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Remembering Your Place in the Story

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Ephesians 1:

Have you ever been reading along in a good novel when, for a few days or weeks, your attention was called elsewhere? By the time you finally got back to your book, you had to sit back and remember the story you had been reading, perhaps even reviewing some sections to refresh your memory. You knew that if you were going to enjoy the richness of the narrative, you had to have its broad sweep in mind.

I'd suggest that we're in a similar situation when it comes to the Daily Reflections. If you have been receiving the reflections for a while, you know that for a couple of years we have been ambling slowly through the New Testament letter known as Ephesians. In July and August, we took a bit of a detour by focusing on the Gospel of Mark. Today, we resume our walk through Ephesians. But, before we examine the text in our devotional magnifying glass, we might want to remember the grand story of God as it's revealed in this marvelous letter.

This story begins before the creation of the world, when God chose us to belong to him as his beloved, adopted children (1:4-5). In Christ, we were redeemed and forgiven through the riches of God's grace lavished upon us (1:7-8). God's ultimate purpose, though, is not merely to save individuals. Rather, God seeks "to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ" (1:10). God will reverse and mend the fragmentation and brokenness that sin introduced into the world and that has plagued the world ever since (Genesis 3).

According to Ephesians, we who have been chosen by God to exist for the praise of God's glory, participate in this unifying process in Christ (1:12-14). Because of God's love, we have been raised from death to life (2:4-5). Because of God's grace, we have been saved, putting our trust in him (2:8). Moreover, we have been newly created in Christ so that we might do good works God has prepared for us, thus sharing in God's work in the world (2:10).

God began his work of unifying all things under Christ by bringing together Jews and Gentiles in one body (2:11-18). The cross of Christ not only leads to forgiveness of individual sins (1:7), but also forges reconciliation and peace between once divided peoples as it breaks down the wall of hostility that separated them (2:15-16). We who have been reconciled are united together as a holy temple, where God dwells through his Spirit (2:19-22). Our unity as the church bears witness to the whole cosmos of God's plan to bring all things together in Christ (3:10). God is at work in and among us, strengthening us, helping us to know his unfathomable love, and doing through us more than we could ever imagine, for his glory (3:16-21).

This grand vision of God's work not only inspires our worship, but also calls us to a new way of living (3:20-4:1). We participate in God's story, not as passive characters, but as active contributors to the narrative. We are to act so as to enhance the unity of God's people, a unity based in the very identity of God (4:1-6). Moreover, God gives grace to each and every one of us so that we might be his ministers, contributing to the growth of the church, the body of Christ (4:7-16).

As people whom God has raised from death to life, we are no longer to live as we once did, trapped in futile thinking and selfish sensuality (4:17-20). Rather, we are to put on a new self, a new way of living, marked by truthfulness, kindness, forgiveness, and love (4:20-5:2). We must reject the dark ways of our past, choosing instead to live as children of light, reflecting God's goodness, righteousness, and truth (5:8-9). By doing this, we invite those who live in darkness into the light of Christ (5:11-14).

The story doesn't end here, but that's as far as we've come. Tomorrow, we'll examine Ephesians 5:15 as we prepare to move on to complete the letter. For now, I'd encourage you to consider the following questions.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you read the outline of the grand story of God in Ephesians, what thoughts arise in you? What emotions do you feel? What do you hear God saying to you?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the expansive, moving, transforming story of Ephesians. Thank you for choosing me before the foundation of the world, for saving me, forgiving me, creating me anew in Christ, including me as a member of your body, using me to promote the unity and growth of your church. Thank you for delivering me from darkness into your marvelous light.

Help me, dear Lord, to live in your story. May your narrative shape my life as I seek, above all, to exist for the praise of your glory by walking in the good works you have ordained for me.

All praise be to you, glorious, gracious, holy, loving, redeeming, reconciling, unifying God! Amen.

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P. S. from Mark: I would like to invite you to join me, Marcus Goodyear, Deidra Riggs, and others from The High Calling at the Faith at Work Summit 2014. This conference, which is sponsored in part by The High Calling and hosted by several of our friends and partners, will bring together some of the finest thinkers and practitioners in the area of faith, work, and vocation. Join us in Boston, Friday-Saturday, October 24-25, 2014. Early registration closes on Sunday, September 7. For more information and to register, check out this link. Hope we see you in Boston!

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Mark Roberts is the Executive Director of Digital Media and the Theological and Cultural Steward for Foundations for Laity Renewal. He is the author of eight books, including No Holds Barred: Wrestling with God in Prayer. He lives in Boerne, Texas, with his wife, Linda. Their children spend most of the year away at college on the East Coast. Send a note to Mark.

Keep Calm

"Upheaval" is something most of us dislike, especially when it applies to our work situation. When the corporate structure changes or we're forced into an uncomfortable position, how do we respond? Maybe we cope by denying anything's wrong and carrying on as if we're not upset. If we're a "Ready, Aim, Fire!" kind of person, we might strike out at people around us before seeking God's wisdom. Either approach can backfire, leaving us in more of a chaotic situation than before. In our series Keep Calm, The High Calling offers stories full of hard-won wisdom and practical ideas for coping with extreme—and often unwanted—changes in the workplace.

Featured image by harold.lloyd. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.

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