WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, November 29, 2015


I’m taking a break from the book of Colossians to focus on the season of Advent.  Advent is the five weeks leading Christians to the celebration of the birth of Christ which is really why Christmas is celebrated.  I pray you find it beneficial…

In John 3 a Pharisee named Nicodemus starts talking to Jesus and Jesus tells him straight out that he needs to be “Born Again”.

John 3:5-8
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Despite popular thought, this passage is about flesh and spirit.  Many believe that this ‘born of water’ in verse 5 refers to the waters of baptism.  It does not.  Verse 6 states clearly that “Flesh gives birth to flesh” contextually keeping with how the water in verse 5 is to be understood.  Jesus’ words here are a quoting a concept from Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 11:5
As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

And so too Christmas is about flesh and spirit because Jesus is both Man (flesh) and God (spirit).

Luke 1:26-35
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."
When Mary was informed by the angel that she would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit, we see the miracle of God co-mingling with and literally becoming the flesh of man.  Yes, the very concept should leave us scratching our heads at the thought of God, the "Maker of all things” becoming part of that which was made.  It is certainly a miracle that the Virgin became pregnant but I think it may be more miraculous that God (spirit) became Man (flesh).

Nicodemus, do you remember him from John 3?  He and his ilk did not quite get the concept of being “born again” (John 3:7).  Seriously, the very concept should leave us all scratching our heads.  None-the-less, Jesus said it and we need to pay heed to his words.  His words are not of no-consequence, they are the words of eternal-life.   And they begin for us on the day the child Jesus was born on Christmas Day.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

WARNING:PREACHY - 11/22/2015

Colossians 3:12-25 - 4:1 (Part 4)

Wives, Husbands, Children, Fathers…

Today, it is unpopular to tell a woman to obey her husband.  In fact, it is not even popular today to assume that a wife is even a “her” or a husband a “he”.  However, popular or not, the Apostle Paul deals with the Christian ethic of the traditional ‘He and She’ family.  And what is necessary, I think, is to notice that the husband/father (he) is the one who bears the brunt of the Christian responsibility. 

Wives (she) are to obey/submit while a husband (he) is to love his wife just as Jesus loved the Church. (Ephesians 5 gives more detail to the marital instructions.)

Right after my wife and I had married we had a fight.  I prayed that God would show her how she was wrong so it could be quickly resolved.  And yes, while I admit that I am the guilty party in most marital disagreements, this one time I was actually in the right.  So I prayed hard and begged God to resolve the issue by showing her her fault.  After a while God spoke to me (yeah, He speaks quite clearly at times) and said “Go apologize to your wife.”  I argued with God and explained to Him why I was actually in the right and apologizing would be wrong as I was actually the offended party.  Again He told me to go apologize.  So I crossed my arms like Jonah and refused to budge.  And then again He said to me that I was to go apologize and love my wife just as Jesus first loved me.  Romans 5:8 states that while I was still a sinner Jesus loved me and died for me.  Basically, Jesus said He was sorry for my sins before I ever knew my sins existed.  (i.e. Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”)

It seems to me that if a husband is actually loving his wife as Jesus loved him then the wife might not have a problem obeying/submitting to his leadership in the relationship.

Likewise, children are told to obey their fathers but the fathers are instructed not to embitter their children.  I think the whole “love as Jesus loved” is the key to not embittering our children.  I suspect children are in part embittered by the “do as I say, not as I do” type of fathering that happens as examples for children.  Children aren’t dumb; they seem to pick up on hypocrisy rather quickly.   

For converts of our day, this may not be a new ethic.  But in the days of the Apostle Paul it was a new paradigm in thinking.  In Paul’s day wives were property and children, if not expendable, were of negligible value.  But to the new Christian (of Paul’s day) who was a husband and father who understood the death of Jesus for his sins and new life, this new Christian ethic must have been seriously weird and different.

Husbands and fathers, why don’t we try this.  Let us go and love our families as sacrificially as Jesus first loved us.  I’m willing to bet that when we do we will see a change for the better in our family dynamics.  So go ahead, read Colossians 3 again and get a glimpse of a whole new world, the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

WARNING PREACHY: 11/17/2015 (Eyes on Paris)

Paris was attacked on Friday and it has taken me a few days to process it.  I think I finally have something worth sharing.

Luke 11:29-36
29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.
33 “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

In the verses above Jesus was specifically speaking to the Jews; the Children of God, the Chosen, His special people.  It is they who are the “wicked generation” for they desired a sign.  The Jews wanted a physical manifestation that what Jesus was proclaiming was of God.  I suspect that they wanted to see Jesus bring something like fire from heaven as Elijah did in 1 Kings 18.

In response Jesus told them that they would only get the sign of Jonah.  Then he pointed out that the pagan queen came from far away because she recognized the Wisdom of God in Solomon and that the pagan people of Nineveh repented at the word of Jonah, the Prophet of God.  He said that at the Day of Judgment the Jews would be condemned by both of these pagans because they accepted God by FAITH and while the Jews have Jesus in their midst, they will not accept Him by faith for they demand a physical sign. 

