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Significance – it is the one thing we all seek, even though we don’t realize it.  Why was I created?  What is my purpose?  And true significance comes from only one source – a father.

Beginning Wednesday, March 1 at 7:00 p.m., we will begin a groundbreaking series on adoption and significance.  We will examine adoption from both the natural and spiritual perspectives, followed by understanding what significance is and how we obtain it.  Significance doesn’t come from fame, fortune, or material possessions.  Many people have all of those things, yet lack significance.  Others have none of those things, but because they have significance, they are able to accomplish their purpose with confidence and assurance.

The classes will take place at the CAIN building, 4230 Hamilton Ave. in Northside.  You can also join by phone by calling (712) 775-7031, and using passcode 258126109#.  The classes will be approximately 1.5 hours in length.  Email us at info@fogocinti.org to confirm your attendance.

Yesterday, we quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his book “Life Together.”  Bonhoeffer also showed how such alienation and isolation from the body will result in a critical spirit and accusations against the body of Christ:

“When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament.  But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God.  Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief.  Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren.”

The deceiver is clever.  Just as the serpent was able to persuade Eve, so the enemy will persuade a man by luring him away from the body.  Once that man is separated, the thoughts then begin to run rampant.  Suddenly, as an outsider, the man “sees things” he hadn’t seen before.  This, indeed, is true, for how he is viewing the body from a different perspective.  He is viewing the body as an outsider.  This, however, is not what Christ intended.  Christ called no person out of the world to be an outsider, or loner.  Christ called us out of the world and into a community.  As Paul wrote “God sets the members in the body, every one of them, as it pleases him.”  God does not set us where we desire to be set; he sets us where it pleases him.  For a person to complain and accuse the body is akin to that person telling God that God did not know what he was doing when he placed that person in the body.  The person may as well tell God “my way is a better way!”  God indeed is building his perfect church, the bride of Christ, from imperfect people. What we, as kingdom citizens must do, is conform to God’s perfect, eternal image, rather than expect that God will conform to our imperfect, temporal, jaded image.

Today, we quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his book “Life Together.”  He warns us against becoming isolated:

“Sin demands to have a man by himself.  It withdraws him from the community.  The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.”

It is so easy for us to be alone.  In isolation, our thoughts can run rampant.  In isolation, we are always correct, for what correction is needed in isolation?  This is precisely what sin does – draw us away from the body and into self.  How does sin work? First, sin tugs at those desires that lay dormant within us.  Once awakened, those desires draw us away from the body.  But it doesn’t end there.  Once we have fully immersed ourselves in our desire, we come to ourselves to realize what we have done.  Then, guilt sets in.  Guilt then convinces us we can’t go back to the body, for what will the body think of us?  The shame continues to keep us isolated from the body.  And since we are isolated from the body, where else can we go but to return to the sin we desired?  The truth is, we cannot overcome the desires on our own; indeed, they are greater and mightier than we are.  This is why we need the body.  We are weakened in isolation; we are strengthened in community.

Matt. 6:11 Give us today our daily bread.

One simple sentence.  A few short words; but oh, how powerful this appeal.  Christ instructed us to appeal to the Lord God for what we need for this day.  Not for yesterday, which has passed, never to return.  Not for tomorrow, which is not guaranteed.  Our appeal is for this day.
Psa. 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.
This is the day that is full of hope, full of promise.  It is full of unknowns; it is full of challenges.  We do not know what this day holds in store for us. We know only that by the grace of God, he has allowed us to experience the light of this day.  And just as God provided manna for the children of Israel for that day and that day alone, he will provide for his servants what they need for this day.  What do you need for this day?  What nourishment must you have for this day in order to accomplish God’s will?  Let us not be presumptuous, assuming what will happen tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year.  Let us not look back with either longing or regret at the days of old.  Let us focus on this day, and let us remember that our source of provision is not our job, it is not our bank account, but rather it is our confidence in the Provider who, just as he cared for the children of Israel while they were in the wilderness, will care for us this day as well.  “For I am the LORD; I change not.” (Mal. 3:6)  The LORD provides for all who obey him.

