Thursday, October 29, 2009


I like to eat dead animals.  Dead cows, dead hogs, dead chickens, dead fish.

I'm a carnivore.  Technically, I'm an omnivore, but I could honestly do without vegetables, fruit, or grains and live completely off of meat.  Apparently I wouldn't live long, but I would live happy and content.

For my fiftieth birthday we had some friends over to the house and I grilled t-bone steaks.  Not whimpy little 6 oz. steaks.  Nope, I went to Sam's, found some 1" thick t-bones, and told the guy I needed 12 of them.  Watched him cut them.  Set me back a few bucks, but it was my birthday and my friends.  These suckers were so big that some of the women were wanting to split them with each other.

Not me.  And if company hadn't been over I would have never used a knife and fork--just picked it up by the bone and started gnawing.  And I promise you the bone would have been clean when I was done.

16 oz. of steak, at least.  That's a lot of meat.

So when the instructions for "The Five Day Food and Water Challenge" said this: "Meat is a luxury, with the average African consuming about ¾ ounce per day—the size of a small chicken nugget," I knew I was in trouble.

What's the fewest number of McNuggets you can buy at McDonald's?  4 in a kids meal?  Six for adults?

And I'm supposed to eat only one a day?!

But that's not really the problem, is it?  The problem is that the average African only eats about 3/4 oz. of meat a day.

Wonder what the meat cutter at Sam's would have said if I had asked him for a 3/4 oz. t-bone?

"Sir, I'd like a steak the size of a small McNugget."

We Americans really do live in an alternate universe from the rest of the world, don't we?

How McLaren Loves His Neighbor

Jesus calls us—no, sorry, Jesus commands us, those who call ourselves his followers, to love our neighbors.
But what if your neighbor is a Muslim?  How would you go about loving your Muslim neighbor, not just in an abstract way but in real-life, demonstrable ways.
Brian McLaren observed Ramadan. 
McLaren is a local boy—he grew up in Rockville; in fact, he and I attended the same schools, lived around the corner from each other, took piano lessons from the same teacher.  We didn’t know all this until we were having coffee with some mutual friends at a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship conference at which Brian was to speak.  Brian graduated from the University of Maryland, taught English there for a few years before quitting to start Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville.  He is now a internationally-known Christian writer and speaker.  He’s done good.
He is also one of those types of people who make friends easily, and in his travels he has made a lot of friends who are also Muslim.  Since Brian takes following Jesus seriously, he also takes Jesus’ command to love our neighbors seriously as well.
Very seriously.  Rather than try to explain for him why he wanted to observe Ramadan, here is what he said on his blog:

Whether or not you agree with him that this is an appropriate way to show love to his Muslim neighbors, you have to admit that he is taking Jesus’ command seriously.  Of course, some Christians think he’s just gone too far.  Brian says that he received hate mail from some Christians.  Wow.  Christian hate mail.  I wish I could say that I find that unbelievable, but I can’t.  But he also received emails from Muslims that basically said, “Thanks for recognizing us as human beings.”
That they would write that means that they have felt denied that very basic acknowledgement from others, presumably and undoubtedly from some Christians.
And that is definitely not taking Jesus’ command very seriously.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Quigs and the Evil Empire

My good friend in West Virginia, Tim Quigley, is from Philadelphia.  So he's a Phillies fan.

Now, if you know anything about Philadelphia sports fans...well, they have a reputation for being jerks.

Not all of them, I'm sure, but you can check it out.  Philadelphia sports fans aren't known for their tact, civility, or, frankly, their sobriety.  And don't throw stones at the messenger.  This is a well-known, documented fact, and most Philadelphia fans are actually proud of their behavior.

So, yeah, the Phillies won the World Series last year.  And the Orioles came in last place.

And Quigs has loved pointing out these two facts in various ways, most of them unprintable.

It's been a long year.  And it does no good to point out that the only time the Orioles played the Phillies in the World Series, they beat them 4 games to 1.  That was in 1983.  Only one of my two children were born at the time.

Nor does it do much good to point out that the Phillies have lost more games than any other major league franchise; that they were the first team to lose 10,000 games.  (Seriously, 10,000 games, that's a lot of games.)  Nor that they are still the only franchise with at least 10k losses.  Actually, it's 10,167, but who's counting?

OK, it does a little bit of good.  The overall Phillies winning percentage is pretty bad, and Quigs doesn't like me pointing that out.

