Posted in Colossians, Galatians, Hebrews

The Old Self

“But now you must rid yourself of all such things as these: anger, rage, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:8-10

One day  my wife gave me her strong opinion on my favorite apparel, “I don’t want you to wear those sweaters any more. They make you look old.” She continued with conviction: “In fact, one day they’re just not going to be in your closet anymore.”

I love sweaters and especially my sweaters. They all fit me perfectly and most were birthday or Christmas presents because my family knows I love to wear them. What’s worse is that all of these sweaters were in my winter starting line-up of what to wear to work. They were practically part of me.

Hebrews 12:1 talks about easily besetting sins that need to be put off or they will hinder us in our race. Each of us have different easily besetting or comfortable sins. Think of them as sweaters in your closet – there’s one called lust, another anger, there’s hatred and slander, lying, filthy talk, and addiction; and then, of course, there’s pride. Often there’s one that fits so well it seems like it’s part of us.

The problem with these sweaters is they make us look like the old self. It’s confusing to the world when we claim to be Christians but don’t look like Christians. Why didn’t Alice just remove those sweaters from my closet? She didn’t want to violate relationship. If she removed the sweaters against my will, I might resent it. She gave her opinion but left them there, so that ultimately it would be my choice. God does the same with our old self. Paul is writing to Christians when he says to take off the old self and put on the new. God won’t do it for us.

Alice bought me new clothes to wear. She didn’t just tell me to put off the old; she purchased new clothes that she likes on me. Jesus has done the same. Here are some of the clothes available for the new self to put on: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) Jesus bought these clothes with His own blood so we could be and look, new in Him.

Every day we need to look in our closet, reject the old self and put on the new. It will get easier and easier in this life, and in eternity, those sweaters won’t even be there anymore!

Posted in Colossians, Hebrews, Isaiah

Living from God’s Presence 

“There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest…” Hebrews 4:9-11

At the beginning of 2015, I felt the Lord highlight this Scripture with a stream of thoughts about its application in my life. I’m a list person, so God seems to speak to me in lists!

  1. I want you to do less and accomplish more.
  2. I want you to speak less and say more.
  3. I want you to rationalize less and risk more.

I am still unpacking exactly how to live these three phrases out, but I’d love to give a few thoughts on each one that may serve to inspire your journey as well.

  1. “Do less and accomplish more.” This was a call to stop striving in my own power usually motivated by the fear of not being good enough. Jesus was good enough and He is our Sabbath rest. In the Old Covenant they rested on a day; in the New Covenant we are called to rest in a Person. (Colossians 2:16-17) Remember: God can accomplish more in a moment than man, apart from God, can accomplish in a lifetime.
  2. “Speak less and say more.” Our life’s posture should be listening before speaking. Many words of our own will dilute the power of a few words inspired by God. Isaiah 50:4 is a goal for me: “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen…” We live in a culture that is worn out by many words. One “word” that is actually from God has the power to sustain the weary.
  3. “Rationalize less and risk more.” We are living as the beloved, not as those trying to earn love. This is a safe place. Yet the kingdom can only advance by acts of faith, so someone has to step out of their comfort zone and take a risk when they feel God might be speaking. We were created to live hosting His Presence. The more we practice living out of this place, the better we will be at it and the more of the beauty and power of heaven will be released on earth through regular people like you and me.
Posted in Colossians

Love’s Laboratory

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker, “Life is the school, love is the lesson.” If life is the school then I propose that marriage is the laboratory in the school. Marriage is where a man and a woman freely lock themselves into this small room with vows to one another, and then give God permission to lock the door from the other side by their vows to Him. God’s purpose is that we stay in there until we don’t want to ever get out because we’ve learned how to love.

God knows that if we can learn how to really love one person with all their flaws, we will be able to love anyone.  How can we learn to love God’s way in our marriages?

