Category: Colossians (Page 1 of 11)

Baptism Sunday at GCR

You are not baptized by yourself. Baptism is not a private deal. When you’re baptized into the name of Jesus Christ, you are baptized into his community. You become a part of God’s redeemed people. Baptism is not just unity with Christ, it is also very much unity in Christ.

“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~ Galatians 3:26-28

That’s why we do baptisms on Sundays when the whole church is together. That’s why we cram as many people as we can up on the stage and we all stand as close as we can to the water, so you know this is not just about me and God. This is not just about me and my close relatives or me and my best friends. I am being joined by God into this community. God through Christ is now making me a part of this worldwide, universal, eternal community of the saved in Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

I love the way our Spiritual Formation Minister Jim Tuttle says it when he baptizes someone. As soon as he brings them out of the water, he grabs them and says, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is now you are an eternal child of God. The bad news is (gesturing toward the whole church) this is your family!”

This past Sunday was our first ever Baptism Sunday at GCR. I had never done one of these before. I have thought about it and wanted to do it for years, but haven’t been able to pull it off. We gave our church two weeks to think about baptism. To pray about it. To talk to others about it. To listen to God about it. If you have never been baptized or if someone you know has never been baptized, we’re going to spend these two weeks preparing for it and then we’re going to baptize a bunch of people on the 21st.

And, by God’s grace, we did.

Six brand new Christians put on our crucified and risen Lord Jesus in baptism on Sunday. We knew about four of them last week, we learned about one of them Saturday afternoon, and one guy didn’t decide to be baptized until after the second one had happened. Coy was standing¬† on the stage with the rest of us and leaned toward J.E. and said, “Will you baptize me?” Melinda baptized Jayce, one of her co-workers she’s been bringing to church. Matt and Stacey baptized their teenage daughter, Kylie. Lan and Cassie baptized their adopted son, M.J. Philip and Caitlin baptized their two daughters, Madison and Mabel. We were laughing and crying and praising God together as a united community of faith around the waters of baptism. And each time a new Christian came up out of that water, we charged them and blessed them in unison with the opening lines from Colossians 3:

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, you also will appear with him in glory!”

It was a glorious day. Those of us who’ve been baptized for a long time remembered our own baptisms with thanksgiving and renewed our commitments to Christ and to one another all over again. And we thanked God for the privilege of participating in these six baptisms together as a church family. We ate and drank the communion meal together and prayed over these new disciples, still literally wet behind the ears, dripping with God’s forgiveness and grace, and filled to overflowing with his Holy Spirit.

May our God bless these brand new Christians with his love and grace. May they look back often on their baptism at GCR and remember what God has created in them. And may they walk with him, together with us, faithful to the end.

Peace,

Allan

Put On Your Simla

When Boaz starts taking an interest in Ruth, the meddling mother-in-law hatches a brilliant plan. She recognizes the reality of their conditions and she moves to seize the opportunity in front of them. Naomi instructs her widowed daughter-in-law to “wash and perfume yourself, and put on your simla” (Ruth 3:3). My NIV translates the Hebrew word simla as “…put on your best clothes.” But the word simla just means a regular robe. Your normal everyday clothes. Simla is just a generic robe by both men and women. It’s not a special dress. It’s not a special anything. And that’s the point.

Remember, Ruth is a recent widow. Her husband died like four or five months ago. And Ruth has probably been wearing special grieving clothes. She’d been wearing something that designated her as a grieving widow and Naomi’s telling her to change into an outfit that would send a different message.

The exact same wording is used in 2 Samuel 12 when David is grieving over the illness of his newborn son. For seven days, David was in a state of mourning, fasting, and praying for his son. When the child died, the Bible says David got up, washed, put on his lotions, and his simla, his normal everyday attire (2 Samuel 12:20). He’s signaling that his grieving is over now. I’m back to business.

That’s what Ruth is doing here. She’s changing into another set of clothes that say she’s available for marriage. She’s not grieving anymore. She’s not focusing on what she’s lost. She’s moving forward. She’s prepared and ready to seize the opportunity in front of her.

As children of God and followers of Jesus, we need to put on the right clothes that signal to the whole world that we are ready and prepared to seize the opportunities around us.

“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 3:12-14

The people around you are seeking what’s really important. They’re searching for something trustworthy and true. The people you’re running into every day are disappointed, disillusioned, and divided. But they’re open to something different. They want something or someone that’s real and solid and dependable. They want an answer to everything that’s gone wrong, they’re looking for a solution to everything that’s broken. That way, that truth, that life is our Lord Jesus Christ and the time is right now to make him known to a desperate world.

Clothe yourselves with Christ!

Your life, your words, your actions, your attitude can be living proof to everyone around you that good overcomes evil. You can show people by how you behave that love is greater than hate, that unity is more fun than division, that forgiveness always beats revenge, and that peace is far more effective than violence.

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” ~1 Peter 2:9

Not just the things you engage in and the ways you act, but also the things you refuse to associate with and the things you say “no” to are a powerful witness to the only One who can truly fix what’s wrong.

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.” ~1 Peter 2:12

Peter didn’t come up with that. He’s quoting our Lord from the opening lines of his Sermon on the Mount.

“Let your light shine before all people that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:16

Think about it. What if you and I remained calm when the other people around us are anxious and frantic and demanding? Everything is turned up so loud right now. What would it mean to others if you were quiet and calm?

What if you and I spoke with humility and grace? Instead of saying things and forwarding things and reposting things that insult and disparage whole groups of other people so the people like me know exactly where I stand, what if we only said thing that were encouraging to others and the only thing that came out of our mouths was intended to build those other people up? I believe that kind of language would really stick out as special.

