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: difficulty

Work and a hobo’s paradise

The Big Rock Candy Mountain was a song made famous by Harry McClintock in 1928.  Every few years, it finds its way back into pop culture; with some versions a little more cleaned up than others.  The gist of the song is a hobo singing about his version of paradise – a land of ease, described in fanciful terms.  There are cigarette trees, lemonade springs, and hens that lay soft-boiled eggs.  The cops have wooden legs and bulldogs have rubber teeth, and if you happen to get caught doing something you shouldn’t, then don’t worry about it – because the jails are made of tin and you can leave just as soon as you get there.  I think my favorite line is hobo’s boast that in the Big Rock Candy Mountains “there’s a lake of stew and of whiskey too, you can paddle all around it in a big canoe.

While it is a cute little song, no one would take it seriously when considering their eternal destiny.  However, there is one line in the song that stuck out to me when I first heard it.  Out of all the cartoonish imagery, there was one sentiment that made me think: “Wow.  That’s kinda funny and would be nice.”  Here’s the line:

I'm goin' to stay, where you sleep all day, where they hung the jerk, that invented work, in the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

Because work is…well, “work”…right?  It’s often a pain.  We view it as some “necessary evil” that we must endure because we like to eat food and have working light switches.  Given the choice between going to work and not going to work – I’m pretty sure that 99% of us would not go.  Throw in the idea that someone, somewhere may have invented the concept of work?  Yeah…nobody would care much for that guy.

But is work really our problem?  And who invented it, anyway?

I think most Christians and Jews would place the blame solely on Adam.  After he and Eve blew it, here’s what God had to say about Adam’s curse:

Genesis 3:17-19
And He said to the man, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’:

The ground is cursed because of you.  You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. 
It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it.  For you are dust, and you will return to dust.

Adam and Eve sinned by eating – from here on, they would suffer in order to eat.  Notice that God didn’t hand out working assignments.  He didn’t have to explain what “work” was; instead, God said that work would now become painful labor.  While his efforts would be able to feed his family, Adam would have to contend with thorns and thistles.

We have to go a little further back in Adam and Eve’s story to find the origin of work:

Genesis 1:27-29, 2:15
So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He create them male and female

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.  Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”  God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree who fruit contains seed.  This will be food for you…

The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.

To fulfill these directions from God, Adam and Eve would have to do some work!  But since this was before sin corrupted everything – including the ground – what do you think their work was like?  What would you do if all creatures and plants cooperated with you and your efforts? 

Don’t think of the garden of Eden as being a little vegetable plot.  This “garden” was more like an arboretum.  So in addition to their responsibility to rule over the world, Adam was also God’s official landscaper…and there wasn’t a weed, thistle, or thorn to be found.  Imagine what a master gardener could do if they didn’t have to fight off the weeds!

This was how paradise started – not with lakes of stew and all-day sleep-fests, but with Adam and Eve partnering with God.  They worked and managed creation.  They walked and talked with God.  The land readily produced food for them.

I look forward to the day when Paradise Lost becomes Paradise Restored.  In Eternity Future, we’ll be able to live and work without sin and selfishness thwarting our efforts.  Just like we were created to do.

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

Delayed due to illness

My apologies, I have not been well lately. This is also why most of October consisted of “Flashback Favorites”. I hope to get back on schedule soon, but the next post for my current study is not ready yet. So, instead of a Flashback Favorite, this time I will simply give you the passage I have been dwelling on while I am not feeling my best:

2 Corinthians 4:15-18
Indeed, everything is for your benefit so that, as grace extends through more and more people, it may cause thanksgiving to increase to the glory of God. Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.

For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.


A malfunctioning body can be difficult to deal with…and yet, Paul confidently states that God will use everything for [our] benefit.

How will we know when our unwanted difficulties are actually beneficial? When we see the glory of God. Then, together, we can give thanks for everything we’ve gone through.

Therefore we do not give up. Illness is temporary, and we’re to be focused on the eternal.

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

When life gets hard

Let me be honest with you.

If we choose to live our lives with the goal of obtaining God’s promised opportunities for kingdom partnership, it’s not going to be easy.  That kind of life was not easy for any of the ancient faith heroes listed in Hebrews Chapter 11.  It wasn’t easy for Jesus either – the whole world system was against Him.

But that is precisely what we need to keep in mind when it does get tough:

Hebrews 12:3, 7-8
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up…Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons.  For what son is there that a father does not discipline?  But if you are without discipline – which all receive – then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Perspective matters.  Are we trying to merely endure our difficulties until we find our next moment of rest/pleasure/escape…or are we looking at opposition from other people as useful discipline from the Lord?

