Tuesday, September 30, 2014



Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.  “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.  Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Ephesians 4:25-28)

Our Triune God is a God of truth: God the Father speaks truth (Isa.45:19); God the Son declared Himself to be Truth (John 14:6); God the Holy Spirit is described as “The Spirit of truth” (John 16:13).  Therefore, His children bear His likeness is speaking the truth.

Deception is of the Devil, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).  Those who belong to him are marked by an habitual nature of lying, and the end is judgment in the Lake of Fire (Rev.21:8).

It isn’t that a believer is incapable of lying, or else Paul would not warn us about it, “putting away lying” (Eph.4:25a).  The one who is regenerate might lapse into telling a lie, but he or she will not have a lifestyle dominated by lies.

Yet, it is not enough in the church to exclude deceptive talk, we must embrace honest speech, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” (Eph.4:25b).  Words that are faithful and true build connection, “for we are members of one another.” (Eph.4:25c)  A person’s commitment can be counted on because they are people of integrity.  We do not lie to others because we do not want them to lie to us.

Honest speech is helpful and hopeful, therefore, it is not ultimately harmful.  That doesn’t mean it is always painless.  Truth may demand reproof and rebuke, but then adds a word of encouragement and instruction (2 Tim.4:2).  Think of it as a surgeon’s scalpel that hurts in order to heal.  Confronting error and sin with truth, however, is not for condemnation, but compassion.  It doesn’t drive people down in despair over their failure, but lifts them up with hope for their future.  We have a responsibility to help make the body healthy because we are members of that body—each of us affecting the others.

Connection can be disrupted by deception and disloyalty, and a congregation can also be divided by angry words.  There will be times that anger rises as an emotion—the response of righteousness to injustice.  That, in and of itself, is not wrong.  God becomes righteously indignant toward evil and its horrible cost.  Anger can move us to promote that which is good and stand against what it wrong.  The problem is that if anger is not expressed in a righteous way, it is such a powerful emotion that it becomes a corrosive force poured out on another in a sinful way. “Be angry, and do not sin” (Eph.4:26a). Sadly, that is typically how anger is unleashed in the church, as people bite and devour one another.

You cannot just hold anger inside, and let it become bitterness either—for then it eats away at you, “do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Eph.4:26b).  It can become like a volcano, with pressure building and building, until one day we explode with destructive force.  That’s why we find the source of anger and ask God for grace to overcome.  We do it right away—and do not let the sunset with it smoldering within.  If we need to meet with someone, and settle the matter, we do it as soon as possible, to speak with honesty and yet not brutality—the object being reconciliation.  If that doesn’t work, then there is a process of the involvement of other godly people in mediation, and that failing, the church as a whole calls for reconciliation (Matt.18:15-19).  If that strong medicine doesn’t cure the issue, then the member may have to be excluded as a diseased member of the Body which can kill that local church.  Even so, the discipline is in hope that it brings repentance that leads to reconciliation.

Some people are like a stick of dynamite with a short fuse, ready to blow up at the slightest spark of provocation.  They walk around with a chip on their shoulder, daring someone to knock it off.  We are warned, “nor give place to the devil.(Eph.4:27).  When this is permitted in the congregation, it is like going to the front door of the church, and inviting the Devil to come in and destroy the church!

Speaking the truth in love is our goal—and when we do, we give a treasure that enriches another spiritually.  “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” (Eph.4:28). When we speak in slander or in rage, we rob others of their reputation and their joy.  The former strengthens our connection with other Christians, while the latter severs it. 

You have a choice about what you say and how you say it, and your words will make a difference.

Monday, September 29, 2014



Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.  (Ephesians 4:29)

Communication breakdown—it is a problem that will destroy a marriage, degrade a business, defeat a team, and defile a church.  There is no connection to others without communication with them—and communication of the proper kind.  How can a couple sustain a relationship where there is not the communication of love?  Will a business be successful if the management and employees do not speak in a way that motivates the workers to produce and the customers to invest?  Can a team be a winner without the coaches and players communicating the game plan clearly and inspirationally with each other?  Is it possible for a church to accomplish her mission unless the shepherds speak the truth of God’s word in love and the members evangelize the sinners and edify the saints?  Where there is the proper communication, there will be a powerful connection.

Do you recall the Biblical story of the tower of Babel?  Sinful men, in rebellion against God’s decree to fill the earth instead gathered together and began to construct an idolatrous tower, reaching toward heaven.  God tore up their little playhouse.  All He had to do was to bring a communication breakdown by confusing their speech and the building project ceased.

Pentecost brought a reversal of Babel.  God’s Spirit came down and supernaturally gifted the followers of Christ with an ability to communicate with others, irrespective of their language.  It was a remarkable moment that led to nearly 3,000 new converts and would begin to build a bridge to carry the message of salvation to the ends of the earth.  This time the unified speech would not be to stubbornly resist God’s will, but to submissively respond to it.

God’s plan is to clearly communicate His truth in love with His church and then through His church.  We may be sure that Satan seeks to bring communication breakdown as his counterattack to roll back the assault on his dark kingdom.  The Infernal One pushes back against truth by messengers who communicate error.  He stirs up hateful speech to fight loving words.

Our response determines the outcome.  Truth is always more powerful than lies and love will forever overcome hate—but, not if we are living according to the old fleshly way of responding, rather than the new spiritual way of behaving.

The choice we make in this is quickly disclosed.  Words reveal our thoughts.  The tongue is the bucket that draws out what flows in the well of our hearts.  Listen to what we say and how we say it and we will know whether there is a loving communication or a lost connection being made.

Thursday, September 25, 2014



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 who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.(Ephesians 4:14-16)

Spiritual growth must be guarded.  If Satan cannot have our soul, he will try to minimize our effectiveness.  Such impotence results from immaturity.  Grow up! 

Paul warns of Satan’s henchmen, who poison the soil of the soul with error, so that we are unfruitful in service.  They prey on those juvenile in their thinking.  Quoting Scripture, they twist it so that while sounding right, it is a distorted and damaging doctrine they declare.  If we do not grow, then we will have a naiveté that leads us to swallow this toxin. 

My youngest grandchild will put anything in her mouth.  Leave the dog dish out and she will be helping our pooch eat.  Pick up a rubber ball, and you note little bite marks.  It seems we must repeatedly ask, “What have you got in your mouth?”  The cure for this is growth.  She will mature and understand there are things you shouldn’t swallow.

That very growth which guards us from error, serves as guardrails to steer us into the thoroughfare of truth.  As the truth is spoken in love, a climate for spiritual growth is created.  The church is to be marked by the clear, compassionate and compelling communication of sound doctrine.  Believers are nourished by Scriptural singing and solid sermons.  The Bible is not used to batter us, but to better us—it is spoken in love.  But, it isn’t a diet of junk food that is served up, but a substantial portion of solid teaching—it is truth.  Where truth is spoken in love, growth is guarded and a healthy church is established.

We will be rooted.  That is, there is a consistent connection to the body of believers.  Spiritual tumbleweeds are tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”  They run to the next celebrity pastor and entertainment center that brands itself as a church.  It becomes a pattern.  Some drop out of church and plop down in front of a TV or computer screen as their shrine.  Error proliferates on the air waves these days.  If you are not active in a local assembly, then growth will not occur.

Our church should be a spiritual hot house where tender plants get rooted and grow to become abundantly fruitful.  The pastor is important, of course.  If there are others on staff, choosing the songs, leading the young, they too are vital in presenting the truth in love.  Teachers of small groups and Sunday School classes partner in this process of edifying the saints.  Yet, according to Paul, every member has a responsibility to build up other believers so that spiritual health leads to Scriptural growth.  What say you?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014



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)

As the people of God grow, church leaders are our guides, and Christ’s likeness is our goal.  We are moving toward being like Him, and that is a process which is never finished until we reach Heaven.  Growth is measured not by the size of our buildings, the amount of our budget or the numbers of the bottoms placed in a pew, but by growth in godliness.  It may well be that additional facilities are needed for additional souls being reached, who bring an increase in giving with the increase in attendance, drawn by the work that God is doing in a church that is honoring Christ.  Still, this is not the goal.  The goal is becoming like Jesus.  The other growth is the outward display of the upward devotion.

“Unity of the faith,” is a needful part of this growth.  This provides the fertile soil that nourishes the spiritual life of God’s people.  We come together in a common faith in Jesus Christ and the fundamental doctrines of the Word of God.  This focuses on “the knowledge of the Son of God.”  We not only grow to know about Him, we grow to know Christ experientially.  The focus on Jesus, as the One we worship and adore, brings the fruit of becoming like Him.

The destiny of the church is to manifest that majesty fully.  While there are no perfect churches on earth, there will be a perfect church—“a perfect man”—in eternity.  That perfection will be gauged by, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  

Let us not be too quick to excuse, however, the lack of Christ-likeness in our local assembly by the reality of the struggle with sin and self, where we do all stumble at times.  Some aren’t striving; they have surrendered!  Admitting that we won’t reach perfection, there should be progression!  Our church ought to look more like Jesus this year than it did last year, and next year should move us closer to the ultimate goal of being just like Him in character—love, righteousness, justice and truth.

How does this happen in the church?  It happens when individual members grow.  You have an assignment this day.  Your mission from God is to become more like Jesus.  You need the environment of the community of believers to nurture that.  As we all focus on the common goal of becoming like Jesus, unity is established, and we go and grow together toward that destination—encouraging each other along the way.

Forward, march!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014



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 has given spiritual gifts to His people.  In this case, the Apostle Paul is speaking of gifted people that guide the church in growth.  I enjoy saying (with a wink of the eye) to our congregation, “Did you know that I am God’s gift to this church?”

But, it is true!  Now, there is no room for boasting.  Having such a calling to service is as much an act of God’s grace as the call to salvation.  We deserve neither—yet, this is how God works.  He sovereignly places people in His Body, according to His desire, and not our merit.  Nonetheless, these leaders are essential for the church to be built up.

The apostles and prophets were essential in putting in the foundation of the edifice.  Paul previously stated,

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, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  (Ephesians 2:20-22)

Christ is the Cornerstone that is the beginning and anchor point for His church.  Then the Spirit of God placed the apostles and prophets in the first century church to establish the solid teaching upon which the church would rest.  Once the lifespan of the Apostles was completed, these gifted people passed off the scene.  There are none who carry such direct authority from Christ Himself today.  They were a special class who had walked and talked with Jesus, appointed by Him and eyewitnesses of His resurrection.  Similarly, the prophets spoke directly from God until the New Testament was written.  The church no longer needs more apostles and prophets—when the Bible is proclaimed, God speaks.  In this sense, the ministry of these men continues through the message they wrote.

Now, atop that foundation, the frame of the edifice is being extended upward and outward—each new believer being another stone in the spiritual structure.  The gifts of the evangelist and the pastor-teacher are crucial to the construction.  I use the term pastor-teacher because Paul’s intent seems to be that these are not two different offices, but a composite term describing the officer’s duty to lead the flock as a pastor and to feed the flock as a teacher.

These gifted leaders guide the work to make sure it remains sound and straight—connected with the Cornerstone and aligned with apostolic doctrine.  The evangelist adds another stone and the pastor-teacher cements them together with truth.

We should recognize that every believer is called to evangelize the lost.  The pastor-teacher is commanded specifically to, “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim.4:5).  Yet, we find there are certain people who are gifted by God to gather the harvest.  I may preach and a few are saved, while the evangelist preaches and a bumper crop is reaped.  I think if Billy Graham said, “Mesopotamia” and extended an invitation, hundreds would come forward in response!  At least it seems that the evangelist has such gifts—and, indeed, they are tasked with such a responsibility and given the tools to do it.

Yet, the harvest would be lost, if the grain were not conserved.  That is the primary work of the pastor-teacher.  God has gifted me—and other men like me—with this sacred charge.  We guide the church and it grows.

But, notice that the growth is a result of the people of God being equipped for their ministry.  The “ministers” of the church are often identified as the elders of the church—her pastoral staff.  Such a local church will never grow significantly, if the people view the pastors as “hired hands” brought in to do the ministry.  The work is too vast for such a few.  The harvest is too large for a handful of workers to preserve it.

I do have a ministry as a pastor—and that ministry is to equip you to fulfill your ministry!  Pastors are gifted guides but they do not have all the spiritual gifts.  Each person God sets in the church has at least one spiritual gift—and some have multiple gifts.  None have all the gifts!  So, these gifts must be discovered, developed and deployed for the church to be edified.

In the pastor-teacher’s job title there is the implication that he must exhort the people as pastor, prodding them with the staff of Scripture to undertake their ministry and then as teacher, prepping them with the sustenance of Scripture—feeding them in the rich pasture of God’s Word.  The result will be a church that is the dynamic, expansive force that glorifies God by impacting the world.

