In Christ! Colossians 1

ImageIrving Jensen has been like a mentor to me over the years. I have honed my skills of Bible Study at his feet. His study guide on Colossians is by far one of his richest. In the first lesson Jensen gives a task: Write a list of the good traits which you think a local church should exemplify. After you have completed your study of 1:1-12, go back to this list and see how the Colossian church rated.

Paul knew about these precious saints that he had never met except through word of mouth and the testimony of Epaphras. This dear saint came to Rome and shared with Paul, now in a Roman prison under guard, who they were. From that we read Paul’s desire for them as believers in Christ.  

Paul’s list that he had gleaned from Epaphras: They had faith in Christ, They had love for all the saints [the setting apart of the individual as one of the company whom God,] They have a hope laid up in heaven vs 4 and an inheritance in the light vs 12 [1Pet 1:4 that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you], The gospel message has borne fruit within their midst and continues to bear fruit;, once strangers/enemies of God but now reconciled to Him through Christ; therefore Christ is in them, the hope of glory.

Now Paul turns from who they are to what his prayerful desire is for them: God to fill them with the knowledge of His will [In the broadest sense, the will of God is the whole purpose of God revealed in Christ. Dr. Constable]; God would give them spiritual wisdom and understanding [“‘Wisdom’ and ‘understanding’ probably should not be treated separately but should be looked on as expressing a single thought, something like practical wisdom or clear discernment.” Dr. Constable];

And now the “why”… They might live worthily; Please the Lord; Bear fruit; Grow in the knowledge of God; and Display or show to the world: patience, steadfastness and joy.

Back to the first question: Thehe church at Colosse was rich beyond measure.   If you rated your church how do they stack up against the Colossians?

They were rooted and grounded in Christ but tomorrow we will see that their roots were being attacked by the enemies of the cross. This is why we need, I need this book today! Today as I look about I am seeing the very foundations of our churches being stripped by those who espouse a gospel that is works plus grace or a gospel of “feel good, a gospel of intolerance for the things that are the very bedrock of our faith.” Many are sliding down a slippery slope of worldliness. As Paul prayed for this church, may we stop and pray for our churches and for their message to be true to the Word of God, true to the simple gospel message and true to Christ? For it was because of Christ. who is the very image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all,  the Creator, the Alpha and Omega, the head of the church, the reconciler through the blood He shed on the cross that both they and we are “who we are, who we need to be.”


Ps 48-49 He saw, He loved, He came, He conquered death

ImageIn the forward of the book “ReChurch” written by Stephen Mansfield, George Barna notes that the church today is facing an epidemic called “ecclesia exitus,” the Latin term for church dropout. “The symptoms are many, but the outcome is unambiguous: pain, disappoint, and spiritual anomie.”  Our hurts have metastasized into bitterness and although the prescription for healing is within the Word of God and God Himself, many are unwilling to take the antidote to healing and thus the root of bitterness (Heb 12:15) festers and brings upon the Body of Christ the untold suffering that was not meant to be. Rather than coming to the Living Water to drink and be nourished, our roots dry up and our branches wither above.

In Ps 48 and 49 there are those who are fleeing not the church but God Himself who sits enthroned upon Mt. Zion, the fortress of Jerusalem where He is defender of the weak, the defender of those who are His own. These who are fleeing do so because they unlike Caesar who said “I came, I saw, I conquered,” are saying “I came, I saw, I fled.” Those who know not the I AM have seen the power of His fortress, sitting high on Mt. Zion, impenetrable by His forces of righteousness and know that His power can vanquish them in a breath. His power and His grandeur are beyond description and so they flee into the desert and the wilderness of life rather than surrendering to His love, care and righteousness.

Contrast that with we who “came, saw, and took the step.” We have no fear because we chose to submit to He who was, is and forever will be. Therefore, we can enter, observe and note the grandeur of the towers, the strength of the walls. We stand in awe of who He is, we stand in awe of the fortress He has constructed to protect us from the “roaring lion that is seeking whom to devour.” We who have yielded to the Almighty are not only protected by the fortress of His love, but the fortress of His righteousness. Therefore we can say with Paul 8:38 “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is my prayer that you know Him and can say, “He saw, He loved, He came, He conquered death” and also “I saw, I came, I bowed the knee, and know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.”

Phil 4: “The Contented Mindset Begins here…”

ImageThe key to the life of Paul is that he rejoiced always. Rejoicing is an attitude and always means it is ongoing with no end. Paul desired this for his beloved Philippians and those same words echo across the halls of history to you and I as well. Note from where Paul has come: vs. 12 satisfied (he had it all but lost it all), or hungry (often times with little to satisfy the pains in the belly), abundance (he had the title and the wealth of the world at his fingertips) or nothing/in want (2Co 11:25 Three times I was beaten with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea.) Paul has seen, experienced and tasted all that this world has to offer and through this he learned (instructed, acquired by experience, study) the secret of contentment, the secret pearl of greatest price only found in Jesus Christ.

