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Are You Ready?

I was overwhelmed. And I was not ready. In college, I worked in a restaurant. Two years into it, the manager promoted me from cleaning tables to cooking. I grew to love it. There was a new sense of satisfaction with cooking. But I was still green. Very green. Only five days later, the night was late and we were short on help. I was by myself for the first time. Normally this wouldn’t happen for weeks or months. But I was eager. And the boss needed someone. The experience started easy. A few meals, some tasty steaks and chicken. Then, came the rush. Orders piled up. And I quickly was lost. The manager noticed. I was overwhelmed. And I was green. As he came around the corner, he simply, yet sternly said, “Marc, stand down.” As an officer releasing a soldier from guard duty. I sheepishly watched from the sidelines as the manager and his assistant cleaned up my mess. Embarrassment and frustration welled up in me. I was not ready.

The story came to mind recently. We were talking about John 15:26-16:15 at church recently. In chapter 16, Jesus tells his disciples, “ “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” Jesus was telling his disciples that he had more to tell them. But they weren’t ready for it yet. However, one day they would be. Just like in my failed cooking attempt.

A few days into cooking, I wasn’t ready. But in the years that followed, I would go through the same situation many times. And it was a breeze. The same is true in our spiritual lives. Each of us are called by God to grow in him. To read his Word. To go to him in prayer. But some understanding takes time. When I switched churches at 19 year old, I came across a doctrine that I didn’t understand. Originally, I pushed back against it. I said that it wasn’t really what Jesus taught. I said that it wasn’t how things work. But over time, I searched the scriptures. And the Scriptures confirmed it for me. Originally, I wasn’t ready. But Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. And the Holy Spirit taught me over time. John Newton once said, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am” Over time, each of us can grow. Each of us can learn. And each of us can follow Christ deeper.

Ghost – It is Better

Yesterday, we started learning about the Holy Spirit, also called the Holy Ghost. He glorifies God, empowers us, and leads us into all truth. Check out our look at John 15:26-16:15, for it is better that Jesus ascends to heaven because he has sent the Helper.

Friday Favorite – Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Forgotten God by Francis Chan

We’re diving into a teaching about the Holy Spirit starting on January 14th. Today’s Friday Favorite is the book that I’ve been using to prepare. It’s a book that will reignite your understanding the Holy Spirit and draw you closer to a deep connection with the Father.

“In Everything, Give Thanks”

As we look towards Thanksgiving, we tend to think back on this past year. The events that stood out to us. The events we celebrated. The events that drove us to tears. There’s a delightful woman here at Buffalo Prairie EPC who commonly gives thanks for the weather. She gives thanks for the warm sunshine of summer, the colors of the fall, and the beautiful snow of winter. In everything, she finds something to be thankful for. Unconsciously, I believe that there’s a decision embedded within the way that she views life. Anytime something happens, good or bad, we decide whether to react positively or negatively to it. When we get stuck on hold with customer service for an hour, do we get mad that we are there waiting, and waiting? Or, do we find a way to make the best of it? This is the difference that gratitude makes. And this is what the holiday of Thanksgiving is all about.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul is writing about what he is thankful for. He says, “ in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” The statement is pretty self explanatory, but the background behind it is fascinating. Paul had founded the church in Thessalonica. He started at the Jewish synagogue, then the house of Jason became an important meeting place for the church. As Paul started to gain momentum within this town, the Jews and officials started to take note of it. In Acts 17, you can see that the Jews started a riot in reaction to Paul. The rioters stormed to Jason’s house. When they couldn’t find Paul, they grabbed Jason instead. Then they took him off to the authorities. While Jason and the Jews were pre-occupied, Paul got out of town. Here, he is writing to this church that he had loved. This church that he had founded. Despite the rough ending, he reminded them to give thanks in everything. Give thanks when you get hauled off to the authorities. Give thanks when you have to sneak out of town. In everything, give thanks.

For us, this can mean that Paul is telling us to give thanks when we get home from a tiring day at work and find out that the kids have made a mess. Give thanks even when finances aren’t balancing. Give thanks whether it is raining, snowing, or the sun is shining outdoors. In all things, give thanks. Is that your attitude of gratitude today? Give thanks.

Friday Favorite – The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther

This week’s Friday Favorite is a (very) short book that tells about the life and impact of Martin Luther. Martin Luther was a man whose actions launched the Protestant Reformation when he supposedly nailed 95 thesis (or topics of discussion) for debate to the church door in Wittenberg. From this action, all of Europe, then all of the world had an awakening to the words of scripture and to God’s grace for his believers. Check it out!

F.A.I.T.H. 201 – Adoption Sermon

We continued looking at the Gospel at a deeper level yesterday. F stands for Fallen. A stands for Adoption. Believer have been brought into the family of God and live as his cherished children. Enjoy!

