Cookie Cutters?

Romans 12:4 “We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us had the same function, same mindset, same gifts and talents as each other? Wouldn’t that make life easier? I know we say (and hopefully tease), “If only [insert name or group] would think (or act) just like me, then everything would be right.” After all, I am the one that is always right, correct?

Sometimes I believe we slip into the mindset and attitudes that it would be so much better if everyone else acted and thought just like we do. One of the beauties of the creativeness of God is how much diversity is out there for us to enjoy. Let’s be honest, we like diversity and can get a little bored of the same thing over and over. We like to make choices.

We are not all “cut out of the same mold.” We are all created individually with specific gifts, talents, interests, preferences, etc. This is one of the beautiful parts of our world – how much diversity there is. Yes, we all have differing gifts and talents. Yes, we live in different communities and countries. But I believe this shows the creativity of God.

What this tells me is that we are all part of the same “body.” I also think of this as community of faith or universal church. The body of Christ is the church here on earth. Each part of the body has different functions, and this is what makes the body work.

The challenge I think we have today is to think about the diversity there is around us and how we are really all (hopefully) working toward the same goal. There are people we do not agree with; but this is an opportunity to be thankful and praise God for their gifts and talents being used to build the Kingdom of God here on earth. You and I have a great part to play, even though we may have different functions.

God should be praised daily for the diversity.

Self-Reflection

God has given each one of us gifts. How we utilize these gifts helps expand the Kingdom of God here on earth because we allow others to experience this life. One of our challenges is to be humble about our gifts and use them accordingly. This means that we should do some reflection of ourselves.

Romans 12:3 says, “Because of the grace that God gave me, I say to each one of you: don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think. Instead be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you.” Humility. What exactly is this? Paul writes to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to.

I believe we can easily have a false sense of humility. Often times, we hear people saying things to downgrade their performance or attire just show people don’t think they’re arrogant. The conversation would go something like this:

Person 1 : “You are an amazing artist!”

Person 2: “Well, you know, it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Here we have a person giving a genuine complement and the other person trying not to take the complement. We do the same thing with clothes. “This old thing? I just pulled it out of the closet today and put it on.” What we are thinking through these conversations is “Heck yeah I’m awesome! Do you know how long I worked on this?” Or “I know this outfit makes me look good, that’s why I’m wearing it.”

To have a better sense of humility, we could know what we are good at and use it for the glory of God instead of giving ourselves praise and glory. So the reality is that humility is “not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” This means that we are drawn to give credit and attention to the One who gave us the abilities.

Another sense of the Romans 12:3 verse I have been thinking about deals with how we treat other people. If we are to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to, then we should treat others as equals as well. God has given grace to those around us, even if we can’t see it. For us to live this way, we allow others the chance to share ideas, thoughts…basically life; and also we do not dismiss someone’s idea because it is not like ours.

Jesus Christ is asking us to live lives that reflect the God we serve, “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other. (John 13:35 CEB)” and also “Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. (Matthew 5:48 CEB)”

This is no small task. Can we do this on our own? Yes; but only for a very short while. We can accomplish this when we allow the Spirit of God into our lives to transform us and mold us into the new creations we were meant to be. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Truthfully, I do not live up to this as I would like. But we can all grown and learn together. How will you allow the Holy Spirit to transform you today and this week to make a difference in another person’s life so they can experience the Kingdom of God right here, right now?

New Attitude and Thinking

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Colossians 3:5-11 So put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth, such as sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). The wrath of God is coming upon disobedient people because of these things. You used to live this way, when you were alive to these things. But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. Don’t lie to each other. Take off the old human nature with its practices and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. In this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people. 

Click here for Colossians 3 in context

This is a point that Paul is trying to make in all of his letters to the different churches. I find it interesting that he has to remind the people over and over again to put aside things of the world and live the life of Jesus Christ. It almost seems as though the people would remember they are new creations because of Christ. It seems like we should remember this as well.

How easy it is to fall back into the old temptations and old ways of living. The pull of physical satisfaction is great and we can forget that we are new creations, that we have a new mind because we have died with Christ. The actions and attitudes that Paul describes “sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry)…anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language” are things that we should not allow to control us or define our lives.

The world around us says differently though. The world around us says it is the most important thing in life to make sure the physical desires and wants are satisfied and taken care of. But, if we have died with Christ, these actions and attitudes should not be part of our lives. The reason? Sin does not do really anything except tear down. We are called to build people up and help them live as Christ is desiring them (and us) to live. The other reason I can see is that these actions and attitudes listed really come from selfishness. We are called to the body of Christ which means that we all have a part to play and each person is important. We look for ways to love people, even when it hurts or is difficult.

