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Posts Tagged ‘unity’

trumoet

The people of Israel had been through hell and high water – literally.  They had been slaves in Egypt specially delivered right through the sea.  Finally, after forty years of stubborn, rebellious, complaining wandering in the desert, Joshua led them into the land God had promised.

In Joshua chapter 5, we find Joshua circumcising the sons of the Israelite slaves.  Mom and Dad didn’t make it out of the desert, but their children did.  The kids had been born on the way and had never been circumcised in accordance with God’s law.  Just afterward they eat their last provision of manna and remember the Passover and God’s deliverance and mercy.  Their new leader, Joshua, understands the order of importance when it comes to victory.  First, his men must be physically and spiritually obedient and prepared, then they must listen to the Word of the Lord.  Only after all of that is done do they begin to take what God has promised in victory.  It is not until they are physically healed and spiritually prepared that someone important shows up.  Joshua 5:14 tells us that the commander of the Lord’s Army comes and speaks to him about how to conquer the people living in the land God was giving to them.

Up until the point they arrive at the town of Jericho, all the people in the land have been in fear knowing what God had done for the Israelites in marching them through the sea.  Rahab the prostitute had even said as much to the spies Joshua had sent (Joshua 2:9).

They were afraid, but it did not cause them to obey God or befriend God’s people.  Instead, it caused them to shut themselves up inside the walls of their city.  The people of Jericho had resolved that Israel would not be their master.  No one could come in to their community and no one could go out to make peace or otherwise.  “Thus were they infatuated and their hearts hardened to their own destruction – the miserable case and character of all those that strengthen themselves against the Almighty.” ~ Matthew Henry

Those silly walls, as strong and mighty as they were, were no match for the Commander of God’s Army.  Those walls were destined to fall flat despite how fortified and exclusive they were built to be.

The angel gives some rather bizarre instructions for this first military conquest in the promised land.  He tells God’s people to take the ark of the covenant (symbolizing His presence), march around the city, and blow trumpets continually every day for seven days.  The seventh day they were to march around seven times blowing the trumpets and then shout.  That is what would make the walls of Jericho fall down.

There were several reasons why this was going to work and several reasons why God chose to do it this way.  It was going to work, firstly, because it was God’s sovereign will, but, from a practical standpoint, the blowing of the trumpets from outside the walls of this closed city served to intimidate those therein.  By doing so, God’s people were declaring war.

 “They proclaimed war with the Cannanites and so struck a terror upon them; for by terrors upon their spirits, they were to be conquered and subdued.  Thus God’s ministers, by the solemn declarations of his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, must blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in the holy mountain, that the sinners in Zion may be afraid.  They are God’s heralds to denounce war against all those that go on still in their trespasses, but say, ‘We shall have peace, though we go on.’ “ ~Matthew Henry

The trumpets themselves were least impressive.  God loves to use the foolish things to shame the strong.  Good news for me!

Another reason this worked, from an earthly standpoint, is that, while they may have feared firstly, after seven days of this ridiculous, noisy parade and no attack, the insiders doubtless began to think it was all a laughable show.

“Thus they cried peace and safety, that the destruction might be the more terrible when it came.  Wicked men think God in jest when he is preparing for their judgement; but they will be convinced of their mistake when it is too late…The wall fell down flat, and probably killed abundance of people…That which they trusted to for defense proved their destruction…they became an easy prey to the sword of Israel, and saw to how little purpose it was to shut their gates against a people that had the Lord on the head of them.” ~Matthew Henry

We all know how the story ends.  The walls fall down flat at the shout of God’s people and Jericho is the city chosen to serve as an example to their enemies and an encouragement for the further conquests in taking over the promised land.

There were some practical and spiritual reasons why God chose to have his people conquer the city of Jericho in this way.

It made God’s glory known because only he can be credited with victory when a walled-in city falls at a shout.  This parading around also served to honor his ark as well as his priests who were carrying it and sounding the trumpets.

