Archive for July, 2017

Time to vacate

July 31st, 2017 by Maureen

And the disciples gathered with Jesus and told Him all about the things they had done and taught.
Jesus said, “Come away to a quiet, solitary place where you can get some alone time.”
There were so many people coming and going that they didn’t even have time to eat. Mark 6:30-31

Vacation. Root word: vacate. Leave where you are now. We all need times when we are not obligated to do anything, to talk to anybody, or even to care about anything. Constructive activities we enjoy and important meetings with people we like can still drain our energy after awhile. It’s nice to be able to take several days away, but sometimes it’s right in the middle of the busy that we most need to vacate. We might have to get creative to find those alone time places near home and work to recharge. We may have to get even more creative to find time for a breather. If Jesus encouraged His disciples to take a break from His mission to save the world, most of us can carve out five minutes from whatever we’re doing for a little self-care.

Lord, thank you for times and places to vacate body, mind, and schedule.

Jesus in the house

July 28th, 2017 by Maureen

By the time Jesus reached Jericho he had developed quite a reputation as a teacher. Though He was just passing through, people were gathering to see him anyway. (You have to consider the limited entertainment options available in the 1st century.) Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector was a short guy so he climbed a tree for a better view. When Jesus got to Zacchaeus’ tree He looked up and said, “Come on down, I’m inviting myself to your house!” (This would be like being invited to hang with a touring rock band.) Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. Many in the crowd were annoyed, “He’s staying with that sinful man, that tax-collector (It wasn’t just the IRS back then, tax collectors were personally considered social pariahs.) Luke 19:1-7

Zacchaeus was completely jazzed that Jesus was coming to his house. He wasn’t thinking about whether the house was clean or the pantry was stocked. He wasn’t worried about who else might show up. Maybe Jesus didn’t pick one of the self-righteous crowd because they would have stressed about proving themselves worthy, making themselves and their houses look perfect, or groveling about how they didn’t deserve the honor. Maybe joy and excitement made for a better vibe.
Later at his house, Zacchaeus told Jesus that he wanted to donate to the poor and make it right with anyone he had cheated. For Zacchaeus this was a response to being with Jesus. Jesus had already chosen to come to Zacchaeus’s house when this happened.  Jesus didn’t make a deal that He would only come to Zacchaeus’ house if he would clean up his act and Zacchaeus didn’t try to bribe Jesus with such promises. That’s not how it works. We kill the joy and excitement of being with Jesus when we try to make it work like that.

Lord, thanks for not just visiting the house, but for living here even though it gets messy sometimes.

The search for misplaced treasure

July 27th, 2017 by Maureen

A woman who has 10 silver coins loses one. She doesn’t stop to light a lamp or sweep. She focuses on finding that coin. When she finally finds it she calls all her neighbors together and rejoices because she found the lost coin. Angels rejoice like that when someone’s outlook is transformed* because of Christ. Luke 15:8-10

Personally I think turning on the lights and sweeping might have helped her find the coin, but I am very experienced at looking for lost stuff. If I could get back all the time spent looking for keys alone I’d have several months.
Unless an item has been utterly destroyed every lost thing exists somewhere in some form. So really, lost things are actually misplaced. Keep looking long enough and carefully enough and they will eventually turn up.
Imagine the Mona Lisa is missing. It’s valued at $790 million dollars but it’s priceless because there is only one Mona Lisa.  The flurry of searching for the Mona Lisa is nothing compared to the intensity with which God values us and persists in looking for ways to show Himself to us so that our minds can get to the place where we know Who He is in us and who we are in Him.

Lord, thank you for persisting until you find all that is misplaced and for restoring all that is worn ragged from being misplaced.

*metanoia – traditionally translated “repent or regret.” At the time “metanoia” was used in this writing it was understood to mean “a change of mind or thinking.”  The focus is not on all the ways we’ve been wrong but on discovering and receiving the treasures God lays before us because He loves us. If you’re going to spend your time looking for something, let it be something beautiful and valuable.

Visibility powers

July 26th, 2017 by Maureen

We are not focusing on the temporary things that can be seen but on the eternal things that are currently unseen. 2 Cor. 4:18

Sometimes it’s really good to realize that some of the things that we can see are not permanent. Distasteful work tasks, bad haircuts, wrinkles, violence, poverty, clutter, and empty chairs at the table, to name a few of my least favorite things. It is something unseen within us that gives meaning to the impermanent, tangible things that we do like thinking about. Some of the very best things are things we can’t see. What if unseen things like love, hope, peace, grace, creativity, humor, and kindness are tangible in their eternal forms? We get little glimpses, whispers, wafting scents of them expressed in each other, or in some creation of God, or in some God-inspired human creation. What if eternal things will be experienced with even more than five senses? And in more than four dimensions? What if all we cannot see now about God becomes tangible? Such thoughts disempower temporary irritants and put them in their minuscule place.

Lord, thank you for eternal things experienced today.

Whack priorities make it hard to follow

July 25th, 2017 by Maureen

As Jesus is walking out of town a well-dressed young man run up and kneels down in front of Him.
“Good teacher, what must I do to gain eternal life?”
“Why do you call me ‘good.’ Only God is good,” Jesus asks.
“You know the commandments. Do not kill, do not steal, do not lie, do not cheat. Honor your parents. I’ve kept all of those since my youth,” the man replied. He is focused on his request rather than the point Jesus is making. He assumes that Jesus is asking for his definition of ‘good’ and his definition is steeped in law.
Jesus look at the man kneeling in front of Him. He loves the guy. He really wants him to get it and He knows what’s standing in the way.
“You lack one thing. Go sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor. Then your treasure will be in heaven. Come follow me.”
This seems harsh. There is no record of Jesus asking anybody else to sell all their stuff, but we don’t know everything Jesus said to his other followers. We do have multiple stories about Jesus’ followers leaving everything behind to follow Him. Given the climate of the times, followers of Jesus needed to be all in.
The man walks away from Jesus completely demoralized. He doesn’t think he can be all in because he had a lot of stuff. Mark 10:17-22
Jesus knew how much this guy cares about being rich to be all in, how much he defines himself by it, how much he depends on it. Being rich means the guy can see, touch, use, control, and count on resources on earth. Loving being rich means the guys attention, effort, and priority is going to be on protecting what he has and getting more. There is no way for us to fully experience God as the source of abundance and hope, and the definer of what all that means, if we make money, or anything else, the thing that defines, satisfies, and consumes us. I’ve always hoped this rich young guy figured it out later.

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