Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: God's perspective

Big dumb animal

Ever wonder if living for God is worth it?

Why do corrupt people get to enjoy nice things?  Why do greedy, manipulative people get away with their actions?  How can someone run a company into the ground and then walk away, scot-free?  Why are many believers struggling with health issues, money issues, and relationship issues when so many non-believers appear to live on Easy Street?

Maybe you have asked someone these questions, or perhaps you’re like a lot of Christians – we have secretly wondered, but are afraid to admit to it.  Either we’re ashamed of our doubts, or we don’t want to trip up someone else by vocalizing our own struggles.

However, we’re not alone in our wonderings.  3,000 years ago, a poet named Asaph wondered the same things.  While we enjoy the historical perspective of being able to look back to Jesus’ life and Asaph was alive well before Christ’s arrival, his writings still resonate with us:

Psalm 73:1-3
God is indeed good to Israel, to the pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet almost slipped; my steps nearly went astray.
For I envied the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

It’s hard not be discouraged by the state of the world.  It only appears to get worse as the years move along.  How many of Asaph’s descriptions sound familiar?

Psalm 73:4-12
They have an easy time until they die, and their bodies are well fed.
They are not in trouble like others; they are not afflicted like most people.
Therefore, pride is their necklace, and violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes bulge out from fatness; the imaginations of their hearts run wild.
They mock, and they speak maliciously; they arrogantly threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues strut across the earth.
Therefore His people turn to them and drink in their overflowing words.
The wicked say, “How can God know?  Does the Most High know everything?”
Look at them – the wicked!
They are always at ease, and they increase their wealth.

After making these disturbing observations, Asaph begins to wonder if his efforts to stay connected to God are worth it.  Although he keeps his doubts to himself, his hopeless feelings were ones he was unable to change on his own:

Psalm 73:13-28
Did I purify my heart and wash my hands in innocence for nothing?
For I am afflicted all day long and punished every morning.
If I had decided to say these things aloud, I would have betrayed Your people.
When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless until I entered God’s sanctuary.
Then I understood their destiny.
Indeed, You put them in slippery places; You make them fall into ruin.
How suddenly they become a desolation!
They come to an end, swept away by terrors.
Like one waking from a dream, Lord, when arising, You will despise their image.

When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded,
I was stupid and didn’t understand;
I was an unthinking animal toward You.
Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand.
You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me up in glory.
Who do I have in heaven but You?
And I desire nothing on earth but You.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.
Those far from You will certainly perish; You destroy all who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, God’s presence is my good.
I have made the Lord God my refuge, so I can tell about all You do.

I can so relate to Asaph’s path of doubt and wondering – which was taken care of by a perspective-changing encounter with God.  Seeing life from God’s vantage point helps us out of our legitimate worries and our self-created pity parties.  There have been times in my life when I, too, was a “big dumb animal” and didn’t trust God with my present circumstance.  But His guidance and counsel are always there for us.

We can rest knowing that our God is big enough to handle our doubts.  He’s also patient with us when we get caught up in comparing our lives with the short-term pleasures we see other people enjoy.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

On suicide and despair

This past week, a news story caught my attention.  A young New York dietitian committed suicide.  By most people’s standards, she was successful and in the prime of her life.  She had earned her Master’s degree and was working in her chosen field.  She had friends and co-workers that valued her.  Her Instagram pictures showed her enjoying a wide variety of food from places all over the world. 

And yet, she felt empty.  Here’s part of the note she left behind:

I have written this note several times in my head for over a decade, and this one finally feels right. No edits, no overthinking. I have accepted hope is nothing more than delayed disappointment, and I am just plain old-fashioned tired of feeling tired. 

