Category: Ephesians


A Global Community

a-global-communityThis past Sunday was world communion Sunday where we celebrate Holy Communion in union with the church universal throughout the world. And every time I approach this wonderful celebration, I am humble by the Church, what it is, and what it is not.

So let us define what the church is. I grew up thinking the church was this building. In fact, that it was the building that was placed on the corner of Huffman and Pierce street in Rockford. That was the church. People would ask me where my church was and I could give them an address, somewhere to point them to.

Maybe for you too? When asked where the church is, do you respond with the exact location of your church building? Do you tell people where they can find you on Sunday morning? People have been conditioned over the years to respond like this. We feel the need to express the church in physical terms, in concrete terms, in buildings and facilities. But is that really the church?

Historically speaking, the Roman Catholic church roots the church in providing the sacraments as well as apostolic succession, linking the church back to the apostles, back to Peter. Matthew 16:18, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.’ The church began with Peter, and therefore must link back to him through this apostolic succession.

The protestant church looked at the church as the place where the pure preaching of the word was found and to the right administering of the sacraments. But John Wesley took it a bit further. When he thought of the church, he looked to Ephesians chapter 4.

For Wesley, the church is not a building, it is not a static structure. The church is not a building, it is not a sanctuary, not an old gymnasium, not even a place in nature. It is not an object. The church is the body of Christ. The church is those doing the work of Christ. The church is you. The church is me. That’s what the church is!

The church is also more than just those gathered in Lanark United Methodist Church on Sunday, it’s more than all of the United Methodist churches in this state, this country, even this world. The church is ALL people, all over this country and this world. The church is not defined by denominations. It is not defined by membership with one congregation or another. It is defined by the belief in Jesus Christ.

Thinking about the church, the body of Christ, it is described so well by the passage in Ephesians. We see that the church is not something that is solitary. Many people claim to be able to worship God in nature, alone. They feel most connected to God when in these places.

Now I don’t doubt that we can worship in solitude, in nature, the mountains, at the lake, because I have done it. I have had many times when I was able to be alone, whether it was fishing or just spending time in a boat, that I felt incredibly close to God. It is very possible.

But if this is the only way you worship, if you are not connected with a group of people, a body of believers, then you are disconnected from the body of Christ. We need the connection. God designed us that way.

John Wesley once said that “the church is the communal dimension of salvation.” We see this throughout scripture. We see it in the description of the church in Acts chapter 2:42-47. (Read Scripture)

Salvation is communal, it is all about community. Please know this, the gospel is a social religion, to turn it into a solitary one is to kill it. The love of God flows through each one of us, creating a community of believers who build each other up, care for each other, and love each other. We need each other, we need other brothers and sisters in Christ.

Which brings us back to our service this past Sunday as world communion Sunday. We celebrated with all of those brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world. We celebrated with believers from many different walks of life, different cultures, different nations, and different languages.

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Unity

unity-sermon-graphic-2015-1Ephesians chapter 4 focuses on unity within the body of Christ. Here is what verses 1-6 have to say; “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

What a beautiful picture this paints. Unity in the body of Christ, unity in the church, unity in our communities, even unity within the world. But we are a long way from this picture described here. We are divided among nations, races, classes, in crowds and out crowds, in-laws and outlaws, employed and unemployed, democrat, republican and independent, and so many other ways we divide ourselves.

I guess we can see how this is possible out in the world around us. The media, advertising, and our peers push for division, they push to have us constantly decide who belongs and who doesn’t. And you know what? It works. Everything plays on our emotions of wanting to belong, to have stuff we don’t need, and to be liked by all the “right” people. Why can’t we just be ourselves? Why can’t we be accepted for who we are? Why do we have to live under a different standard?

Regardless of what the world is telling you, I want to tell you today that you are accepted, just as you are. The creator of the universe calls out to you today and says; “I love you, just the way you are, not for who you should be, because none of us are as we should be.”

Now, if we live our lives with this knowledge of God’s love, we can show the world, we can witness to the world, how we can live within the bonds of peace and unity which God is asking in this passage from Ephesians. We can live in unity, peace, and love for all people.

This past Sunday in Lanark, we celebrated Old Settler Days. We, as a community, joined together for a weekend of celebration, food, games, events, and many others, ending with a community wide worship service. We gathered together, regardless of religion, denomination, faith history, or even belief. We witnessed to the community in Lanark, that we were unified in our mission to help those in need, to search out the lost, the lonely, the broken, and to bring the message of Jesus Christ to all who need to hear. Our offering that morning went to the Eastland Council of Churches HIT force, a group that helps those in our community with home improvements. Once again, fulfilling the mission of Jesus Christ to reach out to those in need. This is what it means to be the church, to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, and to participate in the kingdom right here on this earth. And we did this in a unified fashion, we stood united as the Church that Jesus Christ has called us to be.