Has God called you to be an evangelist?  Billy Graham is soon to give his final altar call.  Whom will God gift in this next generation?  Perhaps the Spirit is compelling you to devote yourself to serving the church as pastor-teacher.  I am not as young as I once was.  There will come a day when I will preach my last sermon.  That I will is not debatable—only when I will is not declared—unknown to me, but not to God.  So, after that God will have readied another man to stand in my place, even as I have walked the path to the pulpit where my predecessors have trod.

God is calling each member to be a minister—if not an evangelist or pastor-teacher—then to love on little ones in the nursery, or to help teens wrestling with the world that they might be victorious, or to teach young adults to become solid in conviction in a compromising era, or to challenge median adults to not become complacent, or to console senior adults in the specific struggles that aging brings.  God wants some to be ushers, cooks, cleaners, chaperones, deacons, drivers of the church bus, and much more.  Are you being obedient to God’s call?  We must all work together for this enormous task.  Then the church will grow—and that is God’s expectation!

Monday, September 22, 2014



but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ(Ephesians 4:15)

Growth is normal.  We are designed that way.  As we get older, we grow up—our knowledge increases, our body gets bigger and stronger, our vocabulary expands, our abilities develop—all this, and more.  It is an aberration—something has gone tragically wrong—when we see an adult who still functions as a child.

So, God has created His people with the capacity of growth.  It is the normative experience for His Body, the church, to grow stronger in faith and larger in size.  The different members of the church ought to be developing—growing in grace and knowledge—and as they come together seeing the entire church expand spiritually, as well as numerically.

Of course numbers matter.  We count people because people count.  Each one is a precious soul that Jesus paid the greatest price to purchase.  The church is to give itself to extending its witness as wide as the world.

But, the numbers are not so much a direct goal as the product of spiritual maturity.  Again, it is the norm for children to grow up and reach maturity with adulthood bringing the capability for reproducing babies.  Thus, when the church is growing in Christ, the evidence of this is we take on the likeness of our Father, and are used to help birth more spiritual infants into the church.

How does this spiritual growth occur?  We help each other.  While it is true that we ought to study God’s Word personally and have the privilege individually to open God’s Book and hear from Him, it is also in a family that growth occurs.  In this case, the family of faith is the local church.  Others lovingly speak truth into our lives.  The community provides a corrective so that we do not develop either wrong beliefs or behaviors.  As we gather together there is a church home where we are challenged, corrected, comforted and cared for so that we develop into faithful, fruitful disciples.  I need my brothers and sisters to speak into my life—and you need to hear what I have to say to you also.

If we are spiritually stagnant in our church—if we are not growing to be like Christ, and therefore growing in outreach to those about us who are spiritually homeless—let us inquire as to why.  Plainly, there is a problem.  Growth is normal.  But, take caution that you do not blame “those people at the church” or “that preacher.”  Perhaps this may be a problem.  But, where I need to take a look first is in the mirror to perceive what I am doing to grow myself, and how I am making a contribution to the growth in godliness of the entire assembly.  Does the mirror of God’s Word reveal a mature disciple?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

CONNECTED IN UNITY: The Source of Unity

“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 4:4-6)

God is the source of unity.  He is Triune: Father, Son and Spirit, and yet in perfect harmony—oneness with three Persons—we might say in tri-unity.  Now, He not all calls us to follow His model, but furnishes the means for doing so by His very life indwelling us.

Seven times, “one” is used in these three verses to convey God’s expectation for His people.  Seven is the number of completeness and this expresses the complete communion intended for the saints.

We are to be “one body.”  Just as a physical body, with many organs and parts all together working for the good of the person, so the church and her members function like this if healthy.

We share “one Spirit.”  The same Spirit that indwells me, indwells you.  He gifts us in different ways, but every believer has the same Holy Spirit.  He is not the blessing of a privileged few.

We have “one hope,” and that is the hope of Heaven.  Our destiny is glory, where we will abide with all the saints of all the ages.  You may as well get to enjoying your brothers and sisters down here, because you are going to be spending forever with them!

We bow to “one Lord.”  We are fellow citizens of the same Kingdom of God.  All of us have united our voices in pledging allegiance to the Lamb.

We possess “one faith.”  Someone might argue that denominations among Christians run counter to this—and they can.  But, another way to look at denominations is that they are different members of the same universal Body—the local church a microcosm of the worldwide church.  Each has something unique to contribute, but all have a common faith.  Bible-believing Christians, irrespective of some differences around the edges of doctrine are in agreement on the fundamentals of the faith.  If they don’t believe the basics, they aren’t “Christian” no matter the claim they make.

