Tag Archives: Paul

Don’t Quit

When I read a novel, I tend to skip those little quotes and  poem thingies at the beginning of the chapters.  Most of the time I don’t understand them; they leave me confused and feeling ignorant.  I want to say, “Enough with these inscrutable quotes! Let’s get on with the story, already.”  There are sections of the Bible that make me restless, too. In the final paragraphs of Colossians (Colossians 4:7 ff), Paul gives final greetings and instructions to specific people that don’t seem to mean much to me, 2000 years later. 

But this morning, as I read those verses, I was struck by how passionate and unstoppable Paul was.  His last few sentences are filled with words like “struggle,” “encourage,” “fellow workers,” sending,” etc.  The last verse reads:

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.  –  (Colossians 4:18)

Very likely, Paul dictated most of his letters because he had a physical handicap with his eyes.  Also, he was chained up as a prisoner. He had two good excuses to give it a rest.  But he was absolutely consumed with the urgency of telling people about Jesus.  As he wrote earlier in the letter,

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.  (Colossians 1:29)

What’s the deal?  Why was Paul so passionate?  My guess is it had a lot to do with his being personally visited by Jesus as he traveled to Damascus (see Acts 9:1 ff).  Jesus showed up, blew his mind and changed his whole outlook.  So Paul had first–hand proof Jesus knew where he was and what he was doing.

Well, so what?  What’s that have to do with us? There is a good chance that Jesus has personally visited you with proof of Who He is and has changed your whole outlook, too.  Maybe He didn’t blind you with intense light, but if you reflect on what He did do, the circumstances that led to your personal conversion, you will probably see they were arranged for you. Your Savior knew where you were and what you needed.  He still does.  He also knows what He has equipped you to do. Let the truth of that motivate you. Tell others how wonderful it is to know and follow Jesus.

But, maybe you have not experienced such a personal “visit” from Jesus.  If so, and if you are open to it, let down your defenses and pay close attention.  Jesus will show up in a way that will rock your world.  You can count on it because He knows you, loves you, and knows what you need.

Too Much, Part 2

Cramming for a final is like trying to put packing peanuts back in the box.  Put one back and two or three pop out.  Our brains can only hold so much.  There are some things too vast to fit in such a limited space.

Jesus’ love is one of those.  (If you haven’t read the previous post, scroll down to read it first)  It’s too much to comprehend, without a supernatural power boost from the Spirit of God.  But God gives that boost, not so we will have more information.  It’s not so we will have the answers to pass a test.  It’s for something that surpasses the mere possession of more facts.  Paul prays for believers to be strengthened to more fully understand the enormity of Christ’s love, SO THAT THEY MIGHT…

…  know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  –   (Ephesians 3:19b)

Read that again.  Let it sink in.  The more we know the love of Jesus, the more we become filled with the essence of God!   The “fullness of God” is manifested in the astonishing love of Jesus.  And we are meant to be filled to the brim with His “fullness,” so our lives would demonstrate His love, His essence, too.

If you are thinking, “No way I could ever pull that off,” remember, this is a prayer for God to do it!   And Paul wraps up this prayer with this encouragement:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  –  (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Know Better

You say, “I’ll pray for you,” but then, what do you ask in your prayers?  “Lord, please bless Amy, please heal her foot…”?  Something like that?  Me too, most of the time.  That’s what makes this prayer of Paul so startling and attractive to me:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  (Ephesians 1:17)

Here’s my hunch:  When we need prayer, when we struggle or suffer or lack certainty, if we could somehow really know God as He truly is, know Him at that moment of need, it would make things much better.  It might satisfy us.  I suspect Paul understood that from personal experience.

Chew on that.  See if it doesn’t taste good and nourish.

One Tool

The biggest Swiss Army knife would never fit in your pocket.  It is 9″ wide and weighs 2 pounds.  It has 141 different tools folded up in it, including a hook dis-gorger and a snap shackle.  If you bought it, you might have more room in your pocket though, because it lists for $2100.  I suppose this thing is a joke, but before it went to seed, the idea of having one tool with which you could do most things was attractive.

Paul lists a bunch of new behaviors for followers of Jesus to put into practice:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.   –  (Colossians 3:12-14a (NIV)) 
That’s quite a list – a nice list, to be sure – but a lot to remember.  And, even at that, it is not comprehensive; it doesn’t include everything for us with which to “clothe ourselves”.   However, there is a “Swiss Army Knife” of attitudes for Christians, one tool for most circumstances.  Here’s the rest of what Paul wrote:

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  –  (Colossians 3:14b)

If you understand that love is an act of will with which I put away my self-interest to minister to what you need, all of the attitudes listed in the first passage really are bound together under the one tool called love.  Better yet, you will discover that “Love” fits in your pocket.  It’s not free however; it costs you, maybe even more than $2100 in some circumstances.  But it is a great tool, worth much more than the biggest Swiss Army Knife.

Soul Mechanic

A mechanic told me the air conditioner on the engine of my old RV was shot and would cost over $2000 to fix.  After one summer trip across the Midwest, I was ready for a second opinion.  I found a guy who was a certified instructor for truck mechanics.  He fixed my a/c for $200 and it has been working fine ever since.  It is tough to know who to trust when your truck breaks down.  It boils down to who has the best information and training.  And the stakes can be pretty high.

