Category Archives: Colossians

Christian, What are You’re Neighbors Saying About You?

“Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” Colossians 4:5

This morning our church hit chapter 4 in our study of Colossians & reflected on how our CONDUCT relates to God’s mission. Our conduct is simply the way we live and this verse reminds us that the way we live can be a witness to the Gospel. So we must be mindful of others spiritual condition, be mindful of our attitude & behavior, & look for opportunities to serve others. People outside of the faith will be very important to true Christians, because our mission involves spreading the Christ-message to others (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, Colossians 1:28-29).

A few weeks ago Thom Rainer shared some research on common comments non-Christians say about Christians that are instructive when considering our conduct & witness.

  1. Christians are against more things than they are for. “It just seems to me that Christians are mad at the world and mad at each other. They are so negative that they seem unhappy. I have no desire to be like them and stay upset all the time.”
  2. I would like to develop a friendship with a Christian. “I’m really interested in what they believe and how they carry out their beliefs. I wish I could find a Christian that would be willing to spend some time with me.”
  3. I would like to learn about the Bible from a Christian. “The Bible really fascinates me, but I don’t want to go to a stuffy and legalistic church to learn about it. I would be nice if a Christian invited me to study the Bible in his home or at a place like Starbucks.”
  4. I don’t see much difference in the way Christians live compared to others. “I really can’t tell what a Christian believes because he doesn’t seem much different than other people I know. The only exception would be Mormons. They really seem to take their beliefs seriously.”
  5. I wish I could learn to be a better husband, wife, dad, mom, etc., from a Christian.“My wife is threatening to divorce me, and I think she means it this time. My neighbor is a Christian, and he seems to have it together. I am swallowing my pride and asking him to help me.”
  6. Some Christians try to act like they have no problems. “Harriett works in my department. She is one of those Christians who seem to have a mask on. I would respect her more if she didn’t put on such an act. I know better.”
  7. I wish a Christian would take me to his or her church. “I really would like to visit a church, but I’m not particularly comfortable going by myself. What is weird is that I am 32-years old, and I’ve never had a Christian invite me to church in my entire life.”

Are there people in your community saying this about you? How could you change their perception? How could you engage them? Anything surprising? Are you ready to answer the questions of outsiders? If not, why?

Next time: Why CONDUCT is good, but not a complete witness toward others…

Does the Bible Condone Slavery?

In our study of Colossians, our church hit 3:22 today, which says, “Slaves obey your masters…” Several times over the last few years I’ve heard the argument go against the Bible like this: “The Bible’s just a book written by men. And it even condones slavery.” Does the Bible condone slavery? and if not, how should I answer such claims from skeptics? Check out a great article on this HERE.

A few points we discussed this morning:

Does the Bible Condone Slavery? Yes & No.

Yes. The Bible addresses slaves that were considered the property of another person. But NO! Not the kind of slavery we think of  in our modern era, where someone is taken against there will and sold with little recompense and harsh treatment. Not that this type of slavery didn’t occur in Biblical times extensively, but it was not condoned by the Bible.

Exodus 21:16 (ESV) – “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found #in possession of him, shall be put to death.”

Slavery in the Bible consisted of a social class that was not bound by racial distinction, but was in servitude to another for some reason that may included indebtedness, choice, or empire politics. A few facts:

  1. There may have been as many as 60 million slaves in this time period. Potentially ½ the population at the time
  2. Slave was not the lowest on the societal food chain. The day laborer was.
  3. As a matter of fact, slavery actually provided protection from poverty, from debt, from a bad name. Many even sold themselves into slavery.
  4. Slaves were often educated, owned property, could accumulate wealth & status.

None of this is true of modern slavery where a person owned by another was taken against their will, had no rights, little hope of improvement of status, and subjected to harsh treatment and poor work conditions.

And the Gospel changed everything for both types.

Galatians 3:28 (NIV) “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

And it was the Gospel’s influence that fueled the movement to end the modern American slave trade in the 1700’s-18oo’s, through men like William Wilberforce and John Newton. And it’s the Gospel that’s fueling a new generation to stand up and fight for the million’s still being sold into slavery around the world.

Check out a fuller treatment of this in this article, Does the Bible Condone Slavery?

What Does the Bible Say About MAINTAINING Marriage? part 2

“Help me understand the opposite sex.” The Bible gives us a way to understand the opposite sex through the lens of God’s commands to the sexes. God commands wives to respect their husbands and husbands to love their wives (Ephesians 5:21-23, Colossians 3:18-19, and see yesterday’s post). What does that look like everyday?  Dr. Emerson Eggerichs has a great book on this subject called Love and Respect. Here are two acrostics from the book that literally SPELL out what Love and Respect look like in marriage.

