Yes, I know it is September 19, 2017. However, today, I am working on Ephesians for this Sunday at HillSong Church. I came across this message from January 2011. Usually, I am sort of annoyed by my old manuscripts. But I thought this one wasn't bad and I had not previously posted it. So here it is.
admires the dedication of these
Muslims. He writes, “Even though I don’t
fully get it, and even though I’ve never felt the need to pray like this in
public, I respect their countercultural commitment. The odd and the curious practice of seeing a
man put his face on a rug in the middle of a parking lot makes a
statement. It says, ‘I’m serious about
my faith. I’ve committed to expressing
it and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.
I’ve found a better way to live’” (p.179)! Lyons
The Story of Your Life in 2011 (Ephesians 1:3-14)
Chapel Hill, NC
January 2, 2011
I am holding the story of your year. This is the life of fill in your name , 2011. It is December 31, 2011. What’s on these pages? Something new? Did you do something you’ve never done before, and is it recorded here in the story of your life in 2011?
Who did you meet? Who is the person unknown to you on January 1 2011 that becomes a central figure in your life on December 31, 2011?
What places did you go? On December 31, 2010, I was able to say I visited
I couldn’t say that before 2010.
On December 31, 2011, as you review your year, what places did you
go? What stories will you tell about the
places that you went? Kearney, Nebraska
What did you learn? As you read the story of your life, 2011, what do you know now, now that it is December 31, 2011, that you did not know before this year?
Ah, the story of the year that was, 2011; in your book, what’s on these pages? This is what is so exciting about the beginning of a new year. Nothing in this book has been written yet. We can imagine how we will fill these pages, but it is not December 31, 2011, it is January 2. All we have is imagination … and planning … and prayer.
I know some don’t think this way. You live in the moment. The turning of the page from one year to the next is not all that significant. It’s too abstract and too philosophical. You’re more wired to deal with the moment, getting through this day, this week.
Others are might imagine the year to come, but not optimistically. You don’t ask who will I meet, but who will I lose? You’re not wondering what might be, but rather, what might go wrong?
If you are an “in-the-moment” person, that’s OK. God made you that way and dreamers like me need practical minded people like you to keep us grounded. If you are a “prepare-for-the-worst” type, that’s good too. God helps optimists like me who think all is well prepare for when things are not so well by bringing folks like you into our lives.
Optimists, dreamers, pragmatists, and planners – all are needed; each one is created in the image of God. Each has something to offer in the
This morning as we step into a new year, we will look at how each of us
contributes to life and to our life together as a community of faith. Even if it is not your normal way of
thinking, I invite you, just this morning, to join me in imagining, but not
exactly you might think. kingdom of God
As we do imagine together, I want to borrow a line that will help us. It’s from the book The Purpose Driven Life. It’s the very first sentence of the book. “It’s not about you.” Or me. Planners who are prepared for the next catastrophe, life is not about your worrying, helpful as it often is. Pragmatists who live for today and deal with today, life is not about your intense and I might add very admirable focus. My fellow dreamers and optimists, life is not about our fantasies of what might be and how good it can be. What then, is life about? If it’s not about me and not about you, what is it? What’s the story and how are we supposed to live?
Of the numerous scriptures that richly answer these questions, I am drawn to the opening verses of Ephesians which we just read. This is written to people who are Christ followers. I acknowledge that many here may not be followers of Jesus. You’re checking the Christian scene out and exploring faith and visiting a church, and that’s awesome. We love it that you are here. Listen to what this Bible passage promises for people who have given themselves completely to Jesus and surrendered to his rule in life.
It says God the Father has promised “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (v.3). Heavenly places are not far off lands to be enjoyed in a distant future by the soul some unknown duration of time after death. They’re much closer and accessible for the person of faith. The Apostle Paul was called to the third heaven even as he did missionary work in ancient
Greece and ancient Turkey,
and Thessolonica. I have in the depths
of my being in moments of extreme spiritual intimacy with God felt the fullness
of the blessings in these heavenly places.
With these blessings that we have when we are in Christ, we are adopted as children of God. This will be more of my focus next week, what does it mean to be a child of God in the world? For now I simply state that the New Testament clearly promises that all who put their trust in Jesus and give their lives to Jesus are sons and daughters of God Almighty, and Ephesians 1:5 is one of many passages that state this reality.
Verse 6 and 7 speak of God’s grace and the forgiveness we are given. Everything we have in Jesus is a gift. Our sins – and we all commit them – separate us from God, but in Jesus Christ, we have complete forgiveness. That which separates us has been removed, and it says in verse 11 we have an inheritance. Our Father God is bequeathing to us an eternal home where there is no pain or worry and there is unending joy.
Along with that, and here we get to the meat of the matter, all who are in Christ are destined for a specific way of living. What’s life all about? It’s not about me. It’s not about you. We see in Ephesians 1 we are destined to live for the praise of God’s glory (v.11a, 12b).
It’s possible that I just lost half the room, maybe 2/3. You just checked out and will come back next week to see I have anything interesting offer because what I just said is too churchy, too removed from real life. To be fair to me, I am spouting my personal philosophy. I am quoting from Ephesians 1. To tune out what I am saying to tune out the Bible. But that doesn’t matter. To say that life is all about the praise of God’s glory feels unreal; it’s abstract; it’s ethereal.
