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: maturity

Is God a good boss or a bad boss?

I’ve been fortunate to have a number of good bosses throughout my career.  I’ve had my share of lousy ones, too; but looking back, my list of bosses is full of people who used their authority well.

So, what makes a “good boss”?  Someone who is involved, but not overbearing.  Someone who puts in at least as much effort and care into their position as they expect me to put into mine.  Someone who takes an interest in developing their employees.  And while this last item may not be at the top of everyone’s mind, we want a boss that, in fairness, holds their people accountable for their responsibilities and actions.

For a “good boss”, we work in ways that we never consider when we have a “bad boss”.  For a “good boss”, we aren’t afraid to bring up both the problem and our suggested solution.  We put in the extra time at work because we know our manager is putting in the time as well.  We seek out her opinion and want to hear how she will grow us.  We put our best efforts in, because we know that he is appreciative and will reward our efforts.  We wouldn’t consider giving this kind of effort if we are managed by a “bad boss”.  We may be forced or coerced into doing this occasionally, but volunteering it?  Not a chance.

But how does this ideal compare with how our modern culture portrays – or even we sometimes think – about God?  Have you ever been asked these questions?  Perhaps you’ve wondered them, too:

·       If God really cared, why do bad things happen?
·       Is God even paying attention?
·       Why is God letting people get away with their selfishness and evil actions?

These are hard, real questions.  And it’s ok to ask them…no need to watch out for lightning strikes.

However, I want us to look at the sentiment behind these questions – do we think God is a “bad boss”?  Are our assumptions about God getting in the way of how we see Him? 

·       Do you think God is at work in the world?
·       Do you think God is interested in how you learn and grow?
·       Do you think God holds people accountable?

Did you answer yes or no?  What are you basing your answer on?
Did you answer I’m not sure?  Then let me give you a sampling of verses to consider:

When Jesus was asked why He had the authority to heal people on the Sabbath, He gave this response:

John 5:17
Jesus responded to them, “My Father is still working, and I am working also.”

When discussing how He cares for His people, Jesus said:

John 10:10
I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

When writing to believers, Paul had this stern warning for them:

2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

How do these few verses affect the way you perceive God?  If you’re still unsure, that’s ok…but don’t stay there.  Pursue God.  Search the Scriptures.  Ask Him to reveal Himself to you.  Because when we see God as He truly is – a “good boss” – then our attitude, actions, and aim in life changes greatly.  But if we believe that God is absent and uncaring, we will miss out on the fullness of life He has to offer – the kind that only a “good boss” can give.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

For my son - When it's time to let go

My oldest son has officially finished high school and is getting ready to embark on the next phase of his life.  As I am nostalgically thinking of that time in my own life, I am also thinking of the things God has taught me since then.

This is the third post in a three-part series where I am remembering lessons I have learned later in life that I would love for my son know now...

I chose this post because letting go is hard…for everyone involved.  I don’t know how to be the parent of an adult child.  I’ve never done it before; I’ve never had a relationship like this.  But then again, neither has he.  We both will have to learn to trust God in new ways, as faith can only grow like this when we let go.

When it’s time to let go
originally posted on February 3, 2016

Paul began his letter to Philemon by telling him how he’s being prayed for:

Philemon 4-5
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.

These aren’t just words of flattery.  Instead, they are Paul’s acknowledgment of Philemon’s maturity and his deserved reputation for his recognizable love and faith.  It is because of Philemon’s progress in becoming Christ-like that Paul can make a very personal request:

Philemon 8-11
For this reason, although I have great boldness in Christ to command you to do what is right, I appeal, instead, on the basis of love.  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.

We are now introduced to the subject of Paul’s letter.  Onesimus and Philemon had some sort of relationship problem…but at that time, Philemon was a Christian and Onesimus was not.  Since that time, Onesimus has met up with Paul, who then taught him about Jesus.  Under Paul’s guidance, Onesimus trusted Jesus for eternal life and became part of God’s family.

While Paul would often refer to the churches he planted as “his children,” there are only three people in the Scriptures that Paul directly refers to as “his child” – Timothy, Titus, and Onesimus.  Given Paul’s reference to being an elderly man, it’s probable that Onesimus was, like Timothy and Titus, at the other end of the age spectrum.  As the letter continues, it is clear how much Paul cares for Onesimus.

However, as a good father, Paul knows that the next step in Onesimus’ growth and development as a believer is to reconcile with Philemon. 

Philemon 12-14
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.

I’m certain that the tough part for Paul is that he will not be present to facilitate their meeting.  Paul won’t be there to make sure Philemon and Onesimus do this right.  He won’t be able to mediate their grievances.  There’s no guarantee they can successfully reconcile on their own, but there little Paul can do about that while he’s in prison.  So Paul does the best he can – he writes a personal letter to his dear friend on behalf of his son – and he sends Onesimus on his way.

He lets go.

Sometimes, as hard as that is…it’s for best.  No matter how great our parents were, we couldn’t have grown like we did unless we left the comforts of their home.  Mentors are beneficial for a season, and the best bosses can develop us for a time…but we grow the most when we have to trust God and apply the lessons we’ve learned.

Paul even admitted his struggle – I wanted to keep him with me.  But he knew that Onesimus and Philemon would benefit more from this opportunity to be Christ-like after previously hurting one another.  They couldn’t hold on to Paul’s hand and toddle around anymore; they needed to trust God and walk on their own.  Both Onesimus and Philemon needed to choose the right thing, not out of obligation, but of their own free will.

I’ve been on both sides before.  I’ve left my childhood home and the church I grew up in.  I’ve had my mentor leave.  I’ve also been the boss who left the team, knowing that my absence would be a catalyst for their growth.  And soon, I’ll be sending my sons out into the world.  Both sides are hard.

