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?

Colossians 3:5-11 — Put to Death…Really?

I have several good friends who describe themselves as “friends of Bill W”. You may know what that means. It means they follow the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Steps. I have tremendous respect for them. I have learned so much about following Jesus from them. They are people who understand life is a spiritual process—and they understand the need to put things in their life to death. Listen to the words in this letter: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…” and “But now you must put them all away…”

Colossians 3:5-11 — St. Paul and Grammar

You all never see the raw starting point of each blog entry. Can I just tell you I have a great editor? She has two large tasks: help me not commit heresy, and sort out my grammar. It is easy to slip into heresy, but that is for another day. Today I want to tell you about my spiritual gift of creating new uses for commas, mixing past-present-future tenses, confusing masculine-feminine… the list goes on. My so-called excuse is that I am a math/science person. That is a poor excuse. Bad grammar at best confounds, and at worse confuses. If the goal is communication—compelling and clear communication—then correct composition is key. Why am I bringing this up? Yesterday we read that you and I had died. Today, us dead people are told to put to death certain things in our lives. Is there a grammatical issue with past and present tense?

Colossians 3:1-4 — Keep Your Head in the Clouds

I am guessing that most of us would not like to be labeled as living with our heads in the clouds. It does not sound like a compliment. On the other hand, I think we would embrace the idea of living for a vision—a larger goal—especially when that aim is noble. The one—head in the clouds—can mean you are somehow disconnected from the real world, possibly out of touch. The other—living for a vision—implies quite the opposite. Consider the opening of the passage we read today. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth.” Have you ever met a follower of Jesus who has their mind set on things above?

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.