Hebrews 12:9-10
Furthermore, we had human fathers discipline us, and we respected them.  Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness.


One Sunday, every year in June, we stop and reflect on all the lessons our human fathers taught us.  We learned lessons directly from him, and we had to learn some the hard way.  Looking back now, we are thankful for all he did and taught to prepare us for our adult life.

Even more so, we can trust God’s discipline to be in our best interest.  The lessons we learn now will carry over to our next life in eternity.

Hebrews 12:11
No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.


Will we allow ourselves to be trained by God’s discipline, trained to be Christ-like in our approach to difficulties?  We will not experience the peaceful fruit of [right-living] unless we are trained by the hard stuff God allows to happen in our lives.

When life gets hard…not if, but when…look at it as training that has a purpose.  And we can have the endurance to learn and grow as we consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that [we] won’t grow weary and give up.

Perspective matters.

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

 

Wanting to know "Why?"

We like to ask the question “Why?” a lot.

Throughout our youth, that one-word question typically came from a desire to learn or understand.  Our fastest rate of learning is when we were less than five years old…simply because we asked “Why?” to everything around us. 

However, at some point during our formative years, “Why?” transitions into questions regarding authority.  And as we experience more of this sinful world, our “Why?” becomes a question that desperately looks for meaning and purpose among the tragedies and difficulties.

The truth is we may never know, on this side of Heaven, why God allows tragedy and evil and tough situations to occur.  When we experience these, we may feel like God doesn’t care.  Even when we trust God through difficult times, we can still feel saddened by the situation.

While we cannot see what the future holds, the apostle Paul gave us an example of how we can handle the “Why?” of difficult times as he makes an appeal for reconciliation between two people he cared about:

Philemon 9-14
I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, appeal to you for my child, whom I fathered while in chains – Onesimus.  Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful to both you and me.  I am sending him – a part of myself – back to you.  I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place.  But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent, so that your good deed might not be out of obligation, but of your own free will.

Here is where Paul applies the benefit of hindsight to view the heartbreak and anger of the broken relationship between Philemon and Onesimus through a different lens.

Philemon 15-16
For perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave – as a dearly loved brother.  This is especially so to me, but even more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Whatever happened between the two men, it was significant.  It was difficult.  It was an issue that created problems that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.

In the aftermath of their separation, each man would have been tempted to believe that all was lost and what was wrong could never again be put right.  Maybe they did believe it.  Philemon could have asked out of frustration “Why did this happen?”, “Why are we the ones to deal with this?”, or “Why didn’t God stop this from happening?”.

In his letter, Paul shows Philemon that God used his hardship to bring Onesimus to the place where he would accept the gospel.  Philemon likely wouldn’t have thought it could happen when he was in the difficult moment, but God is willing to take both time and tragedy to reach out to people with the gospel.

Maybe, at some date in the future, we’ll get to see how God used our personal struggles, problems, and tragedies for our good and the benefit of others.  Maybe we won’t be able to see the “Why?” until we’re on the other side of eternity.

The good news is that God not only knows the “Why?”, but also the “Who?”, the “What?”, the “Where?”, the “When?”, and the “How?”.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Finding rest

The world can be rough place.  We liken our struggles to living in a jungle, or going rounds in a boxing match, or constantly playing a part on stage.  At times the difficulties seem so insurmountable that we have to remind ourselves to breathe.  And no matter how independent we say we are, dealing with life is always more difficult when we try going at it alone.

As we look at Paul’s prayer for Philemon, look closely for the characteristics of Philemon’s relationships with others:

Philemon 4-6
I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.

I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ.

After praying about the out-workings of his faith, Paul continues with how Philemon demonstrates his love toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints:

Philemon 7
For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

Paul commends Philemon for being a person whose presence invites people to rest.  The Greek word for refreshed means to cause or permit someone to cease from any movement or labor, in order for them to recover and collect their strength.

The believers who met in Philemon’s house didn’t have to work to earn his love.  Philemon’s manner and attitude allowed them to relax and regain strength.  The ancient world didn’t really view being a Christ-follower as a good thing, so you can imagine that the first century believers dealt with constant social, business, and family pressures because they chose to trust Jesus for eternal life.

What’s also interesting is that Jesus used the same Greek word when He gave an open offer to the crowd in front of Him:

Matthew 11:28-29
Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.

I’m certain that Philemon was able to generously act this way because he took Jesus up on His offer and found rest in his own relationship with his Savior.  As he had experienced rest and refreshment, Philemon was then able to provide a similar environment to others.