When those moments arrive, it’s best to trust God and let go.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Resolutions about maturity

It’s that time of year again…time to make resolutions to be better at something.  We know the big ones – get in shape, eat better, learn a new skill – and we know that we should do these things and they have lasting, positive benefits to our lives.  But why is it, that by sometime in February, we’ve given up on working towards them? 

When we’re honest – we recognize that we give up on these resolutions because we don’t value the end product highly enough.  We aren’t diligent in pursuing it, and we become lazy.  This doesn’t mean that we do not understand or fully trust the benefits of exercise, a good diet, or learning something new…it just shows that we value them less than other competing priorities in our lives.

Did you know that the same thing happens to us spiritually?  Other things crowd into our lives and we sometimes don’t value our growth as a Christ-follower or our relationship with God like we should.  We can become spiritually lazy.  It’s not a new problem for Christians, either.

After starting a discussion of Christ’s superiority as our high priest and reviewing some of the great benefits available to a believer who partners with Jesus, the author pauses to say:

Hebrews 5:11-14
We have a great deal to say about this, and it’s difficult to explain, since you have become slow to understand.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation.  You need milk, not solid food.  Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature – for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.

Looking at this passage, it is clear that this letter was written to people who have already accepted Christ as the substitutionary payment for their sins.  The solid food is the teaching that deals with righteousness, or right-living, before God.  Because these “big babies” haven’t progressed to solid food, they cannot grasp the implications of the Greater Message of future partnership with the Greater Messenger.

Hebrews 6:1
Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity

If you could travel into a mother’s womb and speak with the prenatal child, I’m sure he would be very confused as to why he was growing arms and legs and a mouth.  He has no real, tangible need for them so long as he remains in the womb.  However, we would desperately explain that while he sees little use for them in his present stage in life, they will become vitally important for the way he interacts with the world of his next stage of life.

The entire New Testament, except for John’s Gospel, speaks to us like we are the child still in the womb.  The vast majority of the New Testament is written to believers and contains encouragement to put in the effort now to grow towards maturity…because the level of maturity we develop here and now will directly impact how we interact with the world of our next stage of life.

Hebrews 6:11-12
Now we want each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the final realization of your hope, so that you won’t become lazy, but imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance.

Keep at it.  Keep going towards maturity.  Not everyone does, but those who trust Jesus’ offer of partnership and patiently wait for it, they will obtain it.

That’s a resolution worth keeping, one with results that echo into eternity.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

If you could ask God for just one thing

When I was a child, I would sometimes think about what Heaven would be like.  All I really understood was that Heaven was this great place where we would “be with God forever” and everyone would be happy.  Well, to my little mind, the greatest place I would want to spend long lengths of time in would obviously be chock full of my favorite Saturday morning cartoon toys.  I had it all planned…when I got to Heaven, I was going to ask God for the ENTIRE COLLECTION of He-Man action figures and playsets.  Pure bliss, as far as I was concerned, required a large amount of the best toys I could imagine.

Even as I’ve grown and matured in my understanding of God, Heaven, and Eternity Future, my desire to ask God for “just one thing” hasn’t subsided, but the “one thing” I would ask for has changed.  At various stages of my life, it’s been financial assistance, romantic love, new friends, a new job, a healthy baby, my own health, the health of someone else, a reasonably-comfortable life, and many other things. 

Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but if I’m feeling very spiritually mature, I tell people that when I get to Heaven, the only thing I plan on asking God for is a blue-ray history lesson narrated by Him.  I just want to know why stuff happened like it did and how He worked through it all.

But when you look closely at my progressing list of “just one thing” requests, not much has changed since I was fully enamored by plastic toys.  Even though I’m asking Him about good things for myself or others, I’m still treating God like a cosmic vending machine.  Even if God actually gave me the toys, the money, and the good health…each “one thing” item is still something that I could lose, something that could be taken away from me.

In the second stanza of Psalm 27, David asks God for “one thing”.  His ask puts his life and God in the proper perspective:

Psalm 27:4-6
I have asked one thing from the Lord;
it is what I desire:
to dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
gazing on the beauty of the Lord
and seeking Him in His temple.
For He will conceal me in His shelter
in the day of adversity;
He will hide me under the cover of His tent;
He will set me high on a rock.
Then my head will be high
above my enemies around me;
I will offer sacrifices in His tent with shouts of joy.
I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Relationship.  Created Being relating back to his Creator.  That is the most important “one thing” we could ask for, and it will not be taken away from us, not even in the day of adversity.  However, we often let life’s issues and detours distract us from the true aim of our lives – to know God and to be known by Him. 

I think C.S. Lewis summed us up rather well, even if it does sting a little:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

It’s good to pray about all our requests, cares, and concerns, for God has instructed us to do so (Philippians 4:6).  However, the next time you do ask for something, go for the biggest thing you can ask Him for.  Ask God to give you Himself.  Seek a deeper relationship with Him.  Ask for even a glimpse at His glory.  Ask to be closer to Him, even if that means dealing with enemies and adversity.  God’s beauty and splendor exceeds everything we can see on this earth.

Ask for Him.  He will not disappoint.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Pleasing others, for their good

Think of a major accomplishment in your life.  To get there, you had to work hard.  Perhaps you worked for a long time, even years.  Significant progress was made, and you know – more than anyone else – how much effort and time and worry and late nights went into finally “arriving.”

Maybe your mountain is a promotion or tenure.  Maybe it’s a high school or college degree.  Maybe it’s the applause of your peers, the community, or even your family.  We strive and work toward many noble goals in this life – financial freedom, career advancement, raising a family, business success, doing adult-things and doing them well.

Whenever we get to the point where we feel like “we’ve arrived”, there’s a seemingly innocent urge that sneaks into our minds.  While we relish the moment and reflect on the work that got us there, there is also a subtle tug to coast (just a little) and take it easy.

