June 30 - Colossians 4:16-18

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 30 - Colossians 4:16-18

“After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. Tell Archippus: See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.’ I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”

No one is certain about the letter from Laodicea. There has been speculation by scholars throughout the centuries regarding what was said in that letter, but many have accepted that it is what we know as the letter to the Ephesians.  In any case, Paul did intend that his letters be read in more than just the church they were sent to.  That helps us to understand the very universal truths of what it was he was saying.

Archippus … poor man.  He got called out in a very public way.  Imagine knowing that 2000 years after you have died, people will still be reading that you were about to disappoint someone as important as important as Paul and he was going to have the church tell you to get moving and complete the work you were called to do.  Yikes!  The worst thing is, there is no point that we ever discover whether or not he did what he had been called to do.  I guess the moral of that story is that when the Lord calls you to do something, you don’t mess around, you do it!!! 

Remember my chains.  Just a few words, but they speak volumes.  Paul was imprisoned for teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  What he could no longer do, he expected the churches that he had organized to do. 

Paul was a respected Roman citizen and more than likely was on house arrest.  People were able to come and go.  The prison officials probably didn’t provide much in the way of care for basic needs, so the friends and family of the prisoners were allowed to assist in their care.  With all of this activity surrounding Paul, he was kept in chains to keep him from escaping.

Not only did these keep him from escaping, they also kept him from being among his churches, teaching them how to grow in Jesus Christ and more importantly, bring new believers into the fold. 

Never forget why I am here – it’s not about me, it’s not about anything but Jesus Christ.  If I can’t … you must.

We must!

June 29 - Colossians 4:12-15

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June 29 - Colossians 4:12-15

“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.”

Notice again that Epaphras is another Colossian and is spending time with Paul.  He is always (never ceasing) wrestling in prayer for you.  The word ‘wrestling’ comes from the Greek word ‘agonizomenos.’  You probably see the word ‘agonize’ in that.  Another interpretation is that he was striving in intercessory prayer for his home church.  Epaphras was away from the people that he loved and wanted everything for them.

He stood before the Lord, praying for them ceaselessly that they would stand firm, grow up and be mature and be fully assured of the truth that is the saving grace of Jesus.

The next sentence is something I might have heard my father say.  “He is working hard for you.”  Of course he was!  Any young man that was spending any time with Paul would be working hard.

Luke was there – this is one of those verses that gives us just a bit of information about him.  Even though we don’t know from his Gospel or the Acts of the Apostles that he is a doctor, Paul lets us know more about him here.

While Luke sticks close to Paul through his ministry we discover in 2 Timothy 4:10 that Demas doesn’t fare so well.  He was too in love with the world and deserted Paul at some point. 

The very early New Testament churches met in homes. (Read about it here in my God in History blog post.)  It wasn’t until the middle of the third century that they began to gather all of the home churches into a single building so as to not lose the unity.  But, at this point, the people still met together for a meal, worship, reading scripture and communion.

June 28 - Colossians 4:10-11

Monday, June 28, 2010

June 28 - Colossians 4:10-11

“My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)  Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.”

We get a chance to meet a few more of Paul’s friends.  Aristarchus is a fellow prisoner.  While this might mean that he is taking care of Paul while Paul is imprisoned, more than likely he has also been arrested and is in jail beside Paul. 

He is from Thessalonica and traveled with Paul on his third journey.  We meet him in Acts 19:29, Acts 20:4 and then again in Acts 27:2.  Paul speaks of him in Philemon 24 as well.

The poor man was in Ephesus during the riot that occurred because the craftsmen were upset at Paul for turning people away from buying silver shrines of Artemis.  I can’t imagine an entire city erupting because of this, but it sounds like craziness took hold of the Ephesians and they wanted justice immediately.  They dragged Gaius and Aristarchus to the theater – a large outdoor meeting area.  Paul wanted to show up and talk to the crowd, but most wouldn’t let him go because there was so much chaos.  They were certain everything would get much worse if he were to show up.  Fortunately for everyone, a sane man was in the position of city clerk and was able to talk them out of making things worse.  (Acts 19:23-41)

Mark is the one we know as the author of the second Gospel.  He traveled with Paul for awhile and was a cousin to Barnabas.  We know that he grew up in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12, 25) and traveled with Barnabas and Paul on the first missionary journey.  At some point, Mark took off and headed back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).  Paul got mad and wouldn’t take him on the next journey.  That ticked Barnabas off and left with Mark while Paul took off with Silas (Acts 15:36-41).  By this point, though Mark and Paul were back to normal and we see in Philemon 24 that Paul calls him a fellow worker and in 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul asks for Mark to be brought to him.  Mark also ends up traveling with Peter (1 Peter 5:13) and tradition has it that Peter is the one who gave him the information for the Gospel that he wrote.

The third man in this grouping is Jesus, known as Justus.  We don’t know much about him except that he, along with Aristarchus and Mark are the only Jews that traveled with Paul.

The word ‘comfort’ in this verse is translated from the word ‘paregoria’ which means relief or consolation.  This is the only time that it is used in the New Testament.  These men have offered strength to Paul during a time when he especially needs it.

June 27 - Colossians 4:7-9

Sunday, June 27, 2010

June 27 - Colossians 4:7-9
“Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.”

One of the fun things to discover in Paul’s letters is that some of these characters show up in other places.

Tychicus is a dear brother, a faithful minister and a fellow servant.  From Ephesians 6:21, we glean the same information and in Acts 20:4 we discover that he was from Asia.  Paul spoke of him in a letter to Timothy and in his letter to Titus (2 Timothy 4:12 and Titus 3:12). 

The main purpose of his journey to the Colossians is for them to know what is happening with Paul and those traveling with him and so that he may encourage their hearts.  What a wonderful thing. 

I have a friend who hears from another friend we have in common pretty randomly.  Every email or phone call that she receives, though is simply information or asking for a favor.  Not once has this friend in common ever asked how my friend is or what is happening in her life.  There is no encouragement that comes.

Paul had every reason to be thinking of himself as he continually dealt with persecution and imprisonment, but his expressly sent Tychicus to the Colossians to encourage them, even with information about Paul’s state.  This is the type of friend we want to have – this is the type of friend we want to be!

