Saturday, March 31, 2012

Humble Worship



"Yours is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty.  Everything in the heavens and on the earth are yours, oh Lord and this is Your kingdom.  We adore you as the One who is over all things."  1 Chronicles 29:11 (NLT)

I love this verse because it really doesn't matter what is going on; God is still God.  God is Creator of all things and is over all things.  This verse is a part of David's prayer right after Israel had collected and donated their treasures to the building of the Temple.  David was overwhelmed that he could participate in donating to the Temple as an act of worship.  In this prayer, David also expresses that everything belongs to God and anything we give Him is His already.

David didn't get to achieve his dream of building the Temple; however, he did not let this embitter him.  Instead, he participated in a way that he could.  His humility allowed him to see that no matter what, God is still God and God knows best.  David recognized that his gift was truly a humble gift because it was all God's anyway, yet he also recognized that it was such an honor to give it to God.  Our humility is an act of worship and a wonderful gift we give to God.  This is because when we worship Him in humility, it is a worship that recognizes who God is.

Have you worshiped God today?

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Unity Through Christ

John 17:20-26

Last year, I was reading through the book of John, and when I came to the verses I am looking at today I was overwhelmed; overwhelmed by the fact that Jesus prayed for me just before He died.  I remember feeling amazed and lavishly loved by my Savior.  I've read these verses before, but for some reason the realization that Jesus prayed for all future believers touched me in that moment.  This week, I looked at how Jesus prayed for Himself and His disciples; let's look at how He prayed for us in John 17:20-26.

Do you notice any theme in this prayer?  Earlier this week as I was reading these verses I noticed how strongly Jesus prayed for unity among all believers.  "May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me." John 17:23 (NLT).  Jesus lays out the importance of unity - it is not important just for the believers.  Jesus wants us to be in unity because it shows the world that Jesus is who He says He is; it shows the world a love that cannot be found in the world.  This unity shows all of us that God loves us as much as He loves Christ.  Do you see how important that reality is?  Jesus prays about the fact that He and God are in perfect unity; they are one.  If God loves us as much as He loves Jesus, then He loves us as much as He loves Himself.  How amazing is that!?

Reading through this prayer, it helps me understand all the more why the commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself," is so important to God.  This commandment expresses who He is; it expresses His heart.  Basically, love expresses unity and unity expresses love.  We need to be discipling all believers on the importance of unity through Christ.  This is what Christ desires for all of us.  Remember, in Ephesians 2:10 we are told that when we believe and follow Christ, we are created anew to do the good things God planned for us long ago.  The book of Ephesians tells us that this new creation is an unprecedented unity as the body of Christ, which is the church.

"Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!" John 17:23 (NLT).  The last thing I want to say for today is that Christ wants us to be with Him.  Does that touch your heart?  Jesus wants us to be with Him, so much so that He even prayed it over us.  One day, we will see the glory of Christ because He prayed this over all believers.  What a wonderful day that will be!

Do you desire the unity Christ prayed over us?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

They Don't Belong To This World

John 17:6-19

We are told in the Bible that when we become a part of God's family through Jesus, we no longer are slaves to our sin.  We no longer need to be influenced by the world, we are influenced by Jesus.  As I learned in Colossians, following Christ really is a counter cultural life style.  Yesterday, I looked a little at Jesus' prayer He prayed for Himself where He revealed the way to eternal life; today, I want to look at a prayer that Jesus prayed over His disciples.  Please read John 17:6-19.

A few days ago, I read how the disciples declared their belief in who Jesus is; notice what Jesus says in the opening of His prayer for the disciples.  "...They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me."  As we continue to read through this prayer, we see that this belief set them apart from the world.  Jesus knew that He did not belong to the world, but in this prayer He declared that the disciples no longer belonged to the world either.  This prayer flows so beautifully from the conversation that Jesus had with His disciples in John 16.  In that conversation, Jesus revealed to them that there would be suffering in this world, but not to fear because He has overcome the world.  We see in this prayer, Jesus prays God's protection over the disciples.

"I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.  They do not belong to this world any more than I do."  When we believe and accept the truth of who Jesus is and that our salvation comes through Him, it changes who we are.  We are now part of the Kingdom of God, which means we do not belong to the world.  That is why we look forward to our new home with great hope and anticipation.  We know that there is more to life than what we can find in the world, and we no longer belong here.  However, we still live here.  Jesus didn't pray that God would take the disciples home; He prayed protection over them while they were here.

Be encouraged because even though we do not belong here, we have God's protection.  There are some things that we probably have no idea what God has protected us from.  This protection means that the world or the enemy cannot destroy us.  2 Corinthians 4:8-9, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."  This verse definitely tells us that we will face troubles of all kind; however, because of Jesus we are not destroyed, abandoned, or crushed.

Do you rest and trust in God's protection?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Peace In Christ

John 16:30-17:5

"Do you finally believe?"  That is the question Jesus asked His disciples after they declared that they knew that Christ was sent by God.  That has me thinking a lot this morning because this was a question Jesus posed to the very people who were with Him every hour of every day for three years.  They had the opportunity to hear His wonderful words for three years, and they declared they believed Him just before He was going to suffer for all of us.  The reason that this has me thinking is that I know in my life I have always believed who Christ is; however, my understanding of what that means has grown over the years.  Please read John 16:30-17:5 to see what Jesus says to His disciples and how He begins to pray to God.

Do you find it interesting that Jesus' response to the disciples is to let them know that they are going to scatter and abandon Him soon?  Can you imagine how the disciples had to be on an emotional roller coaster at this point because they had just declared their belief in Him, yet they were hearing that the time has come that they would scatter?  We have the hindsight to know that their faith was going to be tested like it never had been tested before and Jesus was trying to warn them.  But in that warning was encouragement, "But take heart because I have overcome the world."

We really can take heart.  Think about this: Jesus wasn't just telling them that they were going to face trials, He also just got done telling them that they were going to leave Him for a time.  But He said to take heart.  Christ hasn't only overcome the evil the world does to us; He has also overcome our sins and mistakes.  Take heart when you are disappointed in something you did or how you reacted; Christ has overcome!  His authority and power has overcome everything.  Does that give you hope?  Does it give you joy?  We can have peace within ourselves because Christ has overcome the world.

Look at His prayer; He prayed that God would use this time to glorify Him so He could bring glory to God.  He even prays about the authority God has given Him and how that brings Christ glory.  In this prayer Jesus declares that the way to eternal life is to know God, the only true God, and to know Christ, who God sent to earth.  Christ also prayed that God would bring Him back to the glory that He shared with God before the world ever began.  Christ knew the road He was facing was difficult, but He also knew that it would bring Him and God glory.  No matter what He was facing, He knew that God gave Him authority and He has overcome the world.  We can have peace knowing that we have eternal life because of faith in Christ.  The more we exercise that faith in knowing the truths Christ declared in His prayer, the more peace we have in this life.

