Monday, May 30, 2016

A Charge to the Light Brigade

There were times in my childhood when I had to navigate down a dark path.  My memories of feeling safest were when I was led by an adult with a flashlight.  My adult guide would shine the flashlight on the path and sometimes back and forth into the darkness as we walked.  I felt completely safe.  Later, as I got older, I received my own flashlight and gained the confidence to walk down dark paths with Him to guide my steps.

What sensible person carries a flashlight down a dark path but does not shine it out in front, to illuminate the path?  Possessing the light is useless unless it is directed by the light bearer and "shone forth".  This is truly "walking in the light, as He is in the light".  (1 John 1:7)

In Ephesians 5:6-14 Paul is describing the resplendent walk:

Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for God’s wrath is coming on the disobedient because of these things. Therefore, do not become their partners. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light— for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth— 10 discerning what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret. 13 Everything exposed by the light is made clear, 14 for what makes everything clear is light. Therefore it is said:
"Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead,
and the Messiah will shine on you."

Previously, in the verses just prior to these, Paul exhorted believers to imitate God by walking in His love.  Here, he begins to talk about our associations with others.  There are times when love must be courageous.

First, he warns us of making alliances with phony Christians - - - those ungodly deceivers who talk a good game, but who have souls empty of the Holy Spirit, who have no flashlight at all.  He labels them as still walking in darkness, that is, not having experienced the salvation of Jesus Christ, regardless of their words.  Indeed, their actions stand in direct conflict with their words.  We are not to line up with them or to become partners with them.

Secondly, since we have the light of life in our hearts, we are not to participate in "works of darkness".  Ok, so, we are to walk in the light, down the path of life, and avoid sinful behavior.

Thirdly, and this is very, very unpopular today - - - we are not merely to go skipping down the path shining our light along the way, refusing to participate in sin.  In verse 11, Paul goes a step further, saying we are to expose the sin that surrounds us.

In a recent Sunday School lesson the emphasis was on learning from, and coming back from, failure.  The majority of the discussion focused on the "crash and burn" types of failures, where we made an unfortunate choice, or an error in judgment or a naive decision and came to an unfortunate condition called "failure".  Well and good.
However, I pointed out that perhaps an even worse failure is the kind where we refuse to obey the Word of God.  Verse 11 of this passage is one such example where in modern-day America followers of Jesus Christ have failed.

There is a pernicious lie which has permeated much of Christendom since the mid-1950s.  It says, "Live and let live."  I can remember seeing this slogan on bumper stickers in years past.  A more modern incarnation of this philosophy is the popular "Coexist" bumper sticker.

In other words, "you do your thing, and I'll do mine."  "You leave me alone, and I'll leave you alone."  The problem with this is that it has resulted in an ever-encroaching tide of godlessness across our nation.  It's not quite as egregious as anarchy, "anything goes," because Christian people would have openly rebelled against that philosophy.  However, it is equally pernicious.  Death by inches, as opposed to one, swift blow.

Case in point:
On June 25, 1962, nearly 54 years ago as of the date of this writing, the U.S. Supreme Court removed daily, corporate prayer from the public schools of this nation.  One year later, Bible reading followed.1  The court's reasoning on this matter was that, although Bible reading and prayer had been taught in public schools for the previous 100 years of American public schooling, somehow it came to amount to "establishment of a particular religion." This was a lie, but the American church bought it, and did nothing to stop it.  The truth is that the Bible's tenets, like it or not, formed the foundational moral principles of Western Civilization.  (Ask an American law student, who is familiar with Old Testament law.)   It was Christianity which civilized and modernized Europe in the 1400s-1500s.  It was Christianity that under-girded American civilization for this country's first approximately 175 years.  Instead of standing up to the lie perpetuated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 and '63, the American church hid its flashlights under its jackets.  As the past 50 or so years have rolled on, additional losses of freedom have followed, one after another, until this assemblage of 50 states, though still in some ways "united" are certainly not "one nation under God".

Walking down the path, boldly shining the light into the darkness takes tremendous courage.  It is much easier to "go with the flow", to "get on board", to "go along to get along".  The original publish date of this post is Memorial Day, May 30, 2016, a day on which we Americans commemorate and revere those men and women whose courage led them to serve our country and to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, on our behalf.  They died fighting those who had been identified as enemies to our country and to our freedoms.

The Charge of the Light Brigade
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd ?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade ?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

The battle this famous poem describes was the result of a British military blunder, a miscommunication between a general and his subordinates during the Crimean War.  Yet, these soldiers did not question their orders, nor did they shrink from the battle.  They charged forth into the Russian army, heedless of the enemy's numbers, and made military history for their bravery, so much so that "all the world wonder'd".

As Christians, a Light Brigade, we have no need to fear that our "General" is wrong-headed or confused.
Most of the 12 disciples of Jesus died martyrs' deaths, rather than renounce the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They were not content to "live and let live".  They were certain and single-minded, shining their lights so brilliantly and blindingly that the darkness, for a time, fled.

The same challenge given to these heroes has been also given to us.  Will we take it?  Paul uses a well-known saying (even we don't know for sure its source) in verse 14, when he shakes us by the collar to say, "WAKE UP! Rise up from the dead souls who surround you!"  Will each of us who claims the name of Jesus Christ, who bears His light shine?  Will we courageously expose the deeds of the unrighteous in our world, as the Lord gives each of us opportunity, no matter the personal cost, so that all the world wonders at our outrageous love for our Lord?

Father, thank you for giving me your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of my Lord, the Light of Life.  Every day You give me opportunities to shine Your Light into dark places, to expose and opposed wickedness.  May I shirk not the challenge or shrink from the battle!  May I emulate the example of my Lord, who did not retreat from the agony of the Cross, as well as those courageous saints who have gone before me in this ages-old war.  In Jesus' name, amen.