Onesimus was a runaway slave belonging to Philemon.  He was converted and from this we also know that he was from Colosse. 

These two men, along with others we have yet to meet were part of Paul’s immediate support system.  He released them to share his message when he could no longer travel.  They were close to him and he loved them dearly.  But, his love for the churches and the desire to continue spreading the Gospel of Jesus was greater than his own need.

June 26 - Colossians 4:5-6

Saturday, June 26, 2010

June 26 - Colossians 4:5-6

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

This letter of Paul’s to the Colossians has been an incredible joy for me to study.  I don’t think I fully realized how much he had to say to me.  This tells me that people have always been the same in the way the react and respond to each other down through the centuries. 

First century Christians would have been rude to waitresses, cut each other off in traffic, said derogatory things about each other in church meetings, been disrespectful to each other and to authority figures.  They wouldn’t have understood the great importance of living a life that gave glory to Jesus Christ rather than themselves.  They would have failed miserably on living out the virtues of compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience and forgiveness.

The world looks at us differently because we call ourselves Christians.  They expect us to behave as if Christ were important to us.  When we fail, we blame it on the world and its expectations of us rather than on our very fallible selves.

Make the most of every opportunity.  We don’t always have to be right.  We have to be gracious.  We have to be wise.  The outside world is watching.  The worst thing that can be said today is that the world expects Christians to behave badly.  No longer are we lifted up as people to emulate, but we are disdained because of our behavior. 

We have become so self-centered, that we believe as individuals we are more important than Jesus Christ and more important than the people He sends us into the world to reach.

Be wise.  Be gracious.  Be aware always that you are representing Jesus Christ whether or not the person you are with even knows that.  We are His representatives and when someone wants to know about Jesus, let them come to you because they are sure you know Him personally.  Be able to answer everyone with questions about how to have  a relationship with Jesus.

Be wise.  Be gracious.

June 25 - Colossians 4:2-4

Friday, June 25, 2010

June 25 - Colossians 4:2-4

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”

It seems obvious to most of us that we should pray, but I would guess that there are very few of us who consider ourselves to be devoted to prayer.  Distraction tends to be my worst enemy.  Paul says to be watchful. 

The thing is – there is nothing that can do more in our lives than constant prayer.  The more time we spend in prayer, the closer we are to God.  The closer we get to God, the more time we spend in prayer.  And from prayer all sorts of amazing things can happen.  It’s as simple as that – a regular conversation with God and the world can be changed around us, because we are being changed from within.

Paul constantly asked for prayers – not in a selfish manner.  He wasn’t trying to become a famous preacher or evangelist; he wanted doors to be opened as he traveled so that people would hear the message of the Gospel. 

Notice that he didn’t ask for the chains to be removed, only that he be the messenger God wanted him to be.

There were several different outreach groups I’ve been associated with throughout the years and for quite a long while I could always count on the speaker asking someone to pray for them before delivering the message.  This is what I see with Paul.  It isn’t enough that he has a close relationship with God and that he prays for himself to be the conduit for the Gospel.  His success rate will increase exponentially with the addition of prayers from those who love God and who want to see the Gospel spread to the entire world.

Pray for those who lead in worship and teach that their words will reach a world in need.

June 24 - Colossians 3:23-4:1

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 24 - Colossians 3:23-4:1

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.”

Paul goes on in these verses to tell us that the work we do is not necessarily for the people we work for, but we are actually serving the Lord through our work. 

How would your work habits change if you knew that every day Jesus Christ would walk into your work space?  You could tell me that your boss looks and acts nothing like Jesus, but Paul really doesn’t care about that and for that matter, neither does Jesus.  In the previous verse, slaves are told to obey their master, no matter what.  And while slavery isn’t an approved social / work situation any longer, our attitude should be the same.

Mom refused to allow us to play the “he started it!” game.  We learned quickly that the one who complained about the other received just as much punishment.

God isn’t looking at your boss’ behavior or attitude, He is watching yours.  Paul calls us to work as if we were working for the Lord.  God will take care of poor co-workers and bad bosses if we’ll just let Him be in charge. 

I love the phrase in Col. 3:25, “there is no favoritism.”  Isn’t that awesome!  Just because we think we’ve done a good job and no one is giving us enough recognition or just because we think we work harder than everyone else in the place – God simply doesn’t care.  He loves us the same as He always has.  He also loves everyone else … just the same.

During the years that “What Would Jesus Do” was so popular, those words really brought home to us the idea that Jesus was walking among us.  It changes how we live in the world when we realize that He is walking with us through our day, sitting beside us as we cry, loving us as we feel like a failure, praying with us, praying for us, hoping that we will continue to be a positive reminder to everyone we come in contact with of His love for the world.

June 23 - Colossians 3:22

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 23 - Colossians 3:22

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”

Paul was out to change the world a heart at a time.  He wasn’t necessarily interested in changing the structure of the business world, knowing that if a man’s heart were changed, so would his life be changed, whether in the home or at work.

Slavery was a part of life and while it would have been as morally unacceptable then as it is now, he wasn’t going to change it.  What he could change was how people worked together. 

Who knows, maybe in two thousand years, the idea of working for someone else for a wage they can get away with will be as appalling morally as slavery.  Whatever the situation, though, Paul tells us that because we are God’s children, we are to do everything we can to be in accord with the authorities over us – not just when they’re watching, but always because of the relationship we have for God.

I grew up in small town Iowa.  It wasn’t until I was out of college that our family lived in any community larger than about 2500 people.  Everyone knew who we kids were – we were Frank Greenwood’s children – he was the local Methodist pastor.  Mom made sure that we realized how important it was for us to respect that responsibility.  Our actions reflected on Dad’s ability to work with his congregation.  If we made poor choices, not only would we get into trouble, but people would wonder about his effectiveness and question his authority when he spoke from the pulpit.

We did our best to live as Frank Greenwood’s children – screwing up when we did, but knowing how important it was that his church members could come to him because they trusted that what he said was how he lived.

