EBC


I will begin preaching through Habakkuk on Sunday if everything goes according to plan.  It will become the sixth minor prophet I have preached through in the last two years (Amos, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Haggai, and Habakkuk) in addition to having taught through Isaiah and Micah in our Sunday School class last Spring.  I had originally planned to preach a topical series on worship after Easter and the four sermons from Habakkuk will be on detriments to worship.  I find it pretty amazing how God works as He molds us into the direction He would have us go.  I have been preparing since early winter for this worship series, but then He drops Habakkuk into my mind.  I will be honest and say that Habakkuk is not a text I have studied that much and so I have been trying to play catch-up.  Yet, as I have studied through Habakkuk I have been humbled by how it fits perfectly into what I have already been thinking through and even more surprising, how it perfectly links to my Holy Week series and Easter Sunday sermon.  I am uncertain why God has led me to the prophets as much as He has lately.  After all, our Community Lenten Series focused around the “prophetic parables” in Hosea and Jeremiah.   However, as Habakkuk so eloquently asserts, God’s timing and purposes are not our own and we must simply rest in them.  I have found two great quotes during my Habakkuk preparation that I thought I would share.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have and that it will encourage you to take a look at the hinge of the minor prophets—Habakkuk.

“Faith and fact are not always compatible in the world of sense and sight, but that is not the whole world.  There is a world of justice that only God fully comprehends.  His people must accept by faith what they cannot confirm in fact.”
C. H. Bullock

“Such a word from God implies that they turmoil and violence and death in our societies may not be evidence of God’s absence from our lives but instead the witness to his actual working in judgment as he pursues his purpose.  No event in human history, therefore, is to be understood as completely divorced from his lordly action and will.  God is always at work, always involved, always pressing forward toward his kingdom.  But the means by which he chooses to pursue that goal may be as astounding as the destruction of a nation or as incomprehensible as the blood dripping from the figure of a man on a cross.”
Elizabeth Achtemeier

Peace be with you.

We conclude our Lenten lunch series today with this last look at Paul’s prayer for understanding.  We will continue serving until 2:00 so if you are in the area please come out and join us.  Also, we will have our traditional Maundy Thursday service of Word and Table tonight at 7:00 and our Good Friday Tenebrae service tomorrow at 7:00.  We hope that you will make plans to join us for each of these special commemorations of our Lord’s final days.

That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17b-19

We conclude our look at the dimensions of God’s love today by examining Paul’s desire that we know the depth of God’s love.  It would appear at the outset to be the easiest of the dimensions to understand.  The ability to perceive depth, after all, is something we learn to do unconsciously during infancy.  Yet, if we were honest we would all say that we sometimes do not accurately perceive the depth of some things.  I learned this first hand a few weeks ago when, while helping in our church’s Adopt-a-Highway clean-up effort, I found myself stuck in water halfway up my shin.  I had told my wife Eliza that I did not think the ditch was that deep just before I started sliding down the bank into a ditch that I soon found was over my head.  My inability to perceive the ditch’s depth left me mired in unyielding mud, wet, dirty and feeling totally helpless.  Indeed, if Eliza had not pulled me out I would  probably still be stuck and given our recent rains in even more water and muck than I was.  I cannot say that this was the first time I have found myself in such a predicament, however.  My inability to accurately perceive things has often caused me to make poor decisions that were contrary to the best that God had for me and I found myself stuck and helpless.  The great thing is that there is someone who can help us when we find ourselves in the ditch.  Jesus’ resurrection from the cold depth of His borrowed tomb insured forever that there was no depth so great that God’s love still could not reach us and pull us from.   What a comfort it is to remember that when we find ourselves in life’s ditches.  However, the eye troubles that first caused us to get in the ditch, can sometimes impair our vision from accurately seeing that is where we are.  Hence, Paul adds after praying that we grasp all these dimensions that we know intimately the love of God.  It is incumbent upon us to continually seek God’s help to not only get out of the ditches we can see, but to give us clear vision to see first that we are in the ditch.  Jesus came to enable us to see that we have stumbled off God’s path and to lead us back to God by the way of the Cross.  I pray that you will have the power to feel afresh the depth of God’s love as it reaches where you are and brings you back to firm ground.  I pray that you would use these next few days to experience again the great gift of God’s Son and through His passion to comprehend how wide and long and high and deep is God’s love for you and to feel it intimately in your heart.

Peace be with you.

Here is part three of our Lenten lunch devotions.  We will conclude next week so please if you are in the area come and join us from 12-2 for great food and fellowship.

