Tag Archives: Dreams

Colossians 1:1-2; Brief Thoughts

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father

It is a tremendous relationship that Christians share. The unity expressed through faith is encapsulated by Paul in one simple word: “brother.” Paul’s address displays a familial relationship with those who share the faith. Indeed, so great is the tie that binds Christians that it is deeper blood connection. When Jesus is called upon by His own brothers and mother in Mark 3:31-35, He responds, “Who are my mother and my brothers?… Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:34, 35). Jesus’ response elevates the position of faith above biological attachment. Further, His repudiation of His family’s request establishes a priority of fidelity within the faithful. Those who follow Christ share a spiritual connection that supersedes any other relationship.

Consider the power of this deep truth. Believers share a common connection that can and does supersede even their own family. Perhaps there is no greater example of this than in countries that persecute Christians. When a believer in Christ is forced to flee their home because of their faith, they choose the family of faith over their biological and environmental family. IN this way, the persecuted serve as the greatest examples of testimony for the “brothers” in the faith. They’ve rejected this life in favor of the next. They’ve surrendered this world in favor for Heaven. They’ve given their own familial titles up in their adoption into Christ’s. They have exchanged the life and attachments of this world, for the true life of Christ and attachment to Him.

How powerful to ponder that Paul calls Timothy and the Colossians, “brothers!” As members of the family of faith, Paul and Timothy can write to their family at Colossae and know that they are brothers. The use of the term “brother” is also profound. He does not refer to them as family or as his children (as is done elsewhere in Scripture. E.G. Gal. 4:19, 1 Thess 2:2, 7, and 5:5). He refers to them as brothers. It may seem semantics, but Paul is intentionally using the connection of brothers. Brothers share a unique bond. There is an equality among siblings that does not exist in the parental relationship or in the more general familial sense. Brothers labor together and utilize their gifts alongside each other. There is no actual hierarchy in brotherhood, only earned respect by diligent work. Paul considers Timothy and the Colossians to be brothers. What a phenomenal encouragement! Timothy and the Colossian believers are placed on equal footing with their missionary patriarch! How empowering to hear a man of Paul’s stature grant such a title as “brother” to other believers.

Such is the nature of the Christian faith. There is no hierarchy. Not really. Churches sometimes impose one out of a minor necessity of leadership, but there is truly no hierarchy. Christ is the head of the church. Not the bishop, not the pastor, not the elders, not the presbyters, not the pope. Christ! Christ is the head of the church. Everyone else is brother.

In the western church, there is an epidemic of poor leadership. Men take the position of pastor assured and self-confident that they are the head of their congregation. Now, don’t misunderstand. Many of these men are godly men who love and obey the Lord. But they believe themselves to carry some weight of authority because of their title. In truth, their title grants them responsibility… not authority. Simply because a man dons the name of Pastor does not grant him a position higher than the rest of the congregation. No. He must submit to the Scripture, the same way everyone else in the body does. The Scripture is the authority in the church and it is what directs the people.

To be fair, governance is a necessary component of church life, and there is much to be said about it. There are responsibilities that must be assigned within the church and there are structures by which the local bodies of Christ organize themselves. (There are different models of structure within the New Testament church, and that is a large topic that I will endeavor to answer only if people comment on this post asking me to do so.) The critical truth to grasp is the power of recognizing a lack of hierarchy within the people of God.

When the leaders of the church will recognize that they are leading from a position of equality with those they lead, they will empower and strengthen their brothers in the faith. When they insist that they have a position of authority beyond the Scripture, they will domineer their congregations and cause harm. When leaders recognize that Scripture places them on the same level as everyone else in the congregation, vision will rise from the community and churches will begin to see changed lives. It is no small matter to be called brother. Indeed, it is a deep and profound truth that could potentially save the western church. We are brothers laboring together.

When Someone Claims Divine Authority

moses_with_tabletsThe conversation began with the typical spiritual overtones I’d come to expect from this particular friend: “I have a word from the Lord for you.” I was in my first years of college, and this was a common refrain among many of my friends. Over the years, I have heard people make statements like this many times. Occasionally, the “word” they offered was productive and clearly from God. However, more often than not, what followed the opening claim to divine inspiration fell into two categories.

Let us call the first category: “Vague allusion.”

