Scratch notes/commentary from my latest run through Ephesians 2…
1. v. 1-4 – We have every reason to be humble given we’re all blind/once blind as students of worldly systems (hence, ‘course’ in v. 2). As Paul suggests in Colossians 2, these systems operate out of fear and independence, not disobedience. Therefore, it’s worth noting many who are lost won’t immediately see the rebellion of what they’re doing. For those who are saved and now see, we need to focus on what the lost may be able to see first and fears are things all of us can relate to.
2. v. 5 – We’ve been made alive together with Christ so we could ultimately experience life in Christ. We should want to be like Christ not only to model our faith, but so those around us can get as close to a ‘with Christ‘ experience as possible. Our job isn’t to get people in Christ; rather, as we’ll see later in this passage, we’ve been saved by grace to be Christ to people. The joys of fellowship, intimacy, stewardship, compassion we experience in community…this is part of the ‘with Christ’ experience we’re to engage. Put another way, our part in making Christ’s nature known is to be alive with the Christ in each other. In this way, the spirit of authentic community and non-worldly systems can be mutually embraced.
3. v. 10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…that we should walk in them. It’s not by good works, but for good works. By grace, we have been redeemed not only from desires of the flesh, but also to reveal why good works exist to those who do them.
4. v. 13 – Those who are in nearness with Christ should bridge nearness for others. Not only does this reference the Cross, but it’s also another way of rethinking the ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5).
5. v. 14-15 – Are we breaking down hostilities in our peace-making efforts? Are we allowing Christ to be our peace in the first place? If not, our desire to see unity in community will be hindered. Sometimes, to be a peacemaker we have to focus not only on the internal compromises (i.e. the excuses we make for not doing good), but also the things that keep us from being consistent…from being courageous…from walking in victory in uncharted territory. As Paul often notes in his letters, the law/ordinances not only represented an old way of doing things, but epitomized religion in a new age. Applied to our present, it’s worth asking, ‘Are we tolerating old ways in our life, even if they were once good, by resisting the new way…the new thing…the new work God wants to do?” Post Cross, Christ’s ministry of reconciliation manifests when community intersects sanctification (becoming more like Christ, walking in greater righteousness, holiness made contagious and experienced in koinonia, etc.). As such, both elements should be constantly maturing in our lives.
6. v. 19 – As saints, let the rights of our citizenship not only be self-evident, but contagious and attractive to others. By rights, I’m not suggesting we be entitled, but that we realize we’re no longer foreigners. We are all designed to be a part of God’s family. Accordingly, we should see all people as potential family members in faith.
7. v. 20-22 – It’s easy for those in Christ to accept their corporate identity as the collective body of Christ. But we are also the body in Christ and because of this we shouldn’t see ourselves as individual temples only, but as part of one sacred, sanctified structure coming together, continuing to grow as more come into fellowship…into the presence of God. Put another way, being built up in Christ, with Christ should not be individualized with eternity in mind. Yes, there’s an individual component, but its part in the grand scheme unfolding should not be ignored.
Bottom line: We are made alive in Christ to live life with Christ. His will at the core of our being, let what we believe translate into what we do so the way to God for others can be direct and perceived as good.
“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”
While much attention in this passage is given to the washing of feet, it’s interesting to note the towel’s contextual significance in the moment and beyond. With His hour rapidly approaching, Jesus knew now was the time to prepare His disciples for life post-resurrection; however, He also knew ‘now’ was not yet the time to commission them for evangelism. Accordingly, Jesus, through the towel, opted to preview the next ~40 days, a stretch during which He wouldn’t evangelize, but strengthen His community as a future colony of heaven (i.e. Kingdom community)12.
Having said that, before we can dive further into “towel theology” (i.e. the towel as a communal template to daily rising with Christ), we must first talk about what Christ sought to model through it.
Consider this: The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most powerful event that this planet has ever witnessed. Yet, as for who actually ‘saw’ the resurrection? Nobody but a couple of awe-struck Roman soldiers who in a matter of hours would go from literally trembling in fear to lying about what they had seen. One would think the lives of these guards would instantaneously change à la Paul’s conversion, but truth is the power of the resurrection didn’t change them at all.
Of course, none of this was a surprise to God given He knew what the soldiers denied would be what many believed as they experienced His transformational love working through human hearts3; still, the takeaway here is while Christ’s resurrection was certainly a powerful moment in history, it wasn’t the greatest demonstration of divine power. Rather, as we’ll soon see, the cross, paved the way for the greatest force of divine power – sustainable agape love.
The application is simple: To be raised with Christ is to build His community as Jesus did after His resurrection.
“If then you have been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead, walk in newness of life and seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”~ Colossians 2:12, Colossians 3:1, Romans 6:4 (Blended ESV)
Again, we may think the key to being on mission with God is effective evangelism, but when we consider how Paul and early church perceived being raised with Christ, we find the critical priority to be the community of Jesus serving one another in love with evangelism as the overflow. For when a genuine Christ community exists that’s all the Holy Spirit needs to impact the cultural community it exists in.
Therefore, we must be careful we don’t abuse evangelism as a promotional means to add to ‘our’ number, but rather allow the Spirit to awaken eyes to see the love we have for one another. This, I suggest, was the center of Paul’s approach to mission – we don’t build a colony of heaven through forced rhythms of effort, but instead build Christ’s community through unforced rhythms of service laden with love, kindness, and compassion. Doing this, as Paul saw it, was the way a local church could reflect heaven on earth and the way the Spirit could spread this light into new places.
As for the body of Christ, the recipe for cultural transformation is straightforward: To build communities of agape love and to let the Spirit establish them as colonies of heaven. For as we know, in this life we are plagued by worldly structures bent on dominating, manipulating, and controlling through destructive systems of independence yielding cultures of anxiety, fear, hatred, and pride. However, by living confidently in the assurance of our guaranteed future (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 4:16, Hebrews 11:1), we can be free to accept a Kingdom, ‘crucified and raised in Christ’ structure as the framework by which we love and serve – a structure that proclaims the good news in this way: We are free because we’re helpless, free because we’re confident, free because we’re crucified in Christ, and free because we’ve been raised with Christ, the foundation to being a Jesus community4. Once we accept our helplessness, then we can better depend on the Holy Spirit, rest in our future completion, and serve in present love.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” ~ Galatians 5:13
“If you bear one another’s burdens, if you love by serving each other, you’ll stay in the Spirit and remain in alignment with Christ and so fulfill the law of Christ.” ~ Galatians 6:2 (paraphrased)
With Christ’s resurrection in mind, the core of being a community of Christ is experiencing the law of Christ as loving one another by serving one another…
…which brings us to why Jesus took the towel in John 13.
While many are quick to emphasize Jesus’ humility and modeling of submissive service, what’s often missed is how the washing of His disciples’ feet clinched the founding of His community. Backtrack to v. 3 and we find our first sign of evidence: Jesus knew the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come from God and was going back to God. This is the real reason why Jesus took the towel5– to not only achieve a timely metaphor, but to unveil a central commandment (i.e. ‘love one another’) that would soon become the cornerstone of Christianity.
Remember up until their feet were washed, the disciples were followers, but not a following of disciple-makers. When Peter didn’t want Jesus to wash His feet, Jesus said, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with me‘. Why? Because love through serving was the foundation Jesus was laying. In other words, Jesus knew convicting Peter to helplessness would open him up to radical dependence. We see this instantly when Peter replies, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head‘. Yet, even at the utter of this imperative, little did Peter realize this act of total dependence would result in radical freedom, a newness of life where he could experience life as a new human serving and loving.
As Peter discovered, the implications of this reality, specifically how we do church, is huge. In a world screaming ‘make your life count’, it’s worth noting the early church would not have understood such dogma. To them, one didn’t try to make a difference, but rather let their love through service be the difference. As such, having embraced their identity as a resurrection community – a community who loves and serves in the moment – their operation as the new humanity would ultimately revolutionize arguably the world’s greatest superpower in history.
Bottom line: What Jesus did in John 13 went far beyond washing a few stinky feet.
Rather by exchanging outer garment for towel…
He revealed what resurrection community would soon look like – a ‘walk in the Spirit’, ‘serve your spouse, forgive your brother, love your enemy’ way of living far contrary to the ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ lifestyle we know today.
He connected repentance to not only being transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2), but also celebrating our helplessness, dependence, and freedom to be a John 13:35 community so, “by this all people will know that [we are His] disciples, [by our] love for one another.”
He redefined church as a body of believers becoming the colony of heaven on earth by living in the Spirit (i.e. daily dying and rising with Christ).
As would soon emerge through the Holy Spirit
Not to suggest we don’t prioritize evangelism; after all, the Holy Spirit’s coming was so we could be empowered to be Christ’s witnesses.
Remember after Christ’s resurrection, Jesus not only prepared a community the Holy Spirit would eventually come upon in Acts 2, but also a unified body transformed by Christ’s love as a testament to God’s existence.
Have you ever struggled with group participation or felt more productive working independently?
Perhaps you’re a team player at heart, but feel taxed, even lost, when collaborating in a joint setting.
If so, I want to encourage you: a) you’re not alone and b) dare to rethink what you know about teamwork.
For while corporate success often hinges on team dynamic (i.e. how a group behaves and performs in pursuing a particular goal), such cooperation is only possible when each member knows the purpose and direction of their role.
