Certainty and faith: does having faith imply being blind?

I am writing this post as I am reading Colossians. I am about to move from chapter 2 into chapter 3, which starts with the words “If then you have been raised with Christ...” and then offers all sorts of instructions. Before we tackle them, some questions might be asked: should do those things? Why? Am I really confident in Jesus? Am I confident that following him is really the best path?

Colossians 2:16-23 — Finding Our Confidence

Google the words “be confident” and the results are plentiful. We want to be confident. Instinctively we know that confidence helps us move forward. I have jokingly said that my motto is “frequently wrong—never in doubt.” Full disclosure requires I tell you I borrowed this from a coworker, but I am confident it applies to me! (Perhaps I confuse over-confidence for confidence.) Why ask about confidence? Because today’s reading says, not once, but twice, “Let no one...” —let no one what? Take away from you your standing with God.

Colossians 2:6-15 — From Facts to Fundamentals

What is it you are really good at? Seriously. Think about what you do well, and hold that answer in your mind. Why? Because I want you to consider the following. That thing you do well—do you have a specific approach, or formula, or theory about it? Do you have a set of fundamentals that you use over and over again? Let me offer one example. I snow-skied for many years—from age 5. The fundamentals of snow skiing do not change, whether you are a beginner or expert. The difference between the beginner and the expert is the ability to apply those fundamentals consistently, and repeatedly, in varying situations. Paul, in this part of the letter to the Colossians, gives us the fundamentals—and he does it by poking at the people who are undermining the fundamentals of following Jesus.

Colossians 2:1-5 — Just the Facts, Ma’am

“Just the facts, Ma’am.” An often-used line by TV character Joe Friday on the show Dragnet. Or how about, “Get to the point!” An oft-used expression in conference rooms across the world, as mind-numbing presentations drag on. Perhaps you might feel that way in Paul’s short letter to the Colossians. Yet, like any letter, this one has a few themes—you might even say, a main point! And today, in these few verses, we get to it—a point Paul communicates that he has been laboring for over and over…

Colossians 1:24-29 — When the Bible, and Life, are Hard

There you are, trundling along, and you hit a speed bump—maybe you even smacked right into a wall—thump! Ever happen to you? Happen this month? Maybe this week? Maybe today? I am talking about when an area of your life is working, and lining up with how you think about that area of your life. Then it happens. It feels like it just does not fit; like you have just hit a wall. Why bring this up? Because if I am honest with you, there are days when I read the Bible and I hit a speed bump. We read today, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions…”

Colossians 1:15-23 — Most People Don’t Quit Organizations, They Leave Their Boss

What is your boss like? Really like? The research is solid. People quit their jobs, most of the time, because of their boss. There are times when people like their jobs and supervisors and are genuinely called to something bigger. However, the quality and character of the boss, the boss’s willingness to sacrifice for you, is the key factor in determining if you stay or leave. For many today, we want a boss we can look up to. This short little letter we are reading, in part, reminds us of the character and quality of our Lord, our Boss.

Colossians 1:3-14 — Reading Backwards

Have you ever started something, and as you began it made sense, but then you got stuck? I think of those picture mazes, with countless dead-ends. Sometimes it helps to start at the end and work backwards. Why bring this up? Because at times I get stuck midway through parts of this letter. Just as in his greeting, he is weaving in God and Jesus. Jesus and God are in his thinking, his praying, and his writing.

Genesis Contest Winners

Thanks so much to everyone who submitted feedback. Winners, I’m sorry to say that you did not win that adorable dog in the picture! However, you can expect a small token of my appreciation in the mail very soon! And the winners are…

Genesis - The End: It is All About Family

We started this journey awhile back: April 16, some 165 days ago. When you spend over 5 months working at something, it pays to reflect. When we began, I wrote: “And sometimes it's messy. But we need to learn our story. Not facts, but rather our family story. Because at the heart of that story is our God. Reading Genesis, we will come face to face with evil and good; hatred and love; and law and grace. What we will find is not just the story of humanity, but of how our God loves us.” As I reflect a few things stand out. They have to do with God’s family, God’s purpose, God’s method, and more…

Genesis Day 70: Almost done! (plus a contest)

Have you done any genealogical research? Before Ancestry.com and DNA test kits and internet in every home, you actually had to go somewhere. Talk to town historians. See great-aunt Margaret. Visit cemeteries and libraries. Nowadays, it’s all at our fingertips. We all want to know where we came from. Why such interest in the past? Maybe it’s part curiosity. But maybe, just maybe…

Genesis Day 69: When You Are Left

There comes a time in every life, when you are the one left—the oldest generation. We might get to this point in our lives via different avenues, but sooner or later, you understand that you’re the oldest generation. For me, it came after both my parents went to be with the Lord. Dad first, then mom. And it was a good thing. They lived their lives well, fought the good fight, kept the faith—and now they are enjoying God for eternity in heaven. Why bring it up? Because as we read Genesis 50, it is easy to be critical of Joseph’s brothers. They are gripped with fear about what Joseph might do, now that their father has passed into life immortal.