I realize I am undeserving of thinking this way because I truly have a great life on paper. I’m fortunate to eat meals most only imagine. I often travel freely without restriction. I live alone in the second greatest American city (San Francisco, you’ll always have my heart). However, all these facets seem trivial to me. It’s the ultimate first world problem, I get it. I often felt detached while in a room full of my favorite people; I also felt absolutely nothing during what should have been the happiest and darkest times in my life. No single conversation or situation has led me to make this decision, so at what point do you metaphorically pull the trigger?

Her words ooze feelings of despair, bleakness, and hollowness.  Usually it takes many years on this earth before we reach a point with this level of emptiness – but most, if not all, of us feel like this at some point.  We look around at the state of the world and find ourselves agreeing with the writer of Ecclesiastes, who calls himself “The Teacher”:

Ecclesiastes 1:2-4, 8-9, 11
Absolute futility,” says the Teacher.  “Absolute futility.  Everything is futile.”  What does a person gain for all his efforts that he labors at under the sun?  A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever…

All things are wearisome, more than anyone can say.  The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing.  What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun…

There is no remembrance of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no remembrance by those who follow them.

These musings are real, the emotion behind them should not be simply dismissed.  They may hit us in a moment, or they may linger in the back of our mind for years.  If life is only made up of what we see in front of us, then the feelings of despair are accurate and we should do our best to eat, drink, and enjoy our work as best we can for as many trips around the sun we can manage. 

However, there is a flaw to this kind of thinking…what we need to recognize is the limit of our own perspective.  It’s hard to see beyond what is directly in front of us, but that is exactly what Jesus calls us to do.  When He spoke to the woman at the well, Jesus made this incredible statement:

John 4:13-14
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again.  But whoever drinks form the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again.  In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life.”

The world’s water never satisfies – it always leaves us thirsty again.  But with one drink from Jesus, our thirst for fulfillment can be satisfied.  And it doesn’t stop there – a full, abundant, eternal life begins at the moment we believe in Jesus.

Walking with Jesus ensures that our perspective contains more than the unsatisfying things in front of us.  This doesn’t mean we will never experience the pain of despair or that we will never feel empty.  But we will know the truth of our place in God’s larger story.

If you are feeling bleak and hollow, turn these over to Jesus.  You don’t have to be afraid, He can handle your feelings.  Also be sure you’re talking with fellow believers about these feelings and your perspective.  We are to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and know that you’re not alone.  Your family is here for you.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Perspective and a prayer request

Ever see a situation on the horizon, and you know, without a doubt, it’s something that you’re going to have to deal with?  You know you can’t avoid it.  It won’t be pleasant.  It’s probably not what you would have wanted.  But somehow, you just know – that the only way out is through.

Maybe you’ve been there with a relationship.  Maybe it was your friend, a boss, a competitor, or even a government office.  Right now, for me – it’s my health.  I greatly appreciate the emails of concern, consolation, and the offers to pray for me (and I really, really hope you follow up on that!).  I’m on the mend, but this is not the end of whatever is off-kilter in my systems.  There will be more tests to take at a later date, more mysteries to be unraveled.  But for now, I am to rest and recover, knowing full well that the only way out is through.

Just yesterday, God brought a passage to me that helps put it all in perspective.  Near the end of Paul’s recorded ministry, he is on his way to Jerusalem.  He knows what will happen if he goes back.  In fact, everyone knows what he will face.  The devout Jews would turn on this former rabbinical star in a heartbeat.  Paul would be arrested, beaten, and quite likely killed.  So, why go back?  I’ll let him answer that:

Acts 20:17-24
Now from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and summoned the elders of the church.  When they came to him, he said to them:

“You know, from the first day I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility, with tears, and during the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews.  You know that I did not avoid proclaiming to you anything that was profitable or from teaching you publicly and from house to house.  I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.

And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, compelled by the Spirit, not knowing what I will encounter there, except that in every town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me.  But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.”


Oh wow, does that resonate!  But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose…that is a man who has clear eyes and proper perspective.  He sees the value of his life, not in his own comforts and desires, but in his purposeful pursuit of the work God has given him – to testify to [the good news] of God’s grace.

