Tag Archive | faith

GO MAKE DISCIPLES

Make Disciples
What is your job as a Christian? If God gave you a job description for the Christian life, what would he put on it?

At the core of the Christian’s job is the task of discipleship. We read this clearly in our Lord’s pre-ascension words:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20)

 

The following article was previously published as and originally titled “Disciple-Making is Ordinary Christianity” by Erik Raymond

What does it mean to make disciples? A disciple is a learner and a follower of Jesus. When we make disciples we are working to see people who do not follow Jesus come to follow him (conversion) and then teaching them to faithfully follow Jesus in every area of their lives (maturity).

Many Christians hear this and file it away in a cabinet of idealism. Sure, I’d like to disciple people but I really can’t. They feel like discipleship is above their pay grade. Is this true? Is discipleship something that only pastors, elders and the “mature” do? Or is it for everyone?

Here is my main point: disciple-making is ordinary Christianity. It is fundamental to it. Like learning to count and say your alphabet in the natural realm, there is scarcely any part of the Christian life where discipleship does not touch. In so far as Christianity is a community faith, it is a disciple-making faith.

There may be a dozen different paradigms flying around when you hear discipleship. Some people insist on reading a book, meeting for coffee, eating a meal, working out, etc. All of these may aid the work of discipleship but they are not a prerequisite for or the necessary substance of it. Jesus never gave us a program for discipleship but he gave us his example and a broad, far-reaching command to do it. As a result, we have great freedom and a great burden for discipleship.

What does it look like? When Jesus commands us to make disciples he intends for us to live our lives in obedience to him in the presence of other people (believers and unbelievers). This intentional living seeks to show others the worth and the power of Christ. In short, we let people in to see how we live out the Christian faith.

LET ME GIVE YOU SOME EXAMPLES:

Discipleship happens when a guy wants to be married but doesn’t have a game-plan for how to go about it. He asks another brother for guidance and help. This brother takes him out for lunch and talks through some biblical and practical principles. He then commits to pray for him, to be available for questions, and to meet occasionally to talk about his progress.
Discipleship happens when a mom with two toddlers drops something off that she borrowed from another sister at church. During the exchange they get to talking and the young mom expresses her feelings of fatigue and failure to measure up to her perceived standards of motherhood. The other woman listens to her, reminds her of Scripture, prays with her, and then continues to come alongside of her for encouragement in the gospel.
Discipleship happens when a dad points out a scantily dressed lady and tells his teenage sons that what they see is not beauty. He explains to them what beauty is as it relates to God’s character and will. He continues to tell, show, and emphasize the true beauty that God delights in (1 Peter 3:3–4).
Discipleship happens when a brother notices another brother is running hard after his job and neglecting his family and ministry. He comes alongside of his brother to remind him of the true and lasting treasure, and the proper perspective on work.
Discipleship happens when a mom is at the park with her children. At one point the kids become unruly and she patiently, graciously but faithfully, disciplines her children. There are many watching eyes around her. Both the believing and unbelieving women are intrigued. Conversations begin and soon the fruit of the Spirit points to the matchless worth of Christ.
Discipleship happens when a home-school mom breaks away with free time only to go to the same coffee house hoping to make new friends and open doors for sharing the gospel.
Discipleship happens when a single woman senses another single woman’s discontentment in being single. She makes it a point to come alongside of her for encouragement in the goodness of the gospel.
These are just everyday, ordinary occurrences. In fact, I picked them from the ordinary lives of people in our church family. It is this ordinary work that pushes the church ahead toward maturity while protecting her from spiritual shipwreck.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Heb. 3:13–14)
Discipleship is the ordinary practice of believers. You could say that Christianity is more than discipleship, but it is not less. We are our brother’s keeper. It’s in the job description.

This article was previously published as and originally titled “Disciple-Making is Ordinary Christianity” by Erik Raymond

IS THERE ROOM FOR ANXIETY IN OUR LIVES?

“Letting go and letting God” isn’t always comfortable.

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It is more than likely that if you have ever taken the risk to share your anxiety within the Christian community, you have heard some counsel in the form of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 4:6. Paul says to the “holy people” at Philippi, “Do not be anxious about anything.” It’s a very powerful verse, a favourite of mine, and one that Christians have turned to time and time again when they experience anxiety. But what if it’s just not that simple?

I believe that when we cite this as the cure-all to one’s anxiety, we mean very well. In fact, many find comfort with the recitation of these six simple words. But in our attempts to help others and perhaps deflect our own anxiety and feelings of helplessness, we can inadvertently communicate the wrong message.

This article was taken from the book “The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?” by Rhett Smith

Rhett Smith says; often in my counselling practice, a Christian will come in to tell me they have tried to follow the “biblical counsel” of others to not be anxious, but their anxiety doesn’t quite seem to dissipate.

“Is something wrong with me? Am I a bad Christian?” they desperately ask me. “No, nothing is wrong with you,” I tell them. “What if God is using your anxiety to speak to you? What might God be saying to you?”

When we discourage others from safely expressing their anxiety, then we are essentially saying to them that anxiety is a bad emotion and that it is something to be done away with. It communicates to them that perhaps something is wrong with their Christian faith, and they begin to internalize the message, “I’m a Christian. I’m not supposed to be anxious.”

ANXIETY RE-IMAGINED
Kierkegaard referred to anxiety as our best teacher because of its ability to keep us in a struggle that strives for a solution, rather than opting to forfeit the struggle and slide into a possible depression. It would be nice if our lives and our Christian faith did not involve any struggle. But to believe that—and to perpetuate the belief to others that somehow the struggle with anxiety is un-Christian—is a mistake.

We are not the first people to struggle with anxiety and the emotions that surround it. In fact, as Christians, we come from a long line of people who have struggled with anxiety and have gone into hiding, putting on masks, in the process becoming less of who God created them to be. In the opening pages of Scripture we see that when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit from the tree of knowledge, both of their eyes were opened. In that moment, their instinct was to fight or flee, which is what most of us do when we are faced with anxiety. In their anxiety, Adam and Eve chose to blame each other, flee from the scene, hide and cover themselves up. I can only imagine the anxiety that the two of them must have felt as they hid from the Lord, waiting to be found out. Every sound coming from the Lord as He made His way toward them must have filled them with a growing sense of dread. As Scripture records: Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:7-10)

When faced with anxiety, we feel exposed, naked and vulnerable. Hiding and covering up is typically how we respond when we feel those things.

God has not only created us, but He has created us as free beings, and in our freedom we are given possibility and choice. I would like for you, for a moment, to imagine God freely calling you toward His good purposes. And as you journey in that direction, you may find yourself caught between the present and the future. That in-between place of the present and the future can create all kinds of anxiety because of the freedom of choice God has given us in our life. Perhaps we are anxious because the experiences of our past have shaped us in such a way that we dread making a free and deliberate choice. Or perhaps the mere possibility of making a wrong choice has left you feeling anxious.

Anxiety is, therefore, both the cost and gift of our identity as free creatures in relationship to God. We have choices. Without freedom, and the anxiety it entails, we are just slaves—yearning for safety and security and grumbling at God rather than living the anxious journey through the wilderness toward freedom.

IT’S TIME TO GET UNSTUCK
Maybe during your life journey, you feel as if the plans and purposes that God has for your life are not congruent with the life you are leading. And no matter how many times someone quotes to you Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”), you just don’t feel at peace in your heart. What many people forget to tell you is that in verse 10 of that same chapter, the Lord says that Israel will go through 70 years of exile and slavery in Babylon. Talk about anxiety! But God would use their time of trouble to draw Israel closer to Him. It was during that time of exile that God continually reminded His people that He was their God and that when they sought Him with all their heart, He would listen and deliver them out of captivity.

Anxiety beckons us to not allow our lives to get stuck in a rut. If God gives us freedom and allows possibility, then just maybe God has hardwired anxiety into us as part of those choices. Perhaps anxiety is a paradoxical feeling offered up to us as a gift that propels us to seek after Him and to continually grow in the process.

Perhaps anxiety is an act of grace because it encourages us to face our fears so that we can then choose to freely follow God where He is calling us.

This article was taken from the book “The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?” by Rhett Smith

THE PRACTICE OF STILLNESS

 

Person Sitting Quietly on the Edge of a Dock - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/epicurean, Image #7706240

The Practice of Stillness by Michael Hyatt was first published here (michaelhyatt.com)
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ccording to the popular StrengthsFinder assessment, my top strength is “Achiever.” The report that summarized my test results says,

People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.”

This strength has served me well, but it also has a dark side.

It means I have a difficult time turning off my mind and just being still. I seem to be more of a human doing than a human being.

Recently, my wife Gail recommended that I read The Joy Diet by Martha Beck. She said, “You won’t agree with everything in this book, but I think it will really challenge you—especially the first chapter.”

Intrigued, I decided to read the book on my recent vacation.

The first chapter is entitled, “Nothing.” In summarizing the chapter, Beck says, “to begin the Joy Diet, you must do nothing for at least fifteen minutes a day.”

I was so challenged by this chapter, that I haven’t gotten beyond it. I have now read it four times. I have also practiced this discipline for twenty-two days in a row.

Honestly, this has been one of the most transformational things I have ever done.

What Is Stillness?

Beck’s premise is that “doing nothing is the most productive activity you will ever undertake.” By doing nothing, she means literally doing nothing.

  • This is not prayer (at least not in the sense of talking to God)
  • It is not problem-solving.
  • It is not planning.

Doing nothing is being still, quieting your mind (and the cacophony of voices), and simply being.

All the ancient wisdom literature points to the importance of this practice. Psalm 46:10 is representative: “Be still and know that I am God.”

This is tremendously difficult in our media rich, always-on, over-communicated society. Noise crowds into every empty space, leaving us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.

Mother Teresa expressed it this way,

We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… .We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Abba Poeman, one of the ancient desert fathers, taught his disciples, “If you are silent, you will have peace wherever you live.”

Why You Need Stillness

I doubt you need convinced that you need some measure of what I am describing in your life. As I have shared about this topic with others, they inevitably say, “Oh, I so need that in my life! How do I start?”

Nevertheless, here are three of my own reasons for practicing the discipline of stillness:

  1. I want to maintain perspective. If I don’t make time to be still, then I find myself in reactive mode—influenced by hundreds of little voices with big demands.
  2. I want to stay connected to my true self. I don’t want to get confused, thinking that I am the image I present to the world. They are related, of course, but I want to live from the inside out.
  3. I want more internal margin in my life. While I have been pursing external margin in my calendar and finances, I also want internal margin—more room to notice what matters most and be thankful for it.

How to Practice Stillness

This is not something I have enough experience with to write. In fact, I feel pretentious for even attempting it.

But perhaps that is the value I can add to the conversation. I am not so experienced that I have forgotten what it is like to be a beginner.

So in that spirit, let me offer a few suggestions for how you can practice stillness in your own journey and reclaim some interior margin.

  1. Schedule a time. For me, I schedule stillness first thing in the morning. It has become so precious to me, that I won’t want to start the day without it. I practice this first—before prayer, before Bible reading, before journaling, and before exercise.
  2. Find a place. When I was on vacation, I sat on the dock by the lake. This was ideal. But it is not my real world. Now I simply go into my study and shut the door. The main thing is to find a place where you won’t be interrupted.
  3. Set a timer. I am following Beck’s admonition to set aside fifteen minutes a day. In my limited experience this seems about right. It is amazing how my perception of this time changes from day to day. Sometimes it seems like forever. Other times, it goes by very quickly. I use the timer on my iPhone.
  4. Relax your body. I simply sit in a soft chair with my eyes closed. I then systematically relax my body and get quiet. Beck says that if you can’t sit still, then engage in any mindless physical activity, like rocking in a chair or watching some natural motion like fire or running water. I also play a recording I have of the ocean.
  5. Quiet your mind. This is the biggest challenge for me. Just when I get still, I have some random thought or a whole flurry of thoughts. But I am getting better. Beck offers several techniques for practicing “nonjudgmental observation,” a discipline that keeps your allotted time from being hijacked by an overly-active mind.
  6. Be present. Don’t be regretting or celebrating the past. Don’t be worrying or dreaming about the future. Instead, collect your thoughts and be present—in this moment. It is the most important time you have. In fact, it is the only time you have.
  7. Learn to return. This has been the most helpful component. In involves recalling a “place of peace,” where you had a particularly vivid experience of peace and stillness. For me, I go back to a time I stood on the balcony of a monastery in Greece, looking out on the Aegean Sea. I wrote about it here.

