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Shipwrecked Faith from a Shipwrecked Church
The Testimony of John the Baptist

The Testimony of John the Baptist

One of the most powerful tools in our arsenal of evangelism is our testimony about Christ.  We, like John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, and millions of others have a first-hand, personal account to proclaim about our Lord.  And our testimony, like the testimony of John the Baptist, is something our detractors cannot argue against.  Why?  Because it happened to us.  We are not proclaiming truth they can claim is not true, we are sharing our story, which is just that:  Our story.

It is our witness to what Christ has done for us.

It is our proclamation as to who Christ is.

And it is our story that tells our deliverance from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of our God.

Our story is a powerful tool in the hands of our Lord.

The word “testimony” or “witness” is used of John the Baptist six times in the first thirty-four verses of John.  It seems that word defined his ministry.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  This man came for (what) a witness, to bear (what) witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear (what) witness of that Light.  That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. (John 1:6-9)

How is your testimony or witness for Jesus?  Is it sharp, like a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12)?  Or has it grown rust and decay from neglect or lack of use?  Remember, we are the only ones that have our witness about Him?  Everyone else has their own.  And it is our responsibility to tell others what He has done for us.  That is what love is.  And it can be as simple as this:

“One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25).

Let’s look at the testimony of John the Baptist.

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The Church Has Left the Building

The Church Has Left the Building

The following is an article I received today from Roberto Bottrel, who is serving European churches by helping them multiply via cell-group ministry.  If you remember, this very subject is what we talked about the first Sunday we had to go online.  You might want to take a listen again, if you have forgotten.

Anyway, enjoy and get ready to embrace the future.

Because change is coming, and there is nothing we can do about it but prepare and adapt.

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Certainty in the Days of Uncertainty, Part 2

Certainty in the Days of Uncertainty, Part 2

As a brief word of encouragement today, let’s look at one of the most profound and powerful chapters in all the New Testament, Romans 8.  And let’s look at just the last two verses and see if we can get something for today to help us smile.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

In the middle of these uncertain times, when we seem to have more questions than answers, it is always good to rest and meditate on the certainties in God’s word.  And this is one of them.

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Certainty in the Days of Uncertainty

Certainty in the Days of Uncertainty

Yesterday was the second Sunday we met together virtually, and I for one can’t wait until we can put aside social distancing and meet again face-to-face.  I miss your voice as you sing songs to the Lord and offer prayers to Him for the sake of others.  I miss your attentiveness as we look into His Word together and I especially miss our times of fellowship when we can catch up on things and see how everyone’s doing.

But since it appears this ordeal our nation is going through will last for several more weeks (hopefully not longer), I thought it would be encouraging to remember in the face of uncertainty what we do know for certain, and in our world of constant change, what is unchangeable and will remain forever.

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Prayer: Ephesians 3:8 – The Unsearchable Riches of Christ

Prayer: Ephesians 3:8 – The Unsearchable Riches of Christ

As I shared this last Sunday, I’ve been rather overwhelmed with the phrase found in Ephesians 3:8, the “unsearchable riches in Christ.”  It has literally taken me a few days to get my head around what all that phrase entails.  Paul begins this verse by expressing his profound gratitude for God’s choice of him by verbalizing how unworthy he is of such grace.  He calls himself “less than the least of all the saints,” yet he received from the Lord the divine calling to “preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).

You and I, like Paul, have different mission fields.  For Paul, it was the Gentiles.  For us, it may be our families, work associates, neighbors, those in our extended sphere of influence, or anyone the Lord places in our path to shine His light in their darkness (Matt. 5:14, Eph. 5:8).  But the message we preach is the same as Paul’s.  And that message is simply this; we preach the “unsearchable riches of Christ.”

Our verse to help focus our prayer time today reads as follows:

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ – Ephesians 3:8.

The word Paul uses, “unsearchable” (anexichníastos), means “untraceable or impossible to trace,” like looking for fading footprints in the snow.  Elsewhere it’s translated as “unfathomable, incomprehensible, endless, boundless, incalculable, inexplorable, inexhaustible, and without limit.”  It conveys the idea of something never-ending and beyond human measure.

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Prayer: Ephesians 3:8 – I Ain’t Nuthin’

Prayer: Ephesians 3:8 – I Ain’t Nuthin’

As we prepare to meet with the Most High, we’re going to use Ephesians 3:8 to help focus our prayers today. This verse is one of the most incredible passages in all of Ephesians. In it, we see Paul’s candid assessment of himself, despite how much the Lord used him and how much we honor and respect Paul. It’s a glimpse into his heart of humility and a picture of how each of us should view our lives. But we get a glance at the magnitude of the blessing God gave him by calling him into the ministry. He uses this phrase, “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” to explain what a life hidden in Christ is all about (Col. 3:3). And, as we will see tomorrow, it’s beyond description!

Ephesians 3:8 reads as follows:

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Once again, we come face to face with the word that seems to sum up Paul’s life, given. We see this word in Ephesians 3:2, and again in verse 7, and now once more in verse 8. Paul says, “this grace was given” to him as a gift, an unmerited blessing he did not deserve. And the key to Paul’s life is found in his faithful commitment to properly execute his stewardship and calling according to the gift he received from God.

Paul understood who he was in the sight of God and how undeserving he was for anything other than judgment and condemnation. Grace, if you remember, is getting something you don’t deserve, such as love, forgiveness, redemption, and eternal life. Mercy, on the other hand, is not receiving what you truly deserve, such as guilt, condemnation, judgment, and death. Paul never forgot God’s inexhaustible mercy nor the grace he received. And this grace included not only a ministry, but a divine purpose for his life.