This is what we are called to be in this passage of Ephesians, one body, one church, unified in one Lord, one faith, one baptism through one God who is in all and through all and over all. God was glorified in the worship service this past Sunday and I pray that all who attended witnessed the great love of God in the service of others which was spoken of and lived out through our actions. Glory to God. Amen.

The Armor of God

Ephesians Chapter 6. Our fight is not against flesh and blood. Those who do wrong to you, who hurt you or try to knock you down are not your enemy. How can this be? If someone is coming after me in this world, should I not consider him my enemy? He is trying to harm me. But according to Ephesians 6; 12, our enemy is hidden within the darkness of this world. He is in the spiritual forces of wickedness which can sometimes reside in us.

How do we win this fight? We must put on the armor of God as listed in this chapter. But mostly to pray is the spirit. Pray all the time. This will keep our minds off the things of wickedness and focused on God and the good things of this life.

Spiritual warfare, does this stuff exist? I believe so. I have had experiences with a more charismatic church and some of the things they would do, such as healing, speaking in tongues and fighting spiritual warfare with prayer. Some of the things I witnessed were pretty far out there for me as a United Methodist to grasp. While others seemed like a wonderful worship experience. Praying for those who are sick and hurt to rid them of the demons that were dwelling inside them was something that I could put my arms around. Jesus walked this earth healing people and driving our the demons that were causing their pain and illnesses. Why shouldn’t we do some of the same? If we focus our attention on God, He will make these things known to us.

However, if this is a little scary to you, just pray. Pray that the evil of this world will stay away from you. Pray that you will always walk in the light of Jesus and shine for all to see the glory of our Lord inside of you.

An Image of Love

Ephesians 5; 22-33. Oh boy, can this part of scripture can be tough to handle. Why don’t I leave the wives submitting to your husband part out for a while. I would like to focus more on how husbands are supposed to love their wives.

In verse 25 we are told to love our wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. How many of us can say that we have loved our wives this way? With the steady increase of divorced couples and broken homes, I would venture to say there are many of us who do not love our wives this way. This is a good example to follow. We should love our wives so much that we would lay our life down as a sacrifice to protect her. I know there are many times that I would like to have some of the bad things that happen to my wife come unto me so she may not have to experience the pain. Unfortunately, I can’t control what happens most of the time.

We must also loves out wives as we love our own bodies. We would not do harm to our own bodies, therefore we should not do harm to our wives. We take care of our bodies by feeding it, resting it, training it, etc. Should we not feed, train and allow our wives to rest as well? Try this for a while, make every effort to love your wife as you do your own body. Nourish her, feed her and help her to reach her fullest potential. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Live a Life of Love

Ephesians 5; 1-21

Live a life of love. As a father, I am always questioning my motives for things I am doing. Are they out of love? Or do they have another agenda behind them? I hope that I am making decisions based on the love I have for my family.

In these verses, Paul explains some of the things we can do to life a life of love. No immorality, impurity or greed of any kind. Also no obscenities, foolish talk or coarse joking. Boy, I can have a hard time with that last part. You have heard the saying “when in Rome?” It seems all to easy to fall into the trap of; “well, others are doing it.” Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t make it right! I know I’ve heard that from my mother a number of times, I’m sure we all have. However, the part of this verse that worries me in today’s age is about obscenities. So often I hear kids say things that I would never dream of. How has this become such a staple in our lives? I know there just words, but they are hurtful words. We have even invented some words that sound like bad ones just to make us feel better. I mean we didn’t say “that” four letter word, however, the meaning was still the same. Let us strive to eliminate these words from our vocabulary. I know it may be hard when you have been surrounded by them while growing up, but that is what our relationship with God can do. Lift it up in prayer and enlist some of your friends to help you. Sometimes you may do it out of habit and not even realize what it is you are saying. But your friends can help you when you start.

Life a life of purity. Life a life of love, as Christ loved us. It is well worth it! Besides, as you are raising children or living in front of them, who are they watching? Who do they want to be like? YOU. Make sure they get the good habits from you be displaying them everyday. That’s what I want for my kids, all of them, including those not related to me but who still look up to me and call me “daddy.” I love you all.

Living as Children of Light

“Don’t let your heart be hardened, don’t let your love grow cold. May it always stay so childlike, may it never grow to old.” Lyrics from an older Petra song. How do we live with a childlike love? How do we fight against our hearts being hardened by the ways of the world?

In the second half of Ephesians, chapter 4, Paul writes that the Gentiles have been separated from a life with God because their hearts have been hardened. They are not letting the love of Christ flow through them. When you do things with your hands over and over again, they become calloused. They generate hard pieces of skin. Two things happen when callouses form on your body.