That’s the perspective we need in order to handle the difficulties we see on the horizon.  Stop looking at our immediate circumstances, get aligned with God, see from His vantage point, and then look back down on what we’re facing.  Difficulties can be managed when they have been placed in their proper context.  That doesn’t mean that the difficulties will be removed – Paul knew there were chains and afflictions waiting.  There’s no amount of perspective that makes them go away.  However, looking at life from God’s viewpoint gives us the strength to go through.

So if you choose to petition our Great God on my behalf, I would rather you not pray for healing.  If I fully recover, that’s great.  If I end up worse off, that’s fine.  If I now have a “new normal”, so be it.  Instead, I would ask that you pray I stay aligned with God, keep His perspective on everything, and do the work God has given me.  My prayer is that you also learn to live this way.

Acts 20:24
But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.


Keep Pressing,
Ken

Flashback Favorite - What's pursuing you?

What’s pursuing you?
originally posted on May 18, 2017

Ever feel as if something is chasing you?  We can have lingering thoughts, feelings, or memories that just won’t let go.  Their pursuit of us is constant, even though it can take different forms.  Sometimes, it’s over-bearing, always-present.  Other times, we’re able to shove it out of our minds, only to have it resurface again later (and usually when we’re drifting off to sleep, right?).

The pieces of our past can hound us in many ways.  Pain, shame, hate, anger, things we said, things we didn’t say…just to name a few.  Antagonistic people, or even those who are out-right enemies, can dominate our thinking and the thought of them can doggedly chase us down.

I’ve said many times that I love the real-ness we find in the book of Psalms.  The various psalmists explore all aspects of life, often laying out their extremely-raw emotions before God.  And we don’t see any lightning bolts striking down the psalmists for their words, either.  Instead, we find that their petitions, questions, and wrestling drive them toward God, not away. 

David is always a good example of one who openly talked with God, and in one of his psalms we find a mindset that can help us deal with the thoughts and people that pursue us.  Read Psalm 23, and pay close attention to the last stanza:

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters. 

He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff – they comfort me. 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

David marvels at how God has no problem with settling down for food in the presence of [David’s] enemies.  To us, that’s not the time to sit down to a nice meal.  If enemies are present, then we would think it’s time to take cover or prepare for battle…but with God on his side, David knows he is safe to camp out where God has him.

But it’s one of the lines afterward that really opens my eyes.  Despite being in the presence of [his] enemies, David isn’t chased by them forever.  Because he is with God, David recognizes that only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life.

His enemies are around, there are and will be hard situations in life…but when David looks at the bigger picture, the one from God’s perspective, he finds that only God’s goodness and faithful love have been chasing after him.

That’s the key for us, too.  When our thoughts are being overtaken by memories of old sins or difficulties in the present, we need to look at life from God’s perspective.  From His vantage point, we’ll see clearly and be able to trust Him with our present and all the days of [our]life.

A few years back, a Christian band released a great orchestra-rock song about recognizing that our past doesn’t control us anymore, even when we feel pursued by memories and feelings.  The link below is to a video of the song’s lyrics.

Disciple – Dear X, You Don’t Own Me
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9yIZnypqBk

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Is God ever late?

When I was a kid, I remember the preacher telling us “God is rarely early, never late, and always right on time.” While I don’t think the math quite adds up in his statement, the truth is that “being on time” is a matter of perspective.

But, if you had asked anyone…this time, Jesus was late.

After Lazarus became sick, Mary and Martha sent for Jesus, asking Him to come heal their brother.  When He receives the news, Jesus waited two days before heading out on the several-days-long journey to where Lazarus was in Bethany.  When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already died and had been buried for four days.  Both sisters lamented that if Jesus had made it in time, their brother wouldn’t have died.  Friends and family who had come to mourn witnessed Jesus weeping with Mary and commented:

John 11:36-37
So the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Couldn’t He who opened the blind man’s eyes also have kept this man from dying?”

