Tag Archives: America Christian

Where we have been

Through out the first two chapters of Ephesians, we have been seeing Paul go back and forth between what we are in Christ and what we were before Christ.

1 v. 3-14 reminds us of who we are in Christ

1 v.15-17 Paul hopes for us to understand more deeply who we are in Christ and what his desire for us is.

1 v. 18-23 he shows us this power that will help us understand and know Him better, which is the same power that exalts Christ.

2 v. 1-4 reminds us of who we were before Christ, using phrases and words, such as dead, passions of our flesh and children of wrath.

2 v. 4-10 shows us the work that God did and all things we now take part in because of being in Christ.

2 v. 11-12 calls us to remember who we were before Christ, as we were once in the flesh, separated, alienated, strangers, hopeless and without God.

2 v. 13-22 shows us because of Christ, what we are now. We were once far off and now brought close. We were once hostile and now we have peace. We are now one with Him, with the Spirit of God living in us, joining us to the family of God in both heaven and earth. We are no longer strangers and aliens but fellow citizens.

Ephesians 1-2


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Child of God

In chapter 1 Paul reminds us of our blessings we have in Christ. All the things we have because of Christ: chosen, every spiritual blessing, sonship, redemption, forgiveness, understanding, an inheritance, true hope, sealed by the Holy Spirit, eyes opened, and the truth of God’s power to raised Christ from the dead.

Chapter 2 reminds us of our past: Dead in sin, following the world, following Satan, living by our flesh and passion, children of wrath. But then he is quick to transition back to what God did for us and what He gave us. Explicitly showing us that it is nothing we have done, but because of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we have been saved to fulfill the good works that He has prepared for us to do to bring glory and praise to Him.

Again, he transitions back to what we were before Christ: Living in the flesh and for the flesh, separated, alienated, stranger, hopeless, and without (against) God. But quickly transitioning again to what Christ has done for us: Brought us near by His blood, provided peace, broke down the hostility, made us one with Hum through the cross, and access by Holy Spirit, in us, to the Father.

Paul continues to encourage us as believe the benefits that have been granted to us through Christ. We were once strangers but now we are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the house hold of God, heirs to the inheritance that is imperishable and everlasting! We are now part of a large family, not only in Heaven, but here on earth which has been built on the apostles and prophets of old, with Christ being the cornerstone and groom. This family or bride on earth is called the Church which includes anyone who has been brought close and has peace with God through Jesus Christ. This family is not only local, but internationally. Many times in my life I have interacted with people I just met who are part of this family and there is a very quick connection through the Spirit of God that is living in each one of us.

The Holy Spirit is actively working throughout the Church here on earth. We are all being built together to be a dwelling place for God. We are all being worked on as individuals, as we have the Spirit living in us and transforming us to be more like Him. Each day we struggle against the things of this world, yet we have been brought close to God through the death of Jesus Christ. The Spirit is actively working through us to transform us.

How devastating when local churches cannot get along that preach the same gospel? Do we really understand the power of a united local church or united local churches? Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives by fulfilling the good works in which God has prepared for us?

Ephesians 2:19-22

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Remember my past…

We need to remember the verses before:

2 v.1-10 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. ButGod, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—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 coming ages 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 a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I don’t like dwelling on the past when it comes to my life. Even though there was a lot of great things that happened and majority of my life was good and pleasurable. But for some reason I am easily reminded of the hurt and pain that happened to me and the hurt and pain I caused in others. The moments of deceit and and evil things I did when no was around. Out of all that was “bad”, the worst is the broken relationships with people I knew throughout life. Not all of what went wrong in the different friendships I had was 100% my fault, but for some reason it’s hard not to think like that. The question, what if?, always resonates through my head.

As a follower of Christ, we are called to remember and not forget our past and where we came from. Ultimately, for the purpose of pushing and making us rely more on Christ. This remembering should bring us to the time before Christ or times where we were wandering from Him. Before Christ we were alienated from the promises of God. We were strangers in God’s land. We had no direction, no hope, and even if we thought we did, we did not have God, thus life was artificial and the sustenance of life, left us empty.

I have felt like a stranger before. Mostly in the hockey arena, walking into a dressing room full of guys that I did not know and they did not know me. Even better, was when it was a smaller dressing room and not a lot of space left for me to put my stuff down and change. Everyone forgets how to speak and they all just look at me and I am looking at them. Ultimately, this is reminding me to remember life without Christ. Alienated, a stranger, having no hope, and totally without God while living and satisfying the flesh by the desires of this world.

