“The Soil of Your Heart”

Southside Christian School Campus Pastor Colin Urbanick preached a very relevant and convicting message for everyone in the High School Chapel audience on Thursday, January 16, 2020. If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Colin’s message, “The Soil of Your Heart,” please read on. . . .

“The Soil of Your Heart”

By Colin Urbanick, Campus Pastor / Director of Discipleship

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal (All errors are mine alone.)

When we walk in time and space, we have a choice. You have walked into this time and space of chapel. Lean and press into such opportunities for spiritual growth. Wrestle with where you are spiritually. We have this opportunity to worship the Person of Jesus Christ today.

It’s ironic that I work in a school. I could not focus during my own school experience. I was a weird middle school kid. I had long, greasy hair. I was skinny. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I was a bad student. I was a poor listener. I became the master of making others think I understood what was going on. Now, I am the teacher!

We people are bad listeners. What goes in one ear goes out the other.

Flip to Matthew 13, verses 16-17 with me.

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (English Standard Version)

People had to make a response to Jesus. Some were very intrigued by what Jesus had to say. Jesus spoke in parables, so we would look into ourselves. Parables put the ball in our court. Jesus, through parables, raises more questions than answers. And, he, too, experienced poor listeners. Parables give insights into the Kingdom of God.

Consider Matthew 13:3-9.

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  He who has ears, let him hear.” (ESV)

Jesus concluded this parable in a strange way. We need to listen to what the Kingdom of God is all about. Jesus wants us to reflect on what’s going on inside of us. The seed of God’s Word drops in our heart. How do we respond? He wants us to change. Where are you? What is the condition of the soil in your heart?

Think about Jesus’ interpretation of the parable in Matthew 13:18-23.

SOME SEE NO NEED FOR JESUS. Some believe they’ve heard it all about Jesus. Greenville is the 11th most biblically literate city in the United States, according to a Barna study. We have ears but do not hear. We view God as a parent lecturing to us through His Word. Some consciously decide to tune-out God’s truth.

SOME FOLLOW JESUS WHEN IT’S CONVENIENT. Initial joy withers under the pressure of inconvenience. We go on weekend retreats. We experience spiritual highs. And we come back to our day-to-day life, losing the joy and excitement.

SOME STRUGGLE WITH COMPETING ATTENTIONS. The soil has only so many nutrients. Weeds and thorns choke-out our following of Jesus. We have an appearance that we are following Jesus, but look at our schedules and how we spend our money to see if we are truly following Him. Jesus said the Kingdom always comes first in our lives. We say we’ll start following Jesus later. This spiritual state hits too close to home for me. The longer we stay in this state, the harder it is to get out.

SOME HEAR, LISTEN, UNDERSTAND, EMBRACE JESUS, AND BEAR MUCH FRUIT. This is who we think we are. Are we? We shouldn’t fool ourselves. We must be honest with ourselves. I must ask, “Where am I spiritually, and where do I want to go?” It’s time to examine ourselves.

Let’s end with Matthew 13:44.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (ESV)

Jesus said that, no matter where we are in our spiritual journey, here’s the promise:

IT’S ALWAYS WORTH IT.

This guy sold everything he had to experience the Kingdom of God. It’s always 100% worth it. Are we listening? Are we pretending? What is the condition of the soil of your heart?

Pastoral Prayer, 12 January 2020

I love that our church values and schedules weekly extended corporate prayer during Sunday morning worship services.  I was privileged to deliver that prayer on Sunday, January 12, 2020, and I thought you might be encouraged by the words which God gave me for the prayer.

Pastoral Prayer

By Bob Stouffer

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Lord, we worship You.

We humbly bow our hearts to You — the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God above all.

We have already confessed the sin which has come to us through Adam, and we have confessed our own defects.

We who declare You as Lord and Savior thank You and the Second Adam — Jesus Christ — for everlasting life!

In the power of Your Holy Spirit, help us to love You with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength — obeying You more and more in all that we think, say, and do.

Your Word repeatedly tells us not to be anxious, worry, or fear. Help us to abide in Christ, so we can limit anxiety, worry, and fear in our lives.

Help us to not “murder” people through our anger.

