Unconditionally

I wrote this some time back intentionally as the fourth edition to my series of posts on Ephesians, but it stands alone now more than ever before because over the last couple of weeks I’ve been very strongly convicted. When I originally wrote this, I had no idea what I was saying, the burden that I was implying. And I knew something was missing, it didn’t feel right, so I didn’t post it then. But I’m starting to get the picture, so with present additions included, here you go:

Have you ever noticed how there’s a general tendency for men to jump onto the bandwagon of Ephesians 5 for their God-given right to respect and admiration? Even the ensuing ‘Husbands, love your wives,’ doesn’t always do much to squelch the immediate ego-inflation, if he ever gets down to that portion.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. -Ephesians 5:22-27

But here’s the thing, men. It’s better than that. The role of ‘husband’ is so much more full than a right to have your household in complete submission to you – as I’m only just beginning to learn. Let’s continue through the rest of the chapter:

28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body,[d] of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”[e] 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. -Ephesians 5:28-33

You probably already know marriage is a picture of Jesus’ relationship to the Church – the Bible is full of imagery to this extent. But Paul bold-faces it here; the husband’s relationship to his wife should be as Christ’s to the Church–to you. That means everything we’ve talked to up to this point regarding relationship with Jesus also has a marriage counter-part.

The husband’s role is completely selfless to his wife; all she is directed to do is submit to him. But to him Paul lays the complete responsibility of selfless, life-disregarding care; he is her glory, sanctification and cleansing, and he is to love her as his own body.

But here’s the bigger picture again: the Church is Jesus’ bride. He loves and cherishes her as his own body, and literally she is his body – He and she are one flesh. And you are the Church. Grace takes on a new meaning because yes, the Church submits and respects Jesus (and rightly so) but Jesus takes the far bigger burden on himself of taking care of the Church.

I’m having a difficult time finding the right thing without sounding like I’m just parroting Paul but guys! Your experience of Jesus is meant to flow out from you onto your wives! How can you be bitter or angry with her (I’ve [past] been taking in this implication myself over the last few days) when Jesus has never been bitter or angry with you? There is no way your sacrifice for her will ever be as great as His for His Bride.

I [present] started to get a real revelation of this around a week or a week and a half ago, and it wasn’t a light thing as Father began opening my eyes and heart up to it. He began showing me moment-to-moment that the grace he shows for me I am so very incapable of extending onto my bride; he is continually patient in my anger, gracious to my shortcomings, faithful to all of my hidden, developing future potential, and he loves it. He loves it. I don’t just mean he loves me I mean he loves loving me in that totally 100% for-me way. But me for my wife? Let’s just say dating-to-present we have a shadowed history. To be completely honest for just a minute, I’ve reevaluated my marriage increasingly and particularly over the last two years, particularly in the last six months, we’ve been so close to breaking point. And God through it all just says “Come under the shadow of my wing,” but I’m just up in here saying “What about me?”

Well, what about me? It’s not about me, it’s about her. 

“But Jesus she did this and this and she has this problem and she always brings such-and-such up–“

“Son, my love for you never falters.”

“But she doesn’t deserve unfailing love, how–“

“Neither did you.”

” … But I don’t have that kind of love, Jesus … “ 

It’s not a debate anymore in my heart who’s right or wrong. The debate is, am I going to love like Jesus, or am I going to love like I think? And let me tell you I can make things pretty good if I love like I think I should, for a while, on the surface. But the reality is I just don’t represent love right because there’s still a little bit of dead man trying to take control of me and sometimes [read: most of the time] he wins.

I can’t love my wife like Jesus loves me and the rest of his bride and let that dead man live.

I said I can’t let that dead man live.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

So Jesus, fill me with you. Cover me with your love. Don’t let anything come out of me that isn’t your love. I’m saying no to the dead man, and yes to you, the LIVING MAN. 

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

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Staying Rooted is Hard [Ephesians Part III]

(But it’s not).