The rabbinic custom said that a body had to be identified by family and/or friends within three days, or else the decay of a person’s face would leave them unrecognizable.  Additional rabbinic belief of the time said that after 3 days, there was zero hope of a person to have been “mistakenly” declared dead and for them to come back to life.  At four days out, Jesus was well-past the time to heal His friend from his illness.

John 11:38-41
Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.  It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

“Remove the stone,” Jesus said.

Martha, the dead man’s sister, told Him, “Lord, there is already a stench because he has been dead four days.”

Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

So they removed the stone…

While Jewish burial rituals used spices, they did not embalm the corpse, like the Egyptians did or us modern folks do.  A body will naturally decay rather quickly.  Between 24-72 hours, all organs have decomposed.  By the end of 5 days, the body has become bloated and…well, if you want to know the full details, feel free to google them.  They’re not pretty.  Suffice it to say, though, Martha was quite right when she told Jesus not to remove the stone covering her brother’s cave-tomb, saying “Lord, there is already a stench”.

Jesus was too late to perform a healing miracle.  He wasn’t too late for a resurrection, though – in fact, Jesus was right on time:

John 11:41-44
So they removed the stone.  Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You heard Me.  I know that You always hear Me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe You sent Me.”

After He said this, He shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.”


There would have been no resurrection without the death happening first.  Where a healing would have been another great display of Jesus’ power and authority – a resurrection was irrefutable proof that God the Father was the one who sent Jesus into the world.

So yes, Jesus was too late to do what Mary, Martha, and even Lazarus so desperately wanted.  But He was on time to show everyone who was there to mourn the glory of God…so that they may believe.

Has it felt like God is running late in your life?  Has society wandered too far away from God’s design?  Are you feeling like you’re out of hope? 

If life seems like that, it’s probably time to adjust our perspective.  Instead of lamenting on ‘what God should have done’, let’s expectantly watch for the greater thing God has in store.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

What's pursuing you?

Ever feel as if something is chasing you?  We can have lingering thoughts, feelings, or memories that just won’t let go.  Their pursuit of us is constant, even though it can take different forms.  Sometimes, it’s over-bearing, always-present.  Other times, we’re able to shove it out of our minds, only to have it resurface again later (and usually when we’re drifting off to sleep, right?).

The pieces of our past can hound us in many ways.  Pain, shame, hate, anger, things we said, things we didn’t say…just to name a few.  Antagonistic people, or even those who are out-right enemies, can dominate our thinking and the thought of them can doggedly chase us down.

I’ve said many times that I love the real-ness we find in the book of Psalms.  The various psalmists explore all aspects of life, often laying out their extremely-raw emotions before God.  And we don’t see any lightning bolts striking down the psalmists for their words, either.  Instead, we find that their petitions, questions, and wrestling drive them toward God, not away. 

David is always a good example of one who openly talked with God, and in one of his psalms we find a mindset that can help us deal with the thoughts and people that pursue us.  Read Psalm 23, and pay close attention to the last stanza:

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters. 

He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff – they comfort me. 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

David marvels at how God has no problem with settling down for food in the presence of [David’s] enemies.  To us, that’s not the time to sit down to a nice meal.  If enemies are present, then we would think it’s time to take cover or prepare for battle…but with God on his side, David knows he is safe to camp out where God has him.

But it’s one of the lines afterward that really opens my eyes.  Despite being in the presence of [his] enemies, David isn’t chased by them forever.  Because he is with God, David recognizes that only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life.

His enemies are around, there are and will be hard situations in life…but when David looks at the bigger picture, the one from God’s perspective, he finds that only God’s goodness and faithful love have been chasing after him.

That’s the key for us, too.  When our thoughts are being overtaken by memories of old sins or difficulties in the present, we need to look at life from God’s perspective.  From His vantage point, we’ll see clearly and be able to trust Him with our present and all the days of [our] life.