Friday, May 27, 2016

Out of the Choir Loft

This is going to be a controversial post.  Let's just get that out there.
To begin, let's look at today's text:  Ephesians 5:1-10  (NET).

1Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children 2and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. 3But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as these are not fitting for the saints. 4Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting – all of which are out of character – but rather thanksgiving. 5For you can be confident of this one thing: that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
6Let nobody deceive you with empty words, for because of these things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience. 7Therefore do not be partakers with them, 8for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light – 9for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth – 10trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

In yesterday's blog post, we delved deep into the first two verses.  The larger passage's message is this: "If you are a Christian, live like one.  If you don't, you probably aren't a Christian."

Here's my controversial statement:  most people who claim to be Christian ... aren't.

I hate to use personal experience, but it's the only kind I've had.  :)  (See what I did there?!)

When, as a youth, I accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, I knew that my life had been forever changed.  I was standing in church, after hearing a powerful sermon on Hell.  And, I knew I didn't want to go there.  I also knew very well that I was a sinner of the worst order, in desperate need of a Savior.  So, I "walked the aisle", was counseled by a godly woman, prayed to receive Christ as Savior and made my confession of salvation to the church, right then and there.  Later, I was baptized to show the decision that had been made in my heart.  To this day, I am as sure of my eternal salvation as it is possible to be, for several reasons, the chiefest of which is that God's Word is certain.  He will keep His promises. He never changes.

Not everyone who "walks the aisle", however, is a Christian.  Walking down a aisle doesn't make you a Christian anymore than walking into a McDonald's makes you a customer.  It's not until you "buy in" that you become a partaker of either God's grace or a hamburger, whichever the case may be. 

Case study:
The other day, on my friend's website, I was introduced to a wonderful Christian lady who accepted Jesus in adulthood.  I've got a brief (2-min.) YouTube clip of her giving a snippet of her testimony, from the TV show "Life Today", with Beth Moore and the Robisons.  Watch it here, and (perhaps)be amazed:

Can you imagine being this woman's preacher husband?!  He's standing down there in front of the church, as the "invitation" song is being sung, when out of the choir loft comes....his WIFE, to accept Jesus as Savior.  It's a wonder he didn't faint!  As I shared this with some friends online last night, one of them volunteered that her pastor had made a similar "I was a faker" confession some few weeks ago.

What is my point here?  I'm asking that you examine your heart to see whether you are a Christian or not.  In most cases, if you are honest, you know the answer already.  We all fall into one of several categories:
1.  You call yourself Christian because either you did some "churchy thing" or it was done to you, such as being baptized as an infant.  Wearing the label "Christian", does not mean you ARE one, whether you are a "good girl" or "good guy" or not.  (This was the category Jan Morton fell into.)
2.  You know for sure you are not a Christian, because you know you have definitely NOT thrown your hat into the ring for Christ.  You may have been resisting His call to you, or you may not have yet heard it.  Regardless, you are confident that you are "on the other side" - - - "lost as a coot", as we say in the South.
3.  You know for certain that you belong to Jesus Christ, because you made a personal, heartfelt decision to follow Him, and your life has never been the same.  That doesn't mean you've never had a sinful lapse or a moment of doubt....Satan is a masterful deceiver, who will try to get you to question the promises of God.  In times of doubt, Satan can be shut down with his nonsense by your affirming, "God's Word says it; I believe it; and that settles it."

As Paul emphasizes, the way people live their lives (vs. 9) are strong indicators of whether they actually have met and embraced Jesus as their life-changing Savior...or not.  They are trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord, and are doing their best to live it.  A person's public persona is not a fool-proof barometer.  You heard Jan Morton testify that she was an "always good girl".  NO ONE would have suspected she was anything other than a Christian!  Yet, she was lost and on her way to Hell.  I thank God for her powerful testimony - - - that PRIDE did not prevent her from making her decision for Jesus Christ and "walking the aisle" to testify to that fact.  You may have, in your life, as have I, been "burned" by fake Christians.  Some knew they weren't "the real deal", and others did not because they had been duped by Satan.

My pastor says that we will find ourselves very surprised in Heaven.  Many we "expect" to see won't be there; many we don't expect to see ... will.  Only each individual who honestly examines his or her heart knows for sure.

One last point:  you can become a Christian without walking down an aisle.  All it takes is a true, heart-felt yielding to the Holy Spirit, as He calls you to salvation.  In your heart (not just your head) believe on Jesus as God and as the ONLY way to God; confess your sinfulness and need for Him as Savior; accept Him into your life forever.  No "aisle" needed.  However, I do believe it is important to become part of a Bible-believing congregation and confess your decision to them as evidence of the transformation that has taken place in your heart.  Same with baptism...both these are outward signs of inward grace.

Where "are you" today?  Are you on the outside, examining this Jesus, wondering if He can be truly trusted?  Are you "in the choir loft"?  Don't be in bondage to your pride and/or your "church robe". I'm begging you to be honest with yourself and be sure of your decision today.

Father, so many of my lovely friends are "living a lie".  Reveal the truth to them about their salvation, Lord!  And, please reveal to each of us who are Yours already the truth about areas of our lives where we are "dabbling in the dark", when we need to be walking in the light.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Fake Purse


What comes to mind when you think of the word "imitation"?  Most often, I think "a cleverly disguised fake".  One time, on a trip to NYC, I bought a "designer purse" - - except that it truly wasn't.  I watched the vendor furtively sneak behind a curtain to get the model I had selected, quickly attach the designer insignia on the front and take my cash.  Voila!  Designer purse!  Right?
No.  Instead, I got a cleverly designed fake, which fooled most people.

This is not what the apostle Paul is talking about in Ephesians 5:1-2, today's text.

1Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children 2and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.  (NET)

Here it is in The Message version:

1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

In the field of education, there is a principle of excellent instruction, and it is this:  you want your students to watch what you do, and then to model their learning after you.  I used to tell my language arts teachers, when I was a principal, "Show the students an example of excellent writing, and show them in detail what makes it excellent."  This is an approach of going from "the whole" and deconstructing, which is easier for most folks than looking at all the small, disparate parts and then putting something together.