Now, don’t misunderstand me…rest is good.  Rest is Biblical.  God rested after six days of creation.  However, when rest is complete, we will have to make a choice – will we allow our rest to become self-indulgent, or will we face the difficult question of what to do next?

As Paul was finishing up his letter to the believers in Rome, he touched on several practical issues.  He approached these issues from two sides –  from those believers who had already arrived at maturity and those who had not yet matured.  We find that kind of mixed company in the church today also.  Here, Paul talks about the responsibility of those who have developed a strong relationship with God:

Romans 15:1-2
Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.  Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, in order to build him up.  For even the Messiah did not please Himself.

When we have a mature, developed relationship with God, it is not time to be self-centered.  God doesn’t want us to sit around being full of ourselves.  Rather, He wants us to leverage our development in a way that pleases our neighbor

And this kind of pleasing isn’t about just making them feel happy, either.  We are to purposely act for their good, encouraging them and building them up so they can experience and live out the same kind of relationship we have with the Father.

Honestly, even for someone who has walked with God for a long time – developing others is hard.  Building up a fellow believer can be really messy sometimes, it’s not a give-advice-once-and-be-done kind of thing.  In case we have any question as to what that looks like, Paul says that the model for the mature believer to follow is Christ’s example.  Jesus found motivation to continue on, complete His mission, and please His Father by looking ahead to the mission’s end result.

A few verses later, Paul points his audience toward the end result of building up their fellow believers:

Romans 15:5-6
Now may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you agreement with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a unified mind and voice.

That’s the goal here, humanity’s created purpose – to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and for us to do so with a unified mind and voice.  We who are strong and mature are to bear with those who haven’t made it yet.  Not just to tolerate them, either.  After we build them up to maturity, together we can all give God the glory He deserves.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Much ado about mentoring

Many years ago, I was given a rather simple – and yet deep – illustration for the kinds of relationships each of us needs within the body of Christ. 

Everyone needs a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy.

This straightforward description has always stuck with me.  Whenever I share it with someone else, I usually don’t have to give it much explanation – they immediately understand the details of these relationships:

Paul – someone who leads me toward God, provides a more mature example
Barnabas – someone who comes along side me as an equal, to both encourage and challenge
Timothy – someone who I am pouring my life into and providing a Godly example for

These relationships, especially those between a “Paul” and a “Timothy”, are commonly referred to as either discipleship or mentoring relationships.  While the term mentor is not specifically stated in the Bible, the word disciple is – and it generally refers to someone who is a learner, a follower, and an imitator of their instructor.  Howard Hendricks best described these special kinds of relationships:

Discipleship, as we know it today, tends to narrow its focus to the spiritual dimension. Ideally, it should touch on every area of life – our personal life and lifestyle, our work, our relationships. But discipleship always looks at these areas by asking the question, how do they relate to Christ? How does following Christ affect my personal life, my work, my relationships, and so on?

Mentoring, at least when practiced by Christians, certainly ought to center everything on Christ. But mentoring is less about instruction than it is about initiation – about bringing young men into maturity. Whereas the word for disciple means learner, the word ‘protégé’ comes from a Latin word meaning “to protect.” The mentor aims to protect his young charge as he crosses the frontier into manhood.

For my own part, I do not make a hard and fast distinction between discipleship and mentoring. There is a great deal of overlap. But I like the concept of mentoring because it focuses on relationships.

The point is we need the mature and experienced to kneel down with those of us in the family who are immature and have limited experience.  I feel that is one of the greatest areas where our modern church family has faltered – especially among the men, but women need these kinds of relationships, too.  We all need someone to challenge, guide, and protect us as we mature.  However, it is also vital that we turn to those around us and become the mentor they so desperately need.

To understand how to do this, we’re going to take a look at various mentor relationship examples that God has provided for us throughout the pages of Scripture.  We’ll watch how the mentors interact with their protégés.  We’ll observe their successes and their failures.  Most of all, we’ll be looking for how God was able to work with both of them because of their relationship.

A good starting point is a statement the apostle Paul gave to the believers in Corinth.  Right in the middle of his instruction about the many ways they needed to mature, Paul makes this bold statement:

1 Corinthians 11:1
Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.

Whether you are the mentor or the protégé, for this special relationship to work we must both desire the same thing – we must desire to imitate Christ.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

When it's time to let go

Paul began his letter to Philemon by telling him how he’s being prayed for:

Philemon 4-5
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.

These aren’t just words of flattery.  Instead, they are Paul’s acknowledgment of Philemon’s maturity and his deserved reputation for his recognizable love and faith.  It is because of Philemon’s progress in becoming Christ-like that Paul can make a very personal request:

Philemon 8-11
For this reason, although I have great boldness in Christ to command you to do what is right, I appeal, instead, on the basis of love.  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.

We are now introduced to the subject of Paul’s letter.  Onesimus and Philemon had some sort of relationship problem…but at that time, Philemon was a Christian and Onesimus was not.  Since that time, Onesimus has met up with Paul, who then taught him about Jesus.  Under Paul’s guidance, Onesimus trusted Jesus for eternal life and became part of God’s family.

While Paul would often refer to the churches he planted as “his children,” there are only three people in the Scriptures that Paul directly refers to as “his child” – Timothy, Titus, and Onesimus.  Given Paul’s reference to being an elderly man, it’s probable that Onesimus was, like Timothy and Titus, at the other end of the age spectrum.  As the letter continues, it is clear how much Paul cares for Onesimus.

However, as a good father, Paul knows that the next step in Onesimus’ growth and development as a believer is to reconcile with Philemon. 

Philemon 12-14
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.

