Is forgiveness more life changing than healing?

July 24th, 2017 by Maureen

It’s a decent-sized space, but so full there is barely standing room. Pharisees and law teachers from surrounding area as well as a bunch of locals have come in to hear Jesus. Among them is a paralyzed man. Wheelchairs hadn’t been invented yet so people who couldn’t walk had to be carried on stretchers with handles by friends or family. Having heard that Jesus was a healer his friends wanted to put him in front of Jesus but there was no way through the crowd. They went up on the roof, moved some tiles, and lowered him down to Jesus.
Jesus recognized the faith and determination the man’s friends were showing in taking on this project and said, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The guy on the stretcher is probably thinking, “I sorta came about my legs.”
Jesus was dealing with two situations here. He wasn’t trying to mess with the guy on the stretcher and his friends. He was all about responding to their act of faith. But this moment was also an opportunity to make a point about his overall mission.
“He can’t say that. The law says its blasphemy to say that. Only God can forgive sins!” The scribes and Pharisees were well versed in the scripture and were shocked that Jesus would say something like that.
Jesus knows what they are thinking, “Why are you questioning in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’?”
Not all the religious leaders had made up their minds about Jesus. For some in the crowd this was their first encounter.
“I said that so all of you know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sin,”
Then Jesus turns to the man on the stretcher, “Get up and walk. Take your stretcher,and go home.”
The man got up, picked up his stretcher and went home praising God.
“That’s incredible!” Gripped by astonishment and awe at what had just happened, everyone began to glorify God. Crediting and thanking God is the appropriate response to a miracle. Jesus does what it takes to get them there, after giving them a big hint about His identity and mission. Could Jesus also have been saying that forgiveness is a bigger deal than healing?
Healing is a big deal in this temporal world. It changes and encourages the lives of many people when it happens.
Forgiveness has impact not only on our own psyches, on our relationships, on our health, and on our lifestyles in this present physical realm but its impact extends into the eternal and spiritual realm as well.

Lord, thank you for forgiveness.

A brief history of the Sabbath

July 23rd, 2017 by Maureen

One Sabbath Jesus met a man whose right hand was withered. The Pharisees were watching to see if Jesus would violate Sabbath laws by healing him. Jesus was aware.
Jesus asked the man to stand in front of him and asked him, “So, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath? Is it lawful to save life or destroy it?”
Jesus was referencing something that would later be called Pikuach nefesh, which says that preservation of human life overrides religious considerations. The Pharisees were aware of this argument, supported by some rabbis at the time. It was later official adopted into the Talmud.
Jesus looked around at the Pharisees and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”
The man did and his hand was healed.
The Pharisees were furious and discussed how to address the situation in such a way as to counter Jesus and be able to say he violated the Sabbath.
This is the face of legalism.
God rested on the seventh day. (Gen. 2)
So Moses told the Hebrews to gather manna for two days on Friday and rest on the Sabbath. (Ex. 16).
Four chapters later all sorts of restrictions about the Sabbath are imposed.
By Deuteronomy formal religious observances had been added to the proscribed “rest.” So it wasn’t just rest anymore.
As time went on religious leaders assumed and abused the responsibility for deciding what constitutes “rest” and “work,” what it means to keep or violate the Sabbath, and how to punish offenders.
By the book of Numbers violating the Sabbath laws was being punished by death.
By Jesus time legalism, including Sabbath legalism, was the Pharisee’s primary method for retaining status and control.
Through the years, in different times and places, citizens were compelled by law and punishment to attend church.
Today 40% of those polled say they attend church regularly. About 25% actually show up three out of four Sundays. Apparently people still feel compelled enough by perceived expectations concerning religious observance that they will lie about it in anonymous polls.
Legalism works through adherence to laws and practices, fear of punishment, and control through fear and guilt.
Jesus works through transformation, rest, and freedom.

Jesus knows physics. Jesus knows fishing. Jesus knows you.

July 22nd, 2017 by Maureen

There was big crowd milling around waiting to hear Jesus speak on the shores of Lake Gennesaret. Four fishermen were cleaning their nets nearby where their two boats were docked. Jesus asked one of them, Peter, to take him out a little ways so he could address the crowd. He stood in the boat and gave His talk.
Jesus knew His physics. Sound travels well on water. Sound  bounces upward as it hits the warmer air on shore. So the people standing in the back where the shore inclines can hear just as well as the people in front. Speaking from the boat creates a natural amphitheater. So, if Jesus wants to give a Ted Talk, it’s a great venue.
But why stop with a talk; Jesus goes full theater.
He turns to Peter, “Put the nets out into deep water and get ready for a catch.”
This is awkward for Peter, the professional fisherman. Jesus is a great teacher, no doubt, but Peter knows fishing. He doesn’t want to embarrass Jesus in front his audience so Peter answers softly, “Uhhh, Jesus, We’ve fished all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so…”
A little bit later the nets were so full they were in danger of breaking. Peter had to call his partners in the other boat out to help with the catch.
It dawns on Peter that Jesus is more than a great teacher and he falls to his knees in awe.
“Chill, Peter, don’t be afraid,” says Jesus, “from now on you’ll be fishing for men.”
Jesus gave his audience a short drama, a live-action parable, to punctuate a message:
Just because you put all your effort and knowledge into a goal doesn’t mean it is going to succeed. But if Jesus inspires you to do things a different way or to take an unknown path, even if you have serious doubts, you can trust Him for abundant results. Jesus is an expert at everything.
After that the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, took another leap of faith, closed their business, left everything behind, and followed Jesus. Luke 5:1-11

Lord, I trust You with my journey. Help me to recognize and respond to Your voice, especially when the unexpected or the unorthodox seems like the way to go.

Illustration from All Church Sound.

Your booth is a trap. Knock down the walls. Walk away from it.

July 21st, 2017 by Maureen

Jesus Matthew sitting in the tax booth, and he said, “Follow me.”
So Matthew got up and and followed Him. Matt. 9:9

Imagine what it would be like for IRS personnel to have to sit in kiosks on the street, in shopping centers, or in
toll booths along the roadside. Imagine a country where taxation was heavy, extremely regressive, and done without representation or benefit to those being taxed. Imagine being the face of this countries’ IRS equivalent. Matthew must have hated his job even though it payed well, gave him power, and provided some leeway with the Romans that most Jews did not enjoy. Matthew and anyone who would be friends with him were what the Pharisees and upright citizens of Capernaum considered contemptible “scum.” Matthew probably felt locked into his life as it was, but two words from Jesus and Matthew was out of the booth ready to ditch whatever power and wealth was associated with staying in it because he understood how much he needed a change and trusted Jesus to be the change he needed.
That night Matthew threw a party so his lowlife friends could meet Jesus.
“What was Jesus thinking?” Peter mutters to James.
“Maybe Jesus doesn’t know everything after all,” says Nathaniel to Philip.
John and Andrew huddle together humming “Mama Told Me Not to Come.”
The Pharisees went to Jesus’ disciples, “This is no mixer for nice Jewish boys. Why is your teacher hanging with this crew?”
Jesus didn’t leave his boys struggling for an explanation. This was still new to them. He stepped in with His answer, “Well people don’t need a doctor. I didn’t come for the righteous and I’m not about sacrifice, I’m about mercy for people who know they need change.”
The Pharisees were interested in preserving their system and the power and status it gave them. They were counting on their own righteousness earned by their own acts of sacrifice. They were not about to leave their booths.
Some of the followers who had tried to carry their own little legalistic booths on the journey with Jesus had to knock down a wall or two that night to make room for Matthew.  (based on Matt 9:9-13)

Lord, help everyone who feels trapped in a tiny booth to abandon it for Your big, beautiful world and everyone in it.

You are not defined by your past. Not by the ways you’ve been hurt nor by the ways you’ve hurt others.

