2019 Community Weekend
What a wonderful weekend we had at Ebenezer! This was our 4th annual “Community Weekend.” It began on Friday night as we watched “Mary Poppins Returns” under the huge tent. While this was simply a fun activity for our kids (and adults), we were able to connect with a few new people that night. The Coffee House was a tremendous blessing! It was a joy to hear the incredible musical talent from the saints here at Ebenezer. All of the music and songs were so focused on bringing glory to God and encouraging us all. We also had a few new faces Saturday night. And then Sunday morning was incredible as 630 people gathered under the tent to worship our Lord Jesus Christ. There were so many new people that we were able to meet. The worship time through music was so wonderful. The food was incredible for the picnic. We are so thankful to Mark Florentine & George Hardy and all their volunteers who helped make the picnic such a wonderful event. So many volunteers helped set up chairs, the stage, the sound, tables, the movie screen, and so much more. Overall, the weekend was a tremendous blessing. Most of all I believe we glorified our Lord and were able to meet many new guests who were introduced to our church.
Ebenezer: God’s Plan for the Lehigh Valley
As we read in Ephesians on Sunday morning, the Church is the mystery of God revealed in this age. A mystery is a once hidden secret that now has been revealed. The Church was not an afterthought but the plan of God from the beginning to be revealed to us in this age, the age from Christ’s resurrection until now. We call this time we are living in “the Church age.” God’s plan was to “make known to us the mystery of His will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:9). This uniting of all things was not revealed to previous generations, but now has been made known and revealed to the Apostles, namely that the “Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph 3:6). Ebenezer Bible Fellowship Church is simply God’s unfolding and revealed mystery to the Lehigh Valley. As I looked over the congregation on Sunday, I saw people from many different walks of life. I saw many different colors. I saw a beautiful picture of what Christ’s church is supposed to look like. Christ is building His church here in the Lehigh Valley and He is using us to accomplish His work.
Entrance by Faith Alone
The reality however is that not everyone will be added to the Church. The terrible reality is that those outside the Church are 1) separated from Christ, 2) alienated from the blessings of God’s promises & covenants to Israel, 3) without hope, and 4) without God in the world (Eph 2:11-13). But the hope is that these great obstacles can be overcome. They are not overcome by joining a local body, or being baptized, or becoming religious. The only entrance into the Church is by faith in Christ alone (Eph 1:13, 15, 2:8, 3:17). When someone puts their faith in Christ, everything changes. Blessings come and the Lord Jesus Himself “adds [them] to the Church” (Acts 2:47).
The Analogy of the Church
The blessings of being added to the Church are specifically seen in three analogies that the Apostle Paul uses to describe the Church in Ephesians 2:19-22. Those who have put their faith in Christ become 1) citizens of the Kingdom of God, 2) family members in the household of God, and 3) living stones in the Temple of the Living God.
Citizens of the Kingdom of God (v. 19a). Before faith in Christ we were strangers and aliens, but now we have become citizens of God’s Kingdom (Phil 3:20). Our new birth in Christ has made us a natural citizen of God’s Kingdom where we now live under His rule and have new responsibilities and new privileges. The Church is not the Kingdom of God, but is the product of the Kingdom. And the Church is the instrument & custodian of the Kingdom (Matt 16:19) proclaiming the good news for sinners that they can be added to the Church. No one can become a member of God’s Kingdom without first entering into the Church by faith in Christ Jesus alone.
Family in the Household of God (v. 19b). The second analogy is an advancement of the blessing. It is one thing to be a citizen of a Kingdom along with millions of other citizens, but it is another thing to enter into an intimate family household. When we enter into the Church we become members of the household of God, whereby He is our Father and we are His children (1 Peter 2:9-10). The Church then are family members with one another whereby we call each other “brother” or “sister.” Family is important. The Church is simply an imperfect gathering of the family of God on earth, a foreshadowing of the perfect family who will be in heaven (God’s heavenly household) forever with Christ.
Stones in the Temple of the Living God (v. 20-22). The third metaphor is even a further advancement of the blessing. Being a part of the Church means that we are indwelt by God as a holy temple. In the Old Covenant, God literally indwelled a physical temple with His Shekinah glory (2 Chronicles 6-7). But now the Spirit of God indwells the Church. Every member is a stone, cut out and hand placed into the Church. And the Spirit of God lives within the people of God, not a building. Of course, the foundation of this building was laid by the revelation of Truth given by the Apostles and Prophets. And the first stone laid was the cornerstone who was Christ Himself. All other stones are laid upon Christ. He was the first fruits of many (1 Cor 15:20-23).
Let’s Continue to be a Blessing!
My prayer is that Ebenezer Bible Fellowship Church will continue to be a blessing to the community around us. We don’t have anything to offer the community except what God has made us. We must continue to hold fast to the teaching of the Apostles never changing what they have laid. And we must guard against trying to be something for the community that God did not intend. We are not to lure the community into our gathering by entertainment, or temporal blessings. Ebenezer will continue to be a blessing as long as we remain focused on being who God made us. Let’s continue to pray that God will use us in the community. When the newcomers return next Sunday, let’s reach out to them and encourage them. Let’s also rejoice that God is building His Church, His Family, and His Temple one stone at a time!
More photos of Community Weekend are available on Facebook.