Strangers and Sojourners

Since this is Labor Day, I thought I’d include this dialog from the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

Delmar O’Donnell: You work for the railroad, Grampa?
Blind Seer: I work for no man.
Delmar O’Donnell: Got a name, do you?
Blind Seer: I have no name.
Ulysses Everett McGill: Well, that right there may be the reason you’ve had difficulty findin’ gainful employment. You see, in the mart of competitive commerce…

Coen, J., & Coen, E. (2001, February 2). O Brother, Where Art Thou?


I was reading this morning’s “Verse of the Day” on Bible Gateway when I noticed how the Apostle Paul phrased Ephesians 2:19. I think the Revised Standard Version does an excellent job of communicating the nuance that Paul used.

So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Ephesians 2:19

As you may remember, Paul was a Jew and had invested the first part of his life in becoming a Pharisee1. So, he crafted this verse to communicate to both Jews and Gentiles. Let’s break this verse down.

We Are Not Vagabonds

In today’s verse, Paul addresses the Christian Gentiles living in the wealthy city of Ephesus, a city located in modern-day Turkey. Paul first tells us that Gentile Christians are not vagabonds – a person who wanders from place to place without a job or home. Instead, we Gentile believers in Jesus have a home in God’s household.

Our citizenship is with “fellow saints and members” of God’s household! We are “fellow citizens,” not citizens in addition to saints and members of God’s family. Rather, we are “fellow citizens.” This is true in this life and our lives in heaven.

Instead of a caste system in God’s kingdom, we Gentiles are equal citizens. God shows no prejudice or partiality among His children. We know this from many verses, such as:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

Why This Matters

I’ve probably not written anything that you didn’t already know. So, why does it matter? It matters because we must be as cautious as Paul when looking at others. If God was willing to graft the “wild branch”2 into the True Vine, we must not allow our prejudices and preconceptions to deny anyone from hearing the good news and being received into the kingdom of God.

Good News

Someday, you may be walking on a street of gold when you spot Paul. Based on what Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you can greet Paul, give him a bear hug, and say, “Paul, it is so good to see you finally!” And he will hug you back and enjoy your membership in God’s household.

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  1. Acts 23:6 – New International Version. (n.d.). Bible Gateway. Retrieved August 30, 2023, from ↩︎
  2. Romans 11:17 – English Standard Version. (n.d.). Bible Gateway. Retrieved August 30, 2023, from ↩︎

Let Me See Your Face

My wife and I have three small Amazon Alexa (Echo Dot®) devices. Since my office is separate from our home, using it like an intercom is handy. When she wants to tell me something or ask a question, my wife says, “Alexa, drop in on Office Dot,” and “Bob’s your uncle!” we’re having a quick chat.

I would have loved to be in the meeting when Amazon engineers chose “drop in” as Alexa’s alert phrase to start the intercom feature. I remember when friends and families used to “drop in.” Depending on how close you were to those friends or family, you could drop in without prior notice! Occasionally, these drop-ins precipitated some awkward situations, but often that was part of the fun.

A marvelous wonder came over the visitors and visited when we came face-to-face. Gone were our attempts at imagining grins and wagging heads and old men scratching their bald heads. There was palpable healing for most (not all) friends and families when they gathered in our home or we in their home.

We have rediscovered the value of faces through our use of Zoom, Facebook, and Microsoft Teams. Still, these technologies fall short of physically being together.

In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, he wrote to tell them:

“But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.”

2 Corinthians 7:6

We can see that even a weathered, old missionary like Paul can suffer from discouragement. He needed a friend to drop in on him, and God provided for Paul’s needs.

How often have you and I “felt” a tug at our hearts to drop in on someone, but we shrugged it off, using one of a hundred reasons why that tug was just foolish? Perhaps it was, but then it might have been a prompt by the Holy Spirit. Which is better, to feel the tug but ignore it or feel the tug and, by faith, go ahead and drop in?

God may not have revealed my discouragement, but don’t mistakenly leave me to languish. Go ahead and drop in; let me see your face.

Photo by RODNAE Productions:

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Walking in Faith, Hope, and Love

This post is a follow-up to my last post, “Firm in the Faith.”

We live in a world where wickedness confronts us often and unexpectedly. We all have learned that media, in general, and entertainment, specifically, is in lockstep in its effort to normalize wickedness and demonize objective truth – objective truth is the opposite of opinion. 

If we read a new novel, watch a new show, listen to an interview with an athlete or hear a new song, we are sure to find some new subjective morality that we would never voluntarily allow to enter our ears or eyes. 

However, I am not writing this to vent or moan about our conditions. Paul wrote that we can’t hold the unsaved to the moral standard of Christians. (1 Corinthians 5:12)

What has me concerned is this worldly agenda being embraced by people convinced they are saved and doing God’s work. Paul gave the church at Corinth a stern warning about this kind of sin (1 Corinthians 5:6–12). This concern brings me to an unexpected verse in the Bible.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

Notice the word “forever.” This word is why we can trust in the objective truth of faith, hope, and love. If something is an objective truth, it always has been true, and it always will be true. 

If we had said that the landline telephone was the best communication method, we would now be wrong. That wasn’t an objective truth. But if we say that theft is a sin, that is an objective truth that always has been true and always will be.

No matter what happens, faith, hope, and love will continue; they will never be taken from God’s children. Sure, we have to continually “clean our feet1,” but what is happening to many American and European Christians is the same as what happened to the church at Corinth; the creation of local beliefs, based on human wisdom, that supersedes and displaces the Gospel.

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. 

1 Corinthians 3:18–20a

This problem of wickedness within the Church has been a problem since Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit2. The world has been carnal since Adam and Eve and will continue to be carnal until God’s final judgment. 

