One Faith – Ephesians 4

In Ephesians chapter four, Paul “preaches” in his letter about unity in the body of Christ, saying there is only one body and one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. In other words, as Christians we are all together in a unified effort of service to the Lord and in attempting to bring others with us to heaven.

When Jesus prepared to ascend into heaven, His disciples followed Him to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:9-12).

When Jesus prepared to ascend into heaven, His disciples followed Him to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:9-12).

Paul talks about Jesus ascending “far above all the heavens.” I am reminded of some astronauts decades ago. Some, upon seeing the earth, had their faith increased. Others were cynical about not seeing heaven. They would have done well to not “lean upon their own understanding.” The physical and temporal universe God created for us is not a part of His dwelling place. He said that He “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. And that is our job even today, since Peter said that we are “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9).

Although Peter is addressing Gentiles, he tells them (and us) that we must not “walk as the Gentiles do.” Those who have alienated themselves from God have done so out of ignorance and the hardness of their hearts. They have become callous, and given themselves up to sensuality and are “greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” He then lists many ways in verses 25-32 that we are to show kindness and purity to the world so that our behavior can give grace to the world.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Ephesians and Philippians

Eph. 4, Eph. 5, Eph. 6, Phil. 1, Phil. 2

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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

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All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

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What I Learned From a Pit Bull

Let me start by saying that I am unapologetically a carnivore.  If you are a vegetarian for reasons you feel strongly about, that is your right.  But I refuse to debate it with you.  I love my chicken fried steak, regular steak, and lots more chicken these days; and will continue to enjoy them all as long as I still have teeth.

Cheza-01Something else I won’t debate with you about is the question of whether we will see our pets in heaven.  I am quite familiar with Genesis 1-26: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”   And I understand that we have an eternal soul and are a higher life form than other animals.  There are a lot of convincing commentaries explaining why you should not expect to see Fido there.  And I have been reluctant in times past to tell my grandchildren otherwise when asked that question.  I now have several problems with that.

  1. For every scripture citation you give me that leads you to believe otherwise, I can point you to a website with dozens more that convince me that there are likely to be plenty of animals in Heaven, and I’m not just talking about horses taking Elijah in a whirlwind to heaven (2 Kings 2:9-12).  I don’t pretend to know exactly what that means, but I am sure (and hope sincerely) that it does not include cockroaches.  I fear I would still stomp on them without regret.
  2. However strong your convictions are on the subject, you do not have the slightest idea what heaven is going to be like in the first place, much less what the rest of us should expect to see there.   So get over it.  Nobody’s salvation will ever depend on whether or not they believe their pets are going to be in heaven.   Yes Virginia, I do believe Fido will be there.
  3. God gave Job a sampling of the many ways that he cares for his animals (part of which is in Job 38:39-41).  You can rest assured that whatever He decides their fate will be, He in His wisdom will make sure that it is “good.”  “Good” is how He started this world out, and “very good” is surely the way that everything will be when we cross over to be with our Lord.

A few years ago, one of my daughter’s friends died suddenly and quite unexpectedly.  She left behind a big white pit bull with brown markings.  When those entrusted to care for her failed to do so properly, my daughter took the dog in.  But a small apartment was no place for a big dog like that, so my wife and I reluctantly decided she had to stay with us.  OK, I was the reluctant one.  I mean, we are talking about a pit bull after all.  They can turn vicious without warning, right?  And we have small grandchildren (one actually not yet even born at the time).   And she came with baggage.  She had cancer.  Some tumors had already been removed, but the estimate was that she would only live another year or so.

Five years later, she had become the darling of our family.  The only trouble we ever had with her was keeping her out of the pool in the summer time.  How she loved to swim!  The minute our backs were turned, we would hear a splash and know that it was her again.  As for turning vicious, the closest she ever came to that was when (at my wife’s command) she encouraged a young man to quickly scale our fence when he came into our back yard looking for something to steal.

Cheza-02She shared our home with two Miniature Schnauzers who she was content to allow the illusion that they were the ones in charge.  Made no difference to her.  She just wanted to be accepted as one of them.  In her mind’s eye, that was all she was – just another little Schnauzer.  And my wife allowed this baby girl the illusion that she was just another lap dog.  Spoiled rotten?  Perhaps so.  But she was that lovable, and she (as man’s best friend is so often inclined) asked for nothing but to be loved.   As for the grandchildren, she and our 12-year-old had become adoring friends, the younger ones – even our one year old got in her face most annoyingly at times, but she never so much as growled.

But alas, a tumor grew that was inoperable.  It was in the joint of her shoulder and underarm, growing to massive size almost overnight, and was spreading internally as well.  Steroids beat it back for a while, but it came back even bigger, and soon the steroids simply were making her more overweight than was good for her.  But her time had not yet come, so my wife kept this leaky tumor bandaged and changed (it was now large enough to put a sock around it), washed her bedding several times daily, and mopped up the blood droplets that leaked from the wound.  She was still happy and so very loving, and we had pain medicine for her that helped.

Today she took a turn decidedly for the worse, and she “told us” that it was time.  This gentle giant that I never wanted in the first place had stolen our hearts, and now letting her go has broken them.  Knowing that it was the right thing to do is little consolation.

