According to God's Plan

THE PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION For the word of God is alive and active. We invite the Holy Spirit to penetrate our thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Let us pray….

Most wonderful God, we delight in your beloved Son. In his name we gather in this house of worship to search for truth. By the leading of a star, you revealed your love to the people of the earth. As we hear your truth revealed in Scripture, may the heavens be opened for us, that we may catch a glimpse of that Light and Love. We travel this journey that transforms our common days with a beauty not of our making.  Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face. Through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen!

ENCOUNTERING SCRIPTURE                 Isaiah 60:1-7                                       The Glory of Zion

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness     is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and      your daughters are carried on the hip. Then you will look and be radiant,    your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on   the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come. Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord. All Kedar’s flocks will be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth will serve you; they will be accepted as offerings on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple.

May God bless our understanding of this Holy Word.


SCRIPTURE                          Ephesians 3:1-13                     God’s Marvelous Plan for the Gentiles

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—Surely you have heard about the administration       of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.   In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people        in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through    the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in    Christ Jesus.

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

THE SERMON           “According to God’s Plan”

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH – Our Mission Statement           

We begin a New Year with a wealth of emotions. You may begin the New Year with relief or joy, anxiety or expectation, concern or confidence. I know several who are glad that 2015, is over and hope that 2016 will be a better year. The challenges of those who health declined; hope that a balance of health and wholeness will be restored in this year. As a church, we spent 6 months wondering if we could afford to keep a full time pastor. We ended the year with a healthy carry over of wealth that allows us to begin this year with a window of opportunity.

On this first Sunday of 2016, I wonder if you you’ve made any New Year’s resolutions. Those promises to make a change in your life. Many will make resolutions to eat a better diet, or get active for better health, or stop a bad habit, or establish a new good habit. Whether, you’ve made those resolutions or something else, I want to encourage you to be resolved to grow in your faith to strengthen your connection with Jesus Christ our Lord and to live according to God’s eternal purpose for you personally. We can explore the mystery of Christ for us and for our church. We can be servants of our Lord.

The Apostle Paul spent years strengthening his understanding of God through his study of the Jewish Law. He read Scripture and discussed how to live out God’s righteous path in the world. Paul, born a Hebrew of the tribe of Benjamin, excelled in the pursuit of living for the Lord. But, his zealous quest missed the mark. He persecuted the early Christians in the name of God. Then Paul experienced Christ and resolved to live just as fervently for the Risen Lord.

This set Paul on a new course of faith, action, and life. He study the Scripture from a fresh perspective. He discussed the mystery of God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. He lived a new life forgiven and free from sin. Paul set out with new expectations to preach Christ and his resurrection. He shared the love of God to people regardless of national origin and creed. He introduced a new generation to God’s love and a way to live for Jesus. He witnessed to God’s grace in many places to many faces. This work and worship, came at a price. Paul landed in prison for his new found faith and his persistence to persuade new converts.

The purpose of the early church continued serve according to God’s plan. The early Christians lived a new way of life worshipping the Lord and seeking to serve God’s purpose. They studying the mystery of God and experienced the power of the Lord to transform lives. They made a resolution to sharing their faith and spread the Good News to their neighbors, friends, family, and strangers. They committed to serve the Lord by declaring Jesus is Lord of every day and in every way.

Batsell Barret Baxter, in The Family of God, a book on the origins of the ekklesia, the church, writes that the church of God is made up of people.

"There are some who think of the church as an organization like other organizations. It is true that the church is an organization, but it is not primarily an organization. Rather, it is a new way of life. Those who have the view that being a part of the church is like being a member of a lodge, a luncheon club, a political part, or even a business are seriously mistaken. Such people feel that they should give to the church the same kind of support and loyalty which they give to these other organizations. It becomes my church, as it is 'my club, or lodge, or party, or team.' The Christian’s loyalty to Church, however, should be unique, for in reality it is a loyalty to Christ and His way of life. The church is like no other institution on earth and a person’s membership in the church is like no other membership which he may sustain. The church is more like a vibrant, living organism, than it is like a cold, structured organization...” end quote

The church, when it’s vibrant works well together. We all participate not just in our Sunday Worship, but in the daily activity of Christ in the world. Being a disciple of Christ, invites us to partake in this living, active, and vibrant organism. We resolve to live our loyalty to Christ and His way of life. We resolve with persistence to pursue our relationship with our Lord through our worship and daily devotions. We pray with a purpose to discover God’s plan for our life. We work with others to experience God’s grace and persuade others to explore a relationship with Christ.

Today, we ordain and install Elders and Deacons. This action does not replace our responsibility to serve Christ. We elect them to lead us in ministry. If we expect the Elders, Deacons, and the pastor to do our ministry and mission, we will cripple the church. An organism that expects others to do the work of all, remains unhealthy like a cancer. When 10% of a group do 90% of the work, the movement and grow of the organization grinds to a halt. Leaders experience burn out and wither away. This is not God’s plan for the Christian Church.

So, I urge you to welcome our Elders and Deacons and resolve to follow where they lead, but committing to being involved and active in 2016 according God’s purpose for you. TGBTG. Amen.

  January 2018  
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