Perhaps the most important thing is just to start. It’s easy to blow the discipline of stillness off as something you don’t have time for. Don’t. The busier you are the more important it is.

You need this in your life more than you know. Even if you can only set aside five minutes a day, do it. And if you miss a day or two, don’t beat yourself up. Just start again.

Questions: Have you ever practiced stillness? If so, what was your experience like? If not, what is keeping you from starting? You can leave a comment below.

HOW TAKING A DAY OFF CHANGED OUR LIVES

How Taking a Day Off Changed Our Lives (3DM Stories)Today’s story is from Tim and Sara Harvey, whose life was transformed when they decided to take a day off once a week. They recently moved from Indiana to California, and this is Tim’s reflection on the journey.

Originally Posted by – August 25, 2014

 

It all started with taking a day off

A few years ago we found ourselves struggling along with the needs of a busy family and the relentless pace of life. Weeks sped by and despite feeling like many of the things we gave our time to were meaningful, it didn’t feel like the net result was terribly valuable and we were often very, very tired.

Granted, three kids under the age of 5 will do that to you on its own ;) But it was more than that. Our life wasn’t sustainable and I wouldn’t wish our life’s pace on anyone else.

Despite their own busy schedules, we noticed that our dear friends the Sternkes and the folks they spent time with didn’t have the harried look in their eyes that we did. Rather than try to figure out our own way of doing life, they encouraged us to try imitating their lives (just as they had imitated others) and see what would happen. “Why not?” we thought.

So we started by trying to establish some rhythm to our life, first making time during the week to work, and taking time off. As we looked at our schedule, it was clear that the weekend was our only hope and we had enough commitments on Sunday that it was out.

So Saturday was going to be our day off. We’d do everything we could to relax and leave chores and responsibilities for another day.

Why is it so hard to rest?

Taking a day off seems like it would be an easy thing to do. But let me tell you, for a recovering workaholic like me, it… was… hard.

Some weeks were great, and some (maybe even most) were a struggle. We’d get to the end of the day and feel more worked up and anxious about all there was to do. I couldn’t even begin to figure out what would be restful.

I’d sometimes walk around the house (wander, really) and see all that needed to be done. Our friends were so patient and encouraged us to come along with them as they lived life. There are people you hang out with, but this was different. They really invited us to experience what life was like for them at a much deeper level.

It’s a pretty powerful and scary thing (on both sides) to have someone invite you into their life. Not just the “I just vacuumed and picked up and put my happy face on and told the kids they better not mess up” life. The nitty-gritty, real, messy, dirty, sometimes angry, joyful, legit life.

So we started hanging out with these guys on their day off just to see how it worked, because we couldn’t figure even that much out on our own. ;) We found that they did adventures together, spent time alone, and did whatever seemed to strike their fancy.

Dad would play video games with the kids and sometimes the kids’ crazy requests were met with, “Sure! Let’s try that!” Sara and I slowly began to get the picture and found our footing. Our days off began to really ready us for the week and left us much-needed time to ponder life and consider what was most valuable to invest in.

Predictable patterns for life

Our season of life living down the road from these guys (we actually moved to be closer to them) led to numerous patterns in our life that we’ll probably never give up. The rhythm of work and rest now permeates our week, our year, our seasons, and more recently we’ve even found a solid way to see that in each day (hint…we generally stop doing anything productive after the kids go to bed).

As we did life with our friends, it wasn’t just our two families. We grew extraordinarily close with what became an extended family. We still had plenty of biological family in the area that we deeply loved and spent lots of time with. But in addition there were other families that helped us when we were down and were a crucial part of our kids’ lives.

When we started exploring the idea of moving to California, we just knew that our mission was to bring all that we learned and experienced to an area rife with overwork and isolated families. It was extraordinarily hard to leave and we knew it would be costly (on a variety of levels), but it was what we felt was right. Even more so, our community was with us every step of the way as we pondered whether this was the right direction. As all the doors opened up, we felt that it was meant to be.