The high point of the season came in June when the Orioles traveled to Philadelphia AND SWEPT THE PHILLIES!  I texted Quigs and told him that the Orioles were thinking of selling the naming rights to their home stadium but then realized that Citizen's Bank Park already had a sponsorship name.  (Citizen's Bank Park is the Phillie's home stadium.)  I was proud of that one.  Trust me, it was funny.  No, really, it was.  I think it kind of made Quigs mad.

But, really, it stinks to be an Oriole fan and have a friend who is a Phillies fan.  Because he can be quite the jerk about it.

So like I said, it's been a long year, and I'd like to avoid another one like it.

Problem #1: The Phillies are back in the World Series.
Problem #2: So are the Yankees, a.k.a The Evil Empire.

It is against my moral convictions as a Christian to ever, ever root for The Evil Empire.  But I am not willing to listen to Quigs for another year.

So I made him an offer: if, by some force of sheer will, he will agree not to be a jerk for the next year--in other words, not be him for a whole year--I will root for the Phillies in the World Series.  But if not...well, I won't so much be rooting for The Evil Empire as rooting against the Phillies.

I know, I know, it may be a distinction without a difference, but it's a distinction I am willing to live with.

Rice and Beans

I grew up eating rice at just about every supper.  Rice and gravy.  I am southern, after all.

Mom doesn't cook like she used to when she had three boys in the house, but if she did I would occasionally ask her to cook some fried chicken with rice and gravy.

But we don't fry anything anymore, and gravy will apparently send you to your grave.  Hence the name.

I found out later why we ate rice all the time instead of mashed potatos, which was a staple in Pam's family: Dad doesnn't care for mashed potatos, and they are a real pain to make.  The real ones, not the ones from the box.

Boiling some rice is a lot easier.

Also, when I was growing up beans meant green beans.  The modifier was never needed if you were talking about green beans.  If you were talking any other kind of bean, then a modifier was needed.  Kidney beans.  Red beans.  Lima beans.  But we never said green beans.  If Mom said we were having beans for supper, we knew we were eating green beans.

Fried chicken, rice and gravy, and beans.  At least once a week.  Man, I miss those days.

One thing we never had was red beans and rice, which, when I think about it, is kinda weird.  If the Eubanks side of the family is decidedly English in origin, there is a strong French Louisiana strain on my mother's side.  Mom would fix shrimp creole, and gumbo is a huge treat in my family, but we never had red beans and rice.

I was an adult when I first had some red beans and rice, and I loved them.  When we lived in Georgia Pam and I would take the kids to Biloxi once or even twice a year to visit The Ladies.  One day I happened to mention to Grandmother that I liked red beans and rice but never got any.  The next day there was a pot of it waiting for me.

My Grandmother loves me.

And every trip thereafter, when we'd arrive at Nonie's house, there would be a big pot of red beans and rice.  (And a big pot of gumbo.  Made from scratch. The Ladies never made anything from a box.)  I'd toss some Tabasco in a bowl and have at it.  And would end up taking a couple of quarts home to Georgia.

One day I mentioned to Mom that Grandmother would cook me enough red beans and rice every trip down to feed an army, and she said that when she was a little girl they used to eat red beans and rice all the time.  Back during the Depression.  Rice was cheap, and so were red beans, so that's what they ate.  She said that they ate it so much that she got sick of it and doesn't ever want to eat red beans and rice again.

And there you have it.  Mom didn't fix red beans and rice because it reminded her of growing up in the Depression.

Beans and rice.  Rice and beans.  Depression food.  Food you eat when you can't afford to eat fried chicken, rice and gravy, and beans.

There's a difference between eating something because you like it, and eating something because you have to, even if you do like it.

This is the part of the Five Day Food and Water Challenge that I'm doing OK with.  Plain oatmeal, plain cream of wheat--ugh.  Rice and black beans, or red beans, or even just regular beans?  Yeah, I eat that anyway.

But I choose to.  Much of the world doesn't get that choice. 

Beautiful Women

Here's a really good article about the impact of clean water in Africa. 

(I don't find this stuff myself, I just read it on Jody's blog and copy it.  Some people might call it being derivative.  I call it research.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cream of Wheat

Like oatmeal, my family didn't do cream of wheat either.  We basically didn't do hot cereal for breakfast. 

We did Cap'n Crunch.