Help us not to “lust.”

Help us to be long suffering like Job.

Help us to develop faith like Abraham.

Help us to draw close to You like Joseph.

Help us to show boldness like Deborah.

Help us to be loyal like Ruth and honorable like Boaz.

Help us to have hearts like David.

Help us to courageously speak for you like the many faithful Prophets.

Help us to work, persevere, be focused, and seek justice like Nehemiah.

Help us to take advantage of opportunities “at such a time as this” — like Esther.

Help us to adore Jesus like Mary Magdalene.

Help us to effectively evangelize in our spheres of influence like John the Apostle, Peter, and Paul.

We thank You for salvation available to us through the birth, sinless life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Lord, grow us into the likeness of Jesus.

Give us His desire to feed the hungry — like Jesus.

Give us the desire to give water to the thirsty — like Jesus.

Give us te desire to visit prisoners in their loneliness — like Jesus.

Give us the desire to be instruments of your healing — like Jesus.

We offer requests for physical and spiritual healing in our community today. . . .

We pray for our missionaries — today, in particular, for Steve and Susan Bledsoe, laboring so well for CRU in Florida.

Lord, thank You for the generous giving of this congregation in 2019, as we ended our year well.

Father of lights, You are the giver of every perfect gift to us.

Would You place humble, sacrificial, joy-filled stewardship on our hearts as we give our offering right now.

You have called us to offer these prayers in the name of Jesus. So, In the precious name of Jesus, we pray all of these things as your body of Christ at Eastside Presbyterian Church.

AMEN!

“Come and Take!”

I badly needed Pastor Mark Auffarth’s message at Eastside Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina on Sunday, January 5, 2020.  If you would like to read my highlights of that sermon, “Come and Take!” read on. . . .

“Come and Take!”

By Dr. Mark Auffarth, Lead Pastor

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Summary by Bob Stouffer (All mistakes are mine alone.)

Jesus said,

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (English Standard Version)

We need rest and sleep.

We need vacation from work.

We need rest for our bodies AND SOULS.

We are too often restless people.

I love an African proverb:  “Lord Jesus, make my heart sit down.”

What will it take for our hearts to “sit down”?

Let’s do the right thing.  It’s about doing the right thing.  It’s not about stopping what you do.

What do I mean by that?

Consider two commands from this passage from Matthew 11:28-30 — Come and Take!

COME

Come TO JESUS when you are burdened!

Don’t come to “yourself.”  Don’t turn inward.  Resist narcissism.  We can look good on the outside and be very sick inwardly.

Quit comparing yourself to others.  Resist envy.

We have never had it so good, yet we have never been so weary.

Our focus on ourselves is “killing” us.  Come to Jesus!  He will give you rest.

Do not come to Jesus narcissistically.  Come ON HIS TERMS!  Don’t come on your terms.

Jesus did not live-up to John the Baptist’s expectations of Him when John was imprisoned.  Initially, John declared Jesus to be “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  When in prison, he had doubts about Jesus.  He asked Jesus, “Are you the Messiah?”

Jesus’ agenda is PERFECT.  Our narcissistic agendas are imperfect.  “Come to me,” Jesus said [and still says].  “It’s not “I will come to you.”

Come to Him!  Come to Him OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN!  HIS agenda!

TAKE

Take Jesus’ yoke.  Not the Pharisees’ yoke of God’s law.

Adherence to God’s law does not give rest.  Jesus gives rest.

We could not possibly follow ALL of the MANY lawes of the Pharisees.

The culture also places burdens on us — for instance, what others think of us, work requirements, school requirements of students.  Adhering to the law is exhausting.

What’s so great about Jesus’ yoke?  It’s full of grace!

God does not need us.  He is absolutely self-sufficient.  But He created us for the sake of joy in relationship.

Adam sinned.  Evin abounded in Noah’s time.  God relented from destroying ALL of mankind.  He rescued Noah and his family.

Jesus obeyed perfectly in our place.  He did not sin.  Jesus knew our only path to heaven was THROUGH HIM.

His yoke?  Perfect humility.

