Teaching from a Reservoir

Teaching from a Reservoir

…Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.  Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:37-38

In the early fall of 2000, John & I were blessed by a visit from Dr Marvin Mayer and his wife Shirley. Dr. Mayer had just retired from many years of teaching Bible and Theology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.  John & I were students at MBI in the 1970′s.  Dr. Mayer fast became one of my favorite professors and “spiritual father,” with a continuing relationship over the years.

On this particular visit, I got up early so I could walk with Dr M in the morning before he and Shirley left to return home to Illinois.  As we walked and talked, he spoke of his years of teaching and made a statement that grabbed my attention:  “I teach from a reservoir.”

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Lenten Meditation: a Word of Personal Need

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Personal Need

Thirst is a primal need in all of us humans...more demanding even than hunger!  We can go quite awhile without eating, but a very short time without drinking. Jesus on the Cross had refrained up to this point from satisfying His thirst.  Instead He drank the Father's cup to the very last drop! He became sin for us...the Sinless One!  Jesus took our place, and the Father turned His back.  The punishment for sin had been accomplished...spiritual separation from God....for US!

Now in fulfillment of prophecy, Jesus expresses His own physical need:

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said ( to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. John 19:28-29 ESV

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Teaching from a Reservoir

Teaching from a Reservoir

…Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.  Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:37-38

In the early fall of 2000, John & I were blessed by a visit from Dr Marvin Mayer and his wife Shirley. Dr. Mayer had just retired from many years of teaching Bible and Theology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.  John & I were students at MBI in the 1970′s.  Dr. Mayer fast became one of my favorite professors and “spiritual father,” with a continuing relationship over the years.

On this particular visit, I got up early so I could walk with Dr M in the morning before he and Shirley left to return home to Illinois.  As we walked and talked, he spoke of his years of teaching and made a statement that grabbed my attention:  “I teach from a reservoir.”

Read More

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Personal Need

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Personal Need

Thirst is a primal need in all of us humans...more demanding even than hunger!  We can go quite awhile without eating, but a very short time without drinking. Jesus on the Cross had refrained up to this point from satisfying His thirst.  Instead He drank the Father's cup to the very last drop! He became sin for us...the Sinless One!  Jesus took our place, and the Father turned His back.  The punishment for sin had been accomplished...spiritual separation from God....for US!

Read More

Christ Himself, the Sum of All Things!

Christianity is a PERSON, not a procedure; the LORD, not a list! Not church attendance, not Christ- like qualities, not good works, not the Christian "to-do list" (which may vary depending on the group and "camp" you are in)...

spiritual disciplines
spiritual disciplines

Not evangelism, not mission trips, not a quality "quiet time," not Scripture memorization or Bible study...

Not spiritual disciplines, not prayer, not fasting, not obedience, not miracle-working faith...

Not ______________________ (you fill in the blank with your favorite supposed "godliness-producing external" activity).

No!

The LORD JESUS CHRIST, the Son of God!

He is God's AMEN and total sum of all things!

During the next week at A Branch in the Vine, we'll be sharing sections of devotionals by Henri Nouwen, Watchman Nee, and others that reveal the Treasure who indwells us by faith in His Stellar Self, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

treasure in earthen vessel
treasure in earthen vessel

...the glory of God..is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 NLT

Stay tuned and be ready to reflect on our Lord Jesus, the Father's All in All.  May you begin to see those spiritual activities fall into perspective, and maybe some will even fall away, in light of all HE is...EVERYTHING and anything you will ever need!

For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. Colossians 2:9-10 NLT

May this become your equation for life:

JESUS + nothing = Everything*

*from the title of a book on Colossians by Tullian Tchividjian

The True Vine: Tell Us about Your Name...

vine with many branches
vine with many branches

I AM the True Vine... John 15:1 “Tell us about your name…”  That was the opening “ice-breaker” at a teacher in-service I attended a few years ago.  I was glad for that topic, because I have an interesting name.  In fact, each of my names (even including my married name) has something unique about it.

My full name is Janet Gale Renner Loyd.  “Janet” is after my mother whose name is “Jeanette” (apparently my Polish grandfather had a French girlfriend during WWI by that name).  My middle name is the first 3 letters of my mother’s maiden name (Galuszka) G-A-L plus an E…”Gale”.  My husband (as well as my aunt/godmother) would say that this is an appropriate spelling rather than the usual “G-a-i-l” because of my similarity to a “whirlwind” (ha, ha).  “Renner” is a German name, and have you noticed that it can be spelled forward and backward the same way?

That leaves my married name, “Loyd”.  That’s right, it IS spelled correctly. (I always spell it, but people still insist on putting 2 L's).  My explanation for the one “L” spelling is that my husband had some lazy ancestors somewhere in his past.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it makes for an interesting explanation.

The True Vine, A Murray 138_5831
The True Vine, A Murray 138_5831

Today, young parents seem to be choosing names for their children, not based on important people in their lives, but on the “music” or pleasantness of the sound of the name.  And that’s okay.  There are some fine ones out there…like “Kaden” and “Evan” and “Carter” and “Eli” (these just happen to be my grandsons’ names). And then there are some beautiful ones like “Lilly” and “Olivia” and “Emily” and “Victoria”.

But in Bible times, things were different.  A person’s name represented his character or a call in his life.

That being true, I wonder how Jesus would have answered the “ice breaker” question:  “Tell us about your name…”

He may have said, “My name ‘Jesus’ was given to my mother by an angel.  It means ‘Savior’.  My title ‘Christ’ means “Anointed One’ -- I am the Messiah, the Promised One foretold throughout generations.”

He then might go on and on with significant name after significant name -- names such as  Lord, King, the Lamb of God, the Alpha & Omega...

But I suspect the reply He would most want to give would be simply, “My name is ‘I AM’…I AM everything and anything you will ever need, because I AM Jehovah God the Son.”   Jesus wasn’t hesitant to use this name to refer to Himself in His conversation with the legalistic religious leaders...and was almost stoned for blasphemy!

Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM."  So they picked up stones to throw at Him. John 8:58-59

This sacred name of God was not even allowed to be spoken by the devout Jew at that time, because it spoke of the very essence of God Himself...the Eternal Present...His Essence is His Existence..LIFE itself!

Jesus further elaborated on this divine name in the rich metaphors of the Gospel of John:

I AM the Bread of life,...I AM the Light of the world,...I AM the Door of the sheep,...I AM the Good Shepherd,...I AM the Resurrection & the Life,...I AM the Way, the Truth, & the Life,..I AM the True Vine. John 6,8,10,11,14,15

God says I AM  138_5816
God says I AM 138_5816

Several years ago I was at an ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) teachers’ convention.  One of the fun parts of those conventions was to visit the booksellers’ booths.  I love Christian books, and I love a bargain, so for me it was always a “win/win”.

