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Monday, April 30, 2012

Finishing

There is a group of men with whom I have been engaged for the past 10 years or so.  We work at finding our particular purpose.  That is what has God uniquely designed us to do?  There are a series of exercises we do in order to discover that which include some reflection on significant events in our lives.  It is an impactful and helpful pursuit.  That pursuit is in some part responsible for this blog.  One of the things we talk about frequently is finishing well the race God has put before us.  Unfortunately, not many men do.
What do we do to finish well?
This has been a long and disjointed day.  Things have not gone as I had planned.  I have written 167 posts here in 166 days (there were 2 on day 1).  So I reasoned earlier this afternoon that it would be ok to miss a day.  Then it dawned on me.  This assignment is from the Lord.  I am doing this because He directed it.  So it is for Him not me.  Him not you.  Then it occurred to me that the key to finishing well is to finish each day well.  Each day I have to do the things that renew my relationship with Him.  Faithfully, through His grace.  To finish well, I have to finish each day well.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Does It Matter

There is a first time for everything.  This is the first time I am going to strongly recommend that you read something other than the Bible.  I just read a great article on Fox News, “Does the Bible still Matter in 2012?”  I would highly recommend reading it.  I would also recommend perusing some of the comments.  Do not spend a lot of time on that it will probably discourage, frustrate, or anger you.  Essentially the comments validate the report.
Annual survey indicates American thoughts about the Bible.
One of the points made is toward the end of the piece:
When survey participants were asked what frustrated them most about reading the Bible, the most oft-cited response was that they “never had enough time to read it.” The busy-ness of our lives often make it difficult for us to follow through on what we say we value.
As I have said elsewhere in this blog that is dead on.  John Eldredge and others have identified busy-ness as the spirit of the age.  We do not make time for what we say is important.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Renewal

A day or so ago I wrote about being dry in my relationship with the Lord.  I am not sure how you deal with that, but this morning I was thinking through that and some things became clearer for me.  I do not know about you but sometimes the Christian life becomes somewhat of a chore.  The prayer list gets longer.  Answers do not seem to be coming.  I feel somewhat useless since those prayers are not getting answered.
We are renewed and refreshed when we cast all of our burdens on Him.
Sometimes I take on that  burden.  It is like if I do not pray enough then the things on the list will not happen.  It becomes overwhelming.

This morning I was feeling that way.  I stopped and just gave it up.  I spent time just giving all of it to the Lord.  I got in a position of surrender of all of the things that were on my plate or that I had added to my plate.  1 Peter 5:7 tells me that was what I was supposed to do.  Cast that all on Him.  Not take those burdens, but rather receive His grace.  That is refreshment.  That is renewal.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Impact or Faithfulness

If you are like me you are interested in having an impact on the world for the kingdom of God at least at the level of knowing that your kids are walking with Christ.  So you engage in what you do to make that happen as do I.  So what if you do not see any progress?  What if what you are doing does not seem to be working?  Your kids are not responding the way you hoped, or the things you are doing to reach other people, your teaching of Sunday school, or that Bible study you lead, or that neighbor you want to share with, do not seem to be responding.  What now?
What do we do when things we are doing for the Lord do not seem to be making a dent?
Certainly, we need to pray when things do not seem to be working.  Perhaps there is a change that we can make to what we are doing to be more effective.  However, is it the final evaluation of our worth if what we are doing does not have the impact for which we hoped?  I wonder if that is not the world’s standard.  I wonder if that is not a subtle embrace of a performance measurement.

Think about Ezekiel’s assignment, Ezekiel 4:1 – 8, lie down on your left side for 390 days and then turn over and lie on your right side for 40 more.  I am betting that Ezekiel was feeling really impactful about then.  But the deal was that God was interested in Ezekiel’s faithfulness then.