I’m certain that the tough part for Paul is that he will not be present to facilitate their meeting.  Paul won’t be there to make sure Philemon and Onesimus do this right.  He won’t be able to mediate their grievances.  There’s no guarantee they can successfully reconcile on their own, but there little Paul can do about that while he’s in prison.  So Paul does the best he can – he writes a personal letter to his dear friend on behalf of his son – and he sends Onesimus on his way.

He lets go.

Sometimes, as hard as that is…it’s for best.  No matter how great our parents were, we couldn’t have grown like we did unless we left the comforts of their home.  Mentors are beneficial for a season, and the best bosses can develop us for a time…but we grow the most when we have to trust God and apply the lessons we’ve learned.

Paul even admitted his struggle – I wanted to keep him with me.  But he knew that Onesimus and Philemon would benefit more from this opportunity to be Christ-like after previously hurting one another.  They couldn’t hold on to Paul’s hand and toddle around anymore; they needed to trust God and walk on their own.  Both Onesimus and Philemon needed to choose the right thing, not out of obligation, but of their own free will.

I’ve been on both sides before.  I’ve left my childhood home and the church I grew up in.  I’ve had my mentor leave.  I’ve also been the boss who left the team, knowing that my absence would be a catalyst for their growth.  And soon, I’ll be sending my sons out into the world.  Both sides are hard.

When those moments arrive, it’s best to trust God and let go.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

How to be an effective Christian

As Paul began his short letter to Philemon, he shared what he had been praying for his friend:

Philemon 5-6
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.

Lewis Sperry Chafer counted 33 benefits the believer receives at the moment they trust Jesus for eternal life.  A sampling of that list includes the following facts:

We are redeemed by God.
We are now related to God.
We are now acceptable to God.
Our sins are permanently paid for.
We are brought close to God.
We are delivered from the power of darkness.
We are part of a Holy and Royal priesthood.
We have a Heavenly citizenship.

These are incredible benefits, and Chafer’s entire list is just the starting point for our relationship with Christ.  From here, we launch into an eternal relationship with God where we grow and mature, becoming more and more like Christ.  On top of that, we even have the opportunity to earn eternal rewards for our participation with God in what He is doing here and now.

However, we will not be effective in our partnership with God and our maturity will be stunted if we think that any of our good qualities originate within us.  This is what Paul is praying about for Philemon. 

Just think about it…Philemon has a good reputation and hosts the local church meetings in his house.  Philemon has the money and property to have the local church meet in his house.  With blessings like these also comes the temptation to believe that he’s self-sustaining or that God should bless his efforts because he’s “so good”.  However, that shift in attitude also brings a dangerous shift in focus…he would begin to focus on himself rather than on his Savior.

How can Philemon effectively minister about Jesus if he’s busy looking at himself?

Paul prays that Philemon would protect himself and his ministry from being ineffective; yet it’s a trap that we can easily fall into as well.  The American Christian is quite rich, especially in comparison to our brothers and sisters in the rest of the world.  We need to watch that our affluence doesn’t influence our understanding of where our blessings come from.  As always, a Christ-focused mindset is the cure.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Final greetings and a warning

As Paul closes out his letter to the believers in Colossae, he has some specific instructions for the few people he knows in the area. 

Colossians 4:15-18
Give my greetings to the brothers in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.  And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.  And tell Archippus, “Pay attention to the ministry you have received in the Lord, so that you can accomplish it.”  This greeting is in my own hand – Paul.  Remember my imprisonment.  Grace be with you.

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be Archippus?

Paul essentially calls him out before the entire congregation…and to whomever would eventually read the Colossian letter.  The next time someone is introduced to Archippus, I could imagine the conversation going something like:

“Nice to meet you.  Oh, you’re Archippus?  Have you accomplished the ministry God gave you?”

I’m sure Archippus had some mixed emotions when he heard the letter read to the church – feeling some encouragement from Paul, but also feeling a little pressure, too.

However, that’s what good encouragers do.  The help us see the correct path, and then they give us a nudge in that direction.  But we have to be the ones to take the steps and do the ministry that God gives to each of us.

This blog doesn’t write itself.  In order to continue the ministry that Joe started years ago and later handed off to me, I have several things that I must pay attention to.  My own study of God’s Word, my work schedule, my family schedule, and all the other curve balls that life throws at us…all of them must be juggled intentionally in order for me to accomplish the task that God has given to me.

There are times when writing is more difficult than others.  There have been times where I’m writing blogs weeks ahead of when they are posted…but there have been many more times when I’m writing late into Tuesday or Thursday night for something that will post the next morning.  Sometimes the observations come easily, but other times I struggle to find the correct interpretation of a passage.  However, knowing that God is allowing me to partner with Him in this way is a great motivator.  The occasional note back from someone who can either relate to or apply what I write has also been encouraging.

Paul’s point is that we can’t accomplish the ministry God gives us unless we actively pay attention to it.  We cannot be lazy in our efforts and expect God to pick up our slack.  He paid the penalty for our sins because there was no alternative, no way for us to do it.  However, if God hands us a ministry, then He knows we can accomplish it…with the right amount of effort.

Looking back through Paul’s letter to the Colossians, his main focus was to encourage them on to maturity.  One of the best ways to demonstrate and develop our maturity as believers is to pay attention and take care of what God has given us to do.

What opportunities has God placed before you to minister to the people around you?  Don’t compare your ministry to other people’s.  Look at the lives around you, who can you reach?  Are you paying enough attention so you can do what He has given you to do?

In order to accomplish our given task, we have to make hard choices about how we spend our time.  We have all the time in the world to do whatever we think is most important.  How important is the ministry we have received from the Lord?  I encourage you to pay attention and go for it!

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The hard work of prayer

Paul would often tell the recipients of his letters the specific things he was praying for them.  In several instances, he would ask his readers to pray for him.  However, out of all his letters in the New Testament, only once did Paul commend someone for the way they prayed.