All that time and investment paid off big time as we’ve settled into California this year.

When the going gets tough, stick to your rhythms

When we found ourselves in California, the thing that held us steady was our rhythms. When the going gets rough, fall back on what you know and stick with it. While there were times that felt pretty lonely and we wondered if we paid too high a price, our pattern of life kept us steady.

As the months went by, our first order of business was to begin seeking out and building our new extended family here. To really make an impact, especially in the area of lonely overworked families, we needed support and friends! (Our extended families in Indiana didn’t go away, but the orbit–which used to be measured in days–widened considerably to be once or twice a year.)

Our first apartment building in California proved a great place to start searching for an extended family. Because many of the families who lived there were transplants like us, they there were hungry for friends. We found people tremendously receptive and warm. We met some great folks who have been treasured friends this year.

One of our favorite activities has been Open Dinner, an accidentally great experiment from our days in Indiana. Every Wednesday over the summer, we’d set out a table with lunch meat and bread and invite anyone and everyone to stop by for dinner. People generally brought something to share and it was always a great time. We kept it lightweight and low-maintenance so that we never felt like it was a burden, even if no one came.

But most weeks, there were 2-3 other couples and plenty of kids. Eventually, some friends started to host and we moved around and everyone had the joy of sharing a meal and feeling included. When we met someone, rather than the usual “we should get together”, we had a concrete “Come join us for Open Dinner on Wednesday!” So fun.

Another rhythm is that we regularly have several families over for our Friday night Pizza and Movie Night, and have started sending out several couples (leaving a few behind with a bottle of wine and the kids) for date night. The off-weeks, we’ve been visiting a local nursing home to do game night. It’s been a blast and the kids are falling in love with the residents.

In fact, now the neighbors tend to stop by so much that we’ve instituted the “10-minute rule” we used to have in Indiana with our friends. The rule says that neighbors are welcome to drop by someone else’s house anytime (even if we’re in the middle of dishes, laundry, etc) and stay for up to 10 minutes without feeling like a bother. If you don’t get the invite to stay longer, you enjoy a few minutes of chit-chat and then carry on your way. It’s been a perfect way to open life up to others without feeling drained when you just need some time to yourself.

We’ve really learned a lot about what it means to cultivate an extended family on mission with Jesus, and the going hasn’t always been easy. But it doesn’t have to happen all at once.

For us it all started with one thing: taking a day off!

IS GOD WITH US?

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Sometimes I really don’t recall the specific details of how God has led my life or how the many aspects of my life came about to bring me to where I am today. Some of it is a blur and some of it is still a bit of a surprise to me, but what I do know is that God has gone and continues to go before me and I know that He is present with me.

I recently finished studying the names of God and the last name I looked at was Jehovah-Shammah ‘The Lord is Present’. I spent time looking at some verses throughout the Old Testament mostly to try to understand what God is communicating to us about Himself through this name.

In Exodus 13:20-22 the Israelites (God’s people) are wandering around the desert. During the day the Lord was before them in a pillar of cloud and at night He was a pillar of fire. God went beforeHis people. It was Him who was leading them. And He never left them.

Later on in Exodus 23:20-22 we see that God again goes before His people. As the Israelites fight their enemies it is God who actually defeats them. God fights for His people.

When Joshua fought against the city of Jericho God sent the captain of His host to fight with Joshua. God does not leave His people to fend for themselves. No, He fights with and for His people. (Joshua 5:13-15)

Again with Gideon we see that God fights forGideon and joins in battle with him.

As you follow the path God sets before you, He has already walked there. It may seem unknown to you, but God has already been there. 

When you feel helpless or overwhelmed, remember that God is fighting for you. He wants to see you succeed and His name glorified. He is the God with you, engaged in battle and bringing you forward. 

Part of this blog-post originally appeared on March 22, 2013 at ‘Be Strong and Take Heart’

OUR GOD IS ABLE

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Maybe you’re tired. Maybe you’re weary. Maybe you’re sad. Maybe you’re weak. Maybe you’re heartbroken. Maybe you’re lonely. Maybe you’ve lost hope. Maybe – maybe not. But you need to hear this anyway.

