Tag Archives: Believers

Colossians 1:21-23; Brief Thoughts

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

There is no merit within a man that does not derive its value from Jesus. As established in verses 15-20, Jesus is the agent and sustainer of all creation. Further, He is the one who brings reconciliation through His work. In order to understand what change has been wrought in the souls of those who believe, we must first begin by understanding that it is Jesus’ work that brings redemption.

Some people would dare to assert that they have achieved some state of reconciliation based on their own merit or decisive action. However, Paul’s words here describe the state of all of humanity before Christ. Every person is distant from God – the Author and Sustainer of life. Not only is all mankind held at a distance from God by sin, each individual person has waged a war on God’s righteousness and holiness. From the beginning, humanity has shaken its fist in the face of a perfect, holy, and just God. Rebelling both in mind and in deed. The rebellion of sin is not merely one of intellect, it progresses to action in “evil deeds.” The hostility that is conceived in the mind of a man against God becomes manifested in the actions of sinful rebellious deeds.

This description of man shows a complete deprivation of all semblance of righteousness. There is first distance/separation in the word alienation. The term for “alienated” means excluded, or estranged. It indicates a foreign nature in the one described. The one who is alienated is one who does not belong and has no place. Before Christ’s work, people have no place of belonging and no home with God. Further, every individual is at enmity with God, exercising hostility of mind in, and through evil deeds.

Christ does not allow such deprivation of spirit to remain in His created ones. Instead, He brings peace in His death. Taking upon Himself the sins of man, He bares those sins before God and dies in order to defeat the effects of sin. In His body, Christ dies that you might believe and thereby have life. Christ comes to those who reject Him and reconciles to Himself those who have waged war against Him.

Consider the lengths to which Christ has gone to reconcile you to God. He lived a perfect life, surrendering strength in favor of weakness while simultaneously holding all things together. He experienced trial, turmoil, and temptation on a level we cannot fathom and yet remained faithful and righteous. He commanded the waves to be still and materialized fish and bread at will and yet, He submitted to death at the hands of the very people in whom He breathed the very breath of life. Then He willingly died, surrendering to death that you might live. In His sacrifice, He carries upon Himself the death you deserve and frees you from the grip of sin. In His death, sin dies.

So, in this way, Christ takes the punishment for sin upon Himself and frees the souls of those who believe so that the faithful can stand, blameless before God. Jesus presents the believer to God as spotless and blemish free. Not only are those who believe presented as cleaned of sin before God, they are also proven to be free from sin as “above reproach!” Let that sink in for a moment: if you believe in Jesus, you can stand before God without even the possibility of question. You are “above reproach.” The adversary can say nothing about you. Accusers cannot speak against you. You stand before God, unable to be questioned. You are beyond the reach of accusation. In Christ, you have been granted a status that is beyond the reach of questioning. Note: this state is not due to your actions. It is because of Christ’s great sacrifice. In His work, you’ve been made “above reproach.” Because your condition is based on His actions, even your past sins cannot be raised in objection to you. You have been reconciled through Christ, completely.

That is if you remain. Many who claim Christ do not remain faithful. According to Paul, these people do not fall into the category of “reconciled.” Those who do not remain faithful to the gospel have not been reconciled to be presented to Christ. Hold fast to Christ as evidence that you have been reconciled.

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Judgement is Coming. Ezekiel 9

Ezekiel is given a terrifying vision of the fury of the LORD in chapter 9. He stands in Jerusalem next to an angel who only seems to be able to yell at the top of his lungs the commands of the Lord for each step of judgement against the people of God. Judgement always seems to come loud. There is something about fury that is loud and causes us to want to cover our eyes and ears in the face of the anger and wrath that is coming. Perhaps one of the greatest distinctions between God’s righteous anger and the unrighteous judgement of men is the volume. When men pass unrighteous judgement we try to conceal it and keep it quiet. But, when God breaks forth, there is deafening ferocity. He need not hold back his judgement nor does He require approval.