In Jesus Christ, we have "the whole enchilada" of God.  Isn't that marvelous?  All we need to do is to study how He lived, and then model our lives after Him.  This results in a life of love.

As I read today's passage, I thought of the fact that I was blessed with a wonderful mother and father, who lavished love on us, their children.  My daddy went on to be with Jesus nearly 19 years ago, but my mother continues to love all three of us.  She prays for us, offers to help us, chides us when we need it and is generous with all she has.  She is a model of both love and virtue.  I realize, though, that some of you have trouble with the parent analogy, because your parent(s) was/were despicable.

My Daddy used to tell me, "You won't know what love is until you have a child."  I found his statement presumptuous and annoying as a teenager; but, wow, did I ever understand it after becoming a parent.  God's love for us is absolutely perfect, and He longs for us to first embrace it so that we may imitate it in our own, daily lives.

So, how does one imitate God?  Or Christ, as other scriptures prescribe?

Dr. Robert D. Luginbill1 emphasized that this is impossible apart from the power of the Holy Spirit and the virtues of scripture.  He defines "virtue" like this:  "Virtue is truth, distilled and applied to the individual life."  I love that!  What I see often is that we want to embrace the "love of God" without truly understanding His ways.  We embrace the love of a god of our own imagining.  To truly love God and to love others as He loves demands an understanding of, and a habitual practice of, His truths, revealed in Scripture. Otherwise, all you've got is a fake purse.

God's model demands that we love through self-sacrifice and with humility, not in an odious, sanctimonious fashion....that we love in trials, under pressure, with great prayer and surrender of our strong will.  Only the Holy Spirit can teach us this, as we yield to His leading.

Here are some related verses on imitating Christ:

Study them for yourself.  They say it so much better than I!  :)

Father, I do not want to be a "fake purse" or a "fake Christian".  I long to be as much like you as it is possible to be.  I confess that daily I fall short of this goal.  Please forgive me of my "falling shorts", Lord!  And, teach me, through the resurrection power living within me, to "love like that" to walk .... resplendent!  In Jesus' name, amen. 



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

7 and 7

We are nearing the end of Ephesians 4 (verses 25-32), where Paul lists 7 things that are central to living a Spirit-filled life ("the new self"), which he referenced in verses 20-24.

I'm going to use the New English Translation to present Ephesians 4:25-32, as well as Proverbs 6:16-19.  We are going to contrast these two passages today.  Let's start by looking at both of them.

25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26“In your anger do not sin”d : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. 28Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
even seven things that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that are swift to run to evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies,
and a person who spreads discord among family members.

In the Proverbs passage, we see 7 things that the LORD considers an "abomination".
By contrast....
In the Ephesians passage, the opposite of some of those 7 are presented by Paul as being attributes of a Christ-filled life. 

Let's look at them in lists, side by side.

           Proverbs                                                                  Ephesians
Lying (Prov. 6:17,19)                                           Speak Truth (Eph. 4:25)
False Witness (Prov. 6:19)                                   Get Rid of Slander (Eph. 4:31)
Murdering (6:17)                                                 Handle Anger Righteously (4:26-27)
Haughtiness (6:17)                                             Work Hard; Don't Steal; Be Generous (4:28)
Scheming and Craving Wickedness (6:18)         Speak Wholesome Words that Heal (4:29)
Spreading Disunity/Discord (6:19)                     Practice Kindness, Compassion, Forgiveness  (4:32) 
                                                                             Avoid grieving the Holy Spirit (4:30)

So, when you compare these two lists, what jumps out at you?  Here are some things that are obvious to me.

1.  Lying is a "biggie" with God.  You may recall that Jesus called Satan "the Father of Lies" (John 8:44).  Lying (or slander, which is "lying to destroy someone's reputation") is mentioned TWICE in the "God hates" list!  Because he is a deceiver, Satan wants to make us believe that "little, white lies" do not matter.  Oh....but they do!  By contrast, Christians are commanded to control our words and to speak only words that are wholesome, that benefit others and that heal wounds.

2.  Anger and Murder are merely matters of differing degree.  Murder is anger, taken to an extreme.  Anger always precedes murder.  Christians are told to keep their anger short-lived and to not let Satan get his "toe in the door" of our lives, through our anger.

3.  Haughtiness has to do with thinking you are superior to someone else, that you deserve more, that you are a better person because of your circumstances.  Haughty people have a disdain for those who have more than they do; so, they think it's okay to steal what others have.  Haughty people are hard-hearted, selfish people, who would not stoop to help someone less fortunate.

4.  Instead of fostering disunity and spreading discord, we are to exhibit kindness and compassion, forgiving others for the ways they have hurt us.   Almost always, disunity and discord get whipped up because someone has had their feelings hurt.

5.  When we plot evil towards others and/or go lusting after wickedness or sin, this most assuredly grieves the Holy Spirit.  It is one thing to sin unintentionally.  But, when Christians embrace favorite sins or go running after evil, the Holy Spirit is "grieved". (In a related verse, 1 Thessalonians 5:19, the word is "quenched".)  The Holy Spirit is a Person, one of the three Persons in the Godhead, the Holy Trinity.  Only a person can be made sorrowful or can be grieved.  The Holy Spirit is often represented by a dove, (at Jesus' baptism) or as a flame of fire, (at Pentecost), which is most likely why Paul used the "quenched" reference in 1 Thessalonians.  Regardless, we refuse to follow His leading when we "act out" in a sinful manner.  All those heinous sins mentioned in Proverbs 6, and, in deed all sin, grieve the Holy Spirit who lives in the heart of every Christ-follower.

