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Doorkeeper—great job

Posted by: David Carroll

Psalm 84:10-12 (NIV)

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.

This is a beautiful picture of the blessings of living a life pleasing to God. When the bible speaks of being blessed, it means happy. The word blameless does not mean sinless perfection; it means having integrity, being faithful to his covenant with God.

Being a doorkeeper in a really fine establishment where you'd expect to see all manner of great people could be exciting. Still, that would be a menial task, a lowly position. But, the idea is that any job in the temple, no matter how insignificant, would be better than the best that world has to offer. This goes for heaven even more so. The lowliest position in heaven would still be heaven and the best position in hell would still be hell.

No good thing will He withhold. If he withheld it, it would not be good, now would it?

Sobering Doctrine

Posted by: David Carroll

2 Thessalonians 1:7b-10a (NIV)

... when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.

Reading through the bible like this, I have to take the readings as they come. I probably would not have chosen this verse for today, but God did. The topic of this verse, not talked about much today, is the doctrine of eternal damnation. I understand the silence, I am wincing even reading this passage. I can't think of any passage any clearer and more graphic about the subject than this. Here we have a good description of what Hell is: being separated from the Lord forever. Don't get the idea that everlasting destruction implies annihilation. We will all have a conscious existence forever. It is not a temporary place of separation while you work things out. It is everlasting.

I beg anyone reading this, wake up, and know whether you will spend eternity in heaven or whether you will be shut out forever from the presence and majesty of the Lord. How can you know? This verse says it. Those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord. How can you know God? By knowing Jesus Christ because he said "if you have seen me, you have seen the Father." What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? That he was God who became a man, who was crucified on a cross to pay the penalty of our sin, he was buried and rose again on the third day. He lives. He lives in me through the Holy Spirit. He lives in anyone who will repent of their sins and trust in Him for salvation from this everlasting destruction we have been reading about.

Jesus had a few things to say about this too:

Matthew 13:40-43 (NIV)

"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Notable Links

Posted by: David Carroll

Rules for Living

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 (NKJV)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

In rapid fire like fashion, Paul lists vital Christian virtues that summarize the basic attitudes for life. Joy comes from the confidence in knowing your purpose and your destiny. You serve at the pleasure of the King of kings, the one who created all things. What could bring you more joy? You have direct access to him and He will direct your life. Continual prayer shows your constant dependence on him. Prayer is an awareness of and an active connection to God, something you can maintain all the time. It doesn't necessarily mean on your knees, eyes closed, and you don't have to sign-off with Amen as if you are hanging up the phone. Since God is sovereign and nothing happens to you without his approval, you can thank Him for everything knowing full well that He is in complete control.

How do you douse the fire of God's Spirit? With sin. Don't do it. How do you despise prophesies? By treating them lightly. Gods word is vitally important, every part of it. Treat it with seriousness. Move slowly on things that are unfamiliar. Compare them to scripture. When they match up, embrace them wholeheartedly, stay away from the others. Just say no to anything that might seem inappropriate for the child of God.

Heart Trouble

Posted by: David Carroll

Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NKJV)

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

When the Bible speaks of the heart, it is talking about the seat of a man's will and emotion. In this verse he speaks of "the" heart, not any particular heart. He's talking about your heart and my heart. Have you ever noticed how we are able to rationalize almost any decision or behavior? Oh, we criticize others but when it comes to our own actions, it seems we can defend almost anything. The scary thing is that we can convince our own selves.

You hear about wonderful, philanthropical gifts people make, and God bless them for their generosity. But God looks at the heart, not at the checkbook. You never know what the true motivation is. It may be just lo gain the praise of men.

When the Bible says the heart is deceitful above all things, it's true, things can't deceive; only people can. The Bible says it is a desperate and wicked situation. What to do? God does not solve the problem by cleaning up our old, dirty heart; He creates in us a new heart.

Psalm 51:10 (NKJV)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Broken Window Theory

Posted by: David Carroll

Proverbs 24:30-34 (NIV)

I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.