July 20th, 2017 by Maureen

John 8:1-11 The Pharisees interrupt Jesus while He is teaching to drag in a woman they’d caught in the act of adultery and ask, “What should we do with her?”At the time adultery was punishable by death according to the law of Moses which all of them followed. The Pharisees were hoping to discredit Jesus by asking Him this question.
Basically the Pharisees are like Vizzini in The Princess Bride, pridefullyexpecting to win a battle of wits with Jesus.
If He agrees with the law He contradicts the message about love and grace He’s been teaching and therefore gets labeled a hypocrite.
If He sticks with His message, He contradicts the law and therefore gets labeled a heretic.

Instead of answering right away Jesus squats down and starts writing in the dirt.
“Well?” The Pharisees demand an answer.
Jesus stands up and says, “Is there anybody here who has never made a mistake? Anybody not even a little bit maladjusted? Anybody here faultless? Blameless? Sinless? If you are, go ahead, cast the first stone.”
Then He squats back down and starts writing in the dirt again.
One by one, they walk away starting with the oldest, who, naturally, has the longest fault-filled past.
When nobody is left except the woman Jesus asks her, “Where is everybody? Who’s here to sentence you, now?”
“No one,” she answers. It’s probably just dawning on her that she’s not going to die on the streets in shame that day.
“I’m certainly not here to pass sentence. Go and sin no more.”
The story ends. Hopefully the woman, and some of the Pharisees walked away asking “What just happened? Where do I go from here?”

Jesus didn’t let the Pharisees label or define Him and He offered the woman and the Pharisees a chance to walk away from the labels that created shame for them in that moment and be redefined by His message of love and grace.

Lord, let “Child of God” be the only label that sticks to me.

Colossians, that’s a wrap

July 19th, 2017 by Maureen

Tychicus…will tell you all the news of me…and encourage your hearts. With him is Onesimus, who is one of you; Aristarchus…Mark…Epaphras, Luke, and Demas send greetings…Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, to Nympha, to the church that meets at her house, and tell Archippus to “Complete* the ministry** you have received*** from the Lord.” Grace out from jail – Paul. Col. 4:7-18

The inter-connectivity of the body of Christ is reemphasized in the closing of this letter with a flurry of greetings and encouragements. We don’t know a lot about most of the people mentioned. Archippus is also mentioned in the letter to Philemon. Paul is encouraging Archippus about internalizing and embracing the way that Christ is serving others through him. We all need encouraging friends in our lives who recognize Christ-in-us as He is manifested through our unique passions, purposes, and contributions and who encourage our responses and growth as His children. We need reminders that we are not alone in living that out, but in Christ together with others.

Lord, in You I live and move and have my being, in You I discover identity and meaning and connection. May I receive and communicate this reality as my true self.

*plēroō tr. “complete” also means “to make full, to abound; to carry through to the end”
**diakonia tr. “ministry” means “those who execute the commands of others; waiting at table)
***paralambanō tr. “received” also means “to take with one’s self; to accept or acknowledge one as he professed to be; to to receive with the mind; to receive something transmitted”

5 ways to Burst Bubbles

July 18th, 2017 by Maureen

Pray that I manifest the good news as I should. Walk wisely among those outside;* redeeming** the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt. Know how you must answer each person. Col. 4:4-5

So how do we engage with those who have not yet acknowledged Christ’s good news and those who consider themselves “outside” our faith?

1. Live outside the bubble. When we only talk with and hang with people who share our ideas and interests we create cultural bubbles. Sadly, our culture seems to be be moving toward an “us and them” mentality steeped in animosity and suspicion of everyone perceived to be “outside” our particular bubbles. Imagine the impact of living openly and freely, defying categorization or definition. Jesus.
2. Listen. Listening communicates that you value the speaker. Listening communicates motives of love and grace. Don’t think about how you are going to respond or counter. Just listen to know them. Ask questions to understand how they got where they are in their lives and their thinking.
3. Live respectfully with the tension of disagreement. Many “outside” the Christian faith have formed opinions about the mission and motives of Christ and of Christians based on unwise and graceless efforts of well-meaning Christians. Silence and “I don’t know” are perfectly acceptable responses. “I was wrong about that” can be golden.
4. Trust God with the time. Rushing in frantically and forcefully, determined to get agreement to your message, is no way to redeem the time. You are there to build a relationship not to sell a product.
5. Give the Holy Spirit room. Trust that God’s desire to be known is greater than your desire for that person to know Him. Recognize that a person’s awareness or acknowledgement of God does not necessarily reflect the extent of God’s involvement in their lives. Don’t expect another person’s experience to look like yours.