  1. Focus on how you’re loving your spouse, not on how they’re loving you. There is no command requiring us to make sure we’re being treated in a certain way. When we focus on how our spouse is treating us, we’re set up for grievances. 
  2. Put on love every day. Being in Christ, dearly loved, holy and chosen, doesn’t guarantee we will live in love; it only makes it possible. A few verses earlier, we are called to put off the old man and put on the new. (Colossians 3:9)  Both outfits are in a Christian’s closet. If we don’t choose to put on love every day, we are capable of living just as selfishly as those who have no interest in pleasing God.
  3. Return to the source when love runs dry. One of the most shocking things we find out in the laboratory of marriage is how unloving we can be. Don’t freak out when you don’t feel you love your spouse anymore; get a refill. You can be fully assured that Jesus loves your spouse as much as ever and is able to soften and empower your heart again.

After God locks the laboratory door, He walks through it and will be the center of our marriages, if we will only let Him. And a cord of three strands is really hard to break!

Posted in Colossians, Ecclesiastes, Revelation

Bored

“All things are wearisome… That which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, ‘See this, it is new?’” Ecclesiastes 1:8-10

King Solomon was in the same state that many Americans are in today. He was bored. He had money, position, and time to do everything and anything he wanted, so he tried it all and still found himself bored. He sought after pleasure through laughter, alcohol, and sex.  He sought satisfaction through work, education and the accumulation of wealth. (See Ecclesiastes 2) After all his pursuits he said, “All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them…. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)

Under the sun. That’s the key. If all you live for is that which is under the sun, your life will be mediocre at best. You may have an existence, but you won’t really live. You may accumulate a lot of stuff, and have lots of toys, but eventually they will bore you. I don’t think many Americans are caught up in gambling today because they want to get rich. I think it’s because people are bored with life under the sun, and gambling gives them a little excitement.

There’s a better way. Seek for the One who is over the sun. Jesus said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5) When a person truly lives for God a new purpose guides their activities; a new excitement comes into even the mundane duties of life. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” (Colossians 3:23-24)  All of a sudden housework becomes holy. You’re not just cleaning for your family, you’re cleaning for Jesus. Work becomes more challenging because you’re not just trying to please the boss, who only checks once in a while, you’re trying to please the real Boss, who is watching all the time. Life is exciting over the sun.

Are you bored? Stir yourself to seek the One who makes all things new.

Posted in Colossians, Isaiah, John, Philippians

Are You Willing?  

“If you are willing and obedient you will eat the best from the land.” Isaiah 1:19

A minister in the 1950’s was complaining to God saying, “God, you said if I was willing and obedient, I would eat the best of the land and I’ve been obedient.”

He had been a pastor when God told him to start traveling because he wasn’t really a pastor, he was a prophet and a teacher. Even though it was difficult to leave the security of a pastorate, he obeyed God. The problem was that he wasn’t making it. His shoes were worn out, his wife and kids were barely surviving, and there was constant financial pressure on his home. All this when he had only obeyed God and stepped out in faith.

The Lord answered this man with a whisper: “You’ve been obedient, but you haven’t been willing.” When he told this story, he said that he instantly became willing in response to God’s prompting, and it started to change everything in his life.

Did you know you can be obedient and not be willing? You can do the will of God and carry out your responsibilities as “have tos,” but that’s not good enough for God. He only releases His full blessing over us when we “want to.” It’s not enough for Him that we serve Him; He wants us to be happy about it.

The sweet Spirit of God was given so we would have both power to God’s will as well as the “want to.” Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God who works in you to will (the want to) and to act (the power to do) according to His good purpose.”

The way we change all of the “have tos,” in our lives into “want tos,” is by embracing the cross and doing them for God instead of for man. Jesus said that no one took His life from Him; “I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:18). You and I have the choice of resenting our “have tos,” or of making them “want tos,” by doing them for God.

How we do what we do changes everything and puts us in the place of God’s full blessing. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24).

Posted in 1Thessalonians, Colossians, James, Jeremiah, Psalms, Romans

Give Thanks

“In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1Thessalonians 5:18

Many times we aren’t sure what God’s perfect will is for a situation, so we waver between one direction and another. “God, couldn’t you speak more clearly so that I would know for sure?” Well, this passage is crystal clear and it’s right in the word of God; “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will…” The interesting thing about God’s will is that it is not as much about what we do, as it is about how we do what we do. Listen to this verse: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:23) Whatever you do! Praying, eating, playing, watching football, shopping…. whatever.

