Pressing On


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

Filtering by Tag: wisdom

Buyers vs Sellers

The concept of buying and selling is inescapable in our culture.  There are shops set up everywhere we look, trying to entice us with items we may (or may not) need.  Radio, TV, and internet commercials are strategically placed to get a product in front of those most likely to be persuaded to buy them.  Even if you can’t afford to pay for something at the moment, there are traps…I mean, offers…to help you instantly increase your purchase ability.

But when you get right down to it, everything has an associated cost.  Even if we’re not talking about money, we view our time and effort in terms of being “spent” or “sold”.  We judge ourselves based upon how well we believe we have “spent” our time.  That’s also the concept behind getting paid for doing work.  I agree to “sell” you my time and efforts in exchange for $10/hour, $20/hour, or $100/hour…all depending upon the value you and I agree to for my labors.

The exchange of money or time or effort for something else comes down to a question of value.  And what we, as individuals, place value on will vary greatly.  How we perceive the value of an item or an experience is inherently subjective…and then throw in the clamoring of the marketplace, the influence of social media, on top of our own inner monologues…it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of our choices and options.

As always, God has stepped in to give us direction.  Toward the end of the book of Proverbs, we find this statement:

Proverbs 23:23
Buy – and do not sell – truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding.

The proverb has a genuine wisdom-feel to it, does it not?  Whether you read it or hear someone say it, it’s one of those statements where we can all solemnly nod in agreement…and then move on with our lives…

But how do we actually apply this concept of buy and selling when it comes to these elements? 

The easier of the two is the idea of buying.  So much so that you can probably answer right away.  The first way we can buy truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding is with our time.  Do we spend our time securing the truth, seeking wisdom and instruction, or prioritizing understanding?  Another piece of purchase power we have is our finances.  Would our spending habits reflect the pursuit of these things?

The idea of selling can be a bit of a head-scratcher until we remember that the act of selling is just like buying – it is an exchange of something we have in order to obtain something else.  Looking at our actions, do we find times where we’ve decided that life would be a little more convenient if we glossed over the truth?  Have we ignored wisdom because we really want the shiny object in front of us?  Have we replaced instruction and understanding with so-called “blissful” ignorance?

Additionally, whatever we would exchange truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding for would not be worth as much as those elements.  Could money or fame or more shiny stuff really make you better off if they were purchased at the cost of our truthfulness or good judgment?  In the long run, I think not…

The worst Biblical example of selling something valuable comes in Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome.  Paul is stating that those who reject God and His truth are living under His wrath now, in this present life.  In the midst of his discussion of those who make self-centered, unchecked-passion-driven choices, Paul gives this selling analogy:

Romans 1:25
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator…

What we prioritize and how we spend our time, talent, and treasure matters greatly.  Solomon wants us to recognize it and make choices accordingly:

Proverbs 23:23
Buy – and do not sell – truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding.

Keep Pressing,

Hurricane on the doorstep

Hurricane Florence is barreling its way toward the East Coast.  We’re in central North Carolina, so we’re inline for some weather.  No one really knows how bad it’s going to be or where the worst will end up happening, but we’ve been preparing all week as best as we can.

I’d like to share with you some of the things (among the many thoughts) I’ve been thinking these last few days:

·       On a daily basis, we are rather careless with our words, aren’t we?  This was the best dinner ever made.  That was the worst meeting in the history of meetings.  She’s clueless.  He’s stupid.  This Netflix show is the greatest thing ever invented.  However, for the aftermath of Hurricane Florence…the word “devastation” will not be an exaggeration.  That’s a tough word to say.  It’s tougher to witness.  It’s a word we’re afraid to live through.

