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Showing posts from April, 2018

Ephesians 5:15: Walk Wisely

Ephesians 5:15 [15] Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, (ESV) As we discovered earlier in our study of this wonderful book of Ephesians, the first 3 chapters deal primarily with proper doctrine.  They are concerned with the nature of salvation.  They are about what we believe. The last 3 chapters are concerned with how we live.  The reality is, what we believe dictates how we act.  In this verse Paul speaks of how we walk.  We are to walk as those who are wise.  How are we made wise?  By believing the truth!  And the evidence of our embracing that wisdom is seen in how we walk. This may seem to be a simplistic point, but consider that when you walk your feet leave a mark behind that shows where exactly you have been walking.  This is more demonstrably evident when you are walking in your bare feet through the sand.  If you will allow me, I would argue that if you claim to be wise; if you claim to be a follower of Christ; if you claim to believe proper d

Ephesians 5:13-14: Christ Will Shine On You

Ephesians 5:13–14 [13] But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, [14] for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (ESV) We continue to look at this contrast between darkness and light.  We, who belong to Christ, are now light.  We are to shine the light of Christ in our dark world.  As a result those living in darkness receive an invitation to come to God's light.  God uses us to shine his light.  That is quite a responsibility, and a privilege! In verse 14 Paul makes a reference to the prophet Isaiah. Even in the Old Testament God promised salvation through Christ.  Notice how the prophet uses the same imagery of light and darkness: Isaiah 60:1 [1] Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. (ESV) When you walk in light you shine on those in darkness around you.  The only way that people will come to know Christ is

Ephesians 5:12: Shameful Things

Ephesians 5:12 [12] For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. (ESV) Paul is speaking to us of the behaviors of the ungodly.  They are actions that are shameful to even speak of.  They are sins.  And the fact is, they are ways that all of us used to walk in.  I want us to consider for a moment why they are so shameful.  When you think of different sins are you repulsed by them?  Do you find them to be shameful?  Or have you become numb to just how vile sin is? I am convinced that one of the reasons we fall back into sin is that we do not view sins as the shameful actions of treachery against God that they are! "I would rather die than do something which I know to be a sin, or to be against God's will." - Joan of Arc "Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Ea

Ephesians 5:11: Expose Works of Darkness

Ephesians 5:11 [11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (ESV) In yesterday's devotional we looked at the need for Christians to avoid the sinful acts of darkness.  The more that we engage in sin we dim the light of Christ within us and non-believers are unable to see any difference in our lives from theirs.  We ought to always be about the things that promote the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul says that we are not only to avoid works of darkness, but rather, expose them. I believe that Paul's emphasis here is on exposing the works of darkness that have been embraced by believers in Jesus Christ.  Because the enemy of our souls is always trying to deceive us we are prone to fall into sin.  We can easily fall into darkness. A godly person will see a brother or sister who has fallen into darkness and lovingly confront them.  Now, I must emphasize that we must be loving.  We are just as prone to fall into the same sin, so we h

Ephesians 5:11: Unfruitful Works of Darkness

Ephesians 5:11 [11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (ESV) One of the biggest hindrances to people coming to faith in Jesus Christ is the fact that they have met "Christians."  That is a harsh statement.  However, I feel that it is fairly accurate.  In fact, I feel that there have been times when I have been guilty of being such a hindrance.  The Apostle Paul is making a very stark contrast between Christians and non-Christians.  They are as different as darkness and light.  Christians are admonished to do two things in this verse.  (1) Avoid the darkness, and (2) Expose the darkness.  The problem is that many Christians are involved in falling back into the darkness.  As a result, those who are in darkness are unable to see the light, because we are clouding it in the darkness of sinful behavior. Consider the importance of avoiding darkness.  How important is it really?  I mean, just because someone calls themselves a Chris

Ephesians 5:10: Try To Discern

Ephesians 5:10 [10] and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. (ESV) If you have ever had the privilege of getting to know a happy couple who has been married for several decades you will observe something.  The two people who have grown in their love for one another have learned what things are pleasing to the other.  The husband knows that while he may love surprises his wife does not, so he does not do things that surprise her.  The wife knows that her husband is a very private person so she does not embarrass him in public situations.  He may know that she loves being at the beach more than anything, while she knows that a cabin in the woods is her man's special place. What's the point?  Over time, because they love each other, they try to determine what pleases each other.  And they have learned the value of doing those things.  Learning what pleases the other takes time.  They have likely tried doing things that they thought would please the other only to d

Ephesians 5:9: Fruit of Light

Ephesians 5:9 [9] (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),  (ESV) As we have already discovered, light is a wonderful thing.  I found the following on the website of North Carolina State University: Natural light boosts your body's vitamin D storage Natural light leads to higher productivity Natural light benefits vision Natural light helps you sleep Natural light improves your mood. You could probably list all kinds of additional benefits of light.  God is light. And all that proceeds from God is good.  Paul is talking here about the fruit of light.  We could say the fruit of light would be the product, result, or benefit of light.  So, lets consider how "walking in the light" bears fruit. Paul just made clear in verse 8 that we are to walk as children of light. He tells us in today's verse that the fruit of this "light walking" will be all that is good and right and true.  The Apostle John also uses this im

Ephesians 5:8: Walk as Children of Light

Ephesians 5:8 [8] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (ESV) Light is an amazing thing.  It is necessary for life to happen.  It is necessary to see a lego on the floor so as not to step on it and experience mind-numbing pain.  It exposes darkness. Light is a most powerful force.  And as we continue to look at this verse of Scripture we discover that as believers in Jesus Christ we are now described as light in the Lord. Wow! How bright are you shining?  I hope you are not a dim bulb!  It is a sobering thing to think that God has placed his light within us in order for us to shine in this dark world. Many times our culture will go through a terrible tragedy and people begin to ask, "Where is God in all of this darkness?"  The reality is, that he is in each one of his children.  If people have to ask where God is, could it be that we are not shining as brightly as we ought to? Paul says that we are to walk as

Ephesians 5:8: You Were Darkness

Ephesians 5:8 [8] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (ESV) The Apostle Paul is a master at using  various illustrations to help us to understand what it means to be a Christian.  I believe that Christians always fight a culture that attempts to blur the lines between Christian and Non-Christian.  The more that a Christian acts in ways that are holy and pure the more the world feels that their sinfulness is exposed.  There is a reason for that! Paul talks about what we were, what we are now, and how we should live moving forward.  All of this is so important for us.  If we don't know exactly what God has done in our lives it will be hard to walk in ways that please him.  At one time we were darkness.  All of us.  That darkness is a description of our spiritual condition.  Our sinful nature places us in darkness.  In fact, all of those who do not know Jesus Christ are filled with darkness and following the power o

Ephesians 5:3-7: Let There Be No Impurity

Ephesians 5:3-7 [3] But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. [4] Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. [5] For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. [6] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. [7] Therefore do not become partners with them; Those of us who belong to Christ are to be different than those who do not.  We are to behave differently.  And this becomes difficult because we live in a culture where all around us people are engaging in behaviors that are tempting for us to participate in.  In these verses we look at today the Apostle Paul is giving us a list of behaviors that we are to avoid. Now, as

Ephesians 5:2: Walk In Love

Ephesians 5:2 [2] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. We are to walk in love, not in lust. What is the difference? Love is from God. Anything else that claims to be love that does not come from God is not pure love. Paul tells us to walk in love, then defines it by giving the example of Christ. AS Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Lust is concerned with what it can get. Love is concerned with what it can give. Lust, even when it receives what it claims it desires, is never satisfied. Sacrificial love, found in God, will fulfill our every desire. Walk in love. The main reason that we fall into sin is because we are lacking in our love for God at some level. We often try to counter sin by trying in our own efforts to sin less. But, a far more effective plan is to draw closer to God, and love him more. We should pray that the Lord would help us to love him m

Ephesians 5:1: Imitators of God

Ephesians 5:1 [1] Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. (ESV) It is amazing to watch a small child. One of the first ways that they learn how to do anything is by imitating. They hear you say something. They try to repeat it. But, more than that, they will imitate attitudes they see displayed, habits, and all kinds of behaviors. That can be good, or bad, depending on the model that they are imitating. “The human is indissolubly linked with imitation: a human being only becomes human at all by imitating other human beings.” - Theodor Adorno “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” - Charles Caleb Colton Ephesians 5:1 [1] Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. This short verse says so much. We are to imitate God. Nothing else. Where do we fall into impurity? When we are imitating the enemy of our souls. If we are going to be pure we must be imitators of He who is pure. One of the things that we know about our God is that he stands strongl