We have “one baptism.”  Again, how can this be a point of unity, when it is one of the issues where Christians disagree?  Some baptize by immersion and some by sprinkling or pouring.  The fact is that even though believers may debate the mode of baptism, they do not dispute the meaning of baptism.  It is a public confession of Christ as Lord—dying to our old life and rising to a new life.  It is the outward testimony of the spiritual reality of baptism into the one Body of Christ by the one Spirit.

We worship “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”  There is only one God.  He is the object of every true believer’s faith and devotion.  We share Him as the Father who has birthed us into God’s family, making us brothers and sisters.  Four times, the word “all” is driven with the hammer of Truth, nailing us down into relationship with each other—fixed, firm and final!

Unity among believers, then, is the work of God and a testimony to His nature.  Disunity comes from a different location and smells of brimstone and sulfur.  May we be one in the bond of love!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

CONNECTED IN UNITY: The Struggle for Unity


“endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)

Anything worth having demands a price to be paid.  The old exercise mantra transcends every dimension of life: “No pain; no gain.”  If you want a successful business, you must work for it.  If you want a baby, you must deliver it.  If you want to lose weight, you must discipline yourself.  If we want unity in the church, we must fight for it!

That sounds like a contradiction doesn’t it?

But unity doesn’t come without endeavor.  God wants it, and so Satan fights against it.  The Spirit is in a war with our self-centeredness, to overthrow the flesh and have a victorious fellowship.  Jesus died an indescribable death to yield this precious fruit—connecting us to God and to one another.  Shall we not invest our energies in getting and guarding unity?

It is worth fighting for—and strive for it we must!

Our world is coming apart.  The result of sin is, “We have turned, every one, to his own way.”  (Isa.53:6b).  Insisting on our own way turns us away from God’s way, and isolates us from each other.  The ultimate expression of this is, “wars and rumors of wars…nation will rise against nation” (Matt.24:6a, 7a).  The dissolution of our society is witnessed in every conceivable manner: fragmented by ethnicity, gender, age, class, politics, and on and on.

The church is to be different.  We have only one King—and one law—the law of love.  Any threat to the union of saints is to be met with a rapid and forceful response.  Our defenses cannot be relaxed for a moment.  The smallest disagreement over the most trivial of matters confined to only two church members may be the tiny virus that enters the Body and kills it!

By battling and beating strife, we maintain the bond of peace.  The peace in our church is the best advertisement for the Prince of Peace, Who claims our absolute allegiance. 

In a war-weary world, there will be sinners seeking some solace.  Too often they turn to drugs, drink or some other means to numb the pain.  That is only a temporary relief—and in the end only produces more heartache.

What if instead we offered an oasis of peace in a desert of divisiveness?  What if our church were a refuge of harmony in this hate-filled environment?  Perhaps the empty pews that too often result from brothers and sisters wickedly warring against one another would be filled with those seeking the peace that Jesus brings.  It’s worth fighting for!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

CONNECTED IN UNITY: The Spirit of Unity


“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” (Ephesians 4:1-2)

It is fine to talk about love—we should.  But, our performance demonstrates the reality of our profession.  The church has often been known to affirm love as a principle, but fail to act lovingly as a practice.  Loving activity begins with a loving attitude.  The fruit of connection with others grows from the root of compassion for others.  That is what Paul is getting at in these verses of Ephesians.

He writes from prison, yet is utterly free.  His body may be behind bars, but his spirit soars.  Caesar may be his jail keeper, but God is the one who is Master—it is solely for the cause of Christ, and no real crime, that the Apostle is in a dungeon.  The world might brand him riff-raff, but he knows he is a ruler—that a noble calling belongs to him as a child of the King.  He is called to love God and love the church.  Even in a place where he might have fallen prey to the “woe is me” pity-party, he focuses instead on others.  That is the nature of love.

We are called to connection.  Our call is from God’s Spirit to connect with Christ, as separated sinners are summoned saints.  That connection with Christ places us in community with Christians.  Our lifestyle then is to be an expression of this—“to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”  

How do we do this?

Four legs hold up this banqueting table of love:  humility, gentleness, patience and acceptance.  Paul says the spirit of unity is marked by, “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.”  Feast your eyes on these traits.

There is to be an attitude of humility.  We take offense when we perceive some slight against ourselves.  But, if we are about stooping to serve, then we focus on ministry to others rather than magnifying ourselves in a self-serving way.  You can tell if you have a servant’s heart by how you react when someone treats you like one!  Jesus is our model, taking up the basin and towel to wash the filthy feet of His followers though He was King of kings and Lord of lords!

