Faith of a Father

"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised; – Hebrews 10:23


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Are you a Vestigial Christian?

But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.   Ephesians 4:7

The proceeding verses tell us in what manner we are to walk but in verse seven Paul begins to tell us about the gifts that are given to each Christian.  There are two general types of gifts mentioned in this verse.  One is the foundational gift of God, which is the gift of the indwelling of Jesus Christ within us, our gift of Salvation.  The second gift mentioned here is the “grace gift” or the special ability for service given to each Christian, whether Jew or Gentile, young or old, as Christians we are all given at least one grace gift and we are expected to exercise our gift(s) for the edification of the body of Christ.  As a body has many members, each member has a purpose and function.  So too we, as members of the body of Christ all have our purpose for edification, not the tearing down and working against each other.

An interesting note for us as parents, Paul makes it clear that EVERYONE, this includes children are given grace gifts. As such, it is our responsibility as parents to help our children discover their grace gift and to teach them how to use these to edify the body of Christ, yes, even as children. 

“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?  He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)”

 In verses 8-10 Paul quotes from Psalm 68 to explain what is he means when he says, “according to the measure of Christ”.  Paul is explaining that it is the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20) that enables us to serve the body with the grace gift(s) given to each of us.  Take the time to go back and read Psalm 68 and see the power of God that works in us.  The grace gifts are not only for the outgoing, the polished tongue or those with an electrifying personality, but God, knowing full well who we are and our self-perceived  shortcomings and limitations has given each of us grace gifts and He has given us HIS power to exercise them.

I find myself for the most part to be more of an introvert, the guy who would rather sit at home than go to a party.  I’m the guy who gets weepy eyed and emotional, the guy who’s not good at public speaking, yet God know who I am and has given me the power to exercise the specific grace gift He has entrusted to me.  The question for me is am I willing to step out of the boat and take God at His word?  Are you?

We know that every part of the body is needful.  And contrary to the evolutionists, there is no such thing as a vestigial organ (a body part having lost all or most of its original function).  Every part of the body was designed by God and has a purpose.  And so it is with the body of Christ, we all are designed by God and have a grace gift that is needful to the body.  He made no mistake when He “issued” you your grace gift.  God has a purpose for each and everyone of us in the body of Christ.  The question for you and me is are we willing to actively learn, understand, develop and use our grace gift(s) that God has designed and purposefully given us for the edification and full function of the body of Christ?

There are no vestigial Christians; we are only limited by our power source, and what a power source He is.

 

(Thoughts, comments and insights are always welcomed to any post.)

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But He’s Different Than Me…

After several weeks of failed attempts to divert from the text and go off on a rabbit trail on the topic of diversity and tolerance, I have finally learned my lesson, stick with the text.  In verses three through six of chapter four of Ephesians, Paul discusses the topic of unity of the believers.  “Endeavouring” to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are 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 4:3-6

As a review, we recall in chapter two and three, how Paul addressed the conflict between the Jews and Gentiles and how that we, as Gentiles are fellow-heirs with the Christian Jews.  This was a big deal back then and I suspect it is a big deal in Christianity today.  Moving into chapter four Paul reviews our vocation and how we are to walk in our vocation –through lowliness, meekness, longsuffering and forbearance in love and then he gets to unity of the believers.

Paul uses the word “endeavoring” in verse three to describe how we are to approach this biblical unity.   Endeavoring means to do/give/be diligent, to labor, to study.  We are not to approach unity with a hum-drum attitude, and attitude of carelessness or complacency.  Unity does not come easy and Paul is telling us that we are to be diligent, to pursue it, work at it, to strive for it.  

How often do we pursue unity among our breather that may be a little different than ourselves?  Do you homeschool, use the public school system, or a Christian school?  How is your unity with those who use other forms of education then yourselves?  What about your church?  Is it an “us 4 and no more” kind of church?  Do they fellowship with other churches that do things a little different than you do?  I’m not talking about having unity with a family or church that has significant doctrinal differences for as we know, light and darkness cannot not go together, but what about those that may do things a little different than you do?

Why is it so hard to have unity with people that are different?  Paul hit the nail on the head, the verse just before verse this one.  We always want to assume that we are right and the other person is wrong.  We want to be the person that has it all together but that other person or group are the ones that just can’t get their act together.  Oft times don’t want the heat attitude of longsuffering or tolerance for those who may be in a different place in their spiritual walk.  We have the attitude of, “Hey, I got it, I understand what God is teaching me, why don’t they?”  Not realizing how God deals with us as individuals and therefore each of us are learning different biblical principles at different times or places in our lives.  It is interesting and obviously planned by the Holy Spirit to have Paul write about these character qualities BEFORE he mentions unity.