·       For some people…eternity will begin this weekend.  No matter how many precautions we take, the unpredictableness and utter ferocity of the storm will certainly lead to people losing their earthly lives.  We’ve been preparing for this massive storm…seeking out information and supplies, and then making our best decision based upon what we’ve found.  But are we prepared for the most important event of our lives?  How have we responded to Jesus’ claims of being the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Me [John 14:6]?  Our acceptance or rejection of Jesus is the most important preparation decision we can make.

·       I keep coming back to the most famous line in Moses’ psalm:

Psalm 90:12
Teach us to number our days carefully
so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.

·       We may lose possessions when, or even after, Hurricane Florence makes landfall.  However, everything we own is ultimately destined for a garage sale, the garbage dump, or the recycle bin.  Our things won’t last, hurricane or no hurricane.  Even if we lose everything we own…there is a higher, more impactful, purpose for this life.  Sometimes, it takes a tragedy for us to see from that vantage point.  I wish it didn’t.

If you are not in this storm’s path, please petition God on our behalf.  Pray that He will be seen in the way His children handle this event.

If you are in any way affected by this storm – be wise.  Paul wasn’t directly discussing natural disasters, but his direction still applies:

1 Corinthians 10:31, 33
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God…not seeking [your] own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved.

How can we ride out, survive, shine, and rebuild from Hurricane Florence for the glory of God?  After all…everything means everything…even the hard circumstances.  So be wise and number your days carefully.

Keep Pressing,

Knowing when to give assistance

There is no shortage of people who need help.  No matter what lies the health-and-wealth teachers may tell, there are poor people in our churches who need help.  Whether due to circumstances beyond their control, circumstances which they created, or some combination of the two…there are needs all around us.

But how do we decide, who gets help…or who possibly “deserves” it more than someone else?  I have a tough time figuring that out as an individual, but have we considered how our church should be responding to assistance requests?  Logistically speaking, our churches have bills to pay, too.  So, it’s unrealistic to expect that every single request for support can or will be met at 100%.

Resources vs Needs isn’t a new problem for the church, either.  Paul addressed it with Timothy regarding the needs of widows in the Ephesian church.  Widowhood was a serious situation for women in the ancient world, since they were not typically the direct heir of husband’s will, and income generating options were limited, at best.  Additionally, if the husband was poor, he may not have left much for his wife to live on.

Her needs would be more significant than a one-time pantry-stocking trip to the local grocery store.  So how was Timothy to handle this significant of a request for continual support?

1 Timothy 5:3-4
Support widows who are genuinely widows.  But if any widow has children or grandchildren, they should learn to practice their religion toward their own family first and to repay their parents, for this pleases God.

Timothy’s first step is to thoroughly check for family.  I almost find it humorous that Paul says “Support widows who are genuinely widows”.  First step is to verify that her husband is truly dead.  The second step is check for extended family, especially if they are believers.  If they’ve been adopted into God’s family, then they have no excuse to skip out on taking care of members of their earthly family.  There were no assisted living homes and no hospice care in the ancient world.  The family’s care for the widow is an act of worship and respect toward God, which He finds pleasing because their actions are a reflection of his own.

1 Timothy 5:5-7
The real widow, left all alone, has put her hope in God and continues night and day in her petitions and prayers; however, she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.  Command this so that they won’t be blamed. 

The real widow, the one the church should consider helping is destitute and has no other family options.  In fact, she considers the church her last resort…notice that she goes to God directly and repeatedly before she approaches the church body with her need.

Paul also affirms that the widow’s lifestyle should be considered prior to giving assistance.  If she is living a self-indulgent lifestyle, then she probably won’t be wise with the funds the church may give her.  In this case, there are other issues to address that are greater than her immediate need.

Lastly, Paul gives an ominous warning:

1 Timothy 5:8
Now if anyone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Paul pulls no punches here, so let’s be as practical as possible:

If I have the resources to take care of my widowed mother, and I refuse to do so…which forces her to rely on support from the local church, using funds that should go to those who are genuinely in need…how is that not stealing from God? 

