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  • Ephesians 4:1-16 - Part 1

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    Ephesians 4:1-16

    I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, 

    “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, 

    and he gave gifts to men.” 

    (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. 

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    We’ve all been influenced by the influx of health documentaries over the past few years. What the Health, Forks Over Knives, Food Inc. Fed Up, among others, all promising a new way to understand health and what new practices to take in order to achieve it. There are many things I’ve learned from these documentaries and they’ve changed the way I think about my diet. 

    In chapter four of this letter, Paul changes directions. If you look back at the end of chapter three, he gives a sort of sign off, ending with what’s called a doxology. There is closure, and now in chapter 4, a new beginning. Paul spent the first 3 chapters detailing God’s eternal plan: to gather all things in heaven and on earth together under the headship of Christ (Eph. 1:9-10; 3:4-6). The first 3 chapters detail how the church came to be, and now the 2nd half is Paul detailing how the church is to live out our commitment to God and to one another, or in other words, how the church is to live now in light of God’s eternal plan. And in these first 16 verses we will see Paul’s prescribed spiritual diet in order to be a healthy body (of Christ). Just as the government's diet has 5 categories, fruit, veggie, grain, meat and dairy, Paul gives us 3 dietary categories. A healthy body of Christ must have unity, diversity, and a clear goal. Today I will focus on our unity, and in days to come I will focus on the two other elements. 

    Unity

    1) A healthy body is unified in our ethic; 2) a healthy body is eager to maintain it’s unity; 3) a healthy body is rooted in the unity of the Triune Godhead. 

    1) If you look back to Galatians 5:23 you will notice that we, as Christians, have a singular fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We don’t get to pick and choose. Some Christians aren’t gifted with gentleness, while others are killing it with self-control. No. Christians are unified in that we’re all being shaped by the Spirit to bear the same 9-fold fruit. In Ephesians 4:2 Paul just shortens this list, though he expands it as his letter continues. Imagine a body of Christ - or in the instance of RUF, an extension of this Body - that is humble, gentle and patient with one another (v. 2)! Imagine having conflict with your friend in RUF and you approach the situation assuming you could very well be wrong. I’m not that into the enneagram, but my friend who is always tells me about my number (an 8), and that “I need to remind myself 10 times a day that I could be wrong.” Apparently my personality type has the proclivity to always think I’m right. A healthy Christian is someone who is growing in humility. If you get older, and your growth in age comes with growth in your self-obsessed ego, then you are not growing healthily, and you are affecting the body at large. Your pride, your rage, your impatience, isn’t just sin between you and God, but you are causing destruction to your neighbors and the health of the Body. So we become healthy by growing in a unified ethic.

    2) The second thing to note about this unity is that we have to be eager to maintain it. That word eager finds its root meaning in the word hurry. We live in a society of hurry, so this concept should be simple enough. During the RUF Summer Conference signups, I told y’all that registration opened at 11pm on February 29th. By 11:05 all of our (41) spots were full. Y’all were eager and hurried to get your spot. And in the same way, Paul says we have to be hurried to pursue unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 

    In coming to Christ you have bonded yourself with Christ and with Christ’s people. So just like I ignored stretching for 10 years of my athletic life, and now different parts of my body are out of whack because of it, if you ignore, or are not hurried to maintain unity, the body will be out of whack. You are bonded with each other, we are bonded in peace (reference Eph. 2:14-18), so pursue unity with one another. The unfortunate thing is that it’s temporarily easier to be eager to maintain gossip and grow in bitterness, but this destroys our unity and peace.

    3) The third thing this passage shows us is that the foundation for our unity is in our Triune Godhead. Paul says that God the Spirit called us into the body - the Church - and has called us into the same hope - the eternal life found in the Gospel. Then he says, one Lord, which is a word he uses 26 times in this letter, and every time he either says “Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2-3, 15, 17, etc) or he just says “Lord,” in its shortened version - but referring to Jesus Christ. Make sense? Ok - so Paul says, one Lord (Jesus Christ), who from beginning to end has had one faith - or one belief - which is the Gospel of Scripture which has always been pointing to the person and work of Jesus Christ. And one baptism - which is the cleansing and creating of a new creation in Christ Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. And if we look back at Acts 19 when Paul was speaking and preaching to the people in Ephesus we read, “Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all. And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.”