We, too, need brothers and sisters in our church families that can provide a safe place for us to rest.  We need a place and time to cease activity and gather our strength for the next round that life will throw our way. 

I think it is also important that we show love to other believers the same way that Philemon did and provide a place of refreshment.  However, we won’t be able to do so until we take Jesus up on His offer to find our rest in Him.  So we have a couple of hard questions we need to ask ourselves: 

Where do we go when we’re tired and worn down? 
Do we escape into a hobby, our phones, TV, food, or something else? 
How quickly do we turn to Jesus for rest?
Do we trust that Jesus’ rest will satisfy and refresh us?

Are we willing to offer a place of rest and refreshment to other believers?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Practical application: work (part 2)

I’ve often wondered why work is just so difficult some times.  Despite the best intentions and efforts of the people around me, the work to be done always takes more effort than it should, is never produced as quickly as it could be, and the full potential of a given project never seems to be fully realized.  When I take a moment to consider these short-comings, it leaves me rather frustrated with thoughts of what could have been if certain issues had not gotten in the way.

The truth of the matter is that these constant issues in our work are part of the consequences for Adam’s sin against God:

Genesis 3:17-18
The ground is cursed because of you.  You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you

The biggest thorns and thistles we deal with at work typically fall into these categories: motivation, appropriate pay, politics, or management issues.  Any one of these thorns can cause major problems, but our daily experience usually combines several of them together. 

While Paul was instructing slaves on how they were to view and conduct their daily responsibilities, his directions are something that we can also apply as we deal with our own responsibilities:

Colossians 3:23-4:1
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.  For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong he has done, and there is no favoritism.

Masters, supply your slaves with what is right and fair, since you know that you too have a Master in heaven.

Did you notice how Paul addressed each one of our major thorn categories?

Issues with our own motivation really comes down to who we believe we’re responsible to.  Are we working for our boss, our co-workers, or just trying to make some money to support our families?  If that’s the case, remember that at some point, our boss, co-workers, or family will let us down.  When that happens, our work will suffer because we’ll begin to believe that our efforts aren’t worthy of the person we’re working for.  Instead, we need to remember that our daily work is something done for the Lord and not for men.  We honor God and His reputation when we enthusiastically give our best in the task at hand.

Whether our earthly boss is fair or not, do we trust God to give good rewards?  If anyone is going to be cutting checks, wouldn’t you want God to do it?  Not only is he able to evaluate the finished product, but He knows all the details of how the project work was done…all the way down to the moment-by-moment motivation of the workers.  Even if we don’t receive an immediate payoff for our efforts, we must keep in mind that we will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord and the quality of this reward is based upon what we accomplish and how we accomplished it.

One of our major thorns has to do with injustice and favoritism in the workplace.  However, do we believe that the person who wrongs us will be held accountable by God?  Our desire for fairness is real and justified.  However, when office politics and favoritism muddies up a situation…do we trust God when He says He’ll take care of it?  Even if we have to wait for Him to do so?

Lastly, we have all experienced the pains of ineffective, or even incompetent, management.  Paul’s point here is that if we find ourselves in a position overseeing the work of others, it is imperative that we remain humble and do what is right by the people who work for us.  After all, isn’t that how our Master in heaven treats us?

Thorns and thistles and painful labor will continue to be part of our daily lives until Jesus returns.  Until then, whenever the issues are dragging us down, we just need to remember Who it is we’re truly working for.

Colossians 3:23-4:1
Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Because they're family

There’s always one in every family.  And sometimes, there’s more than just one. 

You know who I’m talking about: the relative that always seems a little bit “off”, or the one who talks too much (about herself, usually), or the one everyone else is afraid will start another family fight.  When it’s announced they’re coming to Thanksgiving dinner, your kids look at you and ask “Why do we still invite them over every year?”  We all typically answer with the same reply, too – “Because they’re family.”

When Paul began to describe to the Colossian believers all the many ways that their new life in Christ would be lived out, he started by listing some characteristics they were going to have to learn to put on, just like they got dressed every morning.

Colossians 3:12
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience

Paul didn’t just list these out because they sounded good.  Paul’s aim wasn’t that the Colossians would become “nice people”.  Rather, he had a specific purpose in mind. 

As the good news of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and offer of eternal life spread throughout the known world, the church began to fill with people that were previously isolated and separated from each other.  The church was a melting pot of people from all over all of the spectrums.  Since the love of Jesus transcends all human boundaries, His church was composed of different races, ethnicities, economic status, political ideologies, religious backgrounds, and even people that just did not like each other.

So now that they were all connected through faith in Jesus, it wasn’t going to work for them to put on a fake smile and just try to play nice.  After Paul lists out these important characteristics for the believers to cloth themselves with, he goes on to tell them where these traits will be applied:

Colossians 3:12-13
...put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another.