I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest--and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

A group of researchers studying urban decay did a study of why some neighborhoods degraded to a terrible condition while other neighborhoods seemed to thrive. They came up with this idea of the Broken Window theory which says that if a window is broken and is left that way, no one caring to repair it, this attitude will grow, slowly at first, and then accelerate until the entire neighborhood becomes a graffiti-covered, crime-infested slum.

This principle applies to everyday life too. Maintenance is an everyday task. Do a little every day and you can keep up. Let it slide, it becomes a demotivating nightmare.

Here in the book of Proverbs, the Bible describes the same situation. The theory, or I should say biblical principle, applies to the individual life too. On of my pastor's always asks people to pray for him that he stay close and clean. What does he mean by that? He means close to the Lord and clean from unconfessed, unrepented of sin in his life. He knows that a little Unconfessed sin is like that broken window that never gets fixed. It gives the enemy a opening to get in. It will lead to disfellowship with God and more sin.

Christian graces

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NIV)

We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.

The three Christian graces--faith, hope and love--are the evidences of our election by God. Who are the chosen? The ones who have faith in God. Faith brings us to God's grace. Love is the sanctifying grace of God, which makes us like Christ. Our hope is in glory, when we shall see Jesus Christ, face to face, and be made to be like Him by Gods grace. These three graces cover every aspect of the Christian's life. We are enabled by faith, motivated by love, and inspired by hope. If you have loved ones and friends who have come to faith in Christ, You ought to mention them to God in your prayers and thank Him for their changed lives.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Same Engine, Different Fuel

Posted by: David Carroll

David Heddle from He Liveswrites:

Man is endowed with a free will that is the same before or after regeneration. It will be the same free will that he carries with him to heaven or hell. That will is not violated. The will however, is like an engine. The input, or the fuel, is man's heart. The output is man's actions and deeds. It is not the will that is changed, but the heart. Same engine, but different inputs— which then results in different outputs.I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezek. 36.26).

Although I don't call myself a Calvinist like Heddle does, I like this analogy of the will as the engine while the heart is made new. So true, God does not clean up our dirty heart, He gives us a new one!

Work hard

Posted by: David Carroll

Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

This is an important principle. God gave Adam work to do in the Garden. Work has dignity because of this. After Adam sinned, God made him work by the sweat of his brow. Work is still dignified, just a lot harder. Now if we serve Christ, why should we work so hard for that mean boss we've got? Because that mean ole boss knows you serve Christ. He'd get the wrong idea about Christians if you were a slouch. By the way, work is a lot easier and you'll be encouraged to go the second mile when you realize you really work for the Lord! Everything that employer gives you is going to rust or turn to dust eventually anyway. What the Lord has waiting for you is infinitely better and knowing this, He has told you to work hard because of it.

Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Understand and Know God

Posted by: David Carroll

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord.

Men are proud. It is easy to feel pretty good about ourselves when we have plenty of wisdom, strength or riches. If you can put that combination together, the world would say you have arrived. These are all temporary however. To know and understand God, now that's something to talk about! God delights in mercy because he saves undeserving sinners. God delights in justice because he is holy and saved us without compromising his holiness by offering himself as a sacrifice on our behalf. God delights in righteousness because he clothes us with his righteousness. No amount of wisdom, strength or riches can do those things.

Notable Links

Posted by: David Carroll

Sabbath, shadow of reality

Posted by: David Carroll

Colossians 2:16-17 (NIV)

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

There are a number of different places in the New Testament that support the doctrine that for the Christian, Sabbath keeping is no longer a requirement. I have heard it said that the seventh commandment regarding the Sabbath is the only one riot repeated in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was the only command given as a sign of the covenant between Israel and Jehovah. With all the strict emphasis on keeping this command in the Old Testament, you would think there would be something about keeping it in the New Testament.

In the above verse, we are told not to worry about anyone judging us wrongly on this issue. I've heard it said that Sunday is the Christian's Sabbath. No, Sunday is simply a day we set aside to honor the Lord in assembling ourselves together. In this sense, Sunday is a holy day and should be treated as such, but it is not the foreshadowing of the Sabbath rest we have in Christ like it was in the Old Testament. Why maintain a substitute when we now have the real thing? As a New Testament Christian, every day is a Sabbath rest, because we rest in Christ's finished work on the cross.