Something interesting to me is that now Paul gets into the heavy stuff. He’s talked about salvation and righteousness for everyone freely through Jesus; he’s talked about how the church functions to build itself up into the Bride, and now he starts talking about living right, walking the walk. From the end of chapter 4 through a fair chunk of chapter 5 (and really, on to the end of the letter,) he’s talking about right living. Let’s pick up in chapter 5:

Walk in Love

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know,[a] that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.

Walk in Light

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit[b] is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says:

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

Walk in Wisdom

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. -Ephesians 5:1-21

There’s three parts to this: Love, Light and Wisdom. I used to think (a long time ago) that living right was totally up to me and that I was responsible for being sinless at least post-cross, if not pre-cross as well. What I didn’t get then was that being sinless was a free gift, and just because Jesus expects us now to use the gift He gave us doesn’t mean it isn’t still a free gift.

Let me explain with each part.

Look at verses 1-7; it’s about walking in love, and I believe it comes first not only because love is most important, but because everything else flows naturally out of love, which is why it’s so important in the first place! But it comes with a stern warning; if you live in disobedience you welcome the wrath of God. Of course, by now Paul’s talking to more than day-old Christians; we all want to live and act totally in love, right? But the best news is, if you understand what Jesus did, love is a natural response.

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. 

I don’t mean it’s a natural response like you ought to love because he did – I mean it’s a natural response like you can’t help but love like he did because you understand what his love did for you! Boom! The goodness of God does more than lead men to repentance; it leads them to act in the nature they were created in – love.

And again concerning walking in the light it’s the same story; we desire to walk in the light because Jesus’ light is burning in us. This isn’t a stern warning, it’s a somber reminder of the power living and creating right desire in us. We can live more and more purely daily by opening up new places to that light. And it isn’t a matter of inviting his light in all over again every day, but simply waking up and enjoying the Son-rise.

And finally, walk in wisdom. Be wise. How? By allowing the Holy Spirit access continually through thanksgiving, through worship.

“So,” you might ask, “What does this look like, exactly – on a day-to-day basis?”

Well, in my life it looks like remembering how far the love of Jesus went for me, reveling in that and allowing my love for other people to well out of that experience. It looks like continually going to God any time I feel that I’ve started to move toward darker corners of my mind, the continual reminder that that old man is just itching to get his hands on my will again. It means purposely praising – usually in the form of singing to him quietly throughout the day. This is all a part of what I usually refer to as staying rooted. 

So what’s the problem? Well, it’s not that easy.

Yes! I want to love; more than anything else the continual desire to love rarely goes very far from me and it always brings me back because I remember why that desire is in me. I want to live right, I want to do right, I want to walk in the light and have a perfect life and not give in to temptations and always praise Jesus and worship Elohim Jehovah and never have a sin-natured thought or motive ever again and it’s a daily battle between desires!

But the thing is, it’s natural.

And since Jesus ransomed you, it’s more natural than sin-natural; the right side is winning your heart! You have good, Godly desires because you live in him and he is steadily living more and more in you! And as soon as I let in to those desires, my whole world flips right back around because I am rooted, and Jesus is still my Savior King.

The lie I think people (and I certainly do, too) is that after salvation, living right somehow becomes our responsibility to do. But the truth is, it’s only our responsibility to keep inviting, and then the Holy Spirit brings life and power and desire and Jesus’ very nature into our core being and now you tell me how you can stop yourself from doing right when you’ve got that living inside you!

I’d like to take a moment to bring to light something that seems to be a big fear to many people opposing the grace movement; that if we allow grace in excess in the church, sin will abound. And what’s important about the order here is that all this living right stuff already has the backing of free righteousness and a Gifted Church. Power and accountability, which brings with it the opportunity for encouragement from people walking the same road we are. Because the provision is there it makes so much more sense that Paul has said all this almost in an overtone of high expectation; not because he’s afraid the Ephesians are going to start to slip in greasy grace, but because he’s just finished showing them that they have the grace, power and the new-man nature from Jesus to live like this!

I don’t know what the Gifted Church’s role looks like here, but I’ll tell you this; there shouldn’t have to be this insecurity regarding grace in the corporate church.