This particular time I found a treasure of a children’s book called God Says I AM: What God tells us about Himself in the Bible – from A to Z. This wonderful book goes through the whole alphabet describing who God is.  I have since given this sweet book to each of my two grandsons who have trusted in the Lord Jesus for salvation…to commemorate that glorious day that they were born into God’s family.

I’ve challenged my then five-year old grandson Kaden to try to learn all the descriptions of God in the I AM book.  We are still both working on it together, and every time I visit, we practice.

But one of our times together was especially precious.  After Kaden & I sat together seeing how much we could remember, I went back through quickly repeating all of the descriptions while looking at the stunning artwork:

God says I AM – the Artist, the Builder, the Creator, the Designer, Everywhere, your Father, Good, the Healer; I do the Impossible; the Joy-giver, King of kings, Love, a Mystery, Never-ending, the Only One, Power; I Quiet the storms; Real, your Savior, Trustworthy, Unfailing, Voice, Wisdom; fiX your eyes on heaven; I want to know You; the A to Z!

138_5678
138_5678

Then I almost breathlessly ended with,

“And all of that is what God says He Is!”

Kaden looked up at me and said with warmth and amazement,

WOW!”

That’s right, Kaden…WOW!  This is your God!

And this Amazing God is the Father's True Vine...because everything that's true of the Father is true of the Son. 

He is the image of the invisible God...For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells in bodily [human] form. Col 1:15; 2:9

I AM the Vine. You are the branches.  If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.  Apart from Me, you can do nothing. John 15:5

May we, Your branches, be WOWed by YOU, the Father's True Vine, all our days!

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

The Rest of the Gospel: Song of the Week {All to Us}

What is it that you need today, O dear child of God?

Gal 2:20
Gal 2:20

Do you need courage today? The Courageous Christ will be courageous through you as you trust Him. Do you need love today? The Loving Christ will love through you as you trust Him. Do you need to forgive today? The Forgiving Christ will forgive through you as you trust Him. Do you need patience today? The Patient Christ will be patient through you as you trust Him. Do you need _______ today?  (You fill in the blank) The _________ Christ will be ________ through you as you trust Him.

If you are a child of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the all-sufficient Christ lives within you.  He is sufficient through you as you trust Him!

It’s the devil’s lie to get you to think of yourself as separate from our Lord.  He’s not up there, and you’re down here, praying He throws down a little courage or love or forgiveness (or whatever) if you pray correctly!  NO!  You are one with Him…united in a way that nothing in heaven or earth can separate!

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

So, dear sisters & brothers, look at whatever you are facing today as your opportunity to experience the all-sufficient Christ in His fulness!  He is truly all to us!

ALL TO US

Chris Tomlin

Precious cornerstone, sure foundation You are faithful to the end We are waiting, on You, Jesus We believe You're all to us

Let the glory of Your name be the passion of the Church Let the righteousness of God be a holy flame that burns Let the saving love of Christ be the measure of our lives We believe You're all to us

Only Son of God sent from Heaven Hope and mercy at the cross You are everything, You're the Promise Jesus, You are all to us

You're all to us You're all to us You're all to us Yes, You are

When this passing world is over We will see You face to face And forever we will worship Jesus, You are all to us


The Rest of the Gospel: Day of Reckoning

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:11 KJV

Today is a Day of Reckoning...but not how you think!  Usually we use that term to mean to give an accounting, a calculation, a settlement of accounts.  In fact according to Wikipedia, it can mean a host of things from the Final Judgment Day to heavy metal albums and Nintendo games.

But in the Bible sense, EVERY day is a Day of Reckoning.  This word reckon in the Greek is often rendered consider.  In other words, "count on something to be true".  My reckoning doesn't MAKE it true.  It already IS true, so I count on it and live from it.  So each day is THE day to reckon to be true what God says is true...because it IS true.  I can take it to the bank and live from it :)

Last week, I described how I got free from the LIE that held me captive.  As you may remember, it was by considering myself (reckoning) to be dead to it, because I AM dead to it through my union with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection.

For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1

How this can play out in the life of a believer in a practical way is found in Paul's letters, especially to the Colossians and Ephesians.  There he uses the imagery of clothing to show what reckoning yourself dead to sin, self, flesh, legalism, and the lies of the enemy looks like in real life.   Paul then shows what it looks like to live alive to God.  It's all wrapped up in the key words put off and put on.

Taking off clothing and putting on other clothing are things we do everyday.  We hardly even think about it (except to chose our outfits ).  Let's compare this to the spiritual activity of living from the life of the indwelling Christ each day.

from the ragbag 2009
Let me illustrate from my own "world of fashion".  About 15-20 years ago, I bought a beautiful nightgown to keep me warm and feminine in the cold Ohio winters.  I've loved that nightgown!  I could wrap myself in it and be cozy and comfortable.   And despite the fact that it's faded and worn, I've had a hard time giving it up to the ragbag.  Every year as the weather has turned colder I've taken it out of said bag to put it on "just one more year".

Now my husband is not a rich man, but he is a good provider and has enabled me to have other beautiful options.  But they are not as comfortable to my "flesh" as that old "friend".

one of my beautiful "options"

Yet in reality, that old rag is not consistent with who I am as John's wife...a well-loved and cared for woman.  I just have a hard time putting on those new gowns.  So out "she" comes for yet another season.

It's kind of the same way with our spiritual clothing as beloved believers united to our True Lover Jesus Christ.  He has provided His own beautiful character as clothing for our human life on this earth:  love, forgiveness, kindness, truth, compassion, peace, self-control...

But what do we do?  We continually go back into the "ragbag" of our fleshly life before Christ and put on those comfortable characteristics that are inconsistent with who we are in Christ:  things such as sexual immorality & impurity, pride, greed, jealousy & competition, unforgiveness,... [For further study look at these passages:  Ephesians 4:17-5:21; Col 3:1-16; Gal 5:16-26; Rom 12:1-3,9-20; Rom 13:8-14; 2Tim 2:22]

God says to put those off!  Every time we are tempted to live out of the ragbag, we can chose to

put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires. Romans 13:14

After all, the indwelling Lord Jesus Christ IS our wardrobe!  In fact, by choosing Christ in all His fulness of character, we are at the same time laying aside the ragbag characteristics of life without Christ.*

Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life...is with Christ in God. He is your life.

And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That's a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God...bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.

Don't lie to one another. You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:3-14  MESSAGE

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*For an inspiring, though challenging sermon on this very point, read The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers.  This is not for the faint of heart, but you will be incredibly blessed!

 

 

 

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Personal Need*

Thirst is a primal need in all of us humans...more demanding even than hunger!  We can go quite awhile without eating, but a very short time without drinking. Jesus on the Cross had refrained up to this point from satisfying His thirst.  Instead He drank the Father's cup to the very last drop! He became sin for us...the Sinless One!  Jesus took our place, and the Father turned His back.  The punishment for sin had been accomplished...spiritual separation from God....for US!

