Enough

Ephesians 2

2

Every Sunday since before I was born, my family has gathered at my grandma’s house for an after-church lunch. It’s a grandiose affair with a lavish spread of food, a fancy tablecloth, and ALWAYS dessert. My littlest cousin, Greta, prides herself on being Grandma’s helper in the kitchen each Sunday. By no means is she qualified to even step foot in a kitchen—she tries to lick the frosting off the chocolate cake, has a fair share of spills, and screams when not allowed to cut the watermelon. Despite her lack of skills and tact, she is the most willing and enthusiastic helper. While my grandma certainly doesn’t need her help, I think her heart bursts into a million little pieces when little Greta pulls up her stool to the counter with wide eyes and ready hands.

Sometimes I feel a lot like a toddler in the kitchen, like I’m not enough. The truth of the matter is that I wasn’t enough.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

The story doesn’t end there. I am made enough because of who God is and what Jesus did for me.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.(Ephesians 2:4-5)

We can choose to wallow in our inadequacy, or we can embrace grace. I’ve seen the joy that comes when we let go of the burden of not being enough in the beaming smile of a little girl with chocolate frosting on her nose. You are so enough that God wants to use you for His Kingdom.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.(Ephesians 2:10)

No matter the lies the world whispers in your ear, never stop pulling up your stool to the counter. Roll up your sleeves and do all the things God prepared for you. He’s more honored by your attempts than He is concerned about your results. Frankly, He could go infinity gauntlet style and snap His fingers to accomplish anything He wanted to by Himself. That same God is head-over-heels in love with you.

My friend, you measure up. You have what it takes. You’re enough. Now go do something.

-Mackenzie McClain

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But how do I know what my Spiritual Gift is?

1 Corinthians 12

1 Cor 12 27

Do you ever think God sits up in heaven, listening to us, and just smacks his forehead?  I do.

Think about this:  He is so amazingly gracious and wonderful that He supernaturally equips believers with gifts to make life better for all of us.  But instead of doing that…we sit around and take Spiritual gift inventories.

Head smack.

1 Corinthians 12: 4-7

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Want to know how God has gifted you?  Here’s the super-complicated, algorithm-created, surefire way to find out.  Ready?

Try stuff.

Ta-da!

Seriously.  Try stuff.  See what fills your bucket.  What makes you light up.  What energizes, instead of drains you?

All believers are called to serve in lots of ways.  We’re all expected to demonstrate some amount of wisdom, knowledge, faith and discernment.  We are all supposed to serve through giving, helping, teaching, and working.

While I can serve by mowing the lawn or doing dishes, I don’t feel particularly pumped after doing so.  But my friend Cheryl does.  Serving others in these ways invigorates her and motivates her to do more.

Cheryl will step in and lead a class if needed, but she doesn’t love it.  I love (insert many hearts here) it.  Teaching fills my bucket, it drains hers.

So put down the Spiritual gift inventory and start doing.  Ask God to help you find your sweet spot.  I’ll bet He won’t say no.

“you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

 

-Susan Landry

Disunity – Defeated Already

1 Corinthians 6

1 Corinthians 6 7

Today we will be taking a look at 1 Corinthians 6

 

In chapter 5 Paul taught that it is not right for those in the Church to judge those who are not in the Church because they are not held to the same standards that we have ascribed to.  Similarly in chapter 6 Paul says that it is not right for those outside of the Church to be making judgements on arguments between those in the Church. If we have Christ’s love in us and if we are living according to his wisdom as Paul teaches we should, then we should be able to have reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in Christ without having to go to court. It is understandable that we will have disagreements in the Church, and feelings will get hurt, but Christ forgave the men who crucified him while he was still hanging on the cross.  If he can do that then we can forgive the people in our Church. It is a shame on the Church when we cannot be reconciled to each other. When that happens Paul says in verse seven that “you have been completely defeated already”. We know from Ephesians 6:12 that this fight that we are in is against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” and for that reason we need to put on the full armor of God. But if we cannot unite as the Body of Christ then there is no point, we have already lost the battle.

 

One of Paul’s main goals in his letter to the Corinthians was to bring unity.  Many of the situations in Corinth Paul was asking one of the sides to give in graciously, even though they were not wrong, in order to bring peace.  Later in chapter 6 verse 7 it says “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” We should seek unity in the Body over being right, or having justice.  Jesus’ death was the greatest injustice in the world, and we are called to take up our crosses and follow him, we should not be surprised if we have to endure some injustice along the way.

