This winter beginning in a few hours I am going to begin “heralding” and worshiping my way through the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians with the flock God has entrusted to me to shepherd. Tinkering with how I will introduce the book I began to think back on the first time I remember reading it. I wrote this:
Others May Curse You and Condemn You
Most of you who have heard me preach know that Jr. High was a very painful experience for me. Most of my memories are painful ones. I do have a memory that came to me this morning when I was walking and it is a sweet memory. I was raised in a home where the Bible was revered. It was a part of every day. There were Bibles of different descriptions and translations in every room of our home, including the one with the Daily Bread on the toilet tank lid. At dinner Dad tried to read a few verses of the Bible every night just before we prayed for our meal. Every month catalogs arrived from Bible discounters and we frequently ordered from them. My parents always spoke glowingly of young people who carried their Bibles to school with them. I was in the seventh grade in the little village of Utica. At the time I had my first Schofield Bible, a black hard-cover Old Schofield. One day, during a free-study hour I opened my Bible and looked for something to read. I’m not sure why but the book of Ephesians looked manageable and interested me. I read it and noticed that it was so full of rich, practical things. I declared it my favorite book of the Bible at the time.
Those in Christ are Chosen and Cherished
Thinking back it makes perfect sense now. I was suffering from a brutal assault on my identity. Every day I had to endure the curses of my peers. They continually declared me worthless—a looser—an oddball. Not athletic, not attractive, not popular, not cool. But here in my hand was a book written by God that told me right from the beginning that I was chosen and cherished by God. Chosen in love before the foundation of the world. Not only was I chosen and loved by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, but I was promised a destiny that was unspeakably wonderful. I was guaranteed an inheritance that no one could take away. I was not a looser. I was a child of God. I was worthless but valuable to God I was not hated but loved by God. I was not destined for trouble, I was destined for heaven.
Dale Carnige was right when he wrote in his classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Give people a good reputation to live up to.” He was at least close. My classmates and my conscience damned me—condemned be—but this book promised blessing—a very bright future. Important—significant–eternal responsibilities and opportunities and the resources in Christ to fulfill them.
Do You Have What it Takes?
They say that the big question the lies in the bottom of every young man’s heart is: “Do I have what it takes to make it?” My world said NO… sneered and mocked and said “NO” But out of this wonderful little book God’s voice spoke like sweet assurance. “In me—in Christ you have what it takes to do things you cannot possibly imagine now.” If this world has been cursing you—This book will be a great blessing to you.
January 1, 2017