Clearly, this verse is addressed to believers, since the comparison is with an unbeliever.  So, denying the faith doesn’t mean that I would not be part of God’s family.  What it means is that I would be grossly hypocritical of the love and resources that God has extended to me.  God did not withhold His resources when I could not save myself.  How can I claim to be a part of His family and then have my actions deny the faith and relationship with God?  At least an unbeliever’s words and actions match up.  What damage am I doing to God’s reputation if I have no good reason to refuse to help?

Our application of this passage is two-fold:

If we have family members who are destitute, it is our responsibility to care for them – not the church’s.  This doesn’t mean we pay for all their bills each month, either.  “Destitute” means just that.  We should not be passing off our family’s financial burdens to our church family.

If the church is approached by an individual in great need, it is both acceptable and wise to evaluate the depth of that need.  It is also wise to evaluate the person’s lifestyle.  Financing someone’s irresponsibility is less loving than telling a person “No, we will not help you in this way”, especially if there are deeper needs to address.  If there are other avenues of help available, either through their family or other modern-day options, that is acceptable as well.

The problem of societal needs is not new.  However, we must be wise with how/when we support others.  Everything we do, whether we give assistance or refuse assistance, must be done within the context of reflecting God to others.

Keep Pressing,

Above all else, do this

Throughout the introduction to his Proverbs, Solomon encourages his son to grab ahold of his teachings.  Take a look at some of the words he uses to drive home the importance of his message:

Proverbs 4:20-22
My son, pay attention to my words; listen closely to my sayings.
Don’t lose sight of them; keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them, and health to one’s whole body.

We can plainly hear Solomon’s desire to impart what he has learned on to his son.  The phrases he uses communicate a strong urgency for his son to internalize his father’s wisdom:

Pay attention…listen closely…don’t lose sight…keep them within your heart

Solomon says phrases like these over and over, to drive home the importance of wisdom and its application.  However, with so many ways wisdom can be studied, considered, and applied…Solomon paused here a moment to tell his son what his number one priority should be.

Solomon uses a speaking technique that immediately draws a student’s focus in.  He stops the lesson long enough to state “If you forget to do everything else I say, do this:”.  Solomon flags this direction with the phrase above all else.  This is the only time in the book of Proverbs he says this phrase, so we know he means it above all else.

If you could only pass one idea about wisdom to a protégé, what would it be?

Would you tell him that wisdom will keep him safe from evil?
Would you tell her to avoid foolish people?
Would you say that wisdom must be pursued, that it doesn’t come easy?

Solomon says all these things, but that’s not what he says his son should consider above all else.  Solomon’s top wisdom priority is at a much deeper level.

Proverbs 4:23
Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.

The Israelites used the word for heart – leb – to refer to much more than just the organ beating inside your chest.  Similar to how we use heart in English, the Hebrew word referred to the inner self.  They considered the heart to be the seat of thought and emotion, including one’s conscience, courage, mind, and understanding.

This is the one thing that Solomon wants his son to protect and guard and keep safe…because if he loses his heart then he has ultimately lost himself.  If his son were negligent in protecting his heart or reckless with whom he allows to instruct his heart, then he would be easily corrupted.

A quick heart-check can go a long way, too.  Ask the person you are mentoring “How’s your heart?”  Then help them understand the importance of using God’s wisdom to guard their heart, to protect their identity and their source of life.

Keep Pressing,


Finding favor and respect

Mentors have the great privilege of teaching their protégé about the important lessons God has for us in this life.  The earlier we listen to our mentors; the better quality our lives will have.

David taught Solomon to have a strong desire to gain wisdom.  After he became a father, Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs to communicate the importance of wisdom to his sons.  Several times Solomon told his sons “don’t forget”.  For us, this phrase gives a hint as to what lessons Solomon considered highly important.

Proverbs 3:1-4
My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands;
for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being.

Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you.
Tie them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will find favor and high regard in the sight of God and man.