When you generate this hard pieces of skin, you also loose the feeling you once had. The nerves that tell you how things feel are covered up and therefore do not get the whole sensation of the item you are touching. The callouses deprive you of complete living. The other thing that happens is those around you do not get the “softer” side of you. Have you ever shaken the hand of a construction laborer? Their hands are normally covered with callouses and therefore are very rough. Compare that to a doctors hand, they are needed to feel anything that may be wrong with their patients so they need all the sensation they can get to diagnose any problems.

Letting our hearts get hardened can happen in many different ways; the death of a loved one, the hurt feelings from people who have upset us and many others. How do we get rid of this and keep our hearts full of love? Forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. Expect nothing in return, just forgive. Don’t use course language or bitterness. Allow the love of God to flow from you and be compassionate. Say only what is beneficial to build up others.

Hard words and even harder actions to follow. Trust God to bring you through the times that you feel that you are falling prey to the plans the devil has for you. He will.

You are Called

Continuing through the book of Ephesians, I find myself looking at the first part of chapter 4. Unity in the body of Christ; we are all part of one body. We are all part of Christ. We just have different callings. Make no mistake about it, we are all called. We may not all be called to the same thing, in fact we are definitely not called to the same thing. We each have gifts that were given to us by the Holy Spirit and we all make up different parts of the body of Christ. It’s our task to determine what our gift is and live our life according to these gifts.

Paul urges us to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” So find your calling or gift and live your life using this gift to express God’s love and grace to others in this world. Show them the love of God so they may be able to accept the gift that so many have already received.

I pray that God continually reveals His plan for me. I also pray that His plan is made known in you. You and I are wonderfully made with gifts of the spirit to use for His sake. Open your eyes to the plans He has for you.

 

Servant of the Gospel?

In Ephesians 3: 7 Paul writes that he has become a servant of the Gospel. What does it mean to be a servant? Different from a slave, I believe a servant has the will to serve those around him whereas a slave is indebted to whom or what he is serving.

Being in debt makes us slaves to our money and sometimes to those around us who are supplying us with that money. But being a servant means that we give as we see fit to give. To our church, our family, our friends or whoever else we think we should help.

We can’t be enslaved to the gospel because it is a gift, freely given to us through the grace of God. Therefore we can only be servants of the gospel, freely giving our time, talents and gifts to help others understand what this gospel means for us and them.

Paul also calls himself “less than the least of all of God’s people.” Becoming a servant also means to put everyone else before yourself. Once you are able to accept this truth, you can truly begin serving.

Faith, Not Works

 

Ephesians 2: 8 & 9 says; For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

A gift from God, not something we can do. We have been given a gift from God. Grace has been given freely to all and we didn’t have to do anything to get it. This is against just about everything we are taught as we grow up. We are taught that if you work hard and do all of these things, you will be rewarded. We must excel in our jobs and school in order to get raises or good grades. If we want people to recognize us, we need to proudly publicize our accomplishments so people will see them and want to look up to us.

Grace is freely given, no works necessary! Nothing to fail at and nothing to scare us from doing anything. On the contrary, we start to “do” the works because we feel the need to thank God for the gift He has given. Have you ever been given a gift from someone that was so nice  you felt the urge to be extra nice to them? You wanted to make sure they understood just how appreciative of the gift you were. This is very similar. By grace, the gift from God, we are saved. We don’t have to do the works to get the gift, but we want to in order to show our appreciation for the gift.

So go, do the works, but not because you want to earn the gift. Do the works so God can see how thankful you are for His wonderful gift of grace.

Predestined?

 

Ephesians 1 talks a little about being “predestined.” I have thought about this before. I have days when I think we are predestined, and others when I don’t. I mean, God gave us free will to do as we choose. But on the other hand, He already knows what we are going to choose, hence, predestination. Ephesians 1:11 states; “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” Can God’s plan for us change? Or is everything already mapped out, even the plans we think are outside our own goals.

The problem with predestination is; if we have already been selected and chosen a path that we will travel, why even try? We are going there anyway, why put forth the effort? Because as good christian stewards of the faith, we must run the race with endurance and finish strong. That’s what God wants us to do. He doesn’t want us to just lie back there and accept everything that happens to us. He wants us to go where He leads, and to follow His will for our lives. We have many detours in our lives and changes in plans and dreams that we have for our lives. But until we decide to let it all go and let God lead us where he wants us to go, our lives will be filled with changes. Don;t get me wrong, everything happens in God’s time. The “big picture” is something we are not meant to see. Sometimes I think we get a glimpse of it, but I don’t think we will really understand until the day we are called home to be with our Savior.