So yes…staying rooted is hard. But when you get salvation, and when you get where the Church can come into play… I can tell you plainly it takes such a load off my shoulders to know that I don’t have to worry so hard about trying to be right, because living right is less about trying to change what you do naturally because of what you know about Jesus, and more about letting what you know about Jesus naturally change what you do.

Living Church [Ephesians Part II]

It might make you happy to know this might stretch out a while longer – the more I give opportunity for Jesus to teach me, the more I see and learn where before I only saw one thing – he opens my eyes to the murals all around me.

So this one’s about Church.

I don’t mean like that place you go once a week (but maybe you’ve been reading here long enough to know that already) but the living organism that is every person across the globe that lives in Christ Jesus the King. And maybe this will help me answer the yet-unanswered question of, “how do you live Church?”

The first three chapters of Ephesians follow salvation (particularly for the Gentiles whom this letter is addressed); dwelling in Christ and growing steadily toward a Christ-indwelling in each of us. Paul has taught us how to grow in Christ – but what about the Church? What does it look like to grow in Christ–with other people? Let’s pick up in Ephesians 4:

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you[a] all.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:

“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”[b

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ  – Ephesians 4:1-12

I noticed something interesting when I read this part in the King James – the punctuation. The verses following verse eleven are written as a list. I’ll show you what I’m talking about:

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. – Ephesians 4:11-16

Okay, I know; so it’s a list. Big deal, right? Probably. But maybe not, because any other time I read this I got this vague picture of the giftings (apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers) being there in the body, but the real business is being done by Jesus. Well yes…but no! It’s written in a sort of cause-and-effect list-format, which means you can take each point back to the initial statement which is, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;”

Gave them for what?

First Point – 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Second Point – 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

Third Point – 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Fourth Point – 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

I’m all good up until verse 16, and then it messes with me a little. See, I always thought verse 16 was still talking about Jesus, but if this is really meant to be a direct list of affects the Giftings have on the body, then verse 16 is a whole new point and the whom is still the Giftings – us. Suddenly it’s not a vague picture of all the wonderful things Jesus does for us, but instead a flooding mural of all the wonderful things Jesus wants to do for us through others. And through us for others.

And I know what you might be thinking – it’s the same thing that runs through the back of my mind every now and then: newer, more ‘relevant’ and easier to understand translations don’t read the same way; it’s just an archaic form that wasn’t really meant to be that way.

Well damn you, Devil. Because you know what? It doesn’t matter if it reads differently in other translations; there are so many different ways to look at translations alone let alone translations of the Bible. What does matter is that where before there was a vague picture, now there’s a purpose.

A purpose for the church.

It’s a statement; Jesus is giving these gifts to you, and here’s how you can use them as a community, as a people. Suddenly it’s so much more than just about how corporate church government works to further the work of Jesus in the body; it’s about Jesus giving a gift to every person to use to reach out to every other person to bring the Body into perfect oneness, grown up into Christ. I don’t have words yet for how amazing this picture is, I’m just reveling in it and trying to throw out adjectives that match what I’m seeing; it’s a glorious Church.

So how do you live Church? Well, to be honest, I still can’t answer that. But I have a better picture of how Jesus would have it – living, breathing, growing in Him by the tugging of his Spirit on each heart for each other member. The most fitting thing I can point you to is what Paul pointed the Ephesians to next: actively allowing the New Man to be alive in you.

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of[d] the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:17-24

Paul’s giving them some practical advice; ‘Don’t live like everybody else anymore,’ he says, ‘You know better now!’ 

I think the problem the corporate church today is having is ‘Well, how do we keep people on the straight and narrow?’ and maybe it’s a noble gesture but here’s something to think about: Paul taught the gifts, and then reminded the Ephesians to choose daily to act differently, to disregard that old sinful nature and put on the New Man and act in His character. The thing is, when you get your mind renewed, you remember Jesus’ desires in you; you remember His nature in you, and you are the new man. The place of us as the Church is to support this process in everyone around us, and corporate church gets this. But what they might miss is that Jesus orchestrates and performs it individually, and more importantly, that Jesus can be trusted to orchestrate and perform it in the hearts if everyone who lets him.