Now in fulfillment of prophecy, Jesus expresses His own physical need:

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said ( to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. John 19:28-29 ESV

Here He is...the Source of Living Water...asking for a drink!  That reminds me of another time Jesus was thirsty...and it was a thirst that ended up quenching thirsty souls.

He had been traveling through Samaria, and  He asked an unknown woman at a well for a drink.

Samaria was the place where a mixed race lived...half pagan, half Jewish...wholly outcast to pure bred Jews.  But not to Jesus!  He was to have a divine encounter with this forgotten woman over a drink of water.

This woman of Samaria was not the godly, religious type, even according to Samaritan standards...in fact, the exact opposite.  She was looking for love in all the wrong places...five husbands and now a live-in boyfriend.  Yet still thirsty for love...from Someone, but didn't know it!

So in her shame, she daily came to the well to draw water at mid-day... at a time when she could avoid the knowing glances and whispers of the "righteous women" of the community.

Here she encountered a Stranger with a strange request:

Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.  She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.

“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water?...

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

Thinking that Jesus was talking about physical water and physical thirst,

“Please, sir, the woman said, give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

Jesus, gently confronting her of her sinful and fruitless life, answered her God questions:

The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus told her, “I AM the Messiah!

The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him...

Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, long enough for many more to hear his message and believe.

Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world. John 4:1-42 NLT

In the end, this little woman, as well as the community she desperately tried to avoid, drank deep of the Well of Living Water...all in response to a Thirsty Stranger's request for a drink.

Prayer: Lord, I hear Your words, I thirst, and I realize that You thirsted for me too.  Thank you for Your ever-thirsting thirst for the souls of men and women like me! I have to admit that I go through my days thirsting also. But I often try to quench my thirst at broken cisterns that hold no water ...cisterns of human approval, recreation and entertainment, social media, relationships (even good ones), religion, perfectionism, comparison, one-up-manship, and the list goes on. In the end I come up dry...because I'm really thirsty for YOU, my Savior and Lord. Thank you for Your Indwelling Spring of Living Water...Your Beautiful Self! Cause me to walk in Your overflowing fullness every day of my life. Amen and amen!

Let anyone who is thirsty come to ME and drink. Whoever believes in ME, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. John 7:37-38

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Bible Students:

Fully God, but fully HUMAN.

This is another of the divine mysteries...the Kenosis, the self-emptying of the Son of God.

Explore these passages and be humbled and blessed by the realization that the Sovereign God became one of us...for you and me!

Philippians 2:6-11 ESV Hebrews 2:9-18 ESV

*Thanks to friends at Abiding Christ Church for this title.  Traditionally, this statement is often called a "Word of Distress."

Teaching from a Reservoir

Dedicated to my fellow teachers...no matter the level, subject, or circumstance.

...Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.  Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" John 7:37-38

In the early fall of 2000, John & I were blessed by a visit from Dr Marvin Mayer and his wife Shirley. Dr. Mayer had just retired from many years of teaching Bible and Theology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.  John & I were students at MBI in the 1970's.  Dr. Mayer fast became one of my favorite professors and "spiritual father," with a continuing relationship over the years.

On this particular visit, I got up early so I could walk with Dr M in the morning before he and Shirley left to return home to Illinois.  As we walked and talked, he spoke of his years of teaching and made a statement that grabbed my attention:  "I teach from a reservoir." I knew what he meant in the context of our conversation.  He taught his theology and Bible classes from a plethora of Scriptural knowledge and doctrine as a result of years of study and teaching.

But as I continued to reflect on this statement in the following days, I realized that the reservoir that Dr Mayer taught from was not just that of Bible truth, but rather truth in relationship with Him who is Truth Himself. I recalled Dr M's classes and the prayers he prayed and the hymns he sang, while we joined in. :)  His passion for the God he taught about was so evident to us students.

A few years later in the midst of a conversation with my daughter about motherhood, the Lord brought to mind a verse that was for me an obscure one.  This verse beautifully illustrates the exact point about teaching from the reservoir of truth in relationship with Him who is Truth.

He said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old." Matthew 13:52 NASB

The scribes were the teachers/experts in Scripture truth, who may or may not have had a personal relationship with the God about whom they taught.  But in this verse, Jesus says that if a person knows the Scriptures well AND becomes His disciple (which means being attached to Him the Teacher, not just His teaching), he will have a reservoir or treasure [same Greek word] from which to draw in teaching and ministering to others -- new truth added in with known (old) truth, whatever is needed at the time. And all in relationship with Him who is the Truth.

It's kind of like my kitchen cabinet.  Because I have that treasure/reservoir of pottery, I can go in there and pull out some of my new Polish pottery and arrange it on the table to make a beautiful setting with an old blue and white pitcher.

What about YOU, dear teacher/ home school mom? What is the reservoir YOU are drawing from?

Is it your slick methodology, your fancy hi-tech curriculum, your astounding expertise?  All of those may be wonderful, but ONLY if you are a disciple of the MASTER TEACHER Himself, submitting to Him and His Word.  Then you will be teaching from the vast reservoir of truth found in relationship with Him who is the Truth!

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2Cor 3:4-6

...God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge....For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him...  Col 2:2b-3,9-10

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2Tim 3:16-17

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More to come in the next post Living from a Reservoir.

For further study look at Luke 6:39-49.  List everything the Holy Spirit "highlights to your heart" about teaching and being a "learner" (disciple).

Mystery of Christ in Colossians: the Grand Finale

cheru, Raphael
cheru, Raphael

Back in 1995 we lived in Centerville, Ohio.  Centerville had a wonderful little post office in those days right behind Bill's Donuts.  In February of that year I stopped by to buy some stamps, noticing a large poster of the current stamp. As I awaited my turn in line, I reflected on the picture of the cherub I saw on the wall.

"Wait a minute," I said to myself, "I've seen that cherub before, but in a bigger painting."

I had taken art history in college and loved it! So I was wracking my brain to try to remember what painting it was part of.

cherubs
cherubs

I couldn't let it rest...so it sent me to the library to those big, dusty art books.

Sure enough, here's the painting those little cherubs are part of:

sistine madonna
sistine madonna

The cherubs are hardly noticed in this painting.  The obvious focal point is the mother and child...but the mother, more than the child!

"Wow," I thought, "Isn't that just like what we do in our Christian life?  We loose our focal point -- the Lord Jesus Christ!  Rather we focus on all the peripheral Christian things, as good as many of them may be.

In the book of Colossians, we have had our focus sharpened to see that truly...

Jesus + nothing = Everything

Earlier today, my husband and I were driving along, listening to a collection of old songs by the Carpenters.  They were popular during our "courtship" in the 1970's.

One of Karen Carpenter's most romantic songs is I Won't Last a Day Without You.  As it began to play, I remembered using it in a ladies Bible study with the statement, "The only One we could really sing this to is our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lover of our Souls!"