In verse 4 God commands that those who “sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in [the city]” be marked with a saving brand on their foreheads. In other words God goes out of the way to protect those who are troubled by the sin they see around them. (So, ask yourself, do you grieve over sin?) He lays out a mark on those who are actually recognizing the sin that surrounds them. These people are then spared death that follows. So the angels of God travel through the city of God and slaughter the people of God but spare those who are marked by the heart of God. Those who are marked are the ones who share the heart of God. They are the ones who grieve over sin and pray for The Lord to rescue. They are spared death, but they are not spared judgement. Everyone around them dies and in the next chapter the Lord departs from the temple. Just because we may share the heart of God and grieve over sin, there comes a point at which we will suffer the judgement of God on our corporate bodies simply because we are a part of a people who have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to sin for far too long.

In verse 6 we are told that the judgement begins in the sanctuary. The terrifying nature of God is that He purifies from the inside out. God always begins His judgement with His people. Peter warns us of this principle in 1 Peter 4:17 when He admonishes us not to be surprised in the Church of God should suffer punishment from God. The only comfort we are offered is that when this life is over, we have been marked and did not have to face the second death.

Ezekiel falls down before the Lord and cries aloud, begging the Lord to spare the remnant. Now at this point, we assume that God will say, “of course I am going to save a remnant Zeke… don’t worry about it.” But that is not the way this story goes. God tells Ezekiel in verses 9-10 that everyone must suffer because the guilt of the house of Israel is too great and the Lord is bringing justice. What a terrifying justice! God determines that His own people must be destroyed! The people of God are so wicked in Ezekiel 9 that they cannot be rescued until judgement has already landed. The must walk through the judgement of God.

The judgement of God is terrifying. It is loud and clear. It slaughters everyone and even those who are marked for protection from death suffer the pain of that judgement. It begins with His people and there is no escape from it. The only hope we have is that God would intervene and give us new hearts, bring dead bones to life, and fill His temple again… but that won’t happen for almost 30 chapters. (ch. 36-43)

Beloved, the church in America is not far from Ezekiel 9. Some of us may be spared death, but our idolatry and self-centered worship has risen before the Lord and He will respond. What you are seeing happen in the world around us is merely a symptom of our own long standing wickedness. Hear the call of the Lord to repent from sin and love like Jesus. The longer we tarry to obey His word, the more imminent judgement becomes. God will decimate our churches so that He can have a valley of dry bones to resurrect. Dry bones that cannot save themselves. Dry bones recognize their state as completely dependent on His word for life. They do not try to save themselves and they are not able to ignore the voice of God when He calls. Let us do as Ezekiel and prophecy to the dry bones! Let us herald the coming of justice to the house of God! Let us speak the Word of the Lord and watch it change the world beginning with the church! Let us fall face down and beg the Lord to forgive the iniquity of His people. Only then will dry bones live! Perhaps then the Lord will have mercy on us.

Simple Helps in Battling Depression

Pastors get depressed. Such is the nature of ministry. I had a very wise pastor once tell me, “have the skin of a lion and the tenderness of a lamb, because you’re a shepherd and sheep bite.” That sentiment has always stuck in my heart. I know this statement well. It has become my friend. Anytime I am wounded I think, “sheep bite.” Knowing that and understanding that are two very different things. I had another very wise friend tell me that the greatest hurts he has ever endured have come from people in the church. This is the reality of the world we live in. Heaven has not come and darkness still exists on this earth.

With that in mind I’d like to share some things I do physically to aid in the combat of depression. These do not eliminate depression nor will they always work; but they do lighten the load a little.

LIGHT

Turn on lights! It is so easy when you are depressed to hide in a dark room. Make sure you are in bright places, if you have to go outside, then go outside. Depression likes darkness, throw a light on and try to chase it away.

CLEAN UP

This one is difficult for me. I am a notorious dumper. What I mean is that I am notorious for walking into a room with an arm full of stuff and piling it somewhere in the room. As a result my office looks like a small grenade went off. Order and cleanliness are the antithesis of chaos and confusion. Often depression can loom because there is extreme chaos and confusion over life events. If your surroundings echo that, it will only serve as a reminder of what you are struggling to forget. Clean up and organize and you’ll have one less thing the adversary can use to discourage your heart.

BEAUTIFUL THINGS

Surround yourself with beauty. If there is no beauty, then make some. Create something beautiful. Find a place of beauty that you can rest in and admire. Remind yourself that God is more beautiful than your troubles and is gracious to supply your every need. Let your heart be inspired by great music and great art! Perhaps you’ll be reminded of how small the things that depress you are.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY

Even introverts need people. Find people who love you and tell them you are troubled. Use the word troubled, its much less weird than depressed. Let them know what it is that troubles you and let your feelings be known clearly and concisely. They can love you in ways that can lift your spirit… let them do that.

