Life is a Struggle

Costa by Tatar-Inform

Costa by Tatar-Inform

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c

Exodus 3:1-15

Romans 12: 9-21

Matthew 16:21-28


Costa Cruises is a good line in Europe, but Costa Concordia met with disaster January 13, 2012.  Thirty-two people died in the human caused accident.

We can blame the captain, the crew, the owners, and anyone else we can think of, but the truth is, we live in a world where people are injured and killed on a daily basis.  We Americans are sometimes living in a fantasy world where an American is not killed in a car wreck every 16 minutes, or one is not injured in a wreck every 8 seconds, or one is not killed by a gun every 46 minutes, or an American does not die of cancer every 39 seconds, or someone else does not get cancer every 1.9 seconds, or even where someone in the world does not die of starvation every 3.6 seconds.

Face it, we live in a world where we have to struggle.  Christians do not get a free pass.  Bad things happen to good people.  Here is a video of a man who has to struggle, but who faces it the right way.

When God finally called Moses at age 80, he called him to a great struggle, one that took another 40 years of his life.  Jesus told his disciples the even he would be killed soon and that it was necessary for the salvation of the world.  He further said, If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find itPhillips

What did Jesus mean to take up a cross?  For Jesus it was literal, as it was for a few of the disciples.  For most of us it means to give up control of our lives.  The only way to freedom is to become a slave.  Instead of spending our time and money on ourselves, we need to spend more of it with God following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Winston Churchill said it very well in another context:   I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”  May 13, 1940, First Speech as Prime Minister to House of Commons.  If you want to hear the whole speech, here is the address.  The good part begins at 3:25 into the speech.

That is what Jesus offers us in the battle against evil.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Ephesians 6-Philippians 4

Philippi Map
Philippi Map

Monday, September 1, Ephesians Chapter 6

As with the relationship between husband and wife, when we read about children we often stop after the first line:  Honor your father and your mother. NIV  Paul goes on:   Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger RSV; Fathers, don’t irritate your children and make them resentful CJB; Fathers, don’t over-correct your children or make it difficult for them to obey the commandment. Phillips  We must have the same love for our children that God has for us.  That includes mercy.

In verse 5 we should substitute the word employee for slave to make it fit our modern times, though there are an estimated 30 million slaves in the world today with about 60,000 of them in the US.  Slavery is illegal in nearly all the world, but the number continues to increase.

While slaves in the Roman world were at the bottom of the social ranks, they were rarely mistreated, always considered equally human, and often given positions of great authority such as keeping the books and money of his owner.

Putting on the armor of God is a popular notion in America today, as it was in 1943 when Peter Marshall delivered a sermon on this passage of Ephesians.  But, can we match our enemies in faith?  They have a faith in a false God—what about our faith in the true and living God?  Can their zeal for anti-Christ be overcome by our indifference to Christ?  Can their devotion to their false absolute be matched by our emphasis on a false freedom, which thinks that every appeal for sacrifice is a violation of Constitutional rights, or property rights, of the right to organize or to bargain collectively?  We are united so far because we have a common hate—but where is our common love?  Shall we be united nations only because we hate the same devil—or because we love the same God?  This is important.

The most important thing of all is that we put on the whole armor of God.  Victory will be ours only on condition that we seek first the Kingdom of God and turn again to Him in prayer.  We must remember that we are not praying as Americans who happen to be Christians, or as Britons who happen to be Christians, but it must be as Christians who happen to be American and British.

In 1948 Irwin Shaw wrote one of the first great novels of WWII, The Young Lions.  One of his three main characters, Noah, found himself in a small church in north eastern Briton listening to an old vicar preaching.  Here is part of what he wrote.

The enemy is more savage than the tiger, hungrier than the shark, crueler than the wolf; in honor and in defense of our moderate way of life, we stand up to him and combat him, but in doing so we out-tiger him, out-shark the shark, over-wolf the wolf.  Will we at the end of all this then pretend to ourselves that the victory is ours?…

I see several soldiers among the congregation and I know they have a right to ask, What is love for a soldier?  How does a soldier obey the word of Christ?  How does a soldier love his enemy?  I say it is this way—to kill sparingly and with a sense of sin and tragedy, sin that is yours equally with the sin of the man who falls at your hand.  For was it not your indifference, your weakness of spirit, your greed, your deafness earlier in the day which armed him and drove him into the field to slay you?