There is not too far any of us can get in spiritual victory apart from the presence of God going with us.  That’s why Jesus said, “…Apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Furthermore, this was meant to test the faith, patience, and obedience of God’s people.  Wonder what they were thinking.  Wonder how they felt when they had to march around thirteen times.  Thirteen trips around this city with nothing but a promise and their dull and meager instruments.  Yet, the purpose of this slow going-round served to test as well as encourage them heartily when victory came.  This was only the first battle.  Many were to follow.  This was for them to look back on and remember how strong and wise their God really was.  He keeps his promises.

God is in the business of tearing down walls.  So many times we find ourselves building them up, though.  The weapons he gives have divine power to destroy strongholds.  Jesus himself came to tear down the dividing wall of hostility and make one man out of two.  He came to bring unity between God and man as well as man and man.  He came to demolish strongholds.

Pray. Fast. Repeat.  God will take care of the walls.  They will fall when he is obeyed and honored by his people.

“The God of heaven easily can, and certainly will, break down all the opposing power of his and his church’s enemies…Thus, shall Satan’s kingdom fall, nor shall any prosper that harden themselves against God.” ~Matthew Henry

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member

Here, the Lord elaborates further on the Passover commemoration instructions.  The whole company is just leaving Egypt.  God wasted no time in instructing His people on exactly who may come celebrate and how they are to carry out this grand remembrance of His mercy and greatness toward them.  Moses and Aaron are taught exactly who may eat, who may not, and a few more details on how it may and may not be eaten.  All obligations of the Passover meal point to Jesus Christ and His church.

The underlying theme for the people of God here is preparedness.  No one may come to this meal uncircumcised.  Circumcision was to the people of Israel what regeneration is to Christians.  No one can come to the table celebrating God’s great mercy and miraculous deliverance lest he be first converted and circumcised of heart.

We are shown that anyone may come as long as he is circumcised.  No foreigners may come.  No one who is a hired servant or compensated in any way for his work may come.  But every slave who has been both bought and circumcised may take part.  If there is ownership of a slave – a slave that has been purchased by the people of God – that man is as welcome at the table as a blood-born Jew.

Furthermore, they must always eat the meal inside and all together in one house.  Slaves did not eat one place and masters another.  No.  All together and never outside where foreigners or hired hands would be able to take part.  And the animals’ bones must never be broken.

Lastly, one law applied to all who ate.  The rules applied across the board.  Jews did not have special privileges over sojourners or slaves.  This must have been quite unsettling to Jews because it indicated that their privilege and position with God was based not in their bloodline, but their earnest dedication to God.

The only ones who may come to the Lord’s table are those who have been properly prepared.  Preparedness is for us, conversion.  No one who works for salvation is welcome.  Likewise, no one outside of salvation may eat at Christ’s communion table.  Yet, all are welcome if they have been purchased – bought by the blood of Christ.  Those who are owned by the Father may come freely but those who are trusting in self-sufficient works are wholly unwelcome.  Everyone is to come into one house.  Some are not relegated to a lesser, lower place because the basis of belonging is neither work related nor nepotistic in nature.  The basis of belonging to Christ is, and always has been, our true love and dedication to Him.  No favoritism has ever been condoned in the house of God.  All are bound by one law and no one has privilege or position based on anything other than their love for God and His for them.

What a beautiful picture of how the church ought to look – how God’s people ought to come to feast upon Him.  Prepared.  Grace-dependent.  Unified.  Equally honorable.  Equally honored.  Collectively submitted to a singular law based solely upon grace and our response to it.

Praise God for His mercy!  They did not have to be Jews to celebrate the Passover with equal treatment and honor in the house of God’s people.  Slave, pilgrim – no matter!  It was their house, too!  I do not have to be from a particular family or social class, structure, or group to celebrate His grace and my deliverance with equal treatment and honor in the house of God.  It is my house, too!  If He is my deliverer, I am, and always will be a full-privilege member of his company.  I am included on the merits of one condition: His faithfulness.  Praise God for his mercy toward even me – a weary sojourner who has absolutely nothing but the blood (His – not mine!) to bank on!

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team

“What were we learning about yesterday?”

“Jews and Gentiles!”

“What about them?”

“The Jews didn’t want the Gentiles to be in God’s family.”

“Why?”

“Because they (the Jews) weren’t worshiping God.”

“Who were they worshiping?”