This is when the word that follows the claim is vague and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The “word” they deliver is guised as having highly specific undertones, but the specifics don’t match any particular interpretation. I can remember when a well-meaning brother told me he had a vision for me! I excitedly sat to hear the vision as I had respect for this particular brother. He told me that I was standing before a blue background… that was it. The whole “vision.” On another occasion I was told that the “word” the Lord had for me was “peace.” No explanation… no attempt to understand the circumstances surrounding the supposed prophecy. Just, “peace.” Ok. So extrapolation and interpretation fall squarely on my shoulders. In Scripture this is the opposite of prophecy. Think about the prophet Daniel. He received the interpretation of the dreams, and that is what made him a prophet. Unexplained vague allusions are not prophecy.

Now don’t get me wrong. These are well meaning brothers and sisters who genuinely feel as though they are acting in obedience to the Lord. The trouble is in claiming the divine authority in connection with vague, easily misinterpreted statements. God is not vague. When we read prophecies in Scripture, they are not vague. And though Jesus speaks in parables, he frequently expected them to be understood by His disciples and if they were not, He often labored to explain them. Though the prophecies in Scripture may be complex and we may have difficulty understanding them, they are not vague. In fact they are often extremely specific!

The second common category is “Passively addressing offense.”

weneedtotalkIt was late and I was tired. I had been working long hours and had exhausted my mental reserves studying for various exams. My friend contacted me and told me that he had a “word” for me. He had been laboring over this for weeks and simply could not hold onto it any longer. “Brother, when you said that two weeks ago, the Lord was angered.” I can remember being mortified! I was literally trembling at the idea that I had displeased my Lord, so I asked for clarification. What was wrong with what I had said, specifically!? Can you point me to Scripture so I can know what not to do again? This was important! I asked what Scriptures I had particularly violated so that I might have some sense of clarity. None was offered. So I apologized for any offense and spent the next months in nervous fits. That is, until I realized what had actually happened. I had offended a brother and he felt the need to claim some divine authority in order to address his offense.

I spent months dealing with this particular offense. I wrestled and labored to discover my failing before God. The most difficult thing for me to understand was why God had not spoken to me, but had determined that I needed someone else’s voice.

Now consider for a moment: I’m a brash personality and I am naturally insensitive to the feelings of others. Couple that with the position of teaching the Bible, and I am a model example of how to offend people without really trying. So, it is not uncommon for me to have to explain myself to others. I don’t intend to offend, but sometimes I do. The trouble with the above example was where my friend had placed the offense. It is one thing to offend a brother. You can explain yourself and apologize and deal with the issue, but when you have offended the Lord, that is a different issue altogether. Offending the Lord requires repentance and knowledge of your own sin. In contrast to the above confrontation, The Lord is quite clear about the specifics of our sin against Him. There is no ambiguity with The Lord when He deals with sin. Consider when Nathan confronts David in 2 Samuel 12. After drawing David’s attention to the heinousness of sin, Nathan speaks directly and clearly to David. Likewise, God speaks plainly and His word cuts to the heart.

To be fair, there are times when people offer a “word” and it is actually consistent with Scripture and is legitimate. Apply those times appropriately. However, for those other times here are three things to look for.

Look for Scripture.

I’ve become inoculated to the claim to divine authority that is not accompanied by Scripture. You see, the Bible is the Word of God and He speaks to us through it. He is quite clear. So, if someone comes to me with a “word from the Lord,” I will strive to listen for Scripture or Scriptural validation of their claim. In the absence of that, I have learned to thank them for their voice, apply what is useful and dismiss what is not. It is important to remember that people who deliver “a word” to you are well-meaning, if sometimes misguided. The Lord speaks through Scripture. Test everything by the word of God (1 Thess. 5:21).

Look for specifics and clarity.

God is not vague. He is extremely direct. He does not muddy understanding of His intentions but clarifies it. When God speaks, He always brings clarity to confusion. When Nathan confronted David in 2 Sam. 12, there is no confusion. When Moses delivers the Word of God in Exodus 32-34, God’s voice is clear. When Isaiah speaks to Hezekiah, there is no confusion in His prophecy (Isaiah 37-38). Take a look at all the notable times when God’s prophets confront various kings in the Old Testament. Every time God’s prophets bring a prophecy, they bring clarity into a situation that is confusing. The voice of the Lord is no different in the New Testament. Consider when Philip was told to approach the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40), or when Ananias receives a vision about Saul and argues with God about it (Acts 9:10-19), or when God tells Paul no after he asks for the thorn to be removed (2 Cor. 12:7-10). So, if someone claims to speak from the Lord, then clarity should follow. Further, when God addresses sin, He deals with specifics. The address of sin is always clear and the guilt is always obvious. He gave an entire law to His people and frequently names the specific sins and the manner in which they are committing them. So, when someone claims a word from God, look for specifics.