This same attitude is how we should approach being God’s children.  The way His children act sometimes, no wonder the world doesn’t believe He is effective at loving them.  We undermine His authority every day with our actions. 

In our workplace, in our homes, on the street, in the marketplace … we show the world that God’s love and peace are predominant in our hearts by offering compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness.

June 22 - Colossians 3:18-21

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22 - Colossians 3:18-21

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”

If you know me very well, you know that when Paul starts telling women to submit to their husbands, I tend to react.  Sometimes I think Paul simply needed a wife to tell him when it was a good idea to just be quiet.

First a story, though.  In the 70s, mom and dad were doing fine, but she had been reading all of this stuff about how women were supposed to submit to their husbands. (Know that she told this story over and over – I’m not telling tales out of school.)  She decided to try an experiment.  If all went well, she would transform her life and her marriage.

She became quite a submissive wife, allowing Dad to make all of the decisions, never arguing with him, having meals prepared when he walked in the door, ensuring that the three of us were doing everything possible to give Dad the perfect life at home. This went on for a week or so.  Dad loved it and was smart enough to not question why mom was acting completely out of character.  His life had suddenly gotten quite wonderful.  There was no dissension in the house and he could do whatever it was that he wanted.

After a couple of weeks, mom could barely stand herself any longer. Not only had she chosen to be submissive, but she had stripped away every part of her personality to be what she thought Dad wanted her to be.  And to be honest, Dad was waiting for the other shoe to drop, knowing that this wasn’t going to last forever.  He also knew that he hadn’t married a quiet, docile woman.  She had quit challenging his ideas and actions and wasn’t acting like the normal woman he married.  While he was getting his way, he was also getting bored and mom was quietly becoming miserable.  Let’s also add in here that it was no picnic for the three of us kids.  You can only contain kids for so long.  We were about at our end.

Trust me when I say that everything finally came to an explosive head and fire lit out throughout the family.  When it was all over, both Mom and Dad realized what fools they had been, trying to become something that on the surface seemed like a good idea, but in reality would never work.

These verses are all about respect and honoring those people in our lives that are around us.  It isn’t a call to change our personality so that we fit scripture. Paul simply wasn’t that stupid (though at first blush, sometimes he sounds that way).  Before we spend too much time worrying that he is calling us to lay down our minds and become Stepford Wives, we need to take a moment to understand what it is that he is really calling us to do. 

He has just talked about the virtues of being God’s chosen people, covering ourselves in love, letting peace in our hearts and the word of Christ in our lives.  This not only applies to our relationship with the church, but with our family and friends as well.

June 21 - Colossians 3:17

Monday, June 21, 2010

June 21 - Colossians 3:17

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

I just love Paul’s abounding faith in us.  When he writes these letters, he knows that there is no way we can live up to the life he describes, but that doesn’t stop him from encouraging us to be everything that we can be in Christ Jesus.  He continually sends us on to perfection, knowing that we are going to not only stumble, but fall right off that path on a regular basis.

The thing that Paul knows more than any of us, though, is that doesn’t matter.  Failure is a part of winning the final race.  Every time we step off the path and then find our way back again, we learn more about the grace and mercy of God, we learn more about what things are detrimental to us and we learn more about who God wants us to be as we grow.

How many of us can honestly say that we walk through our day and do every single thing and live every single moment in the name of Jesus?  But, Paul continues to show us that is the expectation.

We all seem to react differently to the phrase “separation of church and state,” some of us not fully understanding why that is so important in our constitution, others of us only seeing the restrictions placed on Christians, but Paul would probably tell us, using words much like this, to set that aside.

Whatever we do, do it in the name of Jesus.  As soon as I wrote those words, I thought about how this verse has been taken out of context throughout the centuries.  The Crusades were done in the name of Jesus, executions were performed in the name of Jesus. His name has been used by humanity through history to do terrible things to each other.

But, placing it back in context with the previous verses, as we fill our lives with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness; as we cover those with love and allow peace to rule us and the word of Christ to dwell within us, when we then do everything – whether it is secular or sacred - in the name of Jesus, we show the world who He truly is and offer hope.

June 20 - Colossians 3:16

Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 20 - Colossians 3:16

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

As a community of Christ, we have many different responsibilities, but the greatest of these is to show the love of Christ to the world and to each other.  Sometimes that is quite difficult, especially when personalities and individual needs and desires interfere.

We’ve read about how the virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, and then forgiveness are important, and how they need to be covered completely in love.  Then, in Col. 3:15, we read that we are called to peace as members of Christ’s body.  How do we do that?

This is how.  Through the word of Christ.  God dwells within us individually and He lives within the community.

Paul goes on to describe how this will show up.  As we teach and admonish (encourage,  give direction or advice) in wisdom.  Notice how Paul doesn’t stop after the word ‘admonish.’  He goes on to finish it with a modifier – in wisdom.  In other words, think before you speak.  God is there as we teach His word and as we encourage each other.  Then, He is there as we worship Him, giving thanks to Him with our singing.

There have been many, many church meetings that I have attended over the years alone, without God being present.  I’ve watched people become incensed as they try to push their agendas through, halt the work on things they don’t approve of and demean people whose only interest is in spreading God’s word.  Every single time, these meetings have ended in strife, discouragement, anger and disappointment.  Never have these meetings begun with strong teaching, worship and an invitation for God to be present.  Never have these meetings known peace.

When I was about to teach my first Sunday School class, mom gave me some great advice, knowing that I was young and about to deal with a group of rowdy sixth-grade boys.  She told me that at the first sign of trouble from any of them, I was to stop the class and ask them to pray with me.  As I asked God week after week to be a part of that class, I discovered that it was a moment of calm in those boys’ lives and they responded to it.  It didn’t stop all of the rowdy behavior all the time, but the purpose wasn’t to stifle them, it was to focus them.

Bring the word of Christ … God … to everything you do – teach and admonish with wisdom, worship with gratitude.

June 19 - Colossians 3:15

Saturday, June 19, 2010

June 19 - Colossians 3:15

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

When Paul told us to put on love, he was telling us to actively do something.  Putting something on requires an action.  In this verse, he is asking us to allow something to happen, to let peace rule in our hearts.  This is a much more passive request.  We don’t have to do anything, we just simply let Christ bring peace into our hearts. 

