Monday, August 3, 2020

Colossians Pt 7 - Fear/Peace

Are you familiar with the term: Goat Rodeo? It’s a slang term meaning a mixture of things coming together that create chaos. It describes something going totally, unbelievably, disastrously wrong and there’s nothing left to do but sit back and watch the train wreck.

Pete got a job as a switchman with the railroad, the supervisor gave him a test.

·       Supervisor: "Imagine you were sitting here alone and you learned there was a train coming from the North on that track, and another coming from the South on the same track. What would you do?"

·       Pete: "I’d throw this switch right here and put one train on the other track."

·       Supervisor: And what if that switch didn’t work?"

·       Pete: "I’d go down to the track and throw that big switch lever there, putting one train on the other track."

·       Supervisor: "And what if that switch lever didn’t work?"

·       Pete: "Then I’d come back here and call the dispatcher to stop both trains."

·       Supervisor: "And what if the phone didn’t work?"

·       Pete: "Then I’d go to that gas station across the street and use their phone."

·       Supervisor: "And what if their phone didn’t work?"

·       Pete: "Then I’d go get Uncle Joe."

·       Supervisor: "Uncle Joe? What would he do?"

·       Pete: "Nothing, but he always wanted to see a train wreck."

This has been a difficult week. I’ve had upsetting moments. Key players have stepped aside. Life and death decisions have been made. Concern about Covid attacking some of our members has come back into the picture. Personal stress over family issues. Burdens about the church. Disruptions in life. Political unrest. Like rain: a few drops is a welcome shower, a lot of drops can become a storm.

I’m sick of the constant coverage of the Coronavirus. I’m not wired for incessant, oppressive news that gives no hope. I’m frustrated that the best cure available, with documented results, isn’t available to those who already have the virus because of the anticipated financial gain some will receive when they discover the vaccine that will prevent further illness. And even though the consequences are real, with 99% recovering and moving on, Covid isn’t the death sentence everyone fears. But the media insists on keeping us afraid.

I’m worn down by the riots. Martin Luther King said: Once you throw the first rock, break a window or steal a TV, you are no longer a protester, you’re a criminal. There is nothing justified by these mobs. They are criminal anarchists, intent on destroying America and replacing it with something they have no idea how bad. There is no way to negotiate an end. The only way is to overpower them. And it would seem, the governing authorities of the targeted cities have no courage to fight back. They would rather be destroyed than to speak out against or act against or call for help against the evil these people represent. Austin was targeted last night with the intention of doing in Austin what they’ve done in Portland. But they’re finding out this ain’t Oregon. We do things a bit different in Texas.

I’m tired of the shutdown of life. Churches in California and Nevada cannot meet but Casinos can reopen. The Supreme Court upheld a ruling that Nevada churches could hold services of no more than 50 people but Casinos could run at 50% capacity. And for those who do gather, beginning this weekend in California, churches are forbidden to sing in worship. They are also forbidden to meet in Home Groups regardless of size. Some churches are engaging in civil disobedience, others in lawsuits, to challenge these rules and continue to meet.

Our economy is a massive web of connectiveness. Reopening the country is connected to people being able to go to work. America works by people going to work and the flow of commerce that creates. Each business, each job is a strand of the web. Disconnect that web and the whole web is weakened. In some areas, this shutdown is doing permanent damage.

Any one thing is more than enough to deal with, but add them all together and the goats have entered the arena. I confess, I’m overwhelmed and struggling to find peace. So, I spent the week trying to figure out where my peace had gone, and where is my help from the Lord?

It felt like I was one of the disciples caught in that storm, trying to bail out the water in the boat while Jesus is asleep on a cushion. You’ll remember that story:

Luke 8:22-25 Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, "Let us go over to the other side of the lake." So they launched out. But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger. They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, "Where is your faith?" They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, "Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?" 

This was a real threat. They were in the midst of a fierce storm. The boat was getting swamped and in danger of going down. They knew what could happen to a boat caught in a storm like this so this isn’t an exaggerated story to make a point. It was real.

Well, so are the things I’m looking at. They are real threats to disrupt or damage our lives. Some are life and death matters. Some come under the classification of national security. Some just boil down to what’s right and what’s wrong. So, it’s easy to identify with the disciples in a boat in a storm with an uncertain outcome. But before I can accuse them of weakness, to judge them because they were afraid of the storm, I first have to look at myself and I’m doing the same thing.

