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Greg Brothers is an Adventist pastor in Oregon.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

You are the present God gives to Himself

Remember when you were six-years-old, and you were going to buy a birthday present for your mother?

How you went to the store where she took you?

Picked out the gift she'd suggested?

Counted out the money she'd given to you?

And when you took it home and gave it to her . . . do you remember how pleased she was?

Of course you do -- and if you can remember that feeling, then you'll understand why Paul said the things he did in Ephesians 2:1-10.

You see, Paul is going to be talking about a lot of things that Christians really should be doing -- things such as love, and obedience, and not getting drunk or sleeping around.

You know -- rules. The kind of rules that make some people think that Christianity is nothing more than a long list of "thou shalt nots."

And yes, the kind of rules that make some Christians think that Christianity is nothing more than a long list of all the things we need to do in order for God to love us.

That's why Paul begins this section with a long list of all the things that God has done for us -- and by the time Paul is done, it's clear that God has already done pretty much everything that needs to be done.
  • God made us alive, raised us from the dead, and seated us with Christ in heavenly realms.
  • God saved us and created us.
  • And God even prepared in advance the good works that He asks us to do.

In short, God is like your mother on her birthday, back when you were six-years-old: God made it possible for you to do everything that you do for Him.

And if you're still wondering why you should do all the stuff God asks you to do (even if it doesn't earn us any brownie-points with God), then ask yourself another question:

Just why was your mother so pleased when you gave her that birthday present?

Pastor Greg

And remember: "All men are by Nature equal, but differ greatly in the sequel" -- Nathaniel Ames.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Use it or . . .

My computer is smarter than I deserve.

And no, that doesn't mean that it always does what I want it to do -- it's just that the computer knows how to do more than I want it to do!

Take e-mail, for instance. For years, I would laboriously type in every e-mail address for every person who was going to get a copy of that particular e-mail. Then I found out there was an easier way; all I had to do was set up a file that contained all those e-mail addresses (such as "Church Elders" or "family newsletter"), type in the name of that file, and the computer would take care of the rest.

Likewise, my computer knows how to add music to my PowerPoint programs. It can design webpages. And it could even let me while away the hours playing solitaire . . .

If I could only figure out how to use what's already there.

And that's what this week's lesson is all about. For in Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul prays that "the eyes of [our] heart may be enlightened in order that [we] may know:
  • the hope to which he has called [us],
  • the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
  • and his incomparably great power for us who believe."

Notice that all of these things belong to us now; we already have them (just as my computer already has the ability to do a lot of stuff that I never ask it to do).

But if my computer could do so much more than it is right now -- and if it already has the ability to do so much more than it is doing right now -- then maybe I need to spend more time with the manual?

Likewise, if God . . . well, I'll let you take it from there.

Pastor Greg

And remember: "Sin is the failure to grow" -- Gregory of Nyssa.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Everlasting Arms

It's late at night. You're on your way to Grandma's house. And you don't have to worry about a thing -- not drunks, not speedtraps, not cows that wander out onto the road -- because you're six-years-old, and your father is driving.

That's what Paul meant by "security" -- the feeling you get when you know that somebody who loves you is in charge of your life.

And that's why Paul uses such scary language in Ephesians 1:3-14 -- language that stresses the fact that God is running things (and we're not).

I mean, if you grew up with the idea that "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul," then it's a little worrisome to be told that your salvation is solely due to the fact that:
  • God chose us.
  • God predestined us.
  • God adopted us.
  • God included us.
  • And God marked us with His seal, i.e. the Holy Spirit.

But let's be honest: if you were Paul (and you became a Christian the way that Paul did), then you're going to have a pretty healthy appreciation for God's ability to make things happen.

And if your were writing to the church in Ephesus -- a church that was dealing with terrible opposition from the outside and horrible divisions on the inside -- then yes, you'd probably emphasize the idea that nothing surprises God, nothing flusters God, and nothing (but nothing!) can ruin His plans.

In short, you'd emphasize the same thing that Paul does in these verses; you'd emphasize the sovereignity of God.

And no, this doesn't mean that we don't have a say in what happens to us; in fact, Paul assumes our freedom of choice in the rest of this book.

But when it's getting late, and the road is dark, and you don't know what lies ahead . . .

That's when it's nice to know that somebody else is driving.

Pastor Greg

And remember: "We must believe in free will; we have no choice!" -- Saul Bellow.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Fragment of an early church epistle, recently discovered at Tel al-nutherwan

Dear Paul:

Thank you for your letter concerning your ideas for a “church plant” in Ephesus. While we value your enthusiasm, we do have some concerns regarding the wisdom of your approach.

First, it should be noted that Ephesus is a somewhat problematic location for evangelistic activity. Our surveys show that the “Temple of Diana” is extremely popular with all major segments of the local population; this clearly indicates that your work in Ephesus would meet with little success – and even outright hostility.

Then too, you have neglected one of the most important principles in church growth – that of “homogenous groups.” As you should know, people like to be with people like themselves; that is why we urge churches to target one specific group for outreach (such as blue-collar fans of Country Music, or upper-middle class married couples with children in college who own a second-home on the coast, eat out at least twice a week, and enjoy light jazz). Needless to say, your plans to reach “both Jew and Gentile, both Greek and barbarian, both slave and free” are commendable, but hopelessly unrealistic.

Finally, it’s clear that you’ve not yet made adequate plans for the continuing leadership needs of your “church plant.” As you should know, current research proves that long pastorates are best; churches do best when their pastors stay in place for a long time. If you want to start a church in Ephesus, in other words, then you really should plan on spending the rest of your life in nurturing the people there.

Included with this letter you’ll find a brochure, listing some of the seminars and workshops we offer on effective church growth. Please look it over – and if there’s any way we can help you in the future, don’t hesitate to call.

Sincerely yours

TK Enumclaw

Thaddeus K. Enumclaw, President
WEEDS: the World-wide Evangelistic Education & Development Service