 

Yours in peace

Chris Mattison

Don’t be Mutton

John 10

John 10 14

In John chapter 10, we find Jesus telling a story about shepherds and sheep.  A person who is hired to protect the sheep will run away when his own life is in danger (like when a wolf comes), and abandons the sheep.  The true shepherd will put his life in harm’s way to defend his sheep.  Then we find this gem in verses 14 through 18:

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

I see a couple of things in these verses that I’d like to comment on.

We all know that we are his sheep, and that Jesus laid down his life for his sheep.  We may be less focused on Jesus’ comment that he has other sheep not of this sheep pen that will listen to his voice and be part of the same flock.  In Jesus’ day, he was talking with the Jews, who thought they were the exclusive people who could have a relationship with God.  Jesus was pointing out that non-Jews would also come to God through Jesus.

Then we see this phrase in verse 17 that says God loves Jesus because Jesus is going to lay down his life.  I believe Jesus was saying that it was his decision whether or not to completely obey God.  He had the authority to obey, and lose his life.  He also had the authority to disobey, and retain his life.  My interpretation for all of this is:  Jesus had complete free will to do whatever he chose to do, just like we have free will.  It’s just that Jesus always chose to do God’s will.  This is exemplified in Jesus’ willingness to follow God’s will, no matter what, even to the point of suffering and dying.  And God loves that fact about Jesus.  (As an aside, this attribute of Jesus is undoubtedly why God said, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”)

You might be thinking, “This is a nice story, but how does it apply to me?”

I’m glad you asked.

First, I want God to be pleased with me.  And I project from this story that if I am obedient to God like Jesus was obedient to God, I will please God.  So, I’d like to challenge you to be completely obedient to God as well.

Second, I might tend to think, like the Jews, that I, or my church, or my denomination have an exclusive relationship with God.  I need to remember that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, not me, and he (not me) gets to decide who are and who are not his sheep.

Finally, we see from this passage that Jesus knows his sheep, and his sheep know him.  Wolves are prowling around outside the sheep pen.  If you’re not in the protection of the pen, being protected by the Shepherd, you’re going to be mutton.  So if you don’t know Jesus, there’s no time like today.

-Steve Mattison

Submission to Governing Authorities

Romans 13 1

Romans Chapter 13  

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

 

Wow, this is a tough passage for me.  I hate politics.  Or more accurately, I really dislike polices, laws, and politicians that I disagree with, especially on a moral basis.  We live in a country where it is legal to end the life of a human baby, for no other reason than the mother just doesn’t want it.  I have a big problem with that.  So how do I deal with that reality in light of this scripture passage?

 

It would seem that God has allowed the people to be in position that have allowed abortion to become law of the land.  And yet God certainly would not approve of this law or many others that exist in our country and other countries.  Worse yet, we are told to submit to these authorities.

 

The truth is, God does not condone all of the decisions of government. He simply allows them to be in place.  Sometimes He may use rulers to bless people, sometimes He may use rulers to judge people and sometimes we may not know why he has certain rulers in place.  But regardless, the simple message from Paul is that we need to submit to authority in general.  This is a model of submission to God.  Keep in mind that when Paul wrote this, it was during the reign of the Roman Empire. It was no democracy, and no special friend to Christians – yet he still saw their legitimate authority.

 

Since governments have authority from God, we are bound to obey them – unless, of course, they order us to do something in contradiction to God’s law. Then, we are commanded to obey God before man.  John and Peter demonstrated that in Acts 4:18-19.

 

I have to live with and submit to the authorities that God has put in charge, but that by no means requires me to blindly follow every edict from those same authorities if it means breaking God’s law.  God is the supreme authority, and His rule is superior to anyone He has placed in lesser authority over us.

 

Greg Landry

 

God’s Presence and the Garden

Genesis 2 8

Text: Gen 2:4 – 3:24

 

Yesterday we began talking about the presence of God, starting with the creation account in Genesis 1:1-2:3. We saw that God not only created the earth as a place for us to live, but also as a place for him to be present with us. The heavens and earth are God’s temple.