Another reason why we find it so hard to find unity with those different then us is because we fail to remember what Paul reminds us of in verses four through six.   “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are 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.”  Notice that last phrase, “and in you all”.  Wow.  How often to I fail to remember this of other Christians?  How about you?

On the flip side, I think that we all have had instances where we were somewhere in a non-“religious” setting and we met someone for the very first time and immediately our hearts spoke to us and told us that they were believers.  How does this happen?  It is that unity of the Spirit that is bound in the Peace of God. No other faith on this earth can ever hope to have this kind of Spirit-filled unity.  We are blessed beyond measure to have the Holy Spirit, the third part of the Trinity, living inside of us.  Teaching us, guiding us and uniting us together in one body.

In a world that teaches and preaches diversity and how much we are all different, the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, teaches us how much we as fellow-heirs have in common.  That is the foundation to unity.

We could continue on for another many hours discussing this section of this chapter but if I even intend to get to chapter six, the chapter I originally wanted to discuss, I need to move along.


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Forbearing One Another in Love

My first cursory review of the last part of verse 2 was inaccurate.  I read it as to bear or lift one up in love but this does not seem to be the definition.  It says to, forbear one another in love.  The word forbear means to put up with – to endure.  Another translation uses the phrase “showing tolerance”. 

You see, when Christians around us see things differently, hold different views in portions of the Scriptures, put more emphasis in one area of their life then someone else, and yes, even at times offend us and harm us in so many ways, we are told in this verse to put up with them.  They may be a little weird, they may have a few “extreme” convictions or preferences, or they may be lacking discernment in a few areas of life but we are called to, forbear one another in love.  As an example, Paul discussed the issue of eating meat offered to idols in I Corinthians 8.  Here Paul was describing how that some felt eating the meat that had been offered to idols was sinful while others did not see this as an issue.  In summary, Paul tells the Corinthians that while there is no issue in eating this meat because there is only one true God, if eating the meat causes another brother to stumble and sin, then we should defer to the weaker brother and not eat this meat so that we are not encouraging them to go against their conscience and sin.  In essence Paul was saying that the one should forbear or tolerate the other in love.  Not to do so was actually sin by the “stronger” Christian.  (For some good messages on the Conscience please listen to our  Pastor, Dr. Bryan Ferrell here.) 

You know, there are just some people that are hard to deal with or with whom to get along.  I can think of a half dozen people right now that for one reason or another, we just kind of clash, and on the flip side, I am probably on someone’s list.  But Paul is reminding us that along with lowliness, meekness, and longsuffering, we are to “put up with / tolerate” in love those around us.  Can you imagine Christ and his tolerance for the brethren?  Can you imagine the differences, the Son of God had with his disciples?  Yet He loved each one of them, and was willing to die for them.  In the same way, He has tolerated us in love so much that He died for you and me.  We are undeserving, hardnosed, rebellious, sinners, deserving of Hell only, yet He loved each one of us enough to die for us.  Put that up against your tolerance for your fellow believers and see how you compare.  We come up short don’t we?

It’s hard to forbear in love a fellow believer when our own hearts are not striving for that lowliness, meekness and longsuffering.    Yes, in public, out of responsibility or duty we can usually find a way to put up with other Christians that differ from us, but how are we at home?  How do we respond when their name comes up around the dinner table?  How is our heart attitude toward the individual?  Are we really forbearing in love?  When our own hearts are right with God, and we are practicing lowliness, meekness and long suffering, and we are pursuing our ultimate vocation which is to be a follower of Christ, we are able to respond outwardly in love from our heart rather than responding with hypocrisy.  Please don’t read into this that I am implying that to prevent this hypocrisy we should be rude and respond how our heart really feels towards an individual, (some would try and call this “being real”). Remember, two wrongs don’t make a right (bad heart, bad response).   We should examine our heart, and recognizing the lack of real love for that individual, and through the Holy Spirit we should be convicted unto repentance.

Although the other items in this verse are big, for me at least, forbearance in love can be extremely difficult to keep in check.   If someone isn’t doing what I do, or doesn’t believe exactly as I believe, if I am not careful, I can become judgmental and shun those people.  This sin, yes sin, can creep into our lives so easily causing our pride to grow (lack of humility), and our meekness and longsuffering to be stifled so that we cannot accomplish what Paul writes about in the next verse – Unity.

I think we can see through this entire verse that Paul is focusing not on our outward actions but on the heart attitude.  Come back and we’ll take a quick look at how unity cannot be achieved without the fulfillment of verses 1 and 2.