“Themselves.”

“What did God want?”

“Together!”

 For he himself is our peace,who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. ~Ephesians 2:14-16

Together.  With confidence like unto that of a certain seven year-old who proudly knows her Bible lesson, I am certain I heard God’s voice in hers.  Together.  God wants His people together.

From the beginning of creation, God declared that it is not good for man to be alone.  He proceeded to give Adam a wife, Abraham a son, Leah a husband, Naomi a daughter-in-law, and even Jesus a mommy.  God gives us each other.  “Together” is a gift.

What is “together” really, though?  Is it merely sitting beside one another while staring a sparkly, colorful rectangles?  Is it just doing the same activities at the same time?  Is it primarily being physically present? What is the “together” that makes the not goodness of being alone, good?

Let’s start with what it definitely is not.

The alone-ness that was “not good” is not rectified by attending the same social events, going to the same homes, schools and churches, sitting at the same tables, or talking about the same hobbies.  The togetherness that Christ died to bring about amounts to more than superficial physical proximity or bodily juxtaposition.

Togetherness in Christ means much, much more than that.  It means what it meant for Adam and Eve – a man and a woman who had no one except each other.  It means that when we are done talking about sports and schools, we talk about failure – both mine and yours. It means we encourage and that we know one other well enough to understand why and when each other needs it. It means we stay even when we disagree.  It means we learn how to communicate for the good of the other.  It means we are open to correction, quick to forgive, and that we know each other well enough and real enough that we know what we need to correct and actually experience the need to forgive.

Why else would the Jews have so despised the thought of including Gentiles into the fold of God?  Aside from the obvious pride, jealousy, and confusion they naturally had, the Jews knew something else.  They knew what inclusion really meant for them.  That is what Paul had to address.

It meant pig-eating people in their kosher cafes.  It meant a bona fide, painful break from the Jews who did not believe the gospel – Jews who were their closest family, friends, and neighbors.  It meant sacrificing their preferences for the good of people they had previously disliked and adamantly avoided.  It meant putting down the pride of being God’s apple and making room for a whole new bushel.  It meant standing up for a Gentile when an unbelieving Jew encouraged one to harass.  This was none other than the plight of the eldest child learning to welcome new siblings while at the same time being asked to pull away from his favorite best buddies.

It meant realizing that they were not the most important people in the world and never had been.  It meant laying down their prior to pre-incarnate Christ social groups and walking in humility among those he died to place in their lives.  It meant standing up for and doing good to those who were in the faith over and above their old comrades and favorite fellow men.

It meant sacrifice.  It meant humility.  It meant courage.

God-authenticated togetherness is not mere relational or physical proximity.  God-authenticated togetherness is the very work of the gospel.

It means realizing that we are not the most important people in the world and we never were.  It means laying down our pre-Christian social groups and walking in humility among those he died to place in front of us.  It means standing up for and doing good to those who are in the faith over and above our old comrades and favorite fellow men.

It means sacrifice.  It means humility.  It means courage.

Let us not settle for mere relational or physical proximity.  Let us do the work of the gospel through our willingness to invest in God-authenticated togetherness.

Together.  God wants His people together.

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hide

It seems that a lot of schooling has been going on lately in a mass effort to indoctrinate us all on introverts – who they are, how they love, what they like, how not to hurt them, and what color t-shirt one should wear each day of the week to appease their code of standard if you ever want to be allowed into their world.

I am no expert on personality.  I am certainly not a psychiatrist or a sociologist.  But I am a person.  I am a person who is at least 50% introvert.  I am a person who knows what the Bible teaches, and because of that, I do know something of how this whole human behavior thing is supposed to play out if we are all seeking to obey the same God, that is.

I would be considered an extrovert by most.  The truth is that I am extremely extroverted and I am extremely introverted depending on my day, my mood, my surroundings, and the cosmic alignment of stars in a galaxy we cannot see.

I do not understand all the reasons for what places or persons trigger which personality traits, but I do know that when I was a little girl I was both the one hiding behind mom’s skirt and the one tirelessly raising my hand to be noticed by the teacher in school.  I do know that when my husband and I talked about getting stick figure tattoos of one another I thought he would get me as a girl lumberjack cutting down trees and he told me he would get me reading a book with my hair pulled back.  I see myself loud, he sees me quiet.  We, together, know my personality best.  Perhaps it indicates the plain truth that I prefer to see myself loud and he prefers to see me quiet.  No surprises there.  I say all that to say I believe I am quite equally extroverted and introverted.

Now, let me tell you what happens to a girl like me when I am around other extroverted people.

If I feel comfortable and accepted, I pick up the banjo I cannot play and join right in there.  If I feel uncomfortable and out of place, I become the quietest wallflower you have ever seen hoping someone calls me so I don’t have to find a cookbook to pretend I am reading.

My biggest problems in relationship have not come at the table of other extroverts, though.  They have come at the table of other introverts.

When two people both feel equally uncomfortable with one another – whether it is because one personality is too strong and the other too timid or because both are too timid, both begin to feel some kind of way about the other.  Not because they have been sinned against per se, but because by nature an introverted person does not let others know him or her in a real way.  Not much good ever comes out of not knowing someone whom God has placed in your backyard.

These are the neighbors living next door to each other for 20 years but who have never had dinner together.  They are the colleagues working together daily for 10 years who still do not know each other’s personal lives and loves.  And, yes, these are the members in your church who assume and presume upon each other without ever allowing real relationship because somewhere along the line they have deemed one another unsafe or impossible.

Pride is an ugly thing.  Pride says that my personality is principle and yours needs to change.  Pride says that my perceived pain is caused by your personality.  Pride says that perfection is paramount if you are unlike me in personality because my comfort and security come from control and calm rather than Christ alone.

People say I am intimidating.  They say it is because I am too blunt, too opinionated, too educated, too put together, and too pretty.  I do not know that any of those things are very true of me, but I have been told them on numerous occasions by numerous people.  So, while it may indeed be uncomfortable and unfamiliar for an intimidated introvert to be around me when I am looking particularly extroverted, I do not believe that alone indicts me as the sinner and they the victim of my insensitivity.  Likewise, try as my flesh may, I have no license to indict those ones as the sinner and take on a victim mentality over things that make you, you.

Hear this: I can no longer apologize for who I am as a person simply because other people do not like their coffee strong.  And you should not have to apologize for feeling uncomfortable about it.  We must stop calling differences sin.  I cannot repent of being me and you cannot repent of being you.  But there are things we can do.  There are things we must do if we are going to grow, mature, for goodness sake, even survive together.

I can study others – if and when they let me – and I can do all I can to meet their needs in Christ – if and when they tell me what those needs are and how I am making them feel.  You can do the same.  But unless and until that happens I do not believe we extroverted introverts deserve to be charged, judged, convicted, and shunned indefinitely on the basis of your misplaced fear or discomfort.  The same goes for you in regards to me.  That way, you don’t get to blame and exclude me because I am me and I don’t get to blame and exclude you because you are you.  God forbid!  The more we feel distance and tension, the more we should feel the Holy Spirit convicting us to seek peace and pursue unity, relationship, and active reconciliation.

Furthermore, I can no longer concede to the accusations that extroverts and those who speak their mind are the only ones dealing out hurt.  Extroverts may unintentionally hurt introverts by saying too much, but the truth that does not get told nearly as often is the one where introverts’ lack of initiation, interaction, response, and reciprocation, albeit also unintentional,  is also severely injurious to others.

Where the former makes others feel fearful and uncomfortable, the latter makes others feel unnecessary, uninvited, unwelcome, and burdensome.  It is true enough that speech may injure when done in ignorance of others’ needs.  So also true it is that silence injures when done in ignorance of others’ needs.  Wrong speech silences.  Silence silences.  Both make God’s people feel discouraged, hurt, insecure, and hopeless.

To that end I say, let me love you like Lori loves and I promise you that I will let you love me like you love.  Let me pray with you and I will resolve to let you pray for me if you’ll just let me know you did.  Talk to me and I will try not to talk to you too much.  Let’s look around and discern one another’s needs and stretch ourselves outside of our preferences and personalities in order to meet them.