Hidden Treasure

Posted by: David Carroll

Colossians 2:2-3 (NIV)

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

I must say that I don't have complete understanding. But, the more I do understand from God's word, the more I appreciate the riches therein. True understanding comes from putting into practice the things in this book. Jesus summed up the things in this book: Love God. Love your neighbor. Love is what encourages us. Love is what unites us. The bible says that encouragement and unity are the precursor to having that complete understanding.

We accumulate a lot of stuff in our life but I heard my pastor say, "You never see a hearse with a UHaul trailer on the back." We won't be taking any stuff to heaven with us. The bible says real treasure is in wisdom and knowledge. Where do we find that treasure? Hidden in Christ. The instructions are on the treasure map, the bible, at this spot:

John 14:21-22 (NIV)

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

In Him, all things hold together

Posted by: David Carroll

Colossians 1:15-17 (NIV)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The wonder of it all. That the almighty Creator of heaven and Earth would come down and become a human like you and me. When the Holy Council of the Trinity conferred together and said "Let us make man in our image." Jesus had in mind even then that he would one day become a man. When Philip said, "Lord show us the Father," Jesus explained that whoever had seen Jesus had seen the Father. Jesus is the agent of Creation and Jesus is the goal of Creation. Everything came from Him and everything is headed toward Him.

Not only did Jesus, as the Word of God, create everything, He sustains everything as well. I think about the structure of the atom. We've all learned that nucleus of the atom is composed of positively charged protons and neutrons. What holds the protons together since like charges are supposed to repel each other? Scientists call this the strong nuclear force, one of the four fundamental forces. It is this force that atomic bombs get their energy from. Scientists don't know where this force comes from. I think I do--it is Jesus holding them together. I think when he lets go, "the elements will melt with fervent heat" (2 Peter 3:12).

One track mind

Posted by: David Carroll

Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I've been told I have a one track mind. I believe that we all do. As amazed as I am by women who can seemingly carry on multiple conversations at the same time and still hear her baby cry in the background, I believe all of us can only think about one thing at a time. (Apparently women can just switch back and forth more easily!) This is actually a good thing for us. It means that whenever we are tempted with bad thoughts, we can simply replace them with good ones. Paul gives some general guidelines for the types of thoughts we are to have. Then he goes one step further, he says that after you have thought about such good things such as he has personally demonstrated, we should put them into practice. What is the result? The God of peace will be with you.

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Why Liberals Think Conservatives Are Stoopid

Posted by: David Carroll

Interesting article via The Ole Miss Conservative about the differences between the way conservatives and liberals think. A few excerpts:

My sense, from years of careful observation both as an engaged citizen and as a detached philosopher, is that liberals are far quicker to ascribe low intelligence to conservatives than conservatives are to ascribe low intelligence to liberals.

Here's what has always puzzled me. It seems clear that intelligence is unrelated to (i.e., uncorrelated with) political ideology. For every brilliant liberal mind, there is a brilliant conservative mind. For every liberal dunce, there is a conservative dunce.

Let us explore this liberal logic. If (1) moral progress is linked to reason and (2) someone either denies that a particular liberal policy (such as state-sanctioned adoption of children by homosexuals) constitutes progress or believes that it constitutes regress (change for the worse), then (3) he or she must not be reasoning properly or must be reasoning from false premises. Who could oppose moral progress? Only an ignorant or stupid person! Only someone who is either factually mistaken or incapable of reasoning correctly. Only, in short, a dolt. Opposition to liberal causes is viewed by liberals as opposition to reason itself. Conservatives, who oppose many liberal causes, are benighted, whereas liberals are enlightened.

Near or Far (N.T. Reprise)

Posted by: David Carroll

Philippians 3:18-21 (NIV)

For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

This seems to be a common thread throughout the Bible, those headed for destruction and those headed for glory.

Do you get what it means to have your stomach as your god? Our fleshly appetites with an insatiable demand for more and more illicit pleasure. The more shameful it is, the more openly proud one becomes of it. Notice how Paul speaks of these...with tears. It ought to break our heart to see such.

I like the idea of being a citizen of heaven. That means I am just passing through this world. Can't get too attached to anything here. Paul speaks of our lowly bodies. Bags of dirt. I'm heading for an upgrade to a new model.