Paul reminds the readers, and us, that in Christ we are all one. There is no distinction between groups. Christ is in all things and situations. Christ is in all people. He gets the glory and we can praise Him even when people do not do what we ant them do to. We can love those who do not act lovable. We can do all of this because Christ brings us together. Many parts, one body.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist

Higher Thinking

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Colossians 3:1-4 Therefore, if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side. Think about the things above and not things on earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

When I read this passage that Paul wrote to the people of Colossae, I think about this quote from C.S. Lewis, “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.” It is a good reminder to know where we should keep our perspective.

We can easily look at the situations and events that are happening here on earth. If we have “died with Christ,” then we have a higher purpose for doing work in the world. It is so easy to try and fix the situation by forcing people to act a certain way, or even to try and degrade people for not doing what should be done and treating people the way they deserve to be treated. I do not believe anyone deserves to be treated unfairly. I do believe we should always look to the heart of the matter whenever we step in to try and help.

In 1 Samuel 16:7b says, “God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.” We often only try to fix what we can “see.” What we can’t see are the motivating factors behind the actions of people. This is where we should begin. To “think about things above and not things on earth,” to me, means that we should look at the world through the eyes of Christ. We look to see how we can lead people to faith in Christ. Then we continue to walk alongside them as they are being transformed into the new creations. Then, because of their faith in Christ, and walking with Christ, the love of Christ can be poured out through them.

“Thinking about things above” gives us a greater appreciation and respect for how God views the world. We then will be able to get to the heart of the matter (the human heart) and work with God on the heart, then the human condition can be improved. If we just try to fix the actions without looking at the motives, we could miss the point.

Go to the heart of the matter and see how Christ works in and through you. Give Christ the glory today for how He is changing you and I to be instruments of change in this world.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist

Wants & Desires

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Colossians 2:20-23 If you died with Christ to the way the world thinks and acts, why do you submit to rules and regulations as though you were living in the world?  “Don’t handle!” “Don’t taste!” “Don’t touch!” All these things cease to exist when they are used. Such rules are human commandments and teachings. They look like they are wise with this self-made religion and their self-denial by the harsh treatment of the body, but they are no help against indulging in selfish immoral behavior.

The part I feel I should focus on today is the first verse: “If you died with Christ to the way the world thinks and acts, why do you submit to rules and regulation as though you were living in the world?”

There are so many “rules and regulations” that we place on ourselves and on other people.

Go this way.

Do this.

Act this way.

Achieve this.

Don’t do that.

Follow these steps.

I’m sure each one of us has heard statements like this and with more detail. Jesus Christ does not place any stipulations on receiving Him and the grace He offers. Well, there is one stipulation. We have to die with Christ. So, what does this mean? I’m sure there are many people who will give several different explanations. Here is what this speaks to me.

To die with Christ does not mean we give up our lives. I don’t even think it means to give up our desires and wants. What I do think it means is that what we desire actually shifts to what Christ desires. When we die with Christ we begin to look at the world as He looks at the world. Christ sees the brokenness in the world and still died for the world.

How do we view the world? Do you see the world as a mess that cannot be fixed? Or do you see the possibilities of reconciliation and allow the heart (love and grace) of Jesus Christ to enter into your life so you will be able to sacrifice personal wants and desires to benefit the Kingdom of God? We can also shift the focus and motivation for our wants and desires and use them for Kingdom work. We die to ourselves meaning we take the focus off of ourselves and place the glory and focus on Jesus Christ.

The rules and regulations of the world do not deter us from doing what Jesus wants and desires for us. We just shouldn’t allow the rules and regulations to hold us back. Jesus has a great plan for your life. It starts with dying with Christ.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist

Higher Grounds

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Colossians 2:16-19 So don’t let anyone judge you about eating or drinking or about a festival, a new moon observance, or sabbaths. These religious practices are only a shadow of what was coming—the body that cast the shadow is Christ. Don’t let anyone who wants to practice harsh self-denial and worship angels rob you of the prize. They go into detail about what they have seen in visions and have become unjustifiably arrogant by their selfish way of thinking. They don’t stay connected to the head. The head nourishes and supports the whole body through the joints and ligaments, so the body grows with a growth that is from God.

Paul is wanting to be clear of the point he is making: stay grounded in Christ and firm in your faith. He wants to make sure that when the time comes people make fun of ceremonies you or I do or do not participate in that we will stand firm in our belief in Christ. Several of his letters seem to address similar situations. Everything we do should reflect Christ, not cast a shadow over the message.

There will be people we encounter who say we have to do certain rituals, or act a certain way to worship Christ. Paul says the people will even go into detail and become arrogant that they have had certain experiences and others have not. We are all on the same playing field because of Jesus Christ. This means that Christ is not looking for specific acts of worship. Although He is looking for us loving each other and showing love toward others to prove we are His disciples. Christ is simply asking us to follow Him and Him alone. He is not looking for anything we can use to justify our faith, He just wants our faith and love.

