If I may . . .

Indulge me in some fatherly boasting for a moment.

Our son Andrew (College Freshman) made the Dean’s list at Baylor after his first semester, thanks to a 3.7 GPA. In addition, he’s been invited to a couple of honor societies whose greek names I can’t recall. And he’s way smarter than me.

Our daughter Molly (HS Senior) has received two great scholarships from the college that she hopes (I think) to attend. She earned them on the strength of an extremely strong academic career in high school and great overall leadership and service.

I also got to listen to her worship band practice on Tuesday – she plays bass, keyboard, and sings – and I had forgotten how good she is.

Our daughter Bethany (HS Sophomore) just made the honor roll, just got her braces off (yes!) and has been working her tush off all year on her academics. She’s amazing. She also is practicing for a mini-play of some sort in Theater (she loves Theater), in which she’ll be playing . . . get this . . . Gollum. :-)

Our son Blake (Fifth grade) just got promoted up to the top team (Red Team: Legend) in his select soccer club, U11 Dallas Texans – Houston Division. This is a big honor, as he had been playing on the 2nd red pool team (Tiempo). We’ll miss that team a lot, but are also excited for the upcoming games with his new team. He also played on the DTHD U11 red team that won the DTA Elite Invitational in Austin this past weekend.

Great job kids! You get it all from your mother . . .

Spiritual Blessings

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

– Ephesians 1:3

Spiritual blessings . . . They are what Paul blesses God for in his introduction to the book of Ephesians. What follows this statement is one of those classic Pauline run-on sentences that proceeds for 11 more verses. I love that, by the way.

This brings to mind a question: what are “spiritual” blessings? Paul describes them in the aforementioned run-on sentence (vv. 4-14). The spiritual blessings he lists include things like being chosen by God, being adopted as sons, being forgiven and redeemed, among many others.

The second question that will rise, unbidden perhaps, to one’s mind is this: do I really want those? I mean really want them. Sometimes, if I take a look at my own life, I find that I spend a great deal of time chasing after physical blessings – the unholy trinity of treasure, pleasure and power.

Which fires me up more? Physical or Spiritual blessings? How about you?

David Guzik has this to say, in his commentary on Ephesians:

If we have no appreciation for spiritual blessing, then we live at the level of animals. Animals live only to eat, sleep, entertain themselves, and to reproduce. We are made in the image of God and He has something much higher for us, yet many choose to live at the level of animals. God wants us [to] know every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis writes:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Far too easily pleased. Yes, that, often times, is a very apt description of me. Which is why I need to heed more urgently the words of Paul written here in the first chapter of Ephesians; the words of a man who had very little of the physical left (he was in prison at the time). Stripped of the baubles and trinkets of this world, the vibrant, towering, monumental spiritual blessings that are found in Christ alone held an even greater awe, wonder, and joy to this crusty, scarred apostle.

May I get a glimpse of that.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Saints

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.

– Ephesians 1:1

So Paul opens his letter to the Ephesians, and to our modern ears this would seem like a polite introduction before launching into the masterpiece that is this epistle. Yet there is something hidden (to us) in this introduction that was a blessing and a scandal to those who read it.

Paul uses the word “saints” to describe the Ephesians. For many of us, this word poses a problem due to modern baggage that has been applied to the word “saint”. For many of us, the word conjures up a whiff of incense, or perhaps robes, martyrdom, cathedrals, or visions of medieval times. But to Paul’s readers, be they Jewish or Gentile, this word communicated something entirely different, and far more revolutionary.

R. Kent Hughes, in his book Ephesians – The Mystery of the Body of Christ, puts it this way:

[I]n the Greek translation of the Old Testament the people of Israel, and sometimes even the angels, were given the honored title “saints.” Therefore, as Marcus Barth explains, “By using the same designation . . . the author of Ephesians bestows upon all his pagan-born hearers a privilege formerly reserved for Israel, for special (especially priestly) servants of God, or for angels.” Applying the privileged word “saints” to pagan Greeks was mind-boggling to those with a Jewish background. Hebrew detractors considered it a rape of sacred vocabulary. But from the Christian perspective it was a fitting word to celebrate the miracle of God’s grace.

The word is hagios in the Greek, and it means “holy and called out ones”. And here Paul is using this high word, in the past reserved only for God’s chosen people, the people of Israel, to address formerly pagan Gentiles! As Hughes states above, to many Jewish people of the time, this was “mind-boggling”.

The Gospel does this: it boggles the mind. We think of ourselves as being more tolerant than God, don’t we? I know I do at times. And yet there He goes, welcoming into the Kingdom those that I would never have given a chance! And He doesn’t distinguish levels of sainthood; He calls them saints too! Holy and called out ones, indeed, having been made holy by Christ’s atonement and called out to a life of service to the King.

Saints. This word, if you take the time to look at how it is used in Scripture, will kill “Us and Them” Christianity.

If you’ve been rescued by Jesus, there is no “Them” when it comes to your fellow rescue-ees, regardless of background, ethnicity, political beliefs, denomination, class, social status, sin-background, family dysfunction, or any other division you can come up with.

In Christ, it’s all “Us”.

Where I’ve been, and new theme

Sorry for being so absent lately. I’m still alive. I have big ideas for some posts. What I haven’t had much of lately is time to post (or at least time to post anything of substance).

On another topic, I’m trying out a new theme called Japan Style. I’ll leave it up here for awhile and it will eventually hit the Bloo Themes Blog.