Near or Far

Posted by: David Carroll

Psalm 73:27-28 (NIV)

Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

It is not a good thing to be far from God. Perish and destruction are the end of the unfaithful. On the other hand, near to God is good; it is a place of safety.

Why such a wide gap between near and far? Is there no middle ground? Have you ever noticed that those who are far from God are trying to get farther away still? On the other hand, have you ever noticed that those who are close to God are clinging ever closer? It seems the reason for the wide gap is because of our choice.

The Psalmist says he will tell of God's deeds. I like to do that to. I suppose that is a natural result of being near.

The great comma of history

Posted by: David Carroll

Isaiah 61:1-2 (NKJV)

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn

Isaiah 61 is an important Messianic prophecy. Not only does it foretell of Jesus ministry but Jesus himself quoted from this verse to formally announce the beginning of his ministry. Of course it tells of preaching the good news, healing, and setting captives free from sin. Then as Jesus is quoting this verse he stops at a comma, right in the middle of the sentence which begins with proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord. Read about this event in Luke:

Luke 4:16b-21 (NKJV)

He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."

Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

What was it Jesus left out? It was the phrase "And the day of vengeance of our God." Jesus announced that this scripture had been fulfilled in their hearing. He means that He is the one of whom this passage speaks and he is currently doing everything of which the passage speaks...except for the vengeance part. So what about that part, did he not fulfill that? Not yet but he will. That is the second coming of Christ. He came the first time to redeem us by his grace and love. He comes the second time to execute his wrath upon the world and to usher in the kingdom. The detail and accuracy of prophecy and scripture amazes me.

A work in progress

Posted by: David Carroll

Philippians 1:6b (NKJV)

He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ

In the movie City Slickers, Curly (Jack Palance) was an ornery old cowboy. When Billy Crystal asked him whether he had killed anybody today, Curly replied "Nope" and then paused for a moment and continued "day ain't over yet." That was a great movie line. Well silly as it is, you get the point, God's not finished with me yet, but when He looks at me, He sees the finished product.

I must admit, I'd like to see more of the finished product myself, but I'll have to wait to get to heaven for that. Paul was a lot further down the line than I suppose I'll ever be in this world. He had an interesting perspective on death and was ready and wanting to go whenever his work was finished here on this earth.

Philippians 1:21-25 (NKJV)

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.

As an adjunct to this idea of death being gain for the Christian, a verse in Isaiah I read yesterday gave an interesting glimpse into why some might suffer and die in what we would call a premature death. (You have to read it in the NIV to get my point.)

Isaiah 57:1-2 (NIV)

The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.

That is a comforting thought, to know that what we might think is a meaningless death, is actually a loving God protecting them from some impending evil. And the eternal reward comes sooner than expected too.

Just so we would know

Posted by: David Carroll

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts."

I like science. Science is all about knowing how things work. But knowing how something works is not the same as knowing how it came to be. For example we know a lot about how stars produce their energy, but scientists pretty much speculate on how they came to be. I know, astronomers talk very eruditely about how stellar evolution occurs and how the original hot gasses from the big bang cooled and then began to coalesce into giant clumps of matter and finally ignited under the enormous gravitational pressure. But you know what, they have seen stars explode as supernovas but they have never seen one light up for the first time. All that talk is just sophisticated models of how they think it could have happened.

As a Christian who believes that God created everything in six days about six thousand years ago, I have to hold a lot of things in tension--like the difficulty in reconciling how the starlight (traveling at the speed of light of course) got here from billions of light-years away in just a few thousand years. There are some models using Einstein's Theory of Relativity that help a little bit but they're incomplete and not very satisfying.

I think this verse speaks to this issue quite well. Why did God put the stars so far away? Was it to test the resolve of those who believe Genesis is an accurate record of how He did it? No one could argue that an Almighty God could create everything just the way the Bible records it, since by definition He is all mighty. God says that in the same way the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his thoughts and ways higher than ours. I believe God put them that far away just to demonstrate for real how much smarter he is.

Thank you Lord. I really do get the picture now.