If we look back over what we have already read, we can see another glimpse of what we were like before Christ. We were alienated, a stranger, had no hope, without God, against God, orphaned, un-forgiven, un-redeemed, Satan’s, headed for destruction, blind, poor, dead and a child of wrath.

O how lost we were before we gained Christ! O how lost we would be if we gained the world and all that is in it! A slave of sin we once were, now a slave of God!

Ephesians 2:11-13

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God the giver…

We need to remember past verses:

1 v. 3-4 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, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

v. 7  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

v. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

v. 13-14 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

v. 20-21  that he worked 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 one to come.

2 v.1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

We have to realize how sinful we are as a human. Even though we try to understand, I do not think we can fully understand how sinful we really are, compared to a holy and righteous God. But even then, God stills shows up! He is the one that works in us and for us. Without “But God” where would we be today? Where would the human race be if God did not step in and act for us? What if God gave up on us? What if there was not flood that took place and God just let us go? In light of those questions, it should develop a deeper sense of awe and silence. God stepped in with His mercy and love, even when we wanted nothing to do with Him….What? Even when we were walking in sin and wanted nothing to do with Him, He actively worked His mercy and love, to the point of His only Son, nailed to a cross and killed?

How can our minds make sense of that? How radically different then our human sinful thinking! God actively shows mercy and love to the point of death, even though we do not deserve it, but actually deserve death. Humans may show mercy and love only if the other human deserves it and never to the point of death. Humans are  not even close to giving oneself up for another out of love or mercy. How glorious and praiseworthy is the King of Kings!

Why would God show us love and mercy? So that we could be made alive through His Son, who is the ultimate expression of true mercy and love. So that we could be raised up with Him and seat in heaven for the purpose of being able to show us His “immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness in Christ Jesus.” My mind is melting and the logic does not compute.

How is this all going to happen? By God’s grace through faith, which is also from God. This not anything we do, as it says “it is not my own doing.” It’s a gift, given by God! We did not do anything or give anything to get this! Because of this, we can not brag or boast in what we have done or will do, but we can only brag and boast in who He is and what He is doing in us!

What do we do now? God is still the one giving and has created and setup good works that will come our way, which we can do as a worship and to bring glory to Him, who is the giver of all. In all of this, we bring nothing to the table. We give nothing. We are the receiver of all these unfathomable gifts from God, while not wanting anything to do with Him in the beginning!

O may we be reminded of this every moment! Help us to fully understand how sinful we are so that we can begin to understand who You are, what You are doing and what You will do in our life! Let our life be of obedience, worship and humility to bring glory and honor to You, our God and King!

Ephesians 2:4-10

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Walking anew…

Before getting to far I have to go back and remind myself of vs. 4 “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” and vs. 7 “In Him we have redemption through His blood.”

Even though He chose me and I have redemption through Him, I was still dead in my sin. I wanted nothing to do with Him. I was drowning and in need of someone to save me but I did not want to be saved, but yet He still saved me by dying for me! He chose me and died for me even while rejecting and spitting in His face! How glorious is our God and King!

He has brought me to himself and saved and changed me into a new creation. I have been changed and will continue to change. I am no longer a slave to sin in which I no longer need to walk in. I once walked in sin and was dead, but now I am alive and no longer have to follow the world, but follow Christ. The world and all that is in it; Satan, passion of the flesh, mind and body. I am no longer like the rest of mankind… I am no longer like the rest of mankind? When I look at my life is that true? The things I say, do and see, are they different? If I am different, I won’t get along with the world because I can’t go a long with what the world wants me to do, say or see… am I different? I know I have been saved and changed, but has that permeated through out my entire life? May I strive to walk anew, not as I once walked.

Ephesians 2:1-3

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Life as a Christian

When it comes to this life on Earth, do people know me for my faith in Jesus Christ and my love toward others? If they do know me for this, what does it look like? Is it a faith in Christ that does not crumble in times of distress, produces love for others, sacrifice instead of selfishness, and holiness over comfort? Or does it something that sits on a shelf every week, says that I am better than you, instead of love, its legalistic and prideful?