Look for opportunity to be holy.

The prophecies that are given to the people of God always have one thing in common: an urging to righteousness. God calls His people to repent from sin and obey Him. More than that, He equips them through His word to do so. The call of God on His people has not changed. If you believe in Jesus, He calls you to live righteously. (1 Peter 1:15)

Finally, be gracious to those who claim to speak from the authority of God. They seldom know the danger they bring upon their souls if they are found to misrepresent God. Be loving, honest, and extremely careful.

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!

Stuff on My Wall, Final Post

I love art!  Art (all types) speaks to the soul in a way that nothing else can.  It moves the heart to understanding of God that cannot be compared to a lecture or sermon.  Because I believe this, I surround myself with works of art.  So on this back wall I have some great works I’d like to share. 
back wall

 

Lion2

The first one is the Lion overlooking the world.  I painted this a few years ago.  My wife and I have a favorite book: Safely Home, by randy Alcorn.  It is a fiction story about the last Christian martyr in China.  In the midst of the book there is a description of a statue of a Lion with his paw on top of the globe.  Alcorn describes the lion as tender yet fierce.  The lion holds a balance of strength and meekness, between grace and near reckless ferocity, between fury and patience.  Alcorn describes the lion as standing over the Earth with a look of power and justice.  I tried to capture that in this lion.  I keep it on the wall so that I can be reminded of Our Lord, the Lion of Judah.  He is not tame!

waterfall

Second, the picture of the waterfall (sorry for the reflection of my desk in the photo).  I was given this picture by a former coworker from back when I worked retail.  Written in the bottom right of the frame is “John 4:14.”  In John 4:14 Jesus says, “…but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  This artwork is a black and white photo of a waterfall coming out of the rocks!  Hopefully your picking up on the symbolism from the Old Testament.  If you’re not, read Exodus 14 and following… that will get you started.

Safely home

Third is a picture from Safely Home.  In this picture Jesus clutches the last martyr to his chest.  The martyr is holding some crowns in his right hand and is slumped over in the chest of Jesus as if to illustrate complete and total comfort from the exhausting work on his heart.  An angel stands in the back with the martyr’s white robe held out as if presenting it.  I love this picture because Jesus is not sitting on the thrown.  He has leapt off the throne and grabbed the martyr, clutching him close, obviously before the martyr could even complete his bow.  To the right on the floor lay the chains that once bound the martyr on earth.  They are cast off to the side.  This is the image of Jesus meeting his children in heaven!  He does not remain on the throne, He is so excited to see His brother, He runs to hold the servant close.  This is a picture drawn from the character of God found in the Gospel Parables.  It is beautiful and I am excited to see my King in person one day.  “At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, in Heaven and on Earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!” –Philippians 2:10-11

Power of One

Finally, one of my favorite stories is pictured below on the shelf.  “The Power of One!”  In this world of racial discrimination and humanity wickedly oppressing other members of humanity, there are few stories as powerful and horrifying as the oppression of the Zulu people in South Africa.  Apartheid is one of the greatest blights on human history.  In The Power of One, a young white man grows up to teach reading and writing to the Zulu people who are socially, economically, and physically oppressed.  The Zulu people were not able to receive education and therefore were enslaved to a system the relegated them to poverty and death.  The young man works hard to liberate a people who are oppressed and this is that story.  This book inspires me to work hard for justice!  We are to be agents of righteousness in this world.  And, where there is injustice, we must work hard to be the justice and fight for justice for the sake of the Gospel.   If you don’t like to read, there is a fantastic movie version with Morgan Freeman!  Warning, it is graphic, rated R, and has violence and language in it.

Don’t worry, this is the last post of “stuff on my walls.”  We’ll get back to more serious things soon.  What do you have on your walls and why?

Stuff on my office wall, part 1

The things that someone surrounds themself with can provide great insight into the character and personality of that person.  If someone surrounds themselves with golden trophies of former athletic achievements, then that tells you that they value their former athletic prowess.  If someone surrounds themselves with pictures of family, then they value family.  If someone surrounds themselves with mementoes from trips then they probably value their travel experiences.  Well, I was doing some introspection the other day and was looking around my office.  I won’t bore you with my own critical analysis of my character.  But I thought I’d share some of the things on my walls… because I think they’re cool

Painting by Greg Olsen
Painting by Greg Olsen

First, a painting by Greg Olsen sits directly over my desk.  This is my favorite painting.  It is a painting of Matthew 23 when Jesus Laments over Jerusalem.  He sits on a hill and overlooks the capital city of the people of God and proclaims, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem…”  You can imagine a tear falling down his face as he sits down in exasperation.  He weeps for His people.  This is the way I feel about the church in America.  My wife bought it for me when we were in our second year of marriage.  It serves as a reminder of my calling in ministry.  Within the painting is the reminder of my responsibility to my family.  I love my family and surround my calling around constant imagery of my life with them.