Tuesday, September 2, Philippians Chapter 1

There seems to be little doubt that Paul wrote this letter, but the timing is still debated.  That he was in prison is not debated, but which prison?  Since this letter has much in common with Ephesians, it seems likely that Paul wrote it about the same time, meaning about 60-61 while under house arrest in Rome.

The city of Philippi was named after Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.  In Paul’s day it was a Roman city, the citizens were Roman Citizens, many of them retired from the military.  Latin was the favored language, though Greek was also spoken.  There were few Jews living in the city.

Notice the difference in Paul’s greeting of the Philippians to that of the Corinthians.  The church at Philippi is healthy and needs little correction.  This is a cheerleader letter like Ephesians.

Paul calls both he and Timothy servants of Christ.  The Greek word means just that, but a servant in those days differed from a slave in that he could quit.  Otherwise he worked all day, every day, often alongside slaves.  In other words, the difference was hard to see.

Several of the translations render episkopos as bishop which is correct, but the meaning of the title changed in the second century when they started to exercise authority over several churches.  The episkopos of the first century are more accurately called elders.  Generally, an elder was the leaders of a congregation in a time when there were no pastors.  Pastors became common by the end of the second century, but even then they received no formal training.  They demonstrated a depth of understanding of the Gospel, so were invited to the position, often unpaid.

In verses 7-8 Paul reminds the Philippians that they are always with him, that they experience what he experiences because they are with him in Christ.  It is a reminder to us that being in the “the life” gives us a unique view of the world.  We can understand what is happening to other Christians we do not even know.

In verse 12 Paul says that his being under arrest is a good thing.  As Theodoret wrote about 440 AD:  In their great concern for Paul the Philippians had sent the blessed Epaphroditus to help him.  For this reason he writes to comfort them in return.  He wants to show that the chains that bind him have themselves become the instruments of salvation to many.  By the progress of the gospel he means the multitude of believers.

In verses 15-18 Paul may seem to be saying that false teachers are a good thing.  No, put the stress on the Gospel of Jesus.  If that is what is being preached, it is better than nothing.  But the key is that the preaching was intended to get the Emperor so upset with Paul for starting this that he would execute him.  Paul was not upset with that plan, the Gospel was being preached.

Verse 21 from The Message:  Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.  I am ready to die and join Jesus, but I will stay and help you if God wills it.  Verse 27 has, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel, a key idea for Christian living: together.

Audie Murphy

Audie Murphy

Wednesday, September 3, Chapter 2

Unity within the Spirit is the theme of this first passage.  As usual, the unity is based on love of other people and of God.  My every action should take others into account.  When we read these verses they ring as un-American.  We tend toward the Vince Lombardi motto:  Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.  He also said:  Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.  It is the losers following Jesus who win.

In verses 6-11 Paul reminds us of the loser life Jesus lived, and died.

Paul trusts Timothy more than any other person he has worked with.  Timothy has become like a son to Paul.  Every time Paul writes about Timothy he includes praise.  We know little about Epaphroditus who is mentioned twice in this letter and nowhere else.  Clearly, Paul considered him an important worker in the church.  We can only wonder at how many people deserved to be named in those early years, but it is a lesson for you and me; neither having our names passed down for centuries nor having them lost to history is anything compared to living with God.

That is very much like the soldiers in any war.  In WWII the US had over 16 million men and women in uniform.  Of those only about 2 ½ million were in combat.  Of those, more than 2 million returned home without any medals for bravery not counting the Purple Heart.  Yet Audie Murphy who won more medals than any other American, 28 including the Medal of Honor, could not have done any of that without the other 16 million soldiers and, more importantly, the 100 million factory workers who supplied the armed forces.  Incidentally, more factory workers died during the war than soldiers.

Thursday, September 4, Chapter 3

Be on your guard against these curs, these wicked workmen, these would-be mutilators of your bodies! We are, remember, truly circumcised when we worship God by the Spirit, when we find our joy in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in what we are in the flesh. Phillips

We have our version of those people today.  They want us to keep our hair at a proper length, wear the prescribed clothing, use only acceptable language.  Paul would say none of that has anything to do with living in the Spirit.  It is true that once I am living in the Spirit I do not want to make people uncomfortable or turn them off from wanting to follow Jesus.