The Hebrew word translated as loyalty is hesedHesed means to have a zeal (in a good sense) in love and kindness toward any one; it especially refers to the grace, favor, and mercy God shows toward men or that one person may show to another.

The Hebrew word translated as faithfulness is emethEmeth means to be truthful, faithful, and reliable.  It refers to what one can rely on because it is stable.  As we read the Scriptures, we find that we can rely on God because He is stable and sure.

Solomon’s son would have recognized the phrase loyalty and faithfulness, for these words are often paired together throughout the Old Testament.  Most often they are used to describe God’s character.  Whenever Solomon mentions them together in the book of Proverbs, they are treated as high and excellent qualities.

Solomon wants his son to keep these two Godly qualities – hesed and emeth – permanently around him.  Around his neck, they would be ever-present to everyone; and yet as they are written on his heart, they would be ever-present inside of him.

The ultimate goal of wisdom is not to produce external adherence to a body of rules; rather, it is to internalize the principles in a way that produces Godly character.  Imitation is the highest compliment we can give someone, which is why we are constantly encouraged to imitate God.  We were made in His image, so let’s act like Him!

Think of all the ways God has been loyal and faithful, how He has shown you hesed and emeth.  That same regard we feel toward God, others will project toward us as we imitate Him.  God will favor those who honor Him.

That’s an important lesson for us to learn…and an important one to pass along to the next generation.

Keep Pressing,

Generational mentoring

A proverb is a saying that is usually rather short and easy to remember, but contains a profound nugget of truth.  This type of memory device is not unique to any particular culture.  In fact, we use plenty of them today. 

For example, we say things like “A stitch in time saves nine.”  This little phrase reminds us that taking care of an issue early will prevent us from having to do additional work in the future.

There are many proverbs in the Scriptures, in addition to an entire book of Bible being a collection of them.  Most Christians know that the majority of the wisdom sayings in the book of Proverbs were written by King Solomon.  However, do you know why Solomon brought together the collection of proverbs?

Solomon’s proverb collection doesn’t actually begin until Chapter 10, so Chapters 1 through 9 form an introduction to the proverbs.  It’s in this introduction that Solomon repeatedly states why he considers wisdom to be so important.  However, it’s equally clear that he had a specific audience in mind.

Nineteen times in Chapters 1 through 9 Solomon addresses either “my son” or “my sons”.  Take a look at a small sampling:

2:1  My son, if you accept my words…
3:1  My son, don’t forget my teaching…
4:20 My son, pay attention to my words…
5:7  So now, my sons, listen to me…

We can definitely see that Solomon’s heart is to mentor and develop his sons.  However, in one portion of the introduction, Solomon reveals how he learned about the importance of wisdom:

Proverbs 4:1-9
Listen, my sons, to a father’s discipline,
and pay attention so that you may gain understanding,
for I am giving you good instruction.
Don’t abandon my teaching.

When I was a son with my father, tender and precious to my mother,
he taught me and said:

“Your heart must hold on to my words.
Keep my commands and live.  Get wisdom, get understanding;
don’t forget or turn away from the words of my mouth.
Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you;
love her, and she will guard you. 

Wisdom is supreme – so get wisdom.
And whatever else you get, get understanding.
Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
if you embrace her, she will honor you.
She will place a garland of grace on your head;
she will give you a crown of beauty.”

Solomon knew the importance of wisdom because that is what he was taught.  King David instilled the lessons he learned into Solomon, who in turn passed these lessons down to his sons.  How each generation handled wisdom certainly varied, but they all knew of wisdom’s importance because its value was taught to them.

We don’t have to have the full wisdom of Solomon to be a mentor, either.  We just have to be willing to pass on what we have been taught.

Keep Pressing,

Doing too much?

Ever have that overwhelming feeling that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew?  If yes, you can relate to this story.