When I was a summer camp counselor at Summit Lake Camp I would see kids eat cream of wheat.  I think that was probably the first time I ever saw cream of wheat.  They would put butter and salt in it, or sometimes sugar and/or pancake syrup, but regardless of what they did, it never looked like anything I would want to try.  And I didn't.

Growing up in the south I ate grits, and so now I understand what people who have never encountered grits are thinking when they watch me eat grits.  They are wondering, "What is a grit?  And what's the attraction?"  Even with butter and salt and pepper--folks, this is good eating, let me tell you--they aren't finding any compelling reason to eat or even try grits.

So a few years ago I wondered what the deal was with cream of wheat, so I bought some.  It was a variety pack of flavors--strawberries and cream (yum), apples and cinnamon (yum), maple brown sugar (not quite as yum, but still yum), and plain.

I put butter, salt and pepper in the plain, and it wasn't bad.  Kinda like grits, but made of wheat rather than corn.

So today I made cream of wheat.  Plain.  No butter, salt, brown sugar.  Nothing.

Not yum.  No where near yum.  So far from yum it would take a week for a postcard from yum to get here.

Plainly speaking, plain cream of wheat sucks.

This five day food and water challenge is not that easy.

Monday, October 26, 2009


This week our church is having an event called "Celebration of Hope."  I won't go into details here; you can read about it on our church website.  Part of the event is the Five-Day Food and Water Challenge, in which we'll be eating like the bottom economic half of the world eats.

So the list of food is pretty basic, but I figure I can handle it.  One of the foods is oatmeal.  I never grew up eating oatmeal.  My parents don't eat it, and I don't think it ever made it's way into our house.

I remember trying some, though.

I gagged.  It was like eating dirty paste.  It wasn't the taste so much as the texture.  So I've never been an oatmeal person.

Our Florida friends Del and Bonnie have steel-cut oatmeal every morning for breakfast, so when we stay with them, we eat steel-cut oatmeal.  And it's not bad.  The texture isn't as pastey as regular instant oatmeal, and the taste is nuttier.  The main thing, though, is that Bonnie has all sorts of things to add to it, like walnuts, pecans, almond slivers, crushed pineapples, fresh blueberries, and dried cranberries.

So Pam got all over the steel-cut oatmeal after our first trip to the Bunch's, so we started eating it at home.  We can't afford all the different stuff Bonnie gets, but I'll add the crushed pineapple, also some mandarin orange, and some dried cherries.  The oatmeal, for me at least, just serves as a binder for the good stuff, and I imagine it cleaning out my coronary arteries.

So I figured I could handle the oatmeal part of the food and water challenge.

Then I looked at the list again:
  • Plain oatmeal or Cream of Wheat
  • A tortilla, rice, and beans
  • Rice with bits of fish or chicken, and a vegetable
  • Tap water
Plain oatmeal.  No pineapple.  No mandarin oranges.  No cherries.  

No good stuff.  Just binder.

So that's what I had for breakfast.

Plain steel-cut oatmeal.

It sucked.

And I guess that's the point.

Why No Guitar Posts?

Angela asked me the other day why I haven't posted anything about the guitar lately.  Well, two things:  1) Since I was re-doing the neck, I was doing stuff that I had already posted about, so there wasn't any need for an update.  But to let you know, it's going well, and I've got a good fit on the neck/body joint.  The new fretboard is essentially finished--just need to put in the position markers--in the right locations this time!  Soon I'll be getting into new territory, so the pictures and posts will return, depending on the second reason for the lack of posts, which is 2) time outside honey-do list.  I've just not had as much time lately to get out into the garage.  Some of that is just being busy on weekends and weeknights, and some of that is tackling some projects around the house that needed attention.

So we'll see.  Friday was looking like a good day to work, but now it looks like I'll have to work in attending a funeral.  Saturday morning we have a free car-wash for teachers and staff at Waverly Elementary School, and then we're heading down to Angela's and then into D.C. for a tour of the White House, so no guitar-building on Saturday.  But that's life.  It's a hobby, not a vocation, even though I'm anxious to get at it, especially since we're getting closer and closer to the end.

Clark's been real good about not bugging me about it on Sundays, but I know he's anxious.  Patience, dude, it'll get done.

Baby Girl

Today is my daughter Angela's 25th birthday!  Shout out to my Baby Girl!

No one could ask for a better daughter.  Pam and I are very proud of her.