How to Spell Love to Your Wife:

C – Closeness – She wants you to be close.
O – Openness – She wants you to open up to her
U – Understanding – Don’t try to “Fix” Her; just listen
P – Peacemaking – She wants you to say, “I’m sorry”
L – Loyalty – She needs to know you’re committed
E – Esteem – She wants you to Honor and Cherish Her

How to Spell Respect to Your Husband:
C – Conquest – Appreciate His Desire to Work and Achieve
H – Hierarchy – Appreciate His Desire to Protect and Provide
A – Authority – Appreciate His Desire to Serve and to Lead
I – Insight – Appreciate His Desire to Analyze and Counsel
R – Relationship – Appreciate His Desire for Shoulder to Shoulder Friendship
S – Sexuality – Appreciate His Desire for Sexual Intimacy

Also, check out the author’s website, www.loveandrespect.com.

What Does the Bible Say about MAINTAINING Marriage?

“Homosexuals have just as much right to be miserable as heterosexuals!” This is a quip I’ve seen a few places by proponents of gay marriage. It’s usually preceded by statements about how Christians should focus on having better marriages themselves instead of trying to keep others from marrying. Not trying to get into that debate here, but suffice it to say that the high failure rates in modern marriage has opened the door for our society to feel the freedom to redefine and reshape it. Marriage doesn’t have to be redefined to find a happy ending for society and for couples. Just like wisdom about defining and purposing marriage is found in the Bible (see yesterday’s post here), wisdom on MAINTAINING marriage can be found in the Bible as well. And I believe it will work every time it’s tried.

What does the Bible say about MAINTAINING Marriage? It’s actually a fool proof way of maintaing any relationship, but the Bible gives some greater clarity in relation to marriage. Basic principle:

Put the needs of the other ahead of your own.

As a principle for all relationships: Philippians 2:3-4 (NASB), “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do notmerely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

As a principle for close relationships: Ephesians 5:20 (NLT), “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

And as a principle in marriage: Colossians 3:18-19 (ESV), “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”

What does this have to do with putting the needs of the other first? Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in his great book Love & Respect frames this verse like this. God’s commands for wives to submit and husbands to love are a command to them, but it speaks to a God given, primary need for the husband and wife. God created men to need respect, to lead, and to thrive when respect is given. God created women to need love, affection, and to be pursued and to thrive when loved sacrificially. Putting his needs first and her needs first simply means to live out your God-given role and put the others needs as your primary mission in life.

Next we’ll look at what this looks like according to Dr. Eggerich.

What does the Bible actually say about Marriage?

It’s open season on many traditional views today. Our culture and church culture are questioning and reshaping ideas on almost everything. Some of this rethinking and reshaping is healthy and needed and some not so good. I like it when I see new generations looking at tradition and saying, “What does the Bible actually say about…?” But many are just adding our cultures fancies on issues, creating new tradition that overlooks centuries and ignores divine voice.

Case in point: Marriage. We’ve ceased to asked the right questions about marriage (history? divine voice? nature?) and determined to redefine and reshape it to be something completely different.

This weekend, our church asked the healthy question: What does the Bible Actually Say? Here’s a bit of our discussion:

How should we think about marriage?  

Hebrews 13:4 (NIV)
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

  • Marriage should be honored
  • Marriage acts considered sacred
  • Judgement occurs when this doesn’t happen.

How should we define marriage? 

“…a man will leave his father and mother & be united to his wife, & they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24 (cf. Matthew 19:4-6)

Marriage: A LIFE LONG RELATIONSHIP between ONE MAN & ONE WOMAN.

  • Permanence, not disposability
  • Male/Female, not gender neutral
  • Jesus commended this definition in Matthew 19 in one of his few statements about marriage.

What was God’s Purposes for Marriage?

1) COMPANIONSHIP & SUPPORT – Genesis 2:18-25 – “it is not good that man should be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.” Man was incomplete without a companion.

2) REPRODUCTION – Genesis 1:28 – God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” Marriage is the vehicle for the continuation of the human race.

3) SEXUAL PURITY – 1 Corinthians 7:2 (NIV) – “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” Marriage is the safe place for sexual expression.

4) A PICTURE OF SALVATION – Ephesians 5:21-33 – “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Marriage illustrates the union that is our salvation.