How do we thus “learn” the secret of contentment? It begins in the mind and flows forth from our lips and our actions. 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.”  It is making that choice to move from meditating upon what could be; to what is now; to what will be. It is not something that comes naturally for God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Is 55:8) and we are all “dead in our trespasses and sins.” But when we are born anew and choose to begin to practice the art of “learning,” through the meditation upon His Word: “I will meditate upon your statutes” [Ps 119:48], it is then that we acquire the peace that passes all understanding and mind of Christ. Rom 8:6 “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” It is then that the truth of Rom 12:2 “transformed by the renewing of our mind,” becomes a reality and our God will supply all our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus and we can say with Paul “May glory be given to God our Father forever and ever. Amen.”


Overwhelmed by the Name Above all Names! Phil 2

ImageIf truth be known, we are not a humble people but in fact we are the totally opposite! C.S. Lewis wrote: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” And that is a virtue to which we all must strive to attain. Unfortunately, just as humility arrives to takes the stage, pride seeks to usurp his place. So today’s reading is indeed timely and right on target, for Christ Himself was the perfect illuminating example of humility and we are His children, we are the beloved and we should demonstrate this quality to all that cross our path.  

From a prison cell, chained to a Roman guard, Paul sends a greeting letter to his beloved (his fatherly term of endearment) Philippians with some gentle reminders: be unified beloved, be of the same mind beloved, be humble beloved, have a Christ-like attitude beloved. And from that jumping off point, Paul eloquently provides the supreme example in the Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord, who left heaven to live amongst us. His love was as deep as the ocean is wide, as high as the heavens above yet he forsook all to lay his life down on an old rugged cross. His statement of “I came to serve not to be served” is the supreme example of humility. Because of his example God rewarded him with a name that is above every name and one day all will bow in humility before Him and confess Him as Lord.

And that is why beloved, you and I  are to be working out, not working for, not working in, but working out our salvation with awe and reverence knowing that it is for all for His glory!  And while we are working there should be no grumbling or complaining so that we reflect His glory to others and we will be prepared for the time of His return: blameless and pure. R.C. Sproul says: “To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.” And to that I say AMEN!  Let’s join together and live Coram Deo!



First Church of Philippi (Phil 1)

Who’s Who is a list or a directory of facts about notable people. Think that the Philippian congregation would qualify? Let’s take a look behind the scenes. Paul had prayed to go to Asia but God sent Asia to Paul in the form of not a man but a woman; the outsider, a seller of purple named Lydia. She was a God-fearer but like Cornelius prayed and perhaps gave alms. She knew that God was there but had no connection as to who He was, is or would be in her life. Secondly, was the girl bound by demons who followed Paul around the city streets and brought much profit to the ones who owned her “soul.” Through a miracle of God through Paul she was released from this bondage and as a result her owners became outraged. Seizing Paul and Silas, ordered by the magistrates to be beaten, Paul now meets the third to be congregant, the Philippian jailer. On the payroll of Rome, the jailer was responsible for each and every prisoner given into his care and Paul fit the bill of one of those notorious criminals, beaten and put in chains. Paul was a high-level criminal. God has a way of bringing people into our lives that we would otherwise not even have the opportunity to meet. And these made up the First Church of Philippi, the church that was marked by one full-fledged character trait of “joy in the midst of suffering.”

These are the ones, now as faithful believers, have provided for Paul in a Roman prison. It is these that Paul has confidence in that God has begun a good work and He will be faithful to complete it. It is these that Paul calls partners, who have participated with him in the work. It is these that have filled Paul’s heart with an overflowing sense of love. It is these that Paul yearns to show his affection. And it is these that Paul’s pen overflows with thoughts of prayer and thanksgiving.

Paul writes: I am praying even now for you that your love abound more and more in knowledge and in discernment so that you can make wise decisions and be found blameless at the coming of Jesus Christ. May your conduct be Christ-worthy! May you stand firm! May you contend for the faith of the gospel! May you not feel intimidated by any who bring opposition to you! May you see any suffering as your badge of honor!

As I sit around my new church I wonder who makes up this congregation? Where do they come from? Where are they spiritually? What is their background? I listen to their prayer requests and wonder. I wonder about myself as well. Here I am, the outsider like Lydia. Will I fit in? Do I carry my baggage with me from church to church like the demoniac girl, freed but still has the baggage of what was. Or am I like the jailer who fears authority?

