Thursday, January 31, 2013

Directed Yet Troubled

The fact that God creates in us the desire to do his will does not negate the fact that we experience effort or trouble. Paul is honest about the conflict he suffers to spread the gospel (Colossians 2:1). He writes to the people in Corinth,

"...far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches" (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)."

Jesus also expressed his troubled heart. "“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name"(John 12:27-28). " And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch"(Mark 14:23-24). Read Hebrews 5:7-8 to understand the emotions of what he was facing.

We are human, but God will never abandon us even when our emotions seem to betray us. As we practice laying our troubles at his feet and determine to trust him no matter what, the peace of God will guard our hearts in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


God works in us, placing in us the desire to do his will (Philippians 2:13; Psalm 37:4). Paul explains that his striving is connected with God's strong workings in him. It is almost as if he is driven by an overpowering desire which God placed in him (Colossians 1:29).

God receives all the glory for any spiritual results of our work because he placed the desire in us to do it, provided the means to do it, gave us the ideas to do it, provided all we needed to do it, then caused the outcome through us.

One might protest, "then we are but puppets". I say, what is wrong with being God's puppet? He does all things will. Everything he does is for our benefit. He rewards us far beyond anything we have done. He gives us peace in the middle of chaos. He gives us strength, wisdom and power to overcome. He loves us, has given us creativity and blesses us abundantly. I tell you what, I'm happy to be his puppet.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Warning and Teaching

I can remember it was popular not to eat fat and the market was flooded with non-fat items. Then there was the Atkinson's diet and meat was king. Then vegetarian diet became the rage.

Do you remember cabbage patch dolls? How about tickle me Elmo's, Transformers, or now Wi games? Do you remember bell bottom pants, long hair on men? Now it's tattoos.

Humans have a tendency to over emphasis one thing or another

Centuries ago most sermons and teachings were on the fires of hell, warning people of the need to repent and soliciting terror of God. Then a drastic turn about occurred in preaching and more and more sermons were about the love of God and as a whole people lost any fear of God.

Paul says he warns every man and teaches every man (Colossians 1:28). He warns man because God is just and all sin must be punished. Without Christ taking our punishment for us we would be separated from God forever. He teaches every man about God and his character so that we can not only fear God but love him for what he has done for us. Our lives are changed.

Monday, January 28, 2013


Stewardship is not a word we use frequently. It means the careful and responsible managing of something entrusted to one's care. Paul was given the stewardship of the building of the church as were the eleven disciples who had physically lived with Jesus before his death and resurrection.

The building of the universal church had been a mystery since Adam walked the earth. Angels wanted to understand this mystery but it was hidden from everyone until after Jesus' resurrection (Colossians 1:24-27; 1 Peter 1:12; Ephesians 3:1-7, 5:32; 1 Corinthians 16:25 ).

The great mystery of the church is Christ dwelling in us "the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). God decided to allow us to share in his divine nature so that we can live godly lives (2 Peter 1:3-4). It is his power in us that overcomes the world (John 16:33; 1 John 1:4-5).

We also have been entrusted by God with specific tasks. Let us be faithful stewards of what he has entrusted to us.

Friday, January 25, 2013

What is Lacking?

Paul says a peculiar thing in Colossians. "I rejoice in my suffering for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of his body, the church..." (Colossians 1:24). How can anything be lacking in the sufferings of Christ?

It is a problem of translating across cultures. Our modern minds put modern meanings to his words. He is not saying that the cross is not sufficient to cover sin and he must somehow make up the difference. Nor is he saying Christ did not finish the work his Father sent him to do and Paul must finish it for him.

What he is saying is that Christ left us work to do, preach the gospel (Mt 28:18-20) and that task involves suffering at times (John 16:1-4, 33). Fulfilling what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ means there is suffering associated with spreading the gospel and there is more suffering to be done because not everyone has heard yet.

It is like saying, our work in spreading the gospel is not finished yet; we are lacking people who must hear and that will involve suffering because we are preaching truth. When we preach we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. He has granted to us this gift of sharing in everything including his inheritance (Romans 8:17).

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ground Wiring

Lightening during a storm can set a house on fire or destroy circuitry. To prevent this houses are wired so that any electrical surge is routed into the grounded. This process is called grounding.

