If we ever needed a reset…
I don’t know about you, but in my life September often functions like a Reset. It’s a chance to start new things, stop some things and get back to some things. It works like that for me because the summer always operates on a different rhythm (i.e. no rhythm), filled with vacation, longer days, summer sports, no school for the kids, etc.
So September comes as a gift, a chance to get back to a more consistent, somewhat predictable routine. Some habits that I let slip can be re-engaged. Some bad habits can be curbed or ended. Some new routines can be implemented.
Except that it’s still covid. Like a marathon re-run of the worst movie ever. Like “Ever After” (horrible Tom Cruise movie, don’t waste your time even googling it).
So that makes it harder to think about routines, new things, etc. Yet, I think it’s more important than ever. Not simply in terms of resetting some routines and habits, but in terms of reconnecting with the “why” (not just the “What”). More than ever I feel like I need to be reminded of why I’m doing ANYTHING; what my purpose in life is, where to point and direct my energy, heart and time.
Reset: Because it’s easy to forget what matters most.
This series we kicked off last week will take us through a letter, written to a young church (more likely group of churches) in Asia, in the 1st century. Still today, 2000 years later, it has incredible power to remind us of who we are as Jesus followers, and how we are meant to live our lives. I’m praying that this week’s readings (and this whole month in fact) works as a much-needed and beautiful reset in your life; to remind of what matters most, and give you a sense of purpose and direction, no matter how long the bad-movie-marathon lasts.
Read: Ephesians 1:1-10 (here)
Blessing. Praise. Glorious grace. Love. Good pleasure. Purpose.
These are just a few of the words that Paul uses in the letter’s opening. It’s easy to read this section as a flowery, spiritual power-of-positive-thinking, bunch of Christian slang…and let the profound truth and the profound context of these words slip by.
Paul is writing this from prison.
His purpose and calling – which he reminds his readers of in verse 1 – to tell everyone the good news about Jesus, has landed him in prison. And on one level makes it harder (near impossible, even) for him to keep living out his purpose. Not to mention the very hard and discouraging conditions he would be in.
And yet, he’s as convinced as ever that God is good, that God’s purposes are good, that they cannot be stopped, and that in the end God and His people will reach their beautiful and fulfilling purpose.
In just 10 verses Paul makes an incredible list of things that He (and we) can be thankful for, that remind us of who we are and who we are meant to be:
- We are blessed, in more ways that we can see with our eyes right now (most of the best of that blessing is waiting for us in the future)
- We have been chosen (since before time) to belong to God, to be pure, to be his children, to be loved
- We have been given Jesus, as our greatest gift
- We have been let in on God’s good plans for us and our world
- We are eventually going to be part of God’s peaceful and unified new world
Re-read this list.
Which of these means the most to you today?
Which of these do you need help from the Holy Spirit to understand or really believe more?
How would these two things you answered above change your sense of purpose or direction today?
Use your answer to these three questions to form a prayer to God.
Read: Ephesians 1:11-14 (here)
You have a mark on you.
It’s not a blemish or an imperfection, because you’re just not quite right. Yesterday’s reading already put that to rest, reminding us that we are chosen to be perfect, by God, from before we were born.
It’s not a stain because you’re damaged or messed up. Yesterday’s reading also reminded us that we have been made blameless and spotless, rescued by Christ.
No, this is the kind of mark you WANT to have.
It’s a mark of purpose. It’s a mark that says – that one – him, her, yes, them – God has a special, unique and amazing plan for them.
Just stop for a moment and close your eyes. Imagine you’re standing in a crowd of people, maybe thousands of people. More than someone could quickly count. You’re one of a multitude. Not easily noticed, easily seen as a mass of humanity, not as individuals. But now imagine God is looking at the crowd, and he sees you. He locks eyes with you. And then he says out loud, for everyone (and you) to hear – he says your name. “yes, you” he says. “I love you. I have chosen you. You are mine. I have an amazing purpose for you. Are you in?”
It reminds me of this incredible scene from the Chosen. If you haven’t seen it hopefully this will whet your appetite. If you have, perhaps you’ll cry again like me:
This is what has happened to each of us, because we belong to God, in Christ. And the mark, Paul says, is the Holy Spirit. It’s a mark that guarantees that the future good plans for us are certain, and better than we could ever hope for or imagine. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is referred to as a deposit or down payment.
Taken together, here’s what this means:
That the love you feel from God, the grace you have received, the forgiveness, the invitation to be a part of his family, the joy that comes from knowing Him, the thrill of joining Him in His work in the world – all these things that we have experienced little bits of, are all from the Holy Spirit. And they are all signs, clues, deposits that tell us – this is just the beginning. There is a full, complete version of this life with the Spirit that will one day be ours, forever.
This is good news. Because as amazing as those things are, I feel like I only experience little tastes of them. They are there…and then gone. I can’t seem to hang on fully or consistently to grace, love, forgiveness, inclusion in the family, etc.
But one day, I will.
Take a few moments to form a prayer out of this reflection.
Maybe it’s a prayer of thanks to God for marking you, choosing you.