Dear Israel, Please read this

Posted by: David Carroll

Isaiah 53:4-6 (NKJV)

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

This passage of scripture (chapter 53 of Isaiah) does not appear in the daily synagogue readings. The reason given is revealing: the rabbis say it is because of the christological interpretations given to it by Christians. The fact that it is left out speaks of its importance. I- know the rabbis will say that this chapter refers lo national Israel instead of this Messiah, but this is a desperate and lame attempt to cover the details which perfectly describe what Jesus Christ did for us.

Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice once for all, taking our sins away to the grave of God's forgetfulness. Furthermore, it was not us that crucified him. He was "smitten" by God.

Isaiah 53:10-11 (NKJV)

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.

He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.

Stunned, we read that not only did God do the bruising but He was pleased to do it! It is not the sick pleasure of a madman, rather it is the tearful pleasure of Love.

Bad Words versus Good Words

Posted by: David Carroll

Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)

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

A few years back, I was doing some training at one of our offices and was poking a little fun at one of our employees. Later, one of my partners invited me lo lunch and we got talking about things of the Lord. It was a delightful lunch. Near the end of our meal my friend quoted this verse to me and mentioned that I had hurt this employee's feelings. All of a sudden I was under great conviction of my sin. I quickly made restitution and thanked my friend for his rebuke. Now, I try lo rehearse this verse at the beginning of every day.

Notice that bad language or hurtful statements (both apply) not only affect others but make you unclean as well. See what Jesus has to say about it:

Matthew 15:11 (NIV)

What goes into a man's mouth does not make him "unclean," but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him "unclean."

One...is not a lonely number

Posted by: David Carroll

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NKJV)

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

This is all about unity in the Church. You see it in a lot of places in the Church, but there are too many places where unity is missing. And what about all the denominations? We say that for most denominations, we differ only in the minor doctrines, but it just does not look like unity to me. Take a look at all the so called minor doctrines in the verse: one Spirit, one faith, one baptism. How can you get multiple out of that? I believe the solution is found in the above verse. It is in the beseeching part. The keywords are: lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering, bearing, love and endeavoring. The people that I know who can be described like that are never guilt of being divisive.

I love how the passage finishes with a crescendo. God is one, not many. God's relationship to believers is like a Father. What a comforting thought that is. He is above or rather outside of our space-time domain. Time and space are just another created thing. He is involved in every aspect of our world, through it all. He is near to the believer, nearer than any other person can be because He is in the believer. There are seven one's in the last statement of this verse. I like the number seven. It's my favorite number.

Not for your sake, but for His

Posted by: David Carroll

Isaiah 43:25 (NKJV)

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.

This is interesting, we get the idea that God has saved us to benefit us. And indeed an incredible benefit it is. But this verse says that he forgives our sins, not for our sake, but for His! What possible benefit could He get from saving unworthy people like us? He gets glory from it. It demonstrates His unspeakable love.

I love the word "blots out" used here to describe how God removes our sin. I get the picture of something awful that spilled out and God just cleans the whole mess up. Where does the spilled mess of our sin go? He absorbs it into himself. There is the picture of how Jesus took our sins upon himself.

We have learned out to forgive, but as humans we have a difficult time forgetting. See what it says: "I will not remember your sins." Forgetting is one thing, but purposefully not remembering is another thing...a God thing.

Romans 5:8 (NKJV)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

By grace, through faith, unto good works

Posted by: David Carroll

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NKJV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

I don't believe I have ever shared my faith without quoting this verse. It is packed with good theology. Grace is unmerited favor from God. Salvation starts with Him. Faith is the channel through which God's grace is received. Faith is hands and heart opening to receive God's gift of salvation. Faith is trusting in Christ alone for eternal life and not in yourself or in some other person.

In the above verse it is not clear as to what the gift refers to, does it refer to salvation or does it refer to faith. I don't think it matters because I believe that it is phrased that way to indicate that grace, salvation and faith are all a gift of God. But faith is our part of the equation right? Yes, just like reaching out to accept a gift offered to you is your part. You can refuse to accept it which would be rude, or badness on your part, making you responsible. But in no way does your act of receiving a gift indicate any goodness on your part. The analogy stops there because faith goes further than just accepting a gift. Saving faith means rejecting any other form of salvation that humans will conjure up such as any sort of works-based religion. I find it interesting that every other religion besides Christianity is based on some sort of works to be performed to get to heaven. In other words, the grace of God is not found in any other religion.