It is easy to say that other people are the ones who need to watch their arrogance; but this applies to us also. Our lives are meant to glorify Jesus Christ in all we say, do, even think. We stand on a higher ground, not because we want to be better than anyone else; but so we can be sure to be close to Christ in all we do.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist

Life After Life

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Colossians 2:6-15 So live in Christ Jesus the Lord in the same way as you received him. Be rooted and built up in him, be established in faith, and overflow with thanksgiving just as you were taught. See to it that nobody enslaves you with philosophy and foolish deception, which conform to human traditions and the way the world thinks and acts rather than Christ. All the fullness of deity lives in Christ’s body. And you have been filled by him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. You were also circumcised by him. This wasn’t performed by human hands—the whole body was removed through this circumcision by Christ. You were buried with him through baptism and raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead because of the things you had done wrong and because your body wasn’t circumcised, God made you alive with Christ and forgave all the things you had done wrong. He destroyed the record of the debt we owed, with its requirements that worked against us. He canceled it by nailing it to the cross.When he disarmed the rulers and authorities, he exposed them to public disgrace by leading them in a triumphal parade.

I always think and believe it is awesome whenever a person accepts Jesus Christ as Lord. One of the things I have in mind is that I would like to see how this new relationship is going to change the person so God is placed as the central focus of their life.

Truthfully, this is something I struggle with daily because it is so easy to get caught up in what is going on in the world. The feeling felt at the time, and even right after, accepting Jesus Christ can quickly fade as we get back into our “normal” day to day routines. This is where we’ll forget that God is our central focus and that we are actually called to be different from the culture.

Being different from culture does not mean that we degrade others for not believing, or by living a certain way. Nor does it mean that we exclude ourselves and become hermits. Instead, we live in the culture but we do not allow the popular opinions and thoughts to govern how we think and how we act. It can be so easy to follow the crowd; but what if the crowd was walking toward a cliff?

Paul is reminding us that it is Jesus who fills us and that is where we govern our lives from. I have heard a person say “don’t let a book written by men influence how you live your life.” When I hear quotes like this, I am reminded how people have used the Bible to tear down other people who do not believe the same things or live the same way. Quotes like this actually make me sad, because it is also clumping Jesus into this thought.

I believe Jesus changes people. When we allow Christ into our lives we do live differently and the people around us will take notice. We are not the same people as we were before we encountered Christ as we are today and we should be careful to remember that Jesus Christ has made and is continually making us into new creations. We no longer have to live in fear of our past. We live because of the hope we have in Jesus Christ. We continue to have life after we have accepted the life in Christ.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist

Life’s Journey

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Colossians 2:1-5 I want you to know how much I struggle for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who haven’t known me personally. My goal is that their hearts would be encouraged and united together in love so that they might have all the riches of assurance that come with understanding, so that they might have the knowledge of the secret plan of God, namely Christ. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in him. I’m telling you this so that no one deceives you with convincing arguments, because even though I am absent physically, I’m with you in spirit. I’m happy to see the discipline and stability of your faith in Christ.

This is such a rick passage that I cannot really do it justice in the space I’ll be writing today. As Paul is in prison while writing this, he wants the people to know how much he is struggling for them. Reading this in context of the entire letter, it seems like he is struggling in his spirit because he is praying for them and desires for them to be mature disciples of Jesus Christ. I would think that it is difficult for him not to be present with them, thus his struggling.

I also think it is remarkable about who he is concerned about. He is not just concerned about those who know him, who have listened to him, who love him. He is concerned for those who haven’t been reached yet, those who do not yet know him. This is a great reminder that I need to be concerned about those I am interacting with daily right here, right now; but it is also a reminder to be concerned about and pray for those I have not yet encountered. Pray for God to open doors to the lives of those who are going to intersect the path God has me on.

Our goal should be to encourage people to be engaged with the message of Jesus Christ that unifies them with the Spirit of God; but also our goal is to work with people to bring unity and peace wherever we are. This unity begins with the knowledge of Christ, that really is not a secret, just hard to understand at times. As we learn more about Christ, then somehow the treasure is opened and released to us. This is not the treasure that is material. This treasure is spiritual. We, individually and collectively, receive this treasure as we open our hearts to God.

There are people who come along and sound convincing about “other truths” about Jesus Christ. This is not really what we should be listening to. Paul reminds his readers in 1 Thessalonians to “test the spirits.” We are to test whether or not someone is speaking the truth about God to us. We can do this through prayer, personal study, speaking with others mature in their faith. This is so we do not get led astray and go off on a life journey that God never intended for us to be on.