Do you have peace knowing that Christ has overcome this world?

This post is linked with iFellowship Blog Hop, Winsome Wednesday, and Word Filled Wednesday.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grief Into Joy

John 16:16-31

I am currently reading the book, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, where he writes about praying powerful prayers.  He is not advocating a "name it and claim it" philosophy; he is saying that there are big dreams that God gives us that seems impossible to human eyes.  It is within these big dreams that we learn to have big faith and we pray big prayers for God to do the impossible.  It is when the impossible happens that God's glory shines through and our faith is grown even more.  Mark Batterson also explains that sometimes after praying through our situations we are to then praise God for what He is going to do.  Our praise to God for His future intervention is a faith statement knowing that God will do something big - maybe even bigger than our imaginations will even allow us to dream.  Jesus revealed some big and powerful promises to the disciples to give them hope through their difficulties and the ability to praise God for what He was about to do.  Please read John 16:16-31.

Jesus explained to His disciples that they were going to face a grief that was going to be great; however, their grief was going to be turned to great joy.  I don't know about you, but it is so hard when you are in a difficult period to imagine that it will turn into a time of joy.  This is especially difficult when it is a dream that died.  Keep in mind the perspective of what God can do.  Jesus was telling them that the grief they were about to face was going to be because of His death, but that their grief would suddenly turn into joy.  Joy even though Christ died?  Imagine how absurd and confusing that had to be to hear!  We have hindsight to understand why they would have joy, but they didn't.  They just had to go on Jesus' word that it would happen.

Jesus continued to explain that they were soon going to be able to right to God with their requests.  This isn't such a crazy idea to us because this is the reality we have always known when we began our relationship with Christ; however, Jesus was saying this to a group of Jewish believers who always had to depend on the priest to take their requests to the Holy Place.  The idea that they could go to God using the Name of Jesus was amazing.  What was the disciples response?  They declared that they knew that Jesus came from God.  Don't you find that an interesting response?  Think about the idea of praising for what God was going to do; perhaps that is exactly what was happening.  Even though everything Jesus was telling them was hard to understand, they understood that they were hearing from God.

Our situations that we face can seem impossible and are difficult; however, with the perspective of the power of the resurrection we can praise God for what He will do.  It may not be what we think will be the best outcome, but it will always be what is best.  God raised Christ from the dead, and He can work in your situation.  He can turn your sorrow into joy!  Take your concerns to God (because Christ promised we can) and begin praising Him now for what He will do in your life because it will be amazing!

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesdays and Soli Deo Gloria.


Monday, March 26, 2012

We Are Not Alone

John 16:1-15

If you had an opportunity to sit face to face with Jesus, what do you think your conversation would be?  For the next few weeks, I will be studying the last part of the book of John.  Jesus poured out His love and encouragement on His disciples during His last hours with them.  I look at these last few chapters as amazing and intimate moments that the disciples had with Christ.  But we will also see how Christ wasn't just thinking of His disciples; He was thinking of us as well.  We may not see Jesus face to face here on earth, but we can still come to Him and bring our joys and our concerns.  He has given us the Holy Spirit so our relationship can grow and we can speak to Him.  Please read John 16:1-15.

I opened this post with the question of what you think your conversation with Jesus would be.  I think if you asked one of His disciples, he would say, "I have no idea."  Jesus had a way of talking about things that the disciples couldn't even dream up; and Jesus said such radical things that I think the disciples learned not to anticipate any one thing for Jesus to say.  This is one of those conversations that was unexpected.  In this conversation, Jesus revealed that His time with the disciples was coming to an end and He was sharing things with them that they needed to know.  One of truths He wanted the disciples to know about was the Holy Spirit.  Even though they didn't understand everything Jesus was telling them at that moment, Christ shared that no matter what happened to them here on earth they were not alone.

Jesus let them know that because He was leaving, it would be good because then they would have the Holy Spirit with them who would reveal God's truth to them and empower them for whatever they faced.  Jesus let them know that whatever the Holy Spirit revealed to them was what Christ gave to the Holy Spirit.  Basically, the Holy Spirit will only tell us what truth is spoken by Christ.  Jesus wanted to make sure they understood that even though His physical presence was not going to be with them, He was still with them through the Holy Spirit.  This is true for all who believe and follow Christ.  Ephesians 1:13 says, "And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago."  This promise of the Holy Spirit was not just for His disciples; it was for all who believe.  We are not alone!

Do you rest in the promise that you are not alone?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Knowledge

2 Peter 1:3-4

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

As I read these two verses, I am just blessed by the truth that God has given us everything we need to live a godly life.  Everything we need is found through our knowledge of God.  This word translated as knowledge is interesting to me because it is the word epignōsis in Greek.  For the last seven weeks as I studied the book of Colossians, I have kept the idea that the church was struggling with Gnosticism trying the etch its way in.  Gnosis means knowledge, and the idea of Gnosticism was that there was a higher knowledge that each person was to attain in order to find salvation.  This word, epignōsis, means to have a correct or precise knowledge.  According to BlueLetterBible.com, this word was used in New Testament writings to refer to knowledge of ethical and divine things (see footnote 1).

It is not a higher knowledge that we are to be striving for, it is a correct knowledge of God that we need.  This knowledge of God is given to us by Him so that we can live a godly life.  We also see that it is through His glory and goodness that we have been given wonderful promises; promises that we get to share in the divine nature rather than in our sinful nature.  Promises that tell us that it is through Christ that we are forgiven of all sin and are clean.  We are no longer under the command of our desires - we are under Christ's authority; the authority that grants us freedom.

This is good knowledge; life changing knowledge.  Oh, how I pray that I continue to grow in the correct knowledge of my Creator!

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for epignōsis (Strong's 1922)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 24 Mar 2012. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1922&t=NLT >

Friday, March 23, 2012

Your Personal Culture

Colossians 3:1

"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand."  NLT

Not only do I look at this verse as the theme of the entire book of Colossians, but it should be the theme of our lives.  As I finish up my study in Colossians, I am amazed at how much this book tells us to take our focus off the things around us and to make our focus heavenward.  The culture should not be dictating how we live or how we think, Christ in us should be what we live for.  There is no other reality that matters!

Chapter 1 reminded us of who Jesus is and that all things were created through Him.  Chapter 2 reminded us of the authority Christ has over all things.  Chapter 3 reminds us that since Christ is our Creator and He has authority over all, He should be our focus.  He should be our everything.  He is our life (Colossians 3:4).  What we do, say, and think should be filtered through Christ always.  When He is our focus, we change our culture.

The culture of the community we live in can affect us in how we think, feel, and what we do.  The culture has its definition of norms and mores and we as individuals choose if we accept these values.  In sense, we create our own personal culture of what we decide is acceptable and unacceptable and it often matches the culture around us.  But God doesn't want us to define our personal culture according to the influences around us; He wants to define it for us.  We do not decide what is acceptable; God decides this for us.  This happens when we accept the authority that Christ has as our Creator, Savior, and God.

"And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father."  Colossians 3:17 NLT.

This doesn't mean that God needs us as His spokesperson; He represents Himself just fine.  But, this is a new mindset that we are to have as followers of Christ.  Whatever we say or do should be done with the idea of how an ambassador represents their country.  The ambassador is supposed to communicate and behave in a way that represents their country.  We are to do the same.  Whatever we do and say should be done and said through the filter of Christ.  Since we are His children and He has authority over us, we should be behaving in a way that represents that reality.  That is our new culture.  This is the life I want to live.  Thank you for joining me in this study of Colossians; I pray you were as blessed by digging into God's word as I was!

Who defines your culture?

I hope you join me for the next two weeks as I study parts of the book of John!

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Word of Mouth?

Colossians 2:8

"Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ."

To me, this almost seems like the theme verse for Colossians 2.  I say that because throughout chapter 2, Paul is reminding the church in Colosse of the authority of Christ.  We are reminded that Jesus has been given authority over all things - including human and spiritual beings.  Because Christ has all authority, He is the only One who we need to follow.  We do not need to worry about the rules and burdens that humans can throw on each other, we only need to live a life dedicated to Christ.

"High-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking..."  That is an interesting phrase that caught my attention.  It is worded a little different in the NIV, "...which depends on human tradition.  We humans do like our traditions, don't we?  Each church has its own traditions that isn't necessarily done because the Bible has said we have to do it that way, it is because it is what we are comfortable with them (for example, some churches display different colors to signify the different seasons of the church calendar).  Paul wasn't writing against these kind of traditions, he was writing about something much deeper that can cause a greater damage.  The word translated as tradition is the Greek word paradosis.  This word can mean instruction that is given over through word of mouth.  Apparently, there was a belief among Jewish leaders during the time of the New Testament that there were oral traditions spoken by Moses that had been passed down through the years and they were believed to be of equal importance to the written law.

These traditions were problematic because they were often the very things that would burden the people.  Please read what Jesus had to say about such traditions in Mark 7:1-13.  We need to be very careful about the cultural traditions that we cling to.  We need to be able to recognize what is of God (does it line up with the Bible?) and what is merely a man-made instruction.  If it conflicts with God's instruction that we find in the Bible or it becomes so important that we side-step what God has said we need to do, then we are making our cultural instruction more important than Christ.  He is the only one with the authority to tell us what we should be doing; man made rules do not have authority over us.  We really can follow Christ and be in freedom!

Are you following Christ or tradition?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Way We Live

Colossians 1:10

"Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better." NLT

When I began studying the book of Colossians, I had the focus of the fact the church in Colosse struggled with Gnosticism was trying to make its way into the church.  The culture in Colosse enjoyed different philosophies, and Gnosticism was a belief that was prevalent in the culture.  So much of what Paul wrote was refuting the confusion that Gnosticism could cause in the church.  Knowing this, I was challenged to consider what is happening in my culture that would affect the local church.  I also looked at how so many of the truths that are written about in the book of Colossians is counter cultural.

The first thing that I want to look back at is Colossians 1:10 and see how this is different from the way our culture tells us to live.  In verse 9, Paul writes how he has been praying for the Colossian church that they would continue to grow in wisdom and understanding of God's will.  Then in verse 10 we see that it is so we will know how to live in a way that honors and pleases God.  We learn from these verses that living in a way that pleases God should be our goal and then we will grow as get to know God better.  This is a different message from the world, isn't it?

The world often tells us that it is important to do what is right for ourselves.  Our focus is on what makes us happy and what works best for our individual goals and rights.  The problem with that thinking is that we are only living for ourselves and that is eventually going to clash with someone else's right to be happy and thriving.  This really fights against the human vision of utopia because it is impossible for each of to have what we believe is our right.  For example, a person may feel like they have the right to burn whatever they want in their fire pit, but their neighbor feels that they have the right to breathe clean air.  The focus on ourselves will never make us happy, nor will we ever feel satisfaction.  However, if our focus is shifted to pleasing God we can finally find relief from the need to please our rights.  Verse 10 tells us that we will grow as we make God our focus and we will produce the kind of fruit that is good.  What a different way to think!  But it is such a freeing way to think.

How else does this way of thinking differ from what our culture tells us?

This post is linked with iFellowship Blog Hop, Word Filled Wednesday, and Winsome Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The People Around Us

Colossians 4:7-18

We are coming to a close on the book of Colossians, and it has been a wonderful time of learning for me.  I plan on finishing up chapter 4 today and over the next few days I would like to just look back over the last six weeks and pull out some of the main themes that seemed to stick out at me.  Beginning next week, I plan to spend the two weeks leading up to Easter in the book of John to look at some of the last days and hours Jesus spent before the cross.  But, for today let's read Colossians 4:7-18 together.

At first glance, we see the closing of a letter.  I see how Paul, who had never visited the church in Colosse, was making the letter as personal as possible.  Paul made sure to include the names of people that the church would recognize and may even know personally to make the letter more intimate.  I think this is important because we need to remember that the people who we will be able to reach out to the best are the people in our circles of influence.  Yesterday, I mentioned how we are to make the most of every opportunity while we are conducting our day to day lives - even in the grocery store.  But something we need to remember is that there is a reason why God put us where we are; we can reach out in love to the people who know us.  While there will be occasions when we will find ourselves ministering to strangers; more often, we will find our ministry to be with the people we already know.

Another thing that I noticed in these verses is that Paul mentions how important these people are to him and the church.  He mentions their dedication to supporting him and their dedication to praying for the church.  It makes me think of our dedication to God's call to support our church leaders.  How much does the church support and lift up the leaders in prayer?  I am not talking about praying that God would change their minds to match more of what we want; I am talking about praying God's wisdom and strength into their lives.  A pastor of the local church has a big burden to carry, and we need to be praying that they will continue to give that burden over to God and follow God's leadership.  We need to pray that our pastors would continue to seek God in everything and that God provide the encouragement they need.

Paul mentions the dedication of Epaphras praying for the local church.  How often are we lifting up the local church to God?  Not only are we to be praying for the leadership of the local church, we are also to be praying for the local church.  We need to be praying for unity among the church and that the church would seek God for direction.  We need to pray for the church to be a light in their community so that others would see God's glory shining through.  When we pray for God's direction, we change our culture!  God doesn't follow cultural trends: He gives us instruction.

