Teaching Series
Grounded in Love
Thursday—Our Circle

Series: Grounded in Love
Message: Our Circle
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Mark Witas
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jenniffer Ogden
Live Beyond: Andrew Jones
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira

Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.

Read: Ephesians 1:1-14 in the New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions. 

Reflect: The apostle writes, “He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Verses 9-10).

Christ is on the side of the mountain, teaching His disciples. He is teaching them how to pray. After teaching the disciples how to address God in the opening part of the prayer, Jesus expresses this: “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Some implications from this part of the prayer: 1) That God’s will is not being done on earth, and 2) that Jesus has a desire that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The thought that God’s will is not being done on earth is no mind-blowing new thought. All we have to do is look around for a quick minute to realize that God’s will is not being done. There is selfishness in the place of selflessness, death in the place of life, greed in the place of generosity, and malice in the place of love. God’s will is not being done on earth as it is in heaven.

Yet, this is the prayer of Jesus. His deep desire is that this world reflect the very will, the very nature of the Father. This is where we come in. This is where God’s church is called to step up and show a rebellious world what it would look like if His will were done in all areas all the time.

This great mystery is revealed in Christ. Jesus showed the universe what a world full of love, healing and forgiveness looks like. Jesus brings unity to all things in heaven and earth. He brings balance and peace to nature by calming the storm. He brings heavenly balance to broken people with His healing touch. He brings a heavenly perspective to earth by teaching His followers to understand that love and self sacrifice is better than revenge and self centeredness.

The mystery of God is still a mystery to most of the world. It’s seemingly also a mystery to the church.

I once visited a church that had a huge banner strung up over the pulpit that read in big red letters, “CRITICISM!”  The pastor had put it there. The congregation thought it was the title of a sermon series that the pastor was going to present. But for weeks, he preached about everything except the topic of criticism. They were confused.

Finally, at a church board meeting, a board member brought up the topic. “Why are you advertising a series on criticism but not preaching on the subject?”

The pastor responded, “I’m not advertising a sermon series on criticism.”

The board member queried, “Then why is that sign up above your pulpit?”

The pastor responded, “When this church stops criticizing one other and starts doing God’s will here, as it is in heaven, when we stop criticizing and start loving each other and modeling a life in Christ, the sign will come down.”

I fear the reason Paul calls unity on earth as it is in heaven a mystery is that it is seldom seen in the world or in the church. May we be agents of this mystery revealed. May we live in unity as people determined to live the life of Christ.

Recalibrate: Examine your life and relationships. Are there things in your life that are out of balance in light of Jesus’ prayer that all things be on earth as they are in heaven?

Respond: Pray for eyes of understanding, so that you may bring your life into harmony on earth as it will one day be in heaven.

Research: Re-read The Lord’s Prayer. Pray it with all sincerity.

Remember: “Bring praise to God’s glory” (Ephesians 1:14, ICB).

Mark Witas is the lead pastor for the Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church in Portland, Oregon. He is a regular contributor to the Daily Walk.

Make some bubbles with your child today. When the wind takes the bubbles, notice that while they don’t all take the same path they are all going in the same direction. Here is an idea for setting up your bubble time.

Have you ever received a surprise gift? How did it make you feel? Plan today to surprise someone with something you can make! Maybe you can make a card, or a drawing, or cookies, or even a song! Share it with them (can you make it a surprise?) and enjoy their joy at getting a wonderful gift. It is great that God has blessed you and that you can bless others.

Has a friend or a family member ever kept a secret from you? Isn’t that the worst! No matter how hard you try, they won’t tell you. They just smile and keep their secret from you. You beg them to let you in, but, somehow, they keep their secret forever. God is the total opposite. He makes known what He is planning on doing and even how He’s going to do it. He tells us how we should act and even helps us out if we mess up. God even gave us a big book so He wouldn’t have any secrets. If we read our Bibles, we’ll know exactly how we should live.

We are what we do. Or at least that’s what we often think. Our identity is wrapped up in portraying a certain image—the activities we are interested in or in who we hope to become. When I was in high school, my identity was wrapped up in being a cross country runner. My first year of running for cross country was my junior year of high school, and during that first year I won every single one of my meets. My identity then began to get wrapped up in winning. The next school year I expected to come back and get even better times for my meets. But through the intense training I was doing I developed shin splints. This affected my running and my ability to compete. I had to forfeit some meets and then I lost every race I competed in. This was crushing to me because I had allowed myself to place my identity in what I did. As Christians, our identity is not in what we do or how we wish to portray ourselves. Our identity is in the sole fact that we are adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High King. Who I am is not based on what I have done or try to do, but rather it is based on who Christ is. Ephesians says that we are holy and blameless through Him. That is a gift; it is our title. Not because we earned it, but because Christ simply gave it to us.  How does this change the way we view ourselves? How does this fact change the way we view the world? Today I challenge you to embrace your identity in Christ and what He has done for you.

Zan Long is GRC director for faith development groups. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jenniffer Ogden serves as the children and family pastor at the Walla Walla University Church in College Place, Washington.
Andrew Jones teaches grades seven and eight at Vista Ridge Academy in Erie, Colorado. He is originally from Oregon and attends Boulder Church.
Emily Ellis is a junior studying theology at Walla Walla University and interning at the Eastgate Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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