After the Israelites left Egypt, but before they received the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro met with them.  The night he arrived was filled with celebration for everything God had done to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians.  However, the next day Jethro noticed a problem – and took the opportunity to advise and mentor Moses:

Exodus 18:13-16
The next day Moses sat down to judge the people, and they stood around Moses from morning until evening.  When Moses’ father-in-law saw everything he was doing for them he asked, “What is this thing you’re doing for the people?  Why are you alone sitting as judge, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?”

Moses replied to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God.  Whenever they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I make a decision between one man and another.  I teach them God’s statutes and laws.”

Moses mistakenly believed that since God spoke to him and he was the one who knew God’s law the best, then he had to be the one to settle all the disputes among the people.  From the outside looking in, doesn’t it seem a little absurd that an 80-year-old Moses would try to justify being the only judge/advisor/teacher for 2 million people?

However, it probably started out small – with a few people bringing their issues to Moses.  He’s the God-appointed leader, so it would make sense to get his opinion and his decision.  However, by the time Jethro came to visit, the situation was well out of hand.  What’s important to note is that Moses’ mentor didn’t just point out what was wrong with the situation, but Jethro also offered a good solution:

Exodus 18:17-23
“What you’re doing is not good,” Moses’ father-in-law said to him.  “You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you.  You can’t do it alone. 

Now listen to me; I will give you some advice, and God be with you.  You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him.  Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do.

But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes.  Place them over the people as officials of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.  They should judge the people at all time.  Then they can bring you every important case but judge every minor case themselves. 

In this way you will lighten your load, and they will bear it with you.  If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home satisfied.”

After spending just one day observing Moses’ work schedule, it was quite apparent to Jethro that how Moses managed his responsibilities was not sustainable – Moses was getting worn out and it was impossible to decide on every person’s case every single day.

Isn’t that what happens to us?  How many times have we justified our unwillingness to delegate by saying:

If you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself

When we insist on lifting more weight than we can physically carry, we pull a muscle and have to be side-lined until the injury heals.  When we take on more responsibility than we are capable of handling, we will quickly become burnt-out, which also leads to being side-lined.  Jethro saw that Moses was heading straight for a burn out, and if that happened, Moses would no longer be an effective leader for the nation of Israel, nor would he be able to represent the nation to God.

As a mentor, Jethro stepped in at the right moment with the right advice.  Also notice that Jethro still left it up to Moses to decide how to handle the situation – he could continue on as he had, or he could humbly accept his mentor’s advice.

Afterward, Moses did exactly what Jethro suggested, and everyone benefited.  Moses’ example proves that we’re never “too old”, “too accomplished”, or even “too spiritual” to need wise counsel from a mentor.

Keep Pressing,

Talking with outsiders

No one likes a “know-it-all”.  Generally speaking, people do not mind if someone else has more knowledge, but the way a person handles themselves in light of that additional knowledge can make or break relationships.  Whether it’s among strangers or siblings, classmates or co-workers, no one appreciates being talked down to.  The subject matter could be of small consequence or something really important, but how something is communicated is as important as what is being communicated.

For those of us that have been following Christ for a length of time, there is a tendency toward smugness that will cause problems.  When we get comfortable going through the motions of living the “Christian life” instead of focusing on our relationship with God, we grow stale.  Our mindset and interactions with others will twist until we end up presenting a conceited, self-righteous version of Christianity.

A telling symptom of this stale-ness is found in how we interact with those outside of our Christian family.  What is our general attitude toward non-Christians?  While we know that they need Jesus, do our actions and attitudes invite them toward Jesus or push them away?  Do we speak at them with a lot of Christian-ese?  Do we belittle them because of their sin?

After spending most of his letter describing the wondrous relationship we now have with God and praising the Colossian believers for their great love for everyone in God’s family, Paul took a moment to give them a warning:

Colossians 4:5-6
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the time.  Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.