Sure I should seek to be more effective.  But we are to be faithful to what we know God wants us to do regardless of whether we see the impact or not.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dry Again

Do you ever have days that are when it comes to your relationship with God is just dry (I wrote about this earlier in a post - Dry)? Today is like that for me. I have spent time in the Word and prayer this morning. The time in the Word was ok, but the prayer seemed not to make it to the ceiling.
Christ is still there when the times are dry.
It is hard for me to imagine that I am that insensitive but it seems that I am. I open the Word and come into the presence of the overwhelming presence of the majestic God, the creator of the universe, and by the way me. He who has the answers. He who sent His son to die so that we can have this time together. Rather than being a rich time of refreshing, it is a chore. What is that about?

At some level I feel like Peter did after the crucifixion when he told his buds (John 21:2 - 3), "I am going fishing." You know this is not working, I am going to go do something else. The really good thing, the amazing thing, Christ came after them.

That gives me hope. When my time with Him is dry, when I want to do something else, He still is engaged.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Depth

This morning The Wednesday morning group started a Study of Colossians.  If you have been following the Blog you know that our Sunday school class is also studying that book.  One of the men in the study pulled me aside at the end and showed me some notes from 2006.  It was notes from the last time the group went through the book.  He and I had gone through the book together one on one before that.
No matter how many times you come to the Word you cannot plumb its depths.
He told me that he could not believe how much more he was seeing in the book this time through.  I asked him why he thought that might be.  He thought that it was because we have been through several other books since 2006 and that he had six years of applying the Word to his life.  He said he was seeing connections to the other books we have studied.

This is one element of the majesty of God’s Word that continues to overwhelm me.  No matter how many times I return to a passage, I see things that I have not seen before; new ways to apply the text to my life and situations in my life.  Its depth is astounding.  Dive in.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Greater Works

This morning we got into a discussion on John 14:12 – 14.  This is one of the passages that really bothers me.  One of the guys in the group mentioned the verse and commented that he was not sure what it meant that those who believe would do greater works than Christ.  There were a couple of comments and the group moved on.
Christ said if we believed we would do greater works, then He told us to take the world, if we are not, what does that say about our faith?
I was stuck.  I asked the group if they thought that Christ was kidding.  Was this hyperbole?  That started a somewhat lengthy conversation.  The guys talked about doing acts of kindness as miracles and great works to those in need.  I could not agree more with that.  A group of about 240 people from our church recently went to a depressed part of the city and did about 700 man hours work on an elementary school, a park, and a church in the area.  It made a big impact on the community.  However, I am not sure that is what Christ had in mind.  He said that those who believe in Him would do the works that He did.  Seems pretty clear.

I find myself in negotiation with the text to make it attainable.  I like the idea of giving someone a cup of water or a warm blanket a whole lot more than upsetting the world Acts 17:6.  That seems a whole lot easier than making disciples of all nations, Matthew 28:18 – 20.  So I have to ask myself if I am not doing these things, these greater works, what does that mean, it seems to indicate that I am not one who believes.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Model, Engage, Flex

A couple of weeks ago during the next to last session of the 10 week Dads Teach the Bible workshop. My sons came and were interviewed by the men. My daughter came the next week. At the end of the interviews one of the men said something similar to, "So what you are saying is that your parents modeled this, they continually were engaged in trying to teach you, but they were flexible in how they approached this." The kids paused for a moment and answered in the affirmative.
To teach our kids we have to model, continually engage, and stay flexible.
I could not have summarized what I hoped would come out of the 10 weeks more effectively.

As I have said over and over in this blog one cannot reproduce something in their kids that is not in their own life. If we are going to teach them the Bible, it has to be important to us. Secondly, our kids needs and interests change over time, so if we are going to succeed in getting them interested in the Bible it will have to be consistent effort over the entire time we are in contact with them. Further, since their interests and capacities change we will have to alter our approach for each child. As you know they are all different.