Our text doesn’t say “for everything,” evil does happen, but rather, “in everything.” How can we thank God in every single circumstance we are in?

We can always thank Him for His love which endures forever. God loves you and me right now no matter what we’re going through! How wonderful is that?

We can thank Him that He is in control. However bad things may seem, everything that is happening has at least been allowed by God and has not surprised Him. We can thank Him for always having a plan for good no matter how badly we have messed things up. (Jeremiah 29:11) We can thank Him for His wisdom which is able to work “all” things for our good. (Romans 8:28) He will use our trials (self inflicted or God ordained) to make us complete and content in Christ alone. (James 1:2-4)

No matter what is going on we can thank Him that our real life is, “hidden with Christ in God,” (Colossians 3:1) and that our real home is in heaven. We can thank Him for the forgiveness of our sins and for His guiding presence in our future. We can thank Him for the cross, and that whatever hardship we are going through is nothing compared to what He went through for us. We can thank Him for being good, for being our Father, for being our Savior – for being our everything. As the Psalmist has said, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His loving-kindness is everlasting.” (Psalm 107:1)

Posted in 1Thessalonians, Colossians, Romans

The Power of Your Calling

“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” 1Thessalonians 5:24

The power to fulfill your calling lies in the One who called you. We can either live before God out of our calling, or live before men out of guilt, man-pleasing, or fear of rejection. Because we all naturally tend toward the latter, we need to remind ourselves to come back continually to the One who calls us.

Even though I have been given responsibility to provide accountability for our pastoral staff, I don’t want them working for me. If they do their work for a man then they will probably only do the minimum he requires, and the quality of their work will probably fluctuate proportionate to whether “the boss” is watching or not. It is too low a calling to work for any person.

Colossians 3:23 reads: “Whatever you do, do your work wholeheartedly for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward.” Everything you and I do can be holy if we do it for the right Person. It doesn’t matter whether we’re at church, school, work, or even at play – if we’re living for God we will find His energy, pleasure and reward. Paul tells us that it even applies to eating meals! “He who eats does so for the Lord for he gives thanks to God…” (Romans 14:6)

What has God called you to do? Not, “what do you want to do,” or “what do your parents want you to do,” but what has God called you to do? If you’re not sure, I think you should review your history and see if He hasn’t given some hints. Come back to that calling and to the One who gave it, and watch Him bring it to pass. There is power in our calling!

Posted in Colossians, John, Philippians, Romans

Living from Victory

“Very soon the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet.” Romans 16:20

From God’s perspective, darkness has already been defeated through Christ’s triumph on the cross. (Colossians 2:15)  Jesus is not at war with Satan; He’s already won the war and now, through the gospel, is inviting us to live from His victory.

The key is walking in peace. We must first acquire the peace of God, and then we must learn to walk in the peace of God. When we do this, we become like a thermostat in our environment. “Very soon . . .” the darkness around us is crushed as the kingdom of God and Christ’s victory permeate the atmosphere we bring Christ’s peace to. Notice from the text, Satan will be crushed – his work, his plans, his voice – under our feet. Jesus wants us to share His victory.

So how does one get the peace of God? It starts with salvation where God offers us peace with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins on the cross. (Romans 5:1)  Once we are saved, we have continual access to God through Christ and have peace available to us if we give our anxieties to God in prayer. “Be anxious for nothing but in everything make your requests known to God with thanksgiving, and the peace of God which transcends understanding will guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Getting peace is easier than walking in peace. How does one stay in peace in a world that creates so much uncertainty, fear, and anxiety? I believe the key is in the verse before our text in Romans 16 and in the verse following the reference in Philippians. Notice how similar they are: “I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” (Romans 16:19) “Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

To stay in peace, we have to keep ourselves from focusing on evil and on what evil is doing.  When we focus on darkness we end up empowering it. Jesus focused on what the Father was doing and saying (John 5:19); to walk in peace we need to do the same.

If we lose our peace, all we have to do is bring our anxieties back to God and He will restore it again. Let’s practice living from victory until it becomes our lifestyle!