Friday, August 28, 2015

How's Your Walk? - August 30th

Ephesians: United in Christ
Message notes for a sermon based on Ephesians 5:15-20 by Pastor Ewings

In the first century, the Apostle Paul wrote that the days were evil.  That was before the days of a website for adultery like Ashley Madison, before the time of internet pornography, before ISIS ever existed, before abortion was widely accepted.  Yet, Paul called those days evil and told his congregation that they needed to be careful how they lived.  He saw the foolishness of the drunks and the debaucherous in his day and warned the church in Ephesus against such a simple life. 
If Paul warned the dear Christian flock back them, what would he say now?  Sure, first century Christians were still exposed to brutality and murder, lies and deceit, adultery and perversion.  There’s really nothing new under the sun.  But it seems like sin is so much more accessible in our day, waiting for us at the push of a button or the click of a mouse, just a FaceTime or a Skype chat away; just a heated email or pharisaical post from proving our foolishness to the world.  With so much technology at our fingertips, now more than ever, we need to walk wisely.  Not only that, there is such a great variety—a smorgasbord of sin to choose from—which is available faster than we can think, dream or imagine.
The question that we all need to ask ourselves is how do I walk as a child of the Light in this dark world?  Paul gives us a number of guidelines, instructing us on how we may walk wisely.  Instead of simply encouraging us to abstain from the intoxication of alcohol or the ecstasy of sexual escapades, the Lord invites us to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Since we are Christians and have been enlightened with faith through the Word, we should live as Christians and beware of everything that would hinder our faith or draw us away from Christ.  It is not befitting of Christians, once we have come to know the Word of God and have been baptized as children of the Lord, that we should live however we want, looking for our own pleasure, making our own rules—really, being our own gods.  It is one thing for us to say that we’re Christians, to confess that we believe and to declare that we’ve been baptized; it’s wholly another to live as a child of God as we confess our faith with our actions. As Christians, we walk wisely.

Lesson 1: Proverbs 9:1-6
Lesson 2: Ephesians 5:15-20
Gospel:    John 6:41-51

Friday, August 21, 2015

We are Like Jesus - August 23rd

Ephesians: United in Christ
Message notes by Pastor Ewings from on a sermon based on Ephesians 4:17-24

Whom do you want to be like?  A former teacher, a world leader, a neighbor, your boss?  There have been people in your life who have had a great impact and influence on who you are today.  As adults, we tend to give little thought to the idea of having a role model, as we regard this to be a quality that children seek from the adults in their  lives.  But when you think about it, you’re never too young and you’re never too old to have a role model.  So, who’s yours?
If you haven’t chosen someone for yourself, Paul suggests one for us today.  He says, “Be imitators of God.”  That’s right, Paul urges us to make the Lord our role model.  In our thoughts, in our words and in our actions, we want to be like God. But how can we imitate a God Whom we can’t even fathom? How can we strive to be like someone—the Lord nonetheless—Who is completely unlike us?  He’s perfect and holy, always loving, always forgiving.  He’s our polar opposite!
To be sure, we cannot imitate God by creating a universe or caring for it day after day.  We cannot mimic Jesus’ miracles: changing water into wine, walking on water,  healing the sick or raising the dead.  We cannot mime Jesus’  method of satisfying God’s demands for justice and mercy and providing the solution for the salvation of the world.  But we can and must imitate Him; we must copy His love. 
The Lord reminds us of many ways in this text in which He has loved us: we were sealed by the Holy Spirit, forgiven in Christ and loved by God the Father.  His love for us enables us to imitate Him, that is, to love Him and to love one another.

The same kind of things come to different kinds of people.  We all face difficulties and disappointments, hardships and hurt., trials and temptations.  The difference is in the way that people react.  For some, these events lead to bitterness, which gives birth to rage and anger,  which seeks to destroy a person in any way possible. For the Christian, our thoughts, words and actions are united with those of Jesus.  When we face life’s challenges, we react out of love, kindness and compassion, we are quick to forgive—yes, we are like Jesus because He enables us to live like Him and love like Him.