This is more than a personality conflict.  Psychology always gives men justification for sin.  This is a bona fide war between God and the Devil and the church is the battleground.  We must fight the good fight together lest we all fall apart on the basis of preference, comfort, complacency, and individualism.

 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. ~Galatians 5:13-15

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eggs

I heard part of a sermon on marriage yesterday and something the man said, well, as my oldest daughter would say, “punched me in the face.” The preacher said, “Marriage provides the security to deny independence.”

As I drove on, I heard the concept of self-sufficiency come up three more times in different ways and I really felt that the Lord was pressing this idea upon my heart.

All I could think of was our culture’s obsession with individualism and independence.  Beyonce made a song about it a decade ago and I still cringe every time I hear it.  The message?  I do not need you, man.  I do not need anyone.  I can get it all on my own and I prefer to be that way.  Independence is power and I need nothing else.  Self-sufficiency and independence are not only idols, but gods of the majority in our culture today.

But what is the alternative?

Dependence.  Needing others.  Needing help.  Trusting another person with the deep things as well as the daily.  From finances to feelings, many marriages fall by bowing to the god of independence.  Dependence is not popular, at least not here in pull yourself up by your bootstraps, independent America.

It got me to thinking about not only my own marriage, but the fact that Christ chose the church to be his bride.  He chose marriage as the symbol of his relationship towards his people.  Dependence is a huge part of being a Christian.  Oops. There I go again saying things no one wants to hear.  The truth is that no one can be saved apart from total dependence on the work of Christ.  No one can live in line with the gospel apart from dependence on Christ.

I have two examples stirring in my mind to illustrate these realities: the insecure wife and the overprotective mom.

The Insecure Wife

I have never been a particularly good cook.  I’m not as bad as I used to be but, well, ok I suck at cooking for the most part.  I remember early in our marriage, my husband would often stop at his mom’s house to eat on the way home from work.  One could hardly blame him, and a lot of it was just part of transitioning from being a 19 year old at home to a 19 year old in his own home, but as a new wife it was very discouraging.  Often I would avoid cooking altogether because I did not want to risk rejection over it again.

As time went on and when I did cook, he would come into the kitchen and offer “suggestions.”  I am not sure if that was more or less worse than just not showing up, but it did not make for happy meals.  I would not take his advice because I was proud.  I would not take his advice because I was insecure.  Instead, I would get mad feeling like a failure and wondering why he just could not see my effort.

Now, when he walks into the kitchen and offers help, I pinch myself to see if I am dreaming.  I am grateful and welcoming his help.  I delegate as much as possible when my husband comes in to give me assistance.  When I place a meal in front of him – even if it is sub-par, he compliments and thanks me.

What changed?

The maturity level changed.  We stopped clinging to the independence and selfish rights we believed we had.  His suggestions transformed from condescension to servant-hood.  My focus changed from duty, obligation, and approval to how I can best please the one I love.

My error with cooking was one of inexperience, insecurity, and ignorance.  There is another way to err on the opposite side of this coin, though.  It is realized in trusting in self as well.  Have you ever seen a helicopter mom?

The Helicopter Mom

This is the overprotective mom who does absolutely everything for her (often only) child.  The child does not fail because mom never allows him to get that far on his own.  She does literally everything in order to “protect” him and create a facade of having a responsible child or, even, husband.

When a woman does this in her family, she frustrates and cripples her children.  She disrespects and emasculates her husband.  When she does this at work or in the church, she exacerbates those around her and they give up trying to contribute.  This woman does not understand that responsibility must be given in order to be learned.

There are many people who never get to maturity regarding dependence.  Both in marriage and in the church, we often get stuck in the “I need help but do not want it” martyrdom camp because of pride or insecurity or both.  We fail to realize that dependence is paramount.  It is never a matter of needing help vs. being able to do things individually as much as it is a matter of reflecting our dependence and need for Christ by recognizing our dependence and need for other people.  It is a rejection of the idol of self-sufficiency and an acceptance of a faith which requires humility.  Humility hears suggestions as help rather than hate or hurt.  This is counter-cultural.  No one is teaching their daughters to depend on a man these days – and perhaps for good reason.  No one is teaching women how to let their children fail for the greater good of learning responsibility anymore.  But the church must not forsake the practice of interdependence and learned responsibility based on cultural norms.