He walked perfectly with the rigid law of the Pharisees.  He put on His yoke of perfection.  He atoned for OUR SIN.  “It is finished,” He said from the cross.  He paid the cost FOR US.  He absorbed God’s wrath FOR US.  He reconciled us to the Father.

His yoke is easy FOR US (yet it wasn’t so for Him).  CRUCIFIXION!

His burden is light for us (yet it hadn’t been light for Him).  DEATH!

HE took care of OUR problem.

The law does not understand our weakness.

Consider the profound words of Ray Ortlund:

“We were married to Mr. Law.  He was a good man, in his way, but he did not understand our weakness.  He came home every evening and asked, ‘So, how was your day?  Did you do what I told you to?  Did you make the kids behave?  Did you waste any time?  Did you complete everything I put on your To Do list?’  So many demands and expectations.  And hard as we tried, we couldn’t be perfect.  We could never satisfy him.  We forgot things that were important to him.  We let the children misbehave.  We failed in other ways.  It was a miserable marriage, because Mr. Law always pointed out our failings.  And the worst of it was, he was always right!  But his remedy was always the same: Do better tomorrow.  We didn’t, because we couldn’t.

“Then Mr. Law died.  And we remarried, this time to Mr. Grace.  Our new husband, Jesus, comes home every evening and the house is a mess, the children are being naughty, dinner is burning on the stove, and we have even had other men in the house during the day.  Still, he sweeps us into his arms and says, ‘I love you, I chose you, I died for you, I will never leave you nor forsake you.’  And our hearts melt.  We don’t understand such love.  We expect him to despise us and reject us and humiliate us, but he treats us so well.  We are so glad to belong to him now and forever, and we long to be ‘fully pleasing to him’!

“Being married to Mr. Law never changed us.  But being married to Mr. Grace is changing us deep within, and it shows.”

Do you want to rest?  Only Jesus.  Come to Him!

That’s the Gospel!

And the Gospel changes everything!

 

“Shepherds Have Heard on High!”

I was privileged to teach adult Sunday school at Eastside Presbyterian Church on Sunday, December 15, 2019.  If you would like to read my notes from this Christmas series, “Shepherds Have Heard on High!” please read on. . . .

“Shepherds Have Heard on High!”

By Bob Stouffer

Adult Sunday School

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Sunday, December 15, 2019

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

Sunday school will not meet for the next two Sundays — December 22 and December 29.

 

On January 5th, we will begin a new adult Sunday school study — Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need, by David Platt, the author of Radical.

 

Each week will feature a short video by David Platt and study questions in response to that material.  [We played the trailer of this video series.]

 

INTRODUCTION TO TODAY’S LESSON

 

But, today, we again consider the Christmas narrative.

 

On December 1st and December 8th, Jeremy presented the narrative from the perspectives of Mary and Joseph.

 

Today, we consider another unique set of characters from the Christmas narrative —

 

The shepherds

 

In what esteem were shepherds considered in Jesus’ time?

 

Unclean, ignorant, inarticulate, POOR

 

What do shepherds herd?

 

Sheep, of course!

 

What do you know about the intelligence of sheep?

 

Dumb, dumb, dumb! Hold that thought!

 

Have you ever heard of the severe discipline imposed by shepherds on extremely disobedient sheep?

 

Shepherds broke a leg of the sheep, carried that sheep everywhere until the leg was healed, and by then the sheep had become dependent upon the shepherd, following him everywhere.

 

In spite of the low reputation of shepherds and sheep, shepherds did have an important responsibility near Jerusalem.

 

They herded the sheep which would be used as sacrifices for sin. Hold that thought.

 

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE

(the Christmas narrative involving shepherds)

 

Would someone please read Luke 2:8-20.

 

In my Bible, this section is entitled. . .

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[a]

 

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

Footnote:

 

[a] Luke 2:14 Some manuscripts peace, good will among men

 

DISCUSSION

 

Why in the world would God make lowly shepherds such prominent participants in the Christmas story?

 

Jesus came TO ALL, including the poor, disenfranchised, unclean. It makes perfect sense that God would direct angels to announce Jesus’ birth to shepherds. Christ was born UNTO THEM!