(You can find Greg Olsen’s print here: http://www.gregolsen.com/o-jerusalem-9652)

Prayinghands

Second, this is a wood carving that my wife’s Grand Father (Papa) did.  It sits above the calling.  It is probably one of the coolest art works in my office.  Papa is one of the most servant hearted men I have ever met.  He loves people with a love that I often cannot comprehend and he is the most patient man I have ever known.  On top of that, he can do almost anything.  Electrical problems, home structural problems, leadership issues, car problems, engine issues, weed eaters, plumbing, anything!  Papa can do almost everything and this piece of art is a constant reminder to me that Papa’s most admirable and endearing character trait is his constant connection to the Lord.  Likewise, I need to cultivate a lifestyle of prayer and dependence on God and my connection with Him.

happyBDay

This third one may seem silly to some of you.  But I keep a small poster that was made for me on my Birthday by the staff at the church.  However, recognition in church work is uncommon and personal  anniversaries are almost never acknowledged.  So I keep almost all of them when I get them.  This one was on my wall and I left it there because it means a lot to me to know that others think about things like that.

DadThis is a picture of my Dad.  My dad was a great man and I keep this to remind myself of who I am, where I came from, and who I want to be.

Rambling about dreams

I have weird dreams. It’s nothing new, it’s not that they are difficult or absurd, they aren’t nightmares, I don’t wake up in cold sweats (I live in Texas, it’s hard to wake up cool, let alone cold.), and I seldom ever feel shaky because of them. Well… I recently read through Daniel and saw how the kings were constantly having nightmares. Some of my favorite lines come from these nightmares. One in particular is the beginning of Daniel 4, verse 4-5, “I, Nebuchadnezzar (from here on out, he will be known as Nebby) was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. I saw a dream that made me afraid.”
We often live in a false sense of security so it shouldn’t surprise us that in our frailty we could have a dream that frightens us. The dream ends up being a prophecy that old Nebby is going to go crazy and be humbled by God. Not the best prospects for a king who is “at ease” and “prospering.” However it is precisely our ease that gets us into these insecure states. When we are at ease with the world around us, then we are in trouble. David has the same trouble. You remember the line I am sure. From 2 Samuel, “When kings go off to war, David stayed home.” (John Elkins paraphrase, 2 Sam. 11:1) The story in 2 Samuel 11 begins the downfall of Israel. It’s a tragic failure of the king that displays the truth that ease and idle hands lead to turmoil and wicked actions. This is why we must discipline ourselves beyond simply looking over our kingdoms and relaxing.
One of my favorite quotes is from Andrew Murray. He states,
“You will ask me, ‘are you satisfied, have you got all you want?’ God Forbid! With the deepest feeling of my soul I can say that I am satisfied with Jesus now, but there is also the consciousness of how much fuller the revelation can be through the exceeding abundance of His grace. Let us never hesitate to say, this is only the beginning.”
We should never truly be satisfied with where we are but should always be pressing further into the character of Jesus.
Anyhow, back to the dreams. As I type this, there is a letter that was written to me a long time ago from some anonymous source that recounts a dream of the youth building here at my church. The building is a tremendous blessing and affords me the opportunity to reach students in a comfortable setting. The dream ends with a statement of peace. This person wrote that they came away with a feeling of deep abiding peace (at least that’s what they said in the letter). Sometimes our dreams bring us peace, though that is not often. Someone once told me that it is a bad sign when God has to use a dream to get your attention. It means you’re not listening on a regular basis. Indeed, the dreams that are in the Bible often seem that way. So… if point number one was never let yourself at ease, then point number B is, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.
So like I said, I dream pretty often, rarely does it ever mean anything. In the dream story of Nebby, God tells him he will go crazy so that he will know that “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will and sets over it the lowliest of men.” (v.17b) That quote sends chills down my spine! God is awesome! No wonder Nebby was afraid, wouldn’t you be? He trembles in fear of the proclamation of God. Nebby would eventually echo the phrase in 4:34-35. So… I think maybe our dreaming is supposed to lead us to echo God’s praises? Perhaps…