The point is that the people of God are not seeing the wisdom nor the call of God in Jesus by faith.  And that’s where the next section comes in.  The eye is the lamp of the body and if they will not see with the eyes of faith then their whole bodies will be dark.

This then takes me to Paris.

The attacks in Paris really should not surprise us for ISIS has been festering many years like a zit.  Nobody knew where and no one knew when but everyone knew that it would happen somewhere someday.  And now that it has happened we as Christians need to be able look at it with the eyes of faith.

Is it a terrible situation?  Does it look like the world has gone to hell in a handbasket?  Does it appear that we are next? 

Yes, yes, and yes.  The world that we can see looks completely like the devil has won.  The evening news is full of murder and mayhem with unspeakable evils.  The BBC reports of atrocities of ISIS and Ugandan genocides.  The world looks hopeless, our health may be failing and our month may have run out of money.  We may fear that our world is hopeless and our children and grandchildren are doomed.  But how are we, as baptized believers, going to see the world?  What color are the lenses of our spectacles?  Are we wearing our faith-colored glasses?

The words of Jesus remind us that we are people of faith.  We need to stop looking at this world and responding in despair.  We need to see all that Paris is and respond with the narrative of faith that proclaims “It is well with my soul.”

Is it easy?  Of course not.  True faith is never easy.  True faith calls us to walk into Jerusalem with our Lord even though the people there want to crucify us.  True faith makes us recognize the people who ridicule, spit at, and beat us but we go to the cross to forgive them anyway.  True faith will show us the reality that the devil wants us to believe (remember the temptation of our Lord) and stand firm in the faith that God is alive and well.

While the Paris attack is certainly a travesty in our world, it is not the sign that I am going to accept as truth.  For me, I am going to stand in faith and continue to be encouraged because Jesus is Lord and He is very much alive.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

WARNING: PREACHY - 11/15/2015

Colossians 3:12-25 - 4:1 (Part 3)

There are people that ooze compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and/or love in varying amounts and degrees.  I just don’t seem to be one of them.  As God’s people the Apostle Paul instructs Christians to “clothe yourselves with” (Colossians 3:17-25) all of these virtues. 

My friend and I were talking about the idea of “pressing in” on the Holy Spirit and spending more one-on-one time with Jesus in prayer and meditation.  I admit the difficulty in “putting to death” (v. 5) those things that are earthly in my actions as well as clothing myself with those things that are Godly, but I fully recognize that it is only by doing everything in the name of Jesus that allows me to even begin to see victory in my life.  And as though by accident, I occasionally do.

When I read that I am to “take off my old self with its practices” (v. 9) I am mindful that I did just that when I met Jesus at His Cross, and today I am ever so-slowing inching myself into a new set of spiritual clothes (ethically speaking).  Read through the chapter and see if you aren’t as well.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

WARNING: PREACHY - 11/8/2015

Colossians 3:12-25 - 4:1 (Part 2)

Before I get into the Christian ethic that Paul describes here, I think it necessary to first detail a concept:  The concept of the spiritual life (Col 3:1).

Life in the Spirit begins with self-denial and then is maintained by the Holy Spirit. 

First, self-denial comes at the point of us accepting ourselves as sinful beings that will die someday and meet God face to face.  When we recognize that only the death of Jesus on the Cross (Galatians 6:14) fixes this sinfulness we give our lives to Him with a relieved gratitude.  This self-denial is the basis of the Christian life.  Anyone who has submitted to God and asked the Lord Jesus Christ to save them understands that it is a most humbling experience which affects them deeply and for the rest of their lives.

Second, once we have gone through this self-denial our lives as we knew them (worldly) are considered dead and now we live our lives as Christians (spiritual).  This is the life of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the connection between this physical world and the spiritual world of God’s Presence. 

The scriptures tell me that when I went through the process of becoming a Christian (self-denial) that I spiritually died and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26) was given me (think born again).  The Bible states that I have become (and am now) a new creation, that the old has gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).  I learn that this life I live is not my own but it is Christ who lives through me (Galatians 2:20) by His Holy Spirit.  It is this Spirit that links my physical worldly life directly to the spiritual Presence of God.  This spiritual link is constant, every day, and for the rest of my life.  The Holy Spirit is quite literally the one and only sacramental grace that I need.

And so now, the Life of the Spirit is not a set of do’s and don’ts but about a very real and mysterious connection between the physical world in which I live and the spiritual world in which I will someday live with God.  When we Christians are instructed to live our earthly lives as spiritual beings it is because we have a new otherworldly spiritual outlook upon this physical world.  We have an outlook that is seen through the eyes of the Holy Spirit of God.

I know this is a bit of a rabbit-trail today but read the whole of chapter 2 paying special attention to verses 9-12.  And seriously, I cannot emphasize the part about self-denial enough.  If you have never had a time where you have submitted the very essence of your earthly life to Jesus Christ then you need to because the readings won’t make any spiritual sense otherwise.