Christmas—Gifts—Family, Part Two

In Part One I joked about that Christmas classic, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” All kidding aside, as we seek to reach our loved ones for Jesus, we do not want them thinking, I got run over by a Christian! I doubt people truly seeking Jesus ever felt run over by him. Yes, the religious of his day—ever challenging him—got clobbered, but they were not truly seeking him. For those who seek him, his presence is grace-filled. Yet many may not be seeking him, and we want to invite them to meet Jesus. If your heart aches for those you love to meet Jesus, what can you do?

Humility, Part Two: Its Source & Its Growth

In Part One, I more than suggested that the path to becoming humble is to start practicing acts of humility—acts where we put the interests of others above ourselves. It is through action that our lives will be transformed. We become more humble—our lives of humility grow—by action. Yet what is the root of this growth? As I presented this thought to us, taking action as the means to transform ourselves, I knew it was not complete. I left out God. We cannot, by ourselves, apart from God, accomplish anything. Especially when we are talking about taming our pride. We need God.

Humility, Part One: Just Do It!

If you live on this planet, you are familiar with the Nike slogan and their iconic Swoosh. It’s 30 years old. The slogan itself has quite a history, but at its core it has a simple message of action. Not words—action. In a world that is constantly saturated with information, action is appealing. I want to suggest that you and I probably don’t need more words about why we should be men and women of humility—we need to just do it. This brings to us a fundamental question about how you and I go about transforming and conforming ourselves to the Word of God. I don’t know about you, but I somehow fall into the trap of thinking that I can think myself into better behavior... some flawed notion that if I could better understand the why behind the what, then doing the what would somehow be as easy as falling off a horse. The reality is, nothing could be further from the truth.

Christmas—Gifts—Family, Part One

Christmas: it comes with gifts of all shapes and sizes and prices. It has its own genre of music, which somehow includes “Silent Night” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” As followers of Jesus, we sometimes lament how Christmas has morphed into any number of ideas, all of which seem to leave Jesus out. Phrases like “Keep Christ is Christmas” and “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” hit a sweet spot in our psyche. Beyond the slogans, there is a deep ache in our hearts; it is an ache for our family and loved ones who do not yet accept this child in the manger as Lord. That ache is magnified during the Christmas season. What do we do?

Confidence leads to Conduct

Be confident in yourself—we hear this phrase regularly. Simply google “be confident” and you will find some pretty good advice, like this. As I read those types of articles and consider their advice, I find much of it good. Yet the center of it all is ME—and that makes this me the opposite of confident. At the bottom of all this advice is the belief that being confident requires we somehow screw ourselves up and be super reliant on all we intrinsically possess and extrinsically accomplish. I hear the Mighty mouse theme music in the background (sorry for slipping into sarcasm). What has my mind going in this direction? Quite simply the confident attitude of a person in prison—Paul. Listen again to what we read today…

When you’re not part of the main gang

What is the most elite group you have ever been a part of? Maybe you are having trouble remembering if you were ever part of such a group. Have you ever been a part of a group that had its own identity? Was it a good experience? Would you have “sold out” or “crossed over” to another gang or team? Today in Philippians, we read about a gang called the Imperial Guard. Are you thinking, “The Imperial Guard from Star Wars?” No, not those fellas who ran around in red outfits. Today, I am talking about a real gang who protected real Emperors. To put a point on the importance of this unit, emperors were not voted out of office—they were murdered.

Philippians 1:3-11 — If I had more time, I would write you a shorter letter

My title is attributed to many authors. Imagine, if you had time on your hands, and you wanted to communicate something important to your audience: what would you do? Many would grind, work hard, on how they were going to communicate, what to say, and how exactly to say it. Time is often the issue. In our day, we often feel pressed for time. Add to this environment the gift of instant communication—emails, text messaging, and more—and we often hit send too quickly. Have you ever regretted hitting that send button? As we come to the Letter to the Philippians, we do not have the problem of its author being rushed…

We’re living longer than ever

Google “living longer than ever” and you get any number of articles citing this phenomenon. Which makes some people ask, “Is living longer a blessing?” Longer life is not hyperbole. Scientists now predict that we will be able to live longer and longer. But the question remains, “Will it be worth living?” The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians reveals that for him, Jesus Christ made life profoundly worth living. Before we jump into the text, let’s have a brief introduction to this letter.

Colossians Wrap-up: Light Bulb Moments

Sometimes I get to the middle of something, get stuck, and then everything is clear. I realize that the answer was present from the beginning. Does that ever happen to you? It is that moment when the proverbial light bulb is turned on, and all that seemed dark and obscure, is now plainly in sight. Reading Colossians has, for me, been very much like this kind of situation.

Thankfulness & Thanksgiving

“David, what do you say?” I would answer, “please” followed quickly by “thank you.” I was taught to be polite. How about you? Better yet, how do you do when someone tells you to adopt a certain attitude? By now, you probably know that I don’t do well when I’m told what to do. When someone tells us what our attitudes are to be like, our first reaction is normally resistance. However, that is exactly what God’s Word instructs us in Colossians 4:2. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” So, what is up with this situation?

Colossians 4:18 — Find A Way

I struggle. I struggle with reading about all those people who have gone before me, and who, by my estimation, had bigger and bolder faith. I know comparison is often not good. I read about how some forms of comparison are bad. I can intellectually agree with those assessments. However, I realize the distance between my brain and my heart is much more than 12 to 18 inches. I, therefore, write this bit with trepidation.