Where did I come from? What is my heart following? Am I like Paul and thankful for each one and for the path I cross with them? This is harder than I realized and this is the first time I am having problems adjusting to a new congregation. I can’t seem to find my niche and I find I am much like Lydia, the demoniac and the jailer. I fear making a mistake. I wonder, I wonder….and I need the reminder to stand firm…stand tall, be confident that God has begun a good work in me and He will complete it. Image




2Thess 3: St. Steadfast meets St. Sluggard Sloth!

ImageThroughout the letters to the Thessalonians Paul identified two groups of people that made up the church:  St. Steadfast and St. Sluggard Sloth. St. Steadfast are the prayer warriors, the workers, enthusiastic, the church’s “Energizer Bunnies.” And then there are the St. Sluggard Sloths. These are the “shirkers” who take but do not give, and are, to use Paul’s words, unruly, undisciplined, idle, busybodies. They are always discussing work but never getting around to it. Paul has some strong words! St. Steadfast; separate and do not associate with St. Sluggard Sloth! In the first letter Paul admonished them to use discipline but now Paul says they have become like an infectious disease which if left untreated will affect work, countenance, and productivity. St. Sluggard Sloth’s are not your enemy but rather are in need of prescriptive help., Apply the ointment of tough love so that the body is whole not fractured. Wise counsel!

In Dr. Henry Morris’ blog post “When we Abide in Christ” speaks to St. Steadfast. He basically said: stand firm, endure, continue, and remain. Apply the ointment of abiding so that you are not infected by the “sloth disease.”

Father, help us to remain steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work You have chosen for each one of us. May we be discerning regarding the sloths in our midst and admonish them, encourage them, woo them back into the fold.


Ps 44/45 “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back…”

ImageCircumstances come and go, some are beneficial and others are disastrous. We face our ups and our downs and the psalmist of old lived a life with the same problems as we face today. Sometimes we feel like we are taking one step forward and then retreating by taking two steps backward.Where is God in all of this you say? We are not alone but instead God is carrying us through all the ups and downs, the steps we take into the future as well as the times we are having to step back. We should be asking: ‘where is my focus,’ is it on the circumstances of life or on God who “changeth not.” In Romans 8, Paul tells us 8:5 “For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

As the psalmist considers “life,” he reminds God of His past faithfulness.  That is how I need to be considering all of my life’s “adventures.”  In fact, God is pleased when we remind Him of His promises and His past faithfulness to us.

As the psalmist we too can remember and rehearse what God has done in the past. He saved them and He saved me. But now it seems like I am in an impasse with enemies surrounding me. They could be circumstances, it could be any number of things. As God chooses He can route the enemies but some times like the psalmist it seems like God has chosen to not do so. Where is God when we face yet a new adversary/problem? We need to remind ourselves that God is where He was when He surfaced last time. He changes not! He is still there. It may seem as if He is silent and absent. That is how the world views God, one who is the watchmaker who completed creation and left it to tick on its own. Yet the psalmist does not have this outlook on his God and neither should I or you.  Instead, the psalmist comes to God boldly, “Why are you asleep God? Wake up!, Do not reject us! Why do you look the other way? Why are you ignoring us? Rise up and help us!”   These are bold statements and questions. Should we be so bold? Listen to the author of Hebrews: Heb 4:16 Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.


Today, as you walk and talk and face your one step forwards and two steps back, keep your focus on Him who changeth not, on the boldness you have in Christ as you walk by the Spirit, are led by the Spirit and live by the Spirit. Remember, God is right there beside you and you may not see Him or notice Him but He is right there. Cry out to God and listen for His answer back and as of old God will remind us: Jer 31:3 In a far-off land the Lord will manifest himself to them. He will say to them, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love. That is why I have continued to be faithful to you.

1Thess 5 “Where is your head today?”

ImageThere is an idiom that says “Stop daydreaming! Get your head out of the clouds and watch where you are driving!” Paul is basically saying the same thing to these precious believers in Thessalonica. He had just given them the exciting news that “soon” they would be reunited with loved ones, but rather than sitting and “vegetating” upon that news there was work still to be done. So quit daydreaming about the coming of the Lord and get busy in the here and now. This is good advice to us as well.

The first 11 verses Paul reiterates who they are: children of the day and children of the light. They had the precious indwelling Holy Spirit, they had His illumination within them. Joh 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. Therefore, because of this they should not be “sleeping”…that is daydreaming but be aware, alert, armed against the “lions in the road.” [Seems we keep coming back to that phrase, although not mentioned here, that metaphor seems to fit]. One way we can do this is seeking ways to encourage those who are downtrodden in life with the reminder that Jesus is coming again just as He said! Acts 1:11 “This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven.” But, until then, we need to be about the Master’s business.