We need to put on and practice these traits, because without them we are unable to accept, let alone forgive, those around us.  Notice there are no restrictions or qualifiers in Paul’s direction.  God expects his children to accept and forgive His other children.  Any one, and any complaint.

Notice also that Paul doesn’t say ignore or disregard the complaint itself.  Paul is dealing with the person here, the best solution to the complaint will be found as the listed character traits are applied to the situation.

And in case any of them thought they just couldn’t forgive (yet again) or if they refused to accept someone in the family, Paul followed up with this reminder:

Colossians 3:13
Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive.

There is nothing we have done – even repeatedly – that He hasn’t forgiven us for.  The Colossians were going to imitate and be like God as they extended the same heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience to each other.  Because they’re family. 

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Interceding on our behalf

Most Christians are familiar with the story of Peter denying Christ three times.  This event happened at arguably the worst possible time – after Jesus had been arrested and then brought before the Jewish religious leaders at a secretive, illegal nighttime tribunal.  Even though Jesus being deserted by all of His disciples was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, none of them saw it coming.

During the Last Supper, Jesus had given this warning:

Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, look out!  Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.  But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.  And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

The “you” in Satan has asked to shift you like wheat is plural.  Sifting wheat was a filtering process that removed dirt, rocks, and chaff from the valuable wheat kernels.  Satan certainly wasn’t advocating that the disciples be purified and have the chaff of their lives removed – rather, Satan was accusing the disciples of being useless chaff, and he wanted the opportunity to prove it. 

The you” in the rest of Jesus’ words are singular.  The upcoming denial of knowing Jesus is going to severely shake the guy who has been known among the disciples as “the rock”.  Jesus is specifically telling Peter that He has interceded for him, not to the exclusion of the other disciples, but because he will need to know this information.  Later on, Peter will be able to look back and remember Jesus’ encouraging words.

When speaking of God’s unfailing love toward those who believe, Paul also mentioned a similar situation to the believers in Rome:

Romans 8:34 Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.

Christ’s prayerful intercession between Peter and God the Father wasn’t a one-time thing.  He now acts on behalf of all believers.  Jesus hears the accusations of Satan, knows our weaknesses, and then intercedes on our behalf to God the Father.

How incredible is that?

There are troubles on the horizon that we don’t see coming.  When our failures in those situations shake our faith, we need to remember that we have an advocate.  We haven’t been abandoned due to our mistakes.  We can take a lot of encouragement from remembering that Jesus is on our side…just like Peter did.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

When hardship looms

On the night he was betrayed, Jesus had spent the previous day with his disciples.  Together, they celebrated Israel’s most important feast, Passover.  Together, they recalled how God had mightily rescued Israel from her Egyptian enemies.  During the meal, Jesus gave them instructions of how they were to perform communion going forward.

Throughout the entire evening, Jesus knew what the night would bring.  The Scriptures containing the prophecies about the Messiah’s death were going to be fulfilled.  Jesus knew that his death would be on a cross, one of the most horrific and painful methods of execution ever invented by man.  He dreaded what was about to happen, what He would have to endure.

The last thing Jesus did before He was betrayed was pray.

Mark 14:32-35 Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and He told His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and horrified.  Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow – to the point of death.  Remain here and stay awake.”  Then He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and began to pray…

The gospels of Matthew and Luke also describe Jesus’ praying in the Garden, and both explicitly state that He prayed separately from his disciples.

On the eve of the most difficult and painful day of His life, Christ desired comfort and strength from God the Father…and no one else.  Jesus knew that what He needed to fulfill His mission would not be found among the people closest to Him. 

Is that our typical course of action?

Usually, our first reaction to an impending hard situation is to call the prayer chain, ask our small group to pray for us, or get together with others for a prayer meeting.  All of these things are the body of Christ supporting one another…and that’s a good thing.  However, Christ’s example in the garden of Gethsemane raises questions about our motivations for calling on other believers to “pray for me”.  I wonder if we take the comfort we receive from knowing that others are performing the act of prayer as a substitute for the comfort that we should be seeking from God.

True comfort and strength are not found in praying, rather they are found in the One we are praying to. 

Even if 1,000 people are praying that I find strength and courage in God, and I do not choose to seek God for strength and courage, then I cannot expect God to make me stronger simply because others have asked him.  We must pursue God in prayer on an individual basis, others cannot fulfill that relationship for us.

Jesus knew this…and it was because he spent time alone in the garden seeking the Father that He was ready for the cross.

Keep Pressing,
Ken