Enjoy it with me, O Bride of Christ...sing it from your heart to your True Bridegroom:

I Won't Last A Day Without You

Day after day I must face a world of strangers Where I don't belong, I'm not that strong It's nice to know that there's someone I can turn to Who will always care, you're always there

When there's no getting over that rainbow When my smallest of dreams won't come true I can take all the madness the world has to give But I won't last a day without you

So many times when the city seems to be without a friendly face A lonely place It's nice to know that you'll be there if I need you And you'll always smile, it's all worthwhile

When there's no getting over that rainbow When my smallest of dreams won't come true I can take all the madness the world has to give But I won't last a day without you

Touch me and I end up singing Troubles seem to up and disappear You touch me with the love you're bringing I can't really lose when you're near

If all my friends have forgotten half their promises They're not unkind, just hard to find One look at you and I know that I could learn to live Without the rest, I found the best

When there's no getting over that rainbow When my smallest of dreams won't come true I can take all the madness the world has to give But I won't last a day without you

When there's no getting over that rainbow When my smallest of dreams won't come true I can take all the madness the world has to give But I won't last a day without you

Thank you, dear sisters and brothers, for journeying with me. May the Lord continue to use His Word and His Spirit to reveal Himself to us.

Mystery of Christ in Colossians: a Day of Reckoning / Put off, Put on

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:11 KJV

Today is a Day of Reckoning...but not how you think!  Usually we use that term to mean to give an accounting, a calculation, a settlement of accounts.  In fact according to Wikipedia, it can mean a host of things from the Final Judgment Day to heavy metal albums and Nintendo games.

But in the Bible sense, EVERY day is a Day of Reckoning.  This word reckon in the Greek is often rendered consider.  In other words, "count on something to be true".  My reckoning doesn't MAKE it true.  It already IS true, so I count on it and live from it.  So each day is THE day to reckon to be true what God says is true...because it IS true.  I can take it to the bank and live from it :)

In my last post, I described how I got free from the LIE that held me captive.  As you may remember, it was by considering myself (reckoning) to be dead to it, because I AM dead to it through my union with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection.

For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1

How this can play out in the life of a believer in a practical way is found in Paul's letters, especially to the Colossians and Ephesians.  There he uses the imagery of clothing to show what reckoning yourself dead to sin, self, flesh, legalism, and the lies of the enemy looks like in real life.   Paul then shows what it looks like to live alive to God.  It's all wrapped up in the key words put off and put on.

Taking off clothing and putting on other clothing are things we do everyday.  We hardly even think about it (except to chose our outfits ).  Let's compare this to the spiritual activity of living from the life of the indwelling Christ each day.

Let me illustrate from my own "world of fashion".  About 15-20 years ago, I bought a beautiful nightgown to keep me warm and feminine in the cold Ohio winters.  I've loved that nightgown!  I could wrap myself in it and be cozy and comfortable.   And despite the fact that it's faded and worn, I've had a hard time giving it up to the ragbag.  Every year as the weather has turned colder I've taken it out of said bag to put it on "just one more year".

Now my husband is not a rich man, but he is a good provider and has enabled me to have other beautiful options.  But they are not as comfortable to my "flesh" as that old "friend".

Yet in reality, that old rag is not consistent with who I am as John's wife...a well-loved and cared for woman.  I just have a hard time putting on those new gowns.  So out "she" comes for yet another season.

It's kind of the same way with our spiritual clothing as beloved believers united to our True Lover Jesus Christ.  He has provided His own beautiful character as clothing for our human life on this earth:  love, forgiveness, kindness, truth, compassion, peace, self-control...

But what do we do?  We continually go back into the "ragbag" of our fleshly life before Christ and put on those comfortable characteristics that are inconsistent with who we are in Christ:  things such as sexual immorality & impurity, pride, greed, jealousy & competition, unforgiveness,... [For further study look at these passages:  Ephesians 4:17-5:21; Col 3:1-16; Gal 5:16-26; Rom 12:1-3,9-20; Rom 13:8-14; 2Tim 2:22]

God says to put those off!  Every time we are tempted to live out of the ragbag, we can chose to

put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires. Romans 13:14

After all, the indwelling Lord Jesus Christ IS our wardrobe!  In fact, by choosing Christ in all His fulness of character, we are at the same time laying aside the ragbag characteristics of life without Christ.*

Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life...is with Christ in God. He is your life.

And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That's a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God...bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.

Don't lie to one another. You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:3-14  MESSAGE

[*For an inspiring, though challenging sermon on this very point, read The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers.  This is not for the faint of heart, but you will be incredibly blessed!]

 

Mystery of Christ in Colossians: Lesson from a family vacation

ibarnegat lighthouse
ibarnegat lighthouse

LBI...Long Beach Island, New Jersey -- sun, surf, and sweet memories.  Home of Surf City and Barnegat Lighthouse!   LBI was a favorite place for us Renners to vacation in our growing up years in the 1950's & 60's -- not every year but as many years as our family of 6 (and later 7) kids and 2 parents, living on one income, could afford. It was such a beloved place that my brother Conrad and family bought a beach house there in 1998...within a block from the beach, no less!

One year, when our kids were grown but not yet married and out of the nest, we had the most wonderful Renner family reunion at LBI.  Conrad scouted out other houses on his street that were for rent. And so several of us rented for the same week, and we all (along with in-laws, friends, and pets) descended upon that little beach community.

Family reunion at LBI 2000
Family reunion at LBI 2000

Renner Family Reunion 2000

Vacation Blog
Vacation Blog

It was a glorious week, filled with swimming, sun-bathing, sunrise watching, etc etc.  But the best thing was the love and togetherness and community that "happened".  We shared meals together, each family taking a turn.

A year or two later, some of us rented houses again at LBI.  I was hoping to recapture the same experience of that previous vacation together.  Well, you know how that goes.  Recapturing "glory" usually never happens.  And it certainly didn't happen this time...or so I thought!

For one thing, we all couldn't make it...for various valid reasons.  On top of that, my brother Paul's family, including his sister-in-law's family, rented a house that was germ infested (probably from the previous renters).  Everyday other members of their families "would drop like flies" with a terrible flu-bug.  So there was often a "skeletal crew" on the beach from that household.

Vacation Blog06
Vacation Blog06

Renner Reunion 2002..."a skeletal crew"

We didn't eat together like the other year.  There was little to no fellowship or community because of struggles going on in individual lives.  My widowed mom, then in her mid-70"s, was staying with us. (Remember her?  My hero in a previous post!)  She was frustrated with issues related to our family house, which was too much for her to handle at that stage of her life!  (We probably had waited too long to move her elsewhere.)  So our conversations were largely negative.  She had to get it off her chest, but with my expectations for a nice relaxed vacation, I was hardly as sympathetic as I could have been.