We at the Ekklesia of the Lord Jesus Christ hope you enjoyed your holiday season!  We are excited about what the Lord has prepared for us this year, and we wanted to share it with you.
Beginning next Sunday, January 8, through the end of March, we will be studying Kingdom Economics.  This series is important to understand because just as God’s Kingdom itself is spiritual, so is God’s economy in his Kingdom.  It does, however, manifest itself in the earth.  But what does it look like?  How does it differ from a worldly economic system?  How will we know we are operating in God’s economy as opposed to man’s economy?  The questions will be answered during this powerful series.
Beginning in April, we will review the book A Glimpse of the Kingdom, which will be a five week series.  Upon the conclusion of this series, we will address the question Who was Paul?  In order to appreciate Paul’s writings, it is important to understand what perspective he wrote from, and why he wrote from that perspective.  We will consider various sources, including those who were critical of the apostle Paul in order to obtain a clearer picture of the man who wrote many of the letters in the New Testament.  After we conclude with this series, we will then read the gospels.  It is extremely important to remember that faith comes by hearing, and many times our learning increases when we hear the Bible, not just read it.
What can we look forward to on Wednesdays?  We will first conclude our teaching on the book The Kingdom of God by John Bright; then, beginning March 1, we will begin a very important series on Adoption and Significance.  If you know someone who has struggled with understanding their significance in Christ, or if you yourself have questioned your own significance, then you need this class.
Our service in the Kingdom of God is just as important as our learning about the Kingdom, so one Sunday a month, usually the third Sunday, we will put what we have learned into action.  We do not assemble for a service; instead, we perform service in the community.  This service is part of our discipleship – we learn, but then we prove what we have learned by doing it.  We are looking forward to what will be accomplished this year, and we pray that 2017 is a year of spiritual growth and maturity for you as well as you press into the Kingdom of God!

Matt. 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

What exactly does it mean to hunger and thirst after righteousness?  We know how we feel physically when we have been deprived of food or drink for periods of time, but how does that translate to hungering and thirsting after righteousness?  How will we know that we have tasted righteousness?  Even more basic, what is righteousness?  Indeed, these are difficult questions that we cannot avoid.  We must not only meditate upon them, but it is of necessity that we take action upon them.
Fortunately, Paul provided an answer for at least one of those questions.  In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul wrote:
Rom. 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
The kingdom of God IS righteousness.  Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness; blessed are they who hunger and thirst after the kingdom of God.  Blessed are they whose spirits yearn to be citizens of the kingdom of God.  Blessed are they who are famished, who are weak from being deprived of the Holy Spirit.  Truly, God will fill them with His Spirit that they may never hunger again.  

As we approach the end of the calendar year 2016, the question is asked “what can we expect in 2017?”  Before we take a moment to look ahead, let’s take a moment to see what occurred in 2015 and 2016.  In these two years, we were able to read Paul’s letter to the church in Rome and the letter to the Hebrews from a kingdom perspective.  And, in 2016, we have been studying the kingdom of God in a more detailed way through the book “The Kingdom of God” by John Bright.  This teaching has been a blessing to those who have devoted their time to reading and studying this book.
So what will we do with the foundations that have been established?  We will finish the study on the book “The Kingdom of God,” which occurs on Wednesdays, and we will begin a very important teaching on Significance and Adoption.  Beginning Sunday, January 8, we will study Kingdom Economics, which will be followed by a review of the book A Glimpse of the Kingdom.  After the review, we will begin an in-depth study on the apostle Paul.  Understanding the apostle Paul is crucial to a kingdom understanding of his letters.  And don’t forget, Peter stated that Paul’s writings were hard to understand.  This series will help you unravel the complexities of God’s servant to the Gentiles, and enable you to read Paul’s letters from a kingdom perspective.
We pray that you are enjoying this season, and we look forward to sharing more with you in 2017!