This is not an easy assignment. To tailor instruction for individuals requires a strong grasp on the content. It requires much from the one engaging in the task. But the other reality is that what you learn in pursuing your kids also equips you to pour your life into other people.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gifting

Something happened in the last few days that revealed some real sickness in my heart.  In doing so it allowed me to engage with whom I am and what my purpose is with much more clarity.  I encountered a result of something I had done years ago from one of my core gifts and drivers.  To say that the result was positive would be a vast understatement.  At one level as I observed the result, I was grateful for what God had done.  At another level I was struggling with the fact that no one remembered my role in the result.  Therein lay the sickness.
The purpose of God's gifts to us is not to make us feel better or increase our impact, it is to build His Church.
Driving home from the event I shared with my wife my concern with what I had learned about myself.  I needed some time to process what I was seeing and deal with the disease that had been uncovered.  Problem was, as most of us, my schedule was completely, and I mean every minute accounted for, full from that point until I walked out of church this morning.  So I have had very little time to think through what happened.  But, it has been on my mind the whole time.

My gifts and drivers were not given me by the Lord for my benefit.  I know that.  I can give you the chapter and verse to validate that – Romans 12:4 – 5; 1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:7, 11 – 12.  I have found though, that it is really easy to get proud of what I accomplish through what He has done through the gifts and drivers with which He has equipped me.  It is not about me.  It is about Him.  His reign.  His Kingdom.  His people.  My gifts, abilities, and drivers, are His tools, for His glory not mine.  When I chafe at not getting recognition, I have lost sight of that.  Actually, I have moved away from serving Him, to serving myself.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Not the Study

There is a lot in this blog about Bible Study.  I have written multiple times about the importance of getting into the Word for yourself if you hope to impact your kids for Christ.  But through all of that you may have gotten the impression – it would be easy to do so – that the end is Bible study.  It is not.
It is not about Bible study, it is about meeting with Christ.
In John 5:39 – 40, Christ is talking to some men who have studied, extensively, the Bible that they had.  He tells them they missed it.  Apparently one can know the Scripture and not know God.  So what are we getting at here?  Why this emphasis on study, if study is no guarantee of knowing God.  It is the focus, the habit, the lifestyle of interacting with God in His Word that we are after.

2 Peter 1:3 – 4 tells us that God has based His promise, His Word, on His divine nature.  In interacting with His Word we are interacting with what He has chosen to reveal about Himself.  Finishing a study so that we can put a notch in our Bible – got that one done! – is not the aim.  Rather it is a continual immersion in the intricate, infinitely personal self revelation with which He has gifted us with His Word.  In the weaving of this exquisite cloth of truth, He reveals some of Himself in every nuance of its warp and woof.  The study is not the end.  It is the intentional, continual pursuit of His glory by means of that tool.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Christ Alone

Working through Colossians again this morning – does this ever happen to you?  I was reading through Colossians 2:1 – 15, working through the details in the text and a song started playing in my head, “In Christ Alone.”  It seems to capture Paul’s intent here.
We are covered over each day with information.  Suggestions on how we are to live our lives.  Paul describes that as philosophy, empty deceit, and the traditions of man.  He sets that in stark contrast to the fullness of the riches of understanding and true knowledge of the mysteries of God.  He states that the treasure of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ.  It reminds me that I need to dig deep into that relationship.  My focus needs to be, “In Christ Alone.”

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Integrity

Have you ever wanted the Bible to say something it did not?  Or want to deny that it says what it does say?  It happened to me this morning.  I was working through Colossians 2:2 and I miss-translated something in the verse.  As I was thinking through the implications of the verse the way I had translated it, I got really excited about what I was “seeing” in the text.
We have to follow what the Bible says not what we want it to say.
I began to write about – here in fact – what I had seen.  Got about half way through writing the thought down and checked the English translation that you see when you hover your mouse over the verse.  I was stunned.  I immediately realized I had the person of one of the verbs wrong and that changed the entire meaning of the verse.  The only problem was I really liked the point.  So I spent the next few minutes trying to convince myself that the verse could mean what I wanted it to mean.  I realized relatively quickly what I was doing and abandoned my effort to bend the Bible to my will.