Are you reaching out to those in your circle of influence?  Are you praying for the leaders of your local church?  Are you praying for your local church?  This is how we can touch the people around us.

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesdays and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Make the Most of Every Opportunity

Colossians 4:5-6

When I was a senior in college, I took a few classes that I did not need to take because the subject interested me, I had the time, and I wasn't sure if I was going to have that opportunity again.  For the last 19 years, that opportunity has not presented itself again, and there are other classes I wish I could have had time to take while in school.  We just never know when an opportunity will present itself, and it is good to make the most of the opportunities that come our way.  Paul wrote about making the most of every opportunity, but he was referring specifically to how we are living out our lives.  Please read Colossians 4:5-6.

Do these verses convict you at all?  They convict me!  This is because I have to admit to myself that I do not make the most of every opportunity.  When I am at the store, am I thinking about living in a way that allows my hope in Christ shine through?  I am not talking about being ashamed of my behavior because I reacted poorly to the people around me.  I am talking about making the most of the opportunity I have while I am around those who do not believe in Christ.  Am I taking every opportunity to show God's love?  One of the keys that Paul gives us is to walk in wisdom.  There are many reasons why we would need wisdom; however, one of the big reasons that comes to mind is codependency.  In our quest to show God's love, we may end up creating a situation where we are nurturing codependency.  Wisdom will allow us to understand how we can show God's love in way that is healthy and will minister to those around us.

The other point that Paul makes is that our conversations should be "gracious, seasoned with salt..." so that we will always have the correct response to the people around us.  I think of gracious as listening to the person with whom we are interacting.  Grace allows us to listen without judgement; it allows us to care.  Seasoned with salt is an interesting term because we know what salt does for food when we use it.  The food tastes so much better!  The thing is, we need to understand what kind of food we are cooking because some food needs little salt and other food needs a lot of salt.  The wisdom and grace that we are to use in our interactions can help us know what exactly we need to say.

In Matthew 5:13 Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."  When we are making a point to listen with grace and walk in wisdom, we can make the most of every opportunity and be the salt of the earth that Christ called us to be.

Are you making the most of every opportunity?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Acceptance


Last week, I shared with you that I have been dealing with some struggles that I have no control over.  I shared how God had some of my friends praying for me before they even knew that I was struggling over these issues on a particular day.  They just knew that God placed me on their heart and prayed for me.  I cannot express in words how blessed I was by that!  Just to know that God wanted me to see Him in all the muck and know that He cared.  That week was such a tender week for me because I knew that no matter how things will turn out, God is with me.  That doesn't make the struggles go away, but I know that I am not alone.

In her book, Hinds Feet On High Places, Hannah Hurnard creates a scene in which the protagonist comes across a little flower growing in a place that it shouldn't be able to grow.  The environment was too harsh for such a delicate flower.  The protagonist comes to learn that the flower's name is Acceptance With Joy.  I have had very difficult things happen in my life where I needed to learn to forgive, and God gave me joy from the beauty He created out of those circumstances.  The joy came on the other side of the difficulties.  But this time is different.  As I have been challenged to read through and memorize the book of James, the idea of considering joy because of trials has been such a foreign concept that I thought I was beginning to understand.  But God has been showing me how much He has stretched me through this difficulty and I am now starting to truly understand those verses.

This week, I was talking with one of my friends that had been praying for me and knew that we were seeing greater struggles in this situation.  As I was talking with her, God showed me the work He was doing in my life. He showed me how I have been able to accept what was happening because He had revealed in such a tender, yet powerful way that He was with me.  Acceptance.  I'm not talking about giving up; I'm talking about acceptance.  I have come to a place where I understand that God is allowing this season to happen, and that is okay.  It's not easy, but it is okay.  This realization of my acceptance truly has brought me joy; joy in knowing that God is doing an amazing work in my heart.

This March, our weather has been unseasonable; it is still winter, yet it feels like the middle of April.  The signs of Spring are everywhere - we even have high pollen counts, which is unheard of in Western New York in the middle of March!  My point is, that is how my heart feels.  Right now, it is still winter (a difficult season in life); yet God is making it feel like Spring.  He has shown me that this isn't forever but it is just a season that is coming to a close.  He has led me for this moment to a peaceful meadow where He can refresh me and renew my strength.
"The LORD is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name."
  Psalm 23:1-3 (NLT)
This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Devote Yourselves To Prayer

Colossians 4:2-4

When I made the decision to be a music therapist, I knew that meant that I would need to get accepted into a music school.  I also realized that I had become complacent in my practice habits and I wasn't taking private lessons.  I found a very good teacher who pushed me very hard.  I knew that I would need to come to my lessons prepared, so I began practicing with more purpose and vision during my Senior year in high school.  I became much more devoted to music, even listening more to classical music so I could better understand what I was studying.  I ended up going to my first choice school for music therapy because of the time I spent practicing that year.  The verses I am looking at tells us that our prayer life should be that important; please read Colossians 4:2-4.

Have you ever known someone that had an incredible prayer life?  This is the person who tells you that they will pray for you, and you know that they will.  In fact, they usually will not even wait to go home to pray for you, they will pray with you right then and there and then they will keep you in prayer during their own personal time with God.  This person seems to have a desire and need to be in prayer with God all the time!  They are probably the person that came to mind when you read the phrase, "Devote yourselves to prayer..."  But these verses are not just talking to that person; they are telling all believers to be devoted to prayer.  The Greek word translated as "devote yourselves" can also mean to be constantly ready or to persevere.  I think the idea of constantly being ready is interesting, because prayer really does make us ready for whatever is happening.

Paul also wrote that we are to be in prayer with an alert mind and thankful heart.  The word translated as alert is grēgoreō which means to take caution or heed lest one fall into remission and see calamity (see footnote 1).  I find this interesting because I just finished the James: Mercy Triumphs study by Beth Moore last night.  The very last sentence in James 5 is "My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins."  We are being reminded that any one of us could wander away from the truth and prayer is something we can do to stay in line with God.  Our thankfulness to God is also something that can remind us of where we are and where we were without Him.

One other point I want to make is that Paul asked for prayer for himself.  We are to continue to pray not only for ourselves, but we are to be in prayer for other believers as well.  We can pray that other believers will not fall away but Paul was even asking specifically for prayer that he would continue to have opportunities to share the Gospel.  He had no idea how many people God was going to reach despite his prison sentence!  For thousands of years, so many people received encouragement and understood the Gospel through the letters that God wrote through him!  Prayer is more powerful than we can understand is so important to do.