I imagine that after I have clothed myself and finished by putting on love, I sit down, relax and allow Christ to move into my heart, bringing peace.  I am curled up with my favorite flannel shirt in front of a roaring fire in the early morning, with the outside temperature crisp and cool.  As I lay my head back and relax, contentment and peace flow through me and I know that I am filled with the peace of Christ.

When I owned the print shop, I didn’t know much peace.  I would start in the morning, tear through the work day, then head off to whatever church function I needed to deal with, drop into bed at night hoping for a few hours of sleep before I started all over again the next day.  I remember praying for peace.  I could never relax enough to let Jesus bring that peace to me.  I felt like I always had to be doing something or the entire world would drop out from under me.

I was actively pursuing everything that a Christian should be doing.  But, I had left so much of Jesus behind me while I ran after His work.  I followed the rules, I did my thing, I encouraged people, I built programs and I wore myself out.  Nothing changed in the world … except me as I allowed myself to slowly become someone I didn’t recognize.

We have to let Him bring peace into our hearts.  And then, Paul puts us back on active duty. Then, we have to be thankful.

June 18 - Colossians 3:14

Friday, June 18, 2010

June 18 - Colossians 3:14

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Have you ever thought about dressing yourself with love when you put on the rest of your clothes in the morning?  Or when you go out to dinner with friends and get all dressed up!  What about when you dress for that power meeting with an employee or boss? 

Yesterday I wrote a bit about how God’s love should flow through us to the world.  We are close to His heart and from there the love fills our hearts. 

But, sometimes it just isn’t that easy.  We have to make a conscious choice to love. 

Re-read that verse again.  “Over all these virtues (compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience) put on love, which binds them all together.

We can do compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience without truly loving.  They aren’t nearly as effective, but they can be acts that we perform.  But, without love they are nothing.  They mean nothing to those that receive and they mean less than nothing to us.   It’s actually difficult to even imagine performing these acts without a modicum of love.  Fortunately, we don’t have to.  We understand that love is the most important of all the virtues, that without it we have nothing.

I imagine a soft, comfortable flannel shirt (one of my favorites) that smells like lavender and vanilla.  It’s one of the last things I put on in the morning and the scents surround me while the sensation of the soft flannel warms me on a crisp morning. 

Now, imagine love covering you like that shirt as you walk through your day.  A breeze flutters by and the scent of lavender trickles by your nose reminding you of comfort.  You brush past a person on the street and the flannel touches your skin again.  You kiss your kids as they run out the door to be with friends, knowing that whether they identify it or not, they will always know of your love for them.  As you brush the hand of the waitress who hands you your bill after lunch, you share just a moment of caring with her, reminding her that for a moment she cared for you and you care for her.  You hold a door open for a mom and her three kids, give her a smile that tells her she’ll get through another day.  At work or at church, you allow someone else to use your idea so that this time they are heard above the noise and feel good about their moment.

There are so many ways to share the virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  When you cover yourself with love as you walk through your day, I suspect you will return to your home filled with that same love.

June 17 - Colossians 3:12-13

Thursday, June 17, 2010

June 17 - Colossians 3:12-13

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

The moment that we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are made holy.  Christ’s sacrifice was done so that we could approach the throne of God clean and without sin.  For eons, the Israelites were God’s chosen people.  They were His children.  Their purpose was to spread throughout the world, telling the world about Him so that the world would return to Him.  He made of them a great nation, one which should have drawn the nations of the world into a relationship with Him … but something (many somethings) happened and God sent His Son.

The plan was always that the people of the world, Gentiles and Jews alike would be in community with God.  While different parts of the plan were manipulated by mankind on earth, it never changed.  God wanted us to be with Him.  Now, we are all God’s chosen people, Gentiles and Jews alike.  He dearly loves us. We are His beloved. Those words reach down into the very depths of me.  The love God has for me runs so strongly through the core of my being.  He doesn’t just love me, He loves me dearly, I am His beloved.  I am close to His heart. 

You are His beloved.  He loves you dearly. You are close to His heart.

From the heart of God, His love should flow through us to the world.  This is how God changes the world.  We show compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  When others are going through tough times, we bear with them, we stand with them.  When we are wronged, we forgive, no matter what.

No amount of preaching, teaching, haranguing, complaining, bullying, managing, church programs, schedules, or even leading will do as much as honest love in showing the world who Christ is.

Honest love shows up in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with each other and forgiveness.  No matter what. 

When we realize that it isn’t about us, all of those things will flow from God’s heart through us to the world.

June 16 - Colossians 3:11

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 16 - Colossians 3:11

“Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

This verse could be discussed in terms of bigotry and racism or possibly in terms of denominational separation, so which of these is an issue for you? 

Anyone who was not a Greek, anyone outside of their culture, was a barbarian.  Do we pity those who don’t have all of the niceties of Western Civilization?   Or the possibilities for education and advancement?  We separate ourselves from others in so many different ways … pity is just one means of showing our superiority. 

The Scythians were nomads, in many cases they were wild and savage.  Their lives were so different than those in the cities. 

The difference between Greeks and Jews – circumcised or uncircumcised – were great in many ways.  The world was being Hellenized – made to look like the Greeks.  They had ‘culture.’  They had education, medicine, arts, their architecture was astounding.  Their language was fairly common throughout the known world. They did, however, believe in a different set of gods and deities.

Different.  That’s what this verse is all about.  Different.  Paul isn’t trying to tell us that we all need to be the same.  The differences are what make things so healthy.  The only thing that is the same in all of us is Jesus Christ.  He is all … He is in all.

We fight so diligently to bring unity to the church, a losing proposition.  People will never look at things the same way.  But, as long as Christ is there … we are unified.  (I am the first to admit that Christ isn’t invited into many churches … I’m really not talking about those – they are an entirely different issue.) 

We spend hours discussing other religions and cults, fighting wars and battles.  Those that have effectively brought Christ to these groups are those that allow Christ to lead them where He will, acting as His servants – not as His right hand of judgment.