Not to bore you with too many negative details, let's just say that to me the vacation was a total bust!  And I left LBI mad, mad, mad...and feeling cheated!  For the 11 hour drive home from NJ to OH, I seethed.  I couldn't sleep that night!  And I stayed stuck for days despite dealing with some issues I needed to deal with.   Until...

Until the Lord broke through, "Enough!  It's done!  NOW when you think of this vacation, I want you to focus on the one hour of joyful bliss we had together."

Oh my goodness!  I had forgotten about that because of my absorption with my disappointment!

Bageleddi's at LBI
Bageleddi's at LBI

It was the Wednesday of vacation week.  I woke up at 5:45 am totally awake.  Grabbing a cup of coffee at Bageleddi's (the local favorite), I walked alone to the beach.  It was warm, and the sun had just started to come up but was not yet visible.

sunrise over ocean
sunrise over ocean

The cloud bank above the ocean was turning shades of pink, purple, and blue...and then the sliver of sun started to appear on the horizon. I opened my Bible and read in the Psalms,

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship... God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Psalm 19:1,4-6

So Jesus and I walked and talked together that glorious morning -- perfect rest in Him, enjoying together the most gorgeous sunrise I had truly ever seen.  And I had forgotten it all!

So whenever negative thoughts about vacation would start to again flood my mind, I remembered this one joyful hour of bliss with my Lord.

As the days went by, something amazing started to happen.

Vacation Blog01
Vacation Blog01

Jeremy, Cortney, Beth, Jan and John @ Mud Hut 2002

Other pleasant memories of our vacation started to surface:  like my early morning walk to the beach only to discover a delightful sight -- my brothers and nephews fishing in the surf; and the fun supper at the Mud Hut with my husband and adult children; and a surprisingly wonderful conversation with an in-law that I didn't typically connect with.

By God's grace, He saved me from a root of bitterness in my heart.  As I began to reflect on what had happened in me, I started to realize what I've come to believe is a spiritual principle:  We become like what we focus on.

I remembered some of my favorite passages of Scripture:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another... For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 3:18: 4:6 ESV

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4 NIV

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things... And the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:8

So here's the question, dear friends:  What are you focusing on right now?

Maybe you need to hear the Lord say (as I did), "Focus on Me and remember joy!"

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

 

Mystery of Christ in Colossians: Focusing Week

Carter in car
Carter in car
Evan in car
Evan in car

I have 4 adorable grandsons!  Two of them live close enough for me to see often. About a month ago, I had 5 year old Evan and 4 year old Carter for the day.  We decided to go visit G-G.  G-G is my 89 year old mother in law who lives at Trinity Retirement Community not too far away.

When we had visited before, I couldn't help but notice how the typically serious and sad looking residents seemed to "come alive!"  So as we were driving over to Trinity, I was preparing the boys to be greeted by many older people longing to, in a sense, "get a piece of them!"

"You boys are so special!  The older people here just love when you come!"  I told them.

"Why, Babci (my Polish name for "G'ma)?

"Because you're little (and not scarey) and loving and fun and friendly.  These people are lonely and sad and afraid."

So sure enough, as Rock Stars Evan and Carter walked in, the place came alive!  Every aged face was glowing and longing for a smile, a touch, a handshake, a hello...

Evan & carter in car
Evan & carter in car

Later as we were driving away after our visit, I said,  "Didn't I tell you?  You boys are so special!"

Younger brother Carter replied, "THAT boy (pointing to older brother Evan) is NOT special!!!"

"Why do you say that?" I ask somewhat taken aback.

"Because he's mean to me!"

Catching my breath, I respond,  "Oh Evan IS still special.  He's just not acting like the special boy that he is!"

And later I thought, what a good metaphor for how we "new creatures in Christ," filled with His fulness, still don't act like the special people we are in Him!

So far in our journey through Colossians, we've basically seen the truths summarized in this big idea:

Because of the mystery of Christ, the Lord Jesus Christ lives His full, divine, resurrection life in and through me, as me.

1.  He livesunited to me in His fulness(chapters 1 & 2).

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Col 2:9-10 ESV

2.  He lives united to me for myfreedom (especially chapter 2).

In him also you were circumcised ...by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith... And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities...by triumphing over them in him. Col 2:11-15 ESV

And now...this week is Focusing Week (and our final week) in our continuing, restful, summer study in the book of Colossians.  And so this third point...

3.  He lives united to me as myfocus (chapters 3 & 4).

 In the last two chapters in this glorious epistle, Paul starts out...

If [Since...] 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 minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4 ESV

Look for the key exhortations in Col 3:1-4.  Write them in your journal.  After that, look for the reasons, right in the same four verses.  List them also.

Then look for the metaphor of "clothing," starting in Col 3:5 through Col 4.  Make two columns in your journal titled Lay aside/Put off and Put on. List each of the exhortations in chapters 3 and 4 in one of those two columns.

Because of our indwelling Christ, we can live a holy, God-filled life...a life consistent with the special people we are in Him.  This is not because He "helps us" live it.  Rather He lives it through us as we let Him [faith].

In the next post in this series, we'll look at a principle that I wholeheartedly believe: 

We become like what we focus on!  Colossians 3:1-4

And then in our final post of our study in Colossians, we will explore Paul's metaphor of clothing and the principle of faith [reckoning].  Colossians 3:5ff

Then the Grand Finale :)

Thank you so much for journeying with me through this marvelous treasure of Scripture called the epistle to the Colossians.  We have barely scratched the surface, so keep reading and meditating and praying!

My prayer has been that in the course of these weeks together, our equations may have changed to be closer to that of our Father God:

Our Lord Jesus Christ (His glorious Son) +Nothing (not religion, wealth, pleasure, fame,...)  = Everything...LIFE itself!!!!!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The rest of th gospel
The rest of th gospel

I highly recommend this life-changing book:

The Rest of the Gospel by Dan Stone

It speaks to the issues found in Colossians 3 & 4.

For excerpts of Dan Stone's writings, click here.

Mystery of Christ in Colossians: Caught in the Web

LOOK carefully!  Can you see it?  A perfectly formed circular spider web hanging across a path...suspended by a "thread"!  This is the amazing sight my friend Penny and I happened upon early one morning as we were walking down some little-traveled paths in a wooded area in my neighborhood. Here was one spider who was serious!   She was ready to get a "good catch" that day!

There was a period of my life when I was a "good catch" in a craftily constructed web -- not made by earthly designs but that of the father of lies (John 8:44).

It started out with a series of real, and perhaps imagined, rejections...which then developed into a LIE.  It wouldn't have been so bad if I had recognized it for what it was...but I didn't.  And so I embraced it as truth and struggled for many years.

It caused me much pain, along with fear and confusion!  It influenced my behavior!  And it even started to poison other areas and relationships.