Lord, help me to manifest the good, gracious, free, and loving nature of Your message in all my relationships.

*exō means “outside”
**exagorazō means “redeeming, in the context of the time, redeeming slaves to freedom”

Is continual prayer even possible?

July 17th, 2017 by Maureen

Continue in pray, stay awake and alert* in it with thanksgiving. Col. 4:2

Continual prayer is an impossible ask if we view God as an idea that fits neatly into one of the many compartments in our lives and prayer as a conscious exercise we do in that compartment. Continual prayer becomes a state of being if we view God as the Life within which all our lives (and all their compartments) are contained. Prayer then becomes both conscious communication and unconscious awareness of God. Conscious prayer still matters. Conscious conversation with God makes the relationship tangible for us.  We need to be able to consciously express our joys, hopes, fears, sorrows, and desires to God and ask for His help. We need the catharsis prayer can provide. Only God knows how intercession works, but our conscious prayers for the good of others shines some positive and helpful light into their lives. Conscious prayer simply punctuates the experience of being in Him all the time.

Lord, You know but I’m still telling you.

γρηγορέω grēgoreō tr. “vigilant or watchful” literally means “awake or stay awake”

The art of receiving

July 16th, 2017 by Maureen

Know that you receive* the recompense for the inheritance** for the Lord Jesus Christ you serve. Col. 3:24

Receiving is a reciprocal experience. With an inheritance, we don’t get to choose whether or not the inheritance is ours nor do we get to choose what it is that we inherit; we only get to whether we receive it. We don’t get to earn our status as children of God; our adoption is something wrought in God’s deep love for His human creation. Humans often choose not to receive this inheritance, demand a way to earn it, or seek to redefine what it is and what it means. Perhaps the church’s historical emphasis on our unworthiness and demand for works as proof of faith makes it harder for us to fully receive the inheritance and to fully experience the child-of-God status.  Perhaps the idea of reward or recompense has less to do with what we do and more with who we are and Who Christ Is. Perhaps receiving is simpler than we made it. Perhaps the art of receiving is as simple opening our hearts, our minds, and our hands to God in us, with us, and for us.

Lord, help me to fully and openly receive all You have for me.

ἀπολαμβάνω apolambanō tr. “receive” also means “to receive from another, to recover, to take what is one’s due, to convey hospitality, to intercept”

κληρονομία kléronomia tr. “inheritance, heir status, a lot, a share”

 

 

What are you doing? How are you doing it? Why are you doing it?

July 15th, 2017 by Maureen

Whatever you do*, do** it as if you are working for*** God, not man.
Whatever you bring into existence*, commit** your heart and soul to it, as*** God not humankind. Col. 3:23

What? In this verse there are two words translated “do” and they both mean “work” but in different senses. The first “do” refers to human creativity and productivity, in other words, the work and the end product or result from that work. Work isn’t just our vocations. It’s everything we do.
How? The second “do” refers to effort, attitude, follow through, and resulting profit. The attitude with which we approach what we do affects what we get out of it and its positive effect on the world.
Why? Monetary gain, personal pride, status, or power can be great results but often prove corrupting as motivations. So what are we working for? Colossians theme is that we aren’t doing anything for God because being in Christ is sufficient. Perhaps we are makers because we are made in God’s image and God is a maker. Perhaps our doings are ways we get to enjoy God’s infinite creativity expressed uniquely through each of us. Perhaps the dynamic, purposeful, interdependence in God’s natural creation is reflected in our interconnected social microcosms. Perhaps our doings are more ways we get to experience together the love and grace of Christ in us.

Lord, inspire me in all I do, in how I do it, and in why I do it.

*ποιέω poieō tr. “do” means “work in the sense of create, produce, make, perform”
**ἐργάζομαι ergazomai tr. “do” means “work, labor, commit, perform, acquire by labor, engage, do business”
***ὡς hós often tr. “for” means “whereof, like, like as, even as, affected, just like, same way, through, where, while.” The word “for” is not part of the literal translation, it’s inserted by translators.