Thus, in the next few posts, I want to discuss how we, as students and employees, can build teamwork through better team dynamic starting with these three points…
1) Clarify Expectations
It’s been said group morale is a fragile art – a sacred science based on strength integration, maintaining transparency, and trust management.
Yet, of all the bonds that bind, arguably none is more cohesive to team dynamic than clarifying expectations.
“to feel a part of the team, people need to know where the team is going and what their role is. An understanding of the overall goals and objectives fuels energy. When the big picture objective is understood each team member is more willing to pull together to accomplish the mission because they know the ‘why’ and can better understand where they fit on the team.”
In other words, to achieve positive outcomes, each role must be clearly defined in a way direction, unity, and purpose are mutually inclusive. Of course, none of this can happen without accountability, authenticity, and strategy/tactics (as we’ll later discuss); however, as long as expectations are effectively communicated top-to-bottom, the foundation to success is, at least, secured.
Bottom line: The more people perceive core value and expectations1 through vision, the more team dynamic will strengthen.
2) Don’t Just Direct People, Develop Them
As mentioned in my ‘effective influencer’ post, strong teams form when people are valued over goals and success is celebrated corporately as well as individually.
Unfortunately, not all work cultures are created equal where motivation is shared, let alone contagious. The question is…
How do we inspire unity among our teams regardless of setting, situation, or position?
For starters, we must be willing to connect role to direction and expectation to vision. In my case, having worked in various financial and ministerial arenas, I’ve found the best unity occurs in environments where each member understands their role and how it directly impacts the success of the organization.
Granted, easier said than done for the sanitation engineer and mail deliverer; still, if strong team dynamics are applied, even these employees can be directed to know the company’s core values2 and developed to take ownership of their responsibility.
Ultimately, if team members are empowered to see their skin in the game, camaraderie will flourish in the sense each person is directed, developed, and driven to see his/her work as more than a means to an end.
Bottom line: Intentional leaders not only give their team intentional purpose, but help their teams understand mission while embracing vision.
3) Get Out of the Office
A great ministry leader once said…
“Don’t get so busy doing the work of the Lord that you don’t spend time with the Lord of the work.”
Interestingly, while this truth pertains to spiritual intimacy, the same concept can be applied in collaboration and networking. After all, if project management and people management are best undivided, then the quality of our communication should extend beyond performance into its surrounding context.
For example, as a former LAMPO spouse, sports editor, and youth pastor, no question, the best “silo-busting” moments occurred during retreats, corporate team-building activities, and family outings. In each scenario, not only were tensions lessened, but a sense of esprit de corps developed carrying over into seasons of challenge and discomfort.
Moreover, to the extent creativity and oasis conversations abounded, to that extent priorities were pruned in the wake of internal and external inventory. Ultimately, as awareness within community increased, so did morale and enthusiasm by proxy.
Bottom line: 1) Teamwork is just as much attitude as it is practice. 2) If you want better teamwork, know the context of your team’s performance given team dynamic is influenced just as much outside work as at work.
Looking ahead, I want to talk about how we, as spouses and household heads, can abide by the same teaming principles outside our careers and inside our homes.
In the meantime, be at peace as you better people to better your teams to better your business.
Ever feel like January is a bunch of Groundhog Day’s stitched together…like an iPod stuck on replay?
Perhaps you’re like me in the sense you wonder why so many are still hopping on and off the resolution bandwagon, scrambling to find the right short-term fix for their long-term “needs”.
If you can relate, then hear me out. ‘Cause today we’re going to talk about how we can better fine-tune our resolutions1 by focusing on three practical “heart goals” we can all aspire to in 2016.
Okay, okay…I know this is a “chalk” point2; however, it’s still worth mentioning considering it’s the most powerful form of communication we can experience.
Think about it: God loves us so much…He gave us a limitless lifeline (i.e. prayer) so we can dial into Him at any time…and join Him in making a difference.
I don’t know about you, but I find this [very] encouraging…knowing we can pursue God through prayer and partner with Him in His work no matter where we are or what we’re going through.
Granted, as bivocational believers, there will be times the enemy tempts us into thinking our prayers are less effective (compared to full-time ministers)…and distracts us into less frequent, circumstance-driven prayer.
However, the truth is: we can pray boldly and effectively because we’re made righteous through Christ (James 5:16)…and are equipped with a purpose and a plan that no one can strip away.
Thus, it’s important we take time to consider how God wants to use us through the power of prayer in 2016, whether it involves healing the brokenhearted…opening closed doors to advance the mystery of God…and/or shedding light on the truth of who God is (Colossians 4:3, Ephesians 5:13).