Here are two verses for you to consider. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

This article was originally written and posted by Jim Perdue

OUR GOD IS ABLE

Maybe – just maybe – you need to hear that. I’m guessing you’re just like every other person in the entire world. From time to time you need to be encouraged. From time to time you need to be reminded. Remember a few things about Almighty God.

1. Able to do. Only Christ can provide you the power that you need to live for Him. You can’t do it on your own. You don’t have the strength. We tend to think of the Christian life as only imitation – trying to be like Jesus. But the Bible says the Christian life is first incarnation – Christ in you. Think about it. The infinite power of God Almighty resides within you. Now that’s power!

2. Above all we ask. Look at that verse again. Do you see those words? “Exceedingly abundantly above all…” Do you get the point? God can do so much more than we ever imagine. What would you do for God if you knew you couldn’t fail? What vision has God placed on your heart? What is your greatest passion? God can do more than we ask or think. The problem is, we don’t ask or think.

3. According to the power. Look at the words “according to.” This means “in proportion to.” We are blessed in direct proportion to God’s ability. God’s ability is limitless. Therefore His blessings are limitless. This power works within us to accomplish His purpose for His glory. It’s the power that dwells in us through the Holy Spirit.

4. All for His glory. Now this is incredible. All that God does in us, through us, and for us brings Him glory. It is for our good. But more importantly, it is for His glory. “To all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Lastly – you need to hear this. God is able. He really is. You may think that you’re situation is too big for Him – it’s not. You may think you’re problem is too difficult for Him – it’s not. You may think you’re situation is different – it’s not. You may think it’s over – it’s not. God is able. Hear it, believe it, live it!

This article was originally written and posted by Jim Perdue

Please comment below. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

 

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

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Ephesians 1:1-14
Who do you think you are?
God says that you’re created and you’re an image bearer. You’re made to mirror Jesus. Therefore, your true identity is not yours to create. It’s given to you by God. The real question you need to know the answer to is, “Who does God say that I am?”
There are only two categories of human beings: those who are in Adam, and those who are in Christ. Are you in Adam or in Christ? In Ephesians 1, Paul says that if you are in Christ, you can be faithful, you are blessed, you were chosen and made blameless, you are forgiven, you can know the will of God, you are reconciled, you have an inheritance, you have hope, and you have the Holy Spirit.

In Adam or in Christ

The Bible speaks of identity as being in Adam or in Christ, so much so that the Bible speaks of believers being in Christ no less than 216 times. Just the Apostle Paul himself, in the thirteen letters of the New Testament that he writes, he talks about us being in Christ. He’ll use language like, “in him, in the Beloved, in Christ,” 216 times. Let me say this: anyone who tells you something 216 times, number one, it’s important, number two, they’re afraid you’re going to forget it.

Do you know how many times the New Testament says that a Christian is a Christian and uses the language of “Christian”? Three times. The Bible says that your identity is ‘a Christian’ three times, and that your identity is ‘in Christ’ 216 times. It’s one of the primary ways, if not the most common way, that God refers to a Christian.

Here’s the difference between being in Adam and being in Christ: at the cross of Jesus Christ, he traded places with us. He literally traded places with me. All of the death, all of the shame, all of the condemnation that I deserve went to Jesus. All of the forgiveness, all of the love, all of the grace that Jesus rightly has as the sinless Son of God comes to me. What that does is that changes our identity.

I want you to see this

If you are in Christ, you are in Christ’s position and Christ is in your position. He suffers and dies so that you might be blessed and live. Do you believe that God the Father loves the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you believe that he is kind toward him, and gracious toward him, that his ear is attuned toward him, that his affection is devoted to him? I have great news for you. If you are in Christ, you stand in the position of Christ. You are loved as Christ is loved, you are blessed as Christ is blessed, you are embraced and adored as Christ is embraced and adored. I want you to see this so that you’ll live from your identity in Christ, that you’ll realize that you’re free from religion and trying to perform for God. You’ll be free from shame and condemnation, because all of that is taken care of for you by Christ and is available to you in Christ.

 

AN OVERVIEW OF THE EPISTLE OF EPHESIANS

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EPHESIANS

WHO WROTE THE BOOK?

