Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The New Moon - Colossians - Part 48

"He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." - Colossians 2:15-17 ESV

The Hapax Legomenon (unique word) here is 'new moon'. The Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar and worship was on a lunar schedule.

Festival, New Moon and Sabbath = Recreation, Cycles (or marking the passage of time) and Rest

"And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD." - Isaiah 66:23 KJV

"Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the LORD in the sabbaths and in the new moons." - Ezekiel 46:3 KJV

These two passages are prophetic in nature. Many people don't mark the passage of time by worship.

At the time this is written we are closing out a month and will soon begin another. What does that mean to us?

I often look at the month coming before it arrives. I look at my birthday list and pray. I think about appointments. I gauge needs. I pay or mentally put aside money for bills that come in monthly cycles.

My devotional life is a portal into worship. It isn't me trying to better myself. It is the exploration of God's mind.

Oppression leaves a depression that is painful. An oppressor seek to exploit and to do that he or she must isolate, accuse and gain dependency. To do that integrity must be destroyed so that accusation will be internalized and isolation will be reinforced. Then exploitation can continue.

A worshipper can't be isolated. God is there. A worshipper knows accusations can't isolate unless they are internalized.

If worship has been disqualified in our lives we have believed a lie. It might be a lie about God or about ourselves... or both. It takes humility to worship. Lets humble ourselves and enter in by faith. God's light will banish the darkness. His Word will be a light for our path and a lamp for our feet on the path that echoes with praise.

In God's economy of grace we are not in bondage. We are not forced to regulate ourselves (or others) in recreation or rest. We each mark the passage of time differently and our emphasis may be different. In truth, from God's perspective, the substance of these things rests in Christ. When He becomes the focus then worship is incorporated into our cycles and our Sabbath.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Inaccessible Paperwork - Colossians - Part 47

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross." - Colossians 2:13-14 ESV

Two unique words here and the concept presented is amazing. The first is translated 'legal demands' (cheirographon - Strong's G5498) and it is a handwritten note that signifies a debt.

God has taken this personally signed document and 'nailed' (prosēloō - Strong's G4338) it down in a place that is set aside... Christ's cross.

The bank note that held a mortgage on your life can't be found anymore. They can't find the signed document. It has been put in a permanently inaccessible place.

It is much like the places that require that a person to produce a receipt with an item in order to return it. No receipt. No refund. No signed document. No prosecution.

Does God legally have anything against you? No. His court system lost the paperwork. It has been filed on the cross. You are free.

You may remember the contents but that is not legally binding.

Leviticus chapter 25 speaks of a year of Jubilee when all debts in Israel are forgiven and the land that belonged to families is returned to them if it was sold.

Jesus is our year of Jubilee.

God makes those who have believed citizens with an inheritance and he has lost the signed paperwork that would hold us in bondage.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Spiritual Momentum

Getting back into studying the word of God can be like going back to the gym. There is a momentum that forms if you stick with it. Then after a period of time, your muscles develope a muscle memory.

This weekend I have been thinking a lot about Sampson and his hair. Growing out his hair was like having a momentum with God. It is a good picture of receiving grace. It is a passive action that builds momentum. Cutting it is the proactive step.

"Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD... All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long." - Numbers 6:2, 5 ESV

Sampson was a Nazarite. If you read his account in the book of Judges you will see he was not a moral man. He broke the other parts of the vow regularly. His urges ended up bringing him into bondage.

"And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved." - Judges 16:21-22 ESV

Things in life can stop our momentum but then our hair begins to grow again... spiritually speaking that is. God hasn't forgotten us. Our strength will return.

"You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus," - 2 Timothy 2:1 ESV

Yes. We can build a momentum with God... not a moral momentum. Sampson didn't have a moral life but he had great exploits with God.

Let's have a spiritual momentum by being exposed regularly to God's mind.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Putting Off - Colossians - Part 46

Resurrection is mystical. I come to that conclusion again and again as I read this passage.