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Longsuffering or Patience? Ephesians 4:2 continued

Longsuffering.  As we continue in our study of Epheisans 4:2, we come to this word seldom used in today’s vocabulary.  When I look up the definition of longsuffering it says, “patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance”.  Noticing the word patience, I looked up the definition for patience which says, “steadfastness, constancy, endurance”, the same definition for longsuffering.  I found this odd because in various passages such as Col 1:11 and II Timothy 3:10 both use Longsuffering and Patience in the same verse.  Why?  I have come to the belief that like meekness and gentleness, longsuffering and patience are defined as an inward heart attitude and an outward action.  Longsuffering is your heart attitude, allowing the Holy Spirit control over your emotions.  Patience is the outward expression of the Holy Spirit controlling your actions.  While I have not been able to find supporting commentary explaining the two differences exactly as I have put it, Matthew Henry separates them in his commentary on Col 1:11, into bearing patience and waiting patience.  I think my definitions can sit side by side with his definitions.

So Paul is saying that as a practical matter, as we walk in our vocation, we are to walk in longsuffering, a right heart attitude.  If we have the inward heart attitude of longsuffering, the outward expression of patience will be an outflow of the heart.  Paul is telling us what we have learned in Matthew 12:34, “that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.” 

For a time, we can fool people by our actions but ultimately our true self, our heart, will be exposed.  There have been so many examples of this over the past several years as we follow the political scene.  So often politicians will say and do the exact opposite.  We have heard some preach family values only to be caught in immoral activities.  We have seen others tell how they value the hard worker and then tell how they want to “share the wealth”.  When we hear these things, we get outraged, I get outraged.  Yet how often are we, am I, guilty of saying one thing and doing another?  How often do we fail to deal with our heart attitude and only try to control our actions?

Being in Human Resources as a vocation (a secondary vocation), and as I study more and more and then apply God’s Word to everyday practical living, my heart’s eyes are seeing how that the secular world attempts to change / improve the actions of the employees without addressing the heart.   While I have known this for many years, it has become even more evident to me.

 We have policy after policy to tell people how to behave, what they can and cannot do yet unless the heart attitude is in sync with the company attitude, the expression of the heart / behavior will come through anytime it gets a chance.  Think through employees or co-workers that you have worked with, those whose heart is in tune with the company tend to need very little discipline and have a “can do” attitude.  These kinds of people need very little in the way of policies or rules.  Those who tend to have disciplinary issues, those who have continual authority problems typically are those who need the rules and policies and management watches them like a hawk, knowing they will step out of line. It is just a matter of when.

Now take this back around to you and me, to our families, to our children.  Unless our hearts are right, the wrong will come out in our actions.  There is a saying in our family and it goes like this, “Obedience without honor is disobedience.  If we want gentleness in our families, we need to teach meekness, if we want patience, we need a longsuffering heart.

Are we getting the hint from Paul that godly relationships must begin in the heart and not in our outward actions?

Reader, we cannot have true gentleness without meekness, we cannot have true patience without longsuffering.  I know I have some work, how about you?


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Meekness Ephesians 4:2

In the last post we briefly discussed the topic of lowliness or humility.  As we continue on with a brief word study of the word Meekness, we find that many sermons have been preached and books have been written on each of the characteristics described in Ephesians 4:2.  In just a quick internet search I found over 360,000 hits referencing meekness and the Bible. 

In our search we found a variety of definitions for the word Meekness.  Many will use the word meekness and gentleness interchangeably but these two words are truly different.  Gentleness (epieikeia) refers to our outward actions while meekness (prautes) describes a heart and mindset, an internal attitude.   Matthew Henry describes meekness as, “that excellent disposition of soul which makes men unwilling to provoke others, and not easily to be provoked or offended with their infirmities; and it is opposed to angry resentments and peevishness.”  A.R Fausset has this to say about meekness, “that spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us without disputing and resisting; and also the accepting patiently of the injuries done us by men, out of the thought that they are permitted by God for the chastening and purifying of His people ( 2Sa 16:11 ; 2Ti 2:25 Tts 3:2 )…”   And A.W. Tozer wrote, The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto.”  Today in the Word, September, 1989, p. 19

I consider my own heart in this area of meekness and how it relates to my vocation(s).  Gentleness is something I find fairly easy to show.  As they say, I’m a lover not a fighter and so because confrontation for me can be difficult, having an outward gentleness can be somewhat a default action. 

I reflect back on my childhood and can see how this played out in my young life.  I grew up with two older brothers and a sister that is 3 years my junior.  I can remember times when I would get so angry with her that I would rush at her and raise my fist to strike a devastating blow all to end up bring that fist down on her arm with such gentleness she could have mistaken the “hit” as an infant’s tap.  While I had learned that hitting her would bring the wrath of Mom or Dad down on me and so I constrained myself and showed “gentleness”, I was far from being meek.

I find it so much easier to show gentleness to others in my daily walk, whether it is as a father, husband, employee, boss, neighbor or any other vocation I have, than it is to actually have meekness – the right heart attitude.   I find that for me, and I suspect each of us, it is so easy to put on a facade and to hide our true heart attitudes.  Why is this?  I suspect the root sin of all sins, pride keeps us from allowing the Holy Spirit control in our hearts because in short, we think more highly of ourselves then we ought.  It is interesting how this ties back to our discussion on lowliness / humility isn’t it?