For a brief time at the end of his second missionary journey, and then for more than two years on his third missionary journey, Paul ministered to the church at Ephesus (Acts 18:18–21; 19:1–41). During his time in this city that housed the famous temple to the Greek goddess Artemis, Paul saw many converted to faith in Jesus Christ and many others who opposed his preaching in the synagogues and homes. One prominent silversmith, Demetrius, who made implements for the worship of Artemis, found his business suffering greatly because people were converting to Christianity. The ensuing near-riot led Paul to leave the city, but only after the apostle had done much to stabilize and grow the Christian community there.

Where are we?

Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians sometime in AD 60–61, around the same time he wrote Colossians and Philemon, as he sent all three letters by the hand of Tychicus, accompanied by Onesimus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7–9; Philemon 1:10–12). It was during this time that Paul sat in Rome undergoing his first Roman imprisonment (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1), making Ephesians one of the four epistles commonly known as the Prison Epistles. The others are Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.

Why is Ephesians so important?

Second Corinthians and Galatians abound with personal touches from Paul, either about his own life or that of the recipients. Ephesians, on the other hand, stands at the opposite end of the spectrum as one of Paul’s most formal letters. While Galatians offers instructions particularly important for those churches overrun with legalism, Ephesians deals with topics at the very core of what it means to be a Christian—both in faith and in practice—regardless of any particular problem in the community.

What’s the big idea?

Paul divided his letter to the Ephesians into two clear segments; applying the truths of the first makes possible the actions and lifestyle of the second. Paul spent the first three chapters of the letter discussing God’s creation of a holy community by His gift of grace in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The members of this community have been chosen by God through the work of Christ, adopted as sons and daughters of God, and brought near to the Father through faith in His Son. All people with this faith—Jews and Gentiles alike—were dead in their transgressions and sins but have been made alive because of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

While Paul was not responding to a particular theological or moral problem, he wanted to protect against future problems by encouraging the Ephesians to mature in their faith. So after laying out profound theological truths in the first half of the book, Paul made his purpose clear: he expected that this community of faith would walk in accordance with its heavenly calling (Ephesians 4:1). As a result of the theological realities Christians accept by their faith in God, several practices should follow in their relationships within the church, in the home, and in the world.

How do I apply this?

The book of Ephesians hits on a wide range of moral and ethical behaviours, designed to ensure believers are living up to our heavenly calling. As we continue in our faith from day to day, month to month, and year to year, the temptation to get comfortable will always exist. However, Paul presented the gift of God in Christ and the benefits we receive so clearly that we cannot help but ask ourselves if our lives reflect that reality as they should.

How have you grown in your Christian life since you came to faith in Jesus Christ? The latter half of Ephesians makes clear that spiritual growth occurs primarily in community with others, iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). Your Christian “walk” (in other words, your daily life) is to be characterized by unity, holiness, love, wisdom, and perseverance in spiritual warfare.

Maturity yields benefits in believers’ moral lives, but it extends far beyond that as well. Increased maturity benefits the community at large, leading us as Christians to present a more consistent witness to the working of God in our lives as well as protecting us from the harmful divisions and quarrels that have plagued so many communities throughout history.

 

Join us at Bethel Church in Lindsay ON. and follow along on our biblical voyage to and through Ephesus.

 

 

THE GOSPEL IS GOOD NEWS

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The definition of the word Gospel can be summed up as ‘the good news,’ referring to the message about Jesus. But what is so good about this good news?

First of all, know what ‘the good news’ is not. Even after giving their lives to Christ, many believe that they need to be good for God to bless them. They become influenced by incorrect teaching or people’s expectations on them and come to believe that if they make mistakes, God is not happy with them. That is not the Gospel we read about in the Bible. The good news is not: “God is unhappy with you!”

When you give your life to Jesus, your relationship with God becomes all about what Jesus has done—not what you have done or have failed to do. Romans 5:19 (NKJV) says “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” In other words, one man (Adam) sinned and made us sinners. Another man (Jesus) was perfectly obedient and made all who call Him their saviour righteous (in right standing with God). Adam broke the agreement mankind had with God. Jesus restores it when you give your life to Him.

Why is it such good news? Because we don’t have to earn our way to Heaven! Your good behaviour is not involved—only come to Jesus as you are and believe.