DO SOMETHING YOU DO WELL

I played basketball in high school with intentions of playing in college, but that is a story for another day. I can usually sink about 80 percent of the free-throws I take. My all-time high was about 215 in a row before I missed.  The guy that beat me made two more than I did. So, I’m a decent free-throw shot. So when I get depressed or angry, I’ll go shoot some free-throws (some of you are reading this thinking, “ahhh now I see why you were in the gym that day!)  I’ll shoot for a bit, and then I’ll be able to think rationally. I feel better about myself and have a little bit more clarity of vision. I know how to shoot a free throw.  I know I can do it. I may not know how to handle everything in life, but I can shoot a free throw.  When you’re depressed, go shoot some free-throws. Find something you’re good at and make time to do it for an hour or so.

REMEMBER THIS IS TEMPORARY

As a believer, it is imperative that we remember that all of these troubles we face are temporary. There will be a day when there is no more struggle or pain… take the long view. Eternity is much greater than here and will last much longer! My brother and I like to remind ourselves of something Dad used to say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff… and remember, if you back up far enough, everything is small stuff.” It is easy to say that when you’re not depressed. However, if you will look at something great and immense when you are depressed, perhaps you’ll remember.

The Kingdom

I see a Kingdom somewhere beyond this fog

That displaces my vision to see the long…view of life.

It floats between The King and this mundane-life-drained-membrane of reality that we call earth

It hides the hope and glory and all the worth

Of all that is beyond, in that place where our brothers have gone

Oh I HATE the fog

The Kingdom is greater than the haze, that distorts its display

The streets are gold and light is so bold

That no shadow takes hold and no darkness control

The mind of the ones brought to the Son

There you are free of the chains that tie your heart to these affections, worthless from the start!

But there you join the King in life only sought

In dreams, we’ve barely seen, or begun to proclaim!

This King’s name? Oh…  that will change the game

You see this King, He is no thing ordinary.

He is power itself, greater than all wealth,

The victor’s crown to the cast down

He alone is risen above, as love enthroned

Matchless, Supreme reigns this King

You see this king is grace in place of failed schemes and self-righteous dreams that lead to false victories!

He is majesty itself, and His light is so bright it stands in stark contrast to this worlds filth-y excuse for truth.

You see this King had a people who destroyed the majestic peace that nevermore was to cease

That very nevermore came at our hand in our master plan to reject the God to man love  that we supposed was too cold for our souls.

So, broken from our heavenly home, we became cursed to roam

The sands of meaningless self-exalting frivolity

Attempting to find a calm to be

Some sacred rhapsody to set us free

There was no rhyme of song to replace the King our souls long to see.

There was nothing but chains to bind our unrelenting hearts and minds,

chains of our own making providing the undertaking…

…prison

No hope, No life, no freedom, no strength, no breath

Only the cold stiff stench of endless death

But remember that King? He rose to redeem

The heart so cold given rhythm of the soul

Imagine this King sees His subjects in need, kneels down from above, gazing into every eye that has scorned his love!

In furious rage He stands from His throne and comes down from on high to make war all alone!

He brings with Him no sword in his hand or malicious instrument with which to punish man.

Only love and sacrifice to engage the bent.

Frailty and majesty intertwine in the heart of this King

Broken and small He wins back us all

Not with the power of force but an exchange, a change of course.

You see, we were destined to breathe no more the life of liberty

Enslaved in a cage that we created we were more than simply ill-fated,

We were dead

But this failing King laid an exchange for you and me

He staked His claims on my dead remains and breathed life, removed the chains…

That so desperately trapped

He took off my chains and bore them Himself!

He made the exchange taking poverty over wealth.

He became death that death would die and I was given hope and more than that… life!

A Great Book to Read: Tortured for Christ

Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor in communist Romania who was imprisoned for 14 years because he refused to say that communism was God’s ordained plan and that it is greater than the revelation of Christ. He was tortured daily in prison. One of my favorite phrases is when he talks about a deal he made with his guards in the prison. He says, “we have made a deal: each day I will give a sermon, and each night they will give me a beating. I am happy because I get to preach, they are happy because they get to beat me. All are happy.” In Tortured for Christ, Wurmbrand recounts his own story of suffering through severe persecution. He also shares stories of other persecuted Christians throughout the work. These stories stir the soul of believers to share the Word of the Lord!

