Category: Colossians (Page 1 of 10)

Extravagant Worship

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy, and dearly loved…” ~Colossians 3:12

We’re not chosen because we’re good. We’re not holy because we act like it. We’re not dearly loved because we deserve it. It’s all because of God. Who we are as chosen, holy, and dearly loved is strictly and totally about God. Not us. God’s love for you is eternal, his commitment to you has no limits, and his grace toward you is undefeated. Blessing after blessing after unmerited blessing! And our response to all that divine love and blessing is worship. We pour our hearts and our lives out to our Father in worship because he loves us more infinitely and blesses us more abundantly than we could ever dream.

Some people talk about church like it’s a gym. We go to church to get stronger, to build up our spiritual muscles. But I don’t think it’s like the runners I see around my neighborhood at 6:30 in the morning. Those folks are out there early every morning with their grim, sweaty faces, just trudging up and down the streets, laboring, grunting, stumbling, struggling – I guess so they can live longer. That’s not worship! Worship is the young lady running to meet her fiance! It’s the kids dancing wildly and shrieking loudly when they find out we’re going to Disney World! That’s Sunday! We’re expressing our gratitude and love!

And, yes, it’s extravagant. It’s over the top. We dress up nice for church, we get to the building early so we can have the best seats. We put our best singers on microphone and they practice – it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve sung “O Worship the King,” the worship minister makes you practice! Some of the songs make you cry, some of them make you clap your hands and dance. Some of the readings make you shout “Amen!” Some of the prayers change the course of your week. We spend hours every week changing light bulbs and polishing the pews and setting up banners and planning the order. We’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars in the sanctuary over the years and we’re going to spend more. Yes, there’s a lot of material, emotional, and spiritual extravagance in the worship center.

But, that’s love. Extravagant. People who are in love act extravagantly. They’re over the top. They sing songs and write poems and make mix tapes and videos. They buy new clothes and get new hairstyles. They cry and shout and dance. That’s the way love is – it’s excessive. Think about the twitterpated teenager. The dozen red roses – crazy expensive and what good does it do? Kissing in public – yuk! Get a room! What is all that? It’s loving excess.

If you ask people in love why they act that way, what good does it do, what does it accomplish, they’ll laugh at you. Those are the wrong questions. You’re on the wrong track. They’ll think you don’t know what it’s like to be in love. They’ll think you’ve never been in love. Or you’ve forgotten how.

The Bible says we love because we have been loved. And that is the source and the reason for the Church’s extravagant, excessive, over-the-top worship.

Peace,

Allan

Spiritual Formation by Church

I’m having some of those standard conversations with Cowboys fans today. The main theme today with the Star-gazers is that the team should be 2-0. They ought to be 2-0. They could very easily be 2-0. It’s simple to argue back that it’s just as likely that this team would be 0-2. In many ways, they ought to be 0-2. They could very easily be 0-2. That’s the way it is every week with an eventual 8-9 or 9-8 football team.

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There is no spiritual formation without the Church.

“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” ~ Colossians 3:12-14

How? How do we do this? How do we put on these virtues, these Christ-like qualities, these fruits of the Holy Spirit? How do we add them to our lives and develop them as critical components of our nature?

“As members of one body… Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” ~ Colossians 3:15-16

This sounds like worship. This passage is about worship in and with the Church. It shapes us.

And I know becoming like Christ is a full-time, all-the-time, seven-days-a-week lifelong journey. I know. But our formation radiates from and is nourished by the worship of the Church, gathered together every Lord’s day around the Word and the table. There is no spiritual formation without the Church. Not because there’s anything magical or superstitious about the church building, but because the Church is the Body of Christ. We are the Body of Christ, given life and sustained by God’s Spirit and formed by our Christian practices together. Worshiping together every week makes us more like Jesus.

We have publicly welcomed 32 new members to the GCR Church here in Midland over the past two Sundays. I’m certain your church has added a few new members over the past several months. You don’t get to interview these new members. Nobody gets to vote. All these new men, women, and children – nobody asks you if it’s OK to make them members of your church. God chooses people and moves them in and requires us to love each other. Our worship forces us to sing other people’s songs, to listen to other people’s opinions, to pray over other people’s cares, to forgive other people’s wrongs, and to eat and drink a meal together every Sunday. And it shapes us. It clothes us with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness. And patience. You know it does.

So we are devoted to the Church’s worship. We’re committed to it. We don’t miss it or skip it. We don’t quit on it or give it a lesser priority in our lives. We know our worship together makes us more like Jesus.

Peace,

Allan

Knowledge of God

According to the Bible, Bible knowledge is not having a grasp of the facts. It’s not being able to recite the names of the apostles or Israel’s kings or knowing how many generations are in the various genealogies. That’s not it. Biblical knowledge, according to Scripture, is a very specific thing: knowing who God is, what God is doing, and how he is doing it in Christ Jesus. That’s knowledge.

“We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God… for he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” ~Colossians 1:9-14

Knowledge is understanding who God is and what God is doing and how he is doing it in Jesus. It’s knowing that salvation is available for all people in Jesus. It’s understanding that God is bringing all people and all things together in Jesus. That’s the kind of specific knowledge the Bible is talking about. We are told to pursue that knowledge, to gain that knowledge, to grow in that kind of knowledge, what the Bible calls “the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).