We're all hitting milestone birthdays in the next nine months--my 50th two months ago, Angela's 25th, Pam's 50th next March, and Austin's 21st in April.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Trust in Your Beliefs, Or Trust in God?

(Note: the genesis for this post came from a message I was preparing for the funeral of Katie Hamrick, a long-time member of our church who died this week at 92.  Katie got this right, and this is dedicated to her memory.)

In whom or what do you place your faith?

Though they wouldn’t put it this way, a lot of Christians put their faith in the beliefs. Faith involves belief, but it is much more than belief. 

Part of the problem has been the way that the Gospel has been presented. In a number of Gospel presentations like the Four Spiritual Laws and the Romans Road, Romans 10:9-10 is quoted: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.”

But then what happens is this: accepting Jesus becomes a matter of accepting a doctrinal belief that God raised Jesus from the dead. This is added to a list of things that you must believe in order to be saved: the sinfulness of humanity and our separation from God; the virgin birth of Jesus; his divinity; his substitutionary death on the cross; and the second coming of Christ. 

These are the requirements, then, for salvation—believing these doctrinal statement. Now, these are good doctrinal statements. Although there is plenty of room to interpret what they all mean, they are good statements. But I know a good number of Christians who believe all the right things, but they don’t show much faith. They are constantly trying to control things, to control events, to control others, and they use their beliefs as tools of control. 

They will even use their belief as a way of controlling God. They believe that if they believe all the right things in all the right ways that God will have no choice but to do what he wouldn’t otherwise be inclined to do. 

They believe so that God will have no choice but to forgive them. They believe so that God will have no choice but to accept them. They believe so that God will have no choice but to let them go to heaven when they die. They believe so that God will have no choice but to love them. 

Whatever else you may choose to call that, it’s not faith. Not by a long stretch. 

Rather, faith is the conviction and the assurance that God is already inclined to do these things, or, more accurately, that he has already done these things.

You don’t have to get God to forgive you; in Jesus he has already done so. You don’t have to convince God to accept you; through Jesus he has demonstrated that he has already accepted you just as you are. You don’t have to work your way into heaven; God has already promised that to you as a pure gift. And you don’t have to get God to love you; he already loves you as much as he can, and that love is unconditional. It just is.

I guess you could say that it’s the difference between having faith in your beliefs, and having faith in God. 

This may seem like a fine distinction, but it’s a necessary distinction, so pay attention: Romans 10:9-10 isn’t saying that we should believe in the resurrection of Jesus (i.e. believing that it happened) as much as it is saying that we are to have faith in the One who raised him from the dead. The fact of the resurrection is true, though it must be taken by faith, but our faith isn’t in the facts. (How thoroughly Modern is that?) Our faith is in God.

One way to tell if your faith is in your beliefs or in God himself is to ask, “How important is it that I believe all the right things?” Because if your faith is in your beliefs, then you better be right, and you better work hard to make sure you are right. You better study hard to make sure you understand and believe all the right things, or else you’ll be in trouble. If your faith is in your beliefs, you can’t afford to be wrong.

Wow. That’s sounds tiring just thinking about it.

But if your faith is in the God who raised Jesus from the dead, you can relax a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I think that studying Scripture and right thinking about God is important, but we all see through a glass dimly. So we have to trust that the God who had the power to raise Jesus from the dead also has the power to save us, with all of our incomplete and even faulty theology.

So a deep, abiding faith is shown by a lack of striving. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody—not your parents, not your pastor, not your neighbor, not yourself, and certainly not to God.

Deep faith accepts that you are who God created you to be in Christ Jesus—his child, whom he created in his own image and likeness.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Imagine That

Walter Brueggeman (BREW-ga-mon), in The Prophetic Imagination, points out that the defining characteristic of the biblical prophets is not the ability to predict the future—and the way it is commonly understood today that wasn’t a characteristic of biblical prophecy at all—nor acting as the social conscience for ancient Israel, though they certainly did play this role.  The defining characteristic of biblical prophecy is the ability to imagine an alternative future to the one being played out according the accepted thinking of the day. 
Instead of “alternative future” I really wanted to write “alternative reality” but I was afraid that that would sound too heady, too philosophical, even too science-fictionesque.  But alternative reality really is better.  The prophet sees what is but doesn’t accept that this is what must be; further, the prophet is able to imagine a what-could-be and to vividly convey that image so that others can see it as well.  Furthermore, while the protectors of conventional thinking dismiss the prophet’s vision as an idealistic fantasy that will never work in the “real world,” the prophet sees his vision not only as what could be, but as what must be, and actively works to bring it to pass.
The prophet and those who follow him form a sub-community within the dominant community, and this sub-community has certain characteristics:
1.      A common past that is kept alive through stories and song;
2.      A shared injustice that is readily and publicly acknowledged and is confessed to be unbearable over the long haul;
3.      A hope that is not just longed-for but actively pursued that unkept promises will be met; and
4.      A means of communication that is distinctive, imaginative, and deeply cherished.
Think of the civil rights movement of fifty years ago.  There was the memory of the slave experience passed down through generations and embodied in story and song; there was the injustice of Jim Crow, the pain of chronic poverty and abuse, and the unwillingness to accept that this would always be; a shared hope, best embodied by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, that claimed that the promises of our founding documents must be kept; and a form of discourse distinctive to the African-American community and deeply cherished by it—Black preaching, of course.  (MLK’s “I Have a Dream” is more sermon than it is speech.)
If this sounds strange and unfamiliar, then that is an indication that we have moved outside of the tradition of the biblical prophets, and that is dangerous because it was within this stream that Jesus most identified himself.  Of all the roles assigned to him by his contemporaries—rabbi, priest, king, prophet—this is the one that Jesus embraced.  He came preaching an alternative reality with an alternative future, which he called the Kingdom of God, a vision of not only how things can be but how things must be on earth.  And we have reduced his teaching to “what happens when I die.”  Jesus’ teaching didn’t ignore that aspect of life, but it wasn’t his sole or even prominent focus.
Christians don’t talk about the Kingdom of God much anymore.  They talk a lot about heaven and hell, but not the Kingdom of God.  I regularly ask groups, “What did Jesus talk about more than anything else,” and never does anyone say, ‘The Kingdom of God” (unless they have already heard me do this).  Yet it is what Jesus spoke of more than anything else.  In fact, it’s really all he ever spoke about.  Even when talking about heaven and hell, it was in the context of speaking about the Kingdom of God.
We better get this right if we are going to continue to claim to be followers of Jesus.
”Celebration of Hope” is about pursuing the Kingdom of God, Jesus alternative vision for the world.  In our society, we believe that no child should go hungry, poorly clothed, or uneducated.  Those are not issues for most of us, but when we learn that right in our own neighborhood there are children to whom society is not keeping its promises, we feel compelled to act.
This is not some little thing that we are doing.  It is the thing that we are supposed to be pursuing.

Friday, October 2, 2009

True Disciples

Michael Wilkins, professor of New Testament and dean of the faculty at Talbot Seminary, regularly asks two questions to groups he is addressing.  The first question is, "How many of you can say, in the humble confidence of your heart, that you are true disciples of Jesus?" 

Would you be able raise your hand?  Not sure?  Don't worry, Wilkins says that most people are unsure whether or not to raise their hands.  Some people start to raise their hand hesitantly, then, seeing few others raising theirs, quickly lower it.  I mean, most of us consider ourselves to be disciples of Jesus, but true disciples?  A true disciple sounds like one who is on the job pretty much full time, and we are aware of how little Christ enters our thinking and how inconsistent, if not shallow, is our commitment to following Jesus.

Then Wilkins asks the second question: "How many of you can say, in the humble confidence of your heart, that you are convinced that you are a true Christian?"  Hands are raised without question or hesitation.  I'll bet yours is up right now.

Now why is it that it is easy for Christians to identify themselves as true Christians but  that they are hesitant about calling themselves true disciples of Jesus?  Probably it is because being a true Christian, in most people's minds, has nothing to do with the quality of their Christianity or the depth of their commitment to Jesus and his way of life.  True Christians are ones who have accepted Jesus as their savior, prayed the sinner's prayer, and received the free gift of salvation by grace.  Calling oneself a true disciple, however, is a personal evaluation as to how consistent or committed a person is in following the one you claim as your Lord.  (Plus we all know that humility is characteristic of a true disciple; therefore no true disciple would ever call themselves a true disciple.  "Only you know, Lord" is the only proper response of a true disciple.)

In other words, there are Christians, and there are Christians.  There are Christians, and there are committed Christians.  There are Christians, and there are True Disciples.  It's easy to become a Christian, but to be a disciple takes time, energy, discipline, sacrifice, and the willingness to endure long meetings at church.  (OK, I threw in that last one just for fun.  Nobody really believes that, right?  RIGHT?)

