Singular Focus

We all like to multitask. This seems to help us get a lot of things done in a faster amount of time. We’ll even multitask when talking with people. It is common to see people texting one person and having verbal conversation with another. Our minds drift and at the end of the day, doesn’t it seem as if we did not get as much completed as we wanted to?

As a pastor, one of the things I try (key word: “try”) to do is spend a little bit of time each day in silence and just focusing on one thing. Now, I understand there are people out in our society that do not think there is enough time in the day to spend in quiet. Or there is too much noise. Or they (we) try to be busy for the sake of busyness. For all people who tell me they do not have time to spend apart, or take time out of their day for mediation or daily devotional so, I tell them I understand!

Family responsibilities (my wife and children take time), church responsibilities, social responsibilities. I almost feel like I’d have to wake up at 3:00 am everyday just to squeeze in 30 minutes of devotional or reflection time. Well, I know myself and I know getting up that early is not going to happen. Instead, I have a calendar item that simply says “God.” This is set from 7:00am – 7:30am each day.

Do I always make this commitment? No. But this is a good reminder, for me, that my focus at the beginning of the day should be on Jesus Christ. The reason I have this scheduled for the morning part of the day is that I know I will not be diligent and take time in the middle of the day to pause and devote in silence.

Back to multitasking. There are studies that show people are actually less productive when they multitask. Right now, as I am writing this post, I am also helping my wife at church. I have to pause writing every now and then to make sure I’m doing what she needs me to do, proving it is challenging to multitask. 

We have so much to do and so little time to do it (so we think). We all have the same amount of time, 24 hours. In a world of computers, tablets, smartphones, etc, we try to actually fit too much into our day. And how are our emotions? I have found that anxiety runs high because I have many tasks to attempt to accomplish daily. If I only allowed one thing to do at a time, I know it would get done at a much higher quality than if I let 10 or more tasks get scheduled at the same time.

How does this relate to taking time each day and devote it to Jesus Christ? Well, Jesus Christ should be our singular focus. When we only look to Him, the work we do, no matter what it is, gets done for His honor and glory.

“Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭CEB‬‬

I challenge you, and me, with the task to schedule time each day on your calendar, and keep it. Our focus, if kept on Christ reminds us why we do what we do and gives the work we do a grand purpose.

Grace and peace with you.

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

Reconciled

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Colossians 1:21-23 Once you were alienated from God and you were enemies with him in your minds, which was shown by your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death, to present you before God as a people who are holy, faultless, and without blame. But you need to remain well established and rooted in faith and not shift away from the hope given in the good news that you heard. This message has been preached throughout all creation under heaven. And I, Paul, became a servant of this good news.

As you read these words, what comes to your mind? Is this something you’ll read and think “this is for (insert name)”? Afterall, what “evil actions” could you and I have done to be enemies of God? Paul outlines some of the “evil actions” in Galatians chapter 5 and more in Colossians chapter 3. The place we should start is, what is broken and how have we gone against God?

To start with, we look at our pride and how we do everything we can to “take care of number one.” This means we tend to look at our desires, our wants, our thoughts and try to get what we need satisfied. G.K. Chesterton reminds us what Jesus was saying when he said, Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5). We all have something to take care of in us before we try to point out other people faults and failings.

So, it is in this place of realizing how we have gone against God, and what we have done that were considered “evil actions” against God, that we can come to a place to see how glorious and how incredible and awesome the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for you, me and the world truly is! Because of Jesus, we have the opportunity to be reconciled to God. Because of Jesus, our relationship with God has been changed forever. Because of Jesus, we can experience new life.

We do not forget what we used to be like before we met and encountered Jesus Christ; instead, God uses our former way of life as a testimony as to what God can do through the trial and struggles of our lives to bring healing, wholeness and reconciliation. Not only with other people, but with God also. This means that we have the chance to accept and live into the grace that Jesus has given. Because of this grace, Christ presents us as “holy, faultless and without blame” to God. So, when God looks at you and I, God sees Jesus Christ in our place.

We have been given this new life, this new opportunity to be reconciled to God. Through this gift, we have the opportunity to spread the good news of how other people can experience the Risen and Living Jesus Christ in their lives here and now. God has been preaching this message throughout all creation, and is speaking through each one of us today. We work with God to bring life, healing, hope, joy, peace, love and so much more that God gives through us.

This is not done so we can have the glory or recognition. We share this glorious news of Jesus Christ to give Him the glory in all we do and all we say. We can begin to see how God is working in us and through us to be reconciled to each other (even the people who wronged us badly) and to God.

#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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Strengthened in Christ

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Colossians 1:9-14 Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God; by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience; and by giving thanks with joy to the Father. He made it so you could take part in the inheritance, in light granted to God’s holy people. He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. He set us free through the Son and forgave our sins. 

Yesterday, we looked at the prayers that Paul was praying for people while he was in prison. He was filled with joy how God was working in the lives of the congregations he formed. As we continue with Colossians 1, we get to see more of Paul’s prayers for the people. He prays for those reading this letter to be strengthened by God. Who do you think is praying for you to be strengthened in your faith? Who should you pray for to increase in strength in their faith in God?

Why should we pray this? If we trust that God is working in people, we will be more attentive to their faith life and can be more encouraging in their walk with Jesus Christ. As we do this, we get to be the ones to walk with God alongside them to help them grow the seeds of God’s grace that will produce a fruit. This fruit will allow the person to do even more good works for the Kingdom of God.

Paul also makes a statement that, if just read quickly, can be missed. He says “so that you endure everything and have patience.” In this statement, Paul is saying that life is not going to be easy, but we can be strengthened by God to endure anything we go through. It will hurt at the time, but in the end we will be able to develop patience through life. What a great promise to hold on to. Imagine how much different the world would be if we allowed patience to develop in each of us and this fruit of the spirit takes over our lives!

For us to be strengthened in Christ means that we look to the light to guide our path. We seem to be more comfortable walking in the dark (doing things and traveling paths that actually lead away from Christ) than we are walking in the light (moving with and toward Jesus Christ with our lives). Why are we this way? It can be painful for our weaknesses and sins to be exposed to the light, but this is how God takes care of our sins. God brings them into the light so we can see what we need to do and how we should live a life that is worthy of Him.

We are set free from the paths that try to keep us in the dark; the paths that lead us away from Christ. The darkness creeps in and can make us believe lies and dark things about us. Letting the light in and moving toward the light really gives us the freedom to believe the best things about us because that is what God believes about you and I.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist