Thursday, February 23, 2017

Its been a while

Just brushing off the dust and seeing what its like to get back into blogging.  Looking to get started again, and I have some ideas especially with Lent coming up.  Stayed tuned, and lets see where this goes!!  Stay close to Jesus. -V

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ephesians 3: The Revelation of God's Plan

Following Ephesians 1 and 2, chapter 3 is another powerhouse where Paul reveals the mystery and revelation of God's plan!!


Ephesians 3 (NRSV)

Paul’s Ministry to the Gentiles

This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for[a] Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery[b] was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see[c] what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[d] God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.[e] 13 I pray therefore that you[f] may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.

Prayer for the Readers

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,[g] 15 from whom every family[h] in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


Comments/Thoughts
There is so much to write about in this chapter, its difficult to be brief and pithy, and keep this from becoming a sermon, as opposed to a blog entry.  Its just so good!!  I'll try to keep it to 3 main observations.
  1. Through God's Grace, the mystery has been revealed to Paul.  What is this mystery?  That the salvation has come to the Gentiles!  That there is now a radical equality and unity between Jews and Gentiles.  Its stressed 3 times in verse 6 (remember 3s: Peter denied Jesus 3 times, Jesus restored Peter 3 times, etc...).  In verse 6 Paul declares that the Gentiles are now 1) fellow heirs, 2) members of the same body, and 3) sharers of the promise in Christ through the Gospel.  We, the Gentiles, the wild branch, have been grafted into the tree of God's family and now are a permanent part of God's family!!
  2. That Paul in his ultimate humility, stating that he is the least of all the saints, declares that the curse of Gen 3:15, the separation between man and God, the enmity between man's seed and God, is no more!!  Paul writes in  11 and 12 that the eternal purpose has been carried out and that now we have access to God in boldness and confidence through our faith in Jesus!!
  3. Starting at verse 14, Paul ends with what is considered by some to be one of the most powerful apostolic prayers in the New Testament.  Paul, through the Holy Spirit calls to have the "inner man" strengthened, to bring our Spirit into accordance with His will.  That we may be rooted to comprehend the depths and length's of God's love which surpasses our understanding.  And lets look for a moment at the word "rooted" and "grounded" verse 17.  The Greek word used as rooted  is errizomenoi.  and the Greek word used as grounded is tehthemeliomenoi.  Rooted is a horticultural term, and grounded is an architectural term.  In this instance, a believer that is rooted, is like a solid tree, planted, with deep roots.  A believer then that is grounded, is like a building with a strong foundation; this believer is deep, not superficial.  What is needed for a rooted and grounded foundation is, of course, love.  A simply wonderdful verse by Paul, and a promise with for us as belivers.
Chapter 3 ends with a beautiful doxology.  Great chapter!!  What are your thoughts?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ephesians 2: Once dead, now alive in Christ!

Ephesians chapter 2 is usually famously known for 2:8-9, and rightly so, but there is so much more in this chapter of Ephesians.  Lets take a look...


Ephesians 2 (NRSV)
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ[a]—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.


11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth,[b] called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body[c] through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.[d] 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.[e] 21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually[f] into a dwelling place for God.

Footnotes:

  1. Ephesians 2:5 Other ancient authorities read in Christ
  2. Ephesians 2:11 Gk in the flesh
  3. Ephesians 2:16 Or reconcile both of us in one body for God
  4. Ephesians 2:16 Or in him, or in himself
  5. Ephesians 2:20 Or keystone
  6. Ephesians 2:22 Gk in the Spirit




Comments/Thoughts
  • Chapter 2 begins with verse 1 and  the strong statement, "You were dead in your trespasses and sins..."  Now think about that for a moment.  You were dead.  DEAD!!  What can a dead person do?  The answer is NOTHING.  A dead person cannot do anything, because they are dead.  Because of our sin, we were dead...unable to save ourselves...unable to do anything for ourselves.  We followed the ways and the ruler of this world, and were unable to follow our Lord.  We were creatures of desire, creatures of the flesh.  It goes on to say on 3 that we were by nature children of wrath.  Wrath is defined as "extreme anger".  In other words, we were dead spiritually, and a hot mess in any other sense of the word.
  • But then our gracious Lord comes in.  Starting in v4 we learn that out of God's great mercy and love, even though we were dead, though Jesus Christ he made us Alive!!  Much like the Lord on Easter Sunday, we are brought from death (in our former state), to life in Christ Jesus (in our current state).  How wonderful!
  • This is followed then by the famous verses 8-9, that tell us that it is our faith that saves us, and that the faith is given as a gift of God, not a work of man, so that we may not boast.  This is pivotal to understand: there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.  Our God, in His infinite mercy has given us Jesus, and the gift of faith, so that through belief we can be saved.  This is His gift to us, not our action!!  We cannot boast of our salvation as something we earn, because we do not earn it.  It is gifted to us by an all loving, all merciful God.
  • Vv10-22 go on to then speak of the unification between Gentile and Jew.  There is no more differences amongst the people of God.  There is unity in Christ.  Those who believe are all God's children, the wall has been brought down, the distinction of the circumcision, the law has all been brought down and we are one in Christ.  I love the imagery in vv 11-15, that at one time we were strangers in the land, aliens, we had no hope, we did not have God.  But then, we are brought near and unified to the Kingdom through the blood of Christ.  How awesome.  I mean seriously how awesome!!  Once unified, all of the people of God are brought in under Jesus Christ, the cornerstone.
I'll leave it here for now.  Chapters 1-2 of Ephesians are just so powerful, so uplifting...they should provide all Christians a tranquil reassurance that our loving and merciful God has spared no expense to save us and bring us close to Him.  How great is our God!! 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Paul's Letter to the Ephesians: Intro and Chapter 1