Eventually we were going to get to this one…

July 13th, 2017 by Maureen

Wives obey your husbands. Husbands love your wives…children, obey your parents,…fathers, do not dishearten your children…slaves obey your masters…Col. 3:18-22, Col. 4:1

Imagine the organization chart for an organization to which you belong. Most of us could point out exactly where we fall on that chart and explain the responsibilities and chain of command. Households, and the families within them, in the Greco-Roman world were hierarchical in the way that organizations, businesses, and governments today are hierarchical.  Aristotle’s household codes present a hierarchy of genetic superiority of free males as justification for the position of women, children, and slaves as chattel. Roman culture accepted this as the natural order and considered these ideas to be foundational to maintaining a well-ordered civilization. While it may look like support for the existing cultural norm, offering mutual respect and loving intent as reasons for submitting to the hierarchies actually challenge these core assumptions. In 21st century culture advocating for the practice of slavery because it’s “biblical” is generally considered reprehensible and ridiculous. Most of our households are no longer multi-generational, and those that are, adult males are not subservient to their fathers until the elder dies. While these “biblical” practices have been relegated to the culture of the past, Complementarianism  vs. Egalitarianism (conflicting ideas about positions in hierarchy and general equality of males and females) is still being widely debated. Rather than propping up the ideas of hierarchies, household or otherwise, could it be that this passage simply continues the previous ideas about what it means to live in Christ while occupying a particular place in a hierarchy set by that particular culture at that particular time? In the context of Christ in us and we in Him, this passage supports finding a way of grace and respect within whatever hierarchies we find ourselves in.

Lord, help me respond to every person as a beloved and valuable human being rather than the position they occupy on a hierarchy.

 

Awareness. Perception. Reality.

July 12th, 2017 by Maureen

And whatever you do* in word or deed, everything in the name** of Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through*** Him. Col. 3:17

“In the name of Jesus” aren’t the magic words that go at the end of prayers to insure they work, but the recognition of our identity, of being in Him, and of Christ being in us. This sense of identity gives us clearer, more thorough, Christ-lit perceptions about what happens in our lives and how we respond. Everything we do, create, produce, think about, or collect happens in the reality of Christ whether we recognize it or not. Compartmentalizing our lives into “God” and “not God” piles limits our perceptions and influences how we experience, choose, respond, and process events and ideas that touch our lives. Sorting things like this can lead to faulty priorities, internal and relationship conflicts, and a general sense of dissatisfaction. Gratitude and peace come with deep awareness of being permeated by the reality of Christ in every aspect of our lives.

Lord, thank you for the love, grace, peace, hope, and abundance that comes when I am aware of You.

*ποιέω poieō translated “do” also means “create, produce, compose, multiply, consider, assume, spend time, prepare, play, act, practice.”

**ὄνομα onoma translated “name” also encompasses “character, reputation, and fame.” In Hebrew a name is inseparable from the person to whom it belongs.

***διά dia translated “through” means “instrumentally through, caused by, thoroughly and successfully across to the other side, to go all the way through”

About “within” – About “together”

July 11th, 2017 by Maureen

Let the word which is* Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom, teaching and thinking** together*** in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts within* the Lord. Col. 3:16

Simultaneously experiencing Christ intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually in physical proximity, in an attitude of mutual support, connection, and unity with each other by singing together strengthens wisdom and grace in us as individuals and as a group.  Much of church form is based on the idea that someone is sharing information or trying to get people inspired about Christ and everyone else is either cooperating or resisting attempts made by the “exhorter.” Considering definitions and context, this verse describes a deeper and more mutual experience that questions the “exhorter” – “exhortee” model.

* ὅ  “ho” and ἐν ὅ  “en ho” are both translated “of” but “en” actually means “in or within” and “ho” denotes “who, which, that, what.” We can sing, talk and teach about Christ but the idea of singing, talking, and teaching within Him seems like a deeper experience.