Thing is, this two-tiered understanding of discipleship just doesn't hold up when you look at what Jesus said about it.  Jesus never talked about a person becoming a Christian-he never used the word, and in fact it's only used 3 times in the entire New Testament.  But Jesus said a lot about following him, about being his disciple.  The term "Christian" was originally used of people who were his disciples.  True disciples, as it were, because there wasn't any other kind.  It was a binary state: you were either a follower of Jesus, or not.  Which meant you actually followed him-amazing how that works-or you didn't.  You were either a disciple, or you weren't.  If you were a disciple you were a true disciple, and you knew it and so did everyone else.

When Jesus said, "If any want to be my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me," was he setting a standard for all Christians or just a subset of Christians who were really committed to being true disciples?  Well, the evidence from Scripture favors the former, but the empirical evidence in our churches is that people have clearly made a distinction between being a Christian and being a disciple, true or otherwise.

And while it is true that Paul made a distinction between new Christians just learning the basics of the faith and mature Christians who should have already moved beyond the rudimentary elements of the faith-eating meat instead of just drinking baby formula-that is a long way toward building into our practice--or our theology--that there are two (or more) classes of Christians.

So if you hesitate to raise your hand if you're a true disciple of Jesus, don't change the definition of "true disciple" to fit your practice; change your practice--your followship--to fit Jesus' definition of any disciple.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

There's No "I" in "Bible"

Note: some of what I post here are the articles I write for each Sunday's church bulletin.  I had to write two articles this week since our secretary will be out of town next week, but rather than write two separate articles I wrote part one and part two of one long article.  Rather than posting it in two separate posts, I'm just going to give it to you in one large bite.