Colossians 4:12-13
Epaphras, who is one of you, a slave of Christ Jesus, greets you.  He is always contending for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills.  For I testify about him that he works hard for you, for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis.

When we think of doing hard work we immediately think of manual labor.  We associate the phrase hard work with physical activities, such as digging trenches, heavy lifting, and constructing structures.  Similarly, we identify a hard worker as a person with a “sun up to sun down” work ethic; someone who is relentlessly pursuing the completion of a project.

Interestingly enough, Paul says that Epaphras works hard in his prayers for those in and around the town he was from.  When Paul wrote the letter to the Colossian believers, Epaphras was working with Paul while he was imprisoned for preaching the gospel.  It’s possible that they were as far away as Rome.

And despite that distance, Epaphras believed there was some way for him to continue to help his home community.  So he prayed.  But Epaphras didn’t just ask God to keep them safe; he wasn’t offering up a quick “God please help them with their…stuff…they’re going through” prayer request.  Instead, Epaphras prayed, and prayed hard.

When describing the way Epaphras prayed, Paul said that “he is always contending for you in his prayers”.  The Greek word for contending is “agonizomai” from which you can see a relation to our English word “agonize”.  Agonizomai was an athletic competition term, and it was used when a person had an intense struggle or fight. 

This is how Epaphras would pray for his fellow believers.  He loved these people so much, that he was willing to regularly struggle and strive before God on their behalf.  The main focus of his prayers wasn’t asking for them to be comfortable or even healthy.  Instead, he aggressively petitioned God for their maturity and that they would be fully assured that their choices were lined up with God’s desires.

Epaphras is an incredible example for us.  Whom are we willing to do heavy lifting in prayer for?  Those in our immediate family are easy ones to start with.  However, even those we are not physically close to are worth praying over.  After all, the One we pray to is near to every believer.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Practical application: parenting

In Colossians 3:18-19, Paul pointed out the oh-so-practical place to practice living like Christ – in our relationship with our spouse.  His next connection stays within the immediate family and is just as practical.

Colossians 3:20-21
Children obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing in the Lord.  Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged.

As parents, we love this first sentence.  We secretly relish when the preacher or our kid’s group leader brings up teaching like this.  They need to hear this, we congratulate ourselves.  Maybe if they keep hearing from other adults, they’ll do it more at home.  Wouldn’t that be nice…

Paul gives the Colossian Christian children this command – obey your parents in everything – because it’s something they need to learn.  Let’s camp out on that thought for a moment…obedience is something that children need to learn.  They’re not going to get it right away.  Their entire focus is on their own needs, and not the needs of others.  Obedience is like any other skill we develop as we grow and mature…it’s going to take time, it’s going to take practice, and there are going to be failures along the way.

How we handle our children’s failures will heavily influence them…in their childhood for sure, but our actions will also echo throughout the rest of their lives.  We know this because we still feel the echoes from our own upbringing, but for some reason we tend to forget that reality the moment we’re dealing the shortcomings of our own kids.

More than any person in a child’s life, we fathers have the greatest influence in this area.  Apologies to all the moms out there, but we just do.  And the impact we fathers have on our child’s perspective is even greater than we realize.  Paul warns against discouraging our children, and the word he chose relates to feeling disheartened, dispirited, or broken in spirit.  A father’s reaction to his son or daughter’s failure is truly a make-or-break moment.

Paul says we push our children toward discouragement if we exasperate them.  When we push them to their whit’s end because of our insistence on “getting it right”, or when we bring them to angry tears just to make sure they understand and “get it” – whenever we take our authority too far, we run the risk of exasperating them. 

Unfortunately, I have been guilty of doing just that to my children many times over the years.  It typically happens when I’m rigidly demanding more than my son can give…and he cannot meet the standard I’ve set for him.  If my expectation was too high for his skill level, then he is doomed to failure even before he begun.  Instead of recognizing I set the bar to high, at times I’ve even doubled back and berated them for missing the mark.  I know when I’ve gone too far, too – I can see it in their eyes as they stare at the floor, their shoulders sink in despair, and their posture communicates that they’ve completely given up.

A child of any age can become exasperated and discouraged, but it is especially easy when they are young.  This doesn’t mean we don’t confront error or that we should only give easy challenges to our children; rather we need to actively match our expectations with our children’s abilities, and then be willing to be both gentle and firm as we lovingly deal with their failures.  Men, our ability to guard against this damaging practice is for us to apply the Christ-driven characteristics that Paul listed in the preceding context of 3:12-17

…put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…
…forgive one another…just as the Lord has forgiven you…
…above all, put on love…
…be thankful…
…let the message of the Messiah dwell richly among you…
…whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…

Our children’s hearts and maturity depend on it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Practical application: marriage

Paul has spent more than half of his letter to the believers in Colossae telling them that because of Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins, they have a new relationship with God.  Paul continued to describe the impact this relationship has on their lives now and in eternity…with the entire focus on Jesus.   As they grow in understanding of who Jesus is and what a relationship with Him is like, these believers will live a fulfilled life of continual thankfulness that reflects the glory of God.

As Paul encourages the Colossian believers to press on toward maturity, in 3:12-17 he gives them a list of Christ-like characteristics that will come from their relationship with God:

…put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…
…forgive one another…just as the Lord has forgiven you…
…above all, put on love…
…be thankful…
…let the message of the Messiah dwell richly among you…
…whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…

And then, Paul gets real specific as to where these characteristics are to be practiced and developed.

Colossians 3:18-19
Wives, be submissive to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and don’t become bitter against them.

That’s about as real as it gets, isn’t it?