Grounded can also mean mentally and emotionally stable: admirably sensible ant stable, realistic and unpretentious.

To be "grounded and steadfast in faith and not moved away from the gospel" would mean we rely completely on God to protect us during storms of life. We are not unrealistic to think we will never encounter storm, nor imagine that we are above troubles. We have a realistic outlook, knowing that God will sustain us in all situations (Colossians 1:21-23; Ephesians 3:14-19).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Grounded and Steadfast

There are those who believe that praying and talking to God is enough to get them to heaven. They do not believe that their living in sin alienates them from God. They read books about God. They pray when they are in trouble. They might even occasionally thank him for sunsets and sunrises but his words do not change their lives.

One woman who practices sexual relations outside of marriage told me, "I don't believe God would send one of his children to hell". She was absolutely right. But that is not the question. The question is whether she was his child or not.

Paul wrote in Ephesians that those who practice (live in continual sin) will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Galatians 5:19-21). Jesus said those who do not keep his word do not love him (John 14:23-24).

In his letter to the believers at Colosse, Paul writes that Jesus will present us holy and blameless and without reproach if "indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel..." (Colossians 1:21-23).

Our actions speak louder than our words and God's Word has more authority than our philosophy.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Changing Our Minds

What does it mean to be reconciled to God (Colossians 1:19-20)? Paul explains what this looks like. We were alienated from God. We had no fellowship with him. All our actions and thoughts were self focused. Even our good works had in them a hope of human recognition as we observe when we are not appreciated.

Paul reminds us that our wicked works caused us to think in terms that alienated our minds from God. We were bound in mind and therefore in our actions. When God reconciled us to himself he changed both our minds and our actions.

He has made us immediately cleansed so that we can be in fellowship with him now, and yet is in the process of perfecting us in his ways. In other words, we are increasing in our understanding of God so that we increasingly live more and more worthy of his calling.

(Colossians 1:21-22; Hebrews 10:10-14).

Monday, January 21, 2013

Grace and Peace

"...having made peace through the blood of his cross" (Colossians 1:20).

Many readers of Paul's letters skim over the opening greetings to get to the main content and miss an extremely important part of what he has to say. He continually begins with, "Grace to you and peace from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" or "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ".

Grace produces peace.

Without God's grace we would be his enemies (Romans 5:10). No wonder we lived in anxiety, fear and depression before we knew God. God can be very scary. He has the power to create or destroy entire universes with a word. There would be no escape if he were out to destroy us.

However, we can rest in peace without fear because God is not only not our enemy, but our protector (Romans 5:1-11, 8:31; Hebrews 13:5:; Matthew 6:25-34; Romans 9:22-23; 1Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 5:4-10).

Friday, January 18, 2013

No Winking

Because God is all righteous and there is no evil in him, because he is just, he cannot ignore sin. He does not fellowship with unrighteousness, wink at injustice or ignore rebellion (James 1:13-17). Therefore when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the free communication had to be severed between God and man (Genesis 3:8)

But God loved his creation. Men tend to withdraw their love when they administer judgement, but God is equally loving as he is just. He knew before he created us as sentient beings that we would rebel. This did not stop him from giving us life, nor did he throw up his hands in despair. Instead he took the punishment for sin upon himself so that we could be restored to full fellowship with him.

This is what it means to be reconciled to God (Colossians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21).


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Set of Clothes

"For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in him, and through him to reconcile all things to himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross, whether things on earth or things in heaven" (Colossians 1:19-20).

Jesus physical body held within it the fullness of God, so that he was fully man and fully God. The clothes I wear do not change who I am. Jesus' physical body did not change who he was. He consciously choose to take on the form of man and to suffer as a man in order to reconcile us to himself and to his Father.

The Father and Son were pleased, took pleasure, in doing this (Ephesians 1:5,9; Colossians 1:19).

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


The term firstborn in scripture has important significance that is sometimes lost on 21st century readers. We think of it as meaning the eldest child, the first one to be born. In scripture it means much more. Firstborn is a title, much like the words Caesar or Herod, or king. It indicates position and power.

Though firstborn in reference to Jesus could refer to his earthly birth, his body created in Mary's womb, it also refers to his preeminence and authority.

