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It is always a treat when Pastor Ray Clark, along with members from Baptist Bible Church in Decatur, join our church's gathering in Mount Zion!  Pastor Ray's lively and engaging style takes us to the LORD's response to Job.  As it turns out, Job doesn't know or understand nearly so much as he previously imagined.  Very practical applications to our own life circumstances.
Special guest speaker, Phil Underhile, has roots in our church that go back to 1992!  He currently serves as a church planting missionary-pastor in Hawaii.  Today's message considers the magnificence of a Christian's salvation from 1 Peter 1:3-5.
Ephesians 1:11-14

Ephesians 1:11-14


Ephesians 1:11-14 In these verses Paul "steps back from" GOD's revealed mystery — that is, His "plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him" (verse 10).  Here, Paul looks at the particulars — how the unity starts, where it begins. In so doing, Paul highlights the comprehensiveness/vastness of the blessing! Each of the blessings linked with GOD's saving grace are derived from GOD's purpose to place us "in Christ".
Ephesians 1:8-10 The Bible treats the concept of "mystery" nearly the opposite of what we typically think.  In western culture to speak of "mystery" is to emphasize the unknown, but in the New Testament "mystery" emphasizes what God has revealed and made known!
Ephesians 1:7-8 Sometime poorly (or entirely) misunderstood, Christ's work of redemption is the centerpiece of the Gospel entrusted to the Church.  I love William Hendriksen's transitional comment from his Commentary on Ephesians: "[Our] attention is shifted from heaven to earth, from the past to the present, and, in a sense, from the Father to the Son."
Ephesians 1:4-6 Regarding what are commonly referred to as the "doctrines of grace" consider these two quotes from Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892): "The only reason why anyone believes in election is because he finds it clearly taught in God's Word.  No man, or number of men, ever originated this doctrine." "There are two great truths from this platform I have proclaimed for many years.  The first is that salvation is free to every man that will have it; the second is that God gives salvation to a people whom He has chosen; and these truths are not  in conflict with each other in the least degree."
Ephesians 1:3-4 The psalmist announced a blessing that sounds a lot like Ephesians 1:3, "For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor.  No good thing does He withhold," -- but then he finishes with, "from those who walk uprightly." Aah!  Isn't that exactly the problem ?   GOD has always given good gifts to His people.   He has given many blessings in the Bible, but it's always people who are the weak link! GOD's promises are only as wonderful as their weakest link — namely: us/me/you. How can Paul have any confidence that this time the outcome will be any different / better ?  Two reasons: These "spiritual blessings" are: "in Christ" & "in the heavenlies."  In other words, the "success" of the blessing resides entirely on Christ's performance — not on my performance!
Ephesians 1:1-14 Before we consider the significance of the "particulars" in future weeks, today's message presents a birds-eye view of the first main passage (verses 3-14 are a single sentence in the Greek!)  The Life application Bible Commentary summarizes: "We have these blessings because of God's choosing us (vs 4), Christ's dying for us (vs 7), and the Holy Spirit's sealing us (vs 13)."
To appreciate (and better understand Paul's letter received by the "Ephesians" a reader will do well to understand something of Ephesus.  Interestingly, the Bible provides more "snapshots" of the church at Ephesus than any other (other than Jerusalem) — covering a period of more than 40 years! AD 52 we first hear of "Ephesus" (on Paul's second missionary journey) AD 55 Paul returns to Ephesus for a lengthy stay on his third missionary journey AD 60-61 Paul writes his "prison epistles"  /  which includes "Ephesians" AD 62/63/64 Paul writes Timothy (who is ministering as pastor at Ephesus) AD 95-96 the Apostle John records Christ's message "to the church in Ephesus"
Guest Speaker: Curt Fleck (Director of Civil Servant Ministries in our State's Capitol) Curt shares from Matthew 11 (John the Baptist inquiring whether Jesus is, in fact, "the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?") -- because sometimes our circumstances seem at odds with GOD's promises.  What then?
Hebrews (assorted passages) One of the pertinent passages (4:14-16): "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence [boldness] draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
Luke 23:44-56 This, the last saying of Jesus from the cross before He breathes His last.  Most significantly, Jesus addresses the word to His "Father" (contrast to Christ's cry of dereliction in Matthew 27:46, "My God, My God...").  Upon dying, Luke's Gospel narrates three reactions to these events...
John 19:28-30 "I thirst!" -- While everyone involved in Jesus's suffering and crucifixion is unconsciously fulfilling Scripture (GOD's redemptive purposes) — Jesus consciously knows and participates in fulfilling Scripture (His Father's redemptive plan) until everything is accomplished (finished!)
Matthew 27:45-54 From Noon until 3:00 a darkness covered the land.  This (at least in part), because there is a darkness associated with Christ's work of redemption which we will never fully understand.  Matthew's only hint of an explanation for the darkness is contained in Jesus' words from the cross where Jesus cries out in a loud voice to God asking WHY He has been forsaken!
John 19:16-27 -- The Third Word (Saying) of Jesus from the Cross We move from Luke's Gospel to John's Gospel for the last of Jesus' three sayings before the three hours of darkness that fell upon the land.  (Afterward, for more sayings are recorded by the Gospel writers.)  In speaking to Mary (His mother), Jesus addresses her as "woman" and He entrusts her her to John (the disciple whom Jesus loved).
Jesus's Second "Word" from the Cross. The gospel writer, Luke, loves to record unique stories where he compares and/or contrasts two persons.  In today's crucifixion narrative, we learn more about the two criminals who are crucified with Jesus.  Initially, the criminals are alike, but at the end the criminals are sharply different.  By way of application, the two criminals are a picture (portrayal, snapshot) of the entire human race, of me, of you.
Lenten Series: The Seven Words of Christ From the Cross 1) Luke 23:34, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." In the course of today's message we ask and answer the following questions: Why doesn't Jesus simply forgive these persons Himself ? For whom is Jesus praying for forgiveness ? Are these persons really ignorant of the injustice of what they are doing ? Was Jesus' prayer answered ?  Did the Father forgive the offenders? What is forgiveness ?
Isaiah 66:7-24 The final installment from our series covering chapters 40-66.  This final consideration starts with this important observation: "When it comes to interpreting Bible prophecy about FUTURE EVENTS, our own understanding of what     is written utilizes some combination of LITERAL interpretation & FIGURATIVE interpretation (symbolism)."  This becomes evident (again) in chapter 66!
Isaiah 66:1-6 F. B. Meyer (1847-1929), British preacher, author said: “I used to think that God’s gifts were on shelves one above the other and that the taller we grew in Christian character the more easily we could reach them.  I now find that God’s gifts are on shelves one beneath the other and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower.”    
Isaiah 65:17-25 Franz J. Delitzsch, conservative German Lutheran Old Testament scholar (1813-1890), holds to the position the Bible teaches there are to be altogether three worlds, or three ages.  the present world, age  a Messianic millennial world, age  a final eternal state, age Loosely quoting: "It seems that the leading thought of the prophet is the transformation of nature in harmony with the changed nature of man.  Its grandeur needs not to be pointed out.  Ordinarily, indeed, we think of man's dependence on nature.  If the thought be pushed to its limits, it ends in materialism [and every manner of exploitation, corruption, injustice, etc.!!].  Here, the LORD unveils the transformative changes of human nature and it's corresponding flourishing aspect on all of culture, society, and creation.  Upon the difficult interpretation of such language much difference of opinion naturally arises; but it is open to all to catch the inspiration of the thoughts."
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