Ordinary Christianity

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Ordinary, average, middle-of-the-road, uninspired, undistinguished, indifferent, unexceptional, unexciting, unremarkable, run-of-the-mill.  These are all words synonymous with a word that means “of only moderate quality; not very good.”

That word—mediocre.

Mediocrity describes too much of daily life today at home, the work place, in businesses, churches, entertainment, and sadly at times in my own life.  Yet, I believe that the worst place for mediocrity to raise its indifferent, ordinary head is in a born-again Christian’s life.

Consider what the Bible says about mediocrity:

Romans 12:11  Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.

1 Corinthians 10:31  Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:17,23  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.

Simply put, a mediocre Christian is one whose thirst for God has waned over time, and sadly, he/she  doesn’t realize it.  Instead of giving diligence to his growth in Christ, to add to his original faith in Christ (2 Peter 1:3-7, 10), he has become barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins (1:8-9).

As we heard last night in our Men with a Mission weekly ministry, “Mediocrity cheapens the grace of God.”

Are you a mediocre Christian?  Here are 10 questions taken from last night’s lesson to ask yourself to determine your level of mediocrity.  Read each one carefully and thoughtfully.  Do not rush through the list or be mediocre about it.

  1. Is your thirst for God growing?
  2. Are you more and more loving?
  3. Are you more sensitive to and aware of God?
  4. Are you governed more and more by His Word?
  5. Are you more and more concerned for others?
  6. Are you more and more concerned over the Church/the Body of Christ?
  7. Are the disciplines of the Christian life more important to you?
  8. Are you more and more aware of sin?
  9. Are you more and more forgiving of others?
  10. Are you thinking more and more of heaven?

When you are cold, you want to be close to the fire.  How’s the fire in your Christian life?  That will be determined by how close you want to walk with Christ.  That will be determined by your vine/branch relationship with Christ (John 15:1-11). You are as close as you want to be; you are as zealous as you want to; you are as zealous as you want to be. God does not force His will on anyone.

The remedy for mediocrity:

For me to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21)

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17‭-‬18)

When we stand before Christ one day at the Bema and our works will be judged, do you want Him to say, “Well done for being completely mediocre.”?

May I Introduce You To . . . . .

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What is your purpose in life? Please answer before you read on.

Yesterday morning while waiting on my coffee to brew, I scrolled through Instagram and came across these words from Dr. Charles Stanley:

When He (God) saved you, He saved you to do what? To walk in relationship with Jesus Christ so that everybody who meets you meets Him.  Therefore, you have a definite purpose in your life for being saved besides going to heaven.

That middle sentence arrested my attention and churned in my mental mill all day long.

When I was a young boy on into my teen years, I traveled with my dad to many preacher’s meetings and Bible Conferences.  He always introduced me to as many preachers as was around him.  What a privilege to shake their hands, both men of renown and lesser known men, and to hear many of them preach.  Some of them even stayed in our home.  My life was and continues to be enriched by being around such men.

Just as my father would introduce me to those men, those of us who know Christ as our personal Lord and Savior have the greatest privilege and purpose, to introduce Jesus to those who meet us!  In all of life, it does not matter if others know us or remember us.  What matters is if they are introduced to Christ through us!  If when they meet us, they meet Jesus!

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20).

People will meet Jesus in us when . . .

  • When daily spend time reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on the Word (Joshua 1:8). You are what you think, so the Word must be in our mind (Proverbs 23:7)
  • When we have met with our God in prayer in the morning and live in the atmosphere of prayer throughout the day (Matthew 6:6-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • When we love Him with all of our heart (Matthew 22:37-40). You talk about the ones you love such as your spouse, kids, or grandchildren.  What about the Lord?
  • When we walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The Spirit’s number one responsibility is to point to Christ, so when we surrendered to the Spirit in us, Christ is magnified (Philippians 1:20).
  • When you choose to personally live for Christ alone (Philippians 1:21).
  • When we love others as Christ does (1 John 4:12).
  • When we verbally tell others about Christ in fulfilling our purpose of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • When you talk of Him in conversation, not to show off, but because He is your life (Colossians 1:27).

So, as you go about your day today, who will others meet . . . you or Christ?  Who is the most important?