Those outside the faith need our wisdom and our gracious speech, not arrogant attitudes and put-down talk.  Being “better off” doesn’t make us “more important”.  In fact, many of the Bible’s authors gave warning against such self-righteous thinking.

Instead, gracious speech comes from a grateful mindset.  That’s why Paul has spent so much time writing about the greatness of Christ and the priority He should have in our lives.  When we have our relationship with God in its proper place, then our interactions with outsiders will begin to look and sound a lot like Jesus’ interactions with others.

Looking and sounding like Jesus will draw a lot of attention, people will take notice of the difference.  In order to be ready to answer each person, we should take the same attitude Daniel had when God told him the meaning of the king’s dream:

Daniel 2:30
As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but in order that the interpretation might be made known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.

Can you hear his humility?  Can you see how Daniel shifted the focus from himself and gave the credit to God?  When we have the opportunity to share the gospel with others, we should have the same attitude:

I’m not a Christian because I’m better than anyone else.  One day, someone told me that God loves me enough to die for my sins.  He loves you, too.  I’m just glad that I get to be the one to tell you about it.

Keep Pressing,

Recognizing cultural trends

My younger son and I went to a movie recently.  While we sat there waiting for the show, we were inundated with what seemed like a never-ending barrage of previews.  Trailer after trailer did its best to convince us that their show was the next movie we should be anticipating.  I don’t remember how many previews we saw – I wouldn’t be surprised if we hit double-digits – but I noticed a common thread among almost all of them:

Nearly every movie preview was about a person finding out they were part of a larger, hidden story.  And this hidden story was something they had always suspected, but finding out it was real still turned their world upside-down.

Whether the plot line contained science-fiction, horror elements, super powers, magic, or whatever…it was all different wrapping for the same idea: There is something greater than you going on, and you have a vital part to play in it.  Movies and entertainment have long been a mirror of inner thoughts and desires, and this theme of a great, adventurous story is resonating with many people. 

Being aware of the culture tendencies around us can show us ways to reach others with the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.  Take a look at the cultural theme Paul noticed when he was Athens:

Acts 17:16-23
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was troubled within him when he saw that the city was full of idols.  So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with those who worshipped God, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.  Then also, some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers argued with him.  Some said, “What is the pseudo-intellectual trying to say?”

Others replied, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign deities” – because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection

They took him and brought him to the Areopagus, and said, “May we learn about this new teaching you’re speaking of? For what you say sounds strange to us, and we want to know what these ideas mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners residing there spent their time on nothing else but telling or hearing something new.

Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens!  I see that you are extremely religious in every respect.  For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.  Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.”

From there, Paul went on to tell them about God’s plan for relationship with all of humanity.  During his speech he even quoted one of the Greek’s philosophers, saying that on at least one point, their philosophers got something right

Even though Paul was internally troubled by the idolatry in Athens, he didn’t blast them out of his frustration.  Instead, Paul met them where they were with the gospel and let them decide what to do with it.

Many years later, Paul wrote some instructions to the believers in Colossae:

Colossians 4:5-6
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the time.  Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.

The kind of wisdom Paul wants them to use is the same kind he did with the Athenians and that God does with us.  There were elements of truth in the culture around them, and the Colossian believers could use these touch-points to know how they should answer each person.

Our current culture is resonating with the idea that there is a larger story going on, and that they could have an important part in that story.  The thing is, they’re right.  They’re even more right than they know.  We just need to recognize these cultural trends and meet others where they are, with the good news of Jesus and the resurrection.

Keep Pressing,

Nice-sounding ideas about God

We don’t like the feeling of “not knowing”.  We try to figure out a story’s plot and guess who the villain is long before it is revealed.  Riddles bother us if we don’t get them right away.  Not satisfied with the information we’re given, we often look deeper, expecting to find people’s hidden agenda or motivations.