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Prayer: Ephesians 3:6-7 – Effective Working of His Power

Prayer: Ephesians 3:6-7 – Effective Working of His Power

As we prepare to close out this section of Scripture, I want to remind you that the seven verses that begin Ephesians 3 are all one long sentence.  Therefore, it is difficult to understand the whole without examining each individual part.  And it is equally difficult to understand the various parts, or verses, unless we first have a grasp of the entire meaning of this single sentence.  It seems this sentence has at its beginning and end two bookends displaying both the humility of Paul and the grace given him by the Lord.  We find these two bookends revealed in the word: given.

Paul begins with the “dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you” (Eph. 3:2) and ends with “I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me” (Eph. 3:7).  In both instances, Paul humbly reflects he was nothing more than the blessed recipient of something from God given to him for the sake of someone else.  In this case, the Gentiles.  But he ends by stating the gift given him, his calling into the ministry, was only accomplished by “the effective working of His power” and for no other reason (Eph. 3:7).  So both the gift and the effectiveness of Paul’s ministry, is all according to God, and not of any inherent merit of Paul.

Of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power – Ephesians 3:7.

Paul claims his calling to be a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gift from God.  He never ceased to be amazed that God took someone like him, a murdering, vile, angry, detestable, blaspheming Pharisee, and turned him into not only a believer, but one called to minister to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46).

Paul understood everything that happened in his life was because of grace.  God gave him the grace of revelation to be able to tell the Gentiles about the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).  But God also called him into service as a minister of Christ and a servant of others, which gave his life more meaning and purpose than anything else, ever.  His old life as a Jew, “born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law” (Acts 22:3) meant nothing now.  Compared to the Lord’s gift of ministry and revelation, Paul considered it, like all things, “rubbish” – save for the “excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).

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Prayer: Ephesians 3:5 – Hide and Seek

Prayer: Ephesians 3:5 – Hide and Seek

One of the most amazing privileges of being a Christian is knowing the answers to the so-called hidden mysteries of life God reveals to us in His Word.  Philosophers spend a lifetime trying to determine the meaning of life, and we already know.  Artists and musicians try to capture the image of true, faithful, unselfish love in their paintings and music, and we have an unrivaled masterpiece of love on display in the person of Jesus Christ.

The answer to all of life’s mysteries or hidden truths are available to us because we are beloved children of the Most High – which is one of the most glorious blessings of being in Christ.

Today, we are using Ephesians 3:5 to help focus our prayer time with the Lord.  This passage reads:

Which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets.

We know, of course, this specific mystery has to do with both Jews and Gentiles making up the church together.  But the underlying principle is the fact there is a truth God has chosen to keep hidden from men for thousands of years for His own purpose.  And now, by the Spirit living in each of us, He has decided to reveal His heart and plan to those who belong to Him.  Not to everyone, just to those He calls His children (Rom. 8:16-17).

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Prayer: Ephesians 3:3 – Elementary, My Dear Watson

Prayer: Ephesians 3:3 – Elementary, My Dear Watson

The world is full of mysteries. Some have piqued our interest and baffled our imaginations for generations.  They are fascinating, yet remain elusive and unexplainable.  For example, we wonder at the origin of Stonehenge.  Or how an ancient culture had the technology to build the Great Pyramids in Egypt.  Or how to explain the Loch Ness Monster.  Is there life on other planets?  What happened to the city of Atlantis?  For the more practical and political student of current mysteries, who was the shooter on the grassy knoll?  What happened to Jimmy Hoffa?  And the list of mysteries is endless, and the answers few.  But that is the nature of a mystery.

But in the New Testament, the word mystery is not something unknowable, but something always known but only revealed to certain people at a pre-determined time, all decided by our Sovereign God.

The verse we will use to focus our prayer time is Ephesians 3:3-4, which reads:

How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).

Take a moment and reflect on the word, mystery. Let your mind explore all the images the word conjures up for you.  We know the mystery spoken in this passage is that Gentiles, along with God’s chosen people, the Jews, are both now citizens in the Kingdom of God.  This truth, ordained by God from the foundation of time, was hidden from the Jews and Gentiles until revealed to Paul— which is precisely what this verse says.  That “by revelation He (God) made known to me (Paul) the mystery” which reveals the Kingdom of God to be inclusive of both Jews and Gentiles who have been chosen and redeemed by the blood of Christ.  It’s a picture of God sovereignly choosing out of two ethnic groups, Jews and Gentiles, those who belong to Him, and creating a new race, a new family, a new people, all redeemed by Christ.

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Prayer: Ephesians 3:3-4 – The Gift of God’s Revelation

Prayer: Ephesians 3:3-4 – The Gift of God’s Revelation

Yesterday, we looked at the word dispensation, which can be translated steward or stewardship, and speaks of our responsibility to complete the task God has given us to do.  We also focused our prayers on Ephesians 3:2, which deals specifically with the dispensation of God’s grace given to Paul for the sake of the Gentiles.

But today, we will look at the next phrase, Ephesians 3:3-4, which reads:

How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).

In these two verses, we find the word revelation used once and mystery used twice.  But this is not the first time Paul used these words in his letter to the Ephesians.  In Ephesians 1:17, Paul speaks of praying the Lord would give the “spirit of wisdom and revelation” in the knowledge of Christ.  And in Ephesians 1:9, we find God “having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to the good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.”

As we previously discovered, the word mystery is not something forever unknown.  Instead, it denotes “something hidden or not yet fully manifest.”  It’s knowable truth, but just not to everyone.  This mystery is a truth God has reserved to reveal at a particular time, to a specific group of people, or person, for His unique purpose.

This wondrous mystery, unknown in the Old Testament, was finally revealed to Paul by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.  And this mystery is the Kingdom of God includes, not just Jews, but also Gentiles.  That God truly is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35), and the Kingdom of God is far greater than our prejudices, our racial discord, or our cultural preferences.

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