Now after having disparaged works, does this mean that there are no works in Christianity? Not at all. In fact, Christianity has works and they are even meritorious...but not for salvation. We don't even get to choose which ones we do. The verse says God has prepared them beforehand. We were made for God's pleasure and for his service.

Renew your strength

Posted by: David Carroll

Isaiah 40:8 (NKJV)

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.

The Lord says in verse six "All flesh is grass" and then says it won't last. Life is frail and short. About the time we get warmed up we wear out. Is that what life is all about? The word of God is forever. There is a solution to our frailty in the forever true word of God. It is found in a verse at the end of this chapter:

Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Instead of wearing ourselves out, here from the word of the Lord, which is forever, is a promise of renewal to the one who waits on the Lord. This is a supernatural strength of endurance for waiting upon (service to) the Lord.

What a great promise! I figure my flying and running days are over, so I'll be happy with the walking and not fainting part. But who am I to suggest how God will empower me? Waiting on Him...

The Law of the Harvest

Posted by: David Carroll

Galatians 6:7-9 (NKJV)

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

My pastor gave a four point sermon one time called the Law of the Harvest. The first point is that you reap when you sow. In other words, if you don't sow, you won't reap. The second point is that you reap what you sow. You are not going to get corn if you plant beans. The third point is that you reap more that you sow. Consider the difference in mass between the handful of seed that were planted and the many basketsful of produce that results. This, to me, is truly a miracle. How does that little seed know how to take dirt and air and water and make a cucumber? The last principle is that you reap later than you sow. Little children have a difficult time with this one. You go to all the effort to till and plant a garden but you can't get up the next morning and find a plant growing. It takes an entire season to produce the crop.

Certainly, the implications of this verse swing both ways. J. Vernon McGee relates this story:

One day a visitor in a penitentiary passed by a cell where a man was patching his prison garb with needle and thread. The visitor, wanting to begin a conversation with the prisoner, said, "What are you doing? Sewing?" The prisoner looked up and replied, "No, reaping!"

This Law of the Harvest and this verse have obvious implications in our lives. Many have related this to giving. Indeed, Paul had this very thing in mind since the context of this verse is in sharing one another's burdens. Jesus confirms the principle in the following verse.

Luke 6:38 (NKJV)

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.

The Fruit of the Spirit

Posted by: David Carroll

Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Notice how this verse does not speak of the fruits (plural) but only of the fruit (singular). Yet, it goes on to list all the fruits. This gives double emphasis on the first fruit in the list which is love. Out of this one fruit, love, come the others. Jesus warned about false prophets and said "You will know them by their fruits." Bad trees do not bear good fruit and good trees do not bear bad fruit. So if you want to know if someone is filled with the Holy Spirit, just look for this list of fruit.

This list of virtues is in opposition to a list of vices given in an earlier verse. That previous list was called the "works of the flesh" and is contrasted to this list of the "fruit of the Spirit." There is something interesting to be learned by the difference between works and fruit. In John, chapter 15, Jesus speaks of himself as the vine and of us as the branches. He wants us to bear much fruit. How does a branch bear fruit? Does it have to strain to do so? No, all the branch does is to bear it; there is not work there. You can't force love, joy, peace. They only come from abiding in the Vine.

Christian Hedonism

Posted by: David Carroll

Psalm 63:2-5 (NIV)

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

John Piper has developed this idea of a Christian hedonist which at first seems like an oxymoron. After all aren't Christians supposed to be humble and prone to suffer? A hedonist is someone who pursues pleasure, especially of the sensual sort. That's doesn't describe the Christian does it? A Christian is not supposed to be so self-centered is he? But the Bible is full of verses like the above which speak of being supremely satisfied with God, comparing it to eating a fine meal in this case.

Pleasure is not sin. God invented our senses and our minds. He gave us these faculties not to tempt us to do evil but to enjoy life. God wants us to experience things with our senses but not in pursuit of wickedness. Pleasure, when it is found in the glory of God, should be so much more satisfying and permanent than pleasure which comes from a fleshly appetite which thrills and then disappoints leaving you empty.