What if you and I tried to love everybody? What if you and I were known for how kind and graciously we treated others, even when we disagree? Especially when we disagree! I really think that would get noticed. And what if we committed to that right now instead of later?

“[All the commandments] are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ …Do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here… Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ!” ~Romans 13:11-14

Put on the clothes that signal to the world you take very seriously your vows to the Lord. Wear the simla that communicates a deep commitment to the ways and means of our King.

Peace,

Allan

New Creation

“By him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible… all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together… God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.” ~Colossians 1:15-20

The Creator of the universe, the Creator of all things that have ever existed, the One who spoke and breathed all things into being, and the One who created you and me — the Creator is also the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus. God through Christ formed and shaped his creation in wonder and beauty and awe. And God through Christ entered his magnificent creation to reconcile all of it. To redeem it and restore it. To recreate the heavens and earth and to recreate me. And you.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation… This is the Gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.” ~Colossians 1:21-23

The flesh and blood of Jesus Christ was hung on a cross and the whole world went dark again. All the darkness and emptiness and loss that the powers of evil could conjure — it all came together to kill the image of God. But his cruel death resulted in the ultimate and forever defeat of all those dark powers. Chaos and turmoil and sin and death and Satan were eternally destroyed on that great day.

God looked into the deep darkness of the cross, he looked into the lifeless void of the grave, and he created everything brand new all over again. For all of us. For you and for me. Jesus says, “Because I live, you also will live!”

“If anyone is in Christ, there is new creation! The old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ!” ~2 Corinthians 5:17-18

God’s beautiful design and purpose in creation began with Jesus Christ. And his plan for the redemption of all creation runs through Jesus Christ. What Jesus did at the cross shows us what God will do to bring his new creation to every man, woman, and child he’s ever placed on this planet. The same creative love and power that triumphed on the cross in Christ is the same love and power that created and sustains the whole world. The same Jesus who created you is also redeeming you.

Your destiny is not determined by fate or fluke or luck, but by our loving and gracious Father. The earth is not a random accident in the chemistry lab of the universe. There is meaning and purpose to all of creation. But we can’t understand it, we can’t comprehend creation or God’s purposes for creation apart from Christ.

If the heavens and the earth and everything and everyone in them are created by Christ and exist for Christ, then it’s never meaningless or without direction. And it’s never beyond the reach of God’s Holy Spirit. It’s never out of range of God’s holy possibility. It’s never past God’s capacity to create.

I wonder if, right now, your life feels formless and empty. Is there a void or a darkness in your life? Does chaos reign instead of calm? Is there any pain in your soul? Is there bitterness in your heart? How much disappointment is in there? How much hurt? How much sin?

God’s Holy Spirit is near. God’s Spirit is hovering, he is moving over you right now. He is hovering over your darkness, he is moving over your emptiness. He sees your pain and confusion. He knows about your sin. He is near. He is hovering. Moving.

And you pray. Maybe out loud. Maybe through tears.

Create in me.

And God says, “I can.”

Lord, breathe into me.

And God says, “I can.”

Make something new out of the chaos of my life.

And God says, “I will.”

Shine light into my darkness, Lord. Bring life into my soul. Create in me your holy image and your Holy Spirit.

And God says, through our Lord Jesus who was and is and is to come, “Behold! I am making all things new!”

Peace,

Allan

This is Eternal Life

“This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” ~John 17:3

In the Bible, knowledge is not some special understanding or deep insight reserved for the spiritually elite. It’s not about unlocking the secrets of the universe. In Scripture, knowledge means understanding who God is and what he is doing through Jesus. It’s not knowing the kings of Israel in chronological order or how many generations are in Matthew’s genealogy or having a well-researched argument for why Adam does or does not have a belly button. Scriptural knowledge means knowing God in Christ.

“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.” ~Colossians 1:9

Jesus rebuked the Jews for diligently searching the Scriptures, but not knowing him. He accused them of looking for eternal life in the Bible, and missing it because they didn’t see him, the source of eternal life the Bible points to. According to Scripture, knowledge is knowing that Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of all of God’s salvation promises and plans.

The Word of God in its fullness, according to Colossians 1, is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom… that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have 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 1:25-2:3

Knowledge is understanding that all of God’s redemptive purposes are fulfilled in Jesus. It’s not gaining more biblical facts. We don’t read the Bible to bolster our arguments or to prove somebody wrong or to get my day started off right. Christian knowledge is understanding that God’s salvation is available to all people through Christ Jesus.

And that keeps us from being sucked into the world’s opposite kinds of knowledge and understanding. The beliefs and values of our culture are powerful forces. And without biblical knowledge, we can wind up buying into a mushy sentimentality or following a pathway of power and success or just kind of following the herd. You know, whatever is hanging on the wall this week at Mardel.

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

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The Cowboys play their first division game tonight at the Meadowlands against a team they’ve beaten by an average of 12 points nine of the last ten times they’ve met. Dallas swept the Giants last year by a combined score of 67-26 in two games. But not tonight.

All signs point to a Cowboys loss.

This is the first road game for a struggling offense. The Cowboys have scored a total of two field goals in their past three quarters. This is the first time Cooper Rush has ever played an NFL game when the other team can watch film of him from the previous week. The Cowboys still don’t have Michael Gallup. The Giants do have Saquon Barkley, the NFL’s leading rusher after two weeks, averaging over six yards per carry. It’ll be close tonight. It’ll be a one-score game. And it’ll be decided by a Cowboys turnover. Delicious.

Peace,

Allan

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

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