Throughout scripture, the first child received double the inheritance. He became the head of the family at the death of the father. His word was law.

Jesus has always existed in relationship with the Father from eternity past and will remain so in eternity future. When scripture calls him first born it does not mean he was created at any time or that there was a time when he did not exist. First born in relationship to Christ means above and over all things, past, present and future. It refers to the fact that he is ultimately in control of all things and is more important than all things except the Father (Colossians 1:17-18; 1Corinthians 8:6; 15:24-27).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Head of the Body

The head of a corporation decides the direction of the company. The head of an army gives the commands that affect every soldier. The head of a country affects the lives of every individual.

Paul said, "Jesus is the head of the body, the church" (Colossians 1:18). So what does that mean?

The local church is simply a small gathering of the universal church. The church is all believers. Individual people make up the church. Without them there is only an empty building. So when Paul writers that Jesus is the head of the church, he is not only speaking of Jesus' authority in what happens in the local body of believers, but also the authority in each individual's life.

The question arises, does authority mean "he should be the authority" or "he is the authority"? Does it mean he decides what happens in our lives, or that he tells us what we should do and we decide to obey or not?

Both are correct.

Psalm 37:23; 40:2; Psalm 139:16; Proverbs 16:9; Jeremiah 10:23; John 14:15, 21, 15:10; John 3:26-27, 19:10-11; Acts 4:27).


Monday, January 14, 2013


As we learned last week, Cyrus' birth and name was predicted by Isaiah nearly two centuries before his Empire arose (Isaiah 45:1-7). God knows exactly what is happening in earth and who each ruler is, as well as what they will do. His interference in the events on earth are usually kept secret from us, but every now and again he pulls back the veil and allows us a glimpse of his glory. Cyrus is one of those glimpses.

God chose to subdue nations before Cyrus. He chose to cause his enemies to be defeated (vs 1). He would open up the double protective doors and gates of other kingdoms on his behalf. God would crush mountains and make crooked paths straight, a symbol of the king's complete victory in battles. All of this was done though Cyrus did not know God (vs 4-5, 3).

There is nothing and no one who can thwart what God has decided to come to pass (Isaiah 45:6-7; Job 42:2; Isaiah chapter 40; Colossians 1:15-16).

Friday, January 11, 2013

King Predicted

There is an amazing chapter in the Bible that you may not have noticed. Isaiah prophesies the name of a ruler yet to be born and gives him a specific name, Cyrus. God would stir Cyrus heart to send God's people back home from their captivity in Babylon.

This was prophesied a century and a half before Cyrus was born and two centuries before the empire arose. God said nothing could stop this prophecy from being fulfilled and it did all come to pass.

God did this to prove a point. "That they may know from the rising of the son to its setting that there is none besides me. I am The Lord, and there is no other. I turn light into darkness. I make peace and create calamity; I The Lord, do all these things" (Isaiah 45:6-7; 1-7; Colossians 1:16-17).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

All Authorities

Jesus Christ not only created incomparable beauty, he also created and set up powers, "whether thrones or dominions, or rulers or authorities" (Colossians 1:16).

This is a much more difficult concept to fathom than it appears at first glance. For instance does this mean Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein were put in place by Jesus Christ? Or is it that Jesus Christ created the idea of rulers and authorities but men put whomever they want into power?

The debate rages in Christian circles. One feels emotionally intolerable that God should place such evil in powerful positions while the other leaves us at the mercy of humans and is frightening.

But look at the full sentence. "For by him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. All things were created through him and for him" (Colossians 1:16).

No matter which way you perceive the issue, no matter who the ruler, or how evil, God will get his purpose done in the lives us his children (Isaiah 55:8-11; Hebrews chapter 4).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Painting, Music, Architecture

The Promenade was painted by Monet. The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci. The original structure of the White House was designed by Pierre Charles L'Enfant. Mount Rushmore was carved by Gutzon Borglum. Handel's Messiah was written by GeorgevFridrick Handel.

Mount Everest was Created by Jesus Christ, as was the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, all the seas, Lakes, rivers, creaks, and waterfalls, the Himalayans, the Ozark's, the Sierras, the Appalachian and all the other mountain ranges in the world.

The greatest artist that ever walked this planet was Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:16, John 1:1-3).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Like Father, Like Son

When I was young, I made the same mistake as the disciple Philip (John 14:8). I thought of God the Father as having a completely different motivation than Jesus. I thought the Father was angry at us for sinning and was set on punishing us by destroying us, but Jesus stepped in and rescued us from the Father.

But Jesus is the exact representation of the Father (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 2:1-3). Jesus' words are the Father's words (John 12:49-50). Jesus' actions are exactly what the Father designed to occur (John 5:19).

It is true that God the Father is angry at sin, so is Jesus (Isaiah chapter 5; John 2:13-16). It is true that sin must be punished (Leviticus chapter 4). It is true that those who continue to practice sin will not enter the kingdom of God but will be cast out from God's presence forever (Galatians 5:19-21; Matthew 25:30-46).

But both the Father and the Son wanted to rescue their creation from this destruction. So God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) planned and carried out our rescue by Jesus' birth, death and resurrection ( Colossians 1:12-15).

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Early Hours

For many, the early hours of the morning are emotionally difficult. Some waken in a twilight thought of despair while others are suddenly fully awake with the mind racing. Depression tells us life has no purpose, or if it does it has skipped us. We wonder why we are breathing, what benefit are we to the world, or to those we love.

But the truth is, God is at work in us to bring about something wonderful. We may catch glimpses of part of his purpose on earth, but we cannot see it fully until heaven. Then we will be amazed at the intricate details of a breathtaking portrait of himself that he accomplished in and through us (Psalm 37:3-7a, 23-24; Psalm 40:1-3; Psalm 139:15-18; 1Corinthians 2:9-12; Ephesians 1:10-11, 2:10).

God has given us inner peace, because we know his plan for our eternal future. We have been saved from ourselves and from our enemy by the shedding of Jesus' blood. Our sins have been forgiven (Colossians 1:14). We are part of a glorious plan initiated and accomplished by God. Remember that in the early hours.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Long Suffering with Joy

God took us out of the kingdom of darkness and placed us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love (Colossians 1:13).

It is a kingdom of love. God never stopped loving Jesus. All that Jesus said and did was an expression of who the Father is (Hebrews 1:1-3) and his love for us. He spared nothing in his quest to rescue us from Satan's power (Romans 8:31-32).

He has set us free from the internal affects of darkness and filled us with compassion, forgiveness, inner strength, wisdom, insight, prudence, love, faithfulness, joy, peace, ability to withstand suffering, gentleness, goodness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).

This is how we can have "patience in suffering with joy" (Colossians 1:11).

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Power of Darkness

What is darkness and what is its power? Darkness is the work of Satan and his companions. It is hatred, un-forgiveness, covetousness, lying, deceit, cheating, manipulation, adultery, fornication, unfaithfulness, drunkenness, contentiousness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, outbursts of wrath, dissensions, heresies, envy, jealousies, coarse jesting, selfish ambitions and the like (Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-7).

The power of the darkness is the power to destroy life. It is a life filled with suspicion and loneliness, of mistrust and anger, a life filled with discontent.

God has delivered us from all of this. He has brought us out of this darkness into His light (Colossians 1:13).

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Joy Set Before Us

Paul gives us a glimpse of this joy in suffering with his next phrase. "Giving thanks to the Father who qualifies us to be partakers of the inheritance with the saints in the light" (Colossians 1:12). He goes on, "He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of his love."

The treasures that are hidden in our vessels of clay are breathtaking. God makes us qualified. That alone is enough to sweep one off one's feet. God has given us inheritance with millions of brothers and sisters in Christ. We have a overwhelmingly large family.

God has delivered us from the power of darkness. Though we may be surrounded by darkness, the darkness is no longer in us. It does not control us, nor can it destroy us.

We will review more of this joy tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Paul writes, "strengthened with all might according to his glorious power for all patience and long suffering with joy (Colossians 1:11). Who is he kidding? How can one have joy in the midst of long suffering?

Jesus gave us the key. "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross despising the shame" (Hebrews 12:1-2).

We are not sadistic children. We do not enjoy suffering. Jesus despised the shame. But we do not focus on the pain. We focus on the outcome, God's reward. That is how and why we power for joy in the midst of suffering.