Today, marriage is seen as optional and disposable and redefinable. And part of the problem is the high FAILURE rates. Some estimate it over 60%. Some say that’s given us permission to redefine. But again, I think we need to go back to the right question: What does the Bible say about MAINTAINING Marriage? If maintained according to the creator of marriage, it can work to achieve his purpose.

Tomorrow…Image

Protecting Your SPIRITUAL Identity

Identity theft has generated a lot of attention over the last several years. A variety of products are offered everyday to assist you with protecting your identity. The constant message is: You must be intentional to keep scammers and criminals out of your personal information. I’ve purchased one of these products myself and at least one red flag has popped up advising me that my identity has been compromised and I’ve taken intentional action to close that risk.

To be a Christian is an IDENTITY as well. It’s who you are, not just what you do. And there are things that put our IN Christ identity at risk:

  • False teaching. Anything that adds to or takes away from the person and work of Christ.
  • Hypocrisy. Living with a gap between what we know we’re meant to and supposed to be IN Christ and what we really are.
  • Sinful habits. What you do everyday is what you’re becoming. Secret identities are always exposed. And the IN Christ identity is all or nothing (Col 3;11).

And just as it may be necessary to protect your physical and digital identities, it is definitely necessary to protect your SPIRITUAL identity. In Colossians 3, Paul gives us some protection tips:

  1. Know your identity – “if you have been raised with Christ…” Col. 3:1. If you are a Christian, it’s more than just what you do on Sunday. “Christ is all and in all” 3:11. If you’ve identified your life in Christ there is effects that will be coming out everyday. New desires. New identity traits. A new trust outside of self. And a new desire to be identified only in Him in every area of your life. Is that true of you?
  2. Live with Intentionality – “seek what is above… Set your minds on what is above…” Col 3:2. We don’t just accidentally slip into spiritual maturity. God has given us tools and open doors to dive deeper into our identity. Seeking and setting takes intentionality. And part of the work of his spirit is to give us a passion to be where he is. What are you seeking? What are you setting your mind upon?
  3. Fight for your Identity – “put to death what belongs to your worldly nature…” Col 3:5. The temptations in this world do not end for us until we leave this world. We need extreme measures to protect our hearts identity in Christ. Putting something to death is violent, extreme, final. Do you have that kind of attitude toward the world and sin? That, “I’ll get rid of anything that threatens my relationships with Christ and my identity in Christ” kind of attitude?

And we are not alone in this fight. Today, for those who are in Christ, we have an Identity protector at work for us in Jesus himself. The Bible says that we can never be taken from His hand and that he is interceding for us and that He never leaves us or forsakes us. Our identity cost Him his life. Your identity was worth a lot to Him. What’s it worth to you?

Uprooted

A common sight around SE Louisiana in my 11 years here has been the uprooted tree. Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, & Gustav were the worst culprits. A few thoughts that have informed my faith as I’ve experienced trees in a Hurricane Zone:

  • Trees that fall often have shallow root systems. Like the tree in the picture, root systems can be wide, but depth can be noted as shallow on many of the trees that fall. This may be no fault of the tree itself, because its planted in an area where water is near the surface so it doesn’t have to dig much for nutrition. And then the ground it’s rooted in may be muddy and soft instead of solid giving it even less stability.
  • Trees that don’t fall are less likely to fall next time. As a matter of fact, an arborist told me after Katrina that if you could see underground during a storm, that scientists say you could visually see roots going down and trees digging in for all of their lives. So many trees that are leaning are unlikely to fall, because the catastrophic wind pushed them to develop stronger roots.
  • Trees that fall are often standing alone. If you walk into a wooded area after a storm, unless there were tornadoes ripping trees apart, you’re not likely to see many trees blown over. They help each other shield the wind and their roots are intertwined in such a way that they help hold each other up. The most common site is the lone tree in the yard blown over. It simply had no help and had to try to stand on its own.
  • Dead trees seldom fall. One thing a lot of folks were shaking their heads about after Hurricane Katrina, was why the dead trees seemed to be still standing. An arborists gave me a simple answer: there’s no fruit or produce on them to catch resistance. The wind has little to utilize in pushing them over, so they tend to survive catastrophic wind events, but fail because of their own death and decay.