My responsibility, our responsibility, as believers is to study the Word and allow it to form our beliefs and positions on a matter.  It is not acceptable for me to attempt to bend the Bible to my agenda or my understanding.  I have done that.  I have seen others do that.  In some cases it was an honest error.  In others, it seems to be a deliberate attempt to make one’s point at the expense of the text.  Errors happen, we are human.  That is why it is so important to check speakers, even those for whom you have great respect, always.

The desire to make the Bible say what we want it to say will happen regularly as well.  Fight that urge.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fights

This morning the Wednesday group was finishing up our study of Romans.  We were working through the summary of our study of the book.  During the conversation one of the men suggested that the differences between Christians on doctrine have been a source of learning for the Church over time.  His point was that the disagreements have forced people into the text to work either validate their positions or find that their opponent’s argument is valid.
Disagreements between believers on doctrine has to be handled Biblically.
That was a good observation.  The source of the comment was a discussion on Romans 16:17; 14:1 – 6.  While we are to shun doctrinal error we are to do that in a way that honors the individual whom we perceive to be in error following the advice of Paul in 2 Timothy 2:24 – 25.  But the thoughts of Galatians 6:1 are also important here.  We need to check our heart and our positions against the Word to make sure we are not in error.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Men

Probably going to get in trouble for this.  This morning was the last session of “Dads Teach the Bible” at Liberty Church in Broken Arrow.  Just finished eating lunch with the associate pastor talking about the possibility of doing another 10 or so week session for the church in the fall.  We were kicking around how to make this work for couples.  Most of what I do in the workshops is aimed at men.  So we were thinking through how to make it work for men and women.
Men are supposed to lead, in their families, in their churches, in the battles that we face as a community of believers.
My focus for the past four years has been to get men engaged and or engaged more effectively in leading their families.  Why?  Because men in a lot of cases have abdicated their responsibility to lead both in their families and in the Church.

This blog started with some posts that covered Deuteronomy 6:6 – 7; 20.  In that passage it is the fathers who are tasked with leading the children in their relationship with God.  The fathers, not the mothers.  In the garden, it was man who was given the assignments who was to lead.  Granted, he blew it.  In the New Testament men are called on to lead their families and their children as Christ led, to the sacrificial death.  Much harder assignment than submission, it requires submission to choose to die.

Murrow in his book Why Men Hate Going to Church echoes the book that set him on the path to write, Podles, The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity He decries the way that churches have become toxic to men.  You may not agree.  You probably should process the information in both books before you voice that disagreement.  The entire culture disagrees with these men.  That may mean that they got something right.

Men should lead.  They were created to lead.  Adam blew the assignment in the garden, and men since then have been emulating him.  Needs to stop.  Christ restored us, male and female.  We need to move counter culturally, in a politically incorrect way to affirm the Biblical roles God gave both men and women.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Greek

Yesterday we talked about the reality that you do not need to know Greek and Hebrew to make good observations in the text.  I stand by that.  However, if like me you are drawn to dig deeper, your observations can be enriched by looking past the translations to the original languages.  The good news, if you choose to do this, is that the internet has made what used to take me 5 or 6 reference books to do, a matter of a few clicks.  Additionally, if you are so inclined and have the resources there are programs that you can purchase that will give you most of the information in one click.
Identifying the verbs in a passage is a good place to start if you want to look at the Greek.
Probably the easiest and most helpful place to start if you are interested in diving in, would be to identify the verbs in the passage you are studying.  In both Greek and Hebrew the verbs carry a lot of the burden of what the author is saying.  The easiest way to identify the verbs it to use a resource like an online interlinear Bible.  Note in the example in verse 3, underneath the first word is the legend V-PIA-1P, if you hover your mouse over that you will see that it means Verb – Present Indicative Active – 1st Person Plural.  Ok, now what.  Google “Greek Present Indicative Active.”  You will find a lot of entries.  Look at a couple and see what you find.  There are some that will give quick overviews.

This is a place to start unraveling the originals.  What I just described I did prior to studying Greek formally, but where this will take two or three websites, it would have taken me about 30 minutes to an hour and 3 rather large books.

