Elisha

It took us longer than we wanted to collect our last two bags and get through customs and immigration at the Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi, Kenya,  With the two hour delay we finally stepped outside the door and met up with my brother and his wife who had arrived shortly before us on another airline. Together we headed to a waiting van driven by a Kenyan named Elisha.  After squeezing all our bags in the vehicle it took us almost another hour just to negotiate the traffic fighting to get out of the parking lot!

On the one and half hour drive to Kijabe, Elisha negotiated stalled trucks on the road and a police stop where the officers where looking for a late night tip - "lunch money."  They didn't get anything from Elisha and we arrived safely at
about 1:30am.  We used Elisha's services three more times in the coming weeks and on each occasion he took great care to get us to our destination safely and graciously.  On the morning we left to return home, he picked us up at 3:45am, and as he delivered us back to Jomo Kenyatta Airport he told us his story.

Elisha who is now in his 60’s was the youngest of 14 children and grew up in an impoverished family.  By the age 2 his father contracted a disease that left him paralyzed from the neck down and unable to care for the needs of his family.  In an agrarian society this meant immediate poverty leaving his mother in a desperate struggle for survival.  Over the coming years she lost 7 of her children to malnutrition and illness. Elisha often went without food.

When he was eighteen he had a dream where he was told that he should go to Kijabe, because the missionaries there were kind and would provide him with food, education and a job.  Though he lived a considerable distance away, he obeyed what he was told in the dream and started walking.  The journey through perilous territory took him three months relying on the kindness of strangers for food and lodging.

Due to security concerns a gate was in place at the entrance of the mission station and no one could enter who had not been invited by someone living or working there. Elisha knew no one!  He was obviously very disappointed.  Nevertheless, something inside him prompted him to ask if he could see the list of those who lived there.  As he read through the list a name jumped out!  It was his oldest brother whom he had lost track of and was now student a Moffat Bible School.  Elisha not was only permitted on to the station, but he had a place to stay!  

Several days later his brother took him to meet a missionary by name of Herb Cook – a close friend of my father – who had been praying for a young man to help at the Kijabe printing press.  Elisha was given the job and thrived!  Over the coming years he moved on to work in the operating room of the Kijabe Hospital where he sterilized surgical instruments for my childhood doctor, Doctor Bill Barnett.  Dr. Bill taught him to drive, and he eventually became the driver for the hospital.  In time he started his own business van service, transporting scores of people who come to work and volunteer at Kijabe.


Elisha prayed for a Godly wife and later married Esther, a jovial middle school teacher who radiates a love for people and the Lord.  He also prayed “Lord, I want my children to have a good education and not just any degree, but advanced degrees." He and Esther were blessed with four children: Three sons who are respectively, a lawyer, a research scientist, and in upper management with an MBA.  And a daughter who is a dentist and married to a pastor.  Most important is that his children all love Jesus. Elisha concluded his story by saying something like this, “All my life I say, ‘God this is job, this business, this money, is Yours and I am trusting You to bring business to me'.  This is His business.” An amazing story of God’s grace, by a man who genuinely gives God all the glory!

Pray Up a Child in The Way He Should Go. Part 2


In just a couple of weeks our son will be graduating from Vanderbilt University.  It is hard to believe that it was less than 4 years ago that his college adventure began.  It was exciting for him, but terrifying and lonely for his parents! We were in desperate need of God’s grace!  At that time, I posted the following blog on what we experienced that day and how we found comfort and hope in covering our son in prayer. 

It would not be appropriate for me to list all of the prayers that we have seen answered, but God has heard our prayers and been amazingly gracious!  In fact, on move in day, God answered our first prayer by bringing along Ted an upper classman who was strong Believer. He welcomed our son into the Christian fraternity BYX, where he found accountability and group of guys committed to living out their faith on campus.  Later Brooks, a young Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) intern became a friend and a confidant, as that campus ministry became central to his routine.  I am also grateful for fellow pastors, who have shepherded him, and ministered to him through the Word and Sacrament.  God provided financially and gave protection as he drove our little Honda CRV with well over 200,000 miles all over the South Eastern United States.  Not even a flat tire!   