I'm going to be spending a little time reading through the Letter to the Ephesians, one of my favorite books of the Bible (as they all are)!!  But I do have a particular fondness for Ephesians as I spent a lot of time with this book while I was in seminary.  That said, I'll kick things off here with an introduction and my reflections on Chapter 1.


Opening Notes
  • Ephesians is has been called "The Crown Jewel of Pauline Theology" by RC Sproul
  • This letter is closely related to Colossians.  Both were possibly written in the late 50s AD
  • It shows a highly evolved theology and Christology: the "Cosmic Christ" that unites all.
  • While it is called a letter, it is laid out more like a liturgy, with a long opening eulogy. 
  • Its a general epistle.  Unlike Paul's other letters, Ephesians does not address a specific issue in the church
  • The phrase "to the praise of His glory", or "to the praise of His glorious grace" is only found in Ephesians among Paul's letters.
  • Key themes include: God's plan of salvation, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the purpose of the church.


Ephesians 1 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Salutation

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful[a] in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ[b] before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance,[c] having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this[d] is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

Paul’s Prayer

15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[e] toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God[f] put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Footnotes:

  1. Ephesians 1:1 Other ancient authorities lack in Ephesus, reading saints who are also faithful
  2. Ephesians 1:4 Gk in him
  3. Ephesians 1:11 Or been made a heritage
  4. Ephesians 1:14 Other ancient authorities read who
  5. Ephesians 1:15 Other ancient authorities lack and your love
  6. Ephesians 1:20 Gk He


Thoughts and Comments


  • I have often said that if you are depressed and you read Ephesians 1 and are still depressed, something is wrong!!  What a great opening chapter.
  • From the get go, we see Paul's heart as he states that he is an apostle of Jesus "by the will of God" in v1.  Really shows Paul's gratitude and humble heart.
  • Verses 3-7 are a powerhouse!  We learn that:
    • We have been blessed in Christ with EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenly places!!  Every blessing!!  We may not see them materially on earth, but in the heavenly places we have been blessed with every blessing!
    • The we are told that before the foundations of the world were laid, we were CHOSEN to be holy, blameless and to stand in His presence.  How awesome!  What a tremendous thing to know.  That we were thought of in Christ, not by chance, not by circumstance, but at the very beginning of creation.
    • That through Jesus we were destined to be adopted as children of God.  Brothers with the Lord, a part of His family.  How wonderful that is to know.
    • And the best part, this is bestowed freely on us by the Father, through Jesus, for His good pleasure!!  To His grace!!  That's right, God does this for us because it make Him happy, and brings Him pleasure to do so.  Its not about us, its about Him and His goodness and grace.
  • In v9 he continue on that He has made known to us the mystery of His will through Jesus.  As sons and daughters, as children in the family, the Father makes known to us His will through Jesus.
  • And one day Jesus, the "Cosmic Christ" will gather up all things in heaven and earth to Him.
  • Vv11-12 show us that we are truly children, and as children we are heirs, and as heirs we have an inheritance...and that inheritance is Jesus Christ.
  • In vv 13-14 we learn that when we heard the Good News, and accepted, and believed in Jesus we were marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit!!  The mark of Holy Spirit is our guarantee.  It is God's pledge that we are His and we cannot be lost.  A seal in the early church times in which this was written denotes ownership and protection.  We are His!!  And why, because it brings God pleasure to make us His.  How wonderful!!
  • Vv 15-23 close with a beautiful prayer, where Paul asserts Christ's authority over all power and dominion, and above every name. 
I leave it here for now.  Ephesians 1 is an outstanding chapter that is the source of hundreds of books, so this is just a very, very brief few thoughts.  Feel free to comment away and ask any questions as well. 


Stay close to Jesus- V

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Bible Challenge 2015: Rules!!!


