Praying for the Church

19 09 2011

Just a reminder, you can interact with this lesson on revmkg.wordpress.com or on the Ebenezer Presbyterian Church Facebook page.  I would love to hear your insights and questions this week.

How often do you pray for your church?  What about the church down the street?  On the other side of town?  In today’s passage the Apostle is writing to the believers in Ephesus, a young church led by a young minister.  He details his prayer for these believers, also providing a tremendous description of God’s empowering involvement in the believer’s life.

READ:  EPHESIANS 1:15-23

 THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER

We often rejoice when someone comes to faith.  We celebrate those who have committed their lives to Christ—newborn believers, fresh in faith and their walk with God.  There is something beautiful about their shining eyes, hopefulness, and desire to serve God and God’s people.  So it was with the Paul, as he heard about the Ephesians.

 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  Ephesians 1:15,16.

How long do we pray for and rejoice with young Christians?  The day they commit themselves to faith?  Perhaps for a week or two?  The prayer before us here shows us, first of all, when we should pray—always!  “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (v 17).  In another epistle we are told to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).   Unfortunately, our prayers are often consumed with our own needs and hopes, with only passing mention of others.  Furthermore, when we do pray for others, often those requests are for physical rather than spiritual needs.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:

1.  Besides your own family members, is there anyone for whom you continue to pray and give thanks, having heard of their faith in God?  Is there anyone for whom you continue to pray as he or she moves through the stages of spiritual growth?

2.   In times of tragedy and crisis, how can we model Paul’s example by giving thanks for those showing love for all God’s people, i.e., caregivers, first responders, etc., attending to those who are in need?  What should those prayers include?

3.  It is too easy to watch someone commit his or her life to Christ and then walk away, forgetting about them during the discipleship process, forgetting to pray for strength and hope and continued faith.  Our responsibility in the Body of Christ is to pray for all of God’s people, to pray continually, not just for their bodies, but especially for their spiritual needs. How can we change our prayer times to include this important facet of prayer?

PAUL’S REQUESTS FOR THE EPHESIANS

Paul’s prayer list, then, gives us a pattern of praying for spiritual fitness and vigor when praying for the church.  Let’s look at these individually.

1.   The Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better (v.17)—Paul prayed, always, for the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.  No matter what your denomination, every believer needs ever greater fullness of the Spirit.  Although we receive the Holy Spirit as a sign and seal (v. 1:13), Jesus also said he would send the Spirit as a guide, a Comforter, for us (John 14).  As we open our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s presence in our lives, we are given increasing “wisdom and revelation.”  We can study commentaries, read books about
the Bible, etc., but without the wisdom and revelation that comes through the Holy Spirit, it is only information.

Any relationship without deepening knowledge will stagnate; it is only continue to learn about one another more deeply that the relationship becomes stronger.  So also with faith:  It is not enough to just “know God” in salvation.  We need to continue to seek more of God as we grow in faith.  That your eyes may be enlightened in order that you may know . . .   Paul prays that the believers’ eyes might be opened by the Spirit.  We seek revelation, not the kind that “puffs up” but the kind that reminds us how awesome is our God.

2.    The hope to which he has called you and the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people.  American Christianity, to some degree, has become a self-referring process.  We pray for more wisdom, for more love, for more of the Spirit, but often, our prayers stop right there.  Once we receive these things, we are content.  Know this:  No gift of God is meant to stop with the initial receiver.  As the churches received letters of instruction from the apostles, those letters were then passed on to other churches for their edification and growth.  In the same manner, as we receive from God, we are to share those gifts, those revelations with others.

The hope of our calling?  Perfection in the likeness of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29; I John 3:1-2).  Becoming like Christ means  much more than just me.  It means that I will speak like Christ, share
like Christ, love like Christ.  Paul prays that we will know that hope, becoming like Christ in all things so that . . .