As you review today's content, does anything on the lists above prick your heart?  Is the Holy Spirit nudging you about one of these?  If so, go to Him in prayer today, in order to confess, repent and "make it right".

Father, you know which of these on the list are trouble-spots for me.  I'm so sorry for how I have grieved the Holy Spirit in these areas, and pray for strength to allow His full leading in my life today.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, May 23, 2016


When you are living through your life, you don't recognize that you are part of making history.  Or, at least, most of us don't.  Only later do you "wake up" to discover your life and your choices were part of a documented "movement".

The 1960s, which I only remember through the eyes of a child, were nationally a very turbulent time.  The birth control pill had emerged on the scene and changed the social fabric of our society completely.  The generation just ahead of mine began to throw off the "chains" that kept them bound to sexual purity, before marriage and after.  As the Bible predicts, calamity followed.  In reaction to this, the Christian church took one of two positions: either to remain entrenched in traditions or to reach out and win the damaged souls of those who had fallen victim to the sins of the age.  It was an earth-shattering, ground-breaking era, one in which even the "experts" were unsure how to respond.

Today's passage is Ephesians 4:17-24 (The Message) - - -

17-19 And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.
20-24 But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

It was in the 1970s that I became a teenager and realized the gravity of the situation.  Although I had accepted Jesus Christ as Lord at age 9, I saw as a teen the spiritual poverty surrounding me and understood that I was living on a battlefield.  I could either retreat and withdraw, leaving the culture to rot on its own; or, I could engage it with more relevant methods.

In the scripture passage, the Gentiles were the pagan people groups who were not of Jewish descent.  However, as more non-Jewish people (such as the Ephesians) came to know Jesus Christ, "the Gentiles" began to mean any people who reject Jesus Christ and His ways, regardless of ethnic background.  The same is true today.

At first, I chose to adopt a separatist position, in an attempt to preserve the purity of the theology, fearing that in those perilous times, truth would become lost.  Holiness "preserved" by separatism.  Was that the correct response?  I was not "going along with the crowd", for sure.

When Paul was writing, as it is today, sexual obsession and perversion - - the consequences of lives lived in opposition to God and His way of life - - - were (and are) rampant.  Then, as today, Christians are surrounded by people from all walks of life who think that we who adhere to the truths of scripture are wingnuts and whack-jobs.  It is only "natural" to want to withdraw and refuse to engage a rotting culture.

However, that is not what Paul is advocating here.  I'm so glad that, as a teenager, the Jesus Movement1 began as a reaction to the ever-increasing disintegration of Judeo-Christian values in American culture.  I am a product of that movement, which advocated
---standing firm on the Word of God,
---having a personal encounter with Jesus Christ (that is, making a personal decision to follow Him),
---reaching out to serve and evangelize damaged, lost souls
---while maintaining a pure and faithful Christian walk.

We need, desperately need, some "Jesus freaks" today.  By and large, the traditional church, with its "walled off" protectionism has failed to reach the lost.  Church attendance is down, as church members are more concerned with protecting their modes of worship and evangelism than they are with reaching those sin has destroyed.  Watering down the truth message has been another tactic of "the politically-correct church".  Likewise, this has failed miserably.  While this approach does attract more "followers", they merely put on Christianity like a new garment.  Then, as soon as they come to see the emptiness of the message, a gospel that has been eunuched, and the perfidy of those who "claim the name" of Jesus Christ, these new converts throw off the trappings of Christian faith to live lives indistinguishable from the rest of the world.

The pressure on the church of Jesus Christ is nearly intolerable.  The world screams,  "Conform!  Conform!  Conform!"  It's why so many of us, and so many of our churches, ... have.  Yet, I ask - - - "Has this worked?  Have the Gentiles been converted?  Do we see our churches growing?"  No, we see just the opposite, in fact.  The average size of a Southern Baptist church today is about 35 people.  That is the case in my childhood church which, in my small community, ran between 100 and 200 on a weekly basis in the 1970s.

What, then, IS the answer?  Paul expounds on the first part of the answer and then alludes to the second, in this passage.

The first component is what I call "blazing holiness", a way of life that is in sharp contrast to the way the Gentiles live.  This way of living is produced from the regenerated, reborn, entirely new human heart, the heart of one who has become a new creation in Christ Jesus.  It can't be produced any other way.  It absolutely must begin with a "Jesus encounter", a personal decision to adopt Jesus Christ as Lord and master, as King of Kings, to turn from that former way of living and invite Him to reproduce His character in the individual heart/life.

"Blazing holiness" is courageous, with biblical truth as its core and foundation.  It does not cave to worldly philosophies, does not conform to the culture's decadent fashions.  It draws life-sustaining oxygen from Heaven, where Christ Jesus reigns as Mediator between God and mankind.  It is not dependent on the fetid air that surrounds it here for its fuel.

The second equally necessary component is "blazing love" for others.  Holiness divorced from God's amazing love is legalism, which does nothing to win the world for Christ.  Unbelievers see it for the fraud it is.  No, "blazing love" is a fearless love which is stronger than the strongest material found on Earth.  It is a love which can withstand the sharpest examinations and produce the most brilliant sacrifices.  The world cannot comprehend such love, because it is not merely "counterintuitive"; it is incomprehensible.

Paul is not calling us to be a flicker of candlelight in the darkness.  God's Word insists upon this: We are called to blaze!