The story of Wurmbrand’s suffering convicts me to share the gospel all the more boldly. Wurmbrand was beaten and persisted in preaching, we sometimes remain silent because we feel it might be a social impropriety. Wurmbrand was separated from his wife and son for the sake of the gospel, we hesistate to obey the call of God because I don’t want to risk such things. Wurmbrand knew the joy of the Lord through sacrifice and solitude and suffering, most of us have never truly sacrificed, spent time in solitude, or suffering.  We are commanded in Scripture to “remember those who are in chains as though you are in chains with them, for you are all part of the body.” Heb. 13:3 So read this book!!!

Wurmbrand also writes a chapter to the western church.  He calls us to give the underground church the tools necessary to do the work.  He states, “…we will do the suffering… we just need the tools.”  We are able to help the underground church in many ways.  One of the easiest ways is to send money to those who are dying.  A more difficult way is through legitimate prayer.  Spend time on your knees praying for the salvation of the enemies of the cross of Christ.  Finally, stand for justice in every location by loving people in a radical way.

Go get this book and read it. If you don’t like to read, go get this book and read it anyway!  If you can’t read, go get the free audio book here this month: http://christianaudio.com/free/?utm_source=HomePage&utm_medium=InternalBanner&utm_campaign=freebook

Overcoming Temptation (Matthew 4)

In the temptation of Christ, Satan attempts to draw Jesus to deny God by three simple challenges.  The first is turning stones into bread. The second is miraculous acts. And the third is idolatry. Jesus maintains perfect focus on the mission of God and comes out the victor. (Read it here)

Stones to bread:

Jesus kneels, hungry and exhausted, and the accuser dares to pose the challenge. “Make these stones bread.” The enemy challenges God’s provision and Jesus has the opportunity to utilize His own strength or to focus on the mission at hand. The interesting truth about this first test is that Jesus is “The Bread.” He is bread. He is what sustains life. He is the sustaining breath in our lungs and the life giving power that maintains all life on earth. Satan tempts Jesus to deny that mission. Take these stones and make something else bread… go on, you’re hungry… deny the mission of God.

Miraculous dive

In the second test the accuser leads Jesus to the peak of the temple. Imagine for a moment, Jesus stands at the epicenter of religious piety. Imagine what must go through His mind. All the people enslaved to a religious system that has really become a corruption of what true worship is. All those religious people are clamoring to earn some sort of righteousness that will never come in this way. His heart must have grown faint at the sight of some of the worshipers. The Pharisees who would never believe (John 10) are just below. He could do this amazing feat and have them eating out of His hands. Then what of the people outside the court? What about the people who cannot enter? He would be King then, for sure, but they would not know Him. They would see God from the same distance that the people Israel always  had to endure. They would stand gazing upward at the fire on top of the mountain while trembling in fear and sin in the face of a Holy Terror. No, The New Moses must come down the mountain to connect the people with their God. He cannot stay atop or the people will be caught in eternal distance from God. The mission of restoration must supersede mystical terror.

Idolatry

The final temptation is played out on a global scale. Jesus is shown the entire world and told that He can have the whole thing, so long as He agrees to make the devil God. I believe this was a tactical error on the devil’s part. You see Jesus made the world (John 1) and when He made it, it was perfect. The devil offers Jesus a marred and broken world. Imagine the sorrow that flooded Jesus as He saw His creation desperate for His restoration. Imagine His anger at sin. What fury must have raged as He looked through time and space and saw you struggling in your sin. What agony must have built as He watched every injustice played out on His beloved earth. What terrific indignation He must have garnered in that instant before He responded to Satan. What must it have been like? His face turns red, jaw clinched, tears begin to stream, hands tighten, eyes narrow to eagle like focus on the mission of restoration, and the proclamation is made!