This thinking should change how I pray about being a follower of Jesus Christ. I need to always be thankful for Christ saving me, a sinner. Pursuing wisdom and knowing Him and being known by Him through the power of the Spirit of God that lives in me. Keeping in mind that I fail, we all fail, but understand the Hope to which I have been called and the inheritance that awaits! Glorious day! The same power that God worked in Jesus Christ, which raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His Father’s right hand, is the same power that is coming towards me and those who believe in Him for Salvation. And the ultimate result of this Power of God has “put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

Ephesians 1:15-23

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Wolves at the Gate: Dust to Dust

What will you gain?
What will you earn?
What is your claim?
From dust we come
And dust we return.

If I loved wealth
I’d find the root of evil.
If I lust for power
I’d lose my soul.
If I sought fame
I’d be a thief
Of all Your Honor
Honor, Glory, and Praise.

Hollow and hopeless and cold
Is value in fame and in gold.
The truest of treasures
Is to be found within His fold.

Oh how lost I would be
If my faith unwound.
(And I lost the Lord)
Oh how empty my soul
Would ever be found.
(If I gained the world)

If you’re seeking after treasures
Designed by human hands
You’ll come and find to realize
Your soul it demands.

If I loved wealth
I’d find the root of evil.
If I lust for power
I’d lose my soul.
If I sought fame
I’d be a thief
Of all Your Honor
Honor, Glory, and Praise.

What is your wealth?
What is your fame?
What is your goal?
If you gain the world
But lose your soul?

Oh how lost I would be
If my faith unwound.
(And I lost the Lord)
Oh how empty my soul
Would ever be found.
(If I gained the world)

The joy in knowing
I’m blood bought by the King.
My truest treasure is
I’ll know my King!
Know my King!

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BUILD: Men’s Conference (Western Michigan) Feb. 20-21


Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

By God’s grace our mission is to build up Christian men through solid biblical teaching that is rooted in the gospel and applicable for everyday life.

The Build Conference (formerly West Michigan Men’s Conference) began in 2013 from a God given desire to provide a conference specifically intended for the everyday man. Mark Chanski was the 2013 speaker, followed by Greg Gilbert in 2014. This year it is our privilege to welcome Dr. Bruce Ware. Each year God has used the conference to build up men from Michigan and parts of the Midwest. We would love for you to join us this year as we “Behold the Glory of Christ.”


(616) 842-8240




17306 Church Hill Street, Grand Haven, MI 49417

WEBSITE (SIGN UP & Schedule)


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25 Early Christian Characteristics/Norms

  1. Early Christians loved, studied, kept, and copied Scripture. This love for Scripture usually was stained in their blood, as most died defending the faith.
  2. Early Christians were called “atheist” because they worship unseen god.
  3. The spread of the Gospel was mostly carried out by normal everyday people as they travelled throughout the land. Yes, the apostles did great work, but most of the missionary work was carried out by countless and nameless Christians who for different reasons-persecution, business, or missionary calling-traveled from place to place taking the news of the Gospel with them.
  4. Interpretation of Scripture was done allegorically.
  5. Early Christians did not consider themselves followers of a new religion. All their lives they had been Jews, and they still were. This was true of Peter and the twelve, of the seven, and of Paul. Their faith was not a denial of Judaism, but rather the conviction that the messianic age had finally arrived. Early Christians did not reject Judaism, but were convinced that their faith was the fulfillment of the age-long expectation of a Messiah.
  6. Communion did not focus on the death of Jesus, it focused on the resurrection of Jesus and His victory by which a new age had dawned.
  7. Two days were set aside for weekly fasting. (Wednesday and Friday)
  8. Early Christians were not only persecuted by the Romans, but mostly by Jews. Jews looked at Christianity as a simply another heretical sect. Read Acts 18. This helped the Gospel message to spread as Christians had to scatter throughout the land.
  9. When Christians were blamed for the fire that Nero started, Tacticus, a pagan historian of the time, did not believe that Christians set the fire and disapproves of Nero’s “refined cruelty.” Tacticus even says, Christians “were not being destroyed for the common good, but rather to satisfy the cruelty of one person.”
  10. Early Christians were considered “haters of humankind” because they did not take part in social activities that were entwined with pagan worship. In Roman eyes, you are supposed to love the culture and society.
  11. The distinction between Jews and Christians was not clear in the minds of Roman authorities, thus both Jew and Christian were persecuted for following any “Jewish practices.”
  12. Early Christians viewed martyrdom as being chosen by God and as a gift from God.
  13. Early Christians were not specifically killed for being a “Christian,” but for not praying to other gods, burning incense before the image of the emperor, and cursing Christ. Christians, by the mere fact of being such, were not committing any crime against society or against the state. Therefore, the resources of the state should not be wasted in seeking them out. But, once accused and brought before the authorities, Christians had to be forced to worship the gods of the empire, or face punishment.
  14. Early Christians in the second century were not constantly persecuted. Sometimes they were persecuted in some areas of the Empire, and not in others.
  15. Because of 13, above, to have a good relationship with your neighbor was very important. If any believed the evil rumors (as there were many) about Christians, they would be accused, and persecution would break out. For this reason it was very important to show that those rumors were untrue, and to give pagans a better and more favorable understanding of Christianity. This was the task of the apologists.
  16. Some rumors created by insufficient knowledge of pagans:

Christians had a meal together called the “love feast.” Also, Christians called each other “brother” and “sister” and there were many who spoke of their spouses as their “sister” or “brother.” Pagans then took these two facts and came up with the idea that Christian worship was an orgiastic celebration in which Christians ate and drank to excess, put the lights out, and vented their lusts in the indiscriminate and even incestuous unions.

Communion is referred to as the body and blood of Christ (also He came as a baby). Thus, pagans came up with the idea that Christians concealed a newborn in a loaf of bread, and then ordered a new “Christian” to cut the loaf. When this was done, they all joined in eating the warm flesh of the infant. The new “Christian” was then forced to remain silent about what took place.

  1. Pagans thought Christianity was a religion of barbarians who derived their teaching, not from Greeks or Romans, but from Jews, a primitive people whose best teachers never rose to the level of Greek philosophers.
  2. Some questions that early apologist had to answers:

Why can you not see your god?

If pagan gods are false, why fear them?

Why not worship them, even if one does not believe in them?

If Jesus was truly the Son of God, why did He allow himself to be crucified?

Why did Jesus not destroy all His enemies?

What could the purpose of such a visit to earth by God?

What would happen to Christians whose bodies were destroyed by fire, eaten by beasts, or by fish?

What will God do with those parts of matter that belonged to more than one body?

  1. All Christians agreed that the worship of the gods, and everything related to that worship, must be rejected. This included civil ceremonies, military service, and the study of classical literature, which were all entwined with immorality, pagan and emperor worship.
  2. Some Christians believe that nothing good could come from pagan philosophy and stayed away from anything that had to do with the pagan culture. Others, like Justin Martyr, claimed that there were several points of contact between Christianity and pagan philosophy. Such as:

Supreme being which every other being derives its existence

Eternal life beyond physical death

  1. Early Christians talked about in the address To Diognetus:

Christians are not different form the rest in their nationality, language or customs… They live in their own countries, but as sojourners. They fulfill all their duties as citizens, but they suffer as foreigners. They find their homeland wherever they are, but their homeland is not in any once place… they are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They live on earth, but are citizens of heave. They obey all laws, but they live higher than that required by law. They love all, but all persecute them

  1. Even though Christians refused to worship the emperor, and even while persecuted by the authorities, they continued praying for the emperor and admiring the greatness of the Roman Empire.
  2. Early Christians were pro-life. Non-Christians, if a woman has a female baby, it was not considered a daughter, unless the father declared the baby his daughter. If the father did not declare the baby his daughter, the baby was set outside in the elements to die.
  3. Early Christianity was able to grow more and more, thanks in part to evangelism by the common folk, and different plagues that came during the first couple centuries. While people with money, doctors and pagan temple workers, were able to flee the plague stricken areas, a high percentage of people were left behind. For the Christian, they had no fear of death and were more than willing to help treat those who were sick. The results of this aid by early Christian saw a high conversion rate of pagan worshippers to Christianity.
  4. In pagan worship and culture, it was completely normal to share your spouse and children with other people. Adulterous, homosexual, and pedophilia acts were totally acceptable during this time especially in pagan temple worship. Christians were known for sharing everything they had, except their spouses (heterosexual) and children.