"People are condemned for forsaking God and seeking their happiness elsewhere (Jeremiah 2:13). This is the essence of sin. The Bible actually commands us to delight in the Lord." -- John Piper

Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Do you find pleasure in God? I think King David knew the secret. As you continually praise Him, you will discover your pleasure in Him.

God don't make no junk

Posted by: David Carroll

Isaiah 29:16 (NKJV)

Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, "He did not make me"? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"?

Can you see the arrogance of such questions? The unbeliever who says "There is no creator, I just am here by random chance." It past times, pagan religions would invent wooden idols or stone gods. What an insult to the Creator, to take one of our own creations and attribute our existence to it. That's a circular reference if I ever saw one. As insulting as that is to God, at least it attributes the creation to a false god. The world of science has come up with something far more insulting: random chance which is no god at all. The irony is that God created the very brain used to form such thoughts.

Here, Isaiah puts the believer in a position equally insulting to God when someone asks "Why did you make me like this?" Although the question recognizes God as Creator, the suggestion is that He somehow made a mistake. God makes no mistakes. I like the way Ethel Waters put it: "God don't make no junk."

Psalm 139:14-15 (NKJV)

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.

My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Cursed

Posted by: David Carroll

Galatians 3:10-11 (NIV)

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith."

The book of Galatians is like a little book of Romans. Packed in it are fundamental doctrines of the faith. Paul, the consummate theologian, is always quoting the Old Testament to prove the truths revealed in the New Testament regarding salvation by grace. Here he makes a clear and convincing argument that the Law can only condemn us. None of us can claim to have kept all the ten commandments. Furthermore, based on Jesus' teaching that the thought is equivalent to the deed, it can be easily demonstrated that in fact we have broken every one of them. That makes us guilty, or cursed as Paul puts it.

Then comes a clue. Paul, quotes again from Habakkuk that "the just shall live by faith." So then, some can be righteous? But it is by faith, not by works. Faith in what? Paul concludes this argument with another Old testament scripture pointing to a New Testament truth.

Galatians 3:13 (NIV)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

The tree is a clear allusion to the cross of Christ. Jesus was a substitute for us. He, being perfect, would not need to suffer a curse for his own inability to keep the law. Thus he is able to take upon himself the curse of the law on our behalf. God could just let us off the hook, but that wouldn't be justice. He could destroy us all, but that wouldn't be love. This way, the only way, He is both just and loving.

Have you been crucified?

Posted by: David Carroll

Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

This is my favorite memory verse. It is good to rehearse this verse often, not so you can quote it, but so you can understand it and live according to it. For the Christian, life is not lived for one's own pleasure but for the pleasure of our Lord. It is an exchanged life, your life for His life. Before you were a slave to sin. Now you are a slave to righteousness. Once you let Him do the living through you, just hang on for the ride. Sometimes the ride might be rough but the joy comes from knowing where you're going. You may have a good grip on him but can you trust Him? He is trustworthy for two reasons: he is all-powerful and loves you. He loves me. I love Him.

Peter the hypocrite

Posted by: David Carroll

Galatians 2:11-12,16 (NKJV)

Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.

... knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Are you shocked? Peter, the great apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ, a hypocrite? And this after he had been filled with the Holy Spirit and full of power? Paul had to set him straight. Peter was doing just fine, eating ham sandwiches with the gentile Christians, until some of his Jewish buddies come to town and Peter changed his tune. I can relate to this, been there, done that...ashamed of it too. Being an influential and important man, Peter's behavior affects others too.

What's the point? Aside from the fact that even leaders need correction, the main reason Paul brings up this incident is to make it clear that the only way we can be saved is by faith in Jesus Christ. Jews are not saved by the law and so neither can Gentiles be saved by the law.

What does this say about Peter and Paul's relationship? For one, it is clear that when it comes to truth, anyone standing on the side of truth has authority over anyone who is in error. This account does not give us Peter's response but I imagine he felt convicted right way and repented of his sin. If their relationship was ever strained, it certainly was later restored. When Peter wrote his last epistle, he had this to say about Paul:

2 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.