Then, we are called to an attitude of gentleness.  People are fragile.  They need extra care.  This is the spirit of Christ which He expressed this way, A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (Matt.12:20a)  If the stem of a plant is bent and bruised, only a gentle touch can nurse it back to health.  Handle it roughly and it will be broken and never bloom again.  If a wick is only smoldering, it demands a gentle breath to reignite it.  Blow too forcefully and it will be blown out and its light extinguished.  This is the delicate side of disciple-making.

Furthermore, we are called to an attitude of patience.  All of us are a work in progress.  None of us are perfect yet.  As we want others to be patient with us, we are to be patient with them.  Some in the church are lovable and it is no chore to show them love.  Others are difficult, and yet that is how we develop love.  Think of them as God’s sandpaper sent to polish us into the beauty of Christ.  Think of that crowd of disciples Christ would mold into Apostles; it was hard to be patient with such.  Yet, he was.  Christ saw Peter as the Rock—not for what he was at the time, but for what he was eventually going to be.

Finally, we are called to an attitude of acceptance.  If a Holy God has accepted someone into His family, then I must accept them as my brother or sister.  Our appeal is to come to Christ, “Just as I am…” as the invitation hymn conveys.  This doesn’t mean all our conduct is acceptable.  The Spirit will continue to confront us lovingly with the need of growing in grace.  But, it means that we are fully accepted in Christ.  It is because of our connection to Him that the Father accepts us.  Thus, we will not always like what a person does, but we can always love them for who they are in Christ.  We may need to even confront them and correct them in a compassionate way.  It is for their good and the good of the Body—and ultimately for the glory of God that we do so!  Yet, I have found that most of my time needs to focus on working on me rather than fixing others—to extract the log from my eye before I try to see how to remove a splinter from someone else’s eye!

Can you imagine the environment of the church where such a spirit of love reigns?  May this be our daily prayer and demonstrable practice—to walk worthy of our calling to be like Christ!

Monday, September 15, 2014



“endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  (Ephesians 4:3)

If you knew you knew you were facing certain death, what would you be thinking?  If you had the opportunity before the end of your life to pray, what would you ask for?

Jesus knew He was to be crucified and standing in the shadow of the cross we also know what was on His mind and what He prayed for; it is documented in John’s Gospel.  Here is a repeated theme in that prayer:

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.  (John 17:20-21)

He prayed not only for those disciples—He prayed for us—for all who would believe the Gospel.  His prayer was for us to be connected in unity, and that unity would be the most convincing evidence of the Gospel message.

What a powerful force is unleashed when we are one in the bond of peace!  No wonder then that Paul calls us in Ephesians 4:3 to make every effort toward such unity.

I heard Dr. W.A. Criswell, the late pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas share a story at the largest gathering ever of the Southern Baptist Convention.  It illustrates this point so well:

Years ago, I saw a pathetic picture in Life Magazine.  A little boy had been lost in a horizon-to-horizon Kansas wheat field, had wandered away from the house, and had lost his way in the vast sea of standing stalks.  Frantically, the parents had searched for the small child to no avail.  The sympathizing neighbors helped, but without success.  Finally, someone suggested they join hands and comb the fields by sections.  The picture I saw was the sorrowing neighbors with the family standing over the dead body of the little boy, and the cry of the father printed as the caption below: “Oh, if only we had joined hands before!”

All around us are souls that are perishing.  Together we can reach them.  In competition with other churches, or in conflict with other Christians, we will never have the combined strength that comes through a connected witness. Why don’t we join hands and hearts today as the people of God? 

Friday, September 12, 2014

CONNECTED IN CHRIST: Our Common Architecture


“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, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”  (Ephesians 2:20-22)

Paul has described Christ’s followers as saints who are set apart for Him, subjects who are citizens of God’s Kingdom, sons who are part of God’s family and now as sanctuaries who house God’s Spirit.

In each of these analogies, the connection with Christ results in a connection with each other.  There isn’t a special category for an elite group of Christians called, “saints,” but all of those who belong to Christ are saints.  A Kingdom isn’t composed of a single citizen, but all those bound together in allegiance to the King.  Nor are we an “only child” in God’s household, but there are many sons and daughters.  It’s a big family!