So as our son graduates, and moves on to his new career, his mom and I will be rejoicing with tears of gratitude for the faithfulness of God.   We are well aware of the fact that we have no secret parenting method, and are not even close to parenting experts! However, we do know that God hears and answers our prayers.  We strongly encourage you to never stop praying for your children!  If you are just beginning the parenting journey go ahead and read some books, but don’t take them too seriously!  Enjoy your children and pray up your child in the way he or she should go!

Here is what I wrote in the Fall of 2012. . .

My wife and I have entered a new phase of our lives, one that many of you have already experienced.  This phase inaugurated with a family pilgrimage from Orlando, Florida to Nashville, Tennessee.  No, this was not a vacation, nor a time to indulge in the music life of Music City, but the mixed emotion endeavor that parents have when they take their first child to college.  Vanderbilt University welcomed us warmly, with a handshake and a greeting from faculty resident and head of house Dr. Roger Cone and a throng of students who carried all of my son’s belongings to his room.  After settling our son in his room, and meeting his roommate and his family, we enjoyed a day of festivities that allowed us to experience the campus and spend more time with our son.  

On the day we were to “abandon” our son, the school hosted a breakfast, which was designed a “last meal” of sorts before we were instructed to leave our students behind and go home.  I woke that morning with a heavy heart and soon had tears in my eyes as it already felt different as there were only two of us in the hotel room.  In anticipation of the dreaded goodbye my wife and arrived early to the campus to do a prayer walk.  As we made our way around the campus we prayed at each building asking God for His blessing and protection for our son.  We were keenly aware of our total helplessness, and through tears, we asked God to do what we could not.   

Words cannot describe how hard it was for us to drive away that day.  We were not only experiencing sending our first child to college, but empty nest.  We left our only child in world where he will face temptations and challenges like neither his mother nor I ever did.  I am sure I don’t need to remind you that Vanderbilt hasn't exactly presented a pro Christian stance.  The last time I felt that helpless as a parent was when we brought him home from the hospital almost eighteen years earlier.  At that point I had been a youth pastor for nine years and fully understood how messy the world is. In fact, in 1994 every four minutes a young child was sexually abused an experience that could blight them for life.  The violence and brokenness of our world overwhelmed me, how would he face the temptations of drugs and alcohol abuse, pornography secularism etc.?  I was also soberly aware of my inability as a parent and was overwhelmed by the reality that his mom and I were could do little for him without God.  Our little family was in desperate need of God’s grace.

As is now, there was plethora of resources on parenting that gave helpful suggestions and much needed guidance to parents as they journey down the confusing path of parenthood.  Sadly, the process of simply finding the right resource was overwhelming as the opinions of the authors often contradicted each other or made brash claims that their method was God’s way.  Though helpful, these resources could not guarantee anything, and in fact some could be dangerous!  Sadly, few if any spoke of the need for God's providential hand in the life of our children.  How did parents survive before the books, CD’s and seminars? 
 

Those of you who have spent any time with me know that my father is my hero.  I love that man more than words can express.  He and my mom raised four of us in the heart of Africa where dangers of different sort where rampant.  Each of us has come to faith in Christ and experienced the grace of God in our lives.  When I asked him about his parenting methodology, his humble reply was powerful.  Rather than give me the ten essential steps to parenting, he implied that he wasn't as good as a parent as I made him out to be, and had made more mistakes then I recalled.  His advice was simple, pray with, for and over your children. 

My parents had prayed for their children from the moment they knew they were conceived.  My life was covered in prayer through all the hours I spent climbing snake-infested rocks, to all the years in boarding school separated from my parents, and as I rode my Yamaha RD 350 much faster then I should have down the streets of Nairobi, Kenya.  They not only prayed for my welfare but for the woman I would one day marry.  In fact, if you were given the opportunity to sit at their breakfast table with them today, both in their eighties, you have the honor of hearing them still praying for each of their children and their wives, grandchildren and now great grandchildren.  I am convinced that it was not because of my parent’s excellent parenting skills that all four of us are walking with God, but the mighty hand of God working in us through the consistent prayers of faithful parents.