We cannot be with those we teach and disciple all of the time; but we can be with them in spirit. We can be with them by keeping them in our minds and finding ways to check up on them. We can also be in prayer for them. Our challenge today is to think of someone who may not know Christ, or who is struggling either in their faith or in their life. Pray for them and ask God to do a great work in their lives. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the person who God uses to walk with that person/people on their journey. This give Jesus Christ glory because we do this in His name and not for our recognition.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist

Ministry

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Colossians 1:24-29 Now I’m happy to be suffering for you. I’m completing what is missing from Christ’s sufferings with my own body. I’m doing this for the sake of his body, which is the church. I became a servant of the church by God’s commission, which was given to me for you, in order to complete God’s word. I’m completing it with a secret plan that has been hidden for ages and generations but which has now been revealed to his holy people. God wanted to make the glorious riches of this secret plan known among the Gentiles, which is Christ living in you, the hope of glory. This is what we preach as we warn and teach every person with all wisdom so that we might present each one mature in Christ. I work hard and struggle for this goal with his energy, which works in me powerfully.

Working in the church is hard work. Being in mission and ministry with people is tough. It can often feel like we are the ones suffering. Even though we are the ones walking with those suffering, it can be real to us. We also may really be suffering physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally. However we view the work, one thing is certain: it truly is a joyful thing to be in the business of God and of people.

Not all of us may be pastors, but we are all ministers and missionaries. We are ministers because we can walk alongside people through life in any situation. We are missionaries because we are all ordained to take the message of Jesus Christ to all we encounter. We do not have to go out of town, out of state or even out of the country to talk with people about Jesus Christ. We can do that right in our own homes, neighborhoods and businesses. We may be harassed because of our faith or because of our views; but we should still be joyful in delivering the message of God’s grace through Jesus Christ to all we encounter, no matter how they react.

Sometimes it may seem to other people that we are carrying a “secret message” from God. The reason, I believe it is a secret is because heart may not be open to hearing and receiving the message. So what do we do? We pray for God to act. God acts. We work where God is working because God is working everywhere and we have prayed to have open eyes and hearts to see what God is doing where we are.

Ministry is hard work; but it is also very rewarding spiritually. We’ll end this post today with the last verse of this chapter: “I work hard and struggle for this goal (teaching and warning people) with his energy, which works powerfully in me.”

#ToTheGloryOfChrist

Take Away Everything…What’s Left?

We plan and plan and plan. We attempt to bring the best that we can to whatever event or party we throw. We’ll get anxious is something doesn’t go right, if something doesn’t go according to plan. What do we do? I have tried to figure out how to make things happen in the midst of situations not working out. I have often wondered “what now?” or even “what’s left that I can add to make this successful?”

I have even tried to plan for the future and things fall away or I have to change my plans with a quick decision. I often wonder if I made the right decision or not. I will even go through a period of doubt when it comes to planning events at the church. Am I doing enough to attract all different people? Do we have enough offered? Is there enough to hold their attention and satisfy their physical hunger? It is difficult to do everything to please everyone.

A couple years ago, we were planning a revival service for the community. In the planning process I began to wonder “what if we didn’t have all the games, the light, the stage, the food, etc.?” Then, in a time of personal prayer before I would leave to go to the planning meeting, something dawned on me. What would be left if everything was taken away? What would be left?

Take away the food. Take away the games. Take away the stage, the lights, the sound system. What would be left?

I began to think about this more and more and then I felt drawn to Colossians 1 where these words are written:

Colossians 1:15-20 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the one who is first over all creation, Because all things were created by him: both in the heavens and on the earth, the things that are visible and the things that are invisible. Whether they are thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities, all things were created through him and for him. He existed before all things, and all things are held together in him. He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the one who is firstborn from among the dead so that he might occupy the first place in everything. Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him, and he reconciled all things to himself through him—whether things on earth or in the heavens. He brought peace through the blood of his cross.

So, if all of the frills and entertainment were gone, what would be left? Jesus would be there! He is the basis for us doing what we do. He is the focal point for all of our tasks, projects, life goals, relationship goals. If all of our comforts and entertainment were taken away, Christ would be there. So a question I have to answer (and I believe we all should look at how we answer) is “if it is only Jesus, is this enough?” That’s a convicting question. If Jesus is enough, then everything else will be used for His glory and bringing people to faith in Him. If the “stuff” and planning is required to make Jesus more attractive and entertaining to others, we may be putting more faith in our abilities.

Trusting in Christ is difficult at times because we want to know everything we should do and how we should do it. But, Christ doesn’t work that way. His call is to simply follow Him. If we stay connected to Him, everything else seems to fall into place. We will not always have people understand why we are doing what we’re doing. But Jesus is enough. He has been enough from the beginning and holds everything together.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist

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