If you would like more information about how to do this let me know.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Greek and Hebrew

Over the years people have asked me if you need to know Greek and Hebrew to get the most out of the Bible.  No.  It can help in some cases but more on that later…  Robert Traina, author of the seminal work, Methodical Bible Study – by the way if you have a book on Bible study and Traina’s book is not in the index or bibliography or referenced in some other way in the work, find another book.  Back to Traina, in about 1983 or so, a group of us spent a week at Asbury Seminary where Traina took us through the key parts of his method.  We were to read MBS before we got there.  It was a life changing event for me.
Knowing Greek and Hebrew is not essential to get great observations in Bible study.
During the week Traina focused on helping us to make better observations on the text in Bible.  There was none in the room with access to the original languages.  I remember that someone asked Dr. Traina if we needed Greek or Hebrew to make good observations.  He answered in the negative further stating that the English translations are good enough that whatever observations we can make with them would serve us well in study.  He further suggested the need to compare translations.  Significant differences in the handling of a text, he suggested, would highlight places in the Bible where the originals were hard to translate and signal to those of us who did not have access to the original languages a place to examine more thoroughly.

Since that week I have studied both Greek and Hebrew.  I have found that what Dr. Traina told us that weekend to be good advice.  Comparison of the translations is a great way to determine where to dig deeper.  There are some things knowing the language will help.  The great thing is that the tools for those of us who have not had the opportunity to study the languages have vastly improved.  In the next day or so I will share some ways to access these to assist your study.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Key

This evening I have been working on finishing up preparation for the Sunday school class I attend.  I have mentioned a few times in the last couple of weeks that we are working through Colossians together.  The assignment that was given two weeks ago (we skipped last Sunday for Easter) was:
Working to pick a key verse in a passage can help you really get a handle on the text.

  1. Read Colossians daily.
  2. Focus on Chapter 1.  Write down observations and questions.
  3. Optional
    1. Outline down to paragraphs
    2. Title the chapter
    3. Pick a key verse
    4. Think through the chapter
    5. Personal Application

For a minute think about the process here and specifically the third optional step, pick a key verse.  Why is that suggested?  It is because it forces one to think through the content and the context of what the author is sharing in his work.  It engages one more intensely as they have to think through what idea in the passage is the key to what is being presented.

It is not a simple or easy exercise.  But if we take on the challenge it will truly significantly impact our understanding of the passage we are studying.  Try it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Workman

Yesterday an email appeared from a friend who will remain nameless so he will still be a friend.  In it he shared an amazing day of interaction with several groups of people in which he has been investing his life for the past several years.  It was an encouraging and grace filled account of how God is working through the faithfulness of this man in his persistent pursuit of sharing the truth of the gospel in the midst of a culture that is at best hostile toward Christianity.  He closed his short epistle with the words, “One of the few days I earned my salary.”  I nearly went through the screen of my monitor and fairly melted my keyboard in response.  He was flat wrong.
Digging into the Word of God for yourself is an essential part of ministry.
His error is common though.  We tend to value time with people and see that as effective ministry more than we do time alone with God in digging deep into His Word.  Incredible.  2 Timothy 2:15; 3:14 – 17 tells us that the foundation of any ministry is the Word of God.  If we are not in it, in it regularly, and digging ever deeper in the truth there, what in the fat are we going to be talking to people about?  Something we got in our study last year?

Apart from the Word of God and our continual, daily engagement with it, there is nothing for us to say.  Last Tuesday the men in the workshop interviewed three of our kids.  They came away with three things, summarized by one of the men in the group.

  • We modeled being in the Word
  • We consistently engaged in getting our kids in the Word
  • We were flexible and tried many ways to do that.