To be honest…I’m not the biggest fan of memorization; not because it’s a waste of time3, but because I’m simply not that good at it…it’s somewhat rudimentary (as a learning technique)…plus I’m perfectly content being familiar with as many things as I can.
So it should be no surprise when I say I don’t often involve memorization when studying the Word, considering I’d rather get the concept than the verbatim.
However…this doesn’t mean memorization doesn’t have a place in our spiritual walk…or that I’m even correct in my overall assessment. In fact, I’d submit it’s one of the most underrated forms of spiritual preparation (abiding + equipping).
Consider1 Peter 3:15: “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”
At the sake of sounding cheesy, whenever I hear “being prepared to make a defense“, I immediately imagine a 19th century cowboy minister being able “draw” the words of God on demand…like John Wayne, except instead of a Winchester Model, you have powerful words of two-edged truth.
But though Peter isn’t emphasizing a particular apologetic discipline here, it can be said memorization is a worthy component to any readiness strategy, given its tendency to root head faith deeper into heart faith.
My advice? Don’t hesitate to memorize more…and take advantage of the fact there’s an app for that (See “Fighter Verses” app (right screenshot); Jeff Ling’s post for more insight here).
3) Reach out…more.
Whenever we hear “reach out”, it’s easy to think go on more mission trips or go to the soup kitchen every weekend. But in this case, when I say “reach out”, I’m talking about confidently pursuing life-on-life opportunities…in the flesh. Person-to-person…face-to-face. Yes, there is a place for online community and virtual relationship (as I wrote about a few weeks ago); however, with more of our social interaction taking place by “i-Products” these days, it’s important we commune intentionally, especially if leaving a Kingdom legacy matters to us.
Case in point: A couple years back, my wife and I talked about this issue…and at the end of our conversation, she challenged me to initiate three hangouts/phone-calls (outside my normal routine) a month for three months.
At first, I had my reservations…especially since we were in the middle of a relationally dry season. But as I started to carry out the charge, it wasn’t long before I realized this is what I was made for; this is what I should be doing more often!
I’m telling you…simply putting myself out there was a game-changer. In fact, had I not gone into “challenge accepted” mode, I wouldn’t have been able to listen, encourage, and pray God’s will/best into action the way God had for me.
You see…often times, we think we have something to lose being vulnerable and available, but once we realize this kind of withdrawal mentality doesn’t come from God, we can take it captive and ultimately discover the pure thrill of reaching out on purpose.
In light of this, my encouragement to you, friends, is to keep the foot on the gas pedal this year…to keep doing the good things you’ve been doing…just more of it.
Seriously, just imagine if we all got in on this…how many more lives would be impacted…
As January fades into February…I find the transition to be a great time to reevaluate my resolutions. After all, when we aim to cling to what is good, we should also want to cling to what is necessary…and appointed for such a time as this…so at the end of the day, we may reach the prize to which we’re running towards
“Chalk” point = an obvious statement worthy of mention
Though I’d say otherwise if it’s used as a primary means of retaining knowledge
Meet Pastor Randy. Pastor Randy is the associate pastor at Your Community Church. He assists the senior pastor in project coordinating, oversees house church and new member ministries…and is regarded as one of the nicest people in town.
Yet, despite his warm nature, Pastor Randy is a mystery man, with bivocational obligations keeping his church attendance in check.
Truth is: Randy is a road warrior…an aerial champion who travels heavily to meet the requirements of his personnel recruiter position. Unfortunately, due to his loaded schedule, his influence is somewhat hindered by limited availability.
No doubt, Randy is committed and takes his ministerial responsibility seriously. For instance, Randy will use his “down time” at an airport or hotel to catch up on weekly correspondences with church members and staff.
However, Randy finds it hard to keep pace relationally and organizationally, as he’s often the last staff member to receive important updates (If only they use ‘Slack’). Furthermore, since Randy often misses out on opportunities to offer timely insight, the majority of church attendees aren’t aware of his spiritual giftings.
Randy has a devoted wife and a couple rambunctious kids who hold down the fort while he’s away. When he’s not on the road, Randy loves soaking up quality time with family and friends, whether it’s at the movie theater or serving the homeless at his local community center.
Tendency to over-rely on technology versus in-person interaction.
Little time for family and peers due to heavy workload outside of church.
Has little time to directly develop and mentor.
Struggles to communicate from the road.
Often feels invisible.
Is able to inspire others by a relentless and disciplined work ethic.
Has stable job to provide for family.
Is gifted in building meaningful connections with people wherever he’s at.
Has the tools to inspire people, even at a distance.
Character constantly refined by “real world” experiences and challenges.
The challenge is real…and so are the opportunities. Do you fit into this profile? What are some other challenges or opportunities you have encountered? Share in the comments below.