    Perhaps this now creates a new set of questions, but this is what Paul is referring to. We have one baptism; a baptism of the Holy Spirit. That is the only baptism that is required for our salvation.

    And then lastly, Paul mentions God the Father, who is the loving origin, ruler and sustaining presence of everything and everyone in the universe.

    So our unity comes from the Trinity - who work together perfectly to build up the Church and to accomplish their purposes, uniting all things under Christ. They are the very Being that sustains us and makes us - as a body of Christ - healthy. 

    In the days to come I will touch on the 2nd and 3rd part of this passage. But here are some practical application actions and thoughts: 

    1. Ask the Lord to reveal ways that you are more prideful than humble, more enraged than gentle, and more impatient than patient. And confess these things to a God who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
    2. Marvel in the Lord’s grace, that though we are prideful, enraged and impatient people, He loves and uses broken down vessels to accomplish his purposes. These sins do not disqualify you from being His children, but are the very necessary things we bring into His Family of Grace, because they remind us of our need for Him. 
    3. Consider ways you’ve been eager to pursue gossip and bitterness over unity. Take the first step, in humility and gentleness, towards pursuing unity with a friend you are in conflict in. Use wisdom and discernment in this action of reconciliation and pursue help in how to do this well (Bethany, Connor and I are always ready to help you think through this with you.) 
    4. Marvel at the beauty of our Triune God and how they all lovingly work together to accomplish their purposes. 

    A closing prayer from St. Francis of Assisi:

    "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

    "O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life." Amen.

  • Making Something New

    Dec. 18th, 2019

    Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22 And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. 23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Eze 37:21–23)

    Across the street from my house they’ve torn down a big nursing home complex and now this space of land sits full of dirt, rock and mud, surrounded by ugly chainlink fence. I drive by it daily, often wondering what’s next for this lot. Will they put my favorite coffee shop there? Or what about a BBQ restaurant? Right now that land is vacant, with signs hanging on the fence warning us of caution and telling us to “keep off.” But soon, hung like an ornament against that chainlink fence will hang a sign, with an architectural design picturing what will soon occupy that space, and the anticipated words, “coming soon!” I look forward to that sign. That sign will turn my annoyance into anticipation. That space full of dirt will soon have a destination. Looking at a fence will become a longing for a future. 

    Ezekiel 37, and many other passages throughout Scripture put up this sign of destination. The Lord gives us a heavenly anticipation of “coming soon.” In fact, this season of advent is really a refocusing our attention on what has come, pointing us to what is coming. This season moves our imagination from seeing a land of dirt into a heavenly city. From a broken relationship, to one of peace. From a wandering heart to one of wholeness. We are not just patches of dirt that will be left encircled with fence, ugly and unappealing, purposeless and full of pain, but we are purchased people who are being shaped and formed into the image of the most beautiful Person imaginable, God’s Son, the incarnate King. Paul says it like this,For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.” (2 Co 5:2–3)

    I’ve been reading through Ezekiel, trudging through the pain and death and destruction of the Israelite people and surrounding nations. All throughout this book, the theme is reiterated over and over, the Lord wants His people to know that He is the Lord (he says it 57 times in the book!). In chapter 37 the focus shifts from the desolate and exiled land to the hope of redemption coming to the people. The first half of the chapter is the prophecy of the Lord rebuilding and breathing life into the dead and dry bones, bringing life where there was death, bringing hope where there was exile, bringing light where there was darkness, and freedom where there was captivity. Then the Lord gives a second prophecy about a reunited Kingdom, where no longer they will have two nations (Israel and Judah) but only one. And their hearts will be changed, their sins will be forgiven, and shalom will be restored. 

    But here is what sticks out to me about this… we are the rocks, dirt and vacant space,  not nearly as glamorous as our Christmas cards make us seem, but the Lord sees great value and worth in us. He has given us the image of what we are becoming, promising to build us into something real. He makes glory from ashes. We see it all throughout this passage: “I will take them… and gather them… and bring them… and make them… and give them one King… I will save them… and I will be their God.” Up until this point the Israelites have done nothing but rebel. But their rock bottom of exile was the starting point to something worth remaking. 