Your relationship with God is not an “in and out” experience. Some think that when you make a mistake, you are out of His good books and when you ask forgiveness or behave well, you are in. It’s not true.

In fact, when you try to earn God’s acceptance, Galatians 2:21 (NLT) says you “treat the grace of God as meaningless.” It also says “if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” After all, what was the point of Jesus’ sacrifice if you still need to earn God’s approval?

The good news doesn’t stop with Heaven. Isaiah 61:1-3 (NKJV) says “the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor…heal the brokenhearted…proclaim liberty to the captives…comfort all who mourn….To give them beauty for ashes….The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”

These verses tell us about the good news Jesus brings. If you feel broken, have lost hope and you can’t seem to trust again, Jesus can heal you everywhere you hurt. If you are held captive by addictions, He sets you free. If you struggle with your finances, He enables you to prosper. If you mourn, He comforts you. Even if you are mourning the loss of a dream—you do not have the marriage you had hoped for or you are filled with regret about your career—Jesus can replace your grief with joy!

There is more good news. The Bible contains thousands of promises God has made to mankind, but many in the Old Testament have ‘ifs’ attached: if you do this, God will do that. However, 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV) says “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” This verse tells us the ‘ifs’ have been removed…by Jesus! It does not say His promises are ours if we earn them. It’s not sometimes yes. It is YES.

When you really wrap your head around what Jesus has done, you begin to understand how good the good news really is. You come to know how amazing Jesus is and you fall in love with Him more than ever before!

THINK ON THESE THINGS

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You have the power to choose your focus in life. When a thought pops into your mind, you have a choice: you can choose to continue thinking about it or you can move your focus elsewhere.
You can choose to focus solely on things that you find in the natural world—thinking only of things that you can sense with your five senses. Romans 8:6 calls this type of thinking “sense and reason without the Holy Spirit.” When you have this focus, you make decisions based on two things: self-preservation and self-gratification.
There are consequences to having a mind that becomes solely set on making yourself happy. Romans 8:6 says that it results in “death,” not necessarily a physical death, but “all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter.”Although ironic, focusing on making yourself happy is the fastest trip to feeling depressed.
Your second choice is to set your thoughts on the things of the Spirit. This mindset involves having an eternal focus—caring about things that will last for eternity. It means that you also choose to care about what God cares about. A mind focused and set on the things of the Spirit is “life and [soul] peace”—meaning that you gain great mental and emotional peace. (Romans 8:6)
Setting your mind on the things of the Spirit is an incredibly powerful process. We become filled with God’s purposes, His love and the joy of helping others. A great sense of purpose rises up in us, growing in ways we never thought possible.
There is also a third type of mindset we can have: a mind that vacillates back and forth between natural, selfish purposes and God’s purposes. James 1:8 (AMP) calls this having “two minds.” It causes you to be “unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything” that you think, feel and decide. It is an awful way to live.
Set your mind on things that will bring peace and joy into your life.
To set your mind on the Spirit, set it on God’s Word. If you spend time reading the Bible and learning what it has to say, you can use its words to replace negative thoughts. For example, if a negative thought pops in your head: “No one cares about me,” you can choose to continue on this train of thought or you can immediately interrupt it, saying “God cares about me. The Bible says that He loves me with such careful thought that He even knows the number of hairs on my head.” (Matthew 10:30)
Choosing to think about God’s Word is much more powerful than merely replacing negative thoughts with positive ones because God’s Word is like seed. When you think about it, this analogy creates a beautiful picture. When you plant a small apple seed under the ground, it has the potential to grow into a tree that produces thousands of apples in its lifetime.
God’s Word is designed to hit you at your deepest level, at the very depths of your being, to cause beautiful things to grow in you. When planted in your mind, it changes your beliefs, creating a harvest of good things in your life. You do not merely replace a negative thought with a positive one; you replace a belief system which controls thousands of thoughts and actions in your life.
As you bring God’s Word into your soul by studying it, focusing on it and listening to the teaching about it, ask God to teach you. He will change belief systems that hold you back and will cause your life to become filled with passion, peace and strength.
Leave me your comments. Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and let’s utilize this social platform for a good discussion.