Genesis Day 68: Transition Points: Legacy, Those Final Words

Some of us have been at the death bed of a loved one who was well enough to utter their last wishes. Sometimes, we must wait until the reading of the Last Will and Testament to find out what the recently departed desired and felt. Regardless of whether or not you know what is coming, it is hard and emotional for those who remain.

I am trying to picture this scene in Genesis chapter 49. Jacob communicates, in person, parting words to his sons. His words are more than a blessing. His words communicate how he sees each of them.

Genesis Day 67: Transition Points: Settling the Family

Today, perhaps, we are more used to blended families. At least we would like to think we are more accepting. I am not sure whether we are or are not. My dad once told me that when Italians and Irish and Polish men stood shoulder to shoulder in a foxhole, or when they were firing a 16-inch shell from a battleship, they didn’t much care what each other’s ethnicity was. We are naturally proud of our heritage. And it’s good to celebrate our differences, what makes us unique. However, too often our pride turns to prejudice. Today Jacob is dealing with an important family matter—Joseph’s two Egyptian sons.

Genesis Day 66: Transition Points: Moving & Settling

How many times in your life have you moved your home? For the first half of my life, I didn’t move very much. However, in the last 13 years, we have moved 5 times. I have family in the military; one of them used to joke, “No sense cleaning the closets, we clean them out when we move every 2 to 3 years.” While moving to a new location can sometimes bring excitement, it is also sure to bring lots of work, and the challenge of forming new relationships—it is always a time of transition. The Bible in chapter 47 of Genesis presents us with a very common experience: moving and getting resettled in a new location.

Genesis Day 65: Family Reunion

What is the longest you have ever been apart, isolated from, your family? For me it was when I sailed as a midshipman in the Merchant Marines. That period of my life was so long enough ago, that it predates our current internet, global cell phones, etc. You wrote letters—and you received letters—but only when you hit port. Everyone back home is getting on with their lives while you are off in another world. Then it happens—you are reunited with your family and friends. Yesterday I pointed back to the theme that we launched this journey upon: family—God’s family. Today we read about one of God’s big family reunions.

Genesis Day 64: Train Wrecks, Collisions and Other Family Events

“Oh, there no place like home for the holidays”—so the song goes. Yet not everyone looks forward to gathering around the table for a meal with their family. Not sure where you land on the family dinner scenario, but consider the following... When I invited people to read Genesis together, I wrote, “Do you ever think about God’s family? God’s family (that includes us!) is all connected. And sometimes it’s messy. But we need to learn our story. Not facts, but rather our family story. Because at the heart of that story is our God.” Perhaps “sometimes it’s messy” should be in BOLD, and a larger font, with a few exclamation points on the end!

Genesis Day 63: Learning to say Thank You…as an Adult

My wife has taught me a few things: things you might have thought I would already have known! One big one was to simply accept a gift or compliment, and say thank you. She observed that whenever a gift or compliment came my way, I would defer, deflect, or even disagree. I will spare you the psychological analysis of why, and simply say she was right. Why do I bring this up? Because in this section of Genesis there is grace…can you see it?

Genesis Day 62: Can't we just forget about it and move forward?

I have noted before in this blog that I am divorced. I don’t write about it for a number of reasons. First and foremost, because others are involved. It is not just my experience, it is theirs. To write about it is, in essence, to also write about them. I do not have their permission, nor do I wish to cause them to have to think about it. Yet it is there. I know you have painful history in your life, too. And sometimes the people from those events come back into our lives. Today, as Joseph’s story is reaching its climax, the people from his painful past —his brothers — reappear.

Genesis Day 61: A long wait... and then it happens

Most of us, or maybe some of us, think about life as a slow linear progression. I am not sure why, but I am one of those people—despite evidence to the contrary. Today we come to Joseph. He has been waiting. Not just the two years he has been in jail. He has been waiting, and working, much longer. His life is about to change. When our life changes, out of the middle of nowhere—is that the random chance of the universe, is it our just desert for our patient hard-work, or is something (or Someone) else at work?