Having that knowledge will keep us from being sucked in to the world’s forms of knowledge and understanding. What the world is doing and how the world is doing it – the values and beliefs and practices of the world, how the world gets things done – those are powerful forces. They are opposing forces. And without the knowledge of God, we can wind up following a mushy K-LOVE kind of shallow sentimentality we can buy at Mardell or a pathway of power and success reinforced by the herds at political rallies and stockbroker meetings.

Christians may not know more than others, but we ought to know better.

Knowledge of God changes everything. Isaiah 11 says when the Kingdom is finally perfected, when God’s holy will has all been finally fulfilled, there will be righteousness and justice and peace for the whole world, because “the earth will be full of the knowledge of God.”

Peace,

Allan

As the Lord Forgave You

Naming all the sin around us is not the solution. Exposing all the sin is not what matters. That is not what fixes the problem. Keeping score is not the Gospel. Shaming people and punishing people is not the Gospel. Forgiving sin – that’s the Gospel! Because it’s the only thing that works.

If something’s going to be done about sin, it’s not going to be with laws and commands or with judgments and punishments. Do we really think that what’s wrong with the world is something we can fix with more laws or more creative ways to do judgment? No. Forgiveness is the only way. God forgives sin. And as God’s children and disciples of Christ, we are the stage where that forgiveness is shown to the world. We make God’s forgiveness visible and real to the world.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” ~Colossians 3:13

Forgiveness is the only way to deal with a sin that’s been committed against you. You can only forgive. Forgiveness does not settle all the questions of blame and fairness. In fact, forgiveness purposefully avoids those things. What forgiveness does is bring people back together. It allows a relationship to start over. It creates something new.

But I think a lot of us get stuck between forgiveness and justice. When somebody does me wrong, I can think of a hundred reasons not to forgive. He needs to learn a lesson. I don’t want to encourage her irresponsible behavior. I was the one wronged; he has to make the first move. How can I forgive her if she never says she’s sorry?

Here’s the deal: justice is not the last word. Justice is not the best word. The last word and the best word is forgiveness!

Forgiveness must be our Gospel response to every person who hurts us or sins against us. Our world has plenty of judges and juries and prosecuting attorneys to say, “You’re guilty.” Who’s going to say, “You are forgiven?” If it’s not us, who’s going to say it? “Your sins are forgiven.”

However important justice is – for the record, I think justice is very important – forgiveness is more important. Assuming the criminal crucified next to Jesus was receiving a just sentence – he admitted it himself that he was getting what he deserved – forgiveness trumped justice that day. Forgiveness was more important than justice. It always is.

Peace,

Allan

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is a central part of Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

1:3 – We’re thankful for the faith and the hope of all the good people around us.

1:12 – You should be thankful for the salvation you share with all our brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of God.

2:7 – You should overflow with thankfulness because you have received the fullness of God in Christ.

3:15 – Be thankful for the peace of Christ inside you, the Word of Christ inside you.

3:17 – Be thankful for the name of Christ we all wear by the grace of God.

4:2 – Be thankful for the many redemptive ways God is breaking into our world.

Be thankful for the goodness of our God. Be thankful for the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has come to you and changed your whole life. Be thankful for the mercies of God and the mighty acts of God that belong to you. Be thankful that God has begun a good work in you and he is going to see it all the way to completion on that day when Christ appears and you appear with him in his eternal glory.

It’s good to be thankful around all the family, food, and football in late November. But be thankful every day – every waking moment – that, through Christ, you belong to God forever.

Peace,

Allan

Your Wardrobe is New

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” ~Colossians 3:12-17

You can tell who people are by the clothes they wear. If you see a police officer, you know she is a police officer by the uniform, the badge, and the handcuffs on her belt. You know a nurse by the scrubs she is wearing, the stethoscope around her neck, and — nowadays — by the bags under her eyes. A referee wears a striped shirt, a cowboy wears pointed boots, a chef wears an interesting hat, and a dad wears cargo shorts and Nike Air Monarchs. (Which are still really cool!)

A Christian is also recognized by the fashion statement he makes. When you’ve been raised with Christ, you wear compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. And people recognize it a mile away.

The old clothes, the clothes you wore in the life you once lived, are inappropriate for the new realities in Christ. The new clothes, the new ways to behave, are what we wear now. And these new clothes signal to people who we are and what we’re all about. They identify us as belonging to Christ.

Now, some people will criticize the clothes Christians wear as kinda wimpy: Christians are weak-willed sissies who talk about love and peace and get run over by the rest of the world. That’s simply not true. Christian behavior is decidedly different from worldly behavior — but it’s not for wusses. People who say that don’t even know what they’re talking about.

Have you ever seriously tried to forgive somebody who did you wrong? That is a very difficult thing to do. It takes determination and commitment and follow-through. It takes a devotion to the other person and a loyalty to higher ideals. It takes great courage to forgive. The wimpy thing, the easy thing to do, is not forgive.

Have you ever seriously tried to be compassionate and patient? It’s not natural. It’s not easy. It takes tremendous discipline. Being a person of peace in this world we’re in takes a massive amount of courage and boldness. And it’s risky. It’s much safer to slander and lie and express anger. But those are the old clothes. That’s the old life, before we were raised with Christ. Our reality is different now.

And so are our clothes.

Peace,

Allan

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