The story is told of a man who had just bought his first model T Ford car.  As he was driving it one day the motor sputtered and it came to a chugging halt.  Knowing nothing about these new horseless carriages he opened the hood and just stood by his vehicle.  Before long a gentlemen came by and stopped.  After looking over the engine for a moment, he quickly fixed the problem.  The owner was amazed!  "How did you know how to fix it so fast?" he asked.  The tall gentlemen replied, "I am Henry Ford; I designed the car."

God has wonderfully and beautifully designed each of our children.  He has created them as complex individuals, no two are alike.  Yet as complex as they are God knows them individually, he knows their name!  Matter of fact, He knows them far better than we do!  Though we live in a "quick fix" society and would like God to fix every concern and hurt when we want it done, we must learn to rely on Him and trust His timing.  It appears much easier to go to a book or a counselor for a "quick fix" rather than go to the Father in prayer.  Please don’t make the mistake of regarding prayer as a useless ritual, but understand it as a powerful and intimate way to ask the Father for His direct assistance. Don’t make it a last resort, but a first priority!

My wife and I made that commitment to pray for our son.  In fact, I made it a ritual to put my hand on his head and pray for him and bless him every night.  When I traveled, if it got late and he had not heard from me, he would call or text me and say he was ready to go to bed and wanted me to pray for him.  And more than once, I stepped out of a meeting to do just that.  It was that important to me!  My primary time to pray for him was at night, while my wife on the other hand is the early riser, and poured out her heart to the Father, before he woke up each day.  I cannot list the number of ways that we have seen God answer our prayers and work in our son’s life.  God has done exceedingly more than we could ever have asked or imagined! (Ephesians 3:2).

If any of us are honest with ourselves, we will admit that prayer is often extremely hard.  When we sit down we are bombarded with everything from items we need to do, to projects we forgot to do.  Often when we slow down we get sleepy or distracted with thoughts that creep into our minds.  Thus we have a tendency to give up on prayer.  In giving up on prayer we are indirectly admitting its lack of importance to us.

With our western "can do" mindset we have become very self-reliant and extremely impatient!  We often do not honestly feel like prayer will do any good, and we more often are far too impatient to wait for its answer.  As we look at scripture we find it full of commands for the Believer to pray.  We even see the example of Jesus Christ as He took time to talk to the Father (Matthew 14:23).

Ephesians 6:18 exhorts the believer to "pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayer and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for - your little - (the) saints."  Prayer is direct communication to the Father, through Jesus Christ, and as long as that communication is open we are safe from the schemes of evil one.

James 4:2 reminds the believer that "we have not because we ask not."  Thus, James goes on to write in verse 7 of the same chapter, "submit yourselves to God."  Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 reminds us that we are to “pray continually."  In this brief article there is no room to expound on the command to pray, but it is clear that God has commanded us to pray, thus it is obvious that He uses prayer to work out His sovereign will.

As I write this article, I am sitting in our quiet and clean living room.  Honestly, it is too quiet and clean.  I miss the tennis bag, shoes, books and other paraphernalia that so often cluttered the room.  The TV is off and there is no music playing.  No interruptions… But I miss the boy that interrupted my concentration, blared music and left his junk lying around the house!  And once again, I find myself at another helpless stage.  It would be easy for me to write that there is nothing I can do but pray, however as I look back I find great comfort and hope in the fact that I still have the best tool of parenting at my disposal, and it is both an honor and a comfort that God has given me the precious gift of prayer!  I can no longer put my hand on his head to pray, but I still pray for him like his in the room and then send him a text reminding him that I prayed for him and love him more then he will ever know. In my heart, my hands are still on his head when I pray!   