Finally, by the time I recognized it as a LIE, I was so bound up in it, that I couldn't get free.  I prayed!  I cried!  I tried to act against it!  I attempted the mental mind games!  I asked my praying friends to pray!  I asked my husband to pray!  All in vain!  UNTIL last summer...

I was reading & meditating in the little book of Colossians...preparing to teach it for the third time.  (I told you I was a slow learner!) I read,

Since you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God... For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God... Colossians 3:1-3

All of a sudden in that moment, the Spirit of God brought the LIE to my mind, and with it came the realization: "Wait a minute!  I DIED to that LIE!"

That very moment, the power of that LIE was broken in my experience!  Here I had been begging and pleading for the Lord to do something that He had already done through the Cross of Christ.  But I had not recognized it by faith in my particular situation.  Once I did, everything changed :)  I was set free from the fear, confusion, the agonizing emotions that the LIE produced in me.

You may ask me how I know that this is true?  The key is found in the little Scriptural word with.  This little particular word in the Greek has the idea of intimate union--a union that nothing can break. Devotional writers of previous generations called this "the believer's mystical union with Christ" of which marriage is a picture (Ephesians 5:25-32).

One of my favorite Bible teachers Wayne Barber (of Precept Bible Studies fame) illustrates this life union by what he calls "Biscuits for Jesus."  [I'm going to expand his illustration a bit to include all three words Greek words translated "with".]

There are certain ingredients that go into making biscuits:  flour, salt, baking powder, milk, sugar (if you're Polish like me), and shortening (namely butter, if you're Polish like me).  Anyway, as you gather the ingredients and place them next to each other on the kitchen counter, you could say that they are with each other (para, in the Greek), meaning alongside.

Then if you take them and place them in a bowl one by one, you might say that the ingredients are with each other (meta, in the Greek), meaning closely associated with.  At this point, each of the ingredients is separate from each other.  Even in the bowl, you could skillfully separate the ingredients from each other to some extent.

BUT once you mix those ingredients together, roll them out and cut them, place them on the cookie sheet and bake them, there is no way you can separate those ingredients from each other.  There is a mysterious union of ingredients called "biscuits"  :)  That's the Greek word sun, meaning united together with.  And this little word is our word found in Colossians 3 (above) as well as these significant Scriptures (and many more):

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.... So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:3-11 ESV

So what does this mean?  It means that...

when Christ died, I died! when Christ was buried, I was buried! when Christ was raised, I was raised to newness of life!

And what did I die to?

I died to the world! (Col 2:8; Gal 6:14) I died to the flesh!  (Col 2:11-12; Rom 8:1-10) I died to self (old man)!  (Col 2:12; Gal 2:20; 2Cor 5:17; Rom 6:6-7) I died to sin!   (Col 2:13; Romans 6:1-14; Eph 2:1-7; 2Cor 5:21) I died to the Law ("to do list" religion)!  (Col 2:14; Rom 7:4,6; Gal 3:10,13,24-25) AND I died to the power of Satan, whose main tactics are lies and accusation!  (Col 2:15; Heb 2:14-15; Eph 1:19-21;6:10ff)

So now when that nasty LIE and related accusations and condemnations rear their ugly heads, I just say "Wait a minute!  I died to that!  And I'm alive united with my Lord...adequate in and through Him to be what He has made me to be in this situation." (2Cor 2:15-16; 3:5-6)

What lies, accusations, expectations, condemnations are you struggling with today, O child of God?  You died to those!  And now you live to walk in newness of life because of the One you are united with in His fulness!

So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. Colossians 3:1-4 MESSAGE

The Mystery of Christ in Colossians: C-C-Courage...and so much more

Unknown
Unknown

In this world, you will have trouble,But take courage, I have overcome the world!John 16:33

Who doesn't love the classic movie The Wizard of Oz?  And of all the characters, the Cowardly Lion is a favorite!  Why is that, I wonder?  Could it be that we see ourselves in him -- while putting on a brave front to face life, we find that, in reality, we are scared little "kitties" inside?

I especially love the lion's "courage monologue":

cowardly lion
cowardly lion

COWARDLY LION:  Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage!What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got? DOROTHY, SCARECROW, TINMAN: Courage! COWARDLY LION: You can say that again!

Can you identify?I can...

And that's how I felt with teaching and speaking in front of people.  I was inwardly terrified!  I felt a lot of shame about this, because I wanted to trust God completely.  (I've since found out, though, that speaking in public is one of the top fears among women -- go figure!)  Anyway, this fear was debilitating...often to the point of physical illness.

This was especially true when it came to a big meeting connected to my job with a local Christian school.  I used to be a home school coordinator, and in those early days, I had a very large group of families to help.  At the end of the summer each year, we would meet as a group with all our families -- new and returning.  At that time, we would tell them about ourselves, encourage them, and explain how the program ran.

Well, I dreaded it!  Not because they were a hostile group...in fact the opposite was true!  And they loved me to boot!

DCS homeschool moms 2009
DCS homeschool moms 2009

DCS homeschool moms

So in my mind, this fear was totally illogical and unfounded!  I talked to myself and the Lord about it...but to no avail.  It would ruin my whole summer every year!  UNTIL...

One summer, I was agonizing as usual over the big home school meeting. In the midst of my agony, I thought to myself, "I need courage!"  So I proceeded to beg, plead, pray for courage.  I tried to do my best "courage self-talk".  All to no avail!  I was still a wreck!

In the meantime, that summer I happened to be teaching the little book of Colossians...for the 2nd time (I'm a slow learner!).  As I was preparing to teach the second chapter, the Holy Spirit highlighted two verses to my mind and heart:

For in Him [Christ] the whole fulness of deity [God] dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him... Colossians 2:9-10 ESV

All of a sudden the realization came crashing through:  Jesus wasn't a wimp! Remember how He stood up to the Pharisees -- not exactly a friendly audience!  Courage is part of the fulness of God in Christ.   And the courageous God Christ lives within me.  He will live His courageous life through me as I trust Him! That's what being filled in Him means.  No more begging, pleading, self-talk, Christian mental mind games!  No more shame & despair!

So I decided to trust the Courageous Christ.  And guess what?  He WAS courageous through me so that I could relax and be my charming :) self--to the glory of God!  And it broke the bondage for me in those situations...now I have normal levels of nervousness.  And I know that every situation is a new opportunity to trust the full Christ within to be who He is in and through me.

So do you need courage today?  The Courageous Christ will be courageous through you as you trust Him. Do you need love today?  The Loving Christ will love through you as you trust Him. Do you need to forgive today?  The Forgiving Christ will forgive through you as you trust Him. Do you need patience today?  The Patient Christ will be patient through you as you trust Him. Do you need _______ today?  (You fill in the blank)  The _________ Christ will be ________ through you as you trust Him.

If you are a child of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the full Christ lives within you.  He is full through you as you trust Him!  It's the devil's lie to get us to think of ourselves as separate from our Lord.  He's not up there, and we're down here, praying He throws down a little courage (or whatever) if we pray correctly!  NO!  We are one with Him...united in a way that nothing in heaven or earth can separate!