Our need is the same as the early church. We should pray that the Holy Spirit will direct all of us to reform our local churches so that they embrace being a Christian community that continually encourages, teaches, and assists each other, healing the wounds their members suffer as they go into the world and share the Gospel of Jesus. The Bible should be our standard, with nothing added and nothing removed. There are some churches that do this, but many more have wandered into worldly wisdom.

We “must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God 3.” We must go out even though unsaved people hate us4. We must go out because this is a command Jesus gave us5. If we love Jesus, we must obey His commands6. We can’t go out unless the body of Christ receives us back and heals us. 

Our local churches are the people that possess faith, hope, and love. We must not try to make it on our own. It won’t work because it violates God’s command: “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)

I pray that each of us walks daily in faith, hope, and love.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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1: John 13:5–11 
2: Acts 5:1–11 
3: Acts 14:21–23 
4: John 15:18 
5: Mark 16:15 
6: John 14:15

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Did I Tell You, You Have a Great Body?

I hope the title got your attention. I mean every word of it! To understand why I think you have a great body let’s take a look at God’s Word.

17 And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. 18 Think about the people of Israel. Weren’t they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar? 

1 Corinthians 10:14–17 NLT

When we come together in our local church and participate in Communion – Lord’s Supper – Eucharist, we are not just connecting as a local Christian community; we are sharing in the Communion that all Christians share. We are one body. (1 Corinthians 12:12–27)

These verses about the Lord’s Supper show the spiritual aspect of participating in this distinctively religious ceremony. When we understand what we’re doing, then the Apostle Paul’s warning makes sense:

29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.

1 Corinthians 11:29–31

We join with other Christians in Holy Communion; its spiritual requirements are similar to those God, through Moses, gave to the Israelites concerning the laws about the ark of the covenant. 

9 But the Lord killed seventy men from Beth-shemesh because they looked into the Ark of the Lord. And the people mourned greatly because of what the Lord had done. 

1 Samuel 6:19

Often, modern Christians take no thought about God’s requirements, let alone anything spiritual. However, our views and opinions do not negate God’s will. So, when we take Communion, we need to be in right standing with God. To be in right standing, we need to confess, repent, and receive God’s forgiveness and cleansing for our sins so that we take the cup and the bread as pure children of God, living in obedience to Jesus our Lord and in right standing with all the saints of God.

Hey, you are part of the same loaf of bread I am. We are one body, and it looks good!

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drawing of a church building

Changes in Local Churches

Let me just say, right up front, that you may strongly disagree with my perspective. That’s healthy. I just want to get this topic out in the open. There is a specific change to our local churches that I’ve observed during the past twenty years. This change concerns me because some church leaders have added sophistry to their churches because they think their church will grow if it looks like a megachurch.

Theater Churches

Most local church buildings can be categorized into two distinct styles of buildings: theaters and modern-traditional.

Let me start by stating that I am not condemning “theater” churches; I just have a concern about them. These modern church sanctuaries are built to be theaters. The walls and ceiling are painted black. Windows have been painted over. There is a sophisticated lighting system that helps to create a theater atmosphere. All eyes are on the stage. The things that the church considers valuable occur on the stage, under the stage lights, and performed by people on stage.

By building a black sanctuary with bright lights shining on the stage, the local church seems to imply that the people on stage are more important than their congregation. To increase this sophistry, the local church has a “house band” that hosts the best musical talent in the church.

This idea of member-spectators most certainly isn’t the local church’s intent, and I’m sure the local church is not purposefully implying that the people on stage are the “important” ones. Still, it is hard to deny that these modern theater churches easily accommodate spectators.


The other common type of church is modern-traditional. The church has padded pews, a good sound system, and well-engineered temperature controls. However, this modern-traditional church is painted in colors that help emphasize a well-lit sanctuary while avoiding harsh light.

Usually, there are plenty of windows in these buildings so people outside can see the congregation; when and where (i.e., in Sunday school rooms) people meet. The local church’s building is as transparent as possible, demonstrating that all are welcome, and nothing weird is going on. There are plenty of modern-traditional churches that use stained glass to fill the sanctuary with myriad colors.

In the sanctuary, there often is a lot of wood. Wood points us to the cross of Christ. Finally, the parking lot is often in front of the church building so passersby can see that the local church is alive and learn when the congregation meets. Typically, the sanctuary is full of light because the local church is everyone. Certain people serve Biblical offices in the church, but as Jesus said:

And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.

Mark 9:35

The Advantage

Please endure my opinion. Regarding the life of a congregation, I’ve observed a distinct advantage that modern-traditional churches have over theater churches. It is much easier for members to identify people who visit or attend their church. My wife and I attended a theater-style church for five years and regularly had someone ask us if that was our first time for us visiting the church. In modern-traditional churches, because the lights are on, everyone can more easily see needs in the congregation during the service. It’s easy to spot mothers that need some relief, couples that need some help, and fathers that are hurting.

When we see these needs in the congregation, the ministry for them comes from the congregation. The congregation is a family.

It Seems Wise

There can be a highly effective congregational ministry in theater churches, but this usually comes from ancillary church activities – small groups, soup kitchens, and so forth. But, to know the congregation, a member would have to participate in all of the ancillary church ministries to know the people.

I am not saying that it’s a sin if your local church is a theater church; however, with all of the recent shootings, I do think it may be safer for the congregation to keep their lights on. And I do believe there are some downsides to theater churches that are difficult to overcome. I am reminded that believers “are all children of light, children of the day…” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Light is a central theme of God’s Word. So is it wise for followers of Jesus to hold their congregational gatherings in darkness when we have the freedom in this country to hold them in the light?

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