WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, December 27, 2015

WARNING PREACHY - 12/27/2015

Colossians 3:1 - 4:1 (Part 5)

Slaves & Masters…

The American mind most naturally understands the biblical word slave to possess the meaning of the 18th and 19th centuries’ western historical implication.  However, whatever the absolute 1st century reality was, slaves were not that.  Of course forced labor existed and was certainly bad but the idea in Paul’s mind here was that of a bond-servant or an employee. 

I will admit, the idea that my work at work is something that God takes into account in my eternity is odd to me. But it makes sense too.  For the instruction to work well when the eye of the employer is not on me digs down to the core of my honor as an employee, and if I cannot be trusted in the employ of men then how can I be trusted in the employ of our Lord?

Before I became a Christian I was apt to assume the things of my employer.  While I was a very good employee and followed orders well I was also someone who considered it OK to make copies at the company expense, to make long distant phone calls on the company line, to stamp my posts with the company post machine, and or take home items from the company that belonged to the company that I desired.  Basically I was a thief and justified my thievery because I was a hard worker and they actually underpaid me as an employee.  All of this seemed naturally fine with me until I became a Christian and I learned this new ethic as an employee.

And then Masters are instructed to provide what is right and fair because they know that they too have a master in heaven.

When I read this I understand the distaste with Capitalism as expressed by the modern masters of the system.  When CEO’s and upper managers are making crazy stupid amounts of money and the person actually doing the grunt work is struggling week by week to makes ends meet.  I get it.  But with that said I also get the reality that Capitalism is the best financial system ever to be used by society.  It is the capitalistic system that allows all the protesters the privileged life of going to university and protesting the 1% on Wall Street.  (Sorry, I think I’m getting political here and Paul’s words are not meant politically.)  His words do not pass judgment on an economic system but rather encourage the participators of the system to act in accordance with a Christian ethic or code of conduct. 

And this is the thrust of his words to us today.  Like the system or not Paul’s instructions for Christians today is to behave in a way that honors our Lord.  Of course, the CEOs and the laborers, both, will contend that their positions are the positions that best honors God but Paul’s words are a little haunting as both sides must realize that their arguments will eventually be answered by the judge of all Christians.  So I wish everyone well as you argue your points.

So getting beyond all of our best political thinking Paul is calling both master and slave to act in honor in their own dealings with the other.  This is not conditioned upon the actions of the other but on our own relationship with our Lord.  Like I said, the concept is a bit odd to me.

As I ponder it though, I think we all would be very well served by a full day of instruction on the topic of honor; what it really means and how we display it in our lives.  Because the honor of Jesus is exactly what Paul is calling the faithful to with this passage.


Friday, December 25, 2015


 A Christmas Day Memory – 2015

I remember my first Christmas as a Christian.  I was living in New Jersey and my housemates were all gone to their family’s homes.  I wasn’t sad to be away from home, more bored really.

Across the road from my house lived a woman my age with a son who was just over 12-months old.  They too were alone for Christmas and we met for an awkward Christmas lunch.  We didn’t really know each other but we were neighborly enough to share a meal together. 

I pieced together her situation.  She was a young woman with a baby whose father was out of the picture.  She worked at a gentleman’s club in Newark and if she had family she never mentioned them.  We talked politely over lunch, we agreed to do a movie or something in the future and I left.  That afternoon I literally wept for her and her son.  Being with her had reminded me of how destitute the human situation could be and realized the spiritual shockwave of Emmanuel (God with us) on that first Christmas morning.

While I wept and prayed for the woman and her son I recognized the very real hope of the spiritual in our physical world.  For in the babe in the manger life had been breathed anew in the sons of Adam.

21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:21-22)

Over the next few months we went to see a movie or two and she came to church with me but then she moved on.  She went to another state and I never heard from her again.  My prayer this morning is that she knows the reality of Christ in her physical life and the Spirit in her soul.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


13You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

(Galatians 5:13-26)

In verse 16 the Apostle Paul instructs, “…walk by the Sprit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” and then in verse 15; “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

There is much in this dangerous world that would be fixed immediately if we humans would understand the spiritual reality of our situations; if each of us would see the Child in the Manger as not just a human baby but a divinely spiritual being whose only purpose was to die on the cross.  If we would understand Matthew’s statement that this child is called Emmanuel (which means God with us) we could see that the Christ baby was not just a physical being but a spiritual one.