A few years back, a Christian band released a great orchestra-rock song about recognizing that our past doesn’t control us anymore, even when we feel pursued by memories and feelings.  The link below is to a video of the song’s lyrics.

Disciple – Dear X, You Don’t Own Me
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9yIZnypqBk

Keep Pressing,
Ken

 

Do you see what I see?

The three rules of real estate are Location, Location, and Location.

Similarly, the three rules of Bible Interpretation are Context, Context, and Context

Whenever we’re trying to understand God, His plan, or the world He created, we must keep in mind the Context of His initial, intended design for the world. 

As Paul warned Timothy about the coming false teachers and the believers who would follow them, their lens of context would protect them – or be their downfall:

1 Timothy 4:1-3
Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared.  They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods that God created to be received with gratitude by those who believe and know the truth.

While the false teachings come from forces outside of the church – from deceitful spirits and demons – the actual teaching of their false doctrine comes from within church – through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared.  Later on, Paul will address how these believers became deceived, but for now, his focus is on what they are teaching.

These teachers would take their incorrect understanding of God and then instruct others to apply their teachings in ways that God never intended us to live.  From Paul’s two examples here, we see that these false teachers are advocating rules that fully separate the believer from the world around them.  It is likely that their seared consciences has allowed them to think that the only way to avoid the sinful lifestyle around them was to completely remove themselves from participating in any corrupted part of creation.

On the surface, the application sounds noble.  But that kind of thinking does not produce the kind of life God designed us to live.

1 Timothy 4:4-5
For everything created by God is good, and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, since it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer.

Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden.  At the end of each day, God saw that what He created was good.  It wasn’t until after sin corrupted everything that God’s intended design for creation was perverted.  Marriage – as created by God – is a good thing.  Food – as created by God – is a good thing.  However, the false teachers aren’t looking at God’s creation within that context.  Instead, they are only seeing the current corrupted state of the world.  Rather than understanding God’s initial design and use for marriage and food, they are advocating the outright rejection of them in order to prove their status with God.

However, those who believe and know the truth understand that we are not made holy because of the rules we follow or the things we do.  We are holy because through Jesus, God has made us holy and our relationship with Him has been restored to the good that it was before Adam and Eve sinned.

Despite the sin-corruption of the world, our food can still be received with gratitude since the believer can understand in the proper context as a gift from God.  Marriage, in all its difficulties and struggles, can still be lived out under God’s design.  In fact, a proper use of both will do a better job of pointing others toward God than an outright rejection of marriage or abstaining from particular food.

It all depends on the Context we use to live our lives.  Will our focus be on trying to manage the sin-corruption we see, or will we look at the world around us through the lens of God’s intended design?

The first one puts us in charge, while the second one reminds us that God is really in charge.

It’s all a matter of Context.

Keep Pressing
Ken
 

Practical application: work (part 1)

After giving specific examples of how to live out a Jesus-focused life among our immediate families, Paul turned his readers’ attention to the next most common area of their lives – where they do their daily work.

Paul specifically addresses these next directions to slaves; however, the Greek word he used could also be translated as servant, attendant, or bondsman.  Roman slavery had many more similarities to an indentured servant system than to the version of slavery in America’s past or in other parts of the world.

Regardless of his readers’ circumstances, Paul’s application of God’s truth for their lives is clear.  Additionally, his reasoning is something that we can also apply in any area we are working:

Colossians 3:22
Slaves, obey your human masters in everything: don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. 

The first observation here is that Paul’s direction is proof that laziness at work isn’t a new concept.  It wasn’t introduced into our economic system by Gen-X, Gen-Y, or everyone’s current favorite target, the Millennials.  Working only when being watched is an expression of selfishness and self-centeredness…conditions that have plagued all of humanity since The Fall.