Our unique word is 'put off' (apekdysis - Strong's G555) it is the noun form of a verb that means 'to strip one's self' (apekdyomai - Strong's G554)

"In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead." - Colossians 2:11-12 ESV

When we believe in Jesus something truly profound happens. There is a removal, a burial and a resurrection.

Believing in Jesus and what He did on the cross is an act of humility because we are saying that we need a Savior. That concept has an irresistible sharpness attached to it that 'puts off' our identity in some way. The old falls away but the next passage has us wholly falling into a grave with Christ. We are buried with Him and then raised with Him all in one instant.


Yes. Believing in Jesus turns us into 'stripped ones' but only for a moment because God dresses us quickly in the glory of His Son.

Today we have a choice. Will we believe? Will we let our confidence in the flesh be removed and trust in Christ for what lies ahead?

"Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." - Colossians 3:9-10 ESV

The moment of nakedness is a past tense moment. If we have believed we have a new identity that is now our true identity. 'It is Finished' is now on our account as ours. The old has fallen away and all things are new.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Staying And Going

I will get back to Colossians in due season but the subject that has been on my mind lately is 'Staying and Going. Returning and Abandoning.'

It is an interesting subject and our lives are deeply affected by how we make these decisions.

"To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches." - 1 Corinthians 7:12-17 ESV

This is passage rarely preached on Sunday mornings but how many people would profit from hearing it. Paul saw marriages. He Pastored and counseled. He saw couples who remained together but fought like cats and dogs and ones who thought it better to part ways.

We are called to peace and a redemptive mindset.

Different branches of Christianity take such different views of marriage and commitment in general. Some preach 'stay' or be stigmatized forever. Others say, 'It is none of our business. We are here and marriage is over there.' There is such a range of thought.

I have read this passage many times and I'm sure I will read it many more. I'll sit with two people who are in a battle to 'try and make it work' and we will read it together. I want marriages to make it. I believe with all my heart that God does also.

This morning I see the power of one person who believes. One person full of faith can sanctify a home. I see freedom not bondage. I percieve the desire to see the people closest to us saved from a life of self-destruction. I see a very careful leader who hesitates to say, 'Thus sayeth the Lord.' regarding this matter.

I think we all struggle with 'should I stay or should I go' matters. perhaps it isn't marriage. It might be a job or a location. It might be a vocation or Church involvement. Maybe it isn't going that is the issue. Perhaps it is returning.

We are called to peace and a redemptive mindset. God has a calling. We as individuals must discern God's voice. All of us are prone to self deception but what is the Bible saying? is there a witness from the believers we fellowship with? What is the pulpit preaching? What is the witness in our prayer life? God has ways to communicate if we are listening and asking.

"For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." - Romans 6:14 ESV

This morning I take my eyes off of myself and pray for the ones around me that are together and others that are apart. Their lives are a witness to me. Some are great testimonies and others serve as warning signs that say, 'Go this way at your own peril'. and I pray for them as I look for God's mind and direction.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Not A Forgetful Hearer

I think all of us have looked at the time intently and the moment we looked away we quickly forgot the time and had to look again.

Why does that happen?

Perhaps because we are anxious about something and finding out the time is an action that is really a means to an end but does not touch that root issue so our mind discards the information.

"For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." - James 1:23-25 ESV

This passage became very fresh to me yesterday. I always saw it as an indictment of the hearer to be a better listener but it is actually showing the difference between the hearer who has liberty and the one who doesn't.

Grace gives liberty. Grace makes us free because the favor we are receiving is unmerited.

The free listener is present in the moment. Perfect love has cast out fear and they aren't doing things to cover themselves or in a fear based motivation.

If we are 'hearing' like a person who is checking their teeth for spinach then we will not be 'doers' because it takes liberty to even have the substance we need.

We must receive grace to give grace. Otherwise, we just impart our needs and not our provision.