My friend and I have been consultants to a branch of a well known ministry that has forgotten the importance of continued digging in the Word of God.  There is no ministry apart from the Word, my friend knows this, I know this, if ministries do not emphasize it they will become irrelevant.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pulls

So do you ever have more month than money?  If you do you know that it causes no little stress and if you are like me you are looking for ways to correct the imbalance.  So with that in mind I listened to a webinar this morning on investment strategies that promised to reveal the secrets of the “mega-rich.”  It was an hour of financial information, charts, graphs, history lessons.  All very convincing and in my understanding an accurate portrayal of the state of the economy and what is probably going to happen, bottom line – not good.
Then came the pitch.  For the low price of around $600 you could get access to all of the data and strategies to turn your financial fortunes around and enter into the right side of the major wealth transfer that is about to take place.  Only have three days to make a decision.

In Mark 4:19 – 20, Jesus is explaining the parable of the soils.  He says here that worries, deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things choke the Word of God and make it unfruitful for us.  We have to live in this world; but it is not our home.  We have to live on the economy; but it is not to be our focus.

My focus is to pour out my life for the sake of the Gospel and the chosen.  So at the end of the presentation, I went out and mowed the yard and came back in and prepped for some Bible studies.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Source of Light

You may remember that a friend of mine is coordinating a Bible study on the Kingdom of God with myself and two others.  We have been working on this together for the past 10 or so months.  For the past couple of months we have been working on summarizing each of our studies.  Each of us has approached the topic from different perspectives, personal challenges, life experiences, beginning question sets, and gifts.  One of the continuing conversations when we get together is how the Kingdom is manifested in human experience.  I am sure I do not have this figured out.  Not sure that I ever will.
The sovereignty of God is what makes His light in darkness sure.
One of the side effects of the study is that one begins to see kingdom references and implications in many passages of the Bible that are not explicitly dealing with the Kingdom.  It is kind of like when you buy a car you begin to see that model more when you are driving.

It happened again this morning.  In Psalm 97:9 and Psalm 99:1 we read that the Lord reigns.  Whether one acknowledges it or not, it is true.  Further whether one acknowledges it or not, one eventually will, Philippians 2:10 – 11 assures us that all will acknowledge the rule of God.

Then I came to Micah 7:8, specifically the last clause in the verse, “Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me.”  It dawned on me (pun not intended) that the source of this light in darkness is a settled confidence in the sovereign reign of God.  If He does not reign the light in the darkness is an illusion, a false hope.  If he does it is the highest form of security.

Our God reigns, His light is true.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Famine

This morning four of us met on Skype on the Kingdom of God study we have been doing for the past several months.  During the conversation one of the men shared Amos 8:11.  Famine is a harsh word.  It conjures up extremely harsh and difficult images (do a quick Google image search).  Famine is how God describes through Amos what was going to happen to the Northern Kingdom.
Amos 8:11 (NASB95)
11“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.
I have been re-reading Galatians: The Charter for Christian Liberty, by Tenney in the preface he states:
In the sixteenth century, during the Reformation, interest in Bible study revived; and. Through the commentary of Luther, Galatians came into prominence once again in the literature of the church.
Later in chapter one Tenney states:
It is not an essay, written merely to entertain or to instruct complacent believers.  It was written to stimulate theological thought and to rouse an endangered church to action.
In these statements Tenney seems to capture two elements from which famine for the Word of God springs.  On the one hand we have the dark ages.  Ignorance, illiteracy reigned, the clergy refused to engage the members of the parish in Bible study, they knew that they were incapable of understanding without professional help.

On the other had we have apathy, complacency, people who cannot be troubled with the work of study.  Those who would rather be entertained and stimulated rather than plough through the hard soil of personal study themselves.  Those who would rather read, listen to, or watch the work of others rather than meet personally with God through His Word.

It is good, is it not, that we do not have either of those attitudes present in our churches today.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Doldrums

Every day for the past several weeks an email appears from Wordsmith, today’s word was doldrums, the number one definition given was, “A state or period of stagnation or slump.”  It was appropriate, kind of described my day.
How do we move out of the doldrums?
That is life is it not?  There are periods of great production and then there are times when it is hard to get anything done, or it feels like you are not progressing.  There are times when it seems that whatever the undertaking, it is resisted.  One feels hemmed in, caged, thwarted at every turn.  Motivation drains away, fatigue sets in.