So what else did I learn from this pit bull?  For one thing, I learned that I should not be so quick to judge others.   In truth, I am not so different from that pit bull.    I am a very quiet, most often bashful, man with what some describe as a very dry sense of humor (I’m not sure what a wet sense of humor is, but I do get it – other people just sometimes don’t know how to “take me”).  Add to that the fact that I am not an outgoing person, and I have no doubt that I am often perceived much differently than I would like to be.  How often have I misjudged someone else?  Now, whenever I encounter someone that I think of as a “pit bull”, I am more inclined to consider that they have a different perception of themselves, and that they are worth giving an opportunity to prove my perception wrong.  “Love your neighbor”… hmmm…sounds so familiar…

As for heaven, will I be surprised if I am greeted by a white and brown pit bull, with tail wagging as she looks up at me with devotion in her eyes?  Not really.

 

/Bob’s boy
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image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com. For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Revelation 21 – The New Jerusalem

With all of the imagery amid these chapters, just what is meant by a new heaven and a new earth is highly debated.  Many see it as a literal renewal of earth after the old has passed away.  But much about what is spoken of in this chapter simply does not fit into such a notion.  2 Peter 3:10-13 affirms that the earth and the heavenly bodies will be destroyed – burned up  – after the judgment.  Just how this imagery of a new heaven and a new earth does fit into the coming of the faithful to heaven is uncertain.  What is certain is that there will be a literal new home for the faithful that is so wonderful than our minds probably could not grasp it without the imagery contained here that is full of references to precious metals and jewels and such.

Alexander building a wall against Gog and Magog

Alexander building a wall against Gog and Magog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No sun or moon will be needed because “the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”  No temple is there because God will be in the midst of his faithful, and they shall be His people.  This is an echo of the prophetic language in Isaiah 60:19-20.  The description of John being carried away in the Spirit to the high mountain to view the new Jerusalem is reminiscent of the time after “Gog and Magog’s” destruction Ezekiel 38-39, when Ezekiel was transported to “a very high mountain” (Ezekiel 40:2-3) to see the future temple of God.  The measurements done this time are enormous (a stadia was about 185 meters) and all are multiples of twelve; and the number is repeated in other descriptions here as both the twelve apostles and the twelve tribes of Israel are mentioned.  Both of these groups were important, after all, in both the old covenant and the new covenant.

The last word of comfort in this chapter for these first century Christians – and for us – is that once in heaven, no longer will they have to live among those who do evil in the world or, most especially, do evil to them, as verse 27 says “…nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Revelation 4 – The Throne in Heaven

John’s vision here begins with a door open into heaven.  The first voice he hears in verse one is generally accepted to be that of Jesus.  John had heard that voice on earth.  As John is then aware of being fully in the manifested presence of the Holy Spirit, the visions that occur after that remind us of a similar reference in Ezekiel 3:12-15.   Much interpretation of the detail of the imagery that follows has been made to the point of extremity.  One writer noted: One who adapts Biblical images as freely as he (John) has in this chapter should not be expected to preserve an undeviating consistency in his pictures. They are for kindling the imagination, not for transference to the drawing board.

Nero's human torches of Christians

Nero’s human torches of Christians

No matter what interpretation you give each of these eleven verses, keep in mind the original audience.  These were persecuted Christians, many of whom may have known people – even had loved ones – that had been killed because of their faith in the Lord.  But they were holding on to that faith while looking toward heaven.  Here, as instructed by the Lord in Revelation 1:10-11, John gives them a grand glimpse of that splendor in the sort of literary imagery that was common to their day.  In the middle of the Lord’s battle with Satan, John gets that look at the throne of our Creator in heaven, and the worship that He worthily receives there.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

2 Kings 2 – Elijah Taken To Heaven

For the most part, the Old Testament speaks very little about life after death, at least compared to the New Testament.  Some take that to mean that God’s people knew nothing about it then.  But how much the people of God knew or thought about it is actually pure (and often, I believe, incorrect) speculation.  It is clear from God’s word that His people were told something about, and had been given hope for, some sort of fellowship with God after death.  Among the notable places in scripture where this is evident are Genesis 5:24, where Enoch was “taken” by God, Psalm 23:6, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and certainly here in 2 Kings chapter 2, where Elijah is taken up in a whirlwind.

The Ascent of Prophet Elijah, a northern Russi...

The Ascent of Prophet Elijah, a northern Russian icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know little about most of the prophets of the Old Testament because God gave us what we need to know through the prophets that gave us His word in the scriptures.  But there were many more than most people think (remember Obadiah hiding 100 of them from Ahab in caves in 1 Kings 18:4).    Here, Elijah has been preparing Elisha to be his successor as God told him in 1 Kings 19:15-18; and some of the prophets make it clear that God has revealed to them what is about to happen to Elijah (verse 5). Clearly, Elijah is in some way their leader, and is held in reverence. When Elijah asks him what he would have Elijah do for him, Elisha asks for a double portion of his spirit.  Though God had already declared that Elisha would be Elijah’s successor, this could have symbolic meaning as Elijah is like a father to him (verse 12).  He has already left his old life behind and an inheritance with it; and a first son would expect a double portion in his inheritance.

Elisha tearing his clothes before he takes the cloak that Elijah left behind (verse 12-14)appears to have a double meaning.  The tearing of ones own clothing in the Old Testament was an act of mourning or deep dismay, but it also seems to symbolize the transformation of Elisha to Elijah’s role.  Upon Elisha’s return, the other prophets can tell that Elijah’s spirit “rests on Elisha” (verse 15).  And in verses 19-22, he makes it clear that he has the favor of the Lord.  The fate of the “boys” in verses 23-24 when they were disrespectful to Elisha may seem harsh, but remember that Bethel was at the center of Israel’s apostasy; and traveling in a gang of around 50 (or possibly many more), their behavior and intentions were likely more threatening than mere taunts.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.