Our Reputation

 “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints” ~ Ephesians 1:15

The followers of Jesus in Ephesus (modern day Turkey) had a reputation. Paul says here that he’s heard two things about these people – they were a community of faith and love.

How does a church get a reputation? People have to know about us! We’re not going to get a reputation if we’re just sitting inside worshiping together but never interacting with those outside the walls of the church.

People need to see us together acting in faith and together acting in love in order for New City IPC to gain this kind of reputation.  The church must live out its faith before the community to gain this good reputation.

Pastor Nabors, when he was visiting us in August, said something that stayed with me.  “If your church vanished today – would anyone care?”
If New City dropped stopped and we all moved away – would anyone be upset? Right now – no – but my prayer is that soon, we would get to the point where even those who don’t follow Jesus want us to be in Shepherd’s Bush.
I’m praying that even those who think our beliefs are strange would say they want us here because of the way we love the elderly, the children and the poor in the community.

We’re not there yet, but little by little, I’m praying that people hear about New City.

I want New City IPC to have a reputation.

The solution may not be the solution

Last night as we were driving to church at New City, my battery light came on.  No problem – everything seemed fine.  But then on the way home the power steering went out.  Oh no!  I fought with the wheel at every turn and thankfully we made it home.

This incident reminded me of an earlier incident I had with the battery of my car soon after I started driving.  My car wouldn’t start, so after getting a jump from a friend, I drove down to the local mechanic.  I asked the elderly man to check my battery because I was sure that I needed new one.  He nodded his head and lifted the bonnet of the car.  He then proceeded to pull out his pocket knife.

At this point, I started to wonder, “What kind of crazy mechanic fixes a battery with a knife?”

Without saying a word, he proceeded to scrape the leads to each terminal of the battery and then muttered, “Try it now.”

Started right up.  No battery needed as corrosion had blocked the electrical connection.

Lesson that I learned:  The solution that I thought I needed was not the solution that I really needed.

How often to do we think we know the answer to the problem we are facing.  We’ve got it all worked out and yet the issue is not moving forward.  Maybe it’s time to step back.  Maybe your solution is not God’s solution.

Maybe the solution that you think you need is not the solution that you really need.

The mystery

“making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ”  Ephesians 1:9

This summer at the Olympics the big mystery was, “Who is going to light the Olympic flame?”  In the end, it was a group of young athletes who lit the Olympic flame together.  I don’t think anyone saw that coming!

In the same way – many people missed the mystery of God early on and many still miss the mystery today.  The mysterious will of God is to have everything in heaven and earth united in Jesus. But this was not understood during the time of the writing of the Old Testament.

The Bible is like a flower that opens up over time.  A rose bud is tightly closed.  But if you look closely, you can see a bit of the red color showing through.   If you’d never seen a rose, you wouldn’t understand what is coming next. But over time, the bud opens up and we see the beautiful rose.

In the Old Testament we see glimpses of Jesus – if we know what we’re looking for – but it’s not easy. As Paul says here, there is mystery in the way God revealed himself in the Old Testament.

We see a picture of the sacrificial lamb, we see the promise in Genesis 3 that Satan would be crushed by Eve’s offspring, and we see King David ruling over God’s people as a picture of the coming King Jesus but David’s not even close to being a perfect king.

Even when Jesus walked the earth with his disciples – they had a hard time understanding this mystery of God. Several times Jesus said he would die and rise again, but it wasn’t until after the death and resurrection of Jesus that the disciples came to understand that Jesus was the promised savior of the entire world.

In Luke 24, we find the story of Jesus appearing on the road with two of the disciples.  But they didn’t recognize Jesus as they talk about the events of the day – Jesus’ trial, his death and his resurrection. The the writer then says:
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Beginning with Moses, the man who wrote the first five books of the bible, and through the prophets at the end of the Old Testament – Jesus said that all of this was about him. The mystery is about Jesus!!

The disciples had a hard time understanding the mystery and we often miss the mystery as well.

We miss the mystery because we think Jesus should ride in with power to fix all our problems when he said it is the poor, the humble and the outcast who inherit the kingdom of God.

We miss the mystery because we think Jesus doesn’t care about our situation when in fact, Jesus said I will never leave you nor forsake you.
We miss the mystery because we think Jesus doesn’t understand what we are going through when he in fact faced the brutal pain and the humiliating shame of the cross for our sakes.

This verse in Ephesians says that the Father is “making known to us the mystery of his will.”  An understanding of this mystery comes not because you or I are so smart.  We’re no better at figuring out the things of God than anyone else.  It’s a work of grace that God has revealed the mystery to His people. We can take no credit. We can not boast. We have nothing to stand on except God’s unmerited favor.

And that too is part of the mystery of God.

God’s got a plan

A number of years back after we had moved to London, our family tried to continue a US tradition we had started in the early years of our marriage. We would drive into the city on a Sunday evening to see the Christmas lights.  Central London is down the A- 40 – we’ll just drive there.

Do you know that was one of the most stressful driving experiences I’ve had in London? Turn here – there’s a light, go that way! It’s a sign for Oxford street – turn left! Turn right – right here!

It’s only God’s mercy that we made it home before midnight and without wrecking the car. I had driven before into central London and, while it wasn’t pleasant, I was much more confident than on this Sunday evening drive with the family. Why?

A plan.

When I’ve driven into the city on other times – I had a destination, I had maps, I had a plan to get to the right place. Without a plan there came fear and stress.

Ephesians 1 verses 3 and 4, Paul lets us know that God has a plan for His people.

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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.

Paul has confidence in writing to the Ephesians because God is at work and He’s been at work for a long, long time. Paul doesn’t have to wonder if God is going to make all things new. He doesn’t have to wonder if God will wipe away every tear. He doesn’t have to wonder if there will be an end to oppression, racism and injustice.

God is working His plan. And this gives Paul a confidence even when he’s sitting in prison writing this letter.

God says he is going to bless his people.  Does that mean every situation will be easy? Of course not! Comfort and ease are not part of the promise of God – blessings in Christ for our good – that is the promise.

That is God’s plan. And that is a plan that truly takes away fear and stress.

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