With verses 4-6 Paul lists his Jewish “rank”.  None of the Judaizers could match him, he was a top Jew.  But when he met Jesus he realized how wrong he had been to put such faith in that rank.  Now he puts his faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit and in God.  Paul does not have the ability to save himself, even with his credentials.

When Paul writes, I look upon everything as lossPhillips he did not intend to tell us that his life before meeting Jesus was a complete waste.  What he meant was that he had to use what he had learned in a different way.  He had to focus his abilities and experiences on living in Christ.  No matter what kind of life we have lived before, we can use that to reach other people.  Someone who has lived or still lives in poverty is in the best position to speak to poor people about Jesus.  We need to use what we have.

How changed are my ambitions! Paul has turned around.  Now he wants to be just like Jesus.  Now I long to know Christ and the power shown by his resurrection: now I long to share his sufferings, even to die as he died, so that I may perhaps attain as he did, the resurrection from the dead.  Paul is not suggesting that we have to die a martyrs death to be resurrected, only that we should be willing if called upon by God to do so.

Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. Phillips  Each of us must consider ourselves to be a work in progress, even if we live to be 100.  To quote Vince Lombardi again, Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.  That was Paul.  Few through the ages have attained the level of excellence of the first Apostles, but striving for it should be our purpose for living.

Let me be your example here, my brothers: let my example be the standard by which you can tell who are the genuine Christians among those about youPhillips  It was not to brag that Paul set himself as an example, it was practicality.  It is one thing to say that we should pattern ourselves after Jesus, but we have not seen him.  We need to pattern ourselves after those saints we know because they pattered themselves after other saints and it all started with Jesus.  Learn all you can about Jesus from the Bible, but watch the saints around you.

Paul said this world is the limit of their horizon Phillips when speaking of those who opposed Jesus.  When our thoughts are too long on what we will eat and wear and drive and buy and do, we lose sight of God.  We must train ourselves to look to our needs here, then refocus on God, EVERY DAY.  Our focus must go beyond this world because we are citizens of Heaven.

Friday, September 5, Chapter 4

Stand firm in the Lord. NIV  That sums up the message at the end of chapter 3.

Verse 2 was sufficient for the church at Philippi, but not for us.  We know neither who the two woman were nor why they could not get along.  Paul also in verse 3 asks someone to help them reconcile.  The Greek word used is suzuge which comes from the word suzeugnumi, meaning to be yoked together, as in marriage.  Some translations have I ask you also, true yokefellow RSV and some have  I also request you, loyal Syzygus, CJB using it as an individual’s name.  It makes sense either way.

The message for all of us is to work hard not to allow the personal differences and the irritating mannerisms to overwhelm our love for God and our life in the Spirit.  There may be times when the best we can do is to avoid such people until we are strong enough in the Spirit to be near them and work with them for the good of the Kingdom of God.

Dr. Thomas L. Constable explains why we should rejoice.

Rejoicing in Christ is something the apostle had commanded earlier (3:1) and had illustrated abundantly for his readers throughout this epistle. He must have felt that there was a great need for this attitude in Philippi. There were many reasons why the Philippian saints could have felt discouraged. Paul’s imprisonment and the possibility of his death, Epaphroditus’ illness, and the antagonism of unbelievers were a few. The attacks from legalists on the one hand and libertines on the other, plus friction among certain members of the church, contributed to this spirit. To counteract this attitude Paul prescribed rejoicing in the Lord. He repeated this charge in this verse for even greater emphasis.

Paul was not urging us to be unrealistic. He was not saying that we should never feel sad. Even Jesus wept. However, he was advocating focusing on the blessings we have in Christ and being grateful for these regardless of how sad we may feel at any particular time. He had set a good example by singing when he was in prison in Philippi (Acts 16:25).

It is hard to best these words of Paul:  you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. MSG  Part of our learning is to know what is beautiful.

This is a passage we need to seriously consider:   I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  It is easy to assume we know poverty because we see it on TV and we read and hear about it.  If we have not lived in a cardboard box, eating out of dumpsters, can we say we know poverty?  Most of us have only known plenty.  I grew up in a lower middle class family and rose to middle-middle class.  I do not know what it is to be rich in this world, nor do I know poverty first hand.  Yet, I have never missed a meal, with a waistline to prove it, and I know very few Americans who have.  We must be careful when we think about the conditions other people live in.