Overcoming temptation is difficult to do, but it can be done and you in fact have been empowered to overcome by the work of Christ on the cross. (1Pt. 4:1-6, Rom.6:1-5, 15-23) When Christ overcomes temptation He does it by His connection to the Word of God and His focus on the mission of God. Likewise, we must overcome temptation by the same means. We must remain connected to the Word of God at all times. Simply put, this means that you should be reading and memorizing your Bible. To fail to do so is to weaken your own resistance to temptation. This application is simple and you should not be surprised at your failure if you never listen to the word of God! Second, we must maintain a focus on the mission of God. To see the world from an eternal perspective will alter the way you can be affected by temptation. Your resolve will be steel! The accuser will not be able to quench the light that comes from your soul. Learn to see the mission of God above all else and that cowardly accuser will flee.

John 12

In John 12, some Greek believers seek out Jesus almost immediately after the triumphal entry. Now, it is no surprise that some Greeks might find the message of Jesus appealing or that some of them might seek Jesus out. What is surprising is what Jesus responds with. John 12:21 The Greeks ask Phillip if they can go see Jesus. Phillip goes to Andrew and asks him and then they go to Jesus to tell Jesus.

Let’s clear some things up here first. All of the named disciples were Jewish. Jesus was Jewish. Jesus was claiming a messianic position in the Jewish religion. So it is only natural for them to be skeptical about non-Jews wanting to see the Messiah of the Jews. Second, Jesus had already had an awkward conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well and that made all the disciples uncomfortable, but they went along with it. Here the two disciples are not certain whether they should turn these Greeks away. Everything they have ever been taught in their religious practice has trained them to explain to Greeks, “you can come to the outer court, but not to the inner court, and certainly not to the holy place.” But here Jesus is the Holy Place. So where is the line supposed to be drawn? They don’t know where the line is. Further, each time they try to draw a line, they get taught a lesson. Remember John 9, the blind guy on the side of the road. They ask a goofy question because they have been taught some bizarre form of cosmic karma. Jesus reproves them, tells them to get on board with the mission, and heals the blind guy. Third, the Greeks recognize the disparity as well. They don’t go directly to Jesus as we see so many others do. They ask the disciples to get them access. Even the Greek believers were living under the assumption that Jesus was for the Jews only and that they would have to be second class. Jesus, however, has constantly demonstrated that He has a rescue for ALL types of men, women, and children, regardless of ethnicity or religious background. For all must be surrendered to Him anyway.

So, verse 20-22 already presents us with an awkward situation in which Jesus must make a decision. The truly odd nature of this portion of the story is what Jesus says to Phillip and Andrew. (The Greeks may be standing right next to them, but we don’t know for sure because the Bible doesn’t say.) When Jesus is approached with the news of these Greeks coming to see Him, He launches into a cryptic sermon about needing to die in order for life to spring up. He explains that a seed must fall to the ground and give up it’s life in order to bear fruit. So the call of Jesus arises to the surface. “Die that you may live.” Surrender your life so that you may find life. These Greeks are confronted with the message of the Cross: it’s not about who you are or where your from or what religious underpinnings you have. All these things must be counted as nothing and forfeit for the sake of following Christ. So the call lands on us. Will we surrender all our preconceived notions of what it means to be good and follow Jesus? Will we break fellowship with the systems that hold us captive in a false since of religious righteousness to follow Jesus? Will we serve the Father and die to self?

But Jesus isn’t finished here, you see He is about to have a conversation with God that everyone is going to get to hear. It’s a freaky, amazing thing. Jesus admits that He has come to lay down His life and says He wants God to glorify His name. A that moment God speaks!

The best I can describe my feeling as I read this is through a cartoon I watched recently with my daughter. Some bugs were playing in a garden and one thing leads to another and they say, “lets ask the Lord!” (yes, I am that hokey Christian parent.) The lady bug bows its head and asked God the question. I was expecting a moment of silence and then the lady bug should have a bolt of inspiration and know what was right! The moment of silence was there, but the cartoon suddenly boomed a voice answering the little bug. I was floored! God spoke outwardly. It was only a cartoon, but it was AWESOME! So… I get the same since here. Everyone must have felt a sudden jolt of “what was that!”
Jesus explains that it is the Father and that He is about to die… of course no one understands because we are told in verse 16 that even His disciples aren’t going to get it until He is glorified.
Reading this story makes me wonder if I come to God with the expectation that He would actually speak. Jesus did. The Greeks clearly overcame their own awkwardness to address Him. Even Phillip and Andrew approach Him expecting to be rattled a little. Do I? Do you? What are you expecting to receive from Jesus?

There is a whole lot more in this text, but I think I’ll leave it there for now.