Now Paul gets to the nitty-gritty practical side of the equation. First look about you to those who labor amongst you as the leaders of the flock. Encourage, esteem, and edify them! As to the flock:  Live in peace amongst the brethren. Rom 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.Image

Lastly, 5:14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all. Always be pursuing that which is good, rejoicing, praying, examining (Be a Berean), and be grateful. Paul closes this letter with this admonition: This is God’s will for you and for the church. And last but not least….read this letter to the church.

So where is your head today? Are you just sitting and soaking or actively up and about the work of the Lord?

Hope Deferred? Trying Re-connecting~! 1Thess 3

ImageThey say “absence makes the heart grow fonder” but is this really true? In Paul’s case it was definite “yes.” Having been sent away hurriedly in the night, Paul yearned to know how his fledgling Thessalonian flock was enduring, were they being steadfast in their faith? Paul had a choice; he could either forgo finding out or he could send Timothy, who looked more like a Greek than he, back into the “lion’s den,” or he could just continue to wonder. He chose to send Timothy.

Returning from Thessalonica, Timothy invigorated Paul’s spirit and renewed his passion. The Thessalonians were demonstrating a steadfast spirit amidst persecutions and afflictions. They had not been compromised but had held fast to their faith. Sometimes we too wonder if our flock has caught more than taught; are their hearts not only challenged but continuing to meet that challenge and beyond. These Thessalonians were “rugged like a tree, hard and sound to the core” [H. Rider Haggard] and their roots had descended deep into the Word of God. What a blessing they were to Paul!

Paul reminded the Thessalonians once again that they were destined to suffer just as Christ had suffered. It was not a perhaps but a surety and as his glory and joy they were being tested by fire and coming forth as gold for persecution offers insight into the truth that dwells within us. As Paul listened to Timothy’s report, he was encouraged by their faith and love, their kind thoughts of their teacher Paul, and their hearts desire to rekindle their friendship.  With this in mind, Paul breaks forth into praise and worship in prayer.

Today my heart is heavy for the flock we left behind when we moved to Dallas to head up the ministry’s leadership team. It was not too longer after we left them that I endured what Paul described and when I could endure it no longer, my dear hubby got me a plane ticket and sent me back to check in on them.The fellowship was sweet, their comments endearing but their faith was faltering. I was saddened. I told them once again that they were our glory and joy and to not give up. I know that one day in glory we will be reunited and our flocks will be joyful and jubilant for we will see them face to face and He will wipe away all tears from our eyes.

Today, perhaps you too are longing for a renewed friendship that you have since lost contact with for one reason or another. Are you like Paul unable to endure the separation any longer? In our hi-tech world you and I have no excuse. We have internet capabilities, text messaging, skype as well as the old-fashioned snail mail. What is keeping you and I from re-connecting? Ben Franklin once said: “You may delay but time will not and lost time is never found again.” Perhaps it is at this time that we live by this: Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today. Let’s pick up the phone, write an email, jot a text message.


ImageFreedom is something each American has had for over 200 yrs but there are many in our world that will really know this precious gift. But, spiritually speaking, we can all be free in Christ because He paid the price, He was our ransom, He paid our debt on the cross. That kind of freedom, if accepted, can never be taken from someone. Governments, despots, terrorists, and others may seek to take it from us but we are sealed from above by the Holy Spirit and that has guaranteed us total freedom in Christ.

Freedom is precious and freedom is costly. Because of this Paul teaches us that we must prove to the world what that freedom really looks like by walking by the Spirit, being led by the Spirit and living by the Spirit and we do all of that by fulfilling the Law in loving our neighbor as ourself.

How do we show the world that we are free in Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit? We show by exhibiting not only outwardly but also inwardly the fruit within us given by the Holy Spirit. Want to know who is Spirit walking, Spirit led, Spirit living? Then Paul says look and you will see. Jesus said we would know who is filled with the Spirit by their fruit. Peter further amplifies this by reminding us that we have been given everything necessary for life and godliness. Therefore we who are sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit have within our possession everything that we need to live and move and breathe. The fruit of the Spirit is within us but it is our choice to allow Him to guide us in our conduct, lead us in our lifestyle and show the world this freedom that we possess. If we fail to show then Peter says we are nearsighted, we are blind, we have forgotten the price paid for our sins.

Galatians 5 list: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 5:23 gentleness, and self-control.

2Peter list: add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love.

Today, as you read the list in Galatians 5 and 2Peter 1, look and see if you are missing anything. Where are you falling short? What do you need to fulfill the Law of Christ? Live as free men/women of Christ.