Jesus Ministered Again on the Sea of Galilee

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As I prepared my heart and mind for another trip to Israel, the thought of riding on the Sea of Galilee again brought a renewed spirit of great expectancy!

Five years ago as the boat pulled away from the dock, my wife and I stood near the bow and fixed our gaze all around us.  “This is where Jesus spent so much of His early ministry!”  We envisioned Him walking on the water, travelling along the shore, calming the storm, reaching out to Peter, healing the maniac of Gadara, as well as other events in Jesus’ Galilean ministry.

In a few moments, the owners of the boat began to play over the loud speakers, “How Great Is Our God.”

The splendor of the King, clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice

He wraps himself in Light, and darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead Three in One
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Name above all names
Worthy of our praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Several of us, gathered at the bow, began to sing along, tears streaming down our cheeks.  The calmness of the sea, the beauty of God’s creation all around us, the person of Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27) and  the fellowship in worship of brothers and sisters like us in Christ was so absolutely awesome!  Once again, Christ was ministering on the Sea of Galilee!!

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Well, fast forward to three weeks ago, and once again, we experienced the same, but this time on a much deeper level.  How wonderful to sing “How Great Thou Art,” “10,000 Reasons,” and “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.”  With hands and voices raised up to heaven, our hearts overflowed with praise to our great God for His Son, His salvation, and His grace! Then we heard the Word of God preached to us while we sailed along.  The Christ in us ministered once again on the Sea of Galilee to each of us.

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Of course we are back home now, and the same Jesus continues to minister to us as we obey His call recorded in Matthew 11:28-30, Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The same Christ, Who through the Holy Spirit, taught us, led us to worship, and ministered to our hearts on the Sea of Galilee is ready and willing to do the same today.  All you must do is open the Word of God and let Him speak to you from the pages of His eternal, life-giving book of absolute truth!

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So, come along with me today and let’s “ride the boat” as Jesus ministers once again to His redeemed ones!   Go ahead and sing, too!! (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16-17).

Making Investments

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There she lay.  Her earthly labors were over.  Her bodily tent had been comfortably tucked inside a beautiful, stained wooden casket adorned with a regal spray of flowers.  Her days here were over, but her life in Heaven had only just begun for all eternity on Saturday (John 14:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:7-8).

As her pastor approached the podium, he read from Proverbs 31 and then described her life by two words, one of which was, investments.

An investment is “an act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.”  This dear lady, 83 years old, had spent most of her making investments . . . into people.

She invested . . .

  • The gospel into lost souls of every walk of life not matter who they were, the color of their skin, or their lot in life.
  • Time and energy in prayer crying out to the Lord.
  • Time and effort in prayer crying out to the Lord for the salvation of her husband. God heard and answered her prayer!
  • The Word of God into her children, her grandchildren, and her Sunday School class by her teaching and her example.
  • In “throw aways,” people that others did not want to “touch.”
  • In her pastor by encouraging him and praying for him.

I am quickly reminded of what Jesus said as recorded in Mark 10:42-45, But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

Jesus came, died on the cross, and rose from the tomb to make an eternal, soul-saving investment in any one who would receive Him (John 1:12).  Barbara Chandler, a devout follower of Christ, made investments in others for the cause of Christ to lead others to Christ because Christ lived in her (Colossians 1:27).

I never knew her in this life. No matter, even in death, she made an investment in me.

What are your plans in 2017 to make investments in people, to make a difference other’s lives, to make those eternal investments?  I believe it’s called laying up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21)!

My Church?

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While visiting family in Kentucky last week, I passed a storefront church with a catchy name . . . My Church.  Of course, my warped sense of humor made me think, “What a cool play on words for church outreach?”  And then, I heard the following conversation in my head:

Church Member: “How about visiting My Church this Sunday?”

Neighbor:  “What’s the name of your church?”

Church Member:  “My Church.”

Neighbor: “Yes, your church.  What’s it name?”

Church Member:  ‘My Church.”

And this could go on and on like an old Abbott & Costello routine entitled Who’s On First?

Seriously, the name caused me to do some thinking about church.  Jesus said, “Upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  What’s the difference between Jesus’ “My Church “and . . . my church.

Jesus’ My Church

  1. Christ is the issue, the motive, the celebrity, the subject, the preeminent One, and the name that matters (Colossians 1:15-19; 1 Corinthians 1:29-31).
  2. Christ is the architect, the builder, the model, and the planner (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 4:11-16).
  3. Christ builds His Church with broken, sinful lives (Acts 16:12-34) who are eternally changed for God’s glory (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
  4. Christ offers forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14), reconciliation (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18), redemption (1 Corinthians 1:29-31; Ephesians 1:3, 7), adoption (Romans 8:15, 23), righteousness (Romans 3:21-26), and acceptance to all sinners on His merit alone (Ephesians 1:6).
  5. Christ fits every one into His body (1 Corinthians 12:18; Ephesians 2:21; 4:16).
  6. Christ is Who and What unifies His Church (1 Corinthians 3:11; 12:12-18; Ephesians 1:3-14).
  7. Christ’s Word is the Operations Manual for the Church (Acts 2:42; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:2).
  8. Christ’s church answers and handles all personal matters by obedience to the Word (Matthew 18:15-20).
  9. Christ is the “face” of His Church (Ephesians 5:22-27).

 

My church

  1. My church promotes man, his struggles, his failures, his sins, his illnesses, and his pride.
  2. My church is built around what I believe the church should be and look like.
  3. My church says, “Come as you are,” but let’s you stay as you are.
  4. My church offers a temporal fix, a warm, fuzzy small group, and/or man-centered solutions.
  5. My church fits me and what I like; what makes me feel good.
  6. My church is unified around my music style, my dress code, my service times, my schedule, my selfish theology, my textual choice, and my perspective/assumptions.
  7. My church is entertainment driven, perhaps constitution over the Bible motivated, board-run, and man-feared.
  8. My church reacts to personal matters by anger, bitterness, gossip, and church-hopping.
  9. My church’s “face” is the pastor, deacons, the person (pastor, deacon, church member) who hurt me or disappointed me, and the denomination.

So, now I must look at the church I serve and ask, “Is this Christ’s church or my church?”  Look at the church you attend.  Is it really Christ’s church or your church?

Let me add, I know very little about My Church in Kentucky, and this article is not about them. It could be if any of these nine things fits them, but I am not out to target them. I will say this, on their website I read these words, “Make My Church your church.”  I think I understand their motive, but only you can make My Church into my church (your church).  Only Christ can make His Church, His Church.  I’ll choose the latter. . . and by His grace, make that the goal.

Clippin’ Grace Coupons in Ministry

Every week ministry is filled and enriched by God’s grace.  No matter what kind of week it has been, grace has been sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) and overflowing (2 Corinthians 9:8).  Here’s another peek into some of the grace coupons I clipped in recent days.

COUPON #1:  COUPLES’ ADVANCE

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Several years ago, I attended my first Men’s Prayer Advance, and I have never been the same since.  The MPA is the highlight conference for me each year.  Last week, my wife and I attended our first Couples Advance.  The fact that is was held in Pigeon Forge, TN, made the event that much sweeter!  How we love East Tennessee and the Smokies!  More importantly, how wonderful to come apart for three days and intentionally work on our marriage by the grace of God.  This past June we celebrated our 35th Anniversary, and we both love the gift of marriage and love being married!  Seriously, sometimes I feel like we are still on our honeymoon.  But, because we are two sinners saved by grace (Ephesians 2:1-9) and accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6), we need the searchlight of God’s Word to show where we must grow and change to be more like Christ (Ephesians 5:18-33). Of course, the Word works (Hebrews 4:12)!  What a blessing to get honest with God and each other.  The marriage triangle says it all:

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COUPON #2:  PREACHING THROUGH REVELATION


He that can toy with his ministry and count it to be like a trade, or like any other profession, was never called of God. But he that has a charge pressing on his heart, and a woe ringing in his ear, and preaches as though he heard the cried of hell behind him, and saw his God looking down on him–oh, how that man entreats the Lord that his hearers may not hear in vain! – Charles Spurgeon

Preparing to preach from this awesome book every Sunday takes considerable time, prayer, and digging.  To mine out the truths and deliver them without a sensational spin as well as be true to the text is a chore but a delightful one. I often think of a line from the movie, Sheffey, when he preaches his first sermon and runs out of the church in fear.  Shed McCombs, in the face of Sheffey’s protests and not willing to let him quit, declares, “Tis a fearful thing to preach the Word of God!”  Indeed it is, but I must say, how grateful to be grace-enabled to preach Revelation in these last days!