This devotional will focus on how the Sovereign Architect has laid Christ as the Cornerstone, and from Him established foundational truth from the apostles of the New Testament and prophets of the Old Testament to build His spiritual temple.  Every believer is cemented together by love in this marvelous construction filled with the Spirit and manifesting His glory.

Everything is bound to Christ—there is no church without that connection to Him as the Cornerstone.  The structure cannot stand without the solid foundation.  God’s inerrant, infallible and immutable message written by His inspired messengers give us the canon of Scripture—that is the measure by which we test and align all that are then built upon this foundation.  The foundation is unshakable.

We are “fitted together,” as individual stones with different shapes and sizes.  None of us are identical, but all are essential in the construction—formed precisely according to the Architect’s design.  The fit is unbreakable.

There is growth.  Paul says the church, “grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”  Spanning the centuries, bridging the continents and cementing the cultures, God’s intent is for an ever-increasing sanctuary.  There is always room for another stone to be added until God decides to cap it off at the consummation of the age.  Thus, we welcome into our local church all those who have been received into God’s church.  The frame is unmatchable.

Driving this home, we are, built together.”  Not of bricks and mortar, but living beings who have each been recipients of grace and expressed a common faith in Christ.  No termite can devour it, no fire can consume it, no weapon can destroy it and no storm can collapse it.  The fortifying is indestructible.

The same Holy Spirit that indwells you inhabits me, and all believers have become the Temple of God.  We are connected in Christ!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

CONNECTED IN CHRIST: Our Mutual Acquaintance


“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19)

From aliens to citizens and from strangers to sons—this is what happens when we are connected in Christ.  According to Paul we become one with all the “saints.”  That is the birthright of every believer.  It isn’t true of a select few, but is the status of all the elect.

Saints!  We may picture an elite class of Christians—their renown preserved in stained glass or statues.  They are Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Matthew or Saint Bartholomew.  But, that is erroneous thinking.  We dare not omit Saint Bob, Saint Bill, and even Saint Dennis!  And what of Saint Louise, Saint Sue or Saint Polly?  I know a saint named Marilyn!  She is my wife—and living with me requires that she would need to be!  Here is the reality: every follower of Christ—the weakest, the virtual unknown—all are saints.

Right now in our nation there is a great alarm about illegal immigration.  It seems the borders are virtually open to a flood of aliens to enter.

That can’t be in the Kingdom of God.  The border of Heaven is barred to every alien.  None may enter illegally.  The walls are too high and the gates are too strong.  You cannot swim the river—it is too wide.  But, there is a legal way for everyone who desires to enter.  We must pledge allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ—and the moment we do, we are immediately welcomed into citizenship in His Eternal Kingdom!

It would be folly to open your house to any stranger that wanders by.  Instead we have locks on our doors and many even purchase security systems.  Leave the door open and let anybody and everybody in—and that would prove destructive to your property and deadly to your family.

The New Jerusalem is heavily fortified.  Its defenses are impenetrable.  An army of angels guards its gates.  But, all sons of God are made welcome!  Just as your children are given the key to your house, so God takes the stranger and adopts those who follow Christ into His family!  The key of faith in Christ is placed in our hand.

What we were—foreigners and strangers—we are no more.  Now we who are connected in Christ have the status of citizens and sons!  That is true of each of us personally, but is also true of all of us corporately.  Note that, fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” is in the plural.  Our connection to Christ is in context of our connection with one another.  Each of us has the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and sonship.  Those include the privileges and duties of our Kingdom and Royal Family!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014



And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.   For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.  (Ephesians 2:17-18)

Those buried in the graveyard are in various stages of decomposition.  If you exhumed some bodies, they would seem nearly alive by their appearance, having been recently buried.  Others would be far from appearing alive—skeletal remains obviously dead.  One thing all would have in common, however—all are dead!

This is spiritually true of everyone without a connection to Jesus Christ, “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25).  Paul begins the second chapter of Ephesians this way, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (v.1).  Not all were equally corrupt—some were more religious, more moral, while others were more obviously wicked and degenerate—but all shared the same spiritual need of new life, because they were all spiritually dead in sin!

So, Paul will speak of “those who were near”—that is the Jews who knew about the true God and had in some measure submitted themselves to the moral demands of God’s law.  Then, there were the Gentiles, “who were afar off” being pagans without the knowledge of the One True God and given over to the lusts of the flesh.  The Apostle described our depravity in stark terms,

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 2:2-3)

But, God in His rich mercy saved both Jew and Gentile and regenerated them, giving them equal access to the Father by the same Holy Spirit. 