Maturity is often rooted in dependence.  The world will tell you just the opposite.  Dependence is often rooted in maturity.  The world will tell you just the opposite.  When we throw away the idols of insecurity, pride, approval, individualism, and self-centered thinking, our families – both church and home – will thrive.

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lives

Lives matter.  Isn’t that what all the hullabaloo is about these days?  Really?  In the year 2016 humans are still having to be told that life matters.  Is the agenda simply concerned with schooling us on which lives really matter most?  Or are the lives that everyone that is shouting about lives that are largely devalued by the majority?  And why does it seem like there is an elephant named stereotyping standing in every room full of fighters?

It started with “black lives matter.”  No doubt they certainly do.  Some take the statement of this obvious truth to imply that the rest of lives – those that belong to we who are not black – matter less.  Hence, the hashtag “all lives matter.”  Or what about the people group indicted by the “black lives matter” community?  As Chick-fil-A contends, “police lives matter,” too.  It has become a war about which lives are paramount.  And where there’s a war, there are no winners.  There are only  bleeders.

All the buzz, forgive me, has me a bit confused.  It’s one of those things I begin to think about and then look up to see if anyone else’s face reads as puzzled as mine.  We’re bleeding out all over America because we have been asked to pick a corner and fight over a fundamental truth that should be quite obvious.  Life matters immensely.  .

Don’t get me wrong, the issues are real.  There are bad cops.  There are racist people.  There are works of evil all around us all day, every day.  If there is anything anyone can do to shed light on the abuses against innocent victims, I’m all for it.  But, America, let’s at least be ambitious enough to uncover what is at the bottom of our outrage.

All of these thoughts swirled though my subconscious last night at the theater as I watched the movie “Risen.”  It was a fictional story about a Roman soldier who was alive during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  In that time and place, perhaps the hashtag would have read “Jewish lives matter.”  Maybe it would have said “disciples lives matter” or “soldiers lives matter.”  I don’t know for sure but I do know one thing.  Then, as well as now, many people were wrongfully abused, injured, and murdered at the hands of the authorities of both church and state.

 Think about that for a moment.  Let it sink in.  Like the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun.

But let’s get back to the movie.  Jesus shows up and he, claiming to be God, does not fight for the value of his own life to be recognized by those who hate him.  He does quite the opposite.  Instead, to those who love him, he teaches his example of self-abasement, humility, and how to consider others better than themselves.  To that end I ask, is that what we are doing, America?  Because it seems like there is a lot of finger pointing going on and none of it ever points inwardly.  We, who want justice, are just as responsible for valuing life as those we are shouting at.  And honestly, our own self is the only person we have the power to change.

As Christians, we should never minimize or ignore the suffering of others.  The truth is that every life was created by God and that is what makes every life intrinsically, immeasurably valuable.  That means nothing can make us more or less valuable.  Not our skin tone, our profession, or our age.  Neither our social status, salary, smarts, or even our sins.

The young black man who is shot by a middle aged white cop is certainly no less valuable than the young white cop who is shot by a middle aged black man.  We, as honest people, see the tragedy of both situations as equally horrific.

When our forefathers wrote that all men were created equal, I do not know what they originally meant.  I do know that the concept of human equality is borrowed capital from the Christian Bible.  What that means is that at the cross, the black man is equal with the white as is the woman with the man; the thief with the philanthropist; the adulterous with the virgin; the drunkard with the sober; the unborn baby with the ninety year-old.

Every life matters to the God who created them all.  He shows no partiality.  None.  If we follow him, every life must matter to us as well.  Anger does not win people and cause them to stop doing evil; believing evil; being evil.  Civil societal wars won’t save the lives being snuffed out daily.  Picking sides will only divide us further.  Instead, we must learn who we are.  We were made in God’s image and that is why we are all to be highly valued by one another.