Regardless of where you are in your parenting journey, I hope that you will receive the gift of prayer, use it, and find peace in it.  Below are some suggestions on how to pray up your child in the way they should go. Remember that as God’s children He loves your children more than you do! Read a book or two, but don’t take any of them too seriously.  Trust me your child does not have an owner’s manual!  They are all uniquely mysterious.  God designed each one that way so we would rest in Him and enjoy every minute you have with them.  Please make time to pray daily for your children in at least these 12 basic areas.  Then if you and I meet one another in the golden years of our lives, when all our nests are empty, we will not spend the time boasting of our parenting skills, but rather will rejoice together in the grace of God and sing from the depths of our souls the beloved hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness."  Amen?

1.  Pray that your children will come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior early in Life.  (Psalm 63:1; 2 Timothy 3:15)
2.  Pray that your children will learn to hate sin.  (Psalm 97:10)
3.  Pray that your children will be caught when guilty.  (Psalm 119:71)
4.  Pray that your children will be protected from the evil one in each area of their lives:  Spiritual, Emotional, Physical.  (John 17:15)
5.  Pray that your children will have a responsible attitude in all their interpersonal relationships.  (Daniel 6:3)
6.  Pray that your children desire the right kind of friends and be protected from the wrong friends.  (Proverbs 1:10-11)
7.  Pray that your children will respect those in authority over them.  (Romans 13:1)
8.  Pray that your children will be kept from the wrong mate, and saved for the right one.  (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)
9.  Pray that your children, as well as the one they marry, will be kept pure until marriage.  (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
10.  Pray that your children will learn to totally submit to God and actively resist Satan in all areas of their lives.  (James 4:7)
11.  Pray that your children will be single-hearted, willing to be sold out to Jesus Christ.  (Romans 12:1, 2)
12.  Pray that your children will be hedged in so they cannot find their way to the wrong people or places and that the wrong people cannot find their way to them.  (Hosea 2:6) 

The Four “All’s” of Prayer

"Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18 - ESV)

This verse immediately follows the apostle Paul's powerful reminder that the Believer's real struggle is not a physical one, or "against flesh and blood", but a cosmic battle with the powers darkness and spiritual forces of evil.  It is a spiritual battle that cannot be won on our own.  In fact, it would be a hopeless battle if we did not know the “rest of the story” that Christ Jesus has insured a victory,  and the conquest of all His and our enemies! In the meantime every believer has been given the “full armor of God” to not only just defend ourselves, but to win the battle.

Paul concludes his teaching on the armor of God with a call to prayer.  In fact, he seems to imply that it is through prayer that the armor is effective.  Paul clearly sees the need for prayer and asks for it personally in verse 19.  When commenting on this verse, John Calvin writes, “There is no man so richly endowed with gifts as not to need assistance from his brethren, so long as he remains in this world.  Who will ever be better entitled to plead exemption from this necessity than Paul! Yet he entreats the prayers of his brethren, and not hypocritically, but from an earnest desire for their aid” (Calvin’s Commentaries, p. 241).  In other words, if Paul sees a vital need for prayer, we should too!

Please note the four “all’s” in this verse.  First Paul reminds us that prayer should permeate all that we do when he writes “praying at all times”.  Along the same line, in I Thessalonians 5:17 challenges us “pray without ceasing.”  This obviously, does not mean that we need to spend every moment of our day muttering prayers, but rather is a way of thinking that automatically takes us to the throne of grace where we bring our thoughts back to our heavenly Father.  I think Proverbs 3: 6 sums this up well when it states, “In all your ways acknowledge Him”.  Note well the “all”.

The next “all” comes as Paul reminds us that there is more than one method of prayer when he writes “all prayer and supplication”.  Scripture gives us many examples of prayer that include praise, profession of our faith, confession, adoration, thanksgiving, lament, petition, intercession and more.  We must not limit our conversation with God to one style or formula.  He is our heavenly Father, just talk to Him!

The third “all” reminds us not to give up if it seems our prayers are not being answered or seem ineffective.  “All perseverance and petition” is a persistence that refuses to back away or give up.  The NIV puts it this way, “always keep on praying”.  

The fourth and final “all” is “for all the saints”.  I believe many of us become discouraged in our prayer lives because the majority of our prayers are not for “all the saints”, but “one of the saints” – often ourselves. As Believers we are called to intercede for one another.  If we do that we are all covered in prayer! 


