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So this week is a pre-study warm up! We'll have a digital copy of the study as an attachment. Give it a try. Hey, we have to do something poorly, ‘till we get good at it. It's like any skill, it takes time and practise to grow in it. The good news is you’re trying. You can pick up a paper copy of the study at the welcome table. At the back of the study is an appendix with some helpful tools to get you on your way.

WATCH THE VIDEO: Ephesians 1:1-3

COMMENTARY: Where do you turn, what do you do, when you need to feel better or when you want something good? Where do you look to find relief from being overwhelmed by stress, pain, rocky relationships, or life’s weariness? In this first month of a new year, I’d invite you to do some self-reflection and give brutally honest answers. What are your coping mechanisms for getting away from pain and finding something that feels better?

With authority from being Jesus’s messenger, Paul makes a stunning and grandiose statement at the very beginning of this letter, sent to encourage and teach the Christians in and around the city of Ephesus. Paul’s grand claim is that anything that is actually good is found only in Christ. Don’t confuse these “spiritual blessings” that are “in the heavenly realms” with pictures of body-less souls floating on clouds, though. These “spiritual” and “heavenly” blessings are not even remotely related to such ideas. Instead, Paul uses these terms to refer to everything that has solid, real permanence because they originate from God himself, the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, as the ancient Christian creeds say. And these real, solid, fully good things come to us humans only through Jesus, the one who is fully God and fully human, the one who reestablishes connection and relationship between the permanent life of God and his dead and dying creation. So, do you want access to every good thing? Look no further than Jesus. In him, we have been given every truly good thing.

Paul uses the phrases “in Christ,” “through Christ,” or something similar, a total of 31 times in the first three chapters of Ephesians. That’s a lot! And it indicates that this is an incredibly important concept for Christians to understand and embrace so that our daily life is transformed by receiving these spiritual blessings found only in Christ. Where, then, do you look to find good things? How do your go-to coping mechanisms measure up against being “in Christ”? In other words, would your coping mechanisms “fit” in Christ? If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we will be able to identify behaviors and thought patterns that have no place in Christ. And if they don’t measure up to Jesus and don’t fit in him, then they are thoughts and behaviors that are ultimately destructive, no matter how good they might seem or feel in the moment.

WATCH THE VIDEO SOON: Ephesians 1:4-8

COMMENTARY: For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[a] predestined us for adoption to sonship [b] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,

When Our Heavenly Father looks through time, it’s so different from the way we do. He sees both the beginning, middle and the end, all at the same time. If you’ve come to accept His offer to come home, it’s because He opened your ears and heart to all that Jesus has done for YOU. You know you’re His, because you’re changing from the inside. You live no longer for YOURSELF, no, you more and more LIVE FOR YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER. That’s our purpose-to be holy and blameless in HIS SIGHT. With every faithful step of grace-fueled holiness, God gets the glory. See what OUR Father has done. He is making something wonderful out of us; who would figure. We have been redeemed from living for what will ultimately fade away, now we live for the eternal, all knowing, wise and compassionate Father. He has whispered in our heart to come home and without understanding it all, we came home. Often it’s been a prayer heavenward, seeking His help. Soon, we find ourselves forgiven, cleaned up, new robe, sandals, ring and a celebration where all Heaven REJOICES because our Heavenly Father is filled with pleasure seeing us at our place at HIS TABLE. A place we will hold for all eternity, not as servants but as sons and daughters who are forever the apple of our Heavenly Father’s eye.

WATCH THE VIDEO SOON: Ephesians 1:9-14