Trees and Faith:

  • When it comes to spiritual growth and surviving the storms of life roots are most important. Deep roots. And what kind of substance that root system is built in. Colossians 2::6-7 says, “as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, ROOTED and built up in Him…” Is your faith shallow, surface level, easy? Are you’re roots in something that’s not substantive? For the real Christian, storms serve a valuable purpose in helping our roots strengthen in Christ.
  • When it comes to spiritual growth and surviving the storms of life having other strong folks with deep roots around you matters as well. How many strong people are you intertwining your roots with? How many people do you have that you can rely upon to help hold you up when things get windy?
  • And what about the person that’s not trying, or is doing things dishonestly, or isn’t walking with the Lord at all? Why do they seem to make out ok against life’s storms? There’s no resistance. If you’re walking with God, bearing spiritual fruit, expect storms and wind and opposition. But also expect the God in whom you are rooted to hold you up in the midst of the storm.

ON Mission Christian Should be a REDUNDANCY

Something is REDUNDANT when part of a phrase can be left off without loss of meaning.

Here’s a few examples:

  • Basic fundamentals
  • Armed Gunman
  • Unexpected surprise
  • Working Mother
  • On a can of bug spray I once read, “Kills Bugs Dead”

Some redundancies from famous folks:

  • “sometimes you can observe a lot just by watching” ~ Yogi Berra
  • “Smoking can kill you, and if you’ve been killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.” ~ Brooke Shields
  • “If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure” ~  Vice President Dan Quayle

The Apostle Paul would add “On Mission Christian” to the Redundant list as well.

If our identity is In Christ, On Mission will follow. But here’s the question: Why don’t we see more Christians on Mission? Why is it so hard for us to pursue the mission of God? Why do I settle for going to church, when God’s calls us to go into the world on mission?

Here’s a few possible reasons that I’ve felt:

  1. We don’t think it’s our responsibility. Somebody Else will take care of that. Or we hire pastors to do those things.
  2. We don’t see the opportunities. We drive by the needs of the world so often that they become too familiar  and we just accept them.
  3. We don’t think we can. It’s just too hard. I don’t have the gifts. I don’t know how.

Here’s the truth: It is hard. And the Bible never promises that it will be easy.

In Colossians 1, the Apostle Paul talks about his life as a follower of Christ and he spells out some of the reasons many opt out:

1.    We’re called to suffer for the sake of others. http://bible.us/col1.24.esv. To not consider self first – “deny self, take up your cross, follow me” Luke 9:23. Paul says life In Christ, On Mission is “labor, striving…struggle” v. 29, 2:1. These word mean to work to the point of exhaustion, to agonize, strenuous effort. These are athletic terms used to describe a runner in a race. It’s not easy to give yourself for others. There must be a willingness to suffer and give and sacrifice.

2.  We’re called to Make Mystery Known. http://bible.us/col1.25-27.esv. Yes the Gospel is so simple to understand that a four year old can receive it, but to effectively share it with others we have to work to communicate it in their language and through their cultural baggage. And we have to have the patience and willingness to answer difficult questions and silly arguments and to explain how God works through difficulty and pain. These are not easy 1-2-3 conversations to have. But it’s part of being On Mission. I’m afraid the majority of Christians have given up and given in to the excuse, “I don’t know what to say.” The stats back that up. A recent Lifeway study found that most Christians believe that sharing faith is important but they themselves don’t do it.

It’s hard. But we seem to find a way to negotiate our vacation packages, new car deals, and home mortgage rate reductions. It’s not that we’re incapable of understanding hard things. It’s a matter of willingness and responsibility.

3. We’re called to help EVERY man – http://bible.us/col1.28.esv. Paul had the audacious goal of presenting EVERY person complete in Christ when this life is over. How quickly have I given up on people and shrugged with, “you can’t reach everyone” or “some people will never change.” This EVERY man mission would require a radical reorientation of our lives. It’s an all-consuming mission to suffer for and make mystery known to EVERY person. We can’t do it alone. We can’t do it in our own strength. But it’s what the On Mission Christian aims for.

And the good news is, we don’t have to do it alone. Paul says it’s his strength that powers this mission. “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” http://bible.us/col1.29.esv.

I often ask God for strength. For safety, for provision, for help when I screw things up. He wants us to bring all our needs to Him. But how often do we ask God for strength for the EVERY man mission of suffering for others & making mystery known. His strength is promised for mission, not for the comfort of casual Christianity. So what does your prayers say about your identity.

If you’re identity is in Christ, On Mission living should follow.

This month, Bridge Church is studying through the New Testament Book of Colossians. Join us Sunday’s, 10:30am at the West St. Tammany YMCA. Or find the messages at bridgenorthshore.com or on Itunes.

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