We find in verses 15-18 that the church at Philippi was the first to offer him support in his ministry and that they continue to send him support as he is in prison in Rome.  They are faithful.

In closing, verse 22 tells us that there were several Christians living in the palace and working for Caesar, most likely Nero.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Living Sacrifice



Psalm 124

Exodus 1:8-2:10

Romans 12:1-8

Matthew 16:13-20


Paul’s letters urge us to take on the life of Jesus.  He writes that in many different ways and in as many different contexts, but none as bold as 12:1-2.  Eugene Peterson’s Message is not a literal translation and is sometimes criticized for taking too many liberties.  His translation of these verses gives a great modern image:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

The Revised Standard Version has, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.  That is the phrase I always think of.  A sacrifice presented to God in the Temple belonged to God alone.  The priests carefully prepared the portions for burning; the rest could be eaten by the one offering the sacrifice or by the priests.  Unlike other religions of the day, the excess meat was not for sale, it still belonged to God.  Jews had an understanding of what it meant to eat God’s property.

God chose Moses as a living sacrifice in a unique way, he was given to Pharaoh’s household to be raised.  After forty years being an Egyptian prince, God sent him to a distant land to become a Hebrew again, for forty years.  Only then did he call Moses to his true gift.  Do not overlook the detail that God spent 80 years preparing Moses to lead the Chosen People to the Promised Land.

If I have to wait many years to be ready for the important job God has set aside for me, what do I do in the meantime?  Present myself as a living sacrifice.  All too often we are prone to say, I can’t do that, or I wish I could do what you do.  We only have the right to say, I can’t do that, once we have given it a serious try.  Remember dreaming of being this that or the other as a child?  As adults we must try our hand at this that and the other until we find that niche that seems right.

There is only one Moses.  Only one Paul.  I cannot fill those shoes.  God has something less grand for me.  My name will not be immortalized in the Bible, but God expects me to do my part.  Paul wrote of the parts of the human body.  We can now put the image on an even smaller scale.  A single human cell has several small “factories” generating products necessary for the life of the whole body.  One converts our food to the energy necessary to keep us warm and happy.  But there is also the part of the cell that cleans up after the other parts.  It is no less important in God’s eyes.

Here I am, what can I do in this time, in this place for God’s glory?


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Ephesians 1-5

photo credit a via a href=httpphotopin.comphotopina a href=httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-nc-sa2.0cca
photo credit a via a href=httpphotopin.comphotopina a href=httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-nc-sa2.0cca

Monday, August 25, Chapter 1

Did Paul send this letter to Ephesus?  Early manuscripts do not include a city name.  That suggests that it was intended for more than one church.  It is likely that Paul sent instructions for the letter to be copied and sent on to church a, b, c, etc.  Since Ephesus was on the coast, they probably first received the letter.  Once they made their copy, including their name, they sent it on.  Laodicea, Colossae and Antioch are likely stopping places.  As it happens, the only copies with a name attached are from Ephesus.  Paul spent 3 years there, so it is reasonable that they would have kept several copies of their favorite Apostle.  We do know that many of the letters and other writings circulated among the churches, each making their own copies, but most have been destroyed through the centuries of persecution and warfare.

Here is an outline by Dr. Thomas L. Constable on

I. Salutation 1:1-2

II. The Christian’s calling 1:3—3:21

A. Individual calling 1:3—2:10

1. The purpose: glory 1:3-14

2. The means: knowledge 1:15-23

3. The motive: grace 2:1-10

B. Corporate calling 2:11-3:19

1. Present unity 2:11-22

2. Past ignorance 3:1-13

3. Future comprehension 3:14-19

C. Doxology 3:20-21

III. The Christian’s conduct 4:1—6:20

A. Spiritual walk 4:1—6:9

1. Walking in unity 4:1-16

2. Walking in holiness 4:17-32

3. Walking in love 5:1-6

4. Walking in light 5:7-14

5. Walking in wisdom 5:15—6:9

B. Spiritual warfare 6:10-20

IV. Conclusion 6:21-24


In the Greek one sentence makes up verses 3-14.  William Barclay calls this a prayer.  Archibald Hunter wrote, Into the splendid opening doxology Paul sweeps the various stages in God’s great purpose to sum up all things in Christ:  his election of us in eternity, his saving act through Christ in time, the inclusion of Jew and Gentile in the new divine Society our sealing with the Holy Spirit, and the full fruition of salvation.  Notice in verses 6, 12, and 14 Paul praises God.