Thank you, God! You have made us free. Our chains are gone. In liberty, we have a capacity for whatever You have planned today. Thank You.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Kidnapped - Colossians - Part 45

"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." - Colossians 2:8 ESV

'Takes you captive' is sylagōgeō (Strong's G4812) and it is a verb that speaks about stealing people. Kidnap would work as a translation.

"For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority." - Colossians 2:9-10 ESV

"Philosophy' and 'Deity' are also Hapaxes words.

There is a force that wants to take us away but there is a divine kingdom that can give us a home. The Godhead was at home in Christ.

Here it says 'Filled in Him' but the Greek word (plēroō - Strong's G4137) means to make complete.

A kidnapping always leaves a gap or wound. People get torn away from things and have no closure. If that has happened in the past there is still a remedy because we have a home in God that is as complete as Chist is in His identity. He has no gaps in His relationships to the Father and the Spirit.

The cross was a momentary gap made to let us in. He will bear the scars of that day forever so that we can be completely accepted.

A kidnapped person is never truly a part of the system that stole them. Our rebirth make us family. We are adopted and born in at the same time.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Firmness Of Your Faith - Colossians - Part 44

"I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ." - Colossians 2:4-5 ESV

The unique word today is 'firmness' (stereōma - Strong's G4733). It is the noun form of 'to strengthen' (stereoō - Strong's G4732) which is only used 3x's in the scriptures.

Firmness is a good translation of the word. It speaks of the end result of something that has received strength until it became firm or tight.

The context is interesting because the firmness is there because of the constant flow of strength being supplied. A balloon full of air has order and firmness because of the pressure of the air but the firmness of the balloon depends on that air being there.

Paul knows that the Gospel and the Spirit are keeping this Church in order. He is speaking of a corporate dynamic and not an individual one. The writer is with the assembly in spirit.

He is feeding them doctrine. The letter is meant to make sure that their connection to Christ is strong so that the flow of strength and order that truth produces will continue.

He is a visionary.

Perhaps when a child leaves home for the first time to go to school the parents have this same idea. They aren't with the child but they are connected and in communication. Perhaps they send money or talk on the phone. The parents have a vision for the child's safety and progress.

Perhap we feel the same way about the missionary team(s) we support. We want to see them strengthened and ordered and going forward.

We love them.

{This is where my study breaks down into tearful intercession with God.}

Paul loves them. In His suffering he has connected with Christ and there has been a mingling overflow. He has gotten a glimpse of the care that God has for these people and now Paul cares.

"I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ." - Colossians 2:4-5 ESV

Paul hears that wolves are among the flock but he is far away in prison connected only by the spirit and doctrine. A man brings a letter to Church he loves from far away and he wants them to have everything that they need. It was his care package to them that had a variety or different things and covered as many bases as possible.

I don't want to look at a person or a Church and say, 'It is strong' and put it on some pedestal. No. That person has received a flow of strength and they need that flow to continue. Prayer and active edification are part of that process.

If you have Pastor pray for that man. Edify him. The flow of his strength doesn't come from you but that flow needs to keep happening in order for that man to remain firm. The horizontal and the vertical are both part of that. Sometimes we rely heavily on one or the other but both are vital. Hopefully he has a strong vertical but like Paul we want to see a firmness in the future that is like the firmness we see now.

Believers are like gloves. The hand inside gives them strength. God plans to fill us and all His assemblies with strength and truth is central to that dynamic.

Lies undermine a structure until it finally gives way and a sinkhole forms. If we build on the Rock that will never happen. His stability and order becomes ours.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Beguiling Speech - Colossians - Part 43

Today's word is pithanologia (Strong's G4086) which is translated 'beguiling speech' or in the this translation 'plausible arguments'...

"For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments." - Colossians 2:1-4 ESV

We have all heard theology where people use many scriptures and have convincing arguments but what is being said simply isn't true or is based on a false premise but contains nuggets of truth.

God gives us elements here that can help us discern truth. This teacher loves souls. There is an interest in the growth of the hearer. They are centered in on Christ and His work.

All the mysteries of assurance, understanding and knowledge center around Jesus.