It wasn’t wrong that the men were afraid. The problem came when they allowed their fear to drive them to a false opinion: we are perishing. We’re going to die. And Jesus doesn’t care.

It’s called jumping to conclusions. To do so, you have to by-pass a lot of information.

That’s how you accomplish propaganda. The media sensationalizes a story to capture our attention and shocks us to keep us watching. Watch it in hurricane reporting. All hurricanes have some degree of storm surge, powerful winds and rain, and leave behind a certain amount of destruction and power outages. But there is a major difference between a Category 1 and a Category 5. The media, however, whips up an equal frenzy for both. For those of us who grew up around here, you don’t treat the threat of every hurricane the same.

When you jump from a hurricane is coming to this is the worst thing ever, you have to disregard a lot of information to do so.

My aunt was deathly afraid of snakes. Her motto: the only good snake is one that never comes near me. You can imagine how much fun it was with rubber snakes. It didn’t matter whether the snake was real or fake, we got the same reaction.

When you jump from there’s a snake to it’s going to kill me, you have to disregard a lot of information to do so.

In the boat, these disciples made that kind of a jump and came to the wrong conclusion. Yes, they were in a serious storm but no, they were not perishing.

What they had forgotten to factor in was the One asleep on the cushion. The One in the boat with them had the power to stop the storm. And when He did, He asked them the crucial question: “Where’s your faith.” Interesting question. Was He asking why they didn’t use their faith to stop the storm themselves? No, they had no authority to do that. So, how could their faith have made any difference? By placing faith where it belongs. The question was: “What were you doing with your faith when you should have been using it to hand your concerns to Me?”

Faith always leaves room for Jesus to work.

Fear interferes with faith. Fear is like the crack in the dam that lets the water leak out. Everything is fine, then a discouraging word hits us. Hurricane, snake, covid, riots, conflict, cancer. That word drills into the dam and the water comes rushing out. What started as a trickle becomes a torrent and suddenly the overwhelming gush of panic takes over our lives. That’s when we start to jump to false conclusions.

In Matthew’s account of the same story: Matt 8:26 He said to them, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. 

He wasn’t decrying the amount of their faith. They had enough faith. He was asking why they chose not to exercise their faith to battle their fear?

In their defense, they could have said, “But this is an overwhelming problem. It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever faced. We’ve never been in a storm like this.” Well, how big is your God? How powerful? How able? What has He done in the past that might let you know He can handle this as well?

Fear is the product of uncontrolled anxiety we carry as an undercurrent of our outlook on life. It comes when we are helpless to control our circumstances. We can’t stop the storm. We can’t guarantee someone doesn’t get sick. We can’t make the riots go away. We can’t avoid death. So, being worried, or anxious, or fearful won’t change the outcome. But the one who can is with us in the boat.

We don’t direct our faith toward the problem but toward the One who controls the outcome of our problems.

Fear is driven by an unwillingness to exercise faith, without faith, we forfeit peace. That was my Aha! moment.

The absence of peace indicates I’m not trusting God, that I haven’t submitted my concerns to Him, that I’m trying to carry my burdens by myself.

The absence of peace is a sign we aren’t trusting Him. That we are giving in to fear. When we do, we give up the blessing of peace.

Col 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 

Let means peace will rule in our hearts if we don’t interfere with it. It is intended to flow into us and through us as we trust God with our concerns. Peace doesn’t wait until the battle is over to show up. It comes in the midst of the battle the moment we trust God for the outcome.

Peace is the assurance that within the conflict God has a firm grip on us with one hand and a grip on the situation with the other.

Okay then. How do we get there with everything overwhelming us? How do we experience peace in the midst of the storm? We first give our concerns to Him.

Phil 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

The promise of God, guaranteed by Jesus, says if I give Him my concerns, He will give me His peace.

Is it that simple? Yes and no. Peace will come, but if we want that peace to stay, we have to let it rule in our hearts. For peace to rule in our hearts, we remove the fear that wants to rule and replace it with the truth.

I’ve had people ask me how many times do I have to pray about something? Just one for God to hear. But part of the reason we pray is to gain the peace God promised when we give our anxieties to Him. So, what if I pray once and don’t have peace? Then keep praying until you do. Which probably means it may take us a while to actually give Him what we say we’re giving Him. But until we replace our anxiety with the truth, peace won’t stay.

Remember the put the bad habits aside and put into our lives good habits from last week? Giving up a burden leaves a vacuum that must be filled. But with what?

Phil 4:8-9 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

Peace will not rule as long as I interfere with its flow. How do I interfere? By not praying or by praying but not believing what’s true.

