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Archive for November, 2012

Be sure to note the following event on your calendar!

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The Thanksgiving season is upon us once again. This week, many of us will engage in our respective Thanksgiving traditions. So whether that means eating a delicious meal with family, traveling to visit relatives, or simply enjoying a day off from work, each of us will have an opportunity to reflect upon the goodness of God.

This past Lord’s Day, the text for our time of worship in the Word was Ephesians 3:7-8, and we concluded our time on “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Paul’s point, of course, was to say that he’d been called to preach the gospel which contains the fullness of the blessings found in Christ; the depths of which we can’t even begin to fathom.

With that said, the first three chapters of Ephesians have been absolutely saturated with a description of the blessings we’ve been given in Christ. Therefore, in light of our celebration of Thanksgiving this week, here are 10 ways in which we’ve been richly blessed in Christ and the reasons we should truly be thankful:

 

1. First of all, we should be thankful for God’s love, for He predestined us in love to adoption as His children.

 

2. We should be thankful for God’s purpose, for He made known to us the mystery of His will and created us in Christ for good works.

 

3. We should be thankful for redemption and forgiveness, for He is our redemption and the substitute for the penalty of our sin.

 

4. We should be thankful for holiness, for He chose us to be holy and blameless in Him.

 

5. We should be thankful for eternal life, for He raised us from death to life.

 

6. We should be thankful for hope, for God has made us fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

 

7. We should be thankful for God’s power, for the surpassing greatness of His power brought us from death to life and is working in us, even

now.

 

8. We should be thankful for our eternal inheritance, for He predestined us to obtain that inheritance in Christ Jesus.

 

9. We should be thankful for our peace with God and with one another; for He Himself is our peace.

 

10. And finally, we should be thankful for our direct access to God for all of our needs; for He is our access through the Spirit to the Father.

 

Psalm 106:1 says: “Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” As the children of God, may we spend this Thanksgiving expressing our thankfulness to God for the blessings which are ours in Jesus Christ!

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10 Reasons Churches stall

1. The church forgets who we are and what we are for. 1 Peter says that we are a royal priesthood (who we are) for declaring God’s greatnesses to the world (what we are for)…

2. The majority of believers are no longer thrilled with the Lord and what He is doing in their lives. When questions like “what is God doing with you at the moment” cease to be common currency it is sure sign of creeping spiritual mediocrity. When a large percentage of believers are spiritually stalled, the church stalls too…

3. The people get happy with not going anywhere because of the comfort and refreshments on offer. Worse still when people get happy with activities, events, service and even good teaching and preaching but are resistant to challenges to radical living and sacrifice for the gospel…

4. When filler-Christians who have no real commitment to gospel vision out number the core of committed believers who do…

5. When a large percentage of the church are used to being passive receivers of ministry from other people rather than being active self-feeders on the Word of God…

6. No life application from the Bible. When preaching, teaching and Bible study become ends in themselves rather than means to an end, something is badly wrong. The aim of no passage of scripture is that we should simply know what it says without the knowledge translating into discipleship and worship…

7. A church becomes afraid to ask radical questions. Perhaps a pastor knows that things are foundationally wrong but knows he will be severely resisted (or sacked) if he raises the issue…

8. Confusing Christian activities with discipleship. The myriad of opportunities within and without the local church to spend time doing churchy things makes it very easy to believe that doing those activities automatically means we are growing as disciples…

9. Not understanding how to release and encourage everyone in the church to use their spiritual gifts for the building up of the church. This stall can take several different forms: the church (or the leader) that expects the leader to do everything and everyone else to do nothing…

10. Moving into maintenance mode. At some point all churches take decisions that tend towards stalling. No church was stalled at the point that it was founded. At the beginning all churches were adventures in faith and daring risk for God. No one actively decided for comfort over risk, but at some point the mindset shifted from uncomfortable faith and daring passion for the Lord to comfortable mediocrity…

Source: Marcus Honeysett (www.marcushoneysett.squarespace.com)

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In Christ we have:

A love that can never be fathomed

A life that can never die

A righteousness that can never be tarnished

A peace that can never be understood

A rest that can never be disturbed

A joy that can never be diminished

A hope that can never be disappointed

A glory that can never be clouded

A light that can never be darkened

A purity that can never be defiled

A beauty that can never be marred

A wisdom that can never be baffled

Resources that can never be exhausted.

Author Unknown

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If you are a member of the body at the Grace Community Church at Bigelow or follow us online, you know that we’ve just recently finished our exposition of Ephesians, Chapter 2. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, you can access those sermons here.

Ephesians has always been one of my favorite New Testament books. Even before I began our Sunday morning exposition, I seemed to frequently gravitate towards it. I’m not sure if it’s because of the prevalent theme of God’s grace, the powerful salvation language, or a combination of the two, but Ephesians has been and continues to be a powerful means of God’s sanctification in my life.

So with that said, as we think back to the second chapter of Ephesians, we’re reminded of many wonderful truths. Paul begins by expounding upon our former life apart from Christ; a life that was characterized by spiritual deadness, conformity to the patterns of the world ruled by satan, and ultimately, alienation from God Himself. He then contrasts that life of hopelesness with our new life found in Jesus Christ, which is brought about by the grace of God and is rooted in the love of God. His discourse continues on this path until reaching its intended destination and provides us with the ultimate contrast. No longer are we “children of wrath” (v. 3), but instead, because of Christ’s atoning work accomplished through the cross, we now have peace with God and with each other (v. 16).