    This advent season, we look to Jesus, who came as Lord and Savior, and came to remake us and this earth. He bestows on us this hope of a “coming soon” sign, pointing to our future glory and future redemption. So as we sit in the sadness of the dirt and experience the pain of being rebuilt, remember something glorious is coming. Something so glorious, we should chime in with the saints, Come Lord Jesus, Come. 

    - Caleb

  • Becoming Big

    - November 25, 2019 - 

    Last weekend I hit the end of my rope. It was a bad weekend. Full of anger, yelling, and disconnection. But the aftermath has been full of grace. 

    I reached out to my peers, explaining some difficult circumstances with my oldest son. I love him to death, but we often butt heads. He’s four and a half years old, and has some unique difficulties about him. He’s a more sensitive kid and his body can often get to a place where it’s uncontrollable. When he gets like this, he gets really big, powerful, and defiant. In his mind, he becomes scary. 

    A lot of the time this behavior pushes all of my buttons, and I respond by getting bigger, more powerful, more defiant, scarier and angrier. I’ve learned theres no worse feeling in the world then when I respond to him in a way that sends him off to his room, hiding in his closest, crying. Oh the shame. 

    But I got a call last week from someone who has walked these similar roads before. He provided me insight that pointed me to things beyond. He told me that my son thinks he’s big and scary. And he is a BIG kid - he wears 7 year old clothes at the age of 4. But Micah believes he’s bigger then me, and that terrifies him. He believes he’s big enough to break me down, and that scares him. He believes he’s big enough to tear me and Meggie apart, and that worries him. He believes he’s much bigger then he really is. 

    So the advice I received was to continually meet him at his bigness, and tell him, “Micah, you are a big kid, but know what is bigger then you? My love for you. You can’t break it down… Micah, you are a big kid, but you know what? You’re not big enough to break mommy and I apart… Micah, you are a big kid, but do you know who is bigger? I am. And God has put me in your life to use my bigness to protect you and provide for you and love you and care for you… Micah, you are big. But you’re not as big as you think, don’t worry.” As I tell him the truth, I will begin to watch him calm down. I will witness the comfort swarm over him body like a hot bath to cold skin. 

    His bigness terrifies him, because he knows the world is a scary place, and he’s afraid he can mess everything up. But he can’t. 

    We live in a world that tells us to be big. We put all of our blood, sweat and tears into becoming big. We want people to notice us. We want to feel like we’re in control of our destiny. We are unsure of the future, but we believe we have immortal capabilities, thinking we’re big enough to handle it. And because of this, we are anxious, stressed, and terrified. Why? Because we are playing a role that we can’t play. We aren’t big enough to take on this scary world, and that can be a good thing. 

    When we think about what it means to worship God, part of it is putting our mortal, “but-dust” lives, back into it’s proper place. We don’t use God to make us bigger and more powerful, but we look to God in a small and humble way, and take comfort that He is big and powerful. We are not big enough to break down His love for us. We are not big enough to break Him apart. We are not big enough to ruin His plans for us. Therefore worship is an act of putting ourselves under His Fatherly care, and hearing His reminder that He is in our life to protect us, and provide for us, guide us, and care for us. And that’s a good thing. 

    I’ve learned that when I respond to Micah’s bigness and anger with becoming small and weak, it calms him down. Because becoming small and weak is an act of handling his fear. Becoming small and weak is an action that says “you can’t break me down. I’ll still be here.” To respond to his bigness and anger with my own bigness and anger would be communicating to him, “I can’t control your bigness. You are too big for me. You control me.” It would meet him in his fear and make him more afraid. But responding calmly, says, “I see your bigness and anger, and I can handle it.” 

    When the Creator and Sustainer of this World became flesh, He became weak and small. He met us with our bigness and anger and took it. And this is love. This is turning the cheek, watching the anger dissipate when we realize it doesn’t affect him. This is perfect love. And perfect love casts out all fear. This is responding to our bigness and saying, I am bigger. You can trust me. 

    So let us be worshippers who are reminded daily of His bigness and power. That He is unmovable. He is who He will always be. That’s His Name, Yahweh (I am who I will always be). We cannot break His love for us. We are not big enough to mess up HIs plans for us. He is for us and with us. Not against us. 

    - Caleb