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for those fearless, loving, blazing Jesus people of a generation ago.  Most of us are so seduced and lulled into conformity through pressure from the godless world around us.  Please set us on fire, Lord, and give us through Your Holy Spirit the courage to blaze!  In Jesus' name, amen.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Gift-Givers

This is a frightfully busy week for me, work-wise, which is why I didn't blog yesterday.  An additional reason is that, in the midst of the work-related mayhem, I wasn't up to tackling Ephesians 4:7-12, today's text.  But, I found, as the day wound on yesterday that I missed my time here in the Word terribly.  I regretted not ordering my priorities well.  Here's today's text (NET):

7But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he captured captiveshe gave gifts to men.” 9Now what is the meaning of “he ascended,” except that he also descended to the lower regions, namely, the earth? 10He, the very one who descended, is also the one who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things. 11It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ

Here's the gist of it:  Father God gave us His Son.  Then, when Jesus Christ finished the work pre-ordained by God the Father, He was given by Father certain gifts and rights.  He, in turn, gave gifts to us, the members of His Body, the Church.  Not all the gifts look the same or are the same.  He gave to each of us, at the moment of our receiving Him as Savior, the exact spiritual gifts we would need in order to build up His people and to evangelize the world.

Ok, so what is meant by all this ascending and descending?  In these words, Paul is referring back to Psalm 68.  Let's turn there and take a look.  When you read Psalm 68, a long song of praise to God for His triumphing over His enemies, you will notice that verse 18 is quite similar to Ephesians 4:8-10.  The origin of Psalm 68 is that it was written to commemorate the triumphal bringing of the ark of the covenant to Mt. Zion.

When did this occur?  It happened about 1000 years before Jesus Christ was born as a baby (incarnated).  King David had both wanted to build the first Temple in Jerusalem and also to give the ark of the covenant its permanent home there.  But, God decreed that his son, Solomon, should do this.  Solomon built the Temple and the ark was triumphantly installed there, in the Temple's Holy of Holies, where it remained for about 450 years, until the Babylonian invasion.  There it remained, high above all its foes, a symbol of the triumph of God above all His enemies.  This was the first time the Ark had had a "permanent" home.

In his commentary, Barnes1 says this:

 The fact that the ark of God thus ascended the hill of Zion, the place of rest; that it was to remain there as its permanent abode, no more to be carried about at the head of armies; was the proof of its triumph. It had made everything captive. It had subdued every foe; and its ascent there would be the means of obtaining invaluable gifts for people; Mercy and truth would go forth from that mountain; and the true religion would spread abroad, even to the rebellious, as the results of the triumph of God, whose symbol was over the tabernacle and the ark

We see Jesus Christ's triumphal ascension to the throne room of God, after His resurrection pictured in Revelation 4-5.  The Father, seated on His throne, gave to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who has triumphed (emphasis mine) a sealed scroll.  Because of his triumph, His finished work, He began to open the seals on the scroll as the Church Age began to unfold.  We are currently approaching the Sixth Seal, which will occur with a mighty world-wide earthquake, when the Church is raptured; and, this will usher in the reign of THE Antichrist and the 7-year Tribulation period.2  But, I digress from todays' topic.

So, Father gave His  Son gifts, and the Son gave us gifts, the first of which is grace - - - grace that is offered to all, even to "the rebellious" (Psalm 68:18), should they turn and accept His offer.  Salvation is offered to every man and woman.  (It is a comfort to me that God has patience and is long-suffering toward those who, for a time, run from Him.)  In addition to that saving grace, Christ bestows on us the gift of His Holy Spirit, and through the Holy Spirit, the various "spiritual gifts".   I've written about those extensively, and won't re-plow that row here.  But, I'll put the links under Sources: below.3

Now, we come to the difficult part of this passage, if you compare it to other related passages.  By itself, Ephesians 4:8-10 seems to say that Jesus was in Heaven, was born (came to Earth), died, was buried, was resurrected and ascended back to Heaven after walking the Earth alive for about 40 days. All of that is true.  But, there are other relevant scriptures, by other writers, which add dimension to Paul's verses here.  Take your Bible and look these up:

  • Matthew 12:20 tells us that Jesus was three days and nights "in the heart of the earth".  This goes beyond Joseph of Arimathea's tomb...
  • Luke 16:19-28 and Luke 23:42-43 tell us that Paradise and the place of eternal fire and torment were in the same location.  Ephesians 4:9 (NIV) calls this "the lower, earthly regions". This is where the spirits of Jesus and the thief on the cross went after death.
  • 1 Peter 3:18-20 tells us that Jesus preached to the spirits in prison who had caused all that mayhem that led up to the Great Flood.  This is part of His "triumph" over His enemies.4

Other sources talk about how Christ changed the entire structure of the abode of the dead with his death, burial and resurrection.  But, that is sort of controversial.  However, I'm not going there (lol!) at the moment....because all of this is plenty enough for one day!



2  Lowe, David W. Earthquake Resurrection: Supernatural Catalyst for the Coming Global Catastrophe. Place of Publication Not Identified: D.W. Lowe, 2005. Print.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Moving Rhythmically and Easily

Speaking as a parent, I'd say one of the biggest heartbreaks is when your children live in alienation from each other.  When they are small, you expect a fair amount of fracas ... because they are immature; they are children! Each one is behaving selfishly, wanting his or her own way.  A former pastor used to say that anyone who has children has no trouble believing in the concept of "original sin"!

As children grow and mature, they learn how to behave unselfishly within the family; or, at least, they should.  I was thinking of this as I read today's passage, Ephesians 4:1-16.  Look specifically today at verses 13-16 (The Message).
...{Jesus, the One} working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.
14-16 No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

God is our Father, and I do love the aspect of His character that parents us, His children.  (More than one blog post could be written about that, but I will refrain and restrain myself for now, haha!)  Paul uses this illustration to describe unity within the church of Jesus Christ.

I have noticed a troubling trend in the local churches in my part of the world.  A member gets upset about something and leaves. (Sometimes this is because an "imposter" has caused division and other times not.) Often, there is no attempt by the member to dig deeper and find a solution to the problem, because "the grass looks greener" elsewhere.  By the same token, the attitude within the church being left is lackadaisical and prideful, if you can imagine such a combination.  At first, there is hurt and offense that the brother or sister would consider leaving, and that morphs into a sort of stubborn pride that prevents them from reaching out to say, "Wait a minute...let's try to work this out."  Church members are seen, by and large, as expendable.  And, you have a "church divorce".