That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17b-19

We arrive today at Paul’s third dimension of God’s love, height.  I believe this is the hardest dimension of the four to fathom.  I can use what I have previously experienced and enlarge it to comprehend the width and the length and even the depth of God’s love.  I have never though stood at the base of something and knew that regardless of how hard I tried, it’s peak would remain unseen and inaccessible to me.  Yet, that is exactly the way the Scriptures describe the height of God’s love.  The psalmist prays to God in Psalm 108 and says “for your steadfast love is great above the heavens.”  In other words, there is nothing that will ever be able to stand above God’s love.  What a wonderful truth to let slip into our souls.  Yes, we may sin grievously, but God’s love is such that His forgiveness will still stamp it down if we but ask.  Yet, it goes farther than this.  I do not know about you, but I am often intimidated by things taller than I am.  I get nervous when I have to get something off the cabinet’s top shelf because I generally have to stand on something to reach it and I am always afraid of falling.  I fell down a flight of stairs once and have been hesitant of going down stairs ever since.  I get really nervous driving across most bridges, particularly the high ones.  After all, it is a long way down.  Indeed, when I have something to do that I am dreading, my mind will often endow the task with proportions that often make it much bigger than it actually is.  What a comfort to know then, that I can stare directly at the things I fear the most and see the height of God’s love towering above it.  Paul prayed that we know  the height of God’s love because he had experienced it first hand.  He had stared down everything from angry mobs to ultimately the Roman emperor through the power of it’s height.  He even gazed into Death’s cold, dark glare and said with unbending resolve “O death, where is your victory, where is your sting” for He knew the height of God’s love could overcome even that which we consider to be final.  I do not know what you are going through today, but I pray that you will see that God’s love towers above it, ready to slip between you and your burden and lift it to heights unknown to allow you to walk free.  I pray that this freedom will enable you to face down every fear and sin that so easily besets us and that you may know that God is still in control.

Peace be with you.

We continued our Lenten lunches yesterday and moved on to Paul’s second dimension–length.  I hope you enjoy it and if you are in the area next Thursday will make plans to join us for lunch.  We serve sumptuous soup and delectable sandwiches from 12-2.

That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17b-19

Last week we discussed the awesome width of God’s love and how it will over wash us if we would but allow it.  Today, we hear Paul pray that we know the length of God’s love.  Length is generally defined as the measure of something at it’s greatest dimension.  Thus, when we describe someone who has robbed a store we do not say that they were two feet wide, we say they are 6 feet tall.  It is this point of greatest dimension that so often arrests our attention first.  How striking it is then that Paul speaks about the length of Christ’s love for I’ll admit that if you are like me, you rarely think of it in those terms.  Yet, it is the length of God’s love that should stir our hearts more than any other descriptor, for it details the full extent that God went to reach us.  Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg Address that those killed in battle did so as the “last full measure of devotion” to their country.  In other words, they went to the farthest length possible for the cause of liberty.   The Scriptures describe Jesus’ life in similar terms.  Jesus left the eternal splendor of Heaven to come and live amongst the muck of humanity.  The all-powerful, ever-present Son of God clothed Himself in the limiting and powerless attire of human flesh.  Ultimately, this Prince of Glory who had never been apart from the sweet communion of God’s presence would cry out in unimaginable agony from Calvary’s cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” as He gave the last full measure of devotion for us.  He forsook the glory of eternity to die for you and me.  Let us not rest simply in this knowledge, but understand that He is still striving to show His love to us.  He still reaches across eternity with outstretched hand and pleads with us to glance up and take it and be lifted from the muck and mire that He died and rose again to free us from.  Christ’s love extends to the farthest extent imaginable because He knows that our unrighteousness has limited the length of our ability to reach Him to simply gazing up.  How then can we refuse such love?   Furthermore, how can we continue to limit the length of our love to Him when faced with the extent of His love to us.   I pray today that if you have never gazed into the loving face of the Saviour that you would do so and experience firsthand the length of God’s love.  And if you have already fixed your eyes on Jesus, I pray you would measure and see how long your love for God is and seek to extend it.

Peace be with you.

We are trying a new outreach effort starting today at EBC.  We are hosting for the remaining Thursdays in Lent a free soup and sandwich lunch.  Our hope is to attract folks who work in town to join us for lunch and hear a short devotion.  I am focusing on Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 throughout this time.  I thought I’d share today’s devotion.  I find my writing for things that I will speak is different from my normal writing style.  If you are in the area we’d encourage you to drop.  We will be serving from 12-2.

That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17b-19

We do not use the word “breadth” very often these days.  It’s a rather arcane term that signifies width.  I find it fascinating that Paul’s list to the Ephesian church begins with width.  We live in an age that is more expansive than ever before.  We speak today in terms of a global economy in which the economic condition of China is a determining factor in Enfield’s gas prices.  When we need to find something out, we hop on the world wide web and instantly thousands of sources are at our finger tips.  Yet, though we are constantly bombarded with an awe inspiring sense of “wideness” most of us, if we were honest, would say that we are narrow.  We are hemmed in by our own personal experiences and the mundane circumstances of our lives.  Our ability to conceive is constrained by what we know and we have great difficulty reaching beyond that point.  And so, we find it incomprehensible when faced with the unimaginable magnitude of God’s love, a love which sent His only Son to a cruel death on the Cross in our place, to believe that He can love us unconditionally.  We, who can readily remember our worst deeds, find it unbelievable that God can wash away the foulest things we have done and make it as if it never happened.  Hence, Paul prays first that we understand that God’s love and mercy is unimaginably wide.  Indeed, the Scriptures tell us that “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”  Beloved, there is absolutely nothing we can do which the wide expanse of God’s love and mercy would leave uncoverable if we would but look to God for grace.  The beauty of the Cross is that Jesus took upon Himself all our sins and forever canceled their penalty for anyone who would believe in Him.  When I was child, playing hide and seek in my grandmother’s back yard was something.  It was the largest yard on our block and there were unimaginable hiding places.  Furthermore, if you did find the person hiding, they had a vast expanse in which to run from you.  The simplicity of the breadth of God’s love is that we do not have to search endlessly for it, we do not have to go chasing after it.  It is readily accessible to us for it laps like the gentle sea on the shores of our soul ready to wash over us if we would but ask God to do it.  I pray today that if you have never done that you would do so now.  And if you have already the width of God’s love wash over you, that you would ask Him to experience it afresh today.   Paul is quite clear that only by doing this will we ever be filled with “all the fullness of God.”  I am convinced that God desires to break down the narrow parameters in which we operate in order to let His love flow out of us into a world that feels unloved and unwanted.  Would you let Him start with you today?

Peace be with you.

      So, as you can see, it snowed in Enfield this weekend.  In fact, we had to cancel services Sunday for only the second time in my pastorate .  I love it when it snows.  The whole world becomes a vast sea of white and when the sun comes out, it’s brillant reflection is so incredibly pure.  I have been reminded continually during this current winter wonderland of God’s message to Isaiah.  “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”   The Scriptures recount that Moses’ countenance  glowed after he had been in the presence of God, much like the reflection of freshly fallen snow I would suspect.  Is it possible that the reason why people are not drawn to our faith is that we lack such reflection?  Furthermore, could our lusterless faith be the result of a lack of reasoning with God?  When was the last time we felt the washing through of complete repentence?  I realize the difficuly of such questions in my life, yet I know that God desires to make my soul as pure as newly fallen snow.  I pray that as the snow melts away we would allow the vulgarness of our souls to melt with it as we experience afresh the sweet peace of God’s forgiveness.

Prison Pic First off, let me apologize for not posting yesterday as scheduled.  We started our revival meetings this week, so you can imagine that it’s a busy time here at EBC.  Let me encourage you to come out and join us either tonight or tomorrow.  Our speaker is the Reverend Dr. Walt Cooper, senior pastor of Proctor’s Chapel Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, NC.  Walt has brought two powerful messages thus far and I can only expect greater things as the week progresses.

I have recently been reading Being the Body by Chuck Colson and Ellen Vaughn.  It has been a fantastic study thus far on how we are to be incarnational in our practice and I confess it is challenging me in a host of ways that I never thought would happen.  I have never read anything by Colson before, although I am very familiar with his redemptive story thanks to my fondness for Richard Nixon.  Colson has recounted different instances involving his work with Prison Fellowship throughout the book that speak to how powerful the Gospel can be to those who have no hope and there are a lot who are without hope.  The American prison population now totals over 2 million.  When you delve into that number, the statistics become even more frightening.  The Justice Department reports that 10% of the African-American male population between the ages of 25 and 29 is in prison.  In fact, there are more African-American males in prison right now than there are in college.  These statistics cannot help but shed a great deal of light on why the African-American family situation is one of the most fragile in our society and must be addressed if we do not expect to lose the next generation completely.  One of the ways it can be addressed is for those that are currently in prison to not go back.  Unfortunately, the recidivism rate is 67.5% within 3 years.  Prison Fellowship works to solve these problems through the most proven method ever known—-not reformation but regeneration.  The only way one can ever be freed from lifestyles that ultimately lead to prison is the rebirth that is found through Jesus Christ.  I cannot urge you enough to consider giving to Prison Fellowship’s ministry or at the very least praying for their work.  Let us remember the words of the Lord Jesus when He reminded us that whatever we do for the least among us, specifically mentioning those in prison, we do it to him.

Peace be with you.

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