There are teachers who center around science, philosophy, family, morality, history and end times prophecy. They say fascinating things but Jesus is a footnote if He is even mentioned at all. Those folks will gain thousands of followers because what they say resonates with mankind's desire to better themselves but unless there is transformation and evangelism it is all a big distraction.

Don't get me wrong... If the Gospel is preached I'm sure God is using those folks in some ways. They have some affect on culture but what people really need is transformation and illumination. They need assurance and an impartation of God's life.

I'll take a simple man who just lets the Bible speak over an intellectual giant who reads things into the Bible any day.

I plan to read this passage again and again today...

"For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments." - Colossians 2:1-4 ESV

I don't want a theology of plausible arguments. I want Jesus and Him alone.

Maybe there are concepts that are woven into our thinking from past associations or a pre-salvation thought life that have remained in our thinking but they just aren't true. We don't need to ever be introspective but if those things are there I want this scripture to wash us so that the line of thinking that isn't firmly on the foundation of Christ will be exposed and dealt with. Those things 'make sense' but they rob us of joy and assurance. They are incompatible with wisdom from above.

"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." - James 3:17-18 ESV

Wash us God. We want to see a harvest of righteousness. We want to see Jesus.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Intermingling - Colossians - Part 42

I think many people have little empathy for others because they have never felt the pain another person has felt. Once you feel the pain you begin to understand. I think that is part of why hurting people hurt others. They want to be understood on an organic level.

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church," - Colossians 1:24 ESV

Today's word is 'complete / fill up / top off' (antanaplēroō - Strong's G466)

I like 'top off' for this word. I think the pain the writer felt helped him connect with Christ in empathy. It bridged the gap. Like overflow from a dam the water reached a level where it flows into the water on the other side and intermingled with it.

Some people are hard to get to know. There is no place of true intermingling.

I think young men experiment with relationships with women to get sex and young women experiment with sex to get a relationship. The problem is that intermingling on that level does not necessarily produce intimacy. Feeling what another person feels and thinking what a person thinks is the basis of a real relationship. Men often don't want to commit because they are afraid to feel. Their biology prevents it. The testosterone wash that floods the brain in the womb and then at puberty makes them emotionally retarded in comparison to a woman but it also makes him detached enough to do what has to be done in emotionally charged situations.

One of the things I have grown to appreciate about confrontational evangelism is the rejection. That may sound masochistic to some and let me tell you I hated it at first. Who doesn't want to be loved? Then I saw that if I was in tune with God the people weren't rejecting me. They were rejecting Christ in me and that created a true shared experience with my Savior. I became sad for Him and not myself. I also rejoiced for Him and not myself when people responded. I was feeling what He feels and He Is feeling what I feel.

The natural man avoids pain and exposure. Deep down it is guilty and does not want the light to reveal it's deeds, thoughts and emotions.

"And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed." - John 3:19-20 ESV

Jesus hung naked and exposed on a cross but He wasn't ashamed. He is not ashamed of you either. He desires intimacy. He isn't a fair weather friend who is just looking for laughs. He knows you. He has experienced your pain already. The question is... will you think and feel with Him. That is the heart of discipleship... walking with God and having shared experiences.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Shifty Souls - Colossians - Part 41

The unique word today is 'shift' (metakineō - Strong's G3334)

"...if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister." - Colossians 1:23 ESV

On outreach this weekend we spoke to a man who though he was an 'old soul' and claimed that we were 'new souls' who just didn't know that humanity lives again and again until 'we get it right.' When we asked Him about Jesus we found out he grew up Catholic and saw Jesus as an example. Then we gave Him this verse.

"And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." - Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV

This man had either never really put his hope in Christ or he had shifted away from the hope of the Gospel.

I plead with this man in the middle of the flea market and said with love in my voice, 'You think you have wisdom to give others and many chances to live again and again but you don't. If you die tonight you aren't coming back as a chipmunk or a squirrel. You are going to die and face God having never received the gift of salvation. Please consider Jesus. He Is not just an example. He was born once. He died once and He Is coming back.'