Clippin’ Grace Coupons in the Ministry

Seeing Young Men Continue:  As was mentioned earlier in the week, Boones Creek Bible Church celebrated its 60th Anniversary last Sunday. What a special treat to have two young men in particular attend the service who once were integral servants in this ministry.

For seven years, Todd Jones, led our congregational singing and choir and taught Sunday School.  Every weekend, he and later on, his wife and family, would drive up from Greenville, SC, to serve with us.  Today, they are back in Greenville where he serves on the music faculty of Bob Jones University.

Along the same time, the Lord led Adam Smalley to our congregation as he completed his medical school training at East Tennessee State University.  While here, he taught Sunday School, used his musical talents, served as a Timothy member with the deacons and grew to be a major part of this ministry.  Now, he and his family are living in Indianapolis, Indiana, serving at Colonial Hills Baptist Church as a deacon and small group leader.

How honored to have these young men and their families back at BCBC for our special day.  May their tribe increase!

Seeing Older Men Continue:  Dr. Bill Hall has been an evangelist for 61 years.  He has been a part of my life for as long as I’ve been alive, and I’m 57.  He has held meetings in churches my father pastored as well as for me, and here at BCBC.  In 1963, although in evangelism, he started a church in nearby Greeneville, TN.  His evangelism challenge to us this past Sunday was what we needed to hear and heed!  How grateful I am to still have a man of his character, passion, and wisdom as my friend and co-laborer in the gospel ministry.  He’s in his early eighties, but his heart beats for Christ like a teen!  Check out his Personal Message.

Seeing the Gospel Continue:  Wednesday evening, we hosted “Trunk or Treat” in our gym.  What a thrill to see the gospel opportunities that came our way via children and parents alike! Lives are changed by the gospel, and we live each day by the gospel!!  The power of the gospel continues because the tomb is empty, and it motivates us to continue!

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Clippin’ Grace Coupons In Ministry

A Place to Meet with God and Study His Word:  Since returning from our time away in August, I have rearranged my schedule.  As a pastor who has been preaching the Word for 41 years, it would be real easy to coast along in sermon preparation.  Recognizing the need of keeping my heart on fire and hearing directly from the Throne of God, I have made it a point to give Monday and Tuesday to digging in the Word, sitting at Jesus’ feet, seeking God’s face for my messages.  I do not want give the congregation I love so dearly “leftovers” or a “fast-food” sermon.  My sheep need good grain that comes from the hand of God.  So, with that in mind, the Lord has graciously provided a place that has become very dear to me.  A place where my cell phone has almost a non-existent signal; a place of extreme quiet; a place removed from the distractions of home where my study is located; and a place that causes me to be very intentional.  This is a huge grace coupon!!

Mentoring:  Our neighbor’s two children attend Pioneer Club, our Wednesday children’s ministry.  If a child has to miss a night, they can make it up during the week.  So, what a thrill to help my little buddy next door with his assignment.  I had a hard time holding back the tears.  He is so precious, and like a grandson to us.  He is all boy!!!  Thank You, Lord, for another grace coupon!!  God, you are so good to me!!

Country Living:  Our home is a genuine gift of God’s grace.  The story behind it and how He has used it in these three years for ministry has been and is awesome!!  Here’s the view yesterday morning.  I never tire of the quiet, the cattle across the way, the sunrise, and the time spent in prayer and in God’s Word . . . here in the country!!  Love those grace coupons!!

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Clippin’ Grace Coupons in Ministry

Looking back over this past week, there are so many grace blessings that my heart is overflowing.

Andrew, Dale and Mike


Last Friday, I had the privilege of participating in the funeral, and on Saturday, the burial committal service for a precious lady, Dixie Gouge. I wrote about it in last week’s post.  Another grace blessing from this event was serving together with two other pastors.  Mike Garland was baptized as a young man by father when Dad pastored Forest View Bible Church, Johnson City, TN, of which Ralph and Dixie Gouge were members.  Mike is also a nephew of the Gouge’s.  The other pastor is my son-in-law, Andrew, who is our assistant pastor at BCBC.  What a joy to stand between these two men that have special ties to my heart!  God is so good to let you clip such blessed grace coupons! 