As I read the Bible I am more and more struck by how egocentric we have become in our reading of Scripture and our understanding of Jesus and his saving work.
By egocentric I don’t mean conceited, arrogant, narcissistic, or selfish.  I mean it in the purest sense of the word, that we regard the I and the me as central to the story of Scripture and the aims of redemption.  The individual has become paramount in our thinking and our understanding, and the only individual that any of us are responsible for is, of course, me
For instance, look at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  In the opening chapter Paul starts off using “us” and “we” language:
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, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.  He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.  In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.  (Eph. 1:3-12)
I read that and, really without thinking, include myself in Paul’s we.  This is what has happened to me and to all Christians: predestined (even though I don’t hold to the Calvinist notions of election and predestination, so I’m going to have to figure out a way around or through these verses), adopted as God’s child, redeemed, forgiven, holy and blameless through Christ, etc.  Right?  I’m not the only one reading these verses like this, am I?
But then watch what happens: in the very next verse, Paul switches from “us” and “we” language to “you” language.
In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.
With this verse I tend to think that he is addressing the Ephesians, but in a very subtle way, largely subconscious, I insert myself into Paul’s you as well—he’s talking to me, too.  This is what has also happened to me; when I heard the Gospel and believed in Jesus, I, too, was marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit.
So I’m in Paul’s we, and I’m in Paul’s you.  In other words, even though Paul is clearly talking about two different groups of people, I’ve included myself in both groups.  That, my friends, is egocentric.
What other way is there to read the we and you of this passage (which isn’t limited to the first chapter but continues throughout the letter)?  Well, in Ephesians Paul, as he does in Romans, Galatians, and other places, is asserting the equal status in Christ of the Gentiles with the Jews.  And when Paul speaks of the Jews he uses we language—Paul being a Jew—and when he speaks of Gentiles he uses you language, the Ephesians being Gentiles.
Look again at 1:11-12: In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 
The first Christians were Jews, as were the first people to have a covenant with God.  The Jews were chosen, elected according to God’s purpose of redeeming and renewing all creation.  So let’s go on and read verse 13 again and add the next verse as well: In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.
Hear what he’s saying?  “We Jews got into this first, according to God’s choice of us as the instrument of bringing his plan to earth.  You Gentiles also, when you heard and believed what God had done in Jesus, a Jew, have been included in God’s promised to us Jews that we would receive as our inheritance the stamp of “God’s Own People.”
See how the passage opens up when the ego is removed and put in its proper place?
An egocentric reading of Scripture thus gets in the way of understanding the text, and if we don’t understand the text, we won’t see where each of us in fact do in fact fit in it.  Now, I’m going to say something that may be disturbing to some, and the degree to which you are disturbed will probably be indicative of how egocentric you in fact do read Scripture.  (That’s a nice way of saying, “Don’t get mad at me; if you get mad, it’s your own fault.”  Which is a pretty sophisticated way of covering my own hind end.)
OK, so here goes: Scripture wasn’t written to you.  In a large sense you can say that Scripture was written for you, but no one can say that Scripture was written to them.  Unless you’re an Ephesian.  Anyone reading this from Ephesus?
Even if you are, you’d have to be a 1st century Ephesian to claim that Scripture was written to you, and even then you can only claim Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written to you.
So to read all Scripture, or any Scripture, as being written to you is to get off on the wrong foot from the start.  No part of Scripture was written to 21st century Americans.  That is so self-evident that I really shouldn’t have to say it, but I do.  In fact, you can really only say that Scripture is for you and about you inasmuch as you are part of the much bigger plan that is revealed in Scripture.
When I make Scripture and God’s plan of redemption and renewal about me, I truncate God’s plan and make it about something much smaller than what it’s about.
God’s plan is not any less than about your and my salvation, but it is about so much more than your and my salvation.  So much more.
An egocentric view of God’s salvation plan is too small.  And because it is so small, it leaves us wanting.  It leaves us wondering.  Wondering about God’s plan for our lives.  Wondering about our purpose and meaning.  Wondering about how much of our lives we’ve wasted, and is it too late to discover God’s plan for our lives and how we can live lives of significance when just getting by consumes so much of our time and energy.
I’m not sure it’s even proper for each of us to ask, “What is God’s plan for my life?”  Such a question envisions God saying, “You, Larry Eubanks, are so central to what I am doing that I have taken the time to draw up a plan for how you can be happy and fulfilled and live with meaning, purpose, and significance.”
I mean, how egocentric is that?  OK, so here it is: God hasn’t devised a plan for my life, he has devised a plan for the renewal all of Creation, and inasmuch as I am a part of his Creation, then it is a plan for my life.  But my life finds meaning and purpose not as I search for and fulfill some special, unique plan for my life but as I cooperate with God in pursuing and fulfilling his plan for all Creation.
I mean, no football coach draws up a play for the fulfillment of one player.  “OK, this play is designed to make life easy for the right guard, Stupenski.  This play, Stupenski, is for you, to help your experience of blocking the left defensive tackle as easy and successful as possible.  And when it’s over, if you didn’t enjoy that block, let me know.”  No, a football play is designed to gain yardage, with the further goal of scoring a touchdown, with the further goal of winning the game, with the further goal of winning the championship.  Whether or not Stupenski gets any enjoyment out of a well-executed block or not is irrelevant; Stupenski better find his purpose and his enjoyment out of winning the championship, or else he’s better suited doing something else.
It’s not that a well-executed block isn’t important—it is.  But as the central goal of the coach as well as the player, it’s too small.  For what does it profit a man to be a good blocker if he loses every game, indeed loses the Game?
God didn’t come to Moses and say, “Moses, I have a plan for your life that will bring meaning, purpose and happiness to your existence.”  He said, “Moses, I have a plan to deliver the people of Israel, and I want your help.  You in?”
He said the same thing to Abram: “Abram, I have a plan to bless through you all the families of the earth.  To do this I am going to give you a lot of descendents who will know me and follow me, and when they follow me they—and you—will be blessed, and then I’ll tell everyone else, “See what happens when you listen to me?” and because of what I’ve done through you they’ll listen to me and follow me, and then finally the humans will stop killing each other and raping the earth and things will be as I created them to be in the first place.  That’s my plan, Abram.  You in?”
Abram found his purpose when he pursued God’s purpose.  In other words, when he took his eyes of himself and saving his life and finding his purpose and started putting his eyes on God and pursuing God’s purpose of renewing all creation, Abram found a purpose for his life.
I challenge you to find one person in Scripture who asked, “What is God’s plan for my life?” and then, having figured it out, started pursuing it.  Rather, they asked, “What is God’s plan for the world” and then pursued it. 
The reason you should read Scripture is to discover God’s Plan.  It’s not hard to see, really.  Why would he make it hard to see?  It’s right there, and if any of us have a hard time seeing it, it’s probably because we’re too busy looking for God’s plan for my life that we can’t see anything else—including God’s plan for my life.