ephesians, mystery of the gospel

My fingers tap allegro on the chair in front of me, keeping time to the rhythm of my heart when I look at the back of her teenage head, her waif frame knuckled between siblings. I know this feeling; it isn’t the first time it’s hovered over me in church. God and I, we’re wrestling over what I should do about it.

Standing next to my family singing We’ve Come to Worship, abandoned to His presence, He begins to speak the revelation. Telling me things about this young girl that I only know by name and passing glances. She’s at a crossroads.  He wants to get her attention. Tell her He loves her. And I’m to be His messenger.

How is someone qualified to do this? Through experience, character, a proven track record? For Paul, it was revelation from God, the qualification for appointment as apostle to the Ephesians. One who tells the tale of the riches of redemption because God chose him.

And once you taste and savor the truth, it whets the appetite with insatiable desire to know more. To share the incomparable freedom of the find with those still shrouded in mystery.

I was Paul that day in church.

But what if the revelation, the call God places on your life isn’t popular and you’re despised for it? Or perhaps the parents of the one you are to tell will frown on your boldness to speak to the child they bore. Most of all, what if you are rejected by those whom you deliver the message and you end up in prison?

This was Paul’s plight, prisoner for Christ, yet he saw it as the manifestation of God’s kindness. Grateful for the opportunity not because of title, position, crowds patting him on the back, but because he was given the privilege to tell.

Because we believe to understand; not understand in order to believe.

An apostle isn’t a prince with power.  Neither inspiration nor holiness inhabit one by panel selection or amiable vote but divinely appointed by the hand of God. Rome, she was an apostle without inspiration; form without grace offering ashes to her children for supper. Their tasteless palette inflamed with revelation; Paul’s truth for those tired of hollow hearsay.

“She wondered if God could speak to her like that,” her mother told me through a smile. “We were just talking about it the other day and your encounter let her know He hears her prayers and He will speak to her the way He does to others.”

Yes, He hears and He is faithful to answer. Not answers just for the uber spiritual but the meek, the hungry, the lowly, the young and the old, rich and poor, even a blasphemer like Paul. We’re all heirs of His goodness, the embrace of promise in surrender.

The Gentiles thought they had to become Jews to partake of the Messiah’s blessings. How many times do we think we have to replicate the gifts others possess in order to be accepted, to receive promise?

And our inheritance doesn’t come with birth order, family line, or outward rite but because of faith in the Gospel, union with Christ. And redemption looks beautiful on everyone.

The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I’ve been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board. ~ Ephesians 3: 7-8, The Message

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Shelly Miller
Editor, Living the Story Shelly Miller is smitten with the art of story to transform a life. She writes about her own struggles as a child of divorce and alcoholism, and the way God redeems it all as a clergy wife raising two teens. With experience as a full-time missionary, advocate for orphans in Rwanda and leader of women’s ministries for small and large congregations, she is passionate to help people realize calling despite circumstance. When her husband H isn’t leading a church planting movement in North America, they drive five minutes across the street to take a walk on the Atlantic, with a camera strapped to her shoulder.
Shelly Miller

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