We go from talking about theoretical living – yeah, I need to be more compassionate…I know I should be more thankful…and I’ve been working on my patience – to suddenly being told to apply these things to the person we see the most of in life.  We know our spouse’s good points, and we also know their flaws.  In fact, we probably know their flaws better than they even recognize them.

Submissive is hard word these days.  Keep in mind, though, that Paul does not say that all women are to be submissive to all men.  This direction is only for Christians in a marriage relationship.  The basis for submission has nothing to do with inferiority, but is instead grounded in respect for the position God has placed her husband in.  There is an important qualifier here, too – as is fitting in the Lord.  If your husband is rebelling against God and his leading of the family is contrary to Scripture, then you have the right and responsibility to not follow him.  However, if you don’t agree with the direction your husband is leading and there is no sin involved, a conversation needs to be had – first between you and God.  Maybe he does need to change.  Maybe you need to change.  But you will need to sort your own heart out with God before trying to change your husband’s mind.

Paul’s direction to husbands is equally challenging – to love your wife.  The Greek word for love here is agapao, the “give all” kind of love, and not the phileo “give and take” type, and not the erao “take all” type.  Men, how much are you willing to “give all” for your wife?  Sure, we all say we’d take a bullet for her…but what parts of ourselves are we willing to give up for her well-being?  When was the last time we set aside our hobby time to take care of her needs?  Are you willing to turn down an “opportunity” if the new job would take you away from her?  Also, if life’s circumstances change her – due to illness, injury, hardship, or anything else – will you stick to your commitment to love her, for better or worse?  Or will we allow those changes to be our excuse to become bitter toward her?  Will we resent her for not being the same woman we initially married? 

In no way does submissiveness or guarding against bitterness mean that we avoid the issues that will naturally come up when two sinful people get married and live life together.  Notice that in Paul’s practical application of marriage, none of the previous Christ-driven characteristics are disqualified or removed.  Godly submission and love without bitterness will only happen in our marriages as we

…put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…
…forgive one another…just as the Lord has forgiven you…
…above all, put on love…
…be thankful…
…let the message of the Messiah dwell richly among you…
…whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

The motivation for everything

This might be a strange thought, but not every Christian will live out a Christ-focused life in the same way.  Even if we recognize this truth, we often have specific expectations (typically patterned after our own journey) of what “mature Christian behavior” should look like.  The truth of the matter is that it would be rather shallow of us to expect everyone to be “as spiritual” or be “as holy” in the identical manner that God is currently leading us in.  Maybe someone is behind us in development.  Maybe, just maybe…someone else could be ahead of us.

Think about our own families – our parents poured themselves into us and our siblings.  However, due to our varying ages and on-going development, the same efforts of our parents ended up producing very different adult people.  The expectations of behavior placed on the oldest child were often not even subjects that were being taught to the younger children.  Rarely was the same life lesson taught in the same manner to each child.  The specifics of these life-living lessons were tailored to where the child was at the particular moment.

However, the principles of the family were the same among the children.  Many of the stories and traditions of the family were the same as previous generations – stories of love, and loyalty, and bravery and the events of previous years.  You could see the family traits in the people around you, but they all exhibited them in different ways.

The same holds true for the family of God.  There is a common tie that binds us together – the incredible story of God leaving the glory and perfection of Heaven to rescue us from our selfish, sin-soaked mess.  However, as His story becomes part of our story…His character is revealed through us in a variety of ways.

As Paul continues to explain to the Colossian believers how God’s family works together and encourages one another with the message about the Messiah, take note of the guiding principle for how that message is to affect their lives and maturity:

Colossians 3:16-17
Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Instead of laying out a 12 point plan for maturity, Paul wants the believers to recognize that everything is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Doing anything “in someone’s name” means that we are their representative or ambassador.  We know that our manners and conduct reflect back on Jesus, and we also know that we’ll eventually have to give an account for how well we represent Him.  Whatever you do in word or in deed – that phrase pretty much covers it all, doesn’t it?

Paul’s direction is broad enough that there’s no technicality for us to escape it.  The broad-ness also allows for a wide-variety of expressions.  Take, for example, that in these two verses Paul says we are to have gratitude and we are to give thanks.  While that is a specific direction, how exactly shall we give thanks?  We could give thanks through prayer, with tears, with spoken words, with silent reverence, with charitable actions, or many other ways. 

Too often we get hung up on measuring a Christian’s maturity by looking at the things he or she does.  However, God looks beyond those things and evaluates our maturity based upon our motivations.

Colossians 3:17
And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Getting dressed

After establishing how God looks at His children, Paul has specific directions for how the Colossian believers are to conduct themselves:

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

The Greek word for put on carries the idea of putting on clothes or getting dressed.  Putting on these qualities is something Paul is instructing the believers to do.  God isn’t going to do this for them.  God isn’t going to make them instantly and perfectly compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, or patient.  These are skills the Colossians are going learn, practice, and develop. 

As our first son became old enough to toddle around, we began to teach him how to dress himself.  He didn’t put his shirt on right the first time he tried, either.  Sometimes his arm would go through the head-hole, which would lead to panic and tears as he tried to push his head through an arm-hole.  We would then help him back out and calm down.  Before trying again, we reminded him that if he felt stuck, all he needed to do was to ask one of us for help.

Different articles of clothing required the development of different hand-coordination skills.  While a t-shirt was more about gross motor skills, putting on socks required that different sections of the body had to work together.  Each article of clothing presented a new challenge, but after a short amount of time, he figured it out and could dress himself.

When we had our second child, the same getting-dressed skills needed to be taught to him, too.  I’m certain that we didn’t teach him in the exact same way as we taught his brother.  If he learned to put his socks on sooner than his brother did, that was great.  If it took him longer to learn how to shimmy his legs into pants, then that was ok, too.  These skills would develop the more he practiced it.  It also didn’t matter that it was easier for his brother to put his head in the shirt first, or that he preferred to put his arms in first.  The goal was the same – they both needed to put on their shirt.