The earth is the Lord’s … every one of us is His.  As individuals we are to do only what He calls us to do and rarely (if ever) will He call us to judge a person based on their difference from us.  He doesn’t ask us to change their lives, their religion, their belief.  He will do that.  He is all, He is in all. 

What He calls us to do is to love and refuse to allow barriers to others in our own lives.

June 15 - Colossians 3:9-10

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June 15 - Colossians 3:9-10

“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

Along with the vices from yesterday, Paul follows up with one last … do not lie to each other.  And there it is – the final vice that was part of our old selves. 

Sometimes I wonder whether or not Paul had any addictions.  It’s as if he expects that since he says these things … they are reality.  Wouldn’t that be awesome.  And he doesn’t say anything without it sounding like it has already happened and things should begin to be good in our lives.

“…since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self.”

Would that it was so easy!  I was 13 when I first made the decision – fully understanding everything – to turn my life over to Jesus Christ.  I was part of a wonderful movement that was happening – the Lay Witness Mission.  Lay members from churches in the region were asked to come to a church for a weekend, give their testimony about how God had changed their lives, lead Bible studies and small group sessions, get to know the people in the church and then on Saturday night there would be a message and an invitation. 

I felt cheated somehow because I was pretty much a good girl and didn’t have a radical life change occur.  Oh, there were some nasty little sins I could confess, but nothing horrendous.  When I woke up on Sunday morning I didn’t really feel any differently than I had when I woke up on Saturday morning!  I was really curious about that whole ‘old self / new self’ thing.  My life didn’t radically change when I went back to school on Monday, I still encountered the same problems and issues, the same friends and snotty girls.  No one else had changed since I left them on Friday afternoon either.

I kept thinking that there was something desperately wrong with my conversion experience and that I was failing God somehow.  But, what I didn’t understand at the time was that a beginning had to happen, a conscious choice had to be made.  I needed that date set into stone, I needed the knowledge of those moments with God.  It was the beginning of a life that was being renewed into the image of God.

At the age of 13, I didn’t have great, grand and glorious sins to confess, nor did I have to make a radical change in my life to become a part of God’s kingdom.  What I did have to do was to admit my need for His power in my life so that He could begin the process of a lifetime.

June 14 - Colossians 3:7-8

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 14 - Colossians 3:7-8

“You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”

Paul spent quite a few words telling us that we were free because of the price Christ paid on the cross for us.  That certainly wasn’t a license to sin.  He just finished telling us that the earthly nature, the things of the flesh needed to die on that cross with Christ.  And now he lets us know that we need to get rid of some more things from a list of horrendous activities.

Anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language.

You know my dad used to say that he never got mad, he got angry.  That didn’t make much sense to me.  I think he was trying to tell us that his anger was righteous anger because we had really done something wrong and he felt quite righteous in his punishment and fury.  I think he also believed that being ‘mad’ at someone went a little too far over the edge towards insanity and he never wanted to believe that he was out of control in his anger.

I wish that I had known my scripture a little better in those days, because I would have loved to have quoted this verse to him.  Though, I’m quite certain that would have brought more wrath my way.

In fact, as I read the descriptions of the Greek words for these vices, I really would have loved to continue that conversation with him.  Anger is from the word ‘orgen’ which is actually a smoldering hatred.  Wrath is an explosive outburst.  Malice is an evil force which is at the root of both of those vices and effectively destroys any sense of community.  Slander is simply blasphemy, whether it is against God or someone who is a representative of God. Our understanding of filthy language is pretty straightforward.

James wrote about bringing the tongue under control. “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6) These vices are exposed when we loose the words on our tongues.

Paul tells us that these things are from our old life.  As much as change is difficult for us, it seems that holding on to these things will only hurt us as well as those around us.  Paul says, “But now, you must rid yourselves of these.”

June 13 - Colossians 3:5-6

Sunday, June 13, 2010

June 13 - Colossians 3:5-6

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.”

At the beginning of this chapter, Paul asked us to put our minds on things above, not earthly things.  Now, he is beginning to make sure we know what these things are.  We know that we have put the things of flesh to death with Christ on the cross when we accepted Him as our Savior, but Paul isn’t crazy enough to believe that once we’ve killed sin within ourselves, we won’t do our best to resurrect it.

He’ll spend a few more verses helping us to recognize those things that we face on a regular basis.  It’s not terribly difficult to just get tired of Paul.  These lists of sins keep showing up in his writings, he doesn’t really ever stop reminding us of how much they separate us from God.

In this letter, he tells us that these are the things that draw God’s wrath and I can’t imagine much worse than the wrath of God.  That is what opened up a chasm in the earth to suck up the sons of Korah (Numbers 16).  It is what destroys the earth in the end and sends Satan and his minions into the lake of fire.

Sometimes it seems so unfair that God has put us here on earth to live and yet He continually calls us to put aside earthly passions and desires.  But, we are so limited in our thinking.  We can’t imagine that anything could be better than what we know on earth, when what God wants us to realize is that these things pale in comparison to the offerings of heaven.  Sometimes we get glimpses of those heavenly moments.  For me it is in worship or in prayer.  Those glimpses aren’t always enough to get me through every day, but they are enough to draw me back when I move away from the desires of my heart and remind me that someday I will experience more than my mortal body and mind could ever imagine.

June 12 - Colossians 3:3-4

Saturday, June 12, 2010

June 12 - Colossians 3:3-4

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

At the moment of our salvation, the moment we chose to accept Jesus as our Savior, we died to sin.  Now that is an easy to concept to grasp, though maybe not such an easy thing to do. 

The next phrase “and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” may not be quite so easy to understand. 

When I was young, my father taught me to walk on the inside of the sidewalk.  As the man, he was to walk on the outside as my protector.  If a car splashed mud and water, he took the brunt of it instead of me.  Whenever we would walk together, he automatically moved to the outside of the sidewalk and taught me to move inside.  I always knew that when I was with Dad, I was safe – he would protect me from whatever came at us.  By Dad putting himself between me and danger, he hid me from that danger.