Looking back at the creation account, we find that God gave Adam work to do – long before sin entered the world.  He and Eve were to partner together with God and work in the Garden of Eden.  Paul wants his readers to see their daily work as Adam and Eve saw their work, as an occupation entrusted to them by God and they were to work for Him. 

Colossians 3:23-24
Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord – you serve the Lord Christ. 

Remember, Paul is writing to believers here…so the reward of an inheritance isn’t eternal salvation from the penalty of sin, because that is a free gift.  Based on the context, the reward in these verses is something that can be earned through working wholeheartedly and enthusiastically.

Given these observations, several application questions come to mind:

How do we approach the workday? 
When do we work hard? 
If our attitudes are the measuring stick, whom are we working for? 
Paul says there is a reward for good work, so what is it?

When we view our work properly – as someone who working for God – our perspective immediately changes.  We see the successes, failures, and difficulties in completely different light and are able to trust God in all areas of our work.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

How God sees us

As Paul is wrapping up the transition point in his letter to the believers in Colossae, he makes an incredible statement that reveals how God views believers.  Previously, Paul urged them to kill off their old sinful habits because they

Colossians 3:9-10
…have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man

For the rest of the letter, Paul is going to describe what the life and practices of the new man will look like.  Reading ahead, you’ll find that Paul describes a life of freedom, love, and thankfulness.  However, the beginning of this new section says something we need to pause and consider.

Colossians 3:12
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on…

These three descriptions – chosen, holy, and loved – come before Paul lists out the qualities that he wants the Colossian believers to put on and practice.  This means that God views us by these descriptions – regardless of how well we live life wearing the practices of the new man.

So what, exactly, do these descriptions mean?

Although some people assume that the word chosen means that Paul is talking about God choosing people out of the world to be believers, the context doesn’t allow for that interpretation.

Keep in mind that Paul wrote to those who already trusted Jesus as their Savior.  Also remember that in the previous sentence, Paul described the family of God, saying

Colossians 3:11
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.

From this context, we see that all believers are chosen ones.  In fact, this entire section is only dealing with internal, family matters.  After Paul refers to the Colossian believers as chosen ones, the rest of sentence talks about the qualities of a maturing believer’s life.  Therefore, it is clear that God is choosing all believers to mature and become more Christ-like.  Not just some of us.  Not just the “good kids.”  God chooses all of us for maturity.

The word holy conveys the idea of being set apart for a special purpose.  A word that also embodies this idea is the word sacred.  Whenever we refer to something as sacred, we imply that it is in a category all to its own.  Sacred things are handled reverently and carefully…not because of weakness, but because holy and sacred things are considered to have a priceless value.  Notice that God sees us as holy, set apart, and He considers our relationship with Him to be a sacred one.

Lastly, Paul says that God sees us as loved.  We’ve heard that God loves us so many times that we can have trouble remembering the depth of His love.  Here, however, the tense of the verb loved helps to remind us.  Loved is a perfect passive verb in this sentence.  The perfect tense in Greek describes an action which is viewed as having been completed in the past, once and for all, not needing to be repeated.  A passive voice means that the subject is the recipient of the verb’s action.  Taken together, when Paul says that we are loved by God – it means that we are the recipient of His love, and His love for us was firmly established a long time ago.

God sees us as chosen ones, holy and loved.  Think about that.  Smile about that.  No matter what happens today, or how well you handle it, those things do not change.

God sees you as His chosen one, holy and loved.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Being Heavenly minded

The trouble with clichés is that they are typically rooted, somewhere, in reality.  The phrase that’s bothered me for a while is one that is usually muttered as a putdown in Christian circles. 

He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good.

You can almost hear the contempt in someone’s voice as they say it.  Historically, however, there have been Christians that used the prospect of Heaven as an excuse to “check out” of the world around them.  Either pulling away as an individual or into a small community, some have sought to distance themselves from the messiness of a sinful world and just wait until God takes them away to Heaven.