Let’s together ask the God of all grace to help us become a people of prayer who are “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” and see what God does! 

Keep Beating the Drum!

For centuries the drum has played a vital role in African life as a highly effective means of communication. No, it was not quite as good as E-mail, texting or Instagram, but close.  By the drum beat messages could be sent from village to village. It was beat in times of celebration and it was beat during times of mourning. To those who could recognize the beat of the drum it was a quick and effective way to get a message out to as many people as fast as possible. Thus the African proverb, "When you play the drum you never know how far the sound will travel."

If the wind was blowing the wrong way the sound of the drumbeat would not travel as far. If it was a still night, or the air was cooler, the sound would travel greater distances. But regardless of these outside influences the drummer still had a task to accomplish. If the conditions were poor he still had to beat his drum. If the wind was howling about him, he still had to beat the drum.  It was his task to beat the beat, and simply trust that those in neighboring villages would hear. Though we do not live in Africa, and must of us don't even own a drum, this proverb has strong application for the Believer in Jesus Christ living in the United States. Though we are far more advanced in our communication methods, we still have much to learn from the faithful drummer.

The drumbeat that the believer in Jesus Christ plays is the good news of the Gospel. Every Believer is commanded to be a drummer who faithfully plays out the beat of the Gospel. And we are to do this regardless of perceived or visible results for you never know how far the sound will travel. It may be that ninety-nine percent of the time the Gospel seems to fall on deaf ears, yet, the results of our beating out the good news of the Gospel is up to the Holy Spirit. Remember the Holy Spirit works in mysterious way a we never know how, when, or where He is going to work. In other words the results are not in our hands, just the faithful obedient beating of the drums. The question is, "Are you beating your drum?" If not get busy, because "When you play the drum you never know how far the sound will travel."


"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. .  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."  (Romans 1:16; 10:17 – ESV)    

Amazing Love!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” - John 3:16.

“—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” – Ephesians 3:17b-19

My son is home from college for a couple of weeks before he heads off to the west coast to an internship for the summer. I can’t tell you how good it is to have him home! It seems like only yesterday when he was just little blonde headed boy, and now he is a strapping young man who has grown taller than his old man!

Seeing him, takes me back to those days. One routine that I recall was the nightly rounds before heading to bed. For me that involved letting the now deceased, Gizmo, the wonder dog out for her last patrol of the yard, checking to make sure all the doors were locked, the lights turned off, and making my stop outside my son's bedroom door. Most aspects of these rounds got routine and at times monotonous, but this became special to me.

It is was there where I lifted my only begotten son before the Father. It is there that I prayed for his salvation, protection and blessing. Though this may seem a strange place it became blessed because I not only loved the one I prayed for, but I knew I was loved by the one I am praying too.

One particular evening I had also been spending time in prayer for not only our church, but the nonbelievers in our community. I had been burdened by those needs, and praying for ways to get the saving knowledge of the Gospel to these people. How can an insignificant Presbyterian pastor begin to reach all those people? 

As I stood outside that door I felt the Lord ask me just how much I loved these people.  Up to that point I was pretty pious as to the extent of my love. Then I felt Him ask if I would be willing to give up my only son? My entire body went numb with the thought! Did I really love anyone in this world enough that I would give my up son's life? Honestly . . . No! He was a special little guy! He is my buddy! We laughed, we played ... I really loved that little guy! And he was the only child God let us to keep!  

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son... Wow! God did that for me! God really DID love His ONLY Son! It was a great sacrifice for the Father to send His Son to a people who would reject Him and in the end kill Him. The very thought is unfathomable to me! Would I let my son die for those who hate me? For those who ridicule me and verbally lash me? I can't imagine it! But He did!

You see though I think I love my son, my love for Him is nothing compared to the love the Father has for His Son, and it is nothing compared to the love He has for the world! My experience that night outside my son's bedroom door will never be forgotten. It was a vivid reminder to me of the love of the Father. By God's grace I was not asked to act upon the test as Abraham was (Gen. 22), but by God's grace Isaac's life was spared, and by God's grace my son is alive, well and very active.