Your addicted neighbor is valuable.  Pray for him.  The coworker who treats you poorly every day is valuable.  Show her love.  The waitress who got your order wrong is valuable.  Tip her well.  The man who spoke ill of you to everyone you know is valuable.  Forgive him.  The girl who always dresses inappropriately is valuable.  Teach her.  The wealthy man running for president who acts like an utter fool is valuable.  Do not hate him.  The mad black woman shouting about how valuable her life is is right.  Respect her.

It is easy to take up a cause and start shouting.  It is hard to live out a life of love toward fellow sinners day in and day out.  Nevertheless, that is what we must do.  That is the solution.  Love saves lives one at a time.  That is our job.  We must stop letting our differences divide us and pray.  Stop carrying torches and shouting about which lives you prefer and prefer them all in the sphere of your very own life.  Place value on those you least love for the sake of both solidarity and sanctification.  We are all yet students.

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unity

As a mom of three girls, it is a rare day when no sibling unrest occurs.  Despite the conflicts, usually they play without needing my assistance for some time.  They often figure out how to reconcile their differences alone.  Yesterday, however, was not one of those days.

Somewhere between dragging them to the phlebotomist with me and grabbing school supplies, two girls were fighting.  One was being selfish, the other self-righteous.  One was crying, one pouting.  It occurred to me after much repeated correction (this went on for some time)  that once the issue was over and the cosmic balance of our home had been restored, I had not made it a point to sit down with either of them and just talk about what had happened.  Between the busyness of the day and the struggle to call an effective cease-fire, by the time it was over I think we all just wanted to forget about it.

I feel like I forgot to be a parent.  Comfort and convenience have a way of producing selective memory.  Maybe we will revisit World War 3 today…

Anyway, Paul does not seem to have this problem with churches.  Paul never forgets to parent God’s church.  First, he instructs and corrects.  Correction is almost always followed up by exhortation.

In the closing of Colossians, Paul’s final address stresses the importance of inclusion and unity.  He mentions ten specific people, including himself, as well as an entire church body.  He urges the people in the Colossian church to “welcome” and accept them.  Consider his words.

“Tychius...is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.  I have sent him

Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner…

Mark, the cousin of Barnabus…welcome him…

Jesus who is called Justus.  These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God and they have been a comfort to me…

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Jesus Christ…for I bear him witness...

Luke the beloved physician greets you as does Demas…

Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house

…I, Paul…remember my chains.”

Why does Paul name these people?  What is the point?

Doubtless, this is a father managing his children.  He is saying, “Hey guys, I’m not there but here comes your brothers and sisters.  Here’s how they’ve served me, you, and the Lord faithfully.  These people are part of God’s kingdom.  Welcome them.  Accept them.  Treat them as your own.  Consider their sacrifices for the gospel and include them as your own when they come to you.  It couldn’t be more clear what Paul is saying here.

Why would Paul close his letter this way?  What reason would he have to tell them these things and name these individuals?

Paul spent his efforts on this letter making sure the Colossians knew who not to listen to.  Perhaps he does not want them to get conveniently confused.

Tychius was a fellow minister.  Onesimus had been a poor slave who’d been converted from a particularly wicked lifestyle.  Mark had been at odds with Paul previously.  Epaphrus prayed fervently for these people.  Jesus, now called Justus had changed his very name out of respect for the Redeemer.  Luke was a doctor.  Nympha was a woman who held church in her home.  Archippus was of the of the ministers in Colosse with them.  Paul himself was a prisoner for the gospel and an overseer of the churches.

Surely the temptation was to exclude certain types of people from the church.  Little wonder why Paul does this end of letter name dropping.  These mentioned are very different types of people.  There is no doubt Paul mentions them by name so that the Colossians make no mistake.

These are your people, church.  These – the pastors as well as the paupers.  Those from the wrong side of the tracks just the same as the doctors.  The women as well as the men.  The ones who have had differences with me and you as well as the chum buddies who’ve been serving alongside you.

Welcome them.  They are all beloved.  They are all your brothers.  They are all faithful.  They are all of you.  Greet them.  Hear them.  Include them.  Welcome them.

Remember me.

~Love, Dad

“The meanest circumstance of life, and the greatest wickedness of former life, make no difference in the spiritual relation among sincere Christians: they partake of the same privileges, and are entitled to the same regards.”  ~Matthew Henry

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