Luke 10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Notice the characters the Lord Jesus used in His parable.  He used a priest, whose job it was to minister to the people, a Levite, who as a people were set apart to care for the tabernacle and the temple, in addition to aiding the priests, and a Samaritan, a people who were despised by the Jews.  How ironic that the two men, whose responsibility it was to care for others, not only passed by the wounded man, but intentionally avoided him by crossing over to the other side of the road.  The Samaritan, however, a man who the Jews would have no part of, purposed in his heart to exhibit compassion toward the man.  The Samaritan didn’t simply “feel sorry” for the man; the Samaritan didn’t say “I will pray for you;” the Samaritan bandaged the man’s wounds, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  In other words, the Samaritan truly ministered to a man he did not know.  The Samaritan purposed in his heart to treat the wounded man as the Samaritan would want to be treated.  In short, the Lord Jesus showed the lawyer how the definition of neighbor had nothing to do with physical proximity, tribal origin or even nationality.  Being neighborly is now a matter of the heart; it is a matter of spirit.  Your neighbor is not the person who lives next door, or down the street, or even in the same city.  Your neighbor now becomes any human being.  We must now renew our minds to the truth that our neighbor is anyone we meet, and we must be prepared at all times to love our neighbors as ourselves.  

Matt. 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The Lord Jesus, the very Messiah God promised, uttered these words.  In short, He was saying that loving your neighbor as yourself equates to treating people the way you would want to be treated.  Notice, however, that Christ added no qualifications or stipulations to this Royal Law.  He did not say “treat others the way you would want to be treated only if they treat you that way.”  Neither did Christ say that you should expect others to treat you that way.  In fact, Christ said quite the opposite:
Luke 6:27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Now, this command of loving your neighbor as yourself takes on a whole new meaning.  Now, we are expected to treat people the way we would want to be treated even if they treat us wrongly first. Kingdom citizens do not retaliate in anger or violence; rather, we retaliate in love.
But what else is the Christ telling us in this passage?  He is telling us that if we obey His command of treating people the way we want to be treated, then we have done nothing less than the equivalent of obeying all of the Law of Moses and the Prophets.  Think about the depth of that statement for a moment.  By practicing this one instruction – that is, treating people the way we would want to be treated – we have met the standard of keeping all of the Law of Moses and the Prophets.  What makes this statement even more profound is that it applies to all who submit to the Lord Jesus.  This means that even if I wasn’t raised as one who was Jewish, by obeying this universal command of Christ I have met the equivalent of fulfilling all that God commanded of Israel in the Law and the Prophets.  Tomorrow, we will continue examining this Royal Law in the story of the Good Samaritan.

James 2:If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.

We are going to take some time to examine this principle in detail.  Before we can begin to understand the depth of this royal law, we need to first understand what royal means.  The Greek word for royal is basilikos, which has four different Biblical uses: 1) of or belonging to a king, kingly, royal, or regal; 2) subject to a king; 3) befitting or worthy of a king, royal; and 4) metaphorically principal or chief.  First, we see that this instruction pertains to a kingdom, but what kingdom?  Clearly, this is no earthly kingdom.  This royal law can be found only in the kingdom of God – a kingdom, as the Lord Jesus said, that is not of this world.  This means that we will know any true citizen of the kingdom of God by his submission to this royal law.
Next, we have to understand the concept of the word law.  Most people would interpret the word law as used in this passage as one instruction.  Paul, however, gives us a greater understanding of the depth of this instruction:
Rom. 13:The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Paul is affirming a profound truth.  The instruction “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” is not simply one command, such as obeying the speed limit on a city street.  If I obey the speed limit on a city street, then I have followed one code of all of the codified law in that city.  What Paul is saying, however, is that if I love my neighbor as myself, then I am observing all of the law.  It would be the equivalent of saying that if I obey the speed limit in that city, then I have obeyed all of the other aspects of the codified law of that city.  Put another way, it would be the equivalent of saying that if I am obeying the speed limit while I am driving, then I cannot be cited for littering (even if I do litter) because while I am obeying the speed limit, the city recognizes that I am obeying all of the codes in their law.
What Paul is telling us, the church – those that not only recognize Jesus as Lord, but also obey Him as Lord – is that if we love our neighbor as ourselves, then by obeying that command, we are seen by God as obeying all of the instructions in the law of Moses.  We will study this profound truth in more detail tomorrow.