We know the stuff. We’ve read the Book. We’ve been told. We have the information about the greatness of God to take care of His children. So, use that information.

Col 3:15-16 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 

Put into our hearts the things that remind us who we belong to.

I think Timothy had to do that regularly. You remember Paul’s young companion. Timothy had a problem, a tendency, a hindrance he kept tripping over – timidity. Being timid isn’t just a component in shyness, it is a paralyzing effect of fear. Paul said: 2Tim 1:7 God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline

Paul: Timothy, God didn’t give you the crippling fear. He gave you power to live faithfully, love that casts out fear, and the ability to discipline yourself to do the right thing.

What have I done to remind myself of that this past week?

    I cast all my cares upon You.

    I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet.

    And anytime I don’t know what to do,

    I will cast all my cares upon You.

TAKEAWAYS:

  1. Fear is the overwhelming adversary to peace.
  2. When we are afraid, we can either give in to the fear and doubt God or overcome the fear by trusting Him.
  3. It is not a sin to be afraid; it is sin when we allow that fear to cause us to jump to conclusion that makes what God has said a lie.
  4. When fear says, “God doesn’t care,” we have to replace that lie with the truth.
  5. What truth? “Cast your cares upon Me because I care for you.”

Monday, July 27, 2020

Colossians Pt 6 (Chosen & Predestined)


Why are you a Christian? Not why as in what do you hope to gain from it. Not how did it happen that you became a Christian. The real question being asked in – Why are you a Christian? – is: for what purpose? What did God have in mind for those who would respond to His invitation?

Eph 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 

You hear a lot of catch phrases thrown around in churches today. Separated from their context, certain words can mislead us to make assumptions the Bible doesn’t leave room for. Words like chosen and predestined. The word chosen is a word that cannot stand alone. It needs a modifier, a clarifier. Chosen from. Chosen how. Chosen for what purpose. 

In the Bible, unless we know the modifier, by taking the word out of its context, we can force it to say what it isn’t saying. Like some are chosen and others rejected.

As a kid, I hated when we’d line up and get picked for teams. There was usually one team you wanted on and kept waiting for that leader to call your name. And then there was only one person left – you – and it was the other team’s choice. You were rejected by the one team you wanted to be on which put you on the other.

That’s often our idea of chosen. Picked, selected. And if not, rejected. Chosen to be included or chosen to be excluded. But when it comes to salvation, you’ll have a hard time finding support for that idea in Scripture.

1Tim 2:4 Our God, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 

God does not predetermine who are going to be saved and who are not going to be. Remember what He has promised? He loved the world to such a degree that He gave His only Son, that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life. He would never make that promise with the intentions of excluding some. Otherwise to those not selected this would be a false promise. God doesn’t make false promises. In Jesus, all the promises of God are yes. Jesus died once for all. He wouldn’t come back later and say, Oh, you didn’t read the fine print. All doesn’t mean all. Whoever is limited to a select few. 

That’s why, we must find the modifier, so the word can explain itself. Chosen for, or chosen because, or chosen to become, or chosen so that.

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

Paul says we are chosen with this purpose in mind. Before the world was formed, when God formulated His plans for how He might provide a relationship with man after the fall, He knew He would make a way for His people to be holy and blameless before Him. That would be the condition He would place on them.

Eklekt√≥s, the Greek word for chosen, is made up of two words: Ek – means out of or out from, and kletos means called. In English it may mean selected but not in the original language. It describes people who have been called out from one group so they can now become part of another group, from one life so they can receive another. Called out of darkness so they can live in the Light. Called out of the flesh so they can live in the Spirit. Called out of unbelief so they can now belong to Him. Called out of a people who aren’t the people of God so they can become the People of God.

Israel is known as God’s chosen people because it was through the Jews God intended to bring the Savior into the world. He called them out for a mission, a purpose. They were to be the people through whom God made Himself known. And out of their family, He would produce the Messiah, the Savior of the world. They were and are the chosen ones because of that purpose.

When you come to the word chosen, keep reading. You’ll find its modifier to tell you what the purpose is behind what God intended when He called us out. 

The other word, predestined, also needs a modifier. If you stop with just the word, you lose free will. The word becomes Predetermined as though there is no response for us to make. The decision has already been made. It will be this way no matter what. Now, it is true that the purposes of God cannot be thwarted and His will will be done, however, throughout Scripture, God gives mankind choices. People can agree or they can reject. But God will not make their choices for them. He will motivate them toward the right decision but leave that decision to them.

