comfort, and peace to describe Jesus, but those are some of the same words I might use to describe my dog Winston.The gift that God has given to us in Jesus is so wonderful that there aren’t enough words in our vocabulary that come even close to giving an accurate description of Him.It reminds me of the second commandment that God gave to the children of Israel in Exodus 20, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under t…

“An Angel of Light”

BIBLE READING:2 Corinthians 11
The Bible does not typically portray practitioners of the occult and the demons behind them in a particularly gruesome way. We moderns have been conditioned to imagine Satan, his demons, and their human minions as dark beings of pure ugliness, with attributes of horror and death. We have swallowed this deception from our historical culture and from images presented by the media to entertain the masses and make millions of dollars. While God's Word warns us against Satanic deceptions, it does not provide the standard horror movie images. It often does just the opposite, cautioning us with the fact that the Devil and his demons do their best to appear as appealing to our senses as they can. From what we see in Genesis 3, the serpent did not repulse Eve.In her innocence he was quite convincing. In Ezekiel 28, the description of the king of Tyre, a type of Satan, lauds him as “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (verse 12). It des…

“Warfare”

BIBLE READING:2 Corinthians 10
Because we are mortal just like other people, we have mortal bodies, and necessarily must devote some care to our temporal needs; we are conscious of the imperfections and frailties everyone has. Paul did not claim exemption from the common needs and frailties of nature. The best of people are subject to these needs, and the best among us are liable to break God's laws. The warfare in which Paul was engaged was with sin, idolatry, and all forms of evil. He was not moved by worldly views or policy, or by such ambitious that controlled the people of the world. Paul was engaged in warfare as an apostle. He went forth as a soldier under the great Captain of his salvation to fight his battles and for Him. A similar allusion occurs in 2 Timothy 2:3-4. It is true, however, that not only ministers, but all Christians are engaged in a warfare.It is equally true that they do not maintain their conflict “after the flesh,” or on the principles that govern the peop…

“Sowing and Reaping”

BIBLE READING:2 Corinthians 9
 “This I say in order to induce you to give liberally. This I say to prevent your supposing that because it is to be a voluntary offering you may give only from your excess and may give sparingly.”   
A man that sows little can only expect to reap little. If he sows a small piece of land, he will reap a small harvest.  If he is meager in sowing and wants to save his seed and will not commit it to the earth, he must expect to reap little; So, it is in giving. Money given in alms, money bestowed to aid the poor and needy, or to extend the influence of virtue and pure religion, is money bestowed in a way similar to the act of committing seed to the earth. It will be returned in some way with an abundant increase. It will not be lost, but the seed may long be buried.
It may lie in the ground with no indication of a return or increase. One who did not know the arrangements of Providence might suppose it was lost and dead. In due time it will spring up and produc…

“Giving to Others”

BIBLE READING:2 Corinthians 8
The sense of this verse is the following: The Macedonians, though both poor and persecuted, greatly rejoiced that an opportunity had afforded them of doing good to their more impoverished and more persecuted brethren. We can scarcely speak of poverty and affliction in an absolute sense. Even the poor are called to relieve those who are poorer than themselves and the afflicted to comfort those who are more afflicted than they. The poor and afflicted Churches of Macedonia felt this duty and came forward to the utmost of their power to relieve their more impoverished and afflicted brethren in Judea. When it might be supposed they were unable to give when they may actually have needed the aid of others and when it might be assumed their minds would be engrossed with their own concerns. The trial to which the apostle here refers was doubtless some persecution against them, probably by the Jews; see Acts 16:20; Acts 17:5. Their joy arose from the hope and promise …

“God Is With Us”

BIBLE READING:2 Corinthians 7 The Corinthians were not actually inside Paul's heart.  Paul is saying that the Corinthians were in union within him, that he felt in union with them.  Why? Paul raised up the church there. Paul knew them. He had preached the gospel to them and they were converted. He had counseled them for baptism, though he baptized only the household of Stephanas and a few others. He had nurtured that congregation from the very beginning and was familiar with the people as personalities. He had eaten with them in their homes. He had likely conducted some wedding ceremonies, maybe even some funerals as well. He had preached countless sermons to those people. He had experienced walking in the marketplace with them. Perhaps he had even experienced persecution with them. He had sung with them, maybe cried with them. He had laid hands on them when they were sick. Paul was in union with these Corinthians because he had experienced life with them.Whether he was in Jerusalem …

“How Do You Smell?”

BIBLE READING:2 Corinthians 2-6
As I sit in front of my computer writing this devotional, I have noticed that I STINK!I had been outside doing a few things preparing for Sunday’s lesson and came back in drenched with sweat.It didn’t take long for me to notice that I may need to swap my brand of deodorant for something a bit stronger.Our sense of smell seems to be one of the more powerful senses that we possess.We are very quick to point out something that has a pleasant aroma, such as the smell of apple pie fresh out of the oven.Yet we are also very quick to point out something that might not smell so pleasant, like that gallon of milk that had spoiled while you were on vacation.Smells can also remind us of various things.For instance, that smell in the air when you know it is getting close to football season, or how a brush fire can remind you of the old wooden stove at your grandparents.God certainly knew what He was doing when he created in us the ability to smell.In fact, He has ev…

“Seek the LORD”

BIBLE READING:2 Corinthians 6
Under the inspiration of Jesus, the church developed an overall concept of time management unique to church members. It has its roots in the Old Testament.  Isaiah 55:6 urges us to "seek the LORD while He may be found. "Why should we seek Him? He has the power and the willingness, if we will trust Him, to give us a completely new nature, breaking the vain, frustrating, repetitious cycle. Isaiah 61:1-2 adds helpful understanding: "The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the year of Jehovah's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;" (Isa 61:1-2 ASV) Jesus quoted part of this prophecy as He began His ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth where He grew up.Luke 4:18-19 suggests an element …

“Our Tent”

BIBLE READING:2 Corinthians 5
In the first paragraph of this chapter, Paul spoke of the spiritual body which is to replace the earthly body of Christians at the time of the Second Advent and judgment of the last day (2 Cor 1:10).  He then delivered some of the most profound teachings in Holy Scripture regarding the ministry of reconciliation, of which Paul, along with the other apostles, was an ambassador (2 Cor 1:11-21). The word "tabernacle" is actually "tent," which is as good a symbol of something being transient and temporary as anything that could be imagined. Paul was a tentmaker, and this is exactly the type of metaphor that should have been expected from him and, added to that was the fact of Israel's having dwelt in tents during the forty years of the wilderness wanderings. No tent would last indefinitely when exposed to the elements, and the same is true of mortal bodies when exposed to the inevitable erosion of time. Our physical bodies are from God, b…