How do we fight this?  Romans 5:3 – 5; Philippians 3:13 – 16; 1 Corinthians 9:24 – 27; Hebrews 12:1 – 2; Hebrews 3:13; and Galatians 6:9 give us some help here.  We have to persevere.  We have to continue in the disciplines of meeting with Christ, even when there does not seem to be much there.  We need to seek and give encouragement to each other.  We all go through this.  We need each other to make it through the doldrums.  Not looking for or giving help through these times can have dire consequences.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

In Him Overwhelmed

Just realized that this is appropriate for the day before Easter.  Reading through Colossians 1:14 – 20 just now.  It is though Paul was overwhelmed by his personal riches in Christ.  It seems as though when he penned the words “His beloved son,” Paul broke into spontaneous praise.  His gratitude overflowed in noting that in Christ we have:
What we have in Christ is overwhelming.

  • Redemption
  • Forgiveness of sins
  • The image of the invisible God
  • The first born of creation
  • The creator of all things
  • The sustainer of all things
  • The reason for all things

This is the one that emptied Himself voluntarily (Philippians 2) choosing to die a criminal’s death on a cross in order to reconcile us to His Father through His blood.

Overwhelming.


Friday, April 6, 2012

In All

Look at Colossians 1:9 – 13.  One of the things that you look for in observing a text is repeated words, phrases, or concepts.  What do you see repeated in this passage?
Our relationship with Christ is to affect all aspects of our lives, everything.

I saw something that I had not seen before the repetition of the phrase “in all.”

  • In all spiritual wisdom and understanding
  • In all things pleasing
  • In all good works
  • In all power 
  • In all patience and forbearance

It is instructive that this was the content of Paul’s prayer for the Colossian believers and it squares completely with another theme that is emerging from another term that is repeated in the book, “fullness.”  It makes sense that Paul would pray for the out working of the believer’s relationship with Christ in all things when he is investing so much of the book describing and exhorting them to the full experience of their position in Christ.

Chase those words through the book, it is a challenging study.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hope

In Colossians 1:4 – 5 we read that the Colossian believer’s hope that is laid up in heaven is the foundation for their faith in Christ and their love for the saints.  Think about that for a minute.
Our love and faith is based on the hope we have stored up for us in heaven.
Faith, according to Hebrews 11:1 is the assurance of thing hoped for.  It requires hope to have faith.

Love, as we see it in the Bible – and this is agape here not one of the others – requires a selfless emptying of ourselves, as modeled by Christ (Philippians 2:5 – 8).  There has to be a reason for us to think beyond ourselves, to think and act beyond the satisfaction of our temporal physical needs and pleasure.  Christ again is our model here, in Hebrews 12:2 we find He endured because of the joy set before Him.  Not something that was here, now, but in the future.

We are essentially a self centered folk.  We operate to get the best advantage for us.  Christ calls us to something different.  Based on what He has accomplished through His life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, we are to look past this life, where we are now, and like Him, pour our lives out for and into others, so that as we have been drawn to Him through the faithful pursuit of those who poured out their lives for and into us, so others may be drawn to Him as well.

That is the hope and promise of this week.  He is betrayed tonight, crucified tomorrow, but risen Sunday.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Intimacy

How do you feel when you hold your wife?  For me that feeling is one of rest, completeness, peace, contentment.  This morning I was thinking through the notion of intimacy with Christ.  Mark 12:18 – 25 came to mind; the passage where Christ tells us there will be no marriage in heaven.  That got me to thinking.
If the intimacy of marriage is a pale reflection of what our relationship with Christ is to be, I want that.
We were created male and female, Genesis 1:27.  That was in God’s image.  So there is some portion of that image resident in the male and the female.  You may have noticed some differences.  In Genesis 2:18 God said that it was not good for the man to be alone; so he created woman for him, to complete him.  In 24 – 25 He says, in the verse that is quoted during most wedding ceremonies, that they are to become one flesh.  So the expectation is for a close intimate relationship between a man and a woman in marriage.  That was messed up in the next chapter but it is still the original intent.  Further in Ephesians 5:32 we are told that marriage is an audio visual representation of Christ’s relationship to the Church.