Two hams!


What a special treat to minister to our neighborhood, especially the family next door to us. Their two precious children come to our home every week for Bible club.  They are our adopted “grandkids” and are such a blessing to our hearts.  Here we are having some silly fun time!

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Mr. D doing what Mr.D does best!!

Pioneer Children’s Club, Wednesday nights: How grateful to be in the midst of people who love children and demonstrate a passion to see them be more than just good kids; better yet, godly kids.  Even better is the passion of Mr. D who wants to see these precious children and their parents come to Christ for salvation!  He is faithfully out knocking on doors and doing bus visitation on Tuesdays in preparation for Wednesday nights!

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Apples of Gold Decor

Apples of Gold Ladies Mentoring Ministry: Last Saturday, we hosted twenty people at our home for the AOG Celebration Dinner. My wife had every decorated so beautifully.  She and her helpers prepared delicious soups, salad and desserts. What a special blessing it was to eat outside, and then to be gathered around the fire pit sharing testimonies and singing songs under a starlit sky.  God is so good!

Clippin’ Grace Coupons in Ministry

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Life is all about the grace of God.  We do not deserve anything except hell because of our sinful state.  But in His grace, God has provided salvation for all men (John 1:12; 3:16; Ephesians 2:1-4, 8-9; Titus 3:5).  Then, in and through His grace, He provides so many undeserving gifts everyday of our lives (John 1:16-17; Ephesians 2:4-7).  How easy it is to dwell on all the bad around us that we forget to focus on the grace of God which is transcendent over all (Romans 5:20).  So with that in mind, my goal for Friday’s blog is to share with you from a pastor’s heart some of the “grace coupons” in ministry that I’ve been able to “clip” over the past seven days. So here we go!

  1. Worshipping on Sunday at Boones Creek Bible Church! One of the many true blessings of a Sunday at BCBC is joining with our congregation as they sing.  With raised voices, uplifted hands and glowing countenances, praise is abundant!  Many Sunday mornings on my way to church I find myself saying, “I can hardly wait to sing with my brothers and sisters in Christ today!”   Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).
  2. Seeing ladies cry out in prayer, singing, and worship as they joined together for three hours in the presence of the Lord at BCBC. You can read a bit more about it on my wife’s blog post Friday Favorites.
  3. When I was an earlier teen, my dad pastored a church here in south Johnson City, TN. Words cannot describe what a grace blessing it is to be living and pastoring in the same area that has always been so special to me.  When we moved here from Bluefield, West Virginia, two men, Stacey Tester and Ralph Gouge, came from Johnson City to assist us.  They made a huge impression on me.  Stacey and Ralph have since gone on to Glory, but today, I have the privilege of participating in the funeral for Dixie Gouge, Ralph’s precious wife.  Furthermore, Ralph and Dixie’s daughter and three of their children are part of the BCBC family.  Also, I saw Ralph and Dixie’s son this week which was the first time since we moved away.  As we sat in the Gouge’s living room and reminisced about our time here and about my parents, I thought, “Lord, how good you are to me, and how good to be still connected to my dad’s ministry in such a blessed way!”
  4. Joy in ministry is often mixed with sadness and sorrow as even mentioned above. Yesterday I stood by the bedside of a dear man whose body is riddled with Alzheimer’s. His wife has faithfully stood by his side and cared for him with love and great compassion for several years.  With Bernice on one side and me on the other, we shared Psalm 23 and then sang several songs:  In the Sweet By and By, When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, Heaven Is a Wonderful Place, Until Then, I Have Found a Hiding Place, and others.  As a pastor, I am so grateful for the opportunity to minister the balm of God’s Word and the blessed encouragement of song that gives encouragement for today and expectation for the future.  It is all by His grace!
  5. Finally, there’s the blessing of preaching and teaching the Word of God!! Currently, I am preaching through Revelation . . . the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  How timely; how sobering; how hope-filled!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ . . . . To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  (Ephesians 1:3, 6)