Maybe it’s a prayer of thanks for all that he has already given you through the Holy Spirit.
Maybe it’s a prayer to make you more aware of all that you have been given.
Maybe it’s a prayer for patience while you wait for the full measure of what today is just a taste, a down-payment.
Take 2 minutes to be silent before God, slowing down your breathing and becoming more aware of His presence with you today.
Ask Him to help you take hold of whatever He has for you in today’s scripture passage.
Read: Ephesians 1:15-23 (here)
Whenever I come across a prayer that someone in scripture prayed for someone else – especially the prayers of Jesus (like in John 17) or a prayer like this which Paul prayed for the Ephesian churches – I like to claim it for myself. I’m self-centered like that 😊
It’s okay, in this case, it’s good to be.
So let’s do that today. Let’s claim the things that Paul prayed for them, for you, and me, and our church family.
Here’s a summary of what he prayed:
- Wisdom and Revelation (understanding) to know God better (biblical “knowing” is about first-hand experience)
- A heart that really feels Hope because of how hopeful God’s good plans are, for our world and for us
- A conviction that the greatest riches we could have in this world are found in a relationship with Jesus AND in relationship with Jesus’ family (our brothers and sisters in the Church)
- We would know and operate with the same power that raised Christ from the dead – in our prayers, in our boldness, in our work and in battling the enemy
Take a few moments and pray those things over yourself, focusing on the one or two which you feel are most needed for you today.
Take a few moments and pray that for a few individuals in our church family who need to know these things.
Pray for our church to be full of these things in these days (or to be full again, since we are coming out of a season of not being together as often, and perhaps feeling more disconnected from God and each other in recent months).
Read: Ephesians 2:1-5 (here)
Whenever I read this passage it does something slightly uncomfortable but much needed for me. It dispels any illusion that I’ve always been a pretty decent guy, capable of finding my way, and mostly seeing the world the right way and living the right way.
In fact, Paul himself for many years thought he was a guy like that. But after he met Jesus, he realized the truth: without Christ, I was dead. When I lived for myself and by myself, it was empty, broken and ultimately made me dead inside.
I don’t really like to think like that. Most of us don’t. We’re more comfortable with Jesus as the Cosmic Mio. You know, add it to your water and everything tastes better. Water is good, but Mio in water is WAY better.
Yeah, I’m a decent human being, but with Jesus I’m way better. It’s a big upgrade, right?
No, that’s not what Ephesians says.
It’s not improvement. It’s resurrection. You don’t improve a dead body, you bury it. And the only good thing that can happen to it is a miracle that the dead person CAN NEVER do for themselves – get raised to new life. Not sick or broken or decaying any longer. Fully alive, brand new.
My dear friends, as hard as it is to admit that without Jesus I am nothing but dead, once I do, I get the blessing of knowing I’m fully alive, made completely new by Him. This, I could never do for myself.
Take a few moments and thank God for giving you a completely new life in Christ. Think about some of the ways you have changed over the years, because of your relationship with Christ. Some of those changes may have happened suddenly, others may have taken decades. But either way, they are all signs that you are a new person. That the dead things have been thrown off, buried, forgotten, and the new things are alive, beautiful and increasing every day.
One of the songs that so powerfully reminds me of these truths is this one – sing it as an anthem leading you into your day or week:
Read: Ephesians 2:6-10 (here)
Probably one of the best sections of scripture, EVER. Seriously.
If we just let the truth of these few words sink in, every day, it would be a constant source of Reset.
These verses remind us of our purpose in life. Not in terms of what you and I should do for a living, a job, what our to-do list should be, or what we should study in school.
Rather, AS we do any and all of those things, AS we live each day, AS we encounter people, this is what we need to remember:
- The fact that you have been chosen by God, made alive in Christ, and belong to His family makes your life a living example, a witness, an illustration, of just how gracious and loving God is
- This means we don’t live with perfection, because our imperfection, shortfalls and the messes we often make, are a reminder to us and everyone else that God is perfect, not us. We don’t climb the stairway up to heaven, He came down to us.
- Whatever gifts, talents, blessings and good things we have – especially the fact that we are Jesus followers, forgiven and loved by God – it’s all from Him and because of Him
- This means that humility, gentleness, gratitude and graciousness towards others should be the increasing marks of our life
- We are a masterpiece created in God’s image, by God, for His purposes
- This means that no amount of failure or criticism by others can diminish the beauty and value of who we are in God’s eyes, and because of His work in us
- This means that His work on us and in us never stops – it’s not held back by our intellect, success, opportunities, recognition, beauty or wealth (or lack thereof)
- There are always good, God-things for us to do wherever we are, and God has been preparing us constantly to do those things
- Which means that this very day is full of those opportunities; we just ask God to make us more aware of which things He has prepared for us to do, and to do them with a sense of purpose and calling, trusting that the above 3 things are true, as we do them
Take time to pray through your day or the rest of the week, with these realities above in mind.
End your time of prayer with 2 minutes of silence, breathing in the grace and love of our good God.