**νουθετέω nouthetéō means “to put in mind.”   According to Strong’s the translations “admonish, warn, gently reprove, or exhort” are made “by implication.” Sadly, too often in the church  the idea of admonishment and exhortation has lost it’s gentleness and become separated from the mutuality and reciprocity inherent in the idea of being within Christ together.

***ἑαυτοῦ heautou tr. “one another” is a personal pronoun used to indicate that the one doing the action and the one acted upon are the same; to indicate mutual or reciprocal arrangement within the plural pronoun; and to remove ambiguity.

Lord, bring each into all that we may be in You, through You, and of You rather than just about You.

An umpire called Peace

July 10th, 2017 by Maureen

Let the peace of Christ make the call* in your heart, the peace to which indeed we are invited in one body. And be thankful. Col. 3:15

One of the challenges of working with others as a unit is having everyone on the same page. With the goals of efficiency, authority, consistency, or precision rather than peace, the way we decide to engage and respond to one another is often ruled by our heads rather than our hearts. Sometimes our hearts are ruling, but our pride-driven motives are to win or to rule rather than to resolve and to progress. Sometimes our heads and our hearts need an umpire. Who is in charge here and what are we trying to accomplish? Peace is not a call to compromise excellence, but to develop relationships and to experience unity on the way to achieving excellent results. Addressing others with love and patience might actually help them listen and respond positively to our messages so that issues can be resolved with less drama and more grace. Tone can go a long way in communication.

Lord, help me to remember how connected I am to those around me and that we are all in You together.

*βραβεύω brabeuó tr. “rule” also means “umpire, arbitrate, decide, determine, control”

Love gets top billing again

July 9th, 2017 by Maureen

and above* all these things, [have] love, which is a bond** of completeness.*** Col. 3:14

Love as priority in content, motive, and response is a theme throughout the epistles of Paul and the teachings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. Not only is love “above” in the sense of priority, but it is also the outer layer and the permeating substance encompassing every other idea related to faith. Epidermis, the word for skin, has the same root. It’s the binding agent that holds everything else together and in place as a united whole. Christ is the love is that is before all things and holds everything together, including us. When a message is contained in love, when love is the driving motive and the leading tone in communication, it comes out differently and it’s received differently.

Lord, let love be priority and binding agent in all in my thoughts, emotions, responses, choices, and relationships.

 

*ἐπί, epi tr. “above” also means “on, upon, around, before, the basis of, embrace”

**σύνδεσμος  sundesmos tr. “bond” means “that which binds together, a bundle”

***teleiotēs – refers back to previous point about love as perfection and completeness made in Col. 1:28

The benefits of bearing with

July 8th, 2017 by Maureen

bear with* one another, and forgive one another, if any of you has a complaint against any other, bear with and forgive them as* the Christ bore with and forgave you. Col. 3:13

Crowd sourcing offense is becoming a national pastime. When faced with something disagreeable, annoying, offensive, or difficult our culture is training us to confront and to complain by attacking our offenders publicly, tweeting our displeasure, and demanding that those around us take sides. We become brittle, ungracious, and mean when we don’t allow some margin for error or disagreement in our relationships. We lose the opportunity to experience something transformative when being right becomes more important than being gracious. In the specific moments that we bear with one another and forgive one another the macro-level expression of God’s magnanimous love becomes a micro-level, concrete event in the world. Just as, on a macro-level Christ impacted everything through God’s love and grace, participating in such transformative and restorative experiences as tolerating and forgiving others can change the trajectories of our lives and all that we influence.

Lord, help me to bear with and forgive with the same love and grace Christ extends.

*ἀνέχομαι anechōmai tr. “bear with, forbear, endure” also means “tolerate or have patience with” or “still completing the process”

καθὼς kathōs tr. “as, because, or since” also means “in the same manner,” “in the degree that,” or “according to the manner in which”

Jeans that fit

July 7th, 2017 by Maureen

Put on, as choice ones of God, holy and beloved, tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Col. 3:12

There’s nothing like putting on a pair of jeans so worn in and familiar that they feel like part of us. Sometimes choosing to respond to someone with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, or patience can feel like putting on a pair of jeans that aren’t worn in yet. Just because being this way feels unfamiliar and uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not genuine. Christ has given us His own nature and this is who we are now. We can choose to put it on and wear it til it feel like it fits.