You may know the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people (v. 18b).  It is God’s will that we not only see spiritual growth in our own lives, but also in those around us, in all of God’s
people.  Paul prays that you and I might have the spiritual vision to pray, as he prays, and experience the joy of seeing that same awesome growth and power in those around us.

3.  His incomparably great power for us who believe.  Do you ever feel like living the spiritual life is hard, that it is almost impossible to make the right choices, to “walk the walk”?  Sometimes
we shrink back from this calling because we are concerned with how people will see us if we fall, if we fail.  Once again, we have our eyes on ourselves.  Every follower has had this problem, including Paul, which is why he prays for us to receive God’s power, because God has placed all things (including pride) under Christ, who is our head and our fullness (v. 22,23).

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.   What are the three ways Paul describes this power from God?  How does that relate to our spiritual lives today?  What problems are you experiencing today that need to be put under the power of God?

2.  Do you feel hopeful about the calling to be Christ like, or does that frighten you?  Is the calling to serve and know God a positive thing or something that you would rather avoid? 

As the song says, “We are called to be God’s people.”  Not only that, we are called to make disciples.  Paul prays for our equipping, and then we are called to be a part of equipping those who come after.  How will you pray?

Blessings,
Mary Kay Glunt
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 393, Greenfield, MO 65661
revmkg@sbcglobal.net





Blessings, from God’s Perspective–Ephesians 1:1-14

16 09 2011

Some exciting changes are happening in the weekly Ebenezer article!  Beginning this week the majority of the article will be part of our Adult Christian Education program.  The article will,  therefore, be interactive, with questions and readings for you.  It will also appear on here on my blog and on Ebenezer’s Facebook page, so you can tell your friends and family about it!  You can post questions and/or comments here, and, even if you are not on Facebook, you can still view the articles there; you just will not be able to post without signing in.   Each week, you can interact with the lesson as above or by sending me questions and/or comments via e-mail (revmkg@sbcglobal.net), posting them on Ebenezer Presbyterian’s Facebook page (just search for Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Greenfield MO and click on the Facebook link)Of course, mail is acceptable, as well!

Starting Sunday, September 18, our Christian education hour will resume at 9:30 a.m. with a full-family emphasis.  The lesson posted in the Vedette and on Facebook will provide discussion for the adults present, and there will be lessons and activities for the kids, as well!  If you have been wanting to visit us, but wanted something more for your kids, now is the time to come.  We’ll be
waiting for you!

For this quarter we will be studying from the letter to the Ephesians.  Let’s get started!

Read:  Ephesians 1:1-14  (read it here at BibleGateway–http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+1:1-14)

You have all probably enjoyed the old hymn Count Your Blessings at least once in your life.  And to start this week, I’d like to ask you to take a few minutes to count your blessings.  That’s right, take out a pen and paper and just make a list of the top blessings in your life.  What are the things that you attribute as blessings from God?  Just take a minute.  I’ll wait!

No doubt your list looks a lot like mine:  family, home, children, maybe Jesus and salvation, church, friends, and on, listing things that are truly blessings to our lives.  Most likely, none of us has
listed anything negative on that list.  For example, did anyone list an accident, or an illness?  Did you list some trauma that occurred in your life or something that made you stop and think and reevaluate what you have going on?  In the first part of our study today, Paul talks about Spiritual blessings from God, “who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

When we consider spiritual blessings, we are at first tempted to think of “spiritual” things, like prayer, worship, meditation, the Word of God, etc.  While these are all spiritual blessings, this line of thinking unnecessarily divides who we are into distinct pieces, the physical versus the spiritual, and separates the concept of blessings into those that feed our earthly selves and those that minister to our spirits.   Paul, however, in this passage makes no such division.   Who we are, how we live, and whom we worship are all a part of the people God has called us to be.

V.4 :  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Jesus).

This verse says that God chose us before we were even born, before the world was created.  Many times we worry about whether someone will accept us or like us, whether we have the right clothes, the right look, etc.  But God chose us before any of that even existed.

Question:  What does it mean to you to be “chosen”?