Ephesians 4:32: Forgiving One Another

Ephesians 4:32 [32] Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (ESV) Have you ever come across a section of Scripture that you think it would be easier to just take a Sharpie marker and black it out?  Have you ever avoided a verse because it had a way of pointing out just how inept you were as a follower of Christ?  If you haven't wanted to eliminate a verse of Scripture, today's verse might be the very verse that you would like to get rid of. We are instructed to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.  Well, that is easy if it is for people who are sorry for the way that they have wronged us.  And it is easy to be tenderhearted and kind to those who treat us with kindness.  But, I can assure you, that is not what this verse is saying.  It is saying that we are to be kind, and tenderhearted, and forgiving AS GOD IN CHRIST FORGAVE YOU. In other words, the way that we are to forgive is to be the ver

Ephesians 4:31: Bitterness, Wrath, Anger, Clamor, Slander, Malice

Ephesians 4:31 [31] Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (ESV) “An honest man was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy boulevard. Suddenly, the light turned yellow just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection. The tailgating woman hit the roof, and the horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection. As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, finger-printed, and photographed, and then placed in a holding cell. After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting

Ephesians 4:30: Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 4:30 [30] And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (ESV) In our culture we like to think that we are in charge.  We call the shots.  And that would make sense if we really were in charge.  But Paul reminds us again that the Holy Spirit is dwelling within us.  And as a result our decisions are to be guided by the Holy Spirit.  We should never think that we are free agents, determining the best course of action and making decisions for ourselves.  In fact, when we live lives apart from the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are grieving Him. Do you find it interesting that Paul speaks of God's Spirit being grieved?  It lets us know that God has emotion.  He can be grieved, saddened, disappointed. I can think back on many of the decisions that I have made in my life, disregarding the Holy Spirit's guidance within me, and assuredly bringing the Spirit of God grief upon grief. The Holy Spirit is God at work within

Ephesians 4:29: No Corrupting Talk

Ephesians 4:29 [29] Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. This verse was re-written and told by a little bunny named the Apostle Thumper. He said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” This verse can certainly mean that we should not be obscene in our conversation, but there is more to it than that. We are to make sure that our conversation lifts others up and does not tear them down. Paul speaks of talk that will corrupt others. Here’s a question. If a person were to hang around you on a regular basis what kind of influence would you have on them? Would they be drawn closer to Christ? Would they be encouraged? Or would they learn all of the latest dirt on everybody else? St. Augustine hung this motto on his dining room wall: “He who speaks evil of an absent man or woman is not welcome at this table.” Not a bad quote. Do you know where e

Ephesians 4:28: No Longer Steal

Ephesians 4:28 [28] Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. It seems that we should not have to be reminded that stealing is not an option for the believer. But, the Apostle Paul needs to address it in Ephesus, and there is something for us here as well. Theft is fraud. We are treating our brother or sister fraudulently if we are taking something from them that does not belong to us. Christians are not usually the ones caught breaking and entering to steal drugs. But, maybe we own a business and we are over-charging our customers. Or maybe we do not pay our debts. The way that we fraud others is usually more subtle than the actions of a common thief. Additionally, Paul makes an interesting statement here. In contrast to stealing, he says that we should “do honest work with our own hands, so that we may have something to share with anyone in need.” We think of h

Ephesians 4:26-27: Be Angry and Do Not Sin

Ephesians 4:26-27 [26] Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, [27] and give no opportunity to the devil. We live in a very angry society.  Perhaps it is because the pace of our society is so fast it leads to our becoming impatient in almost every situation.  The fact is, anger is a human emotion and it is a part of every person.  All generations of people have had to deal with anger.  I am grateful that God in his wisdom designed an outlet of our emotion that is anger.  However, it is an emotion that needs to be handled with care. “Anger is a divinely implanted emotion. Closely allied to our instinct for right, it is designed to be used for constructive spiritual purposes. The person who cannot feel anger at evil is a person who lacks enthusiasm for good. If you cannot hate wrong, it's very questionable whether you really love righteousness.” - Dr. David Seamands Anger is a healthy emotion. But, it needs a monitor on it. You might know that th

Ephesians 4:25: Speak the Truth

Ephesians 4:25 [25] Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Does it seem odd to you that Paul has to remind the Ephesian believers that they need to be truthful? Does it seem odd that the church of today needs the same reminder. We belong to Jesus.  Jesus referred to himself as the way, the TRUTH, and the life. We are his body, and as a result we should be truthful, abandoning falsehood in every way possible. I think that we tend to be innocent of the bold faced lies. But, the subtle dishonesties are another area. Here’s a few examples. Perhaps, you are a Yankee living in the South. You say something to someone in the church and they say, “Well, Bless your heart.” It sounds really nice. But, it isn’t nice, is it? Falsehood. How about the person who shakes your hand on Sunday morning, and after the service they are gossiping behind your back. Here’s the thing. If you are going to undermine

Ephesians 4:22-24: Put on the New Self

Ephesians 4:22–24 [22] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, [23] and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, [24] and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (ESV) What is your taste in clothing?  In our family we laugh about my daughter's taste in clothing.  We jest that her favorite kind of clothing is "expensive."  She might argue that she has good taste.  My son is not so concerned with what he wears.  Clothes are a necessity but not a frivolity.  I can remember my childhood days going to school wishing that I had the clothes that the cool kids wore, but we simply couldn't afford them.  In this passage today Paul is talking about spiritual clothes.  Think of the new self as new clothes. Verse 23 tells us that we are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. This is in direct contrast to the old clothes we used to wear. The ol

Ephesians 4:20-21: The Way You Learned Christ

Ephesians 4:20–21 [20] But that is not the way you learned Christ!—[21] assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, (ESV) How have you learned Christ?  Was it through the minister at your local church?  Was it through reading the Scriptures on your own?  Was it a friend or family member who shared with you the truth about Jesus Christ?  Paul has just been talking about those who do not know Christ, and how they are led by their own sensuality.  And he now says that it is not the pursuit of our own sensuality that teaches us about Christ. I want to hop up on one of my soap boxes today.  I am concerned about the current church in America and how its members are learning Christ! Many of the worship songs in our churches fail to address the woeful sin nature of mankind and instead teach that God was so pathetically incomplete without us as his children that he sent Christ to die for us.  As if God needed anything.  How have you learned

Ephesians 4:19: Calloused

Ephesians 4:19 [19] They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. (ESV) It has been said that, "Without God everything is permissible."  This axiom really sums up the way that godless Gentiles live their lives.  God is a holy God.  He has established boundaries and guidelines for our behavior that enable us to live lives that do not harm one another.  But, the Apostle Paul describes for us those who live outside of God's holy boundaries.  "They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity." This callousness is a description of gradually becoming harder and harder due to repeated behavior.  I remember learning how to play guitar.  At first it hurt my fingers to push down the strings to form guitar chords.  But, the more I practiced I developed callouses on my fingers.  The skin on the tips of my fingers hardened and I no longer fe

Ephesians 4:18: They Are Darkened

Ephesians 4:18 [18] They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. (ESV) Have you ever been in complete darkness.  I mean no light at all.  In a room with no windows.  No crack of light coming through the door.  No nightlight.  Total and complete darkness.  In that situation it is not possible to see the things that are around you.  You could step on a lego.  That would be a tragic and painful experience!  But, the point being, darkness changes how we can walk.  If we cannot see where we are going, we cannot go where we want to go. Paul continues to talk about how our walk is to be different than those who are outside of the faith.  He refers to them as Gentiles.  He says that their understanding is darkened.  This darkness has great consequences.  It alienates them from the life of God.  We do not like to think of people in these terms.  It is hard to view a co-worker, friend, o

Ephesians 4:17: Walk differently

Ephesians 4:17 [17] Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. (ESV) Have you ever thought about the way that you walk?  I am reminded of Monty Python's "Ministry of Silly Walks" sketch.  The way that we walk is important to God.  And, of course, we are not talking about the way that we physically walk, but rather the life that we live.  Our actions should be different than the actions of those who do not know the Lord.  Paul refers to Gentiles as those who do not have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  What is interesting to note here is that the reason the Gentiles walk wrongly is that they are wrong in their thinking.  The pagan mind elevates his own reasoning.  Man does have the ability to observe certain things in the universe.  But, their understanding of what they have observed only shows how little they really understand.  I think of Stephen Hawking, considered by man

Ephesians 4:15-16: Gift of Growth

Ephesians 4:15-16 [15] Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, [16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. In verses 15-16 we see that God wants us all to have the gift of growth. Now, I understand how one might say that growing is not a gift. It is something that we do in obedience and cooperation with the Savior. I would argue that everything we have is a gift, even the ability to grow. As we are speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in Christ! And how does this happen? Well, without Christ’s enabling and empowering us, we wouldn’t be growing. In fact, there is a wonderful passage of Scripture in 2 Peter that tells us where we find the gifts needed for our own spiritual growth. 2 Peter 1:3-10 [3] His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain t

Ephesians 4:12-14: Building up the Body of Christ

Ephesians 4:12–14 [12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, [13] until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, [14] so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (ESV) So, after Paul has described the essential gifts of leadership to the church (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastor-Teachers), he describes the ultimate goal of following these leaders. Listen to some of these key words:  unity, knowledge, maturity.  It is amazing to me that some 2000 years later these continue to be great needs in the church.  And the main reason why unity, knowledge, and maturity are lacking is that we have not heeded the leadership that God has given to his church.  The teaching that we gain from the words of

Ephesians 4:11: Evangelists and Pastors-Teachers

Ephesians 4:11 [11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (ESV) We established that the Apostles and Prophets were the foundation that Christ built the church upon.  Their gift is one of sound doctrine.  As we base all that we do on the teaching of the Apostles and Prophets we will have a strong and stable church that will not be swept away by falsehood. This verse continues to lists the gifts of shepherds and teachers. The word for shepherd is interchangeable with pastor.  So for our benefit, we will refer to them as pastors.  And even more helpful is to note that the phrase pastors and teachers is a combined role.  We could write it this way: pastor-teachers. We have evangelists, pastors and teachers that are given to keep the work going in the church. They are a gift that is to keep on giving. Evangelists have gotten a bad name in recent years. The term is usually associated with a manipulative TV preacher who is taking advant

Ephesians 4:11: Apostles and Prophets

Ephesians 4:11 [11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (ESV) Let's look a little more carefully at these gifts that God has given the church.  Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. I wonder, have you previously viewed these roles in the church as gifts?  Christ does. These gifts are leadership gifts.  And as we will see, some of those leadership gifts are foundational, and some are continuing gifts.  Let's take a look. The first leaders he mentions as being given to the church are foundational leaders. They are the leaders who were given at the founding of the church. Their role is important. Apostles and prophets. What is foundational about the leadership of apostles and prophets? The apostles and prophets gave us doctrine. You might remember these words from Ephesians a few chapters ago: Ephesians 2:19-20 [19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the sai

Ephesians 4:11: Gifts

Ephesians 4:11 [11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (ESV) When I was a child, my father would occasionally go away for a few days. Most of the time, he was going to a Minister’s Conference. On most of those occasions he would come back home and have some sort of gift for me. It was an inexpensive trinket, but it meant the world to me. It meant that he thought about me while he was gone. A loving Father gives good gifts to his children. We have a father like that. In fact, our Father is far more giving to his children than any of our earthly fathers. “On no one has God bestowed all things.  Each has received a certain measure.  Being thus dependent on each other, they find it necessary to throw their individual gifts into the common stock and thus to render mutual aid. . . whatever our attainments we ought not to be proud of them, because they lay us under deeper obligations to God.” - Calvin, John. Epistle to the Ephesia

Ephesians 4:9-10: He Descended

Ephesians 4:9–10 [9] (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? [10] He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) (ESV) I have heroes.  We all do.  I can name to you my favorite NFL players.  I can list for you musicians that I look up to.  And there are also pastors and teachers that I greatly respect.  All of these people are in a sense, "untouchable."  I may go to a concert and see them.  I might even have an opportunity to meet one of these people for a moment or two.  I have met a few of my heroes.  But, the reality is this.  None of these heroes of mine are going to get intimately involved in my real world. At a scale far grander than what I have described, the Creator of the Universe has not only decided to make a one minute appearance to mankind, but rather, he came to Earth and became one of us!  Paul reminds us that before Christ as