But marriage is not carried forward into heaven.  Why?  We long for physical intimacy.  Babies require it, or they do not thrive.  As I thought through this I begin to wonder if those strong desires are mere echoes of the intimacy that we are to experience with Christ?  In Psalm 73:25 Asaph says that his only desire is God.  It seems like what the message may be is that intimacy with Christ is more fulfilling than the completeness we feel as couples.  That the marriage union is a pale reflection of what our relationship with Christ can be.  If this is so I begin to understand Psalm 42:1.  I want that.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Just Askin'

We were sharing this morning what we did with that assignment.  One of the men told the group that he reversed the assignment.  He asked them why they thought the Bible was important.  Brilliant.  The kids engaged.  This is a great example of an application of one of the earlier posts in this Blog.
Use Questions to draw your kids into conversation about the Bible?
Using questions to draw your kids, the people in your Sunday school class, your small group, or your business, is powerful.  It draws people out.  It gives them an opportunity to voice what they think.  The hard part it to listen intently and to continue to draw them into dialog with more questions.

The guy this morning did that.  Brilliant.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Into the Weeds

One of my objectives today was to read through Colossians, the plan is to do that every day during the duration of the study we are doing for the next five weeks.  But, I did not make it, yet.
Getting into the weeds in Bible study too soon may cause you to miss the overall message of a book.
Got distracted.  Started looking more closely at what verbs Paul used in the first chapter and how he used them.  How they related to one another, what was their person, number, tense, mood, and voice and in the case of the participles, case.  I know.  I got bogged down in the weeds when I was supposed to be skimming through the trees.

One of the things I constantly harp on with folks is the need to get an overall handle on the book prior to diving down into the weeds of analysis.  It is important to get there eventually, but one has to understand the lay of the land before one makes the plunge (I sense that there is a really good analogy in there somewhere).  It just goes to show you that even when we know better, sometimes we get sidetracked.

It probably says a lot about me that I really enjoyed the weeds today.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

It Follows

As mentioned in the last couple of posts, I have been working through Colossians.  It has been exhilarating.  I continue to see connections and structure which in all of the previous studies I have overlooked.  That logical structure is really important in the section on relationships in the family and in employment, Colossians 3:18 – 4:1.  You know the passage.  It is somewhat controversial, especially in the current cultural climate.  The issue as you know is the command to submit as it is applied to women, children, and slaves in the passage.  The reaction is so strong to that word that traditional wedding vows have been scrapped.  I have had people in Bible studies say, out loud, that Paul hates women and that he should be ignored.  Not so much.
To understand the Bible we have to look at how what we are reading follows logically from what precedes it and flows logically into what follows it.
Most of the problems with this issue and most of the other controversies in the Christian community arise from not relating the text to the overall message of the book or the section of the book in which it is found.  That is critical to understanding the Bible.  There have been more errors per square inch committed in the Christian Body by taking a verse here and there to support a position.  Connecting a passage, studying it in relation to what comes before and after it, is critical to understanding what is being communicated by the author.  This is the case here in Colossians 3:18 – 4:1 and also in the parallel text in Ephesians 5:17 – 6:9.

We cannot separate Colossians 3:18 – 4:1 from 3:1 – 17.  Because 1 – 17 is the foundation - really all of Colossians up to 18 – for what Paul is saying in this passage.  Read through 1 – 17 and note what is required of each of us as a believer before Paul begins to talk about how we apply those requirements in our relationships.  It changes the entire playing field.  Especially focus on 12 – 17.  That is the context in which the Holy Spirit through Paul is commanding submission.  You do not have one without the other – they fit together grammatically, structurally, and logically.