Some Reading:

Getting to Know the Church Fathers by Bryan Litfin 


The Story of Christianity: Volume 1 by Justo L. Gonzalez


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A Taste of Ignatius of Antioch

Letter to the Romans 2-6

Ignatius wrote ahead to the church at Rome asking them not to attempt to prevent his death. In his passionate desire for martyrdom, we sense the bishop’s wish to make his final act count for eternity. If we are sensitive here, we can also read between the lines to find a man struggling with fear: fear of the pain that awaits him, and fear that he will not measure up to what is expected in his moment of trial. Ignatius describes to the Romans the man he hopes to be. It’s as if he is steeling himself for what lies ahead. The letter reminds us that this was no superhuman saint, but a humble Christian trying to set his eyes on Jesus rather than the things of the world.

I’ll never again have an opportunity like this to reach God. Nor will you Romans ever again have such a chance to be credited with a finer accomplishment-provided you remain silent. For if you quietly refrain from interfering with me, I will become a crystal-clear message from God. But if you love my earthly body too much, I’ll only be an incomprehensible noise. I ask you to grant me nothing but this: that my blood should be poured out as an offering to God while I still have an altar available to me. In your love, you can become the accompanying choir for my sacrifice. You will sing praises to the Father in Jesus Christ because God has deemed me, the bishop of Syria, worthy to be summoned from the East to the West. Oh how good it is to be like the sun now setting on this world-for that means I will soon rise up into the presence of God! … I do have one prayer request. Pray that I’ll have strength in my soul and in my physical body, so that I won’t just give lip service to martyrdom but will actually desire to go through with it. I don’t want to merely call myself a Christian-I want to back it up when it counts. For if I can back up my words, then I will be worthy of the name of Christian. I will be known as a man of faith even when the world can’t see me anymore. It’s not the things you can see that have true value. For example, our God Jesus Christ revealed his glory even more clearly when he ascended back to the Father and disappeared. Nothing is really achieved by trying to persuade people. Christianity’s true power is discovered only when it is hated by the world. I’m writing letters to all the churches so I can proclaim clearly to everyone that I’m totally willing to die for God. But I can only do that if you won’t interfere. I beg you, don’t try to show me a “kindness” that I don’t really want. Allow me to serve as food for those savage animals-for through them I can reach God! I like to think of myself as God’s own wheat. I must be ground up into flour by the teeth of those beasts so I can be baked into a pure loaf of bread for Him. Instead of interfering, it would be far better for you to urge those animals on! Let them become my tomb and completely devour me. I don’t want to burden you with having to collect my remains after I have died. Only then will I be a disciple of Jesus Christ in the fullest sense: when the world can no longer see my physical body. So pray to the Lord for me! Ask that by means of these animals I might become a sacrifice to God. Please understand, I’m not giving you orders as if I were Peter or Paul. They were apostles, but I’m just a condemned criminal. They were free, but even at this very moment I’m chained up like a slave. But I know if I suffer, I’ll be freed by Jesus Christ. United with Him, I will be raised to eternal freedom! Right now, though, I’m a prisoner learning what it means to put aside my desires. From Syria to Rome, I’m already battling with wild beasts. By land and sea, night and day, I’m chained to ten leopards: the soldiers who have me in custody. When they are treated kindly, they only become more cruel to me. However, through their mistreatment I am becoming a better disciple-not that this earns me any credit with God. Oh may I rejoice in those wild beasts awaiting me! I do pray they will be done with me very quickly. In fact, I will coax them to come eat me up right away. I hope they won’t behave timidly like they sometimes do, lacking the fierceness even to touch the people thrown in the arena. And ifwhen I’m ready for the great moment the animals are holding back, I’ll force them to take me! Please bear with me here, friends. I really do know what is best for me. I am only now beginning to understand what it means to be a disciple. I pray that the events in that arena, and the unseen forces ofwick- edness behind them, will not conspire against me out of envy and prevent me from reaching Jesus Christ. Bring on the fire, bring on the cross, bring on the hordes ofwild animals! Let them wrench my bones out of socket and mangle my limbs and grind up my whole body! Bring on all the hideous tortures from the Devil! Just let me get to Jesus Christ. Nothing on this wide earth matters to me anymore. The kingdoms of this world are entirely meaningless. I am at the point where I would rather die for Jesus Christ than rule over the whole earth. He alone is the one I seek-the one who died for us! It is Jesus that I long for-the one who for our sake rose again from the dead!

Source: Bryan M. Litfin. Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction 


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