All of us find it very difficult to comprehend this love. It is truly unfathomable! The apostle Paul understood that and made it a matter of prayer for the Believers in Ephesus. Rather than giving a lengthy prayer list, He simply prayed that the Holy Spirit would give them the strength to “to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19 – ESV).

When it comes down to it, Paul is praying that the reality of John 3:16 would so permeate our hearts that it would be reflected in our lives! That means God loves me more than I love my son! It is a love that began before the foundation of time and will continue throughout eternity. God is not affected by “good days” or “bad days”, but always loves us the same! That is awesome and life changing if we could really get a hold of that! It changes everything! It really does! Will you make it a priority in your life to pray that God would graciously give you the strength to comprehend this love?    

The Iridescent Wisdom of God

So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known . . .”

I find these words both exhilarating and disheartening.  They are disheartening because the truths rooted in them are often neglected by many Christians in the west.  Over the last century there has been an explosion of Christian ministries that sprang up outside the church, often to address problems that the church was neglecting.  Many of these specialized, or para-church organizations have had tremendous results in the proclamation of the Gospel, and addressing social concerns in our world.  Whether intentional or not, the Church was often marginalized and at times considered impotent.  These words are also disheartening because much of Christianity in the west became individualistic as it embraced the populist[i] ideals of our culture.  In other words faith has become individualistic rather than community-centric.  As that happened the church became a destination to address individual felt needs, rather than a place of worship, community and service.  

I find these words exhilarating because despite her struggles God has an awesome plan for His Church, for it is through the Church that God has chosen to make known His manifold wisdom.  Please don’t let the unfamiliarity of the word “manifold” cause you to miss what Paul is saying here.  Most of us don’t use the word “manifold” unless in a technical sense when referring to something mechanical like a manifold on a car.  The Greek adjective that Paul uses to describe God’s wisdom is “polypoikilos”.  This word is somewhat difficult to translate into modern English and as a result, it is very easy to miss Paul’s emphasis here.   Another word that could be used is “iridescent” which points to revealing brilliant colors when an object is seen from different perspectives or angles. An example of this would be an iridescent crystal.  Commentator William Hendriksen describes it as “the infinite diversity and sparkling beauty of God’s wisdom”.  Not only is God’s wisdom multi-perspectival, it is beautiful from each perspective and never stops revealing new beauty. It is no wonder that we have a hard time fully grasping this.  Yes, it is true, when what Paul writes “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33-NIV).

In this same passage Paul writes that even though he is “the very least of all the saints” (3:8), God graciously called him to be a minister of the gospel of grace.  Paul was keenly aware of his own sinfulness and therefore could truly rejoice in the grace that was given to him though Christ Jesus.  Paul’s message was one of reconciliation.  First it was the good news of reconciliation of God to His people, then His people to one another, rooted in the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (3:8).  Think about this for a minute, God’s wisdom is entirely up-side-down to human logic.   He chose to love His children before the foundation of time despite their hostility toward him.  And by grace through faith they have been made alive – saved through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.  In doing this all the ceremonial laws were abolished and the moral law fulfilled.  Christ not only paid the price for our sin, but He is our righteousness!  That really doesn't make sense – but it is iridescently beautiful! 

Basically God has chosen to take the spiritually dead, enslaved to sin and rebellious individual and adopt them into His family made up of people of every race, culture, gender and socioeconomic as one reconciled group.  To most this seems like a mess!  Yet it is a new community living out the gospel as they love each other as they have been loved by God.  Where “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11-NIV).  A community of people that through the gospel of grace become a brilliant iridescent light that shines forth the wisdom of God.  It is so brilliant, so beautiful, so glorious that it causes the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” to stop and take notice!  Imagine that! 

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (3:20-21-NIV).





[i] In this case “populist” is defined as a belief system that propagates the rights and wisdom of the common people or the individual.  This is not to be confused with a political party formed in the United States in 1891.