And then we take this New-Man-Nature to the Body:

25 Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,”[e] for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”:[f] do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil.28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:25-32

So the Church body is gifted to build us up and on an individual basis the more we choose to be rooted in Jesus and live in His nature, the more His gift comes alive in us and in turn we build the Body. It is a beautiful and intricate dance from individual to community to individual to community and each continues giving in to the wellness of the whole living Body. The place where it all might come down so easily is when we stop trusting the Spirit and His gifts in each other.

Jesus, lead us into all truth – together. Thank-you for the gifts you’ve given to each of us that you would flow in us and through us. Renew us, continue to grace us with kindness and tenderheartedness for each other that we would have hearts for each other and to bring the church together into perfection, a Glorious Bride. Teach us to know and trust your Spirit in the people around us who also seek to know you more.

So are you still with me? Let’s build a Church!

Church Culture Killed My Wonder

I let Church Culture do something to my wonder. To parts of me that then lay dormant for a long time. I don’t say ‘Church’ did this, but ‘Church Culture’; the kind of culture that prides itself in member involvement and keeping people active.

“Well, what’s the matter with involvement?” You might say, “Isn’t that what’s wrong with church today?”

I might have agreed with that a year and a half ago; I still do, but in a different way, one less easy to organize into practical method. But I’m disillusioned on the idea that ‘we keep people involved so that they will stay,’ and the truth that it works.

You probably have no concrete idea what I’m talking about yet.

I mentioned something in my previous post and I know, you’re all anxiously awaiting a follow-up for Ephesians, but be patient because I think this is going to tie in a little bit. I mentioned that I had doubted my status, whether or not I was really living the kind of life that someone in Christ would live. Those kind of doubts surrounded and followed my slow pull away from church (for the second time). But I’ll start from the beginning.

When I moved two years ago and began going to a new church I was optimistic. The previous summer had been one of exciting discovery and revelation and I was burning with anticipation for the impact I carried–excited by the love and grace and wonder of King Jesus. And I had a place full of people that, if not sharing my enthusiasm, had an enthusiasm of their own that I came to feel a part of. I was excited by the possibility of eventually being involved with the worship team, being part of an alive people and helping to create and quicken that aliveness. And I became as involved as I had hoped.

But I knew something wasn’t right–wasn’t permanent.

I didn’t know what it was at the time – honestly, there is still a fair bit of confusion in my mind as to what actually took place. Early on after moving I felt an incredible drawing to my family and I took it mostly as only a part of leaving the familiar. But it was also a desire for the kind of connection I’d only just begun to experience with my family, and that had only just been distanced. Beyond that it was a desire to experience a family connection with my new church as I’ve always longed for. I think I may have lumped it all into one and let the whole thing dull down.

But being involved in church regularly again had another affect on me. I slowly lost my wonder. I was dulled down again to the machinery of weekly services and being involved. I don’t say that those things are bad, but it was such an abrupt shift from where I had been previously. Regular service attendance alone which is strongly encouraged, or even weekly games nights or monthly meals were nothing like the sort of community I had been looking for – they always carried a trace but I knew that was because these people had worked and lived together for who-knows-how-long; they were family beyond Church Culture.

Between a taxing work situation and mental frustration, I became distant and eventually stopped going. And it didn’t take long after that for my inclusion in other extra-church-curricular activities (road hockey and x-box parties namely) to be forgotten. You don’t stay if you aren’t involved.

To those of you who think church involvement is what keeps people: you’re right. But it doesn’t keep people the way church should – not involvement alone. When you are involved but not attached into the body properly, you’re just a disjointed cog in the machinery. And where there is no training, no bringing up, no growing closer to every member, there is no body being built up but only machinery and routine no matter how fresh and spiritual it looks.