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

So, dear sisters & brothers, look at whatever you are facing today as your opportunity to experience Him in His fulness!  Praise His Holy Name!

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. 2Peter 1:3 ESV

...that you may be filled with all the fulness of God. Eph 3:19b ESV

NEXT TIME: We are set free because of our union with our Savior in His death, burial, and resurrection to new life... See you then!


Mystery of Christ in Colossians: the Mystery Revealed

Everyone loves a good mystery!  We got hooked when my mom came to visit from NJ when our kids were little.  She turned us on to Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Murder She Wrote, Miss Marple, etc. I guess the pleasure in mysteries is that the viewer is always trying to figure out "Who done it!"  My mom had an amazing track record in those days!  And I'm finding myself guessing correctly more often than not nowadays!  Aging?  Suspicious nature?  Who knows!

God has mysteries too, as we've seen in the book of Colossians.  But His mysteries are very different than the ones we try to figure out.  There are five distinctives of God's mysteries.

  1. They are about God and His ways
  2. They are now revealed but previously unknown
  3. They couldn’t be known unless God revealed them
  4. They are meant to be proclaimed, not kept secret
  5. There is still supernatural remaining despite revelation

God takes great pleasure in His mysteries!  There are many in the Bible.  But the Father takes particular delight in His mystery wrapped up in His Son, the Apple of His Eye!  Did you find the references concerning God's mystery in Colossians?

...the mystery that has been kept hidden...the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:25,27

My goal is that...they may know the mystery of God, namely,Christ [Himself], in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 3:2-3; also 4:3

To really spell it out, a little later in Colossians, Paul says,

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him... Colossians 2:9-10 ESV

I love those verses!  They are key to the whole of our Christian walk in this world!  The full Christ Who is the wisdom of God indwells you and me, O child of God!  Let that truth really sink in!

Jesus is the fulness of God in the flesh, the God-Man, our Immanuel...and the full Christ lives His full life in and through me as I let Him...so I am full in Him!

As the authors of Jesus Manifesto (p. 34) have put it...

Jesus Christ is like a vast ocean.  He is too immense to fully explore, too rich to fathom.  You are like a bottle.

The wonder of the gospel is the bottle is in the ocean, and the ocean is in the bottle.

Join us next time to see how this truth can become real in your own life.  See you then!

Mystery of Christ in Colossians: Filling Week

baby, joy

baby, joy

grief

grief

Have you ever been so filled with joy that you could hardly contain yourself?  Maybe it was an invitation, the birth of a baby, an unexpected gift, a promotion, a random act of kindness...whatever it was, it showed all over your face.  It was heard in your voice and put a lilt in your step! Have you ever been sofilled with grief, sadness, despair that you thought you couldn't go on?  Maybe it was because of rejection by a significant person, a death of a loved one, a life-threatening diagnosis for yourself or, what is often worse, for your child or spouse.  It was  hard, if not impossible, to "put on the happy face" and go on.

That's what our emotions are like...up one minute and down the next...and oftentimes with good reason.  But if they control us so that we base what is TRUE on how we feel, we can become very unstable, to say the least.

In the book of Colossians, God through the apostle Paul, tells us that we are filled.   And this filling of His has nothing to do with our emotions...although if we really "get it" and live there, it can affect our emotions on the deepest level possible.  But the wonderful thing is that if life is happening and we feel numb to it all, it really doesn't matter as far as this glorious FACT is concerned.  This filling is TRUTH!

What is this filling, you ask?

bible study

bible study

It's all wrapped up in the Mystery* of Christ!  WHO He is and WHAT He is to us! As you read through Colossians this week, you'll see this word mystery in Colossians 1:25-27; 2:2-3; 4:3.

colored-pencils

colored-pencils

Grab some colored pencils or crayons, your Bible, or a print-out of Colossians (see link below).  Mark the key word mystery with a distinctive color.  Make note of who/what this mystery is.

Then mark the words fill, filling, full, fulness (in chapters 1&2).  Be sure to pay close attention to Col 2:9-10.  In the NASB, the word complete in verse 10 should be translated full (it's the same Greek root as fulness in verse 9).

Then if you really want to explore some more, look for and mark all, every, everything, and synonyms (also in chapters 1&2).

See you next time.  We'll pull thoughts together then, when we look at the Mystery Revealed.

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*The church father, Ireneaus, pointed out that the chief difference between orthodoxy and heresy is that orthodoxy is rooted in paradox and mystery, while heresy is usually rooted in clarity and precision.” David Roper, Teach Us to Number Our Days, p 278

Click here for Colossians text

Click here for Bible study help:  Precept.StudyOverview

 [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iadB3wL5JmQ[/youtube]

GLORY to YOU Steve Green

What do I possessThat You did not give to meWhat mysteries are clear to meThat You did not explainWhen did I share TruthI had not received from YouWhat good works have I performedThat you did not ordain

Chorus: Any strength I have, any good I doComes from the life I found in YouSo in all I amAnd in all I doI give the Glory to You

How do I expressMy love and my gratitudeFor all I am and ever will beAll depends on youWhere in the world would I beHad you not reached out to meAll the good I have in lifeCan all be traced to you

Chorus

From the strength to obeyYour word when I hear itTo reaching out in loveIt's all a gift of the Holy Spirit,Coming from above

Chorus

I give the glory to You

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Personal Need*

Thirst is a primal need in all of us humans...more demanding even than hunger!  We can go quite awhile without eating, but a very short time without drinking. Jesus on the Cross had refrained up to this point from satisfying His thirst.  Instead He drank the Father's cup to the very last drop! He became sin for us...the Sinless One!  Jesus took our place, and the Father turned His back.  The punishment for sin had been accomplished...spiritual separation from God....for US!

Now in fulfillment of prophecy, Jesus expresses His own physical need:

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said ( to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. John 19:28-29 ESV

Here He is...the Source of Living Water...asking for a drink!  That reminds me of another time Jesus was thirsty...and it was a thirst that ended up quenching thirsty souls.

He had been traveling through Samaria, and  He asked an unknown woman at a well for a drink.

Samaria was the place where a mixed race lived...half pagan, half Jewish...wholly outcast to pure bred Jews.  But not to Jesus!  He was to have a divine encounter with this forgotten woman over a drink of water.

This woman of Samaria was not the godly, religious type, even according to Samaritan standards...in fact, the exact opposite.  She was looking for love in all the wrong places...five husbands and now a live-in boyfriend.  Yet still thirsty for love...from Someone, but didn't know it!

So in her shame, she daily came to the well to draw water at mid-day...at a time when she could avoid the knowing glances and whispers of the "righteous women" of the community.

Here she encountered a Stranger with a strange request:

Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.  She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.

“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water?...