The Bible Challenge 2015

The point and purpose of the yearly Bible Challenge is to get Redline Youth to engage with and read their Bibles regularly.  For 2015 there are some changes:

  • You will not need to read the entire Bible
  • You must read the books of the Bible assigned, by month, in the chart below

Rules:

  • All of the books listed must be read prior 1/1/16
  • The chart suggests what books to read by month, but that is just a suggestion.  Read them as you need.
  • You must read these books.  It is approx. 28% of the Bible (19 of 66 books)
  • At the end of the year, a 20 question, take home, open book test will be handed out.  You will be given 2 weeks to complete
  • If you complete the test, and score a 100%, you will win a fabulous GRAND PRIZE worth hundreds of dollars!!!!!

Questions/changes/exceptions- see Pastor Vince

 


Friday, January 2, 2015

REDLINE YOUTH Calendar for January/February/March

The new year us here.  Hoping for an awesome and blessed 2015.  Below is a calendar for the first quarter of this year.  Keep in mind that this is always an evolving calendar, so things are always moving and always changing, but I'll do all I can to keep this current and make sure you're aware of any changes.  Thanks!!


January
  • 1/4/15 (Sunday): IGNITE at Ravenna 1st United Methodist Church, 5:30pm
  • 1/11/15 (Sunday): Redline Youth Group at CBC, 5:30pm
  • 1/18/15* (Sunday): Redline Youth Group at CBC, 5:30pm
  • 1/25/15 (Sunday): Redline Youth Group at CBC, 5:30pm
February
  • 2/1/15 (Sunday): IGNITE at Rootstown United Methodist Church, 5:30pm
  • 2/8/15 (Sunday): Redline Youth Group at CBC, 5:30pm
  • 2/15/15* (Sunday): Redline Youth Group at CBC, 5:30pm
  • 2/22/15 (Sunday): WINTER JAM!!!  Will meet at CBC around 1:30pm.  More details to follow
March
  • 3/1/15 (Sunday): IGNITE at CBC, 5:30pm
  • 3/2/15 (Tuesday): Redline Youth at Haven of Rest, meet at CBC at 5:30pm
  • 3/8/15 (Sunday): Redline Youth Group, 5:30pm
  • 3/15/15 (Sunday): Redline Youth Group, 5:30pm
  • 3/22/15 (Sunday): Redline Youth Group, 5:30pm
  • 3/29/15 (Palm Sunday): Redline Youth Group, 5:30pm


* Denotes a Chrysalis weekend

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Resolutions! Well. sort of?

Here we are, January 1, 2015.  A new year.  A clean slate.  As we say at work, "2014 was great, now we reset the scoreboard.  It's 0-0."  Yes, this is the time when we reflect on the prior year, think of things we accomplished and things we didn't, and try to plan for improvements with (what else), our "New Year's Resolutions"! 


Whether it's to lose weight, or work out, or get married, or make more money...etc., "the resolution" is the tool we use during this time every year to hold ourselves accountable.  There is one problem though:  Life.  Life happens, and for one reason or another, we cannot accomplish our resolutions.  So what typically happens is that by January 21st, while we meant well, our resolutions fall by the wayside.  I am guilty of this, as I am sure many of you are as well.  So this year, I am taking a different approach.


Rather than come up with super specific resolutions, I have come up with a list of 20 items/areas that I would like to work on for the following year.  There are no specific goals with these target areas (i.e., losing 20lbs, getting married, making xx% more, etc.), nor are there specific deadlines (i.e., By summer, by start of school, etc.).  Rather, these are just areas in my life that I want to address over the course of 2015...all of 2015.


So here is my list of "To Do's" (for lack of a better term) for 2015, in no particular order:
  1. Read more, and pray more
  2. Prioritize my marriage relationship and my wife more
  3. Watch less TV
  4. Be kinder, gentler, more patient, more grateful and more graceful
  5. Use social media less
  6. Get more rest/sleep
  7. Eat healthier food, eat less junk food
  8. Write and journal more
  9. Exercise more, work towards exercising daily
  10. Play with the kids more
  11. Sit less
  12. Be more active/engaged when I am home
  13. Be a better employee and servant
  14. Complain less
  15. Listen to more music
  16. Do more yard work and housework
  17. Listen better
  18. React slower
  19. Demand less
  20. Love more
I'm sure there are lots of other things I could add or replace, but this is what I came up with.  I've written in my journal, and am also writing it here in the hopes of creating accountability for myself.  Every day, every week, every month, every year is a gift from God, and I do not want to waste it.  I just want to try all I can, to be all I can be for my Lord.  I'm excited for whatever 2015 may hold, and since I know that my Lord Jesus Christ holds it all in His hands, I can rest assured in Him. 


“Israelis like a trained heifer treading out the grain—
    an easy job she loves.
    But I will put a heavy yoke on her tender neck.
I will force Judah to pull the plow
    and Israel to break up the hard ground.
12 I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
    and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
    for now is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come
    and shower righteousness upon you.’



Hosea 10:11-12