Dear Lord, help me to learn humility (ok, take it easy on me please) so that I can not only show gentleness to those around me, but to show meekness.  May I strive to have a pure heart and not just goodly actions.  And may I often remember, in myself nothing, in God, everything.

–          Donn


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Walking the walk (Ephesians 4:2)

In verse one we discussed what our vocation was, and now in verse two Paul begins to delve into to the details of how we are to walk in our vocation.  Ephesians 4:2 says:  “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;”

With lowliness and meekness, longsuffering and forbearing one another in love.   Wow, our vocation is to have these traits.  This is to be our demeanor as we walk the Christian life.  As I look over what God has called me to do, I start to ask myself, do I exemplify these characteristics in my vocation(s)?

Lowliness.  The lexicon defines this as having a humble opinion of oneself; a deep sense of one’s littleness.  So often I compare myself to others and what I can do or have done instead of comparing myself to the Creator.  How often do we lift ourselves up because of our job, or finances, or our “network” of friends?  How often does pride get in the way of being humble?  Far too often I am afraid.  Let your mind wander a little and think of your vocation, your calling from God.  Do you see more pride than humility?  Even in our primary calling of being followers of Christ, I can see where my pride inches in.  I’ve grown up in a Christian home, went to Christian colleges, have been a steady active member of a Bible believing church, read my Bible, have more Bible knowledge than most pastors in third world countries and many even in this country.  It is easy to become prideful and push off humility even when it comes to our spirituality and our relationship with God.  Let’s be honest with ourselves, it can be so easy to unknowingly become like the Pharisee and say I thank my God that I am not like…

I have given this example before but find it appropriate to do so again.  Take a grain of salt and place it in your hand, go ahead, get some salt…..  Now, imagine that single grain is our universe and you and I are on the earth inside that universe.  Now imagine your hand is the finger tip of God.  Do we now get a deeper sense of our littleness? 

So how are you doing in lowliness in humility?  Can you see it in your Christian walk?  More importantly can others?  What about the other secondary vocations you have been called to do?  Are you a husband, father, employee, church member, neighbor?  Do others see humility in your life as you live out these callings?  I’m afraid I can say for me, at times yes, at other times, not so much.

Oh that I would not forget who I was, a sinner deserving of Hell.  A sinner, who, left to my own devices would be living a life of vile debauchery and spitting in the face of God at every opportunity.  Without the Lord, I’d have to look up to see the bottom.  But thanks be to God for His endless love.  The one and only Holy God that reached down and drew me near to Him has shed His grace and mercy on me that now I can say with confidence and joy, I am a child of THE King.


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Ephesians 4 – Our Vocation

So is my vocation more than just my job?

Oh, it is so much more than a job.  As we found in the last posting, the term vocation means a calling or an invitation and in this case it is a calling or invitation from our Heavenly Father.  First and foremost, we all have been called to be a follower of Christ.  The gift of salvation is the greatest invitation we are offered and our decision to accept or decline this will have eternal consequences.  Have you accepted this invitation?  If not, why not?  What is preventing you from doing so today, right now? (The Gospel)

This overriding vocation is seen in Matthew 16:24-26.  Christ says that we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him.  If I am to deny myself and even be willing to lose my life for His sake that pushes everything to the side, nothing else will have a priority; nothing else will / should matter as much to the Christian.  All other vocations within our lives are secondary and in essence are God given avenues used to express our primary vocation and our commitment to our Lord.  If one has declined to follow after Christ then all other vocations are incomplete, superficial and at best only providing temporary satisfaction having no lasting worth.

In addition to my vocation to follow after Christ, I have been given secondary vocations such as: being a husband, a father, a church member, an employee, a boss, and the list could go on and on.  Each of these are responsibilities I have accepted and it is important in HOW I perform these callings because it is in these that my primary calling to follow after Christ is magnified. 

We should not just claim the name of Christ but we are to live Christ-like in all that we do (I Cor. 10:31).   Too often Christians heed the call of the world to compartmentalize our faith.   We are constantly being told by the world it is ok to have our faith as long as we leave it at the door of our homes or churches.  We are told not to allow our faith to influence us at work, school or in the debate on morals or other topics, etc.  Unfortunately many times we comply thinking that by doing so we will win them to Christ but we fail to realize we will rarely win someone to Christ if  we share a compartmentalized faith.   If our vocation is to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him, then every other vocation we accept has to support our primary vocation of following Him.

In the next two verses, Paul begins to describe in what manner we are to behave.  Take the time to review these verses and let’s pick it up there next time.