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

Thinking that Jesus was talking about physical water and physical thirst,

“Please, sir, the woman said, give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

Jesus, gently confronting her of her sinful and fruitless life, answered her God questions:

The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus told her, “I AM the Messiah!

The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him...

Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, long enough for many more to hear his message and believe.

Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world. John 4:1-42 NLT

In the end, this little woman, as well as the community she desperately tried to avoid, drank deep of the Well of Living Water...all in response to a Thirsty Stranger's request for a drink.

Prayer: Lord, I hear Your words, I thirst, and I realize that You thirsted for me too.  Thank you for Your ever-thirsting thirst for the souls of men and women like me! I have to admit that I go through my days thirsting also. But I often try to quench my thirst at broken cisterns that hold no water ...cisterns of human approval, recreation and entertainment, social media, relationships (even good ones), religion, perfectionism, comparison, one-up-manship, and the list goes on. In the end I come up dry...because I'm really thirsty for YOU, my Savior and Lord. Thank you for Your Indwelling Spring of Living Water...Your Beautiful Self! Cause me to walk in Your overflowing fullness every day of my life. Amen and amen!

Let anyone who is thirsty come to ME and drink. Whoever believes in ME, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. John 7:37-38

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Bible Students:

Fully God, but fully HUMAN.

This is another of the divine mysteries...the Kenosis, the self-emptying of the Son of God.

Explore these passages and be humbled and blessed by the realization that the Sovereign God became one of us...for you and me!

Philippians 2:6-11 ESV Hebrews 2:9-18 ESV

*Thanks to friends at Abiding Christ Church for this title.  Traditionally, this statement is often called a "Word of Distress."

LIVING from a Reservoir

my men
my men

You cannot impart what you do not possess!This was a favorite saying of Dr. Howard Hendricks of Dallas Theological Seminary.

John & I had the privilege of sitting under Dr. Hendricks' teaching in the 1980's at DTS. No matter the class, whether it was "Bible Study Methods" or the "Christian Home," this profound little truth would punctuate the "Prof's" lectures.

In my last post, we talked about Teaching from a Reservoir.  If Dr. Hendricks' statement is true, then teaching (or whatever we are doing) from a reservoir presupposes LIVING FROM THE RESERVOIR -- the reservoir of truth in relationship with Him who is the TRUTH.

roosevelt dam overflow
roosevelt dam overflow

So in a very real sense, whether it's parenting, teaching, "friending," "neighboring," working, ministering to others in a physical, emotional, or spiritual sense...you can NOT impart what you do NOT possess. And you cannot possess anything of real, spiritual value unless it is received from the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).

When I was teaching preschool at Xenia Christian in the late 1990's, one of the perks I loved was Teacher Devotions.  I'll never forget the verse that a colleague shared one morning before class:

The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue [tongue of a learner], to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. Is 50:4 NIV

It's so easy to give out and give out and give out again...only to find ourselves running on empty.  I think especially of moms...talk about pouring yourself out for others!

How do we have what we need for whatever comes our way? Our usual way is to try to figure out what to say and do...or go get advice from a friend or expert, instead of going to Him who has the words of life (John 6:68-69).

While meditating on Is 50:4 one day, the Lord gave me a practical way to apply this truth to my life. It's by remembering 3 W"s -- Waiting, Weaving, and Working:

WAITING on the LORD. The verse begins with theSovereign LORD being the Giver.  That means that we are the receivers! So waiting on Him is key...rather than running around frantically to every other "source". And He has a tremendous promise for those of us who wait on Him:He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:29-31

WEAVING the LORD and His WORD throughout our day. It starts out morning by morning -- listening to Him. We awaken with thoughts of Him, giving up the day to His care. It ends with thanksgiving and trust for what came our way that day. In between, there can be short, sentence prayers...practicing the presence of Christ through out the day by conversing with Him, our best Friend -- listening and even journaling as we go through our day.

One of my fictitious heroes of all time is Tevye, the father in the film The Fiddler on the Roof.  The reason I love him so much is because of his relationship with God portrayed in that film.  He so easily talks with God -- being very real with Him about his frustrations and desires, truly weaving Him throughout his day.

The classic Tevye is especially seen in his dialog and song "If I Were a Rich Man."  There's a little section of that charming song where Tevye reveals to the Lord that the sweetest thing about being rich would be:

If I were rich, I'd have the time that I lack To sit in the synagogue and pray. And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall. And I'd discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day. That would be the sweetest thing of all.

Tevye longs for the Word of God in ever growing depths.  Is that our desire too?  As with Tevye, it may be difficult for the longer times of devotion and Bible study, though it's well worth the effort to make that a high priority.   But what about also leaving the open Bible on the counter-top, desk, end table...grabbing snippets of the Word during those "open spaces" in the day?  Playing Christian music (instrumental and otherwise) and Bible teaching in the car, at home, in the classroom, at the gym, on walks/runs could permeate our days with peace and richness that come from thoughts of our Lord.

I love this verse: Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. Psalm 81:10 "Lord, I'm opening my mouth and my ears, fill them as You promised."

WORKING by HIS strength, wisdom, and insight Then with the instructed tongue, the tongue of a learner, we will have the words to sustain the weary oneswhether in the home, the classroom, the neighborhood, the workplace, the grocery store, on the telephone, on facebook -- wherever God may place us that day. This will be true because it won't be us, but HIM through us -- as us, His students/disciples living from the Reservoir of the Word in relationship with the Living WORD!

Oswald Chambers, in his classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest (September 2) speaks to this point:

He that believeth in Me . . out of him shall flow... .John 7:38

Jesus did not say - "he that believeth in Me shall realize the blessing of the fulness of God," but - "he that believeth in Me out of him shall escape everything he receives." Our Lord's teaching is always anti -self-realization. His purpose is not the development of a man; His purpose is to make a man exactly like Himself, and the characteristic of the Son of God is self-expenditure. If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain, but what He pours through us that counts. It is not that God makes us beautifully rounded grapes, but that He squeezes the sweetness out of us. Spiritually, we cannot measure our life by success, but only by what God pours through us, and we cannot measure that at all.

When Mary of Bethany broke the box of precious ointment and poured it on Jesus' head, it was an act for which no one else saw any occasion; the disciples said it was a waste. But Jesus commended Mary for her extravagant act of devotion, and said that wherever His gospel was preached "this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her." Our Lord is carried beyond Himself with joy when He sees any of us doing what Mary did, not being set on this or that economy, but being abandoned to Him. God spilt the life of His Son that the world might be saved; are we prepared to spill out our lives for Him?

"He that believeth in Me out of him shall flow rivers of living water" - hundreds of other lives will be continually refreshed. It is time now to break the life, to cease craving for satisfaction, and to spill the thing out. Our Lord is asking who of us will do it for Him?

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:16-17

For further study look at Luke 6:39-49.  List everything the Holy Spirit "highlights to your heart" about teaching and being a "learner" (disciple).