I think about the number of times I tucked my small dachshund inside my coat to keep her warm when we go places.  When thunderstorms rip through, she wants to crawl inside my skin so that I protect her from whatever is making those terrible sounds.  As soon as she gets close to me and I tuck her under my arm or under the blankets close to my body, she relaxes and can sleep.  I hide her from the danger that surrounds her.

Jesus does the same thing for us at the moment we release our lives to Him.  We may have quite different definitions of danger and things that go bump in the night, but He is there to protect us.  Consider the thunderstorm that Leica is so afraid of.  I know that it won’t harm her other than the fear she goes through as it passes.  But, she has no idea whether or not she will live or die during those loud claps of thunder.  In the same way, Jesus knows the outcome of everything we face.  He doesn’t try to get us to understand what it is we are facing, all He does is hold on to us so that we will stop shivering.

June 11 - Colossians 3:1-2

Friday, June 11, 2010

June 11 - Colossians 3:1-2

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Paul has written a lot about the hazards of allowing earthly legalism to define our Christian lives.  I don’t think he can write about it enough!  This is something that is so natural for us to do.  I laugh about how my mother taught me guilt at an early age so as to keep me under her control and that I managed to carry that with me for the rest of my life.  I’m not alone.  The reason that these rules and regulations carry so much weight in our lives is that we are fashioned to be controlled by them and feel guilty when we try to break away from them.  I believe that there are times the Ten Commandments pale in comparison to the strictures we allow to be placed on our lives.  Not only that, because we are so comfortable with all of this, we turn around and place the same expectations on the people around us, expressing sincere disappointment when they don’t measure up to those expectations.

Paul moves on, though, from the hazards of living according to the world’s standards to things above.

You see, our sins died with Christ … we are raised with Christ … He is seated at the right hand of God … THIS is where our minds and hearts should be focused.  Away with the guilt, away with the expectations, away with the fear.  Focus all of that attention on the throne!

When Jesus said, in Luke 10:27 “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’”  He brought everything into that focus.  This is the only interpretation of the Law that we need to concern ourselves with.  This is where our hearts and minds need to be.  Guilt, expectations and fear fall away when we move into the throneroom.  From that vantage point everything changes. 

June 10 - Colossians 2:20-23

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 10 - Colossians 2:20-23

“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”

Aren’t these verses great?  They pretty much give you permission to do anything and everything, don’t they?

And therein lies the problem with taking scripture out of context.

But, I think we all run into trouble with the things Paul is talking about.  We’re still talking about rules and regulations set before us by the world defining our relationship with God.  It makes sense that we should fast and deny ourselves the pleasures of the world so that we can gain a better relationship with Him, doesn’t it?

One of the commentaries I read said that asceticism (denial of worldly pleasures to achieve spiritual perfection) is associated with guilt and Christ took away all guilt.

Since we died with Christ to the basic principles of the world, why do we still submit to its rules?  As we get into the next chapter, we’ll see where Paul is taking this whole conversation, but right now he wants us to think about the way we allow the world to define our relationship with God!

We are more concerned with how our friends, our pastor, our fellow church members and our families see us as Christians than we are with how God sees us.  Dad was always concerned that even the perception of alcohol in our home was a bad thing.  He freaked out the first time that mom brought home a bottle of sparkling grape juice.  People might see the green champagne shaped bottle and think we had real alcohol!  (Mom pretty much handled his self-centered perception with a few choice words – probably using this verse and others by Paul.)

Using the world’s rules and perceptions of what a Christian should and shouldn’t do will not bring us any closer in our walk with Jesus.  These rules won’t restrain our desires.  Just like every diet out there known to man – they won’t stop us from desiring food. 

The more time we spend on worrying about all of these things that the world (not Jesus, by the way) tells us to do or not to do so that we can live like Christians, the less time we spend on actually entering into a growing relationship with God.

June 9 - Colossians 2:18-19

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 9 - Colossians 2:18-19

“Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.”

Alright, I just LOVE digging into a verse and discovering this phrase “This is one of the most hotly contested verses in the New Testament.”  That tells me a couple of things.  First, wow, if they haven’t figured it out by now, I’m certainly not going to make a lot of headway in one evening.  Secondly, how in the WORLD am I going to make sense of it to anyone reading this blog. Doggone it!!!

Here’s the deal.  False humility – this could be a source of deprivation, fasting, etc., meant to bring on visions.  Worship of angels – there are two ideas on this phrase.  The first is that Paul is speaking about an angelic worship cult, which had existed for a very long time and about which there are passages in the Old Testament regarding it.  But, there was also a group of people who tried to access, through hallucinations, visions, etc., angelic worship in heaven using passages from Isaiah (Isa 7:37; 8:17; 9:28, 31, 33). 

Whatever Paul is saying here comes to its conclusion, though, in Colossians 2:19, “He has lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.”

Whether we are worshipping angels or any other being, whether or not we are trying to somehow join the angelic worship in heaven; if we aren’t centering our faith and worship on Jesus, we fail to be part of the body that grows with God.

I’ve worked in churches that worship the building they built, a pastor that used to serve there, the missionaries they sent out, the music – on and on.  In fact, in one church, Dad had an argument with the United Methodist Women who locked the kitchen and refused to allow anyone but the president of the group to hold a key.  They worshipped their kitchen and by golly, no one else was going to sully that room.  (Dad won and opened the kitchen to the church).

Whatever it is that occupies our hearts outside of Jesus separates us from the body.  Just because it looks, sounds, feels and maybe even smells spiritual does not mean that it will grow as God causes the body to grow.

The focus always has to be on Jesus Christ … always. 

June 8 - Colossians 2:16-17

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

June 8 - Colossians 2:16-17

“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

Well, I guess for all the Sunday morning golfers among us, this verse is a relief!  No one is to judge us based on our attendance at religious festivals or even a Sabbath day.

Paul continues to whittle away at the Judaizers who insisted that early Christians follow their rules so as to be deemed good enough to enter heaven.

This morning I was at the Post Office buying stamps.  As I stepped out into the opening lobby to place the stamps on my mail, a man walked past me to his post office box and he suddenly stopped, looked at me and said something.  It was so unexpected that I took me a moment to register that not only was he speaking to me but that I needed to concentrate on the words that had just come from his mouth. 

In that split second, I put the words together into a sentence and realized that he had said, “Has anyone told you that Jesus loves you today?”  I’m sure my lack of immediate response shook him and then I said, “You know what?  He loves you, too.”  He smiled and moved on.

Now this occurred not long after I had written yesterday’s blog and I’d been thinking all morning about the incredible depth of Jesus’ love for us.  It transcends all earthly thought and action.  We can’t begin to fathom its depth or imagine its extent.  Yet we do everything possible to control people’s access to it.

I’m thankful for a Savior that is my reality.  He is more than the judgment of people around me, He is more than religious rituals and traditions, He is more than anything I can imagine.  I will never be able to understand or comprehend His grace and His love for me, but I will always find Him at the center of my reality.

June 7 - Colossians 2:13-15

Monday, June 7, 2010

June 7 - Colossians 2:13-15

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

Sometimes it seems like an impossible task – blending the freedom God has given us from sin and guilt over the next sin we might commit or might already have committed.  Most preachers, Christian authors and speakers spend quite a bit of time reminding us of our sinful lives and teaching us about how to live lives free of sin. 

I read a lot of blogs, even more books, listen to speakers, teachers and pastors, follow them on Twitter and Facebook and some days there are so many different commands being given to me by all of them, I feel drowned in a morass of guilt – whether I’ve done anything wrong or not.  There is absolutely no way that I can be the person that they all think I should be.  Each one has a different ruleset by which the world should live and act, each has a different outlook through which they view sin and the world, each has a different manner in which they communicate their interpretation of scripture.

While all of them are absolutely right (most of the time) and absolutely passionate about their love for Christ and for His church; it can be overwhelming. 

Then God brings me back to a verse like this and reminds me that it’s not about any of those teachers, it’s about Christ’s sacrifice.  It really isn’t even about my sin or my life and the way I live it; it’s about Christ’s gift to me.

Jesus doesn’t just forgive us the sins we remember or have pointed out to us, He doesn’t just forgive the sins that are obvious, He doesn’t forgive only the heinous sins.  Jesus Christ forgave ALL our sins.  He canceled the written code – the regulations.  All of those things that stand in front of us, taunting us with our failure to achieve perfection, are taken away by Jesus.  They were nailed to the cross with Him. 

I love these verses in Colossians!  He made a public spectacle of them!  He didn’t make a public spectacle of us.  He doesn’t expect us to crawl up on that cross with Him and face shame.  He did that for us.  It is not about us.  It is all about the triumph of Jesus on that cross, about the fact that He lived to teach us how to live and then He died to give us life. 

I will come back to the feet of Jesus every single time, leaving behind the pastors, speakers and teachers who think they need to crawl into my heart to make me see the error of my ways.  There is one man who wants to do that for no other reason than that He loves me eternally and it is in Him that I find not shame and guilt, but freedom and redemption.

June 6 - Colossians 2:11-12

Sunday, June 6, 2010

June 6 - Colossians 2:11-12

“In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”

I’m not sure, actually, which ends up being more painful – the cutting of a physical circumcision – or the cutting away of sin that Christ has done for us.  But, Paul reminds his readers that they are not required to go through actual circumcision to be part of the body of Christ.  Jesus did all of that on the cross … he set aside the body – the flesh to bring us all into the New Covenant with God.

Today we aren’t as concerned with the legalism that the Judaizers were trying to force on the early Christians, but the idea is still the same.  We still try to force ourselves and anyone that will listen to us to follow a given set of rules to be called a Christian.  Everyone has them.  Some people make judgments based on Sunday worship attendance.  It’s not as bad as it used to be, but I remember days when shorts and jeans were sneered at in the sanctuary.  There are denominations that refuse to believe members of other denominations are Christians … they have their own set of rules for what kind of church a ‘real’ Christian should attend.  We make judgments based on the type of people others spend time with.  We have created our own personal Law that decides for us who is a Christian and who isn’t.

There are sins that are acceptable and others that aren’t – whether or not they are ever mentioned in Scripture.  Cultural traditions decide what is right and wrong and these quickly translate into a legal set of rules by which a Christian should be perceived.

This is what Paul is speaking of when he talks about circumcision.  This is the work that Christ did on the cross.  When we are baptized – whether or not it is by a water baptism (dunked, sprinkled, adult or infant) – we enter the point of baptism as a burial – our sins are buried the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior.  He did the work for us and then we come through that into the resurrection that He offers through faith, a gift from God.

Jesus Christ died to offer us freedom.  Let us not live to bind ourselves and remove the freedom that comes from living in Him.

June 5 - Colossians 2:9-10

Saturday, June 5, 2010

June 5 - Colossians 2:9-10

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”
Oh my goodness … I just read the coolest observation on this verse.  Ok, ok … I’ll share.

The phrase “fullness of the Deity” doesn’t often occur in Biblical literature, but it does in Greek literature and the thought behind this is that God has attracted to Himself all divine power of the cosmos. Christ is filled with that! 

The only time we see the word ‘Deity’ in the New Testament is here in Colossians and again the imagery is that of Christ being the essence of God.  Paul is talking to those who question either Christ’s humanity or His divinity, but for those of us who accept both in one man, we are exposed to grand and glorious thoughts of Jesus!

I can’t begin to imagine containing the power of the cosmos within me, but in the Divine … in God … in Christ, this is what fills Him.  He doesn’t exist without knowing and being part of everything that happens.  As I watch the images that the Hubble or other spacecraft send back of stars being born or exploding … Jesus is part of that.  He reigns supreme over all of that.  Scientists talk about life in the frozen waters of Jupiter … Jesus is part of that.  This phrase reminds me that Jesus is not limited to what we can see, hear, know and understand here on earth.  All of the power of the cosmos is found in Him.  The fullness of the Deity in bodily form.

The promise to us comes in the next phrase as we discover that we share in this fullness.  We don’t become God (thank heavens – I’m pretty sure I’d explode!), but we do share in all the goodness that comes from being united with Christ.

We make up the body – the church while Christ is over every power and authority. 

Today as you look up into the sky and imagine the stars and galaxies that are far beyond that which we can see, know that Jesus is there.  If we ever make it to those far reaches of the universe, the thing to remember is that He was there at their inception and is still there. 

June 4 - Colossians 2:8

Friday, June 4, 2010

June 4 - Colossians 2:8

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

The first thing I read in regards to this verse was that the word for ‘take captive’ actually means ‘to carry off as booty or as a captive in a war.’  I just started to giggle as I thought about how true this really can be.  Paul’s concern for the Colossians was strong, knowing that their thoughts can be just as destructive in the community as having warriors come tearing through, pillaging everything in sight.

It didn’t happen that my junior high brain saw the word booty and the complete imagery was of some woman thrown over the shoulder of a soldier as she was being hauled away, kicking and screaming.  But, that’s probably more immature than I should admit to being.

More than likely there was a teacher in Colosse that brought his own ideas in and was teaching them around town.  I think of the snake-oil salesmen that used to walk into town filled with positive and wonderful things to say about the concoctions he sold.  They would cure every ill, heal sickness and disease, make the lame walk, blind see and bring happiness to everyone who purchased a bottle.  Before people realized that none of his tales were true, he had moved on with their money and their trust.

We still see these same types of people today, the packaging is just a little nicer and the advertising a little flashier.  People continue to buy into the lies, hoping for a quick and easy fix to their problems.  These people reach out to our basic needs, promising that anything in the world is possible, we just need to trust them and their ... snake oil.

Empty, hollow, deceptive lies filled with what sounds like truth, but is far removed from truth.  We find it easy to believe in these lies because they have a hint of familiarity.  But, the real truth lies in Christ.  It may never be easy, disease and sickness may not be easily cured, happiness may not come quickly, but truth lies in Christ – and He will never be found running from town.  He will stick close no matter what comes.  He is the truth.

June 3 - Colossians 2:6-7

Thursday, June 3, 2010

June 3 - Colossians 2:6-7

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

We are such children sometimes.  Paul would really like us to acknowledge the power of Jesus Christ in our lives and grow up!

Our lives in Christ began as we acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior.  All that was required of us is that we continue to live in Him … allowing Him to sink roots deep down within us, build up His power within us and then to strengthen our faith.  From this thankfulness should simply flow out of us.

Doesn’t sound that difficult, does it?  But, for some reason it is nearly impossible!  We flounder around trying to do all of the work ourselves – we feel guilty if we don’t feel that our strength is enough, we compare ourselves to others and their Christian walk, feeling prideful if we think we’re better and horrid if we think we’re worse. 

We live in the world – filling our minds with the rules and expectations that everyone around us lays out for us.  We don’t actually live in Christ and expect that He will take care of all of that.

We work so hard at creating the fa├žade of the perfect Christian life that it is difficult for us to actually live in Christ.  I live in my home and constantly am in a battle to keep it clean, to keep it from deteriorating around me.  Things have to be replaced because they fall apart, chaos will reign unless I keep working to maintain any sense of order (just so you know – chaos generally does reign in my home).  Since I live in my home, I have to take care of it. 

I believe that this is the way that we feel about a relationship with Christ.  If I live in Christ – I have to constantly take care of this relationship, ensuring that deterioration doesn’t occur, that the Law of Entropy doesn’t take over.  But, Christ isn’t like my home.  He is a Creator … He is THE Creator.  The Law of Entropy will never exist when He is near … chaos can’t reign, deterioration will not occur.  He takes care of all of that. 

I suspect He has to work extra hard in my life because I intentionally try to take care of all of that.  It’s my job, it’s what I do.  I manage things around me.  I must make Him crazy as He tries to remind me that He’s got it. I can relax and rest in the knowledge that He loves me – the only thing I really have to do is remember that and live like I live in Christ and He lives in me.

…and be thankful – very thankful.

June 2 - Colossians 2:4-5

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June 2 - Colossians 2:4-5

“I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.”

For some of my friends, this verse is joyous – for others it could be a nightmare.  Paul liked order.  He said in 1 Corinthians 14:40, “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” 

It is actually quite interesting to consider the passage from 1 Corinthians in which he writes of ‘Orderly Worship’ (the subhead in the NIV translation).  If we read that entire passage, we discover that his sense of order is such that it brings peace (For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. 1 Cor. 14:33).

However, he never stops the flow of worship, no matter how many of us might interpret order and disorder – there was prophecy, speaking in tongues, revelation, interpretation … everything was done to strengthen the church.  In Corinth, the problem seemed to be that people would talk over the top of each other, not giving respect or time to others who might also be hearing from God. 

The church in Colosse was strong in its faith.  There were obviously teachers trying to bring false teaching into their midst and that concerned Paul.  He couldn’t be with them to give them good counsel as they heard these ‘fine-sounding arguments,’ but he could pray for them and he seemed to be confident that they were strong enough to handle the situation.  They lived lives that were obviously attuned to Christ and their faith was firm.

June 1 - Colossians 2:2-3

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June 1 - Colossians 2:2-3

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Paul’s desire to encourage the community of Christ and draw them together in unity flows through his letters.  He expended an incredible amount of energy for the sake of the church and the people that he took under his wing. Even the churches that had not been started by him, people he had yet to meet were constantly on his mind. 

The mystery of God is found in Christ.  In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Isn’t that incredible? 

Romans 11:33 says, “Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”
These are treasures that we read about in the Old Testament:

“By wisdom a house is built and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (Proverbs 24:3-4)

“Gold there is, and rubies in abundance but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.”
(Proverbs 20:15)

“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver.” (Proverbs 16:16)

When God told Solomon to ask for whatever he desired, he said, “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people …” (1 Chronicles 1:10)

Isaiah spoke of the shoot that comes up from the stump of Jesse, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:2)

In James 1:5, we read, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

In reading these passages, I see the amazing interconnectedness of the things of God.  I see Jesus flowing through the Old Testament in the Wisdom of Solomon and in the words of Isaiah. We are connected to all of this because of the power of Jesus in our lives.