He then shifted the conversation and said, 'What about all the people in China.' my team mate began to answer but I brought it back to Christ and said, 'Forget those people for a moment... this is you, me and God right here and right now. God wants to give you a gift. They are none of your business. You are running up a tree to escape reality.'

I tried to stay with the squirrel theme. {smile}

This man was shifting back and forth. He thought when he died that he would shift into another body and spend another life shifting and making incremental progress. He is wrong and I would have done him no service by humoring him.

We locked eyes. I gave him the Gospel clearly. I trust God to use it in this man's life. He was older and didn't seem like someone who would change his mind easily. His fiction fits his lifestyle. But if God could save me (or you) He can save anyone.

"...if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard..." - Colossians 1:23a ESV

We have hope when we don't shift away from what Jesus has done. We have integrity when we return and plant ourselves at Jesus' feet.

My flesh is shifty. It wants to live and justify itself but our spirit (if we have been made alive by trusting in Jesus) is not shifty.

God fill us with Your Spirit so we can live as spiritual people today. Then we will be firm, stable and steadfast. Our hope is not in our progress. Our hope is in what You have accomplished at the cross. Please bless our day and our week. We ask this in Jesus' precious Name.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Having Made Peace - Colossians - Part 40

Today is Veteran's Day here in the United States. It is interesting that our study brings us to this passage.

"For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." - Colossians 1:19-20 ESV

Jesus came to Earth and entered a warzone.

Having made peace (eirēnopoieō - Strong's G1517) is the unique word in this passage and it comes from the Greek word (eirēnē - Strong's G1515) which is used 92x and is often translated peace and once as rest and another time as quiet.
Jesus made peace and quiet through the blood of His cross.

What a powerful statement.

He gave His life to make peace and peace has been made. A treaty has been signed. It is a new covenant.

"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God." - Hebrews 9:11-14 ESV

Men and women are prone to make war. I have seen it over the last few weeks. People war to take but they also have wars of words over what is right. War always has casualties.

Jesus came to make peace. He has made peace with Heaven.

"Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, 'Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?' " - John 18:10-11 ESV

As disciples we enter the battle with the sword of human warfare in its sheath.

Go ahead and hate me. I will love you because Christ has loved me. I fight against evil not flesh and blood. I want peace with all men.

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." - Ephesians 6:12 ESV
Thank You God. You are at peace with us. Make us peacemakers.

Thank You God for our veterans they served and went to war so that we could have peace. We honor them today. Peace is a precious thing.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Prayer That Has Energy

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months." - James 5:16b-17 KJV

The ESV translates this passage this way.

"The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth." - James 5:16-17 ESV

Fervent prayer is prayer with energy (energeō - Strong's G1754). Where does that energy come from? Is it emotional?

I have seen people 'pray hard' in a desperate way for things that haven't happened.

I find the example given here about Elijah very interesting. He prayed it wouldn't rain. That doesn't seem like a prayer that is helping someone. In fact, it is inconveniencing a lot of people. Droughts like that are devastating. God was closing off the faucet of logistical grace using Elijah's prayer.

"Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit." - James 5:18 ESV

Then He opened the faucet again using one man's prayer life.

I think there are times when all my prayers of, 'Bless this one and bless that one' have really just been carnal and have had no energy.

FYI. No one is sending positive energy toward anyone else. That whole economy is just bunk and wishful thinking. We are dealing with kingdoms and intelligent power structures. According to the Bible the universe is a creation of God and not some karmic power grid that can be tapped into and used as a courier service for warm fluffy starlight.

Witholding rain was exactly what God wanted to do for that time. That is what would build capacity. That is what would break the cycles of natural strength. God answered a man's prayer because that man had God's mind on a subject.

I don't know about you but I want to have an effective prayer life. How about this prayer.

'God, Please don't bless that person until they have a hunger to receive from You.'

Sounds harsh doesn't it? Maybe it is just the kind of unsentimental prayer that God will truly answer. Then the day will come for the shower of blessing and all the dust and grime that has built up will be washed away and replaced with freshness.

God please remove our moral 'niceness' and fill us with Your love. Make us salt and light. We don't want to be people of friendly phrases. We want to be people who have depth and true effectiveness. Only You can do this. We pray You will soften the hardened heart and give a backbone to those among us who are friendly but spineless.

Thank You God.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Preeminence - Colossians - Part 39

"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. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell," - Colossians 1:18-19 ESV

The Hapax Legomena (uniquely used word) in verse 18 is (pre-eminent - prōteuō - Strong's G4409). The NAS translates this word 'to have first place' and it is a concept we all understand. He was first. He Is first and we will go into the future with Jesus being first.

In one sense when we sin we enter into territory He has never traveled into as a transgressor. Faithlessness is a state Jesus has never been in.

At the same time...

"Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!" - Psalm 139:7-8 ESV

Jesus has traveled into the Earth and visited the grave. He hung on a cross long before you and I were born and experienced the separation and punishment for our sins before we even committed them.

I like that this passage is the one in line to speak about today. We just had our presidential election in the United States and now that the votes are in there is a group that has won and is thanking God for the victory and there is one that has lost and must be wondering how they can go forward. Still... The Messiah is number one. He was first and He Is first. Human governments come in and go out like the tide but Jesus Is Lord.

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." - Romans 8:37 ESV

That is a true statement that will always be true. Jesus has already crossed the finish line and we have crossed it with Him.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Made Visible - Colossians - Part 38

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 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. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 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. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell," - Colossians 1:15-19 ESV

In verse 16 we have our uniquely used word. It is visible (horatos - Strong's G3707) that verse also has a similar word translated invisible (aoratos - Strongs G517) which is used 5x's in the New Testament.

Jesus made the invisible God visible. He breaks the third wall. Like a character speaking to the audience in a play.

"But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." - Luke 11:20 ESV

Jesus wasn't created first (some mistranslate verse 15 and say that.) He Is first and always will be. He makes God visible. He did it historically and He Is doing it personally in life after life.

He opens the eyes of the blind.

Here is another amazing passage that reinforces some of the principles we see in this part of Colossians.

"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high," - Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV

It is my conviction that all of creation is God's artwork to showcase redemption. Jesus is the focal point that holds it all together in the same way that a main character holds the plotline together of a literary work of art.

The incarnation was the purpose of creation. Jesus made the angelic contest visible. He brings to light unseen forces and dynamics.

"For we walk by faith, not by sight." - 2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

When Jesus is in view life makes sense. To the unbeliever, that sounds foolish but to those who believe the invisible is made visible.

God speaks to us using the Bible because of the work and workings of His Son. He can speak to You today. He can illuminate your world if you let Him. Believe in Jesus and God will heal your blindness. Trust in Him and see the hope that is only visible to those who believe.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Pleasing The Father - Colossians - Part 37

"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;" - Colossians 1:9-10 ESV

The unique word here is in verse 1:10 (pleasing - areskeia - Strong's G699) and it is derived from a root (airō - Strong's G142) which means to pick up and take away. Interesting.

This morning as I sit here pondering God's will I can't help but think of parenthood. What is a parent's will for their children when they are young and then when they are older adults.

We are God's adult children. If we have spiritual wisdom and understanding then we can function in maturity towards Him.

We have a gracious Father in Heaven. He is a King who dwells in holiness. He cares for people. He has sent us on a redemptive mission.

Finding His will involves coming under His vision.

Perhaps we have all functioned as little children towards God at one time or another but the writer is praying for the maturity of this Church. An older child who sees something out of place will just pick it up and put it in its place without being told knowing that the parent is pleased when things are in order. Paul is praying that this Church will come under God's vision more and more until it becomes their culture.

I want to take on my Heavenly Father's value system. He doesn't just want me to be happy. He wants me (and you) to be fruitful.

Thank You God. We know you are happy with us because of Your Son. Teach us to be people who see what needs to be moved and take responsibility to carry out the task. We want to identify what gives You joy and participate in those activities. It might be as simple as resting instead of striving or edifying a person instead of passively watching them suffer. Guide us to be gracious like You are gracious.

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." - John 1:12-14 ESV

Yes. Amen.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Power And Negotiation

The last few days my meditation has been about power and negotiation. It takes power to even have a negotiation. The powerless have no negotiation leverage so there is often no negotiation at all.

The Bible shows different men negotiating with God. Abraham. Moses at the burning bush. Jacob wrestling with God.

Then there are examples of men negotiating with other men. Ahab trying to secure Naboth's vineyard (see 1 Kings 21:1f)

The conclusion I have come to is that hope is the negotiation power of the believer.

"And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." - Romans 5:5 KJV

"According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death." - Philippians 1:20 KJV

Shame comes when we lose over and over. We begin to hate our self because of our powerlessness. God flips that equation over on its side.

Hope assures us that we have power with God. It isn't the power to gratify self per se but it is power in God's plan. We pray and God hears us. We are not powerless.

Today I will go and negotiate with people and urge them to secure the gift that the blood of Christ has purchased on their behalf. I will communicate grace as God gives me ability so that people know that God wants to give them something. I will let them know that their morality means nothing to God. It gives them no power. God holds all the cards and yet because of love He wants to give them power and position as a free gift.

God, I pray that our negotiations go well today. Bless us as we go. Thank you for exercising power on our behalf. It is beyond our understanding why you love us like you do.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Hope And Literacy - Colossians - Part 36

This morning as I look at the first Hapax Legomena words in Colossians I can't help but think of all the amazing Wycliffe translators who struggle to bring the word of God to people groups that have no written Bible. How many peoples that only had a spoken language have been given the gift of a written language all because someone (or a small group of people) took the time to live in their culture and learn from them so that the words and unique grammar could be codified in a written form.

The latest statistics I can find show that as of November 2015 the whole Bible is available in over 550 languages and a full New Testament is available in over 1,300 tongues.

Not many people realize that a Bible translation also gives a written language to many people groups that had no written language before. The spread of the Gospel has also meant the spread of literacy which gives so many other gifts.

The first unique word (1:5 hear before - Strongs G4257 - proakouō) is in this verse.

"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel," - Colossians 1:3-5 ESV

Last night we had an interesting conversation about Hope.

"...and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." - Romans 5:5 ESV

The hope given in the Gospel never puts us to shame. Guilt is when we hate what we have done but shame is when we hate who we are. The Gospel pours love into us and it never results in self-hatred.

Legalism does cause shame but the Gospel never does.

Paul uses this unique Greek word to say that the Colossians have changed lives because of what they have 'heard before.' The Colossians love and their love is evident.

How many children will sit in a school house at a tiny desk and write in a language that never existed on paper until someone who loved God came to give a large portion of their life and make that happen? Those people came because the God who gave the good news also filled their heart full of love.

God please bless those Bible translator who labor even today to translate your words into languages that are only spoken by an isolated group of people. Help them. They are people like us. Give them great grace and mercy and touch the lives of the people they come in contact with. They are bringing a gift that adds and does not subtract. It is the divine gift of an identity without shame. Right along with that gift is the gift of literacy.

Thank you God.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Hapax Legomena in Colossians - Colossians - Part 35

We are not done with Colossians. Far from it. This is a rich book and we are just going to change gears. There are many unique concepts given and words used in this books. I plan to explore the uniqueness of the book.

If you want to do a neat study look up the term 'Hapax Legomena' in relationship to a book of the Bible. It is a term associated with unique usage. Here is a list of verses and Greek words (translated into English) that are only used in this book and nowhere else in the Bible. They are the 'Hapax Legomena' of Colossians. I excluded names of places.