Are you devoted to prayer?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for grēgoreō (Strong's 1127)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 16 Mar 2012. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1127&t=NLT >

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Just and Fair At Work

Colossians 4:1

Have you ever been in a position of authority?  Most of us at some point in our lives will find ourselves in some type of leadership whether it is at work, at church, or in our community.  Whether it is a paid position or volunteer, when we are in a position where we are overseeing the work of others, God has expectations for how we are to use our authority.  Please read Colossians 4:1.

This verse is specifically speaking to masters over slaves, but just as I mentioned yesterday we can look at this verse in relation to the work world.  When we are in a position of authority, it is important to remember that authority does not equal control.  If we are in authority because we like control, then we are in authority for the wrong reason.  Leading through control creates an unhappy work force.  Instead, God tells us in this verse that we are to be just and fair to the people who are under us.  Yesterday, I looked at the fact that God has no favorites, so we should have no favorites.  The same is for those in positions of authority - we are not to be swayed about our personal feelings.  We are to be treating each and every person as one who is loved by God just as much as He loves us.  God wants us to be fair with everyone.

The word that is translated as just is the Greek word, dikaios.  This word in a narrow sense can mean to render justice; however, in a broader sense it can mean righteous and observing God's law (see footnote 1).  So, when we read this verse, we can look at this with the thought that we are to treat people under our authority according to God's law.  Please see what Jesus said about God's Law in Matthew 22:38-40.  God wants us to treat people and love them as we love ourselves.  This is so important that Jesus tells us this command and the command to love God sums up the entire Law.  So, when we find ourselves in a position of authority, we should be treating everyone the same way we want to be treated.

The word translated as fair is the Greek word, isotēs.  This word means equity (see footnote 2).  We are to treat people with equity.  I want to even challenge us with the idea that also means that we are to treat people under our authority with the truth that they are equal to us.  That is not always how we look at authority and leadership, is it?  But remember, God has no favorites - that includes anyone in authority.  Each and every person has an important part in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), and each and every person is important to God (even if they do not know Him yet).  That is a thought that is culture changing.  Imagine a work force where everyone is treated with equity and according to God's Law.

Do you lead with control or with equity according to God's Law?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for dikaios (Strong's 1342)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 15 Mar 2012. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G1342&t=NLT >

2. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for isotēs (Strong's 2471)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 15 Mar 2012. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G2471&t=NLT >

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

God Has No Favorites

Colossians 3:23-25

If you wear glasses, you can understand what it is like when you receive a new prescription.  The first time you put on the new glasses it can be amazing how much clearer everything appears (especially if it has been a few years since your last check-up).  Even with the greater clarity, I have been told by doctors for almost all my life that I am still not seeing 20/20 while wearing glasses.  So, whenever I get a new pair of glasses it makes me wonder what it is like to see 20/20 if everything is appearing so clear to me.  But this makes me think of our perspective and how we view things as we walk this planet.  It is so hard when we have things assaulting our human vision in this world to view things with the 20/20 vision that God has.  God wants us to have Him in the forefront of our vision at all time, but sometimes we want to focus on other things.  Today, the verses I am looking at shows what our perspective should be as we are working; please turn to Colossians 3:23-25.

According to our human vision, we work to receive a paycheck.  But when you are at work, do you ever consider the inheritance that you will be receiving as a child of God?  I have to admit that is not always my focus at work; sometimes I am just focusing on getting the job done.  What would happen if I had a godly perspective for every task I need to complete and focus on pleasing the One who I am really working for?  What if I receive joy in all that I do at work because I am focusing on the inheritance God has promised to all who love Him?  What if this godly vision changes how we interact with all the people we are around at work or throughout our day?  What if we remember that God loves each and every person wants them to have a share in this inheritance just as much as He loves you and want you to have a share in the inheritance?  I think if that were our vision at all times, we would behave a lot differently toward each other.

In fact, we are told in verse 25 that God does not favor one person over the other.  He loves each and every one of us and He wants each and every person to come into His Kingdom.  But we are also told in verse 25 that a person who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs.  As I looked this verse up in the Greek, there was a word that stuck out at me.  The word that is translated as "do wrong" is the word, adikeō which means to act unjustly, to sin, or to violate the law in some way.  This got me thinking about James 2:8-9 (NLT), "Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in Scriptures: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  But if you are favoring some people over others, you are committing a sin.  You are guilty of breaking the law."  Our world is very focused on status and the working world is no different.  Are we treating the person in the mail room the same as the CEO?  God has no favorites, and neither should we; our vision for the people we are around at work and in our neighborhood should be the fact that God loves them no matter who they are or what they have done.  That is culture changing!  Imagine what would happen if we all treated each other as a person extravagantly loved by God.

What vision are you using at work and with the people in your life?

This post is linked with iFellowship, Word Filled Wednesday, and Winsome Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

While We Work

Colossians 3:22-23

The verses I am looking at today is addressed to slaves.  Most of us have no idea what it is like to be a slave; however, most of can understand what it is like to have a boss.  Most of us can relate to the fact that we need to work in order to meet our financial obligations.  I have been working since I was 16 years old with only a few years taken off when my children were very young.  So, I have had a lot of different experiences in the working world with many different types of jobs.  I have had excellent bosses, and I have had a few experiences with bosses that did not have kind interactions with their employees.  When all is said and done, if we want to keep our jobs we need to do what we are asked of us, but have you considered what attitude God wants us to have at work?  Please read Colossians 3:22-23.

We can apply this idea of earthly masters as someone who is in a position of authority over us such as our bosses.  I also want to stress that I am not comparing a slave's life with the life of someone who is free and can choose to accept or quit a job, but we can still apply these principals to our lives.  In fact the principals that are given in these verses can be difficult to apply when we are unhappy with our jobs because we can choose to begin looking for another job without caring about the current job we are in.  Knowing this, these verses are even counter-cultural for someone who is getting paid for the work they are doing.

First, we are told that we are to try to please our masters in everything we do - even when they are not watching us.  This makes me ask - are we working hard to earn money or are we working hard so that we please our employer.  There is a difference because it is an attitude in the heart.  The heart attitude starts with the respect that we have for God.  We understand that He wants us to honor Him in all that we do, and that should be our motivator above all else.  Our respect for God and knowing that He wants us to be obedient should motivate us to want to please our bosses.  We are also given a piece of encouragement to help us with our work.  We are reminded to keep our focus on God and to work as though we are working for Him and not a human.  When all is said and done, it is God that we should be pleasing and it can help us in the day to day details of our job when we work with the idea of pleasing Him.

Consider the fact that these verses were written to slaves who had no choice of whether or not they would quit their jobs and may even be mistreated by their master.  They were told to have this attitude, so how much more should we, who are getting paid for the work we are doing?