Question:  How does it make you feel to know that no matter how you look, what you have, or where you come from, you were still chosen by God?

V. 7:  In him (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins . . . with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.

So, in God’s ultimate vision and wisdom Jesus was sent to earth, and by His sacrifice, we receive these blessings from God’s hand.  It doesn’t stop there, however.  Look at verses 11-12.  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, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

Paul ties here together all the things in our lives that happen, the “spiritual” blessings and the physical turmoil, the good and the bad, the welcome and the unwelcome.  As Paul states in Romans 8:28:  We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

If God has called us to be adopted as children without respect to our station in life, background, looks financial status, etc., and He has (see v. 13), then we have this promise that everything in our
lives—whether seemingly good or bad—is a blessing, as it works God’s purposes in our lives, even when we do not understand what God might be thinking!

Having just commemorated the ten-year anniversary of the attacks on 9-11, I tried to think about how such an event could be considered a blessing.  With so much suffering and loss, how could we look to it as a blessing to our country or to the individuals affected.  But as I heard many of the survivors and family members speak, I realized that many of them had done just that.  They had taken the tragedy and used it to find new and deeper meaning in their lives.  They had mourned their lost loved ones, their jobs, and even their lifestyles, but then moved forward to find a new purpose, for some a purpose that had not existed before the event.

You have been chosen to be a part of God’s family.  It doesn’t happen just because God said so, however.  Adoption occurs when you turn to Christ and accept the payment He made on your behalf though his own sacrifice on the Cross.  Then you will share in the redemption by his blood.  Once you are in the family, know this:  God is working in your life to make you, as Paul states, to the praise of his glory.  And, being that good Parent He is, God will use all means of blessings to bring you to maturity in that relationship.

ASSIGNMENT:

Take some time to slowly read Ephesians 1:1-14 again, stopping to contemplate Paul’s words.

Look again at your “blessings” list.  Having read this lesson, what other blessings might you add to the list, perhaps some seemingly negative things that have happened in your life?  Draw a line down the center of your paper and to the right of each of the blessings on your list, take a few minutes to record how that “blessing” has changed you for the better, how God has used it to make your life give glory to God.

See you Sunday!  Bring your notes with you!  Don’t forget, if you cannot attend Ebenezer but still want to be in the discussion, call, text, e-mail, write, or Facebook your comments and questions.  I’ll be waiting to hear from you.

Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
Greenfield, Missouri
revmkg@sbcglobal.net
417-844-0629

For more study, check out TextWeek’s list of resources for this passage:  http://www.textweek.com/pauline/eph1a.htm





Just How Am I Supposed to Do That?

5 09 2011

Just How Am I Supposed to Do That?

This past week’s epistle reading from the lectionary was Romans 12:9-21, in which Paul gives the Roman believers some guidelines for living in Christian community.  The passage provides some great material for preaching; however, it also reads kind of like a giant in my path, and I don’t have any smooth stones.  What I am saying is that Paul’s instruction, like Jesus’ instructions in the Sermon on the Mount, gives us an uphill climb toward living the Christian life.  If you were at Ebenezer on Sunday, don’t stop reading.  This isn’t a recap of what I talked about then, but rather an expansion on it.

We have probably all heard the popular origin of the word sincere, that is, without wax.  Something that was sine cera would have been made of marble.  Much as we might cover up imperfections with paint, some marble workers would cover up imperfections in the stone with wax.  Paul uses this illustrative phrase so his reader in Rome would understand when he directed them, “Love must be sincere.”  In other words, your love must be honest, without false coverings or statements, not wearing a mask of friendliness when underneath you are no friend at all.  The Message says it this way, “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.”  I am already behind the eight ball in this passage.  You see, deep within, I admit that I tend to be a little bit self-willed (some
might remove the “little bit”) in my interactions with others.  Grumbling, especially around the house, is one of my most avid activities.  So if I am to love from the center of who I am, without anything fake, I’m afraid I just might be falling behind before I even start.