We see this in the church still today. 

Here is someone raised in church—they know the language and the liturgy.  They know when to stand and when to sit.  They have been to Sunday School since nine months before they were born and the first song they learned to sing was, “Jesus Loves Me.”  But, without Christ they are lost.  Then the Gospel of Christ they have heard in their ears penetrates to the level of their heart, the Holy Spirit calls them by name and they recognize that they need peace with God and come to Him.

Then, you see someone baptized into the fellowship of the church who has never seen a baptism before.  They are clueless as to the formalities of faith.  You may as well be doing the service in Latin as to their understanding of some of the vocabulary of religion.  They likely know Led Zeppelin’s, “Stairway to Heaven,” but have never heard Bill Gaither’s, “Because He Lives.”  But, under the preaching of the Gospel, they have come to life, and all “tatted up,” and with various body parts pierced they are broken in conviction, birthed into salvation and baptized as their confession of faith.

And there is no difference!  The same access to God is available to both.  Connected to Christ, we are all—irrespective of religious background—connected to each other. 


Tuesday, September 09, 2014



Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.  In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14, emphasis added)
When we are born physically into this world, the umbilical cord is cut and our existence is severed from that of our mother.  This illustrates the spiritual condition in which we enter this earthly existence also.  Sin is the scalpel that severs us from Holy God.  We are born into this world, no longer in Him, but apart from Him.  To die physically in that condition is to be forever in that state of separation.

Jesus came to restore the connection.  Through faith in Him, we are connected to Him and back to God.  Paul repeatedly in these opening verses of Ephesians drives home the reality of redemption—we are “in Christ” and uses the phrase, “in Him” or something related to it again and again.  I have noted eight such expressions in only twelve verses.  Paul’s point is obvious:  we are connected in Christ.

As we examine what it means to be a member of the church and be connected with each other, we must begin with the fact that such a connection is only possible because of that connection with Christ.  We are joined together as members of His Body, because we are joined to Him as our Head.  Just as sin separates us from God, it also separates us from one another.  The sin barrier is broken in Christ and a bridge of grace spans the gulf by His cross. 

The wonderful blessings that we have—all of them and there are many—flow from this connection.  We praise our Triune God from whom all blessings flow; we praise Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  All three Persons of the Trinity are mentioned in these verses as bringing our salvation.  The Father has chosen us.  Christ has redeemed us.  The Spirit has sealed us.  It is all to the praise of His glory!  May our hearts be filled with wonder and our lips with worship as we meditate on God’s marvelous grace!

Monday, September 08, 2014



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)

Dr. Thom Rainer is the President of LifeWay, a Christian organization that produces books and resources for the church.  His book, “I Am a Church Member” is a helpful one that we share with our new members at Pole Creek.

Now, LifeWay has produced a Bible study series based on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians which deals with this theme, “Connected: My Life in the Church.”  I was requested to provide commentary on these lessons by a Face Book friend, and so this is it.

Being a Christian is about believing in Christ.  There is a connection that is made—believing in Christ means being in Christ.  We are vitally connected with Him.  This would also mean we are connected with His Body—and that Body is the church!

As one of our physical parts could not live apart from connection with our body, so we cannot have life apart from connection with the Body of Christ.  Believing in Christ and belonging to a church are inseparable. 

Some may argue, “I am part of the invisible, worldwide church!”  I don’t have to have my name on a membership roll somewhere and attend a place of worship.  That is partially true.  There is a universal, spiritual church made up of all Christians of all the ages and when a person follows Christ, they become part of these redeemed. 

Yet, the local church is the visible expression of the Body of Christ.  The New Testament use of the word, “church” is almost always used in speaking of this local assembly—the church at Thessalonica, the church at Rome, the church at Ephesus, and so forth.

We need to get connected.  I have heard so many excuses in nearly forty years of leadership in the church as to why people don’t want to connect with a local body of believers.  But, none of them hold up under scrutiny.  They are flimsy attempts to justify a self-centered approach to life, and one must ask the question, “If your life is given to yourself, how can you have given it to Christ?”  Where is the call of Jesus to deny yourself and take up your cross in refusing to connect with a local church?

Is it a big deal? 

Just read the verses at the beginning of this post and meditate on the mind-blowing implications of church as the Holy Spirit has given them in this Holy Scripture.  Then, you tell me. 

But, you really know the answer to that don’t you?