Church Invigorated. What if?

4 04 2020
An article in Christianity Today (see link at end) asks church leaders in Italy and Spain to share insights to help North American pastors meet the challenges of Covid-19. They make several important points, including,
>>take social distancing seriously, NOW.
>>reach out to all members for care
>>stop all meetings
>>equip believers to feed themselves from Word

The challenge comes to us from European ministers:

>>> How can the urgency of this season result in a greater level of effectiveness as disciples once the crisis abates?

As we come to the end of Ephesians chapter one, Paul’s prayer from a heavenly point of view strikes with force,

“[that you may know] what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His might power, which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph.1:19-20, emphasis mine).

Would you not agree that God must be extremely interested in how the Church handles the mighty power that has been invested in us, especially during these days of crisis?

We are living in a most extraordinary time, a time to beg God to display His power.

The Church has a chance to change and emerge with spiritual force for the good of humanity. What part will you, and I, play in that change?

As I reflect again on Ephesians, I am more convinced than ever that our obedience will be weak and temporary unless it is built on the character and provision of God.

I have sketched (below) the contour of the Ephesian letter. It resembles a cross-section of North America, with
>>the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges on the west (or left),
>>maintaining the heights to the Rockies,
>>then giving way to the great plains of the Midwest,
>>with a final ascent at the Appalachians.

The high mountains are the great truths of God, things we must believe (orthodoxy = right belief). Note the great themes we will discover in coming days:
>>the power of Christ
>>Grace in salvation
>>One body unveiled

The great plains picture how we walk out our faith (orthopraxis = right practice), through,
>>Body ministry
>>New relationships (marriage, parenting, work)
>>Soul armor

I encourage you to read straight through Ephesians once again.
Note the contours which you observe.
Let’s pay attention to the ways we can walk worthy of our calling.
What is God beginning to stir in your heart?

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Here is the link to the CT article I referenced.




Behold the Grandeur of God

27 03 2020

In central Oregon there are “three sisters” — a trio of mountain peaks clustered together in majestic display. When the apostle Paul opens his letter to the Ephesian believers, his inspired words form a grand hymn with three stanzas which lead us into praise of the Tri-une God.

Stanza one (1:3-6) pays tribute to God the Father, “who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

Stanza two (1:7-12) highlights God the Son, in whom “we have redemption.”

Stanza three (1:13-14) honors the Holy Spirit, “who is the guarantee of our inheritance.”

All three stanzas peak with a similar doxology: “to the praise of His glory” (1:6,12, 14)!

This praise hymn establishes the elevated height of the power and goodness of God, a three-peak Everest of the glory of Father, Son, and Spirit.


For every truth there is a counter-truth. As we study Ephesians, we want to expose false beliefs which seek to erode God’s truths. Considering today’s passage,

  • it would be false to think that God is not powerful, good, or worthy of all praise.
  • It would be false to believe that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have not lavished us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Covid-19 has not knocked God down from the height of His glory. I do not believe He is punishing humanity with this virus. Rather, our redemptive, loving God is now beckoning all of us to bow in a new, deeper way before His grandeur, and humbly look up and see His face.
 
Let this be our song as we behold the grandeur of God:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps. 1221:1).


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Reserved in Heaven

27 03 2020

Prior to the news that Covid-19 was quickly becoming a global threat, I had begun a fresh look at the Apostle Paul’s letter to believers who gathered in the bustling, idolatrous city of Ephesus.

In recent weeks, the anxiety level of humanity has risen dramatically, and the future is uncertain. As I am observing the “shelter in place” order of our California governor, my soul is encouraged by the unchanging truths written for us in Ephesians. I wonder if we might benefit from considering some of these verses together in coming days.

Writing from a prison cell, the Apostle Paul tells of the limitless greatness of the life we can have in Christ. Confined and deprived on earth, he speaks of heavenly wealth and happiness: 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph.1:3).

This is the first of six references in Ephesians in which Paul mentions the heavenly realms (can you find the other five?). When life on earth is in chaos, the heavens are established as God’s domain. Beyond reach of disease, corruption, and theft, the lavish gifts of God to the believer are safely reserved in heaven.

Within the heavenlies (or “heavenly places”), these blessings are “in Christ,” protected by the power of His name and authority. This is most important, because Christ has been raised above every authority which operates in the heavenly realms (1:20-22).

Today, let’s turn our focus on all that cannot be tainted or threatened by earthly disasters. God has placed all that truly matters into safe keeping for all eternity.

Perhaps over recent days your focus has slipped toward fear or anger. It is extremely difficult to adapt to loss of control and freedom!

But would you join me in re-framing our circumstances and putting Christ back in the center of the frame? Let’s take a hold of His steady hand and walk together today.

You are loved,

        Robert

Consider praying this simple truth throughout today: 

I have every spiritual blessing,
reserved in heaven for me,
safe in Christ Jesus.
Praise be to God!