 

As we move on in Genesis, starting with 2:4 and going to the end of chapter 2, we find another creation account, and its focus is different than the first, paying special attention to humans and what seems to be agriculture. We are introduced to a garden, and people to cultivate and rule over it: Adam (which literally means man or mankind) and Eve (which literally means living or life). The garden also includes two special trees, the tree of life, and tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The tree of knowledge could have easily been called the tree of certain death, because God promises they will die if they eat from it. But they can eat from anything else.

 

This garden is a special place. It seems to be a focal point, almost like a holy of holies for God’s cosmic temple. It is sacred space that he shares with his creation. God walks in the garden and is present there with Adam and Eve. Can you imagine just sharing space with God, doing some gardening, and God just walks by, like it was a normal thing? “Oh, hey God.”

 

That kind of closeness and intimacy with God in his presence was how it was for Adam and Eve, until something happened. There’s a talking serpent. This mischievous serpent character convinces Eve that she won’t in fact die if she eats from the tree of knowledge, she’ll just have knowledge like God. This is tricky because it has just enough truth in it. Maybe you would call it a white lie, but still a deception. Eve eats from the tree of knowledge, and Adam follows suit.

 

As Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, they disobeyed God’s direct command and took matters into their own hands, going down a path to prematurely obtain the knowledge of good and evil. They likely had a childlike innocence about them before, and maybe God would have in time revealed this knowledge of good and evil to them in his way, in his time. Well, now things were going to be different for them. They suddenly realized they had no clothes and hid from God. They were ashamed. God finds out what they did (surely he already knew what they did) and kicks them out of his garden.

 

The consequences were very serious. God has cherubim (winged creatures sort of like a sphinx, not at all like a baby with wings) and a flaming sword guard the entrance so they can’t enter and eat from the tree of life. They are exiled from the garden, they are effectively sentenced to death by no longer having access to the tree of life and God’s presence. They will have to work much harder to grow food to survive, and some other fun consequences.

 

Reading an account like this makes you think a lot. What sorts of things are symbolized by the tree of life, and tree of knowledge? What is a serpent doing there? Are we really talking about fruit? I have no definitive answers to these questions. The beauty of this passage is that it forces you to think more every time you read it, and I believe that is why it is there.

 

The garden account is ripe with symbolism to interpret. While it is an account about real people, it is written in a way that makes it much bigger than that. Adam and Eve can be seen as archetypes for us, meaning the things that are said of them are also true of us. Adam is formed from dust (Gen 3:19), so are we (Ps 103:14). Eve is made from one of Adam’s sides, while we recognize that men and women are each other’s halves in a way. They face temptation and shame, so do we. They do things in defiance against God, and so do we (Rom 3:23), and as a result of that defiance, they exiled themselves from God’s garden, as we frequently exile ourselves from God’s presence when we sin, in a way. Their story is much like ours.

 

This isn’t the most encouraging chapter in the story of God’s presence. It’s one of the lower places we could go in scripture. The reality is that sin and the presence of God are not compatible things. Sin, separation from God, and death are all connected, if not three heads of the same monster. Of course, God knows this, and still wants to be present with us, so there has to be some kind of remedy for sin. Ultimately, we know that remedy to be Christ, but there was a progression to get there.

 

Tomorrow we’ll look at Exodus 40 – how God used a man named Moses to renew his presence among his people.

 

-Jay Laurent

 

Begging for Help

Acts 3 1,2

Happy late Thanksgiving everyone! #thankgivingisthebestholiday Although the day of turkey has passed I hope we can all be thankful for what we have considering many do not have anything at all. Recently in Saint Louis, I encountered a man named Ron who was homeless and had nothing to his name except his torn up bag and the clothes on his back. Ron, like many you may encounter in your lives, asked me for money. There are at least two easy ways to handle this situation. First, we could give them the money they were asking us about. Or second, we lie and walk away feeling like we did that person well by not giving them money that could possibly enable their bad habits.

I would say Peter and John have a more effective way of serving these people. In Acts 3:1-10 Peter and John encounter a man who can’t walk and is begging for money in front of the temple gates (a common practice in that day, which could be compared to those at the stoplights we see). Instead of giving him money, they give him prayer and healing. Something we all can afford and is always at the ready. Next time you encounter someone like this it might be appropriate to pray with them about their situation and see if something big happens.

-Jesse Allen