I think the spiritual parallel is pretty obvious.  Paul lists out several characteristics that God wants believers to put on, but notice Paul doesn’t say exactly how the Colossians are to do it.  Maybe someone will learn how to put on heartfelt compassion while at work, and another believer will learn how to put on heartfelt compassion as they stop their busy lives for a moment to help a total stranger.

Perhaps putting on kindness comes naturally to you, but you struggle with patience.  When we see other believers being patient with their spouse, their children, or their circumstances…it’s easy to get down on ourselves.  We start feeling frustrated and stuck.  However, we shouldn’t be upset that someone else is better at putting on their socks than we are at this moment.  It’s in those moments we just need to ask our Daddy for help. 

With time and practice, we’ll learn how to put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Not only will we be dressed in them, but we will learn how they coordinate into something attractive and beautiful – they will be qualities that others see, qualities that point them toward our Savior.

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

Thwarted maturity

There is one word that strikes fear into the heart of every athlete.  As soon as the referee says this word, all their work, effort, and productivity comes to a screeching halt.  Having this word applied to you feels like a death sentence, and the stigma attached to it – especially when others find out – is equally crushing.

The last thing any athlete wants to hear is that they have been disqualified.  You can critique their form, give them low marks for execution, or even penalize them for their errors; but when an athlete is DQ’d, the competition, for them, is over.  To be disqualified is to be declared ineligible for the prize.

Earlier, Paul explained to the believers in Colossae that Jesus intends to take them from salvation to full maturity.  Our salvation is certain because it depends on Jesus.  However, Paul said that reaching maturity had some limiting factors based upon our choices and actions; there were conditions involved. 

Colossians 1:21-23
And you were once alienated and hostile in mind because of your evil actions.  But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him – if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith, and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard.

The word if shows that they can be disqualified from reaching full maturity.  A few paragraphs later, Paul explains how it can happen.

Colossians 2:18-19
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm and inflated without cause by his fleshly mind.  He doesn’t hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, develops with growth from God.

In Paul’s day, Jewish Occultism encouraged prayer to angels for protection, deliverance, or assistance.  They also believed that praying to the “right” angel was needed to thwart the advances of demons who were in charge of particular aliments of the body or problems in the home.  Additionally, the local Greek folk tradition placed significance on visionary experiences in connection with their spiritual practices.  Before we scoff at such primitive ideas, we need to remember that we come across similar teachings within Christianity when people are told to pray to their “guardian angel” or to a particular “saint” for protection.

Paul’s point is that these kinds of beliefs about angels and surface-level practices undermine Jesus’ authority in our lives.  Running to “angels” or “saints” or “visions” shows that we don’t think Jesus can handle what we’re dealing with at the moment.  How can we say that Jesus is the King of the Universe, but then look somewhere else for our well-being?

It’s these kinds of self-contradictions that shift us away from the full maturity Christ desires to develop in us.  We must remember it is not certain that, at the end of all things, we will be presented as holy, faultless, and blameless before Him.  If we are pronounced disqualified, then we are sure to miss out on some eternal rewards and opportunities to serve with Christ in eternity future.  

Unfortunately, it’s easy to get hung up on ascetic, good-looking practices that, in the end, pull us away from His plan for us.  However, we are not without help.  Jesus told His disciples to “Remain in Me” (John 15:4), not “remain in My angels” or “remain in visions”.  The One who was the start of our faith is the One who will mature it as well.  So let’s continue to trust Him and hold tight to Him.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

False "spiritual" paths

The path to maturity is riddled with detours.  Since our lives don’t travel a perfectly straight course, the detours sometimes look like the correct path.  Paul encouraged the Colossian believers to rely on Christ for both their salvation and maturity:

Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

After showing them the path to maturity, Paul gives the Colossians a specific warning about the kinds of ideas that will try to sway them away from the truth.  These ideas, and their sources, need to be carefully considered.

Colossians 2:8
Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.

Philosophy is a love of wisdom.  Notice that Paul isn’t saying that all philosophy is bad.  Instead, he is warning the Colossians that they need to be fully aware of a philosophy’s foundation.  If the wisdom we love is not based upon Christ, then we are loving an empty idol. 

However, this false-philosophy idol isn’t necessarily powerless.  In fact, Paul says that those whose teachings are not based on Christ will try to take you captive.  The Greek word for captive is a strong term that means to carry away, just like thief steals loot.  The thief takes what is valuable away from its proper place and carries it off to where it doesn’t belong.  Similarly, a philosophy based on human tradition will also do to us…it will carry us off to beliefs that are not Christ-like.

There are many false teachings around today that claim to show us how to become more “spiritual”; however, the best remedy has always been to rely on God’s Word alone to know what is pleasing to God.  Throughout the pages of Scripture, God has revealed that a “spiritual” person is someone who is like Christ.  Do we trust God enough to let Him make us Christ-like?  Or do we feel like we need to add other influences?

When we feel the need to add other influences besides God, what we’re really saying comes down to one of three options:

We think God might miss something that will make us into the person we were made to be. 
We believe that some other philosophy will be an acceptable short-cut to where God would eventually take us.
We just really like this other idea, and we’ll convince ourselves that God agrees with it.

As we navigate the path we’re on, we need to be certain that our philosophy, traditions, and driving forces in our lives are based on Christ.  To have any other foundation shows that either we’re not carefully considering the path we’re on, or that we’d don’t fully trust God with our lives in the here and now.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

 

Rooted and growing

I love word pictures.

Similes and metaphors have the incredible ability to communicate broad concepts in simple images.  We come across one of the most famous Biblical examples when we read about the psalmist’s desire for God:

Psalm 42:1
As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God.