What is your attitude at work?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesdays and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Family Life

Colossians 3:18-21

For the last five weeks as I have been looking at Colossians, I have been looking at it from a cultural viewpoint.  I chose to do this because the Colossian church found themselves fighting a cultural belief system that was trying to change the church.  We learn in the Bible that Christ changes our culture and He created the church to be a light in the world while we live out His love.  This new culture that we are to live as followers of Christ goes against our human nature and sometime the human nature doesn't like the way it sounds.  I honestly don't know what the Colossian culture believed about family life; however, I know America's culture.  I believe these next few verses in Colossians rubs the American culture the wrong way because the word "submit" is thrown into the mix.  Submission seems like it is the opposite of independence; however, this is something that God desires for our families.  With that said, please read Colossians 3:18-21.

There is something that caught my eye as I was reading through these verses and looking them up in the Greek on BlueLetterBible.com.  The Greek word translated as submit is hypotassō.  This word means to obey or to be subject to someone; however, this word was more often used as a military term.  Please read what Blue Letter Bible says about it:
"This word was a Greek military term meaning 'to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader.' In non-military use, it was 'a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden,'" (see footnote 1).
This word had a greater meaning than how we look at submit.  It does mean to follow the lead of someone else, but notice that it is a voluntary attitude.  This is something that wives are to do out of their love for God and their husbands.  The other thing that catches my eye in this description are the words, "assuming responsibility and carrying a burden."  Submitting to our husbands does mean to follow their lead; however, we do this because we are assuming responsibility in our family and carrying the burden for our family.  This is how we share the load with our husbands.

Husbands are to love their wives.  So, even though wives are to submit to their husbands, husbands are to show their wives love and never be harsh with their wives.  These two roles in the family may sound very different from each other, but these roles are symbiotic.  Husbands and wives show love and respect for each other when we do these things as God planned.

Children are told to please the Lord by obeying their parents.  When you think about it, family life is where we first learn obedience which is something God desires from all of us.  But fathers are reminded that they are not to aggravate their children.  The Greek word is erethizō which means to provoke.  So, while we parents are to expect obedience from our children, we do not need to present our requests in a way that provokes anger.  Verse 21 tells us that the end result will only be that our children will be discouraged.

Each role in the family has an important responsibility and when we all are doing our part there is harmony.  It doesn't mean that it will be easy to do our part, but we all show love and respect to each other when we do it.  And remember, we don't have to be a family on our own; we have Christ working in us.  Christ is who gives us the strength and ability to live out His culture (Phil. 4:13).

How does God want you to live in your family?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.

1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for hypotassō (Strong's 5293)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 12 Mar 2012. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5293&t=NLT >

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Are You Ready To Explain?

1 Peter 3:15

Today's post will be short and sweet, but it was inspired from BibleGateway.com.  I like getting Bible Gateway's verse of the day because it is just another way to get a word from God throughout the day.  The verse of the day today is 1 Peter 3:15 and it caught my attention because of the fact that all week long I have been focusing on the fact that Jesus is our life.  This verse says we are to worship Him as the Lord of our life.  Look at the entire verse:

"Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it."  

I think this is a great way to tie in all of what I was reading in Colossians 3 this week.  Since He is our life and we are to worship Him only, there are going to be noticeable changes in our lives.  People will see a hope the world cannot give.  This means we are to be ready to share that hope with others.  

Do you understand your hope in Christ, and are you willing to share it with others?

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Peace and Thankfulness

Colossians 3:15-17

All this week as I have been looking at Colossians 3, I have noticed a predominant theme: Christ is who we live for and He is our everything.  I believe that if we could keep that at the forefront of our minds each and every moment, we would find our priorities and perspectives while living on this earth change.  We have read phrases such as, "...Christ, who is your life..." (Colossians 3:4 NLT) and, "Christ is all that matters..." (Colossians 3:11 NLT).  These are powerful truths that we can take with us everywhere.  Eternal life is given to us through Christ and He is all that matters.  Today, I want to look at how those truths can affect us in our everyday life and how we interact with each other as the body of Christ, which is the church.  Please read Colossians 3:15-17.

The first thing we read in these verses is a call to peace.  Christ gives us this peace and we are instructed to let it rule our hearts.  This peace is grounded in the truth of our salvation in Christ and the knowledge that there is nothing that can separate us from His love.  When we are walking with peace ruling in our hearts, we also will not be reacting out of anger, fear, or anxiety to one another.  This peace will allow us to respond to one another out of love.

The next thing we are told is to be thankful; in fact, we are told to live in thankfulness three times in this passage. If we are living with the truth that Christ is all that matters and that Christ is our life, we can have a thankful heart.  When we reflect on what God has brought us through, we can be thankful.  We can even be thankful for what He is going to continue to do in our lives as we walk with Him.  Verse 16 tells us how we can keep a thankful heart, "Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives." (NLT).  It really is a rich message!  If it is filling our lives, the outflow is naturally going to be thankfulness.  But we are not just thankful by ourselves; notice that we are to be singing praises together full of thankfulness.  It really is a blessing to be a part of the body of Christ and raising our praises of thanksgiving together.

We are also reminded that the world is watching us.  No matter what we do, we are to remember that as His children we are representing Him.  We are His witnesses and we can point back to God through our thankfulness.  We have so much to be thankful for, let us lift our praises to God!

Are you thankful for the life you have in Christ?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What Are You Wearing Today?

Colossians 3:12-15

The clothing we wear can say a lot about who we are, even if we are not trying to send a particular message.  For example, if you are a person that is always wearing the latest fashion tells everyone around you that you enjoy fashion.  If you tend to wear business clothing, the people around you will know that you have an office job of some sort.  If you tend not to care what you are putting on, you just want to be comfortable, that also sends a message about your casual personality.  There are a couple of references in the Bible that there are spiritual clothes that we wear that also send messages to the world.  The clothing we wear is new clothing when we believe in the salvation we receive through Christ.  Please read Colossians 3:12-15 to see what clothing we are to put on.

These verses remind me of when I went to Zambia and our team was on our way to church.  As we were getting into the van, our translator said to the team leader, "The church is expecting a message from you."  So, he began preparing a message.  Halfway to the church the translator turned around and said, "They are also expecting the team to sing."  So, we quickly came up with a song and practiced it in the van.  By this point, we were about 10 or 15 minutes away from the church and the translator turned around and said, "They are also expecting a children's message."  We found Colossians 3:14 and decided to teach about love.  The children didn't speak English, so our entire message was translated for us.  At one point, I taught about how God wanted us to put on love every day just like we put on our clothes and I asked them to pretend to put on a shirt while saying, "Put on love."  It was so cute because the translator had them say it in both English and their tribal language of Tunga.  It seems like a simplistic message, but when you think about it, just as we have to be intentional about getting dressed each day and what message we are sending in what we wear; we also need to be intentional about putting on love, mercy, tenderheartedness, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

This love that we put on is something that effects the entire body of Christ (which is the church).  The word that is translated as binds in verse 14 is a word that loses part of its meaning in translation.  The Greek word is syndesmos, which means the ligaments that hold the body together.  This love is crucial for the church to work together because it allows us to forgive on another and have peace with each other.  We need to be working in love and peace in order to be effective.  When we clothe ourselves with all these attributes, we also send a message to the world that God is working in us, because we are no longer reacting to each other in our humanness; instead we are responding to each other out of love and humility.  The world will notice the difference.  So, let us begin clothing ourselves with the clothing that God has chosen for us to wear because we are His children!

What are you wearing today?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Christ Is All That Matters

Colossians 3:7-11

There is a lot going on in my life right now - some good, some not so good.  All three of my children are busy with school activities that are being squeezed into a period of two weeks.  So that means we are balancing after school musical rehearsals, before school rehearsals, honors band and chorus rehearsals, and five performances between now and next Saturday.  Our regular, everyday schedule is fitting into all this as well.  And my husband and I are having to deal with some annoying stuff that is somewhat stressful and would be really easy to get angry about.  In fact, as I was praying through my feelings this morning, I felt myself getting angry over this situation.  I also felt God wanting me to give that anger over to Him because this situation is really not something I can control anyway and anger wasn't going to help.  Of course, when I began preparing to write this post I noticed that the verses I had planned for today talked about getting things like anger out of our lives. So, with that in mind, please read Colossians 3:7-11.

These verses list so many things that no longer belong in a person who is following Christ and has received forgiveness through Him.  The list is: anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, dirty language, and lying.  Don't you find it interesting that Paul listed anger first?  As I looked at this list, it occurred to me that everything else on the list (except lying) can be the result of anger.  The anger can grow into rage, which can produce malicious behavior.  Anger may make us want to slander someone or use dirty language.  It is really easy to allow anger to get out of control and take us to places we really don't need to or want to go.

In the verses I looked at yesterday, it mentioned God's anger.  Is there a contradiction that God can be angry when we are told to get rid of anger?  No.  There is a difference.  James wrote about it in James 1:19-20 (NLT), "Understand this my dear brothers and sisters:  You should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires."  Notice the first two words of the last sentence..."Human anger..."  The Bible makes a difference between human anger and God's anger.  Often times, we want to justify our anger and say that we have "righteous anger," but is that really true?  Are we angry because we perceive that we have been hurt, wronged, or unfairly treated?  If so, then we need to admit that is probably human anger.  When we have been hurt, we are going to feel angry, but we need to get rid of it because it is only going to corrupt our hearts as we hang on to it.  How do we do that?

I believe that both James and Colossians give us a prescription that we can use.  James 1:21 (NLT) says, "So get rid of the filth and evil in your lives and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls."  This is a change of focus because instead of focusing on the thing that has us angry, we can focus on the truth of God's Word.  Colossians explains it in a way of putting on our new nature and to be renewed as we become more like Christ.  Paul continues to explain that it doesn't matter who we are or where we have come from because Christ is all that matters and He lives in us.  This new life in Christ is to be our focus.  When our focus is the truth that Christ is all that matters, then we can learn to give our hurt and anger over to Him.

Does the truth that Christ is all that matters change how you react?

This post is linked with iFellowship Blog Hop, Word Filled Wednesday, and Winsome Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Kingdom Living

Colossians 3:5-7

I work at my church, and my official job title is Outreach and Community Life Ministry Assistant.  One aspect of my job is to keep track of all our resources for small groups such as books and dvd curriculum.  I am in the process of reorganizing all the materials and creating a better system for people to search through our catalog.  As I am going through all our materials, I am looking up the books and making sure that they are still in print.  If they are no longer in print or just outdated, I am pulling them off the shelves because they no longer belong.  It can be frustrating to a group leader to become interested in a curriculum only to find out that it is no longer available to purchase materials.  Yesterday, I looked at how Christ is our life when we become followers of Him.  This also means that there are things in our life that no longer belong because they do not fit in with our new life.  Please read Colossians 3:5-7.

This may seem like a contradiction from chapter 2 when Paul wrote about not worrying about all the rules; however, Paul was actually continuing on with the theme of the entire book of Colossians.  Last week, we looked at how legalism was not the life we need to live in Christ.  We do not do things (or not do things) in order to gain salvation, instead our salvation is what motivates us to do the things that pleases God.  These verses are showing us what things are part of the sinful nature and they no longer fit with who we are in Christ.  If we continue to hold on to our old nature, it will hinder our walk with Christ.  The author of Hebrews words it this way in Hebrews 12:1 (NLT), "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us."  This sin is like a weight that slows our journey with Christ and can even trip us up.  Instead, as we throw these things away, we can run the race rather than dragging our feet.

We are told that sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed are what brings on God's anger.  James warned us about evil desires in James 1:14-15 (NLT), "Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death."  These things don't belong in a person whose life is Christ.  Paul reminds us that these are the things we did when we were a part of the world.  As we looked at verses 1-4 yesterday, we are to think about the things of Heaven because that is the world we now belong to.  We no longer do the things our culture says is okay, we do the things that belong in the Kingdom of God.  Let us no longer conform to the culture around us and live Kingdom bound lives.

Are you living according to the world's culture or according to Heaven's culture?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, March 5, 2012

He Is Our Life

Colossians 3:1-4

We all live on the planet earth and live life with the rest of the people on this planet.  We all have basic needs such as water, food, clothing, and shelter.  We also live in a culture that wants our attention and time in order to influence our choices.  For example, this year a 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl cost $3.5 million.  That is crazy when you think about it!  For $3.5 million a company got to claim 30 seconds of your attention in order to make you want to buy their product.  The cost is even more when you consider the cost for making the commercial.  So, when we have large corporations spending a lot of money trying to influence our decisions and we are bombarded with the stresses of job loss and declining home values, it is easy to see why our minds could get very focused on what the world has decided is important.  But, as we will read in Colossians today, we will see that the things the world has decided is important is not what God wants us to focus on.  Please read Colossians 3:1-4.

These are challenging verses to read because they make us ask: how do we live in this world but not think about it?  I first want to say that these verses do not mean that we no longer need to care about the world because that would not be thinking about the things of Heaven.  The Bible is flooded with verses that express God's heart and love for His creation.  He loves us and cares about justice.  There are so many verses that tell us that the things of Heaven means that we will care about the people around us (James 2:27).  I believe these verses are saying that we are to think about the things that are important to God and not what is important according to the world.  Paul reminds that those of us who believe in the salvation we receive in Christ have died to the world; therefore, we no longer need to be consumed with the things of the world.

The first half of verse 4 keeps sticking out at me because it says something that we need to remember, "And when Christ, who is your life..."  We died to what we thought was our life when we realized that true life can only be found in Christ.  He isn't just our Savior, He is our life!  That change of focus is culture changing.  What happens when everyone who believes in Christ lives like He is their life?  What if every decision we make is made with the knowledge that Christ is our life?  He is our everything!  When we live as Christ is our life, our thoughts will not be on the things of this world.  God tells us that He views things very differently from us; please read Isaiah 55:6-9.  His mercy is great and His thoughts and ways are different from those of this world.  Since Christ is our life, we should be thinking of the things of God.  In Luke 12:30-31, Jesus tells us, "These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need."


Is Christ your life?  Do you seek after the Kingdom of God?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

He Prays For Us

Do you ever get overwhelmed by God's love?  Are you ever amazed by Him?  This week, God knew that I would need encouragement as I am dealing with a difficult situation.  I was dealt a blow on Tuesday evening that was both discouraging and stressful about a situation that I had been working through for a couple of years.  My husband and I prayed for wisdom and direction on what our next step should be and went to bed.  The next day, we went to work (which is at our church).  As I went to my desk, one of the ministry assistants that I work with knows about this situation that we had been working through.  She asked how things were going and said that it was on her heart that morning.  When I shared with her the news we received the night before, she prayed with me and we both acknowledged that God had probably placed it on her heart so she could pray with me.  As she prayed with me, I felt peace come over me.

Later on that morning, the entire church staff gathered for prayer.  I have to admit that morning I was laying my burden over this difficulty to God and while I was praying I felt His encouragement.  I knew He was in control and that He knew what was best.  Yesterday, as I was at lunch with some friends I mentioned that we were having difficulty with this situation.  My friend then said, "God had me praying for you over that situation on Wednesday morning."  I was overwhelmed by God's love for me!  He had two friends praying over me and my husband in relation to this situation even though they had no idea what had been going on.  God knew that I would need that encouragement.

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words."  Romans 8:26.

Not only does God care enough to have our friends pray for us, but the Holy Spirit prays for us.  God knows our situations even better than we do and He knows about them even before we do.  I had a friend contact me a few days before this all happened to let me know that God had placed me on her heart and she had been praying for me.  Not only is He praying for me and having other people pray for me through the situation, He had my friend praying for me before I knew what was happening.  We don't always find these things out, but it is so encouraging when we get a glimpse of what God is doing on our behalf.  Be blessed knowing that you are loved by your Heavenly Father.

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Guidance

Colossians 2:20-23

All this week, I have been focusing on the freedom we have received in Christ based on Colossians 2.  This freedom means that we are free from the condemnation we were facing in our sin.  All the charges against us have been cleared and we shared Christ's victory over death.  All this is possible by God's grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  I looked at the idea of legalism within the church does not gain freedom for the believer, rather it binds us back up in chains.  This is because we can never be good enough and we have to believe that our salvation comes through Christ and not how we behave.  Our behavior does not dictate who we are in Christ; who we are in Christ is what dictates our behavior.  That is a  huge difference!  Please read Colossians 2:20-23.

In verse 20 Paul reminds us of the spiritual battles that are waging by saying, "You have died with Christ, and He has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world..."  That is a good question!  Why do we keep following the rules of the world?  The world does not have authority over us, so why should we follow its rules?  Christ is the one who has authority over the world and all the spiritual powers, so shouldn't we be focused on following Him?  This a mindset that every believer should have because it is when we have faith in God's grace and believe His promises that we receive the Holy Spirit who guides us in what we should do.  The Holy Spirit gives us an understanding of the truths found in the Bible and helps us know the right thing to do.  Paul isn't giving us permission to keep on sinning, he is showing us that the focus is all wrong when we are desperately trying to follow rules.

Paul had even stronger things to say about the rules that we humans like to apply to our faith in verse 23, "These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires."  They seem wise because of how holy they look, but God isn't looking at our outward appearances; He is looking at our heart.  He isn't looking for what looks good; He wants to see a heart that seeks Him and the outflow will produce the fruit that He desires.  Abstaining from things is good as well as fasting, but not if we are doing it because it seems like a holy thing to do.  Those are things we do because we have been lead by God to do them.  We can pray just like David in Psalm 139:23-24 when he said, "Search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life."  Then we need to trust that God will do it!  The rules do not give us the tools to help us change, God is the one who helps us change.

Is your faith in God or in the rules?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Reality Is Christ

Colossians 2:16-19

Legalism...what does that word mean to you?  To me, it means having a set of do's and don'ts that are made by humans.  Sometimes these rules are based in what we can find in the Bible and sometimes these rules are not found anywhere in the Bible, yet we decided that they would be important to follow.  I don't believe that legalism starts out with the desire to be legalistic and binding; I think it starts out with a desire to live pure and holy lives (1 Thessalonians 4:7).  The problem is with this way of thinking is that we forget how we are able to live pure lives; we are to be living with the power of Christ in us.  The life we live is an extension of what happens when we have the Holy Spirit guiding us and helping us to use God's wisdom.  When these rules no longer involve the power of Christ, it becomes legalism and the focus is more on how we live rather than Christ changing our hearts.  Yesterday, I wrote about the freedom we have in Christ - absolute, undeserved grace.  Let's look at the encouragement Paul gives us about this freedom and how we should react to legalism; please read Colossians 2:16-19.

Do you know the difference between condemnation and conviction?  Condemnation is what the world pours on our heads and shames us for doing the wrong thing (or the perceived wrong thing).  Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives letting us know when we are doing something that doesn't fit in our new lives in Christ.  There is no shame, He just lets us know that it is time to change.  Another huge difference is the fact that condemnation never gives us the ability to change, in fact I believe that it puts us in bigger chains of shame that makes it even more difficult to change.  Conviction from the Holy Spirit gives us the power to change because we know that we are given the strength to do what God wants through Jesus (Philippians 4:13).  Paul is letting us know that we do not need to have other people condemn us over whether or not we are following the right rules and making us believe that our salvation comes from how we behave.

The rules that Paul is referring to are part of the Old Testament law.  I want to be clear; Paul is not saying that we can and should live however we want, but he is telling us that these rules were put in place to point people to what was to come.  He tells us that Christ is the reality.  Christ should be the reason we are able to do the things that please God; it isn't about following a set of rules.  The grace we receive through Christ trumps all of our failures to comply with the law (which only brings death).  It is in Christ that we have life.  "...This is a covenant not of written law, but of the Spirit.  The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life," 2 Corinthians 3:6.  Let's trust and believe in Christ and His sacrifice which sets us free.

Do you believe your freedom is through Christ and not the law?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.