When I am washing the pots after we have had soup for dinner, I am not living for the praise of God’s glory. I am trying to get the pot clean, and I am grumbling because the stuff is stuck on there and won’t come off. I wasn’t grumbling when I ate the soup. That meal hit the spot on a cold winter’s night. But as happy as I was to eat it, I am suddenly a crab having to clean it up. That stuff about God’s glory doesn’t apply.
You’re about an hour away from leaving work for the day, and the boss says he needs you to stay two extra hours. What can you do? You need the job. God’s glory? You’ve got to trudge through another two hours. You’re too tired and too distracted to be dreaming about praising God.
Her boyfriend just left. She thought this evening was going to end with him on one knee, presenting a diamond ring. She was not expecting “I think we should take a break, maybe see other people for a while.” God’s glory? Praise? She’s heartbroken. She’s not emotionally in a place where she can live out the words of Ephesians 1. She needs the promises of those Heavenly blessings, but she just can’t live for the sake of praising God, not right now.
No, to say that life is all about living for God and to say that each of us should make that our driving ambition in 2011 is just unrealistic and unreachable.
But, what if …? I know, I am a dreamer. But what if we looked at each of the places of life – home (where we eat good food and have good times but also complain and sometimes fight with those we love), and work (where we make money but also give the greatest amount of waking hours and maybe give a bit of our souls), and relationships (where we cannot predict how they will go because they involve other people) – what if we look at the places of life differently? What if instead of combing the scriptures to find a verse to get me through the day, I submit myself to the scripture no matter how the day is going?
I open up my self, my spirit, that I may be filled with the Holy Spirit so that I am ready for my day be it the worst of the year or the best.
I constantly meet with other believers in my church family and in my small group because God nourishes me through those people.
The Bible, the Spirit, the Community – I am continually filled in these places, so my life can be a testament of praise and in the world I can live in a way that points people to Jesus.
It’s December 31st 2011, and this is story of God having been at work in the world specifically seen in your life and mine. It’s the story of someone who has discovered that life is about the relationship with God and the deeper one goes with God, the more one sees Jesus, lives a life that raises praise in church and in the daily world, and the more one lives in those Heavenly blessings.
Take the three examples: home life, I am washing the soup pot, but I am living as one who wants to praise God with my life. It doesn’t make the goop at the bottom come off any easier. The change is in me. I’ve opened myself to God’s grace, so my mind is on how grateful I am for the soup, for the wife who prepared it, for my kids who ate with me. Maybe they fought all the way through dinner. But I have gratitude because of God at work in me and my focus on Him. Parenting isn’t easier and dirty pots are still dirty. But I am different because of my relationship with God. Because I am different, the whole scene is different.
You are tired and not happy about having to work two extra hours. What’s different? Starting 2011, you determined that this would not be a story about your job. 2011 is about you seeking God and God speaking through your life. The drama plays out at your job and affects your approach to that job and your response to that boss. You work hard and encourage your coworkers even when it’s tough to do so. The title of this story is not “Dave the Insurance Adjuster.” This story is called, “The God of the Universe at work in Dave’s life.”
She wanted him to propose and instead he dumped her. She’s very, very sad. But that is not the end of the story. It’s not the story at all. It might be a chapter in it, and maybe a long and dark chapter. But the story is of a young woman seeking God, living in such a way that her life points to God and points others around her to the grace and forgiveness and love of Jesus. She knows as a daughter of God she has a divine inheritance and she knows as one who walks in intimate relationship with God, the blessings are hers today. Even when she is sad, she will pray, she will obey, and she will praise. Even if it feels like she’s forcing herself. Praise can be a spiritual discipline. Praise is not about her own emotional state or how well things are going in life. Praise is about God. No matter what comes, her life will point to God.
I can pray “God, please speak to me. As I spend time washing this pot, a mundane activity, let this be a time I am thankful for the food I enjoyed that came from this pot. And let me hear your voice.”
You can pray, “Oh Lord, help me through these final hours of work. I am tired and I want to go home, but I am thankful for this job. Help me have a good attitude and reflect the love of Christ.”
She can pray, “God, I am so lost right now. I need help. I want to be married and I thought he was the one. I don’t know where to turn so I am turning to you.”
It is good and right and Biblical to pray in all circumstances. The examples I have shared vary from being of little importance (doing the dishes) to things that matter very, very much (like relationships and engagements). You can think of more extreme examples. In the little and the big, the insignificant and the highly important, our stories in 2011 can be about God because in everything we turn to Him and live in such a way that people see us and see God in us.
In His book The Next Christians, Gabe Lyons tells about the taxi stand at La Guardia airport in
. He flies into New York City often and has been to the taxi
stand many times. He always notices, if
it is the right time of day, a group men in turbans. They are at a part of the sidewalk that
doesn’t have a loot of foot traffic.
They have their prayer mats, and they are kneeling facing east. Their heads are on the ground. New York
The Apostle Paul asserts in Ephesians 1 that life in Christ is the better way to live. In Christ, our lives, the disappointments, the frustrations, the normal and boring, and the high and exciting times all point to Jesus. It happens because we know life is all about Him. We turn to Him in everything. Through the Bible, through prayer and the Holy Spirit, and through the community of faith, we live in Christ.
December 31, 2011, may another take the book, the story of our lives over the course of the year. May they read it and say, Oh wow! This person knows Jesus and because of his life or her life, I want to know Jesus. In Christ, we live the better story. Many 2011 be a year we live in Christ.