YOU! Your Story of Growth! A real life example: Epaphras
Thanks to everyone who helped with the Bish Bash.
School begins this week for most students. Do I hear groans & cheers? This means… Friday fare also begins. WCC fills bags to give to children so they and their families can eat on the weekends. We potentially will go from 39 bags to 52! If you can help, see me after worship. School starting also means the summer has flown by! I'm curious. Did you rest? Did you go on vacation? Did you grow? All are good, but growth is what I had in mind. I was praying for a summer growth spurt in your life and mine. NOT flood pantsJ, but that we all would grow in the areas of forgiveness, grace and maturity! Joseph was our example of forgiveness. Jean Valjean, Ruth and Jonah were Mark Stier's examples of grace.* And now we come to maturity! Maturity seems to be a bit elusive. Logically one would conclude that the older a person gets the more mature they become! But maturity doesn’t always work that way!
I don't want to miss an opportunity today. Is today your birthday? I have a birthday cupcake sitting right here for you. Obviously I pray there are not more than six of youJ! If today is your birthday you are in good company. Here are a few more August 10th birthdays. The 31st President of the United States – Herbert Hoover, Antonio Banderas turned 52. Recognize the name Suzanne Collins? She is best known for writing the young adult novel trilogy The Hunger Games. She turned 50 by the way. Other birthdays include the late Jack Haley who played the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, Rocky Colavito and popular sports announcer Gus Johnson.
Here are a few more August 11th birthdays. Chris Hemsworth turns 29 today. He plays the fictional character Thor. Hulk Hogan turns 59 today. Pablo Sandavol plays Third base for the San Francisco Giants. He turns 26 today. I’m sure you remember the late Steve Jobs! Well, Steve Wozniak, the inventor of the Apple II computer turns 62 today. Joe Rogan, a stand-up comedian and host of Fear Factor turns 45.[i] Here’s ONE More, but His birthday was yesterday. That loveable beagle named Snoopy! Snoopy's birthday is August 10, 1968. Snoopy was the brain child of the late Charles Schultz. “He was Charlie Brown's pet dog. Snoopy was greatly patterned after Spike, one of Schultz's childhood dogs.” One moment Snoopy did not exist. Another moment he did. With the stroke of a pen Snoopy has become one of the world’s most “recognizable comic characters.”[ii]
At one time we too did not exist and neither did this world or this universe. But God came up with a grand idea. I will not only make little planets like Mercury, Venus and the planet Earth. I'll make HUGE planets like Jupiter and Saturn. I will not only make the Sun. I'll make bigger stars like Arcturus and Antares. But God didn't stop there. From the mind of God he created mankind. We didn't exist to "Adam meet Eve. Eve meet Adam!" But they sinned and we have too. Thank heavens God didn't stop there. He came up with salvation. The ark first and then the cross. He came up with his only son dying for sins he did not commit. God came up with His spirit beating inside our hearts. God came up with the church. The actual body of Christ. God said I'll equip and empower my church, my children with spiritual gifts and with these gifts they'll serve me and mature in their faith. Allow me to provide an example. Turn in your Bibles to Paul’s letter to the Colossians! Do you need a Bible? Once you get your Bible I also need you to locate your handout. I would appreciate you filling out and tearing off the Connect Card. Growth does not happen in isolation. We need to connect with one another. Drop this off in the baskets as you leave. Look at this cartoon! THE STORY! CHILCOTE OPEN HOUSE/RECEPTION
The NT starts with three sets of four! MMLJ – AR1&2C – GEPC! Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon make up Paul’s four prison letters.[iii] From prison Paul writes to three churches and to one friend. Paul sits in a Roman prison because of his conviction that Jesus came back from the dead. Are you going to spend money for a tombstoneJ? These people did. Check out this Motorcycle, Fishing, Golfing, Light Bulb & Living room. This guy (BP) wanted to convey a message. “I told you I was sick!” What has me “all in” with Christ Jesus is that you will never find his bones buried in some tomb somewhere. Paul was so convinced of that he went to prison. May I ask you? Has your faith in Christ Jesus cost you anything lately? Here’s the primary reason why Paul writes Colossians. “/Jesus Christ is supreme – over everyone and everything.”[iv] / People taught then and people teach now that Jesus is less than supreme, of no priority. Let’s see what Paul thinks. Go to Colossians 1:15. (Read 15-19; 2:9!) Fullness! What does that mean? For Jesus it means “Jesus is every bit God.”[v] For us it means. “Salvation is every bit Jesus!” The word fullness here is this word PLEROMA pronounced play-ro-mah![vi] Let me give you one word association. What do you think of when you hear Cleveland – LOSER. Scott Entsminger loved the Browns. Scott died in early July. His brother Bill wrote his obituary. Bill said this about Scott. “A lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and season ticket holder, he also wrote a song each year and sent it to the Browns as well as offering other advice on how to run the team. He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.”[vii] Fullness made Paul’s hearers think ship. Fullness is a ship filled to the hilt with people and supplies. I think gas tank. The tank is full. I think stomach. I can’t eat another bite. But what are we FULL of? Be careful hereJ. How about the presence and power of God’s spirit and the riches of Jesus? Paul gets specific. Drop down to verse 13 in Colossians 2. (Read 13-15) Fullness means LIFE. Fullness means FORGIVENESS. Fullness means VICTORY! In Jesus you are FULL. What’s the opposite of full? EMPTY! Without Jesus you are empty! Paul believed that and so did some of his friends. Go to Colossians 4:7!