1:5 hear before
1:10 pleasing
1:16 visible
1:18 pre-eminent
1:20 make peace
1:23 shift
1:24 complete
2:4 beguiling speech
2:5 firmness
2:8 make a prey of
2:8 philosophy
2:9 deity
2:9 bodily
2:11 put off
2:14 bond
2:14 nail
2:16 new moon
2:18 disqualify
2:18 take a stand on
2:20 submit to regulations
2:22 use
2:23 rigor of devotion
2:23 severity
2:23 indulgence
3:8 foul talk
3:13 complaint
3:15 rule
3:15 thankful
3:21 discourage
3:24 reward
4:10 cousin
4:11 comfort

A word never used anywhere else is not easy to understand. We need context to gain understanding. Many of these words have great theological significance because they introduce new concepts or perspectives.

I hope that list is a blessing to you. Over the next few days I plan to reread each of the verses associated with these words in mind and ask God to reveal the unique concepts presented.

"Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him." - Proverbs 30:5 KJV

Yes, Thank You God.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Paul's Chains - Colossians - Part 34

Good morning. If you are reading this then that means you are alive and it is my firm conviction that where there is life there is hope.

I had interesting dreams last night. The details of them are fading even as I type but the theme and thought I was left with was the concept of 'being painted into a corner.' I don't hear people talk about it very much but I do see the theme everywhere in fiction and in life.

People tend to get trapped by their own projects or locked into circumstances. Stepping on wet paint makes a mess and waiting wastes time. The grass is always greener out in the free zone if you are stuck in a trap of your own design.

We find that life is filled with many painters and at times our progress is halted by the work of others.

I think this is a fitting thought for this last verse of the last chapter of Colossians.

"I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you." - Colossians 4:18 ESV

Paul's life has brought him to this place. A trapped man who is truly free. He isn't complaining or full of despair. He is writing about the loftiest of subjects. He is moving forward. He has hope for himself and others. God is being revealed moment by moment to him in his experience.

The Gospel is a message for trapped people who long to be free. It is for dying people who want to live.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil." - John 3:16-19 ESV

If you are happy functioning in your own power then this isn't such good news.

But, For the father who suddenly realizes that his life is locked in because he has children or the business owner who knows that others are relying on them this is wonderful news.

It is wonderful news to anyone who has painted themselves into a corner or who has come to grips with the reality that death is coming at them like a freight train and one day they will face the final situation where the only solution lies in a Savior who will be the way of escape.

Paul was in chains. The Colossians knew that. I'm sure they prayed for his release but I'm also sure that it was motivation for them to live in the freedom of the One who gives release.

Are you trapped today? There is a Savior who releases captives.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed," - Luke 4:18 ESV

If you are alive then you have hope.

"'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living." - Matthew 22:32 ESV

Believe in Jesus and join the ranks of the living. There is hope in Him. He will be your constant companion as the paint drys and He will release you from every chain at the perfect moment.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Fulfill The Ministry - Colossians - Part 33

"And say to Archippus, 'See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.' " - Colossians 4:17 ESV

Isn't that a great example of the writer's heart? Couldn't we put different names in there?

Don't quit. See things through to the end. You are a steward of a ministry that God has given you. It is a ministry of reconciliation. It is unique to your life and relationship to God. Fulfill it.

Pastors and discerning people have used this phrase in key moments throughout the ages but in this case Paul is talking to Archippus and we know a little about this person from elsewhere in the scriptures. Here is some backstory from the book of Philemon.

"Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you - I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus - I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart." - Philemon 1:1-12 ESV

Beautiful isn't it?

Onesimus is mentioned in verse 9 of this same chapter in Colossians.

People get into complicated situations, don't they? How do we go forward? 'Fulfill the ministry' is great advice. It takes forgiveness to do that. It takes faith in the one who has given us the ministry.

Why don't we just put our name in there today...

"And say to ________, 'See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.' " - Colossians 4:17 ESV

God. You sit on a throne far away but your words of encouragement have reached our ears. You have given us great gifts. Please strengthen us. Keep our eyes on Jesus. Make us good stewards of Your ministry. Thank You God.