I don’t hold anything against anyone for what happened to me; I do not think that you can easily blame habits and tendencies built up over centuries. Honestly I hate these back-and-forth articles popping up on Christian websites like FaithIt with alternating titles like “7 Reasons Why People Leave the Church” or “The 3 Common Traits of Young People Who Stayed”; we’re wasting our time on the dispute to justify either the church or the people who leave them. I said we’re wasting our time trying to justify either churches or the people who leave them! Something about the way we ‘do’ church has got to change! Something about the way we see church has got to change! I don’t have any interest any more in a church that can be viewed as a place or a practice but as a living organism; a people less concerned about regularity and more about building up the Body of Christ and being part of his glorious Kingdom on the earth.

The truth is, I started to lose sight of that. And long before that I’d forgotten of the peace and joy I’d only so recently found in Jesus. Sometimes I’d get a little glint of it on occasion when I made an appearance in church again and was ignited a little bit by the excitement around me, but honestly, I think I got a little overwhelmed in my part of the machinery, and slowly machinery became as satisfactory to me as it seemed to be to everyone else around me. Cold, immovable, and serving a different purpose than the one for which I had become so alive. And so while I don’t detest having a regular Thing, and I don’t disregard the whole concept of Kingdom Government, I think I let myself be bought in to another narrow view instead of allowing my piece to fit into the grand mural.

So my only question is, are we in this together? Are you with me as the Church, Jesus’ very Body and Bride? Whether you’re a solid church goer and haven’t missed a service in years or you’re worn out on what you regard now as the mundane, whether you’re out on the fringes or neck-deep in the machinery. None of that matters because none of that is what the Body is but only parts of what the Body does. So are we in this together?

Grafted In [Ephesians Part I]

For “whatever reason” I’ve been reading in Ephesians the last couple days, thinking about what it means for me to live “in” Jesus, and more deeply, wondering if I would really say I do. Actually, that has been my question for a long time now: “am I really doing this?” To which the resounding answer in my core is “No way.”

I’ll come back to that.

I’m looking at the first three chapters as a whole, starting with the redemption story that never gets old though Paul could tell it a hundred times to bring a new gem to the surface with each retelling. He takes two chapters to remind the Ephesians how Jesus saved them and it’s all just too wonderful not to read all at once and over and over. If it made any sense I would copy those whole two chapters down, but you can read them for yourself and spend all the time you like reveling in the wonder of God’s goodness.

But alright, here’s just a smidgen of what I’m talking about:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. [!]

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both[a] which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.[!]11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.[!] -Ephesians 1:3-12

Don’t get weird on me, but I just want to go through that all and insert an exclamation mark on the end of every sentence, because Holy Gracious Redeeming Loving Father God! It just can’t get any better (but it does).

I want to close in on chapter three where Paul calls Gentile salvation a mystery – for of course; until Jesus’ arrival, the Jews were the only people chosen by God and yet, He had a plan for the rest of the nations all along:

The Mystery Revealed

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.

Purpose of the Mystery

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship[a] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;[b] 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. – Ephesians 3:3-13

Everyone that had been in the outer circle, now grafted into the body of Christ, dwelling jointly in Abundant, Eternal Life. And the result?

Appreciation of the Mystery

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,[c]15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:14-21

I’ve gotta stop right here and tell you, this isn’t going where I thought it would, because I keep finding more every time I go back.

Jesus, through his love sacrifice, delivered on the Promise he made with Abraham and forever gave himself an inheritance to the Jews, and grafted the Gentiles into that Promise. And this is what Paul desires, when grace and salvation and righteousness have been realized, ‘guys, now that your faith is solid, and you get love, here’s what I want for you:’ and I just love the way the Old King James puts it:

17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. – Ephesians 3:17-19

‘And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.’

Now that you dwell in Christ, I pray that Christ dwells in you.

Now that Jesus knows you fully, I pray that you would know Jesus fully.

Oh, And P.S…

Welcome to the family!

Jesus, I choose to live rooted in you; thank-you so much for this immeasurable gift. I live so often with you so far from my mind, I think, because I have no measure for what you offer. Give me a new revelation of the breadth, the length, the depth and the height of your love for me daily – or should I say, help me to notice these revelations you’ve already set in motion for me!

To The Learned Haters

A wordless Thing has been rattling around in my mind for quite some time. It has come out in bits and pieces in the past but never, I don’t think, fully. It comes to me now in a string of happenings.

