30 days of growth: becoming a place where Jesus lives

biblereading8

I’ve been in  ministry for over 10 years and in those years I’ve never had an office. I’ve written in coffee shops, in tucked-away places at a local university library, and at my kitchen table. There was just never room for an office before now.

All last month I unpacked boxes in our new home.

Then it was time to unpack my new office! 

I hung a treasured picture on the wall. Richard and I labored over shelves, and my photos and treasured resource books were put in place. I set my printer on the desk, smiling at the thought that it would be easily accessed, rather than housed in a corner in a bedroom closet. I hung my prayer board on the wall, with names of people I love, and scriptures to encourage me as I work.

I am in tears even as I write this, as I sit in with my fingers poised on the keyboard.

Suzie, couldn’t you work just as well in those other places?

Yes, I could, even with distractions and circumstances that made it more challenging.

But what a gift to walk into a room set aside for Jesus and I to meet daily, where my work can also be my worship, with no limitations.

As we dig deeper in Ephesians, Paul moves from talking about an individual relationship with Christ, to our relationship with each other.

Which can be tricky, right? Even today.

Paul describes the church as a sacred place where Jesus wants to live and move and have His being. It’s not a building. It’s not a denomination. It’s a place where Jesus lives.

Let’s read together.

Ephesians 2:11-22 (NIV)

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

This is a passage that might easily be passed over, and the truths inside be missed. So, we’re going to take all week on this.

We’re going to look at how we can be united together. How that works, how it’s built, how it functions. So, we’ll begin today with the foundation of that church.

Paul shares that the foundation was built on apostles and prophets. He wasn’t giving power to mere men, but stating that a strong foundation is built by those who feel compelled and follow the call to share Good News. And on that foundation, brick by brick, a church is created of people of all races and cultures who have a heart to love and follow Christ.

But there is one very important instruction in building this church: Christ is the cornerstone. 

In ancient building practices “the chief cornerstone” was carefully placed in a building. It was crucial because the entire building was lined up with it. Otherwise it could be weak, or unable to withstand damaging winds.

But how could a church even be built when people lived so separate? 

In those days, there were the Jews, and even in their faith there were many dividing factors – some believed one way, others interpreted it differently.

Then there were the Gentiles. Some who believed in God, others who believed in idols or their own set of gods.

And yet Jesus came for all of them.

For all of us. 

Maybe you’ve felt on the outside before. Separate. You’ve thought, like the Gentiles, that you didn’t have a place in the body of Christ.

Maybe, like the Jews, you’ve been near faith your whole life, and there has been a dividing line between you and others who aren’t “like you.”

What might happen if, as a church, we began to live united in Christ and united with each other?  Would it change you? Would it change those who don’t know Christ?

Today, I’m leaving you only with questions, but I promise that we’ll go deeper.  To discover how Paul is trying to show the church of Ephesus how to become a place set aside for Jesus, where believers come together, where their work can also be their worship, with no limitations.

As we begin this week’s study:

  1. Ask the Holy Spirit into today’s study. (It’s a good thing to not have all the answers, and to have to ask the harder questions.)
  2. Go back to week one: Who wrote this? Why did he write it? Who was he writing it to?
  3. In what ways do we create dividing lines in the church, outside the church?
  4. Write down any questions you might have and post them here. We’ll explore the answers together.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Nancy,
    I beige God has the answer you need but I cN offer you encouragement my sister. god moved my children an I to Griffin, Georgia and we found a church. I came into the church with a mind to serve in the same way I did in my prior church, but after much prayer God showed me He had other plans. I was once a part of a sign language ministry and a decorations committee. I assumed that God would use me in the same capacity at my new church where everything was different except the word of God being preached. My family is the only African American family in a small church where the majority of the population is Caucasian. Worship is different for us, events available are different. I came from a nondenominational church in my where the congregants were primarily African, Caribbean, African American and Hispanic. But once I accepted Gods placement in the church and allowed Him to direct me to service areas, things have taken off. God has taught me to available to serve wherever He calls me to and not to pursue a title
    / position but to allow Him to simply work through me in ministry. It had been quite a blessing to me and my family to be where I am now and I’m glad about it. So please pray for God to confirm where He wants your church home to be, but also be open to going wherever God sends you. Be open and willing to serve in whatever areas God tells you to serve in and God will bless your obedience and submission to His plan for your lives.

  2. Just wondering if others have found it difficult in moving and finding a new church to be involved with? My husband and I moved two years ago and have been attending the same church for as long, but we don’t feel we belong to this local body of Christ. The people are friendly, but the roles within the church seem so defined and there isn’t room for us to serve in the areas we are gifted. We all have our place in the Body of Christ, but how do we find where we belong , can serve and function as a member of the body?

    • I am right now in a new church for the first time in three decades. It is hard to walk in cold where you don’t know anyone, and to find where you belong. BUT we all have a place to belong. It may mean that we walk into our discomfort zone as we explore different ministries. It might mean letting God’s timing unfold as we get to know people, get filled up, and find that place. It might mean that we pray and ask God for the right church where we can connect and have community. I love the comment above, where Natesha found an entirely different means of ministry within her new church. But it all begins with prayer, sweet Nancy. Getting alone with God and asking for direction. Getting out of your comfort zone in your church (and you may be already doing this) and getting to know people, connecting in small groups, serving in areas where there is a need rather than a niche, and allowing the Holy Spirit to show you where you fit, for you do, my friend. We all have plan and purpose in the body of Christ, and you are no different. Perhaps your church may not be offering that opportunity at the moment, but there’s a single mom, or a hurting friend, or a shut-in, or a person seeking Christ right in your sphere of influence. Minister where you can, as you ask God to show you the next step in ministry in your church body. I’m so glad you shared this question.

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