Other times, this pridefulness manifests as a critical spirit in the church. (And, if your mind just now went to one of your Christian brothers or sisters, well, then, you'd just better hold up and check your own heart.  As the current commercial says, "Check yo'self, Rodney!")
Listen, brother or sister, your local church was not established by the Lord to give you everything you want or to let you have your preferences all the time!  That is not its purpose!  But, sometimes, unless a dear brother or sister gets his or her way, out the door they go.  (You know I am not talking about confronting legitimate major doctrinal heresies, but about minor preferences.)

Focusing on Christ, our Unifier, is key.  When we begin to focus on ourselves and on our differences and/or on others' faults, we move the focus off of Jesus, don't we?  Humility and discipline (as mentioned in 4:3) take the nearest route out the back door.  We stop exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  We wander off the path of our individual calling, to chase some sort of self-gratifying desire.

This prideful behavior breaks God our Father's heart (Eph. 4:30) because it is an example of "prolonged infancy" - - baby Christian behavior.  Even those who are mature in the faith can exhibit it from time to time - - this includes "yours truly".  The point is that we need to be watchful and wary of it, so that "imposters, wolves in the sheep pen" can be called out ... so that our local bodies of believers can "move rhythmically and easily, efficient and graceful" with each other, as we exercise our spiritual gifts.

Look at today's picture.  Isn't that a beautiful scene?  Young and old, celebrating together, some dancing, some clapping, some singing, some smiling, one with hands raised ... among the many expressing themselves differently, we see unity.

Paul's admonition does not only apply to local groups of Christians, but also to culturally disparate groups of believers around the world.  Each locale has its own peculiar challenges, as well as customs.  Here's one example of a culture juxtaposition:  In many countries, it is accepted practice for a nursing mother to nurse her infant anywhere, under any circumstances.  I once witnessed a nursing mother nurse her baby as the gospel was being presented to her by a group of men.  Many in my country would find that behavior on her part so totally inappropriate that it would cause disunity. In a similar vein, behavior in church services has wildly different standards and appearances around the world.  But, unless something in scripture is being violated ... let's retain our brotherhood and sisterhood ... our robust love for one another, so that the world will see this magnificent brotherly love, and marvel at our Savior.

Paul urged believers well in verses 1-3 (NET):

I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Father, we want to show this lost and broken world Your beautiful Son, Jesus, who created all that is, who became our Savior, who is the Source of everything we are as redeemed souls.  Protect us from wolves, heavenly Father, namely those divisive persons who pretend to be Yours but who are not, who stroke their own pride rather than building up others for the sake of Your kingdom.  Give us discernment and humility, Lord, because it does not "come naturally".  Grow us up in You, Lord Jesus!  Nourish us, so that we will be healthy, robustly healthy, bursting with Your love!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, May 16, 2016


The French have an expression: "Vivez le vie pleinement!", which basically means, "Live life to the fullest!"

I think it would be an interesting thing to do one of those "man on the street" polls and ask people this question: "What does it mean to live life to the fullest?"  Here are a few of the answers I think you'd hear:

  • Be goal-driven.  Only you are responsible for your own success.
  • "I did it my way!"
  • Embrace failure, so you can learn from it.
  • Conquer your fears.
  • Live to please yourself.
  • Live to please others.
  • Have a positive attitude.
  • Make a bucket list and check it off.
You get the idea.  Some would say that Mark Zuckerman lives life to the fullest.  He developed a product where there was a need, and that product has become wildly successful.  Some would say that Prince lived life to the fullest, but he died relatively young under less-than-ideal circumstances (jury is still out on that one...).  Some would say that Mother Theresa lived life to the fullest.

I guess it all depends on your point of view.

What does the apostle Paul say about a life lived to the fullest?  The Bible's answer is totally opposite to the world's prescription for fullness of life.
Today's text is Ephesians 3:14-19.

14-19 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
20-21 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

1.  Paul emphasizes that, in order to live life to the fullest, we must first reach out and experience the love of Jesus Christ.  This begins by opening the door to Him and inviting Him in, to possess you, and to mark you as His by giving you His Holy Spirit.

Many people do not want to surrender themselves in this way.  In fact, they go out of their way to avoid what they view as a capitulation.  The rocker, Jimi Hendrix, typified this view when he famously said, "I'm the one who's got to die, when it's time for me to die; so, let me live my life the way I want to."

I maintain that one reason for their resistance is that they have never comprehended the love of Jesus Christ, which is why Paul emphasizes that our feet must be firmly planted ("established") in this great truth.  To be able to see oneself honestly, from hopelessly sin-plagued sinner to reborn, redeemed saint, and all this due to the magnificent love of Christ, is treasure indeed.  Fullness of life begins here.*

2.   Then, Paul goes on to talk about inner strength, something we all need to weather the ups and downs of this life.  The "downs" can steal away that joy, that fullness, if we aren't watchful.  As we open ourselves more and more to Jesus Christ, He works in us fullness, abundance by giving us His glorious, inner strength.  His Spirit works deeply and gently within us.

Although it is the world's way, our glory-grabbing never leads to fullness of life.  Christians, those who truly know Jesus Christ, recognize that all of our dreams are from Him and all our "accomplishments" are through Him.  And, for this reason Paul extols at the end of this chapter, ascribing all the glory - - -all of it - - - to God.

3.   The capstone of fullness of life is praising and worshipping our incredible God for the things HE has done.  Here is where I tend to fall down and lose some of my joy.  I forget to praise Him and thank Him when my tank is running low.  Satan sneaks in with discouragement and despondency. The only way to fend that off is to re-frame, re-focus on God's truths and then to praise Him for His magnificent work.  Look at Paul here - - - he got down on his knees and not only petitioned God for the Ephesian church, he glorified, praised and thanked God in prayer!  What a wonderful example He provides us in the apostle Paul!