F.A.I.T.H. 201 – Adopted

Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12

Word of the Day – Adopted

There was a loud knock on the door followed by a shout from my sister, “Connie had her baby!” Connie is my aunt, my father’s sister. I was six years old when this happened. That night, she had their first child, named Seth. From that point, Scott and Connie had two more kids. So the Jackson Five lived, mostly happy, for many years. But then they felt called by God to not stop there. As Seth moved on to college and Abbie and Rebecca moved to high school, they signed up to be foster parents. They fostered 14 kids, and two of these, named London and Paris, were with them for almost 19 months. Ever since that stay, these two have been shuffled through multiple foster homes, never really settling. After these two, another two touched their hearts. They are named Lillie and Sammie. Connie and Scott were led by God to take yet another step of faith. On June 3rd 2014, they officially adopted them. And they became their own kids, a part of the family. The Jackson 5 became the Jackson 7. Did you know that one out of every 25 families in the US has an adopted child? You might even know a child who is adopted, without knowing that the child is adopted. Here’s a sad reality. 80%, 80% of those in the prison were in the foster care system at some point in their life. Connie looks back on their foster care and adoption process and says, “We had 14 different kids and each one touched our hearts… It’s so sad.  There is such a need for loving foster families.” There is such a need for kids, but really, for each of us, to have a place where we belong, to have a family that we call our own.

Ephesians 2:12 tells us, “That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens…and strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Today we’re continuing a look at our acronym for FAITH. Essentially, we’re learning about the Gospel. But it’s the Gospel at a deeper point, at a deeper level, than we’ve heard it before. F stands for fallen. Fallen is where we are without Christ. In a state of fallenness and sinfulness, we are aliens and strangers in this world. That’s probably how many of the foster children feel. They are separated from their parents. Then they feel accepted by loving foster parents, but then they are shuffled around. Again, and again, and again. But there’s hope. And in a way, it’s a hope that we have found as well. Because Paul doesn’t simply say that we are strangers or aliens. That feeling of being alone, missing out, or lost isn’t where our story ends. In Ephesians 1, he says, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will.” We were once strangers and aliens have now been adopted as one of God’s family. We who were once lost, sinful, fallen have become sons. Scripture even says that we are, “co-heirs with Christ.” We are heirs of the promises that God has made to those who came before us.  

When we are brought to faith, Paul tells us that there is a major change. God originally created each of us in his image. But we have been separated from him. We all fell in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit. But Paul tells us in Romans 5:18, “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in the justification of life.” In other words, Paul is telling us that we go from being creations of God to children of God. We go from being simply fallen to adoption into God’s family because of Christ’s work on the cross.

At one point in the book of Numbers, God tells Moses to bless his brother, Aaron. This blessing is one of the most commonly used blessings in the church. He says, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you (or turn his face toward you) and give you peace.” (Num. 6:24-26) The Lord wants us to remember his face shining down upon us. That he turns his face toward us. When God looks down upon you, how do you envision his face? Angry? Disappointed? Never satisfied? Stern? Numbers tells us that it is shining down upon you. That it is gracious toward you. That he desires to bless you and provide peace. In Ephesians, Paul continues to tell us of God’s posture toward us. We are told that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Is that how you understand God looking down upon you? With his face shining down, with a smile on his face, reminding you that you are his precious child.

As a part of his family, we get to now live as those who are a part. To live as his sons and daughters. Verse 11 tells us that we have obtained an inheritance and have been predestined to his purpose. Then verse 12 adds that “we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.” Friends, as adopted sons and daughters of God, we have been blessed and made holy in Him. We have been brought from sin and fallenness into a new life in his family. Therefore, we don’t need to live as those who were aliens and strangers. Instead, we live with the comfort and confidence of knowing that God chose me. That God accepted me in his Beloved, in Christ. But it isn’t in arrogance or pride. Instead, we remember that every time we point to ourselves for picking him, I think the Scriptures teach us to turn the finger around and point to Christ.

Each day, Sammie and Lillie get a little older. At some point, they will develop to a point where they can understand what happened when they were younger. They will understand that two loving parents took them in when they had been separated from their parents. Just like we were adopted by Christ when we were stranger and aliens who had been cut off, separated from God. Sammie and Lillie will learn about the selflessness of two people who took them in out of all the foster children out there. The two people who choose them for adoption when they were in need. In this way, Sammie and Lillie are just like you and me. In need, cut off, yet brought in, (slowly) greatly loved, and made a part of the family. Do you feel like a part of the family of God? Do you feel like one of his sons or daughters whom he runs to when you’re in a time of need? Pray to God and ask him to remind you of who you have become, because of what he has done. Ask him to remind you of the many blessings that Christ has blessed you with. Pray he reminds you that have been destined for adoption, chosen, that his face is shining down upon you, that you are co-heirs with Christ, that you have been accepted in Christ. Because when we remember and sense these realities at our core, we live out of a reality that was already there in the first place. A reality that is there because of what Christ did for us.