Jazz is the best way I can describe what I have written. Jazz is a uniquely American art form and, in its purest form, is improvisation. It takes basic chord structures and then riffs or expresses notes that are imagined, not written.
Jazz is highly subjective and invites the audience to take a journey with the musician as he explores his own soul. At times, it is brilliant. At other times, not so much. Jazz occasionally is not safe. But it is always authentic.
In the first century, Paul was a jazz musician. The good news he proclaimed was uniquely his. He even called the message he preached, “my gospel.” What he heard from God was distilled in his own soul before he communicated it to those who were to hear the wonderful love of God.
While Paul was unique in the breadth and depth of the revelation he received, he is not unique in how God transmits His message. Though God can and does sovereignly reveal His Son without human agency, His plan has always been to infect others with someone who has been infected with God.
Paul also talks about two ways to communicate the message. One is by the letter and the other, by the spirit. In musical terms, the letter would be reading from a score and the spirit would be playing jazz.
Both require a firm understanding of music theory and an effortless expertise. While both produce music, however, one is born from within while the other echoes the past and others.
John the Baptist, when asked who he was, said that he was a unique voice and not an echo, even though the prophets of old could be heard resounding through him.
Paul said that the Christ he proclaimed was the Christ who was revealed “in” him. The Word that had become Flesh, became flesh once again in Paul. His life and writings were but an outworking of this.
And that Word, in part, has become flesh in me. This work is the result of many years of God changing my thoughts about Him, about myself and about life, and then ultimately changing me. Most of these thoughts I have carried with me for years.
But there were moments when I was writing, that an idea dropped into my mind which had never occurred to me, nor had I heard before. These thoughts are either brilliant or borderline heretical. It felt at those moments as if I was attached to a tether which was being stretched beyond its tolerances. And I let it.
You might sense this as well because jazz at times can have a disrupting effect on one’s assumptions and create cognitive dissonance. Jazz can bring unanticipated moments for everyone. But these are the moments when you just might encounter God.
Moses did when he stopped to gaze at the incongruent scene of a bush being consumed by fire, yet not burning out. It was in that moment that Moses experienced God in a new way.
With jazz, it is difficult to have the music pause so you can think about what you just heard; but with this, you can. It might be best read in bite-sized chunks so you can consider and pray about the thoughts which might bring a different perspective.
I am asking you to join me in my journey as I try to express the heart and mind of Paul through mine. You will experience some “aha” moments which will create fresh thoughts in you. You also will scratch your head at times (which is equally my hope).
But if you let Him, you will sense the breath of God blowing on you through these pages and find a desire grow in you both to know the God you could never have imagined and the you He imagined before the worlds began. And hopefully at the end, you will find the courage to begin riffing yourself because you too were created to be a jazz musician.
Riffing on Ephesians Chapter 1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Paul, sent from Jesus Christ and by God’s own choosing, writing to a uniquely positioned people because God has given you two places to live at the same time. Both are of equal importance. I’m writing so that you don’t discount either.
The first is right where you live in Ephesus. I know that living there might seem mundane and sometimes cramped; but He has specifically placed you there; and that’s what makes it special.
The other address is more real but impossible to discern with your five senses. That is why God has filled you with the spiritual sense of faith so that you can discover, more and more, your real home “in Christ.” I will attempt to unpack this as the letter unfolds so you can live well in both.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
But to live well in both, your understanding of life must change. The mindset that limits and still plagues some of you is the residue of established thought patterns. In your previous life, you knew deep down that it was all on you to manage and get ahead. Yes, that would include some sort of god or some mantra, like “I think I can. I think I can”; but when it was all said and done, it came down to you and your own efforts.
Life in Christ is the exact opposite. Life now is all on Him and His efforts, and He has included you. Can you see how mind-blowing this is? Grace creates such a disturbance and is so foreign that it takes time to figure out. Many grace bombs will need to drop on your head before it dawns on you.
I hope that when I am done writing this letter, the shock of grace will become amazement and instead of retreating to your own meager efforts, you will be able to rest in His. My purpose in writing is to carpet bomb your mind and heart with one grace bomb after another.
And here comes the first one. The God who has graced you is a Father and a Son. He has never needed companionship because this God has always been in relationship, collaborating and working together; playing and enjoying each other. And the favor each shows the other is immeasurable. Sometimes they will even make a game of who can outdo the other. All I know is that the Father is the Son’s favorite and the Son is the Father’s. They are so keen on each other.
And this favor which radiates from the Father and the wholeness that flows from the Son overflows you. Did you catch that? It would be easy to overlook. What I just said is key to everything I am going to say about our Father and how he embraces you and me. Each one of you is His favorite.
I know that this concept is hard to grasp because the term, “favorite,” seems to be exclusionary, but not with God. You are favored because His actions are not determined in the moment, situation by situation. Therefore, you needn’t try to determine His mood. The Father loves His Son and everyone associated with Him. And since you are found in Him, there has never been any question concerning God’s affections, actions or intent toward you ever.
Praise For Ephesians and All that Jazz
“Tom Anderson’s book, Ephesians and All the Jazz, Riffing with Paul, is an amazing and delightful book … You must read the first two chapters. These chapters alone are worth a hundred times the price of the book … By the end of the book, the reader will feel like he knows Tom. Whether you are thinking of a book for yourself, an unbeliever, or a believer, this book is for you. On top of that, this book will draw you into the Word of God in a fresh way which is always a good thing.”
—William Jeynes, Professor at California State University, an evangelist, and Government Advisor
“The way that the apostle Paul gives us spiritual tools to be transformed in today’s world is pretty unique and special; but now my dear friend Tom has given us a truly new approach to this beautiful book of Ephesians; his fresh style and unique perspective make this book a truly precious pearl, not just to read but to live and enjoy.”
—Claudio Páramo, Principal Pastor, Casa de Oración México
“I found Jazz to be thoroughly delightful! I smiled and even laughed out loud while reading it. It is energetic, engaging and playful. The entire concept of riffing with Paul had me from the get-go. Although my knowledge of Jazz is small, I know enough to appreciate and recognize the feel you created as you engaged the letter. It had a rhythm to it that is all its own. Beyond that, I found it to be incredibly insightful and illuminating. I loved how the author wove together into the fabric of the letter the wisdom and experience he gained from his own life. And there were parts that were so profound that it made me wonder, ‘How on earth did he know that?!’ I could sense that there were stories to be told beneath the surface of every insight he shared. I enjoyed it from beginning to end and have no doubt that it will delight others just as it did me.”
—Summer Lacy, author of His Word Alone and a number of Bible studies
“Tom Anderson’s Ephesians and all that Jazz brings a fresh perspective that will fill up your heart with Paul’s message to the Ephesians. Brimming with insight and depth, Jazz will help you hear the heart of God and the whisper of the Spirit’s affection. It speaks the love of Christ to your inner man. This profoundly personal musing on Ephesians will awaken your soul to the depth of love we have in the gospel.”
—Matthew Pieters, pastor of BridgePoint Church, Valparaiso, IN
About the Author
Tom Anderson has walked with the Lord and lived with his wife, Nancy, for over 45 years. He is also a father, a grandfather and a friend. The insights in this book were gleaned over the years from reading the Word of God and his own heart.