Father, thank you that You made for all those who seek and choose You the path to abundant life. To paraphrase Psalm 16:11 - - - I praise You that You made known to me the path of life.  I'm so grateful that in Your presence there is fullness of joy and that at Your right hand are eternal pleasures! In Jesus' name, amen. 


Here are some great, classic books on the love of God.  If you have trouble with this first step, I recommend you check out one of these:

1.  God's Love, by R.C. Sproul

2.  The Love of God, by John MacArthur

3.  God Loves Broken People, by Sheila Walsh

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Christian Temple

If you are like me you have customarily viewed a temple as being a building in which something or someone other than Jesus Christ is worshipped.  The most common association is with the historical Jewish temple, although one no longer exists.  When traditional Jews gather together for worship, they meet in a building called a synagogue.  Then, there's the Yaarab Temple, which is the gathering place for Shriners, the highest order of Masonic worship.  Again, not Jesus Christ.  Then, around the world there are temples to other false gods of Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, etc.

So, why is the title of this post, "A Christian Temple".  Christians don't worship in they?

My family attends church in a lovely building.  It does not resemble a traditional church, which has earned it the nickname in the community "the ski lodge".  Is that our "temple"?  Not hardly. Architecture does not define the Christian temple.  Take a look at what does.

17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, 18so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:17-22 (NET)

Try to realize how controversial these statements would have been to Jews of Paul's day, people who had been trained from birth to conceptualize the Temple as a sacred stick-n-stone building, a holy building, a physical place where the presence of God dwelled.  You might as well tell a Catholic today that the Vatican has been moved to the bottom of the ocean and is now called Atlantis.  It was unheard of, a sort of heresy!

But, the point that Paul was trying to make is that the Christian temple is not a physical building at all.  So, what IS it?

1.  The Christian Temple is wherever the Holy Spirit of God resides.
Now, don't be confused.  God's spirit is omnipresent, which is to say He is "everywhere, all at once". But, being present is not the same as "dwelling".  Example:  you may attend a business meeting. You are THERE; you are present.  But, that meeting place is not your home.
The home of God's Holy Spirit is ever "under construction", because there are always "additions" being built (vs. 22).
God's Holy Spirit's home is in the heart of every believer in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  As more and more people become part of God's family by accepting Christ, God's "home" expands and grows.

2.  Temple Features
What is this temple like?
a.  Its cornerstone, the stone that holds the hold building together, is Jesus Christ.  Without Him, God's Spirit is absent.
b.  It's firm and sure foundation are the holy scriptures, those eyewitness accounts, both Old and New Testaments, from the prophets and apostles.  Any claim to represent God that is divorced from the written Word of God is heresy.
c.  It's building blocks, holy stones, if you will, are WE, God's children...Jesus' disciples.  This makes us members of God's home, God's household (vs. 19).  HE has built us into His home.  And, it is in us He dwells.  Our very bodies are His Temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

This means that our citizenship is not here.  If you are Jesus Christ's own beloved, His own dear child, it doesn't matter where your physical body resides.  Your citizenship is not in America or Canada or Ireland or Dubai or in any other earthly geographical locale.  You are a "stranger and alien" in this sin-scarred world, on this battleground.  Your spiritual country's capital is in Heaven, in another dimension of "reality" altogether.

"I have found a desire within myself, that no experience in this world can satisfy;
the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."
C.S. Lewis

I was reading this morning about the extreme opposition currently raging against a faith-based enterprise in Williamston, KY.  Some of you readers may have visited it - - the Creation Museum, soon to be the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter.  If you have time, read this piece:

But, if you don't, let me briefly summarize to say that this organization has had to fight Satanic opposition to its "creation", every step of the way!  I was just amazed at the degree of vitriol.  Then again, maybe not.  We reside in a "foreign land"....

Do you see it?  The Temple?  Look at the picture at the top of this blog.  There's one visual representation. I could have chosen many.  No one picture can capture the beauty of the Body of Christ, the Bride ... the Temple!

Father, Son, Holy Spirit, thank you for making your home in me and corporately in all of Your true children.  Please continue to "build us", to make us more holy, a Temple suitable for Your presence. In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

In the Cocoon (Killing the Hostility, 2/2)

I'm writing part 2 of the Killing the Hostility posts on May 11, 2016, the modern-day nation of Israel's 68th birthday, Yom Haatzmaut.  68 years ago, God did a miracle, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies of Ezekiel 36-39, most specifically Ezek. 37:1-14.  The dry bones live! And, Israel's population is 10x what it was in 1948.1  For your listening and viewing pleasure today:

Now....consider the cocoon.  What began as eggs on a leaf transformed next into caterpillars.  This stage moved to that of a pupa (chrysalis, cocoon).  From that hatched a beautiful butterfly.  Yet, all were stages of the same organism, despite their disparate appearances.

Once again, today's (and yesterday's passage) - - Ephesians 2:11-16 (NET)

1Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh – who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands – 12that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, 15when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, 16and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed.

In eternity past, God saw all and planned all.  Yes, the Jews became manifested as His chosen race from the days of Abraham.  Still, he saw the Ephesian Christians, even then.   He saw every believer "in Christ", even then.  We are all part of the butterfly life cycle.  The Jews were the first manifestation of His redemptive grace through faith (Genesis 15:6; Habakkuk 2:4  - - "the just shall live by faith").  However, the Church of Jesus Christ was grafted in, bound up in the cocoon with the Jewish people from the time of Jesus Christ's resurrection onward.  At the moment, the Christian Church age is continuing to unfold.  But, the end of the story is not yet.

Look, the honest seeker will find that there are hundreds of Old Testament prophecies about Messiah, and that Jesus Christ fulfilled/is fulfilling the ones which predicted the suffering prophet and Melchizedekian priest.  He has yet to fulfill the ones about the messianic conquering King.  That will occur in the "final stage of the butterfly's development".  Two illustrative links:

So, now to the central tenet of our text and the central question from yesterday's part 1:  How do we heal the schism? There is only one path to healing, and that is through "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6), Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:14 states "He is our peace" - - - not only the Christian's peace but the Jew's peace as well.