We are bothered the most when we don’t understand our current circumstances – when bad things happen to (seemingly) good people, when natural disasters ravage the land, or when nothing in life goes as we expect.  The desire to find meaning and understanding within the difficulties of life can make a person desperate enough that they listen to almost anyone who claims to have an answer or explanation.

This uneasiness is often preyed upon by other philosophies and religions.  They will claim that someone must go through their secret ritual initiation before they are accepted.  They claim that God is mysteriously distant or uninterested, unless we make ourselves good enough and devoted enough to get his attention.  Preying upon people’s feelings of inadequacy, they claim that only a select few – only those with secret knowledge – could understand the mysteries of God.

While their words may sound like help…they will actually take you hostage.

Paul had the same concern for the believers in Colossae.  He did not want their relationship with Christ to be usurped by manipulative teachers.  As you read Paul’s warning against these false teachers, look for how the Colossian believers are to protect themselves:

Colossians 2:2-4
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.  I am saying this so that no one will deceive you with persuasive arguments.

A little later, Paul warns them again:

Colossians 2:8-10
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.  For in Him the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily, and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

There are tons of nice-sounding ideas about God that are floating around the world.  Since most people understand that there is a spiritual aspect to life, many of these nice-sounding ideas pop up in our day-to-day conversations. 

How do we combat them all?  We can’t realistically study each one and find “the perfect rebuttal” to every philosophy and theory that comes along.  Instead, Paul directs believers to focus all of their attention back to one person – Christ.  In Jesus, we will find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge

Not in the next Christian-living best-selling novel.
Not in the next formula for how to make God answer your prayers.
Not in the next preacher who claims to heal everyone who has “enough faith”.

Remember that Satan quoted Scripture when he tempted Jesus.  Therefore, just being able to quote Scripture isn’t enough to protect us from false teachers.  Instead, we need to heed Paul’s advice and ensure that our wisdom, our knowledge, and our philosophy of life are based on Christ.

That is the check we need to use.  When presented with a nice-sounding concept about God, take an objective look at it, and ask:

Does this idea match up with who Jesus truly is…or is this idea based on a person’s tradition or maybe even their own wishful thinking?

Keep Pressing,

Walk this way

Spiritual gifts are meant to have physical impact.  God doesn’t give us grace, peace, wisdom, etc so that we can sit back and be comfortable.  Paul demonstrates this as he describes to the Colossians his prayer requests about them.  Look at the verses below and notice what Paul is requesting from God, but also look for why Paul wants God to give them these things:

Colossians 1:9-10
For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you.  We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.

Paul requested that God would fill the Colossians to the brim with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.  As comforting as that sounds, Paul expected that there would be a practical, physical result of these believers growing closer to God – namely, that their lives would begin to reflect their relationship with God.  To walk worthy of the Lord means that the believers in Colossae would conduct their lives in a way that would point to God and bring honor to Him. 

Shortly after my oldest son started his first job, I received an Instant Message from a co-worker I had never met.  Her message was both short and striking:

Good afternoon, I wanted to let you know that I met your oldest son today on my lunch break.  You should be very proud – he is a great young man.

After interacting with my son, she was so impressed with his conduct and helpfulness that she felt the need to seek out his father.  When our children follow through on the instruction we’ve given them, they bring recognition and a good reputation to our family name.  When we hear back from others – whether it is from people we know well, or from complete strangers – that our kids are making wise choices and are conducting themselves in this way, we receive honor as their parents.

The spiritual parallel is obvious.  Our walk and our fruit in every good work need to point others back toward our Heavenly Father.  Paul knows this, and as such, he prays that the Colossians may be filled with the knowledge of His will.  When we know God well, we know how to represent Him well – and those around us will take notice and seek the God we serve.

Paul’s desire for the believers in Colossae to walk worthy of the Lord mirrors what Jesus said during His sermon on the mount:

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Do others see our Father in heaven based upon how we walk through each day?  If not, what are we being filled with…the knowledge of His will or something else?

Keep Pressing,