Colossians 4:6–17 — Everybody Gets to Play

Words matter. Word meaning drifts. Beyond drifting, there is distortion. The meaning of some words can change so much over time that folks abandon using them the way they were originally intended. Can you think of any words that fit the above description? Often, when I am writing these reflections, I pause at the opening words I am going to use. My goal is to be helpful. To invite you to think about God’s Word in a way that draws you deeper in your relationship with God through Jesus. I also know we all have history, and that one little word can set a person down a path that is not helpful…

Colossians 4:2–5 — Our Ultimate Aim

Most of us, as we work our way through life, have hopes, dreams, and desires. Try a few of these on for size: a family, a good job, and health. Or perhaps you desire more than a good job—you are looking for a career, or maybe even more. Regarding health, maybe you desire to be accomplished at a hobby or sport which demands a great mind and/or body. What’s your biggest dream? Your ultimate aim? Colossians invites us to consider having as our Ultimate Aim, Jesus: knowing him and making him known. 

Colossians 3:18-4:1 — Dueling Verses, Part 2

One of the most memorable weddings I attended was when the Pastor turned to the bride during his sermon and said, “You need to submit to your husband.” There was an audible gasp from those attending. In our culture today, phrases which read “wives submit, and slaves obey” evoke an immediate repulsion. These kinds of verses have indeed been misused and misapplied to excuse ungodly behavior. And that’s often why many dismiss the Bible as old-fashioned at best, and, at worst, repressive. Yet as a person who claims to be a follower of Jesus, I feel compelled to not dismiss His Word. I also don’t want to twist these words into something more palatable. Let me unpack what I mean.

Colossians 3:18-4:1 — Dueling Verses, Part 1

When it comes to this section of Scripture, I remember an event with my wife. Let’s call that event “Dueling Verses”. We were discussing the parallel verses in Ephesians. I said to my soon-to-be bride, “Well, I think the Bible says you need to submit.” To which she replied, “I do, and you need to love me the way Jesus loved the church, and even died for it.” Then she added, “Oh by the way, you also need to deliver me “wrinkle-free” (see Ephesians 5:27). I don’t duel anymore with her—she always wins! Seriously, though, how do we understand this section from Colossians?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 — Proof-texting and other unhelpful tendencies

There is an old saying: “He can’t see the forest for the trees.” No doubt you have heard it. What I find amazing is how easy it is for many of us to get into exactly that position. We live is a world where everything is dissected to the nth" degree. Why talk about not seeing the forest for the trees? Because you and I have been going through the Letter to the Colossians in painstaking detail. I am enjoying it. I am also challenged to keep the big picture—the forest, if you will allow—in front of me. I believe this is especially important as we come upon verses that speak to how husbands, wives, children and more are to relate to one another.

Luke 22:44 — The Hardest Day of Jesus’ life: Muscle Memory in Action

What have been some of the hardest days of your life? I do not mean to bring up painful memories, but let me ask a question. Do you have any memories where, although the day or situation was hard, now in hindsight, you can see how God prepared you for it? For me, I will be honest, for some of the situations I have been through I can see God’s hand was preparing me—and for others situations, the pain is still too present, and the emotion too strong. I have written here about how following Jesus is not about having an easy life. No, whether we follow Jesus, or not, we all will face challenges. The question is more: how will we face those challenges—and who will be with us?

Colossians 3:12-17 — Master Your Walk (Muscle Memory, part 3)

Ever met an expert? Someone who has truly mastered their area? Maybe you are such a person. Here is what I want to suggest from the masters who have mentored me—they always have the goal in sight AND they have a handful of fundamentals that they turn to over and over again. It is not like they have 100 different tools/fundamentals. No, they have maybe 5 to 10 that they can apply over 100 different ways. They have great muscle memory. And Mastering takes time. I would simply point out: you and I need to become experts at following Jesus, and it is not natural, it is spiritual—God is involved! So, what does that look like?

Colossians 3:12-17 — Wrestling for Your Life (Muscle Memory, part 2)

I wrestled in high school. While making-weight each match seemed to be a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week obsession, I liked it. And practice—we practiced a lot. We spent hours doing repetitive wrestling moves: over and over, to develop muscle memory of the fundamental skills. Because in the match, my body needed, in a split-second, to react. Why all this talk of wrestling? Well, I have been wrestling with Colossians, especially chapter 3. Wrestling not just as I write this blog post, but in life. Let me be transparent…

Colossians 3:12-17 — Following Jesus (Muscle Memory, part 1)

A new golf pro and his family moved to town. He invited me to play a round of golf with him. I was nervous about it. He was a pro and I was a hacker. He mentioned that with all the moving, he had not swung a club in a while. You could have fooled me. I mentioned this observation to him, and he talked about muscle memory. Muscle memory is not a memory stored in your muscles, but your brain. Your brain memorizes the sequence, the procedure, that your body goes through to bring about any number of outcomes: a golf swing, a piece of music on an instrument, and more. Why bring it up? Because there is this tension as we follow Jesus. We keep sinning. Yes, when we turn to Jesus he forgives our sins; he wipes them away. That means he has paid your debt. The cost and consequences of that sin, before God, have been dealt with. Amen! But what’s next?