Currently, we are like that ridiculous image posted in yesterday's blog - - that of the 2-headed monster, with one eye in each head.  Yet, despite how we act toward one another, in reality, we are all, Jew and Gentile, bound up in the cocoon of God's eternal plan, hatched before the foundations of this world were ever laid.

Through His blood sacrifice, Jesus overrode (but did not negate) the Mosaic Law with His law of love and grace.  His new commandment pushed the traditions of the first century off of their pedestal and re-framed the theology.  At the end of the Church Age, He will return as conquering King.  At that time, the eyes of the Jewish people will be opened, and they will embrace Him as their true Mashiach (Messiah).   Messianic Jews know this truth and have already embraced Him as their Mashiach.

The reconciliation has already occurred, positionally, in the heavenly realm that exists independent of time and space.  God's divine plan is established and sure.  Through the cross of Jesus Christ, the hostilities between Jew and Christian have been slain.

As God fulfilled the Ezekiel 37 prophecies 68 years ago, He is continuing to unfold His plan in our modern time.  As surely as prophecies were fulfilled centuries ago, the remainder will be fulfilled in the centuries to come.  Our immutable Jehovah G-d has promised.  And, His Word can never be undone.

One Body - - Jew and "Greek" - - even so come, Lord Jesus!


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Killing the Hostility

Consider this curious creature, cartoonish though it be.  It seems to have two heads, with one eye in each head.  But, would you say that, despite this, it is all part of the same being, the same life form?  I would say so.

Today's post, part 1 of a 2-part series, will offend, unintentionally, some sincere, practicing Jews and probably even some Christians.  Honestly, I doubt that any Jews (other than Messianic Jews) read this blog anyhow; but, well, there you go.  If you are courageous, please read on.

I've said elsewhere in this blog that I have a great love for Jewish people, firmly believing the Old Testament writings, which record how God chose the Jews to be His very own race of people.  Few things would make me happier than to go onto and discover that I have Jewish heritage, though this is "unicorn talk" for the most part.  (In other words, there's about as much chance of that happening as there is of seeing a unicorn....)

The scripture passage for today is Ephesians 2:11-16.  Paul was writing to Gentile Christians, those who lived in Ephesus.  He was not writing to Jews.

1Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh – who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands – 12that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, 15when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, 16and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed.

The rest of this post will deal with establishing background, reviewing history, which is a necessary context to this scripture passage.

Paul was already seeing the schism between orthodox Jews and orthodox Christians play out in the first century.  It was easy to see the beginnings of this in Jesus' ministry.  Although He declared that He had not come to abolish the Law of Moses, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-20), Jesus was perceived a threat to the established, entrenched Jewish traditions and culture of His day. Accordingly, the Jewish religious leaders riled up a segment of the Jewish people to force the Roman government to put Jesus to death.  Paul, himself, persecuted Christians, whom he perceived to be a cancer on the Jewish religion.

Unfortunately, misguided people have, over the ensuing centuries, blamed and punished the Jews for this "crime" of "killing Jesus", as well as for other "crimes", such as being successful, prosperous citizens.  In particular, the Christian Church has, like an unruly child, persecuted its parent, the Jewish faith. Here are just a few of the atrocities committed against the Jews since the first century.
1.  Jesus as Messiah
Obviously, this was viewed by Jews as an extreme persecution and perversion of their faith. Although there were sincere attempts to reconcile, recruit, proselytize Jews to Christianity during the first century, this attempt was hampered by misinformation spread by the Jewish leadership as well as the Roman diaspora, that destroyed the Temple and ran Jews out of Jerusalem in large numbers.  Still many Jews converted to Christianity, as did many Gentiles.
2.  Early Christian Church Fathers
Satan continued to foster enmity between Jews and Christians through some early church fathers, such as Augustine, who advocated leaving Jews to stew in their suffering, due to their "murder of Christ".  Not all held this view.  (Eusebius was a notable exception.)  But, still, many did.
3. Constantine (300s A.D.)
Widely considered the first Christian monarch, Constantine's love for Christianity was tempered by his revulsion for Jews.  He, along with Hadrian, issued edicts making it very difficult for Jews to practice their faith.
4.  I could go on and on, to talk about the Crusades, Hitler, etc.  But, I'm sure you get my point.

It is heartbreaking for me personally to know that I have sprung from a beautiful faith which has at times been co-opted, besmirched and soiled by heinous actions toward Jews.  I say "co-opted", because such actions are not of God, nor were they advocated by Jesus Christ.  Such actions were, at best, misguided and, at worst, demon-driven.

As Jesus said in Matthew 5, Christianity can no more become divorced from Judaism as our Christian Bible can expel the Old Testament.  Christianity is "Judaism 2.0".  It sprang from Judaism.

As a result of this Satanic persecution (and one can understand why!) most Jewish people find the name of Jesus Christ highly repugnant and offensive.  To even try to talk to a Jew about Jesus is extremely difficult because walls immediately go up.  And, to the opposite, Jews do not try to convert Gentiles to Judaism, as that is generally considered patently ridiculous.

So, what is the solution to this schism?  Can it ever be healed?  What does the Bible (not just the New Testament) say?

We'll resume there in tomorrow's post, beginning with the Old Testament.  Who knows?  We may see a unicorn yet!

Father, I hate this enmity that exists between some Christians and some Jews.  I also hate the fact that even when no such enmity exists, we are so far apart theologically.  This is a schism only You can heal, Father.  I may not see it in my lifetime, but I do trust Your promises, revealed in Your holy Word.  Teach us Truth, O great Supreme Truth!  Open our eyes to see and worship You as You truly are!  In Jesus' name, amen.