 

Jesus came to ALL. ALL — not just shepherds — we are ALL poor in spirit” due to sin.

 

Jesus was rich in heaven, but, for their sake, He became poor, so that, by His poverty, they might become rich. [Russ Ramsey]

 

How would you react to angels visiting you and making this pronouncement?

 

Same fear, confusion, bewilderment, disorientation

 

I might have thought I was delusional!

 

What would you have been thinking and feeling, if you had approached the manger in that stable?

 

Fear, humility, awe, joy

 

One devotional author calls shepherds “the first evangelists.” How so?

 

They went out from the stable to share the testimonies of their experience. And their genuine worship must have impacted others around them.

 

The Scriptures are replete with shepherding metaphors.

 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 23).

 

Jesus said, “I am the Great Shepherd.”

 

Why or how is Jesus “the Great Shepherd”?

 

He never leaves nor forsakes us. His Spirit indwells us. He leads us when we are willing to follow. We know His “voice.”

 

In the Parable of the Lost Sheep, he leaves the 99 to go after the ONE lost sheep!

 

How is the physical breaking and chastening of the actual sheep a good metaphor for us as sheep and Jesus as The Great Shepherd?

 

We must depend upon Him, His strength, His Power — following His will!

 

As His sheep, how should we respond to the Great Shepherd?

 

Obediently following where He leads us, no matter how mysterious

 

CONCLUSION — THE GOSPEL

 

Jesus is the Great Shepherd. AMAZINGLY, also, John the Baptist declared Jesus to be “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

 

God’s original Creation was perfect —>

 

Adam and Eve committed Original Sin —>

 

The sin problem demanded thousands of animal, grain, and oil sacrifices —>

 

The ultimate sacrifice became JESUS born as a baby —>

 

JESUS, living a sinless life —>

 

JESUS, suffering the wrath of God and separation from God on the cross —>

 

JESUS, dying a substitutionary death for you and me —>

 

JESUS, CONQUERING DEATH, so we might know everlasting life WITH HIM!!!

 

JESUS, the sacrificial lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

 

The Great Shepherd who will one day lead us to still waters!

 

Rhetorical question: How will you — like the shepherds — approach and walk away from “his manger” during your Christmas celebration this year?

 

SINGING

 

Andrew Peterson sings a song featuring shepherds in a 2019 Christmas collection. (3:08)

 

“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”

 

But, to close, let’s sing two other familiar Christmas songs featuring shepherds.

 

Before we do, let’s “meditate” on the words of these familiar songs.

 

A week ago, my boss confessed his inconsistency in meditating on biblical truth.

 

Meditation can take a bad rap.

 

Believe it or not, my home state, Iowa, is a center for Transcendental Meditation (Maharishi International University).

 

Some think meditation is mystical. Yes, meditation can become too mystically centered on meditation itself, rather than God, but meditation is a good practice when focused on God and His truth.

 

Before singing each of these songs, let’s not take these familiar phrases for granted. Let’s be silent and meditate on the impactful phrases of “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

 

[Meditation]

 

In “Angels We Have Heard on High,” what phrases stand out for you?

 

[Take quick responses.]

 

Let’s sing “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

 

Let’s meditate on key phrases from “Joy to the World!”

 

[Meditation]

 

What phrases stand out for you in “Joy to the World!”

 

[Take quick responses.]

 

Let’s sing “Joy to the World!”

 

CLOSING PRAYER

 

“Please grant me the grace, fairest Lord Jesus, that someday. I might experience a spilling of heaven’s glory on the fields over which I watch. Grant me an echo of some angelic song amid the monotones of my day-to-day work. And grant me a heart to behold heavenly things in the humblest of places. . . .” [Ken Gire]

“We Long for the Shalom Jesus Brings!”

During High School Chapel at Southside Christian School on Thursday, December 12, 2019, Pastor Colin Urbanick offered very encouraging and appropriate words at Christmastime in his chapel message, “We Long for the Shalom Jesus Brings!”  If you would like to consider my summary of Pastor Colin’s message, please read on. . . .

“We Long for the Shalom Jesus Brings!”