Verse 4 is a powerful statement; we who sin will be presented to God by the Messiah as free of sin.

With verse 17 Paul begins a prayer that runs through 2:10.  It is interesting to read the difference in style between this letter and the preceding letters to Corinth and Galatia.  He was writing to churches that had no huge problems for him to fix.  He could write good theology for Christians everywhere and in every time.

First Century Asia Minor
First Century Asia Minor

Tuesday, August 26, Chapter 2

There is a rapidly growing Buddhist group that teaches its followers to meditate until they are able to do anything, become successful and rich, even be the only one to walk away from a plane crash.  Buddhist have always taught the importance of meditation to achieve a perfect state with the world.

We Christians oppose that idea completely.  There is nothing we can do to change our sinful state.  Yet, we agree that humans can do amazing things.  Bob Beamon stunned the track world in the Mexico Olympics of 1968 when he jumped more than a foot beyond the existing world record.  His 29-2½ was broken in 1991 by both Carl Lewis and then Mike Powel who still holds the new record of 29-4¼.

However, a high school freshman could beat the record.  What, you say?  All he has to do is to trick the brain into ignoring the danger of pushing the body that hard.  In an unconscious state, or a trance state, or even a deep meditation state such things are possible.  Athletes today spend almost as much time training their minds as their bodies.  We now know that the brain has a speed limit.  When we run up to that limit, our muscles, tendons, lungs, all tell our brain it is time to quit.  The world dead lift is more than a thousand pounds, yet watch a mother lift a burning car to save her baby.  We humans can do amazing things.

But we cannot meditate our way out of the consequences of sin.  We may not always pay our taxes, but we will sin and we will die.

Verse 15:  His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace. NIV  The old dividing walls were torn down and gentile and Jew became one.  We all sin, so there are no divisions in that.  Jesus brings us all together to live in peace.  That peace can only come by being in the body of Christ.

The first part of verse 15 contains a difficult Greek word to put into English.  It comes close to the idea of making null and void, but that is too strong.  Phillips seems to have come closest with By his sacrifice he removed the hostility of the Law, with all its commandments and rules.

I have made a number of trips to Haiti and have Christian friends there, yet there is a cultural divide we as humans can never fully overcome.  Our peaceful fellowship comes out of our love within Christ.  When we allow our culture to overpower that love we get into trouble.

That happened in the US in the 1980’s when there was a great political upheaval in Haiti combined with the AIDS scare.  Many American Christians chose to shut themselves off from all Haitians rather than risk either the mass executions or AIDS infections.  Jesus’ first concern was never for his own safety or comfort.  We must always compare our social, political, and economic positions on issues with Jesus.

Wednesday, August 27, Chapter 3

Paul’s opening words are filled with the theology of Christianity, It is in this great cause that I, Paul, have become Christ’s prisoner for you Gentiles. Phillips  In other places Paul calls himself a slave of Jesus.  He means the same thing here, even though he is actually under arrest while writing this letter.

In the Greek a single sentence makes up verses 1-7 and the whole thought is not completed until verse 17 with the verb not appearing until verse 14.  Paul spoke the word, gentiles, and became sidetracked, again.  But the phrase You have surely heard, NJB gives us in important clue about the letter.  If Paul had written only to the Ephesians he would not have had to make such a statement.  After three years they knew very well of the work God in his grace has given me to do for your benefit. CJB

In verse 4 Paul speaks of his special insight into the mystery of Christ.  Those two words come closest to the Greek.  Several translations have chosen the word secret in place of mystery.  That is not a word Paul would want to use in this context because the Gnostics were firm believers in performing the rituals to expose the secrets of Christ.  Paul and the other Apostles preached that Mercy is free and open.  There is no decoder ring or secret handshake.

