Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Word at Work

I Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
What is the best thing you can say about a follower of Christ? "I see God at work in you." This is one of the most positive letters of Paul we have in the New Testament.  He had a lot good to say about them, but the one thing he pauses to commend here is this: they received God's Word, not as his words, but as the life-changing, alive and active, powerful Word of God, which is effective to do in us what needs to be done.  When others can see that, hear that, and sense that in our lives, what a testimony it is.  May people be able to read God's Word in us today.  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Without Words...

I Thessalonians 1:6b: And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
Paul loved investing his life in people, watching them grow in their faith and follow Christ.  He was thrilled to hear of their faith being talked about by others. His list of characteristics are a checklist for self-examination for us. Do we mimic what we see in other believers as they demonstrate Christlikeness? Do we respond well to the Word of God, even in hard times or when it is truth that is hard for us to hear?  Does the joy of His Holy Spirit shine through in our lives? Am I an example God would have others follow in living out their faith? Let us not answer with words, but with action.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Touching all the bases...

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Paul had pretty much covered the specific concerns he wanted to share with this church fellowship, so as he wraps up the letter, he touches all the bases heading home. First and foremost is prayer - praying together, and praying for others, specifically him as he shared the gospel. Second is attention to our lifestyle, making sure we are investing ourselves wisely.  How appropriate his focus on the use of our time - we have so many choices, so many distractions, so many time traps we can fall into, making foolish investments of our time and lives. Third base is speech - how we talk to one another as believers and to those who are outside the family of faith.  Our speech can make or break the impact we have on our church fellowship and our testimony to a watching world. As we run through life today, let's make sure we touch all the bases, before we head home and call it a day.  

Monday, August 28, 2017

Put On, Put Up, Put out

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Paul was consistent in describing the lifestyle of a follower of Christ, especially as it relates to how we interact with others within the Body of Christ, the household of faith.  We are to put on these basics of love, humility, patience, etc.  This is not putting on a show, but determining the foundation for how we are going to approach one another.  We are also to put up with a lot, realizing that just like us, other members of the household do not always speak or act perfectly, and we need to demonstrate the patience of forgiveness of God toward them.  Finally, we are to put out of our mouths those things that glorify God and pour into the spiritual growth of one another. We need to take responsibility for what comes out of our mouths (and the internal pool from which it flows), and not blame external forces (circumstances or the actions and words of others) for our less than holy responses.  It's a new day. Put on what will bless those around you. Put up with their Monday morning mumbling. Put out what will make their day.  

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Be who you are... in Christ.

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
This concise sentence is found the the middle of some deep theological stuff about who Christ is, and what it does and does not mean to be His follower. It's not just a bunch of rules and rituals; it's being and behaving like we are related to Him, and that this relationship makes a difference in every part of our lives. What we are thought, by the Word of God and Spirit of God, is instuctional as to how we are to do this, but it is also consistent with the Character of the God Who has spoken.  Two key ingredients are given here: faith and thanksgiving. We see them connected often in scripture, and rightfully so.  When we are truly trusting Him, joy and thanksgiving naturally (or maybe, better, supernaturally) flows through and from our lives. It's not all that complicated or confusing, but we do have trouble with trust, don't we?  Thanksgiving is a great thermometer of how much we really trust. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

It really is all about Him!

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Perspective.  If we don't get it right, we can really mess things up.  Like in the church.  Who is in charge, most important, and the only one we cannot survive without? Christ alone. Yes, all the parts of the body are needed. But when we get infected or "too big" in proportion to the rest of the body (in our minds) we can be a problem. Not so with Christ. Never.  He is always just the right size, in the right mind, doing what He is supposed to be doing. So let's look to Him, listen to Him, trust in Him, and keep ourselves in proper perspective.  

Friday, August 25, 2017

Just get along... for joy!

Plilippians 4:2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
At the beginning of his letter, Paul had already made the connection between his joy and the oneness of this church.  It tears a pastor/missionary/teacher apart to see supposed church families split, argue and devour one another.  Get along!  When we do, we will experience the joy of the Lord.  Prove how reasonable you can be.  The Lord is here listening and watching as you rip each other apart.  Pray together and you will experience His Peace.  How many of the spiritual blessings we have in Christ do we forefeit, when we do not devote ourselves to unity in the body of Christ.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Not there yet...

Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Paul was very realistic.  He knew that he was not perfect - not even close. But he also knew he was mature, growing up, on the path, in the race, heading in the right direction.  He had a mature mindset that many today lack - thinking that they know so much more and are so much better than "the worst of all sinners".  May we, like Paul, "hold true to what we have attained." May we be able to look back on what we have learned, and been able to apply to our spiritual lives, and be grateful, but not proud.  One thing we know from Paul's use of this last word "attained" is that he used it in the plural, like he does here. We do not do this on our own. Not only do we need Christ, and His Holy Spirit; we need one another. We are not to be going through life comparing ourselves to one another, but complimenting and encouraging one another so we all grow up together. None of us are there yet.  But are we heading there together? 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Make My Day...

Philippians 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 
Clint Eastwood and Paul of Tarsus don't have a lot of common, except that they say a lot of memorable things.  What would really make Paul's day, and the day of any spiritual shepherd, is for those under his care to stop being so selfish, start looking out for each other's needs, and have an attitude of servanthood. This is Christlikeness, Christianity, the Church.  A little humility goes a long way. So, may God change our mind today, to the mind of Christ, where we think not so much about ourselves, but all those God has placed around us. May we be Christ to them.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A sure thing...

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Paul was in prison, unsure how everything was going to work out in his case. He was writing not knowing for sure he would see them again, or what condition he might find their church in. But he was sure of this: God is able to change men. In particular, He is more than able to take people who receive His grace, unite them together in Christ, and build their love, for God and one another, into a powerful force for righteousness.  On this Paul never wavered. Neither should we. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Life can be a Bear!

Galatians 6 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
Struggles. We all have them. But what to do with them. Of course, God calls on us to bring them to Him, and entrust them to Him. But He also gives us help through brothers and sisters in Christ.  He calls on us to help bear one another's burdens, and not add to the burden. We add to each other's burdens when we add false guilt to their sense of guilt for sin and failures, or make it so they are not free to confess it and seek our support.  This adds burdens to them and to ourselves, because we have now made a false standard by which we will be judged - our own self-righteousness. Life has enough burdens already. Let's not add them to ourselves or one another. Let's share them and entrust them to Him. May we bear each other's burdens so life is not such a bear!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Watching our Walk...

Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
God has given followers of Christ all that we need to walk lives worthy of being members of His Household.  He has given us His Holy Spirit, to remind, guide, convict and convince us of what is right and wrong.  He has given us His Word to give the basics, and the list above becomes self evident, as we get to know Him and His character more.  There really is a day and night difference. Let us not walk in darkness (or even an eclipse!)  

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Elementary Principles...

Galatians 4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
A slave or a son?  In our day we can tell the difference. But in the days of the Roman Empire, children had very little freedom; they were told what to do, not only by their fathers, but others set over them.  But as they matured, the distinctions became increasingly clear, and ultimately, the son became the heir, with all the rights and privileges thereof.  In a spiritual sense, life apart from Christ is slavery - be it to manmade rules, or those of this fallen sinful world. At times, we wonder if we are any different than non-believers. But when we mature, grow up in our faith, and learn to obey God lovingly and freely in Christ, we appreciate the difference; we get out of "elementary school".  Some day we look forward to "graduation day", when we will receive the fullness of blessings we have as heirs together with Christ.