By Pastor Colin Urbanick, Campus Pastor / Director of Discipleship

Southside Christian School

High School Chapel

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Summary of Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal (All mistakes are mine alone.)

Brett Hutchinson, High School French Instructor (vocals and guitar), senior Lauren McCann (vocals), junior Rebecca Rinkliff (vocals), senior Justin Harms (keyboard), and freshman Eli Wayne (percussion) served as lead worshippers for a music set which featured Christmas songs.  

Chaplains William DeVaney (’20, Student Body Chaplain), Kelson Penwell (’23), and Josh Mackey (’20) read Scripture interspersed with the musical numbers.

Pastor Colin delivered the morning chapel message.

Don’t disconnect this morning.

This is one of my favorite topics.

When I was 21, I interned at a church, where I ultimately served as a Pastor with my friend Tim.  I worked with fourth graders during this internship.  It’s an age I don’t fully understand.  At a retreat, the kids were wild.  Tim and I decided to kick down the door and scream at the kids.  I’m not sure what possessed us to do so.  We really “got” those kids.  It was great.  One kid was homesick.  He longed to go home.

That kind of longing relates to “nostalgia.”  Smells, songs, and memories create sensations — an affection for things in our past.

I’m going home for Christmas.  It’s a longing I have.  This [a projected photograph] is my childhood home, where my parents have lived for 26 years.  I am extremely nostalgic about our Christmas trip this year, because my parents are moving, and this will be my last time celebrating Christmas in this place.

Christmas can be about busyness and commercialism.  Why are we celebrating Christmas?

I believe it’s because we long for peace.

Luke talks about the peace of Christmastime in his Gospel:  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (2:14)

Look at the news — school shootings, political divisions, people screaming and yelling at each other, gossip, divorce, brokenness, pandemics — anything but peace.

We all long for peace on earth.  But we do a bad job.

Jesus came to bring peace — SHALOM.

Shalom is a “unity, oneness, complete lacking in nothing.”

Luke 2:14 confirms that Jesus came to bring shalom to earth.

Think about Revelation 21:1-6.

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Footnotes:

[a] Revelation 21:3 Or tabernacle

[b] Revelation 21:3 Some manuscripts peoples

[c] Revelation 21:3 Some manuscripts omit as their God

This vision is what we all long for — shalom!

Jesus started this  work when he was born!

I want to make three points about shalom this morning.

#1, Shalom is resting in the created order.  At the time the Bible was written, the seas were chaotic.  That’s not shalom.  In Genesis, God brought order out of chaos.

#2, Shalom is unity with one another.  People don’t do relationships well.  There is brokenness between people.  Jesus came to earth to bring unity to disunity among us.  One day, He will bring people together in a big city.  He will bring unity and healing.  Everyone will invest in ALL others.

#3, Shalom brings unity between us and God.  You have not done too much, said too much, or thought too much [of a sinful nature] that you can’t come into unity with God.  Divorce is horrible.  My friend’s parent’s divorced.  Here [a projected photograph] is that family.  Jesus reunites people.  He will dwell WITH His people.  That’s amazing news!  My friend’s parents got married again — and became one.

We long for that restoration.

God wants to restore a world under a curse.

We have the responsibility for shalom.  We are “shalom-bringers.”  We must bring order to chaos.

You may be in disorder now.  Lean into the person of Jesus.  Lean into the presence of peace.

“A Church for God’s Mission”

Southside Christian High School small groups met from 9:40-10:20 a.m. on Thursday, December 5, 2019.  If you would like to consider their same points of discussion — parents, especially, who can engage their children with these questions — please read on. . . 

“A Church For God’s Mission”

Small Group Questions Developed by Pastor Colin Urbanick, Campus Pastor and Director of Discipleship

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Thursday, December 5, 2019
Ephesians 3:1-13

1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is[a] that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[b] God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Footnotes:

  1. Ephesians 3:6 The words This mystery is are inferred from verse 4
  2. Ephesians 3:9 Or by

Starting Off:

1. Highlights/lowlights since we last met?
2. How was Thanksgiving? Does your family have any weird Thanksgiving traditions?
3. How would you describe your Thanksgiving in one word?
4. What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
Discover (Head):

1. Read Ephesians 3:1-13 out loud together.
a. How would you put this passage in your own words?
b. What does this passage say about God and what He’s done?
c. What do these verses tell us about Paul — how he viewed himself and his work?
d. What do these verses tell us about who we are as the Church and how we ought to live?
Nurture (Heart):

1. In this passage, Paul talks about the privilege and honor it is to make the mystery of the gospel known to the people who are “far off.”  Does it feel the same way for you? Does carrying this message feel like a privilege to you?
2. What might make you hesitate to share the Gospel? Take time to brainstorm these hesitancies.
3. Are these hesitancies legitimate? What ways can you as a group speak into these hesitancies?
Act (Hands):

1. In v. 7-13, Paul talks about the role of the church, encouraging them to be bold, confident, and persistent to make God known to the world.
a. How can our small group embrace this calling better?
b. How can you be bold in making the grace of God known?
c. How can this message of Ephesians be for your friends?

Prayer of Thanksgiving!

Pastoral Prayer | By Bob Stouffer | EPC | Sunday, November 24, 2019

 

We are very thankful, Lord, as we enter Thanksgiving week.

 

We thank You for Your Word and the words of thanksgiving from the Psalms:

 

“We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds.” (75:1, ESV)

 

“. . .we the sheep of your pasture will give thanks to you forever. . . .” (79:13)

 

“Oh give thanks to the LORD. . .he is good, for is steadfast love endures forever!” (106:1)

 

“O give thanks to the LORD. . . .Let the redeemed of the LORD say so.” (107:1, 2)

 

We are the redeemed! AND WE SAY SO!

 

We thank You for Eastside Presbyterian Church, OUR body of Christ. Thank You for bringing us together as THIS body.

 

We are thankful for our pastors. Thank You SO MUCH for Mark and Geoff.

 

We thank You for a church which emphasizes prayer. Thank You for giving us such a heart for prayer.

 

We thank You for our employment and deployment, that we might represent you in the marketplace.

 

We thank You for gifting people to be entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors, lawyers, stay-at-home parents, engineers, garbage collectors, roofers, landscapers, welders, construction workers, financiers, those involved in restaurants and retail businesses.

 

We thank You for sticking with Your plan — the church — the gates of hell WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST the church. Help all of us to love Jesus more and to love the church more as Your chosen instrument of reconciliation.

 

We pray for those who are captured by false worldviews in the world — open their minds to the truth of Your Word and the truth of Jesus Christ.

 

We pray for those in our midst who are sick, poor, lonely, victims of injustice, the hungry, prisoners. May we be instruments of Your peace, ambassadors for Jesus, agents of healing, providers, friends to the friendless, influencers of justice.

 

We thank You for the marriages in this sanctuary and in this body. Strengthen EVERY SINGLE MARRIAGE to the point that only death will part us — and so other people will want to be married because of the testimonies of our biblical marriages.

 

We thank You for our children and grandchildren. Thank You for blessing us with them. May we obey the commands of Deuteronomy 6, loving you with our whole being and teaching Your truth to the next generations ALL OF THE TIME.

 

We even thank You for the messiness of life, so we can be the body of Christ — one to the other. I pray that EVERY SINGLE PERSON who is praying will make the extra efforts to step into the messiness of others in this body.

 

We are thankful for missionaries, who are even entering dangerous territories to speak of Jesus. We pray for their safety and Your favor on their ministries.

 

We pray for ALL OF US as missionaries — that we will be the light of Christ and speak the Gospel to others who need to hear and respond to the Gospel.

 

We are thankful for Gospel-centered worship at Eastside Presbyterian.. Thank You for Jesus — His sinless life — His substitutionary death — His triumphant Resurrection — and His SURE promise that HE WILL RETURN!

 

God, You own everything — time, talents, and treasures. Help us to be faithful stewards of these gifts with which you have blessed us — and for which we are thankful. We offer ourselves as living sacrifices to You, and we now generously and sacrificially return a portion of Your financial resources to You — so that we might advance the work of ministry in this church.

 

We pray all of these things in the mighty and matchless and unparalleled and all-powerful name of Jesus the Christ!

 

AMEN!