Without the HS leading Paul we would have no idea that these people even existed. Let’s meet them. (Read Col. 4: 7-12)
Tychicus probably hand delivered this letter and Ephesians.[viii] Onesimus is a runaway slave from Colosse. Paul led him to Christ. Aristarchus is a prisoner either literally or physically. Both of them had been taken captive by Christ Jesus. Mark or John Mark has a gospel book named after him. He too witnessed Jesus. Jesus Justus. All we know is that he is a Jewish Christian. And now Ep-a-phras! Man, the Bible is full of weird namesJ. And we don’t today! If you think Epaphras is bad. How about Sage Moonblood Stallone, Destry Spielberg, Dweezil Zappa, Moon Unit Zappa and Diva Thin Muffin Zappa, Rob Morrow named his kid Tu Morrow and Jermaine Jackson named his kid Jermajesty![ix] Ep-a-phras is just fine. Go to Col. 1:6. (6&7) Ep-a-phras founded the church at Colosse that most likely met in the house of Philemon. Epaphras is their minister who went to Rome seeking counsel from Paul. Before we finish verse 12 let me ask a question. What do you think this church will look like spiritually in three years? Like the genie in Aladdin allow me to “illuminate the possibilities”J. Will we be bigger or smaller? Will we even be here in this location? Unless someone donates 30 acres off Africa Road, I would say yes! Will we be a multi-campus church with locations in either Sunbury, Marysville, New Albany or Whitehall? Will we have adopted another village in Africa, Haiti or Mexico? Will we be planting a second City Campus Church near Ohio State? Will we be providing 200 backpacks to 20 different schools in Central Ohio so families can eat? That question leads into this question. What will you look like spiritually in three years? Will your faith in Jesus be here or here? Will it be stronger or non-existent? Have you ever heard of Renaldo? Cristiano Ronaldo stole the show LAST Wednesday night, scoring two goals in Real Madrid's 3-1 win over Chelsea. Fans adore him. One fan came onto the field and bowed to him. That puts Renaldo here and Christ Jesus here! What we look like is what the church will look like! Go back to verse 12!
Wrestling is an agonizing struggle. You have to be an amazing athlete to wrestle well. Wrestling is blood, sweat and tears. That’s what EP is doing for these people in Colosse. He’s praying so hard. God help them to stand firm. Don’t let them collapse in their faith in Jesus. Help them to stand firm in the all the will of God. Your will is that Jesus would suffer and die. Your will is that we might find salvation in Jesus and be FULL! Oh God help them to mature. To grow into Him who is the head! To be fully assured that there is no one like Jesus who is the Christ – who died and came back from the dead!
I am convinced that maturing has everything to do with putting struggles in their right perspective. Paul had his struggles. Go to the last verse in chapter 4:18. I don’ think Paul said that for us to feel sorry for him. I don’t know if he wanted out. I do know he wanted the emperor himself to know that Jesus is the only one worth bowing down to. DO YOU? Right now we are going to worship Jesus by singing to him these words.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of Kings
You are my everything and I will adore you
During this song – if you don’t know Jesus – come and put your faith in him. If you do – never let him go.
[iii] James E. Smith, The New Testament Books Made Simple, 124
[iv] Know Your Bible, Barbour Publishing, Colossians, 78
[v] Anthony L. Ash, Quoting Richard Melick, College Press NIV Commentary, Colossians, 180
[vi] Logos Bible Software, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, Colossians 2:9
[vii] Columbus Dispatch, July 7, 2013 Fan has fun with the Browns
[viii] EBC, Colossians 4:7, 841