Better Than Solomon's Temple

A couple years after 911 my wife Chris and I were in NYC on a Redeemer Church recruiting trip considering planting a church in Manhattan.  One of the areas we were asked to consider was Battery Park City, located just west of Ground Zero.  At the time of our visit the enormous cleanup had been completed and the rebuilding and repairing of the subway station had begun.  Today there are two reflection pools where the twin towers stood, a museum and the recently completed Freedom Tower.    

Building projects take considerable time. If you have ever been part of a building project, you know exactly what I mean.  The bigger the project, the more time it takes.  The Freedom Tower was officially open just last November.  Construction on the famous Notre Dame Cathedral began in 1163 and completed in 1345, taking only 182 years to build!  Surprisingly, at best estimates it took 7 years for Solomon’s Temple, and 13 years for his palace.  The temple of Paul’s day, Herod’s Temple took 82 years to complete.

In Ephesians 2:19-22 Paul gives a picture of a spectacular building project that has already taking longer to build than the aforementioned and is incomplete. The big picture here is that God is in the middle of a massive building project where He is building a temple for Himself that is immensely more spectacular than Solomon’s’ Temple.  It is a “holy temple” (2:21) where God Himself lives.  This temple is not constructed from stone, wood or any man-made materials, but rather is constructed with God’s people. It may seem somewhat of a bizarre concept at first, however when comprehended will give a new perspective on our place and calling in this life.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Taking a closer look at this new temple we find that the structural core itself is Jesus Christ.  In this passage Paul writes that Christ is the cornerstone. This was not a novel idea to Paul, as Isaiah prophesied “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation…” (Isaiah 28:16).  The cornerstone placed at the corner of two walls is an essential part of the foundation, and in fact the overall structure. Christ holds the structure together – “in whom the whole structure, being joined together” (21 -NIV) giving the building stability, direction and growth.

Built upon and around the foundation work of Christ is the message of the apostles and prophets (2:20a).  It was their gospel proclamation that is foundational to the structure.  In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. . .”  (Mt 16:18).  And looking at the building having been completed we read “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Re 21:14). 

With the Cornerstone and the foundation in place, Paul moves on to the bricks or fa├žade which are God’s people (2:19, 22).  It is fascinating how in this chapter Paul takes the Ephesian believer from being locked out of the temple to being an essential part of its construction.  Paul gives them and us a new identity as he goes from “stranger” to “fellow citizen with the saints”.  From “alien” to “members of the household of God”.   F.F. Bruce comments “The new community, God’s fellowship of reconciliation, transcends all distinctions of race, status, and sex”.  

Being part of this new temple not only gives the Believer a new identity, but a new calling. “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (22), or as the NIV puts it, “… built together into a permanent dwelling place of God by the Spirit”. Note Well the “you too” or “you also”. That remind the Gentiles once again that they were included right alongside everyone else.  Paul is giving a beautiful and comforting picture that the Ephesian’s were now part of God’s earthly sanctuary, his dwelling place or home.  A place of protection, intimacy and love.  It is a very large dwelling place where “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossian 3:11). Peter describes it this way: “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, your yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:4-6)

As Paul wrote these words to the Ephesian believers, he knew the splendor of Solomon’s Temple that had been destroyed long ago.  The temple that then stood in Jerusalem was called Herod’s temple and though a large complex, it was nothing in comparison to Solomon’s Temple.  From 1 Kings Chapter 6 and 7, we see that it was an elaborate and expensive building containing extensive amounts of gold, silver, precious stone and rare wood.  Once it was destroyed it could never be rebuilt.

The Ephesians were not as aware of either Solomon’s or Herod’s temples, but lived in the shadow temple of Artemis or Diana.  It was a grand building and classified as one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.  With that image in mind, Paul tells them that they get to part of something more magnificent then the temple of Artemis and more glorious – better than Solomon’s Temple!  The Believers then and now have the privilege of being built up into the holy temple of God.

Christ is busy redeeming people from death to life. This is not simply about race, it is about those who were Gentiles, uncircumcised, it is about those who were at one time separated from God (12), it is all of us, with our sin, brokenness, and pride….. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. . . ” (2:10). 


Now that is good news!