The imagery is so strong that I honestly think he could have stopped the psalm right there.  We clearly understand the level of desire he is trying to communicate.  Later on, the psalmist also uses a metaphor to demonstrate how much he relies on God:

Psalm 42:9
I will say to God, my rock…

This comparison grabs our attention as well.  By referring to God as “my rock”, all the associated ideas of strength, stability, and reliability are understood.

This is why we need to pay attention to any word pictures that we come across when reading Scripture.  When we pause to consider what the imagery represents, we will get a fuller understanding of what the author is trying to communicate – and better understanding always leads to better application.

As Paul was encouraging the believers in Colossae to develop and mature in their relationship with God, he used two powerful metaphors.  The first one equated our relationship with Jesus to our walk, which carries the idea of us traveling together with Christ.  Take a look at these verses and find the second word picture.  It gives us the characteristics of how our walk should go.

Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Just in case the Colossian believers were wondering what their walk in Him should look like, Paul jumps to an agricultural metaphor to explain.  Clear images come to mind when he says that the path of our lives should be rooted and built up in Him.  This word picture makes it easy for us to take the concept of a tree driving roots deep into the ground for both stability and nutrients and associate it with the need for us to drive our own spiritual roots deep into Christ.

From the moment life bursts forth from an acorn, we have an oak tree.  It is weak and susceptible to damage from a variety of sources – weather, disease, other creatures, etc.  Its only hope of protecting itself is to establish roots.  Strong roots make a strong tree.  Weak roots make a weak tree.  As the oak tree’s roots find good soil and water, the tree can be built up and develop.

This metaphor is easily applicable to our lives.  From the moment we receive Jesus, we are a Christian.  But we are also weak and susceptible to damage from a variety of sources – life’s circumstances, poor teachings, other people, etc.  Our only hope of protecting ourselves is to establish roots.  As we are rooted and built up in Him, we can grow, develop, and be established in what we believe.

Pausing to consider this metaphor also gives us a chance to ask the question:

Am I making sure I’m rooted in Jesus?  What steps am I actively taking so I can walk in Him, and walk with Him?

Think about this today.  This word picture, and its implications, are worth meditating over.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Recognizing counterfeits

We’d all love to live life to the fullest, as God intends for us – complete, mature, and ready for good use under Christ’s leadership.  But often times it is a tough road to become mature and develop Christ-like character.  If only spiritual maturity were as simple as going a straight line from Point A to Point B, right? 

After describing his desire to have all believers reach maturity, Paul speaks about Jesus, and says

Colossians 2:3
In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.

And then Paul gives the Colossians a direct application of this foundational truth:

Colossians 2:4-5
I am saying this so that no one will deceive you with persuasive arguments.  For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the strength of your faith in Christ.

Paul is just one man, and therefore his ministry is limited to one place at a time.  At the time of this writing, he cannot be with the Colossians to personally protect them from the variety of nice-sounding, but very dangerous, false ideas about God that would come their way.  So Paul gives them encouragement for the ways they are currently guarding their faith.  However, he also gives them direction for how to continue to mature, despite the reckless ideas about God they will also encounter.

Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

The path to maturity and the path for protection against false teachings is actually the continuation in the direction they started with, to be in Christ.  Their relationship with God started with their faith in Christ, when they received Him as their Savior from sin’s penalty.  Remember, Jesus said to His disciples:

John 14:6
I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Jesus is the way to the Father.
Jesus is the truth of the Father.
Jesus is the life we are given from the Father.

That is why Paul tells the believers in Colossae to walk in Him.  Walk in His ways.  Walk in His truths.  Walk in His life.  This is the way we protect ourselves from false teaching about God.  We know the real God so well that we aren’t swayed away when the counterfeit philosophies come our way.

We don’t have to know all the variations and deceptions out there – we only need to know the truth, and continue to walk in Him.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Love, in context

Love.  Love.  Love.

We are very fascinated by the word, and the implications of what we think it is supposed to do in our lives.  We write songs that say we could live on love instead of money, or food, or air.  However, I would challenge anyone to pay their light bill with “love” and see how well that goes over.  Or better yet, try to sustain your body on “love” and skip your next 10 meals.  Similarly, we already know what would happen if we gave up breathing air and tried to breathe only “love”.

Each of these examples demonstrate the importance of context.  Nothing can be correctly understood outside its proper context – and “love” is no exception.  In fact, nowadays, we use “love” to mean such a wide variety of things, that our intended meaning can be easily misunderstood:

“I love chocolate.”
“I love your hair.”
“I love my wife.”
“I love politics.” (sarcasm there)

So clearly, “love” is only understood within the proper context.  As you read Paul explain his desire to have all believers reach full maturity, look for love’s context in the life of a believer:

Colossians 2:2-3
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.

When we in God’s family are encouraged and joined together in love, these actions and relationship characteristics are the riches of our assured understanding.  Growing in our own relationship with Jesus means that we grow in our understanding of who He is and what He means to us.  As this maturity happens, our actions will take on the love that He demonstrated.  The outpouring, or riches, of our understanding is found in the love we give to other believers.

And just to be clear…what is our understanding?  The Greek word used here carries the idea of a running or flowing together – much like the visual of two rivers flowing together.  What Paul is trying to convey is our assured understanding comes from our thoughts and choices merging with God’s flow and direction.

Paul’s words for the Colossians are also an echo of what Jesus told His own disciples:

John 13:35
By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

In its proper context of our knowledge of Christ and our relationship with God, love brings forth an unmistakable richness in believers that is so unique that it is recognized by everyone.

Let’s make sure our understanding and knowledge are grounded in Christ, so we can keep the most important love of all in its proper context.

Keep Pressing,
Ken