So why does Paul speak of the mystery of Christ?  This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. NIV  It is a mystery to those who are not filled with the Holy Spirit because only the Spirit can unravel the mystery.  It is a simple mystery, every person in the world is eligible to be grafted to the Vine of Israel.

It is a bit like the 3-D prints that were popular in the 90’s.  You hold the print of garbled ink blotches and let your eyes un-focus to see the stunning 3-D picture.

In verse 7 Paul does something that could have gotten a ruler across the knuckles in some English classes.  The NIV reads, Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people.  A more literal translation might be the leaster of all the saints.  He deliberately butchered the grammar to make a point.

Paul says that Jesus gave him two tasks, to preach to the gentiles and to reveal the once secret plan of God to save all humans.  Why the secrecy?  Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Micah, all had a glimpse at the plan without understanding it.  Only when Jesus rose from the grave did the bits and pieces fit together.

It was like Operation Overlord, the invasion of France in 1944.  For a year there were only a few dozen people who knew what the plan involved.  Hundreds, even thousands knew bits and pieces, but none knew enough to put it together.  Indeed, even the Germans knew bits and pieces.  After June 6 it all made sense.

In the fourteen and a half billion years of the universe every detail, every action, every star born and every star that died, revealed the coming Messiah.  God did not make a world of random chaos, but, as Genesis 1:2 reads, Now the earth was formless and empty, and verse 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. NIV  It was good because it prepared for the salvation of sinners.

Paul in verse 14 is not using a figure of speech, he went to his knees as he dictated the prayer.  Kneeling was not common for prayer in the First Century, but it was done.  We have record of Jesus doing just that.

Also, there is a word play in the Greek that adds meaning to the verse.  I quote Archibald Hunter:  the word translated “family” is etymologically derived from the word translated “Father.”  “Is named” means “derives its name and nature.”  God, Paul says, is the Author of all imaginable fatherhood.  So far from being a mere metaphor, his Fatherhood is the reality of which the human relationship is only a reflection; and whatever is meant by family relationships, on earth or in heaven, gains all the richness of its meaning from his Fatherhood.  Jesus always advised us to look to our Father as Jesus did himself.

There are three main requests in the prayer, he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; NIV and that you being rooted and grounded in love. RSV  Only with that grounding will we have the moral stability to withstand the assaults of the Father of Lies.

Thursday, August 28, Chapter 4

 In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. MSG  The Greek word kleseoz means calling.  The NJB translates it vocation which I think carries the sense of Paul’s message.

Actually, Paul’s first sixteen verses are better read from Paul’s letter.  I cannot say it any better.

We should note verse 8:

When he ascended on high,
    he took many captives
    and gave gifts to his people. NIV

The quotation is of Psalm 68:18 which actually reads:

When you ascended on high,
you took many captives;
you received gifts from people,
even from the rebellious—
that you, Lord God, might dwell there

Notice how Paul makes the Psalm about Jesus instead of God.  This is normal for rabbis of the day.  The verse had already been revamped to have Moses giving gifts to the people.

Paul encourages each Christian to work well with others so that the Church of Jesus may grow and expand to include the whole of humanity.  We need to consider the words seriously because we live in an age of a fragmented Church.  In Haiti, there are thousands of individual churches thrashing around on their own instead of uniting for the common good.  Worse, every denomination in the US has representatives or missionaries living there who are little better.  The Christians will not talk to the Baptist and the Baptist will not talk to the Methodist.  We operate like Walgreens and CVS.  You build a store on a corner, we will build across the street.  Why not build where people need to know God?

Chrysostom (400 AD):  Paul’s words contain a great mystery.  “For,” he says in effect, “God took a chance in forgiving you.  He placed his own Son in jeopardy.  To forgive you he even sacrificed his Son.  But you have received forgiveness time after time, at no risk or expense, yet you do not forgive.”

Jerome (410 AD):  Paul wants us to be gentle, approachable people, people who have left anger, bitterness, wrath and slander behind.  If we are merciful and serene, taking the initiative in reaching out to others, our very approachability will overcome the shyness and fear of those for whom we reach out.