 

Therefore, with those thoughts occupying our minds presently, I’d like to share with you the powerful words of John Stott:

 

It is marvellous to look back and trace the sequence of the apostle’s teaching. He paints on a large canvas with bold brush strokes. Once, he reminds his Gentile readers, you were alienated from God and from His people. But Christ died to reconcile you to both. So now you are no longer the aliens you were, but the kingdom over which God rules, the family which He loves and the temple in which He dwells . More simply still: you were alienated, you have been reconciled, and Christ has brought you home.

It would be hard to exaggerate the grandeur of this vision. The new society God has brought into being is nothing short of a new creation, a new human race, whose characteristic is no longer alienation, but reconciliation, no longer division and hostility but unity and peace. This new society God rules and loves and lives in.

That is the vision. But when we turn from the ideal portayed in Scripture to the concrete realities experienced in the church today, it is a very different and a very tragic story. For even in the church there is often alienation, disunity and discord. And Christians erect new barriers in place of the old which Christ has demolished, now a color bar, now racism, nationalism or tribalism, now personal animosities engendered by pride, prejudice, jealousy and the unforgiving spirit…

These things are doubly offensive. First, they are an offence to Jesus Christ. How dare we build walls of partition in the one and only human community in which He has destroyed them? Of course there are barriers of language and culture in the world outside… But deliberately to perpetuate these barriers in the church, and even to tolerate them without taking any active steps to overcome them in order to demonstrate the trans-cultural unity of God’s new society, is to set ourselves against the reconciling work of Christ and even to try to undo it.

What is offensive to Christ is offensive also, though in a different way, to the world. It hinders the world from believing in Jesus. God intends His people to be a visual model of the gospel, to demonstrate before people’s eyes the good news of reconciliation. But what is the good of gospel campaigns if they do not produce gospel churches? Is is simply impossible, with any shred of Christian integrity, to go on proclaiming that Jesus by His cross has abolished the old divisions and created a single new humanity of love, while at the same time we are contradicting our message by tolerating racial or social or others barriers within our church fellowship. I am not saying that a church must be perfect before it can preach the gospel, but I am saying that it cannot preach the gospel while acquiesching in its imperfections.”

 

Since there is no such thing as a perfect church, we should accept Stott’s words with an open ear and an honest heart. And if we do that, then the question we should be asking is: How do we bridge the gap? How can we make our way from the real to the ideal? How can we begin the healing process of reconciliation within our own church body? Here is Stott’s exhortation:

 

We need to get the failures of the church on our conscience, to feel the offence to Christ and the world which these failures are, to weep over the credibility gap between the church’s talk and the church’s walk, to repent of our readiness to excuse and even condone our failures, and to determine to do something about it. I wonder if anything is more urgent today, for the honor of Christ and for the spread of the gospel, than that the church should be, and should be seen to be, what by God’s purpose and Christ’s achievement it already is- a single new humanity, a model of human community, a family of reconciled brothers and sisters who love their Father and love each other, the evident dwelling place of God by His Spirit. Only then will the world believe in Christ as Peacemaker. Only then will God receive the glory due to His name.”

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I woke up early this morning with the following song on my mind. May the words serve as a fresh reminder of our position in Christ:

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The Book of Ephesians can be read as a manual for a soldier who would successfully please his Savior. We need to know four things to overcome in our warfare.

I. To overcome, we need to know God our Commander in Chief. (chs. 1 – 4)

A. See what God has done for us – v. 3

1) He chose us for Himself in eternity, v. 4

2) He justified us (i.e. declared us just), v. 4, Rom. 3:24

3) He adopted us as His own children by predestination, v. 5

4) He gave His son to die for our guilt, v. 6-7

5) He brought us under Christ’s headship – includes an inheritance, v. 10-11

6) He marked us as His through the Holy Spirit, v. 13-14

7) He has given us knowledge of battle and victory, v. 17-18

8 ) He has given us invincible power, v. 19-23

9) He brought us back to life, healed of our fatal disease, ch. 2:1-5

10) He has given us access to Him, v. 6-7, 18

11) He has cleared our record of rebellion and treason, v. 12 – 16, v. 8

12) He has made us members of his own household, v. 19

13) He has made us his dwelling, an implant which guarantees success, v. 22, ch. 3:16 – 17

B. See what God our Commander does in and through us, ch. 3 – 5:2

1) A general’s personal testimony. All of life is of God’s grace, ch. 3

2) The Commander enables us to daily “walk worthy” of our flag, ch. 4:1 – 5:2

a) He helps keep our strength under control [‘meek’], v. 2-5 – meek, lowly, patience, keep unity

b) He gives weapons and operators’ instructions, v. 7-8, 11-12

c) He gives discernment of the battle through the Word and Spirit, v. 13-23

d) He gives spiritual toughness over:

a] Lying, 25

b] Anger, 26

c] Stealing, 28

d] Blasphemy, 29

e] Bitterness, 31

[He gives us spiritual toughness so that even in the heat of the battle we might be like, and pleasing to Him, 4:32-5:2. Seeing what our Commander does for us, we realize that he is not a merciless tyrant. He gives everything to us to ensure that we succeed in the battle.]

Article by Howard Carlson

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