So, as with chosen, the word predestined needs a modifier to see what God had or has in mind.
The word means foreordain – set intentions on, determine in the past how something will operate in the future – as in planned in advance, or marked out beforehand. When we find its modifier, predestination always has a target. Predestined toward some predetermined goal. When speaking of salvation, it shows us what God set up and what were His intentions for us when we were saved.

Predestined is made from two words: before and establish boundaries or define limits. It means God determined His intentions for what He would accomplish in believers before anyone ever became a believer. This is what I want all believers to look like.

Paul said: He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself

The boundaries defined by the word adoption explain the relationship we would have with Him. He predetermined how or in what terms we would belong to Him – as His children by adoption. Predestined always needs a modifier.

Rom 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son 

Eph 1:11 having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, 

So, He called us out to be holy and blameless and decided in advance how we would relate to Him - as His children by adoption. In other words, Paul answers our question: why are you a Christian? For what purpose are you saved? To be holy and blameless and live as Children of God.

Col 3:12  So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, - you are what He called you out to be.

Paul has used another troubling word: Holy. What does it mean to be holy? What would holiness look like in my life? Is it an attitude or action? If we go into the language behind the English word it makes more sense. The word means: different, unlike, other than everything else; for the believer it means we are different from the godless world. 

We get the word Sanctified from the word Holy.

Sanctified means set apart, different. Reserved or designed for special use. The Temple in Jerusalem was holy because it was different from other buildings. It is set apart. A candle used in the Temple is holy because it is set apart from all other candles the candle-maker made. It had been sanctified. Set apart for Temple use. Others made at the same time, not for the Temple, are common, not sanctified. The difference is in how it lives out its purpose.

We have been called out from the world to be different from the world, set apart for His special use and predestined to live as His Children. What does all that mean? It means we live by a different standard. We think a different way. We operate by different motivation. We live a different lifestyle. We demonstrate the goodness of God in our lives. And our main objective now is pleasing Him.

Paul says, God’s intentions for us are to live separated and different from the world of the unbeliever. To help us know what that looks like, he gets specific with patterns of behavior we are to get rid of and patterns of behavior we are to add to our lives. Paul has already given us the motivational doctrine behind living differently, which is: because Jesus is Lord. Now he gives us the application.

Col 3:8-9 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 

put them all aside: Put off or put aside means these are things that we give up, renounce, or take out of our lives. Remove them from use. They may have been common for us in the life we were called out from, but not in the life as a Child of God.

1Cor 13:11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 

These things are attitudes and actions that contradict the Spirit of God living within us.

James 1:20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 

Paul is saying the same thing. Let’s remove the anger because it doesn’t reflect how God has told us to live. Neither does wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech.

These attitudes or actions compete with the intentions of God. They don’t reflect well on who we are as Children of God.

There is a rule in giving up a bad habit. You need to replace it with a good habit. Otherwise, you’ll slip back into the old. It’s not just cleaning out the clutter in the garage so the car will fit, it’s putting the car into the garage, so there’s no room for the clutter to come back.

Matt 12:43-45 Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.
 
Paul says, not only do we take these bad habits out, we replace them with good habits.

Col 3:10-17 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 

Paul isn’t trying to fix society. You cannot make a godless society live like a godly society. He’s showing believers how they can live in that godless society without becoming like it. To live differently. How? By encouraging each believer to consider why they are saved. To understand the purpose God had in mind for them and to live according to that purpose.

Phil 4:8-9 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

We let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts by dwelling on these things.

To dwell on them, we must remove anything from our lives that gives the wrong message of who we are and replace them with what reflects the truth about God in our lives. When we do, we will honor God and sense His blessings in return. What blessings?

2Pet 1:3 His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 

That’s our blessing. By belonging to Him, all we need is provided. All we need to do is decide to live like who we are: Children of God. All we need to do is live in such a way that: Whatever you do in word or deed, [you can] do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 

There is nothing more satisfying than realizing why we are saved and living according to that purpose.

TAKEAWAYS:
  1. When our salvation is simply an add-on to our lives and not a definition of who we are, our appreciation for how to live it is lessened.
  2. Unless we discover the purpose for which we are saved, we will become satisfied to live beneath the privilege of being a Child of God.
  3. A good place to begin is with prayer: God, show me what it means to belong to You.
  4. Then, what He shows us becomes our guide in adjusting our lives to what He has chosen and predestined us to be.