Sunday, July 9, 2017

BIBLE STUDY: Included in Christ: Living A New Story from Ephesians

Break Free from the Darkness and Find Your New Identity in Christ

Included in Christ: Living a New Story from Ephesians by Heather Holleman

Chicago, IL – Have you ever battled insecurity, rejection, or a feeling of worthlessness? Maybe your ethnic background, family dysfunction, financial struggles, career failures, or your own inner battle with shame or fear have led you to feel like an outsider. Have you been telling yourself that you just are not special, chosen, included?

“As someone who spent a lifetime feeling like an outsider and experiencing rejection—both real and imagined—the notion that I’m included reaches my soul like healing balm,” says Dr. Heather Holleman, author of Included in Christ: Living a New Story from Ephesians (Moody Publishers, June 2017). “As we learn in Ephesians, we are part of the whole of God’s family.”

Holleman, a speaker, writer, and English instructor at Penn State University, who also serves on the Faculty Commons for Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), struggled for years with loneliness, fear, and feeling like an outsider. God used the book of Ephesians to minister to her and to usher in profound and lasting personal transformation.

“Paul’s primary purpose in writing Ephesians has everything to do with explaining to readers—and reminding them again and again—that they belong not only in personal and actual union to a living Christ, but that salvation involves including them to one another as believers,” says Holleman. Written as part narrative but full Bible study, Included in Christ takes readers through an in-depth, eight-week study of the book of Ephesians. Designed to be studied in community, Holleman focuses the first seven week’s themes around a vivid verb—included, chosen, seated, strengthened, renewed, filled, and proclaiming. Each week, women study Ephesians through the lens of the verb, engage in personal reflection questions, discuss lessons in community, and work on developing, what Holleman calls, their Savior Story.

“The Jesus I met through the book of Ephesians is a God who includes us, chooses us, seats us at the table, connects us deeply with others, refreshes us, empowers us, and proclaims truth through us,” says Holleman. “Instead of the Shadow Narratives that often dominate our lives, we need to replace them with our Savior Stories and begin to live and walk in that freedom.”

Many women are stuck in their Shadow Narrative--a story that they tell themselves over and over again that keeps them in the darkness of exclusion and loneliness, weariness, and toxic patterns of jealousy, comparison, and despair. As readers study the verbs and phrases found in Ephesians and work through the discussion questions both personally and in community, they will replace these stories with those that have shaped their lives in Christ. These new stories are what Holleman calls Savior Stories, stories that look at who you are as a new creation in Christ, living with a different, biblical reality of a new mindset.

“Can you imagine living each day like an included person?” says Holleman. “Someone chosen instead of rejected or ignored? Someone seated at the Greatest Table with the Greatest King instead of lonely and fighting for belonging? Someone strengthened instead of weary and powerless? Someone renewed instead of languishing in sin? Someone filled with the Holy Spirit instead of living in self-effort all day long? And finally, someone proclaiming her Savior Story instead of living in silence or stuck in her Shadow Narrative.

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