Lesson One:  1 Kings 19:3-8
Lesson Two:  Ephesians 4:30-5:2
Gospel:  John 6:41-51

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Jesus Makes Us New - August 16th

Ephesians: United in Christ
Pastor Ewings' Message Notes on his sermon based on Ephesians 4:17-24
In the text before us today, Paul speaks of the Christian’s sanctified life and contrasts it with the “old” way of life—life without Christ. Paul uses the term “Gentiles” to refer to unbelievers. Many of the Ephesian Christians were “Gentiles,” but after their conversion their ethnic background no longer matters. They are entirely different people now from what they were before; Jesus makes them new.
Paul traces the futile thinking of the unbelievers back to their darkened understanding. Their thoughts are futile because their minds have been totally corrupted by sin. It’s impossible for unbelievers to have even one godly thought. Their sinful, corrupted nature has made them total strangers to the spiritual life that God gives.  Ironically, the unbeliever’s darkened understanding of happiness must sooner or later lead to misery. Already in this life, without realizing it, the unbeliever suffers the consequences of living apart from God. He lives without the comforting peace that comes from being right with God through faith in Christ. If the unbeliever remains without this peace during his life here, then physical death will seal his separation from God for all eternity.
Paul says that Christ is served only when the Christian puts off the old, sinful nature which resembles the unbeliever in every way. By bringing us to faith God has put off the “old” for us. Because of Christ’s work, the sin of our old Adam, along with his bad reputation and his insatiable desire for evil, is no longer charged against us. Appreciating what Christ has done, we will not want to give the “old” nature the upper hand in our lives.
In our service to Christ and in our desire to remain in His truth, we drown the “old self” continually through daily contrition and repentance.  How important it is for Christians to recognize the old nature as a constant and deadly threat to our salvation! It is a constant threat because it can never be reformed. It is “being corrupted” Paul says; the sinful nature never cleans up its act. In fact, it only gets worse as time goes on.  We need Jesus to make us new!  He renews us with His Word and Sacraments.

First Lesson - Exodus 16:2-15
Second Lesson - Ephesians 4:17-24
Gospel - John 6:24-35

Friday, August 7, 2015

We Are One In Christ - August 9th

Ephesians: United in Christ
Message Notes from Pastor Ewings on his sermon based on Ephesians 4:1-7

Over the past three weeks as we’ve looked at the Book of Ephesians, we’ve sought out some elusive qualities together.  In the first sermon on the Book, God spoke to us about how He chose us in Christ before the creation of the world—He predestined us—by grace to be a part of His family.  Two weeks ago we heard how He gives one of the greatest gifts to the Church in Christ: peace, which not only comes to us through Christ but truly is Christ.  Last week our God spoke to us about another immense gift that is ours in Christ: love that is so big we cannot calculate its breadth, measure its length, surmise its height or sound its depth; love that is big enough for you.  Our God has given us His grace, His peace and His love in Christ.
Today our God wants to continue pouring out His blessings upon us and, in like fashion, He gives us something so elusive that we can rightly say it can only come from Heaven.  While politicians promise it, generals demand it and marketing firms crave it, it’s simply too rare to exist among a people as diverse as we are.  Today, the Lord graciously gives us unity and all the many blessings that come with it. 
We live in an age which values diversity and welcomes differences.  Like many, we may embrace the mindset which “agrees to disagree.”  This text, however, is a reminder of the true unity we posses in Christ through the Holy Spirit.  It is a oneness that He produces by means of the teachings of God’s Word.  Christians in doctrinal unity express this fellowship and lean on this strength. 
The Church of God is united, yet it is still diverse.  While God has given grace to each one of us in the very same measure, we are not free to choose which consequences of the Gospel we would like for our lives.  As a part of the Church of Christ, we can expect that God will use each of us individually and all of us corporately to achieve His purpose. In this, we are united; we are one in Christ. 

First Lesson:  Exodus 24:3-11
Second Lesson:  Ephesians 4:1-7
Gospel:  John 6:1-15