The stakes are much higher when your communication with God has broken down, when you need a “soul mechanic.”  I did a quick Google search for “spiritual advisor near me.”  I got 261,000 options, from psychics to witches, faith healers and such.  With such a variety, how do you know who to trust?  Here’s what you need to know: Basically, all “soul mechanics” can be sorted into two categories: those who base their teaching on human opinions and Jesus.  Paul compares the two like this:

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

But what makes Jesus’ teachings more trustworthy than all the others?  It is the Source of His information.  The good mechanic got his information directly from the actual manufacturers of the equipment, passing their tests, so he would be qualified to train other mechanics in a reliable way.  That other guy was just guessing.  What is the Source of Jesus’ information?

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,” (Colossians 2:9,)

Nobody else comes even close…  Who will you trust?

Quotes:  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Plus Nothing

The man was beat up badly for telling people about Jesus.  And then thrown in prison.  You might think he’d have taken a break and used the time to rest up.  But not Paul.  He said:

“I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.” (Colossians 2:1)

Struggling?  The word he used gives us our word for agonizing.  In jail?  Doing what?  Praying.  Not just “Now I lay me down…”  but agonizing over these folks in prayer – people he had never met!  Why?  What was so important that, even though he couldn’t be there personally, he worked hard in prayer for them?

Turns out, the problem was human ideas were creeping into their understanding.  People who loved to be in positions of authority and control over others were teaching them a bunch of nonsense.  Religious nonsense.  It sounded good.  But it was leading them farther and farther away from what they really needed to know.

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)

Think about the simple but reverent lifestyle and teaching of Jesus.  Compare that simplicity to what the various forms of Christianity have become!  What has changed?  Human ideas have been added, ones that seem good because they sound religious, but which dilute and pollute the essence of what it means to follow Jesus.  Think of the lavish architecture, the costumes, the ritual and the extravagance.  Think of all the rules and regulations that have been layered on the simple message of Jesus.  This distortion in the name of Jesus has been going on from the very earliest days of the church.  Paul couldn’t be there to rail against it, so he agonized in prayer for them.  And he wrote to them:

“I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” (Colossians 2:4)

God loves you.  Your sins have separated you from Him.  He wants to forgive you and reconcile you to Himself.  He has paid the penalty for your sin, on your behalf, by the crucifixion of His Son, Jesus.  Stop trying to fix yourself and trust Jesus instead.  Surrender to Him and He will come and live in your soul by His Spirit.  In Him you have “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  If you have His life in you, that’s all you need.  Plus nothing.


Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

More than You Can Imagine

You prayed for me last week and I felt it.  Thank you.  Your prayers lifted my heart and sustained me more than any of us could have imagined.  I don’t know how prayer works, but it does.  I don’t know how gravity works, either, but I have learned to trust it.  In truth it is not the prayer that works, but God, Who hears and acts.  It is a great mystery that the God Who could speak light into existence, invites us to join Him in His work by speaking with Him.  I cannot wrap my mind fully around that.  But I am grateful that you didn’t let the mystery of it stop you.  You prayed for me.  It helped.

When Paul needed prayer, he wasn’t just grieving, he was pursued daily by people who were trying to kill him.  He called his situation “deadly peril” – an understatement.  He wrote:

“He [God] has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:10-11)

If you ever wonder if it matters when you pray, then take this expression of thanks as an encouragement.  It does matter; it matters more than you can imagine.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Jamming in God’s Band

If you have been following these posts, you know I’ve compared “dead” humans to dead cell phones that have lost their signal. (You can read all the posts in the right order HERE. In Isaiah 57:15, God said He wants to connect us to the signal of His Spirit and “revive us,” bring us to life.  (See “In a Nutshell”)  The problem with that analogy is that humans think and decide; cell phones are machines and only do what they are told.  God did not create us to be robots who blindly follow rules, but to be connected to Him by His Spirit in a harmonious way.  Here’s how He described the process of “reviving” us to Ezekiel:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:26-27

God’s plan is not to control us like machines, but to “move us,” from the inside out, by giving His Spirit in us to motivate our new, responsive hearts.  See that?  Here’s how Paul describes it:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will,  Romans 12:2

The end result of this process of being “revived” by God’s Spirit, is not to become automatons who woodenly follow God’s rules, but living beings who, by being in tune with God, act in sympathy with His principles.

A shot from a 2006 performance by Peter Brötzm...

A shot from a 2006 performance by Peter Brötzmann, a key figure and doyen in European free jazz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time for a different analogy:  Beginning music students study and practice scales, because in music, scales are the “rules.”  Accomplished jazz musicians improvise in harmony with one another, not by playing scales, but by following the principles of the scales to make their music “work” together.  When a jazz musician plays a solo in a particularly harmonious and exciting way, the others say “That was righteous!”  God isn’t looking for robotic obedience to the rules, He’s looking for people who are in harmony with Him and with His principles, so much so that the way they improvise in life is “righteous.”

Chew on that…