- The Washington Times - Monday, January 24, 2000

Much of life is spent looking for the fruit of our labor. We look in the newspaper to see how our stocks are doing. We look in the garage, in the mirror, at our salary and at our kids' grades. Have we achieved enough? How blessed are we? We look at our titles, our positions and our spouse's success.
None of these things are bad, but God desires so much more for us and from us. In Ephesians 1:3-14, we read, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing."
These spiritual blessings sound nice. But where are they, and what are they? Paul lists them for us. God has chosen us to be "holy and blameless," and has "destined" our adoption as His children. By "redemption," our sins have been forgiven, according to His grace. Paul says we've been given knowledge of the "mystery of His will" and have been "marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit."
What a list. And how difficult to grasp these blessings. Paul presents them in a beautiful expression of gratitude… .
Unfortunately, God sees the church across the world divided up into lots of different denominations, with far too much bickering, far too much vying for power and territory. In Jerusalem, the land where Jesus had lived, died and rose for us, His birthday is celebrated on three different dates. The Western church celebrates on Dec. 25, the Eastern church on Jan. 6, and the Armenian church on Jan. 16. But the miraculous grace of God is this: God keeps loving us unconditionally.
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul writes from prison in Rome to remind us that we are part of a bigger family and a bigger plan than we can see right around us. Verse 5 tells us that "according to the good pleasure of His will … God destined us for adoption as His children through Jesus Christ." …
In Christ, we've been given freedom through forgiveness. We are free from having to achieve in order to find significance. Now that's a blessing. Can you imagine what God's joy would be like to have all His children come together in love and unity? …
God's gifts to us achieve their purpose when we receive them and then give God our thanks. Our acts of praise bring God great joy and blessing. But how can we bless God? Isn't God the giver of all good things? Our passage says we are literally "to be" a praise of God's glory with our total existence… . And if we are a blessing, then it doesn't matter what work we do, but how we do it, because the Christ in us will touch the world the way God wants us to.
So our criteria for living a significant life is set by asking ourselves, day by day, "Am I blessing God? Am I living to the praise of His glory?" … With this new century, there are many signs of people working together in new ways. We're tired of the division. We see that we can't afford to be divided.
The hard reality is that until Christ comes again, there will always be divisions on earth. But if we believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, then we can trust that God's love, Christ in us, can transcend those differences.
One great gift in my life is my sister and her husband. They are staff at a church which doesn't ordain women, so we have theological differences. But they are my biggest supporters, and I am theirs. We're family, and the love is more important… .
On a larger scale, I received this report from the World Vision office in Jerusalem: On Dec. 4, all the heads of the ancient and modern churches gathered to pray and confess solidarity at Manger Square in Bethlehem… . We can bless God this week by our prayers and by envisioning ourselves living out God's word. Then the fruit of God's love will be evident to the world through a unified church.

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. George Evans at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean, Va.

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