Verse 17 points out that our flesh and our spirits are in conflict with one another.  And if we will recognize it, this is true of the Christ as well.  As we observe the babe that became a man, we can see the many physical everyday (and some not so every day) situations that he handled with the eyes of faith through the Holy Spirit who guided him.

As we prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of the Christ child on Christmas day, let us recognize that the life that was given us is our model.  We who are physical fleshly beings, the offspring of Adam, are spiritually united with Christ at the foot of the Cross.  Jesus who has been put to death in the body has been made alive spiritually (1 Peter 3:18) as the “first of many brethren.”   

The babe in the manger is the hope of all mankind if only mankind will recognize that he sets us free from the death of the flesh and gives us new birth and freedom in the Spirit:  Freedom to love sacrificially which is ironically opposite of many people’s attempts to right the evils of this world.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

WARNING: PREACHY - 12/13/2015 (ADVENT 3)

Why do Christians anticipate the celebration of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, during Advent?  Because in Jesus is the culmination of both man and God; both flesh and spirit.  Jesus is the salvation of our souls.  And while the Advent season is focused on Jesus as the babe in the manger the real thrust of his being is culminated on the Cross of his suffering.

In First Peter 3:18 Peter writes in just one verse a real mouthful.

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18)

1.      Jesus suffered once for sins
2.      Jesus was the righteous for the unrighteous
3.      Jesus did this to bring us to God
4.      Jesus was killed physically and was made alive spiritually

Don’t miss the fact that Jesus suffered ONCE.  Too often we people act like Jesus is to die again and again, over and over, (as Cyndi Lauper sang) “Time After Time” as though with every new sin in our lives Jesus must hang on the cross to suffer again.  While this sort of preaching might guilt some people into behaving properly on a regular basis, it defies the concept of suffering once.  Rather, the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cover our sins (past, present, and future) despite every attempt of guilt. (See Romans 5:15 – 6:22)

Peter states that Jesus was righteous and he suffered for those of us who are not righteous.  In other words, Jesus died for us sinners.  Too often we don’t like to admit that we are sinners.  We tend to think that we are "a good person".  The most common response that I get when talking to people is “I’m a pretty good person; it’s not as if I have ever killed anyone.”  The problem with this sort of reasoning is that the person making this statement is comparing him/herself to another human when the true comparison is between the person and Jesus Christ.  When Jesus is the object of comparison it is easy to see that we fail in that comparison.

Jesus suffered and died to restore relationship between God and sinners.  This relationship is not religious in nature.  This is why just showing up to church each week, getting dunked or sprinkled, and consuming the wafer, bread, and Juice really does nothing.  Church attendance, baptism, communion, and Eucharist only have value inside of a real day-to-day relationship with the living Jesus.

I have been pointing out the nature of the flesh and the spirit in the birth of the child Jesus this Advent season, Peter points out the reality of flesh and spirit of Jesus even after his physical death on the Cross.  Even though his flesh was crucified and killed dead, the Holy Spirit raised him back to life again.  He was resurrected from the grave which is the reason for our faith. (See 1 Corinthians 15:12-22)

This Advent season we anticipate the birth of the baby Jesus, not because he was miraculously brought about (which he indeed was) but because he is the culmination of both the flesh of Adam and the Holy Spirit of God.

Sunday, December 6, 2015



Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.  (Genesis 2:7)

They say that Adam didn’t have a belly button.  That he was created as the perfect human without human intervention.  God formed him from the dust of the earth and breathed life into him and he became a living soul.  He was perfect, without sin, living in union with God.  But perfect as he was he was not God.

In Luke 1 the Holy Spirit came upon the virgin in power and formed in her a new life.  He was to be called Jesus and, as Matthew states, Immanuel (which means God with us).  He was perfectly man and he was perfectly God; the New Man.

45So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. (1 Corinthians 15:25-49)

There is that famous picture of Michelangelo’s where the finger of God comes out of heaven and touches the finger of man.  It is at the point that God literally touches man that we recognize the reality of God in our world, that moment when we recognize the babe in the manger as the fingers of God and man touching, and when by faith we received the Spirit of the Almighty into our own souls and it shocks us like a spiritual sonic boom in our souls.

You do understand that I am not really talking about Adam and Mary right?  For you and I are the focus of Christmas here and now.  Jesus died for sin some 2000 years ago creating the assembly of believers (the church).  Today, his death still holds and he is still forming his church (the assembly of believers) among men.  Today is the day for you and I to recognize God on earth through the baby Jesus in the manger.  For faith in Jesus is retroactive.

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians5:16-18)