Friday, August 29, Chapter 5

Jerome (410 AD):  When he wrote to the Corinthians, indeed, he said be imitators of me…for though they could not instantaneously become imitators of Christ, it was still a great thing for them if they could be imitators of the imitator.  But of the Ephesians, since they are those to whom he has revealed such great mysteries, he neither says “be imitators of me” nor “imitators of Christ” but be imitators of God.   This does not imply that it is less to be an imitator of Christ than of God, for Christ is God….Admittedly much that God has done we humans can hardly be said to imitate.  But in the way that he is merciful to all and rains on good and bad, so we may pour out mercy upon all we meet.  When we do this, we shall be beloved children.  We shall be imitating either Paul or, as I rather think, God himself.

If we imitate Paul, or Jesus, or God, then we find the actions and words in verses 3-7 offensive.  You might also notice that the list covers at least half of all TV programing.

Verse 8:   For you were once darkness, but now you are light.  Not in darkness, but I was once a source of darkness.  I caused darkness.  Paul has Jesus’ claim to be the Light in mind here.  Jesus shines in the world of darkness and we are expected to let our own light shine so that others may see their way through the darkness.

The classic book by Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness, pictures a man who believes himself to be a god to the natives.  That is the true darkness of the story, not the trip up the Congo River.  Any time we try to be the source of light we fail.  Only when we are in touch with God can our own light shine.

On verse 22, Jerome (410 AD):  The union of Christ and the church is holy.  So is the proper union of husband and wife holy.  Just as a congregation of heretics, however, cannot rightly be called the church of Christ and cannot have Christ as its head, so cannot be truly called holy if there is a disregard for the way of life taught by Christ.

Verse 25:  But, remember, this means that the husband must give his wife the same sort of love that Christ gave to the Church, when he sacrificed himself for herPhillips

Reading through the whole section we see that Paul said nothing that would suggest women are inferior in some way.  He is trying to relate human marriage to the all-important concept of Jesus marrying the Church.

Verse 32:  The marriage relationship is doubtless a great mystery, but I am speaking of something deeper still—the marriage of Christ and his Church. Phillips


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Did God Reject His People?


“Agnus Day appears with the permission of”

Psalm 133

Genesis 45:1-15

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

Matthew 15:21-28

The short answer is, NO.  God made promises to the elect of Israel and God does not and will not break a promise.  The promise is also short:  God promised Mercy for Israel.

In chapters 9 and 10 of Romans, Paul seems to be saying that God has turned his back on Israel because of their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.  That has guided gentile Christianity for two thousand years.

Chapter 11 completes Paul’s argument regarding Israel.  Verse 4 responding to Elijah:  And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal. NIV

Those 7,000 made up the remnant of Israel.  Those were the faithful with whom God would work.  The same happened with Joseph.  He remained faithful and God used him to save the whole nation.

Gentile Christians forget that we have been grafted onto the branch of the Tree of Israel.  We are not a new tree or a new Israel.  We come under the very same promises God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God will show us Mercy.

Bishop Anders Nygren of Sweden wrote in 1944:  Israel thought that, as God’s chosen people, they could come with claims on God and need not depend wholly on grace.  That was the very reason why “Israel according to the flesh” had to be rejected.  That is also why many gentiles who claim to follow Jesus have to be rejected.  We cannot earn Heaven.

In today’s reading Paul says:  I want to lay all this out on the table as clearly as I can, friends. This is complicated. It would be easy to misinterpret what’s going on and arrogantly assume that you’re royalty and they’re just rabble, out on their ears for good. But that’s not it at all. This hardness on the part of insider Israel toward God is temporary. Its effect is to open things up to all the outsiders so that we end up with a full house. Before it’s all over, there will be a complete Israel. MSG

That is the great mystery of Grace, God has a plan that includes people we see as His enemies.  Joseph cried for his brothers.

The following was taken from the internet:

The Remnant of Israel is a gathering of Jewish and Gentile believers in Yeshua the Messiah who meet together for Shabbat (Sabbath) services and Torah study on a weekly basis. Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God and Savior.

As a Messianic Synagogue, we seek to put the Messiah back within His biblical and Jewish context. Messianic Judaism is a spiritual revival, a return to the faith as the Messianic believers had in the first-century, unencumbered by the traditions of man.

We are seeking to have a living, vibrant, personal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through the Messiah, Yeshua.

We meet at 3700 E. Pawnee, Wichita, Kansas.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence