Life in Christ Jesus

Colossians 2:1-10

Life in Christ Jesus is confusing to those who don’t understand the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge embodied into His very being, yet is the most wonderful experience to those knit together by His love, grace, and mercy. I often write concerning the suffering we must face as believers, but it’s because persecution is inevitable for saints, as satan tries hard to sever the threads that join us together with Christ.

Paul wished that he could reveal to the Colossian church how much he suffered, so that he could continue to bring forth the Gospel to them, and other nations. His suffering was not intended to cause them to faint, rather that their hearts might be comforted by his persistence in the faith. Doesn’t it make you feel good to know that someone you never met before fights so that you can have a better life? Paul was the light to the Gentiles, and his consistent efforts in spreading the Gospel exposed those who made attempts to beguile new converts with enticing words, philosophy, and vain deceit after the traditions of men, and the rudiments of the world. Many were in danger of being deceived by subtle reasoning, in which conclusions drawn from evidences assumed may have seemed conclusive in themselves, but were false and contrary to the Word of God. Even today, believers are drawn away from God’s Word because of men’s use of manipulation and deceptive play on words. Only when we are rooted in Christ, and our faith built strong in Him, can we be prepared to stand against wicked devices and evil plots men set forth to hinder the believer.

Life in Christ Jesus is what makes living purposeful, so “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith 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. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:6-11).

Walk in love,

Ell

A light for the Gentiles

Acts 13:44-49

One of the most important professions in our society that often gets little to no appreciation is the role of a teacher. Assuming responsibility to shape and mold the minds of the younger generation, it still amazes me how teachers aren’t equally compensated for the valuable knowledge, and life skills they impart into every child who is assigned to their care. The teaching platform isn’t a place where just anyone can deliver from, as the requirements to be effective aren’t easily attainable. Teachers must first have the most valuable element in their skillset to even begin to make a difference, and that’s patience. Without patience, making a positive impact in the life of a child is impossible. Along with patience, effective teaching requires passion, work ethic, resilience, and temperance, in order to maintain a balance in the mind and emotions, because teaching won’t always be a walk in the park. No matter how hard you try, there will ALWAYS be some unruly students you’ll never be able to reach, but all you can do is your best, and let God take it from there.

While we’re on the subject of unruly students, let’s examine our text where the apostle Paul, along with his companion Barnabas, found difficulty reaching the Jews who resisted their message of salvation. Following an extensive sermon in Antioch, where Paul explained the resurrection of Christ, and the dangers of rejecting Him to a Jewish audience, his message seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. Paul’s message revealed that if the Jews rejected the benefits God freely offered through Christ, then His judgments would come upon them, the same way He sent judgments upon their fathers by Babylon. This wasn’t the uplifting message they expected to hear, as they exited the synagogue, no doubt with hung down heads, but Paul delivered it as he was commanded to.

I mentioned previously how effective teachers are patient and resilient, and these traits can be found in Paul, as he didn’t allow rejection to keep him from spreading God’s Good News, and took the opportunity on the next sabbath to teach the believing Jews, along with the Gentiles, the Word of the Lord. One thing I despise is a person who had every opportunity to receive a benefit or gain an advantage, but refused, then gets jealous of those who are wise enough to take advantage of freely offered benefits. As Paul prepared to speak, nearly the whole city gathered to hear his exhortation. When the Jews saw the multitudes together, they immediately became filled with envy, because they couldn’t bear to know that the Gentiles were equal with them in Christ. Not only were the Jews filled with envy but they also began to speak blasphemy and contradicting words against Jesus Christ. Rather than spoil the opportunity to strengthen the Gentile audience, Paul kindly explained to the Jews that he tried to present God’s Word to them first, but they pushed it aside while judging themselves unworthy, so he turned to the Gentiles. Have you ever done something stupid, then got mad at the person who called you out on it? I’m sure I have plenty of times, but I eventually owned up to my errors. Unfortunately, these Jews refused to own their mistake, and continued to push their confused doctrine on others, in order to get Paul and Barnabas removed from their territory.

Paul knew that God had sent him to be a light to the Gentiles, so that they could be ignited to spread His Word around the world as well. God has appointed and provided eternal life to everyone who chooses to believe on Him, including us today. When we accept Christ Jesus into our hearts, we too are ignited, as believers were in Paul’s day, to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.

Walk in love,

Ell

The heritage keepers

Romans 9:1-5, 14-17

As I think back over my life, and remember all the great men and women who lived according to the Word of God, I also carry great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart as Paul did, when I see how those who were raised to fear and reverence God, have fallen away from living by His standard of holiness. If the men and women of old could see what the church has become today, they would be heartbroken to witness how far away we’ve drifted from the foundation they set in place. Christ left the church a great heritage to inherit including love, joy, peace, faith, meekness, goodness, gentleness, temperance, and patience, yet many have been drawn away by diverse lusts, and other forms of evil and idolatry. While the influences of evil may at times seem overwhelming, the power of God is more than enough to keep His people from falling.

In these last days of pride, selfishness, disobedience, and false teachings, the body of Christ must uphold the mantle of holiness our ancestors died walking in, and believing. Many were killed or persecuted simply for claiming to be a child of God, and these acts of violence are continuing until this very day. The Bible tells us that we will suffer and face persecution, but our reward will be far greater than our suffering. The modern church is under the impression that we are to live our best lives now, but I stand in disagreement with that belief. Our best living will come when we spend eternity in the presence of the almighty God, but while on earth, we have to put in hard labor that may render us pain and suffering. We are blessed with gifts, talents, and abilities not to bring glory to ourselves, but to do the works of the Lord. With God’s Spirit working in us, we will automatically be set on the path that leads us not into temptation, but along the narrow road that leads to life eternal. Stay true to God, and His Word, and continue upholding a godly standard in your life, your house, and your community.

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39).

Walk in love,

Ell

Called to live by the Spirit

Romans 8:1-14

“The mind is a terrible thing to waste”. If you’re a late 70s or early 80s baby as I am, you’ve probably heard this phrase in an ad from the United Negro College Fund commercial during the 90s. This slogan has remained unchanged for over three decades, and has become part of the American vernacular. The Negro College Fund campaign has helped raise more than $2.2 billion and has helped to graduate more than 350,000 minority students from college or beyond. This organization believes that the minds of our youth are to be used to make positive change in the world, and with the right support and financial assistance, achieving that goal would be less of a burden to accomplish.

According to Scripture, to be carnal minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (vs. 6). God desires that His people keep their minds set on things that will have a positive impact on this wayward society. When we set our minds, or affections on the sins of the flesh, fulfilling them will become a natural occurrence. For example, if you’re not pleased with your spouse for whatever reason, and you continually admire the attributes in someone else, rather than fix your own issue, you’ll eventually fall into the snare of temptation and find yourself committing adultry, or some other form of dishonor in your marriage. On the contrary, those who set their minds and affections on things of the Spirit, will naturally fulfill them, and refrain from committing sinful acts.

There are many who claim to be in the family of God, but the way to tell who truly is a son is, to monitor who’s life is led by His Spirit. When God’s Spirit is in a man, his actions will never go outside the boundaries of holiness, because God is holy, and His Spirit operates under the same authority. I’ve witnessed countless individuals who say they have God in them, but act like monkeys in a barrel. They’re loud, rude, and pull others down, rather them build them up. How can a man say he loves God whom he has never seen, but hate the brother he sees on a daily basis? The Spirit of God is first humble, and compassionate. The same love Jesus portrayed as He walked the earth, is identical to the love which the Spirit of God imparts in us. Knowing this, it’s impossible to hate anyone, treat another man unjustly, or turn away from someone in need, if you claim God’s love flows through you.

Believers are the ambassadors of God, and are called to not only live in the Spirit, but allow the Spirit to lead, guide, and direct their thoughts and actions. Our new man, through Christ Jesus, cannot be controlled by sin, but has the power through the Holy Spirit to overcome sin and its consequences. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Sustained and led by the Spirit

Romans 8:26-30

Without the light (knowledge) of God’s Word to guide the path of His people through this dark and perverse world, they would all be lost, and be wandering aimlessly along dangerous paths to destruction. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof, but the prince of the power of the air stole the authority man once held over the earth, yet only for a season. The apostle Peter encouraged the church to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Believers weren’t saved, and delivered from sin only to be left alone to seek God on their own strength, but the very Spirit of God assists them, as they face day-to-day challenges from their adversary.

Not only does the Holy Spirit help us counter satan and his tricks, but he guides us as we deal with our physical, moral, and mental weaknesses and flaws. Just as a ship is sustained above water because of its weight, in relation to the amount of water it displaces, the Spirit of God keeps us above the consequences of sin and carries us safely over the weight of our trials and obstacles that inevitably come against us. Even when we pray, our thoughts and desires don’t always align with God’s divine will, because our minds can become tainted with all the sin and negativity we see in the world, so the Spirit makes intercession for us, because He knows we would make many mistakes in prayer, and inspires us with proper desires that are pleasing to God.

The church is to walk by faith, and not by sight. In other words, we live, trusting God in all things, and acknowledging that He alone has the power to give us the victory in every area of our lives. Where there’s sickness, God is a healer. When your money is acting funny, God is your provider. In moments of sadness and depression, God understands our emotions, and grants peace that men will never understand. When you allow the Spirit to lead your life, you will walk the path God predestined for you before you even existed. Your purpose will be fulfilled daily, and you’ll avoid falling into the traps and snares that have been set to hinder your progress. As you live for God, you may not understand everything that goes on in your life, nor see instant change, but never forget “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose” (vs. 28).

Walk in love,

Ell

Eager longing

Romans 8:18-25

There’s a song my siblings and I use to listen to back in the day that my mom would play in the van, as she drove us to evening church services called, Patience, and it was sung by a character named, Rushing Rabbit. The lyrics to the song were, “I can’t wait to have patience, because patience is a wonderful thing! Hurry up lemme have it, gotta get it now! I want it more than anything! This has taken long enough, give me some of that patience stuff! I can’t wait to have patience, hurry up, hurry up, HURRY UP!” This song was quite entertaining at the time, but I never really paid attention to the message it attempted to render until I got older.

Patience indeed is a wonderful thing, and it is actually one of the nine fruit of the Spirit, or characteristics of God Himself. The true and living God has patience beyond human comprehension, and it’s on full display daily, as we witness men and women continuing to live on, despite walking in disobedience to the will of the Father. God is gracious, as He allots time and breath to every man, but only for a season, so that they can have full opportunity to learn of Him, and decide whether or not to submit to His authority, or continue in sin. For those already adopted into the family of God, the clock is tick tockin’, as we live every day awaiting the second coming of our Lord, and Savior, Jesus Christ. Not only are we to patiently wait for Christ’s return, but we must also be diligent in proclaiming the Gospel until He arrives. It matters not how long He takes to come, but how much time and effort we invest in the Kingdom, while we yet live. Knowing that the glory which will soon be revealed in us in eternity far outweighs anything that could come against us on the earth, should remove all limits on how far we are determined to go, to win the lost. We will have days when we suffer, and face persecution, but the more we keep our chins up, looking unto God, the less strain we’ll have while going through all that comes against us.

I often think of the men and women of the past, who also lived in expectation of Christ’s return, but died without seeing Him. During their lifetimes, they more than likely suffered persecution, and endured hard times while continuing in the works of the Lord, but their living was not in vain, because all their investments in the Kingdom of God will yield them tremendous eternal returns. We ourselves, often groan, or sigh deeply in those moments when life seems to be too much to bear, but if we continue to hope for that we see not, then we must, with patience, wait for it. Many things will happen in this life before we change to immortality and life eternal, so we must run this race with patience, and not allow anything to keep us from making it to the finish line.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:1-14).

Walk in love,

Ell

Seeing others through Christ

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

One of the most fascinating things about Christianity is, all who are in Christ have become new creatures! Old things are passed away, including sin nature, evil thoughts and desires, wicked motives, and lust for things that only bring pleasure to self. Not only do we become new in the eyes of God the Father, but we are to also see this newness in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Unlike men who tend to dwell on things in the past, when God forgives, He remembers our sins no more. The same way we acknowledge a renewed and resurrected Christ, is how we are to look upon the body of believers as well. We are all dead to sin, yet alive through Christ, so rather than judge men according to the flesh, we should instead promote their new lives in relationship with Christ.

The love of Christ constrains, or urges men to accept the Gospel, and this is what the believer’s new focus should be. God loved His created beings so much, that He gave His best, so we could have another chance to experience His love in its fullness. Knowing that our Father cared so much for us, should motivate every believer to show the same love to one another. It’s time for the church to represent God the right way. For too long, God has been misrepresented by men and women who have perverted those things which are sacred, and embraced idolatry, just as the children of God did in the past. The body of Christ is to live by a standard, not as the world, but as the one already established in the Kingdom of Heaven. Christians are to love and be kind at all times. Even when facing unfavorable situations, God expects His people to uphold a certain standard, so that the world can see a difference in our behavior, compared to their own. If we look like, act like, and talk like those in sin, then how can we ever expect to influence them to follow after Christ?

As the ministers of God, we are to be blameless, and approved by Him, so that the ministry isn’t blamed. In other words, we should be mindful not to cause any offence or scandal, that might cause blame on the Gospel ministry. Just as you wouldn’t want your children misrepresenting you in public, is the same way we shouldn’t want to bring shame to the name of the Lord. Be holy, keep God first, love your enemies and walk in love. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Walk in love,

Ell