Paul continues, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”  I think I can do that, that is, until I start singing along with the songs from my youth (which are now played over the loudspeakers in  grocery stores and pharmacies) and realize that some of the songs I loved promote quite a different way of life than that I now live, or aspire to live.  The songs are just fun, you may say, and you would be right.  But if I am to hate what is evil, will I not turn away from anything that might inspire to evil, including songs I used to love to sing with my friends?

Now comes the hard part:  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves (v. 10).   Paul is still talking about real love, honest love, the kind of love we read about in 1 Corinthians 13, the kind of love that stands tall, like a mountain before you, when you have no climbing gear.   Paul makes it really personal when he says in verse 14, Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  In other words, “practice playing second fiddle” (The Message).   Now I’m starting to sweat.

Dictionary.com, based on the Random House Dictionary, defines conceited as “an excessively favorable opinion of one’s own ability, importance, wit, etc.; imagination; fancy.”  It isn’t very hard, even for someone with very low self-esteem, to be conceited.  After all, even if I don’t consider myself very important, I still am offended when I am treated as such!  If I believe I am not good enough, am I not measuring myself with others and thinking I should be on the same level as they?   Paul seems to be telling us to just grin and bear it!

The New International Version calls this section “Love in Action,” and Paul continues with the following relationship admonitions:

  • Share with the Lord’s people.
  • Practice hospitality.
  • Bless those who persecute you—no cursing!
  • Live in harmony.
  • Don’t repay evil for evil.
  • Do everything you can to be at peace.
  • Feed your enemies.

Because of all of this, I ask again, how am I supposed to do this?  I’m pretty good at relationships, but not that good!  How can I show this “love in action” without making myself crazy in the process?  First of all, I need to remember that I am not perfect (that “do not be conceited” thing).  I will not ever be perfect.  Although I may strive to do so, I will not ever make the right choice every single time.  I will make mistakes.  Only Jesus was perfect!  Just as you are to treat your enemies and brothers and sisters in Christ with hospitality and grace, give yourself the benefit of recovering from missteps.

Second, I believe it is imperative that we approach “Love in Action” knowing that we are not alone.  Paul says earlier, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).  You are not saved by your good behavior and good deeds; that would be “of yourselves.”  You are saved by grace, forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Christ, and it is that same grace that helps us love one another.

Finally, it is imperative that I rely on the Holy Spirit’s power and presence in my life to enable me to follow through with “Love in Action.”   In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26)

I want to be perfect, but I know that I will never be so.  I want to please God, but I know that, because of Christ, God is already pleased with me and forgives me when I fall short.  I want to love others, even my enemies, but I also know that living in love is a process that happens as I turn my self-will over to God’s will.   There is so much more to say, and so little space and time.  Maybe you could read through the book of Romans this week and find more guidance on living love in action.  I’d be interested in your ideas about how to become a “Love in Action” disciple.

Blessings,

Mary Kay Glunt
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
revmkg@sbcglobal.net
P.O. Box 393, Greenfield, MO 65661

PS:

Just a few notes this week:  On 9/11/11, Ebenezer will be celebrating its annual Homecoming/Back-to-School luncheon immediately after worship.  This year we are having a Fish Fry, with our
main fry cook (and fisherman) Pat Burns.  Everyone is invited, but we do need to know if you are coming by Monday, September 8th so we are sure we will have enough. You can e-mail me at revmkg@sbcglobal.net or call Anne Blackwell, 637-2649.

Members of Ebenezer, invite your friends and family members.  If you attended Ebenezer in the past, or if your parents attended, would you consider joining us?  During worship (at 11 a.m.) we  will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by celebrating our continuing freedom as Americans and, especially, in Christ.  After church, while lunch is being made, we will have games and prizes for the kids.  It will be great fun.

Second, our Sunday school program has been going through some transformative changes this past year, and we are still tweaking the concept.  We will begin meeting once again on Sunday, September 18th, at 9:30 a.m., with plans for full-family Christian education.  I hope to see you there.








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