Lord, that patience parts still chafes a bit.

It’s not about the lists

July 3rd, 2017 by Maureen

Put to death what is earthly in you …* because of this focus the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disbelief. In them you once walked, when you were living among them, but now you put away all those things…* for life in Christ and put on a new man who is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. Col. 3:5-11

This passage contains two lists of “sins.” There is a tendency to focus on these lists rather than the points being made. The lists are parenthetical to the passage. Forget them. God has. Throughout the New Testament and certainly in Colossians, it’s repeated over and over again that obedience to rules is not what Christ is about. This passage needs to be taken in that context. The point is belief, not law. Belief empowers us to put away what Christ has already put away, to let die in us what died with Christ, and to discover our lives in Him. Christ has definitively impressed His image on us and whatever horrible image we had of ourselves, and the acting out that results from believing that about ourselves, is over and dead. Thinking and choosing from this belief comes from a quite different perspective than the try-hard, white-knuckling, guilt-ridden experience of going through the lists and feeling like a complete failure doomed to a lifetime of God’s anger and rejection. God sent Jesus to dispense with that kind of grovelling so we can actually experience Him in the true love, peace, joy, and grace that is His nature and that He has made our nature as well.

Lord, renew my knowledge after Your image.

 

Aware and unaware

July 2nd, 2017 by Maureen

When Christ – who is our life – is made manifest*, then you will be manifest with Him in glory**. Col. 3:4

Is it possible that Christ can so permeate our lives that we provide clarity and concrete visuals of Him as we go about our lives in His love, grace, and peace?  Is it possible that we might enjoy moments of keen awareness, clarity, and glory in Christ through prayer, meditation, revelation, or some other God-initiated transcendent experience?  The theme of Colossians is the centrality of Christ and the impact of focusing on Who He Is and who we are in Him right now. These ideas are the immediate context of this verse. So maybe this is not (or not only) about some future revelation of Christ but about awareness of Christ that is available to us right now because in Him we live and move and have our being and He is our life.

Lord, You are my life when I am aware and when I am unaware of it.

*φανερόω phaneroō tr. “appears” or “is manifested” means “become apparent, made clear, made visible, made evident, shown, revealed, disclosed”

** δόξα, ης, ἡ doxa tr. “glory” meanings include “private opinion; reputation resulting in honor; brightness of sun and moon; magnificence or excellence; glorious condition or exalted state”

The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of seeking

July 1st, 2017 by Maureen

Therefore if raised with the Christ, seek* what is above where Christ is seated, at the right of God, focus on things above not on things on earth for you did die and your life is hid in Christ. Col. 3:1-3

To “seek” here means to inquire, to investigate, to deliberate.  “Who, what, when, where, why, and how” are starting points for inquiry.
“Who” – the Christ. This is beyond the person of Jesus. This is about His restorative purpose and function.
“What” – Seek, think about, focus on, and give priority to Christ
“When” – Focus is on the present reality of Christ
“Where” – As physical beings we like being able to place something or someone in a location. Metaphorically gods in most traditions reside above. The right hand of God positions Christ in a place of power and authority. We also consider “higher” thinking to focus on more abstract, philosophical, and altruistic ideas while practical and sensual thought belong in the earthly realms. Remember also that earlier in the letter Paul also locates Christ as “in” us and locates us “in” Him.
“Why” – The “therefore” at the beginning indicates the “why” or “because,” linking this passage to what was just said about not having to be influenced by or connected to sin or law. Paul used “dead” there too.
“How” – The secret is “in” Christ. Being “in” is experiential, encompassing but not limited to cognitive or emotional intelligence or awareness. There is no step-by-step process for seeking. The good news is that Christ already places us “in” Himself. Seeking leads us higher up and further in.
* The Greek word”zéteó ζητειτε” tr. “seek” means “to seek by inquiry.”
**The Greek word “kryptō” tr. “hid” also means “keep secret”