Justin Beiber. There, I said it – I’m weighing in. But not in the way you might think. Actually, I’ve vaguely followed Justin’s career for a few years for a few reasons I’ll get to a little later. The question I’d like to pause and ponder now is where has all the hate come from? Mindless, tasteless hate (as if there were any other kind?) And I’m not just talking about people who don’t profess Christianity.

On Wednesday the missionaries were all out going door-to-door with the warmer weather; we got a visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons all in one day (way to co-ordinate, guys). I happened to be the one to answer the door to both and had a very brief but not unfriendly visit with the JW’s, and a little more lengthy stop-in from three young Mormon elders. To be honest (and particularly in the case of the Mormons, who couldn’t have been older than myself) my curiosity was piqued not because of what they were offering but because of the chinks in the pre-rehearsed lines they must have been running to people all day that showed personality and human-ness underneath.

And I’m still interested to know how they’ve all experienced Jesus, even though I know that the systems of belief they come from have distorted views of him. My wife was (albeit pleasantly) surprised at how cordial I had been, but expressed the concern that being friendly to ‘those people’ only encourages future encounters. The overlying question on my mind is, why have we as Christians bought into the bias that people of differing beliefs are justifiably worthy of being shunned, or made the brunt of jokes and subjects of our distaste? (I hesitate to say ‘hate’, but is that really far out?) Why is it so far out and unexpected to be friendly?

It might be that this stay-at-home introvert has become a lot more socially seasoned over the last year, but I find myself wondering more and more about the walls traditional behavior has built. A little over a year ago I encountered someone who I made a pretty bad impression of. The other day I caught myself thinking, “Hey this guy’s not so bad…” and honestly, I’m more than a little unsettled about my initial reaction. And I’ve met others that many people shun and avoid for obvious reason but my question is how is there any degree of fallen humanity fallen enough that any Christian could justify ignorance–as if fallen humanity weren’t our  very commision?

So back to Justin Beiber.

As I’ve said, I’ve followed Justin’s career for a while. Sure, I never cared much for his music (not that I’ve ever heard anything that terrible), but wasn’t it in the least bit obvious to anyone what kind of a platform God would have over Justin’s (and my) generation if he let God use him? And I say that in lofty, almost religious terms but what I really mean is, what if Justin’s relationship with Jesus overflowed out of him onto millions and millions of young people? What if he became so radically in love with Jesus that they couldn’t help but see Jesus in him? That’s just a little piece of the vision I had to begin with.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter how you feel about Justin Beiber. It doesn’t matter that you hate his music and want to murder him as much as he has (allegedly) murdered some ear drums. It doesn’t matter if you think his frail relationship with Jesus is theologically full of holes because he doesn’t have all the answers or understandings that you do. The truth is, I’ve heard some profound things come out of Justin’s mouth a lot of older Christians may be a long way from coming to terms with. The truth is, God’s still going to know him, and he is going to know God, and all the hating and disgruntling you can do isn’t going to change that. And I absolutely support him as my brother; that’s what the Body of Jesus Christ is supposed to do for each other, and there’s more than enough grace in Him for someone like Justin Beiber–or even me.

That’s just the denouement–the climax–not the conclusion of the thought I’m trying to put into words. Because be it young believers, or people who believe differently, or people who don’t believe at all, humanity is not my enemy. I said humanity is not my enemy. So that guy that you only see when he’s drunk? He’s trying to forget a lifetime of pain. Those young guys going door to door with suits on under their winter jackets? I wasn’t any less deceived by the system I grew up in. They still have an opening that Jesus yearns for them through, and it could be you that breaks that wall. That punk kid that is so excited about his new faith? He’s thanking God for bringing him out of the mess you criticize him for, but he doesn’t need another critic, he needs mentors, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters to walk with and learn from and with. You might learn more than you expect from him, too, because Jesus’ only requirement is willingness and there’s an older brother in the story of the prodigal son, too.

It’s time to lay aside resentment and distrust; it’s time to unlearn hate.