However, I think us modern believers have over-reacted in an attempt to avoid being labeled as “too heavenly minded”.  We’re afraid of being labeled as a dreamer or looked at as someone who’s trying to escape the real issues facing us in the here and now.  So we tend to not think about the next life all that much…

This is what Paul told the Colossians about where their minds should be focused:

Colossians 3:1-4
So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God.  When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

As we continue to read Paul’s letter, we will see him give the Colossian believers a wide variety of practical ways to live out their heavenly minded-ness.  So we can’t just pull these verses out and claim that this allows us to forsake the world and world’s problems.  Paul’s point here is that our focus in life matters.  In fact, any earthly good we do accomplish will be because we have aligned our perspective with God’s perspective.  His aim is to reach for sinners, and we can partner with Him as He continues to do so.

C.S. Lewis saw a similar issue in the church of his day:

A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.  It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.  If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.  The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.  It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this [one].

We modern believers are too focused on ourselves, and that clouds up our ability see the earth from God’s perspective.  Much of our time is taken up trying to “discover” ourselves or somehow project an image of ourselves into the world around us.  We will continue middling around and being unfulfilled until we seek what is above, realizing that our life is hidden in the Messiah

I take a lot of comfort in Paul’s last statement – When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 

Jesus won’t be fully revealed to the entire world until He returns.  Since His revealing is still in the future, that means the full revealing of my identity is also still in the future.  On that day, we will be shown as the ones so loved by God…because we will be with Him in glory.  My mind swirls with wonder just thinking about and desiring that day.

However, until then…we need to keep our minds fixed on what is above and love those around us, just like our Messiah does.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Maturing together

When we think of a “mature” person, we typically remember an adult that doesn’t laugh at inappropriate or innuendo kinds of joking.  We also imagine someone who is more formal than messy, stoic rather than expressive, and nice…but probably a little boring.  Maturity is a trait that we know we should eventually have, or should probably have a little bit more than we currently do.  Acting like we’re mature typically leads to people thinking we’re mature – and when we reach the point that people think of us as a mature person, it means that we are one…right?

As with everything else in life, this a good topic to see from God’s perspective.  When we look at the Scriptures, we find that God’s already provided an explanation of what maturity looks like for us.  A survey of the New Testament shows that many authors touch on this topic, and some do so repeatedly.  Whenever the maturity of a believer is discussed, the author speaks of it as a goal or as the ultimate destination for those who already trust Jesus for eternal life.

The Greek word most commonly translated as mature carries the idea of someone or something that is finished and “perfect” in terms of being fully completed.  The end goal of the maturing process has been met.  There is no longer potential to be something…because now the person or object has achieved all of its potential.

However, reaching maturity isn’t an end to itself.  When we become mature, we won’t sit around and be impressed with ourselves; instead, maturity is the starting point for an especially close relationship with God, where He reveals Himself and the deep things about Him.  A mature Christian has the strength, the self-control, and the wisdom to live life as God designed us.   

Even still, we are quick to think that maturity is something that happens to us on an individual basis.  We also expect that it occurs only after we’ve obtained enough knowledge or experience.  However, that’s not how Paul described the goal of maturity to the believers in Colossae:

Colossians 1:28-29
We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.

Colossians 2:1-3
For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person.  I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding, and have the knowledge of God’s mystery – Christ.  In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.

Did you notice how Paul desires that all believers reach maturity…and then immediately talks about their hearts?  Paul includes understanding and knowledge as part of our maturing process, but those are listed after the needs of our hearts.

Also notice that Paul uses the plural here – I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love.  Maturity happens within the context of community in God’s family.  We won’t become complete or reach our full potential outside of our relationships with other believers.  

This kind of maturity will be more messy than formal, expressive instead of stoic, and certainly full of never-dull moments.  Growing together will be hard at times, but it brings about the kind of maturity we were made for.

Keep Pressing,
Ken