Sunday, November 24, 2013


Dear reader

M and I are taking a three month sabbatical until mid February.

I may write while I am away... otherwise, have a most memorable Christmas and reflective new year on divine assignment


Monday, November 4, 2013

Trinity in Ephesians II

I love the story behind the story...

Paul helped plant the church in this very influential city. His love for the community was tangible. His leadership stamp was evident. His ongoing influence with her did not stop when he had moved on - even when he was in prison. His investment was ongoing.

That is why this letter is so exquisite. I am pretty certain that this was not the first time he was to teach them on any of the subjects he covered. For 2 years he taught the core group daily. One could speculate with some accuracy that these timeless truths were rooted and grounded in the foundation of the church.

Yet he covers them one more time. Amazing. He is not held captive to teach the latest, coolest conversation. I remember when Terry Virgo [great British apostle, now in his 70s] heard the new buzz word "missional" he asked what it meant. He listened humbly then responded by saying "Oh you mean being evangelistic".

The first mention of the Trinity is found in chapter 1:11 - 14

Father: Paul anchors the Father part of the conversation around the eternal, perfect plan and purpose of His will. "made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose... as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth... according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will". This is an amazing mystery. Paul bleeds the sovereign nature of our God. Without apology, he boldly declares that there are not many plans for the universe. Just one. There are not many dreams to consider - just his. There are not many wills to honor - just his. He is going to renew all things. [Rev 21:5]

Son: Many of the great gospel foundational pieces are declared in this chapter. "blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing ... chose in him before the foundation of the world... In love he predestined  us for adoption as through Jesus Christ... first to hope in Christ. In him you also when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation and believed in him..." Oh what a glorious salvation.

Spirit: Paul now adds the Holy Spirit in the grand final seal of this glorious salvation. "In him you also when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." This is a most essential part of this story. The Holy Spirit is the guarantor. He makes sure that that he began in us he will bring to fruition / completion.

The Father planned it, the Son purchased us for his Father and the Holy Spirit placed a seal on us who believe. A most beautiful trinitarian waltz of redemption - and that set in before time began.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Trinity in Ephesus 1

My dear friend Michael Eltringham emailed me last night from Dubai, with a great textual reminder from Paul's writings.  He wrote: "I've been stirred, more recently, around his [Paul] clear view on both those he deems are part of his world (sons) and body of truth he teaches EVERYWHERE- 1 Corinthians 4:17 "For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church."

What a great encouragement. 
1.   As we have seen in Paul's writings he encourages us to approach theology with great humility, patience and brotherly love;
2.   Ephesians 4 gives us the key pieces in Paul's theology that he cannot compromise on;
3.   His life and his theology line up fully - wow, what a challenge  to imitate;
4.   He teaches the same message everywhere... not pressurized to teach the latest, coolest, even politically correct;
5.   Lastly, he is so convinced that his disciples teach the same message. The authenticity of life and message lining up, matched with the diligence of the same message taught everywhere, empowers the disciples to do likewise.

In whatever theological conversation I find myself, my mind drifts back to the Trinity. The questions immediately being to flood my mind:
1.   Is this debate in anyway evidenced in the Trinity?
2.   How do the Father or the Son or the Spirit display this conversation?
3.   In what way do the persons of the Trinity remain united and diverse in this truth at the same time?
4.   Are we guilty of elevating one person of the Trinity more than the others in a way that is different from the texts?
5.   Where do my preferences and prejudices sneak in to disrupt my full and mature grasp of the subject?

I am loving restudying the book of Ephesians. It is a remarkable story. We read of the community being established in Acts 19. We read of her pending demise in Revelation 2. And in-between we find this great six chapter letter in which Paul seeks to keep this church he loves, on course. When we read this letter that way, we find pieces of truth we may otherwise miss because we may read the book as a theological  treatise rather than a letter that tucks into the unfolding of a church plant - at a very vulnerable moment of her unfolding story.

We will spend the next few blogs exploring what the Trinitarian verses in this letter, teach us about our God

Friday, November 1, 2013

Maintain... Attain

Dear friends

I am sitting at my desk writing the chapter on the E4 gifts for my book, when I was reminded of two key phrases in this great chapter. "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"vs2 + 3 and then "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God"vs 13

As we script and scribe the "genesis" story, I have listened with intrigue where guys draw theological lines in the sand - in or out, buy in or stand back. As we are all bible people, the obvious question is where did the apostles [if any] draw lines in the sand to define walking forward on mission together?

When I read this text there are two loud petitions from Paul. They are not the lines we are vulnerable to [reformed vs armenian, charismatic vs cessationism, pre-, post-, millennialism…]. Rather Paul appeals firstly that we "maintain the unity of the Spirit". He simply does not applaud theological arrogance, aggression or sectarianism. His first appeal is to humility, patience, love and peace. We are required he says, to maintain what we already have! I think he would say the same today. He is not short of conviction however. The strong theological  pieces that he requires adherence to are "one body, one Spirit…one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…" That is what he demands that we maintain! 

Secondly he endorses the theological journey that we are all on. He does not leave us in one dimensional simplicity. He draws us on to greater depths - "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the Son of God". This great little word "until" means that we need the E4 gifts until the unity of the faith can be achieved. Because we are not there yet, we both still need the gifts as well as the humility that comes from still being on a journey and not knowing everything.

Brothers I am nervous that we draw theological lines in the sand that: 
a.  are not evidenced in the text as non-negotiables;
b.  that imply we are right and others are wrong;
c.  that does not give room for the 'new' that God is bringing our way  [- just think how all of our theologies have deepened, grown, even changed in the last few years]. 
e.  what else is the Father going to change, reveal, enlarge us on? Will we be ready or resistant to it? [History tends to point to those who had the last revelation, fight the new when the Father brings it]

Lastly, there is a "new" that the Father is rolling into the church. It is far more than cool buildings, skinny jeans, hipster rhythms. Isaiah prepares every generation with the same prophetic call:
"Behold the  former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them… And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths they have not known I will guide them…" Is 42:9 + 16

Can we therefore walk in the door of relationship / family [ a divine knitting of hearts], then discover theological clarity en route [ be patient with humility and love], finding all of these pieces while we are on mission together? I think that is how it happened in the scriptures.