< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: January 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Noah's Ark Part 4

(Genesis 7:17-24)

So for 40 days they listened to this violent storm outside and then for 150 days they just floated. They couldn’t steer the Ark and there was just water everywhere.

The Bible doesn’t say God spoke to Noah during this time, so they just floated and waited. There are periods in our lives when it seems like God is silent and we’re just waiting, aren’t there? We wonder why, when we’ve committed our lives to Christ it sometimes feels like God has withdrawn from us. These times might be the times when God is teaching us to live by our faith, not our feelings. That after we have been obedient, we must also be dependent.

When God seems silent, Anne Graham Lotz says, we need to go back to the last time He gave us instructions and make sure we followed them in obedience, to the best of our understanding. If we did, we then just depend on Him to see us through.

And finally, in Genesis 8:1, the Bible says, “God remembered Noah.” This doesn’t mean He had ever forgotten him. In Bible language “God remembered” means God helped.

(Genesis 8:1-5)

The wind God sent evaporated the waters and dried up the earth. Also the gushing water from the underground reservoirs stopped. Scientists believe this changed the topography of the earth: as the underground reservoirs emptied they may have collapsed into giant sinkholes, which formed the basins of our oceans today. And as the water receded into those basins it would have pushed other parts of earth up, forming new continents and new mountain ranges.

Verse 4 “in the 7th month on the 17th day of the month the Ark came to rest”. On the Jewish calendar this was the same month and day during the year that Jesus rose from the dead. He is our Ark, sent by God to save us from God’s judgment. And just as Noah eventually stepped out onto a clean earth, into a new life – that’s what Christ invites us to do.

It took 3 more months for the waters to recede enough to see other mountains! So the Ark had rested on the very highest mountain in that area. Today the highest mountain in the Ararat range is 17,000 feet! They were really up high! Ararat is somewhere in Armenia and you get there by going through Turkey.

So…if you thought Noah’s flood lasted 40 days and 40 nights – you’d have been wrong. It lasted more then a year – 371 days.

And now Noah was probably looking out from the windows that were right under the roof of the Ark – looking way way down – and don’t you think he had to be thinking, “now what?”

Change is scary and Noah was by no means young! He was 600 years old! But, he continued to wait on God and watch for what He would do. So after 40 more days he could finally see some land.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Noah's Ark Part 3

(Genesis 7:1-10)

The King James version makes this sound more like an invitation then a command. It says, “Come thou and all thy house into the ark: for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.”

This suggests not only an invitation, but that God was already in the ark inviting Noah to join Him there. God was extending an invitation to Noah to be saved from the coming judgment. If Noah had refused or said, later, he would have lost his chance and his life!

Because judgment did come, and on his own, Noah would have been helpless to survive. We all saw pictures of the tsunami and heard the stories. That was nothing compared to this flood.

So just like we talked about all the warnings we get: to listen, repent, judgment is coming – we also receive an invitation from God to come into the Ark. He has provided a means of salvation from His judgment.

God’s judgment is like the rain, it falls on everything not covered by an umbrella - or an ark’s roof. Our umbrella is the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross. When judgment falls, it falls on Christ and His blood covers all believers and they are saved.

You know, when Noah entered the Ark the sun was still shining, the sky was blue. But, God said, “Come now. Today!” And Noah went in faith.

And wasn’t Noah’s family lucky to have him as their spiritual leader? For 120 years he had probably been talking to them about God, even as he preached to his neighbors. He showed them an amazing example of obedience to God. A tremendous example of faith. And so they entered the Ark too.

(Genesis 7:11-16)

The Lord shut him in.” God Himself closed the door. God knew how many people were going to repent and believe Him, just as He knows when all the people who are going to, will have accepted His Son. And then “He shut the door.”

And it began to rain.

It was too late for anyone else.

And this wasn’t just rain. “Springs of the great deep burst forth and the flood gates of heaven were opened.”

Remember, when God created the heavens and the earth He separated the waters below from the waters above. We just read that God watered the earth from some kind of underground reservoirs. The water above was some kind of vapor canopy that trapped billions of tons of water, giving the earth a kind of greenhouse effect. When God sent the flood, the earth’s crust ruptured and created something like thousands of geysers. One commentator said there may have been gigantic tidal waves just like the tsunami, but LOTS.

Then the canopy split, dropping all those tons of water onto the earth.

Some astronomers believe our planet used to look like Saturn, with its rings forming the canopy over the earth. Saturn’s rings are composed of ice particles. In fact there is a lot of ice in space. In 1908 an enormous piece of a comet, which was ice, collided with the earth, somewhere near Russia and the impact was felt around the world.

So the collapse of the canopy would have been; ice, water and vapor, which would explain why large numbers of great mammoths and other animals have been found embedded in ice. Animals that are warm weather animals, found in the Artic – why would they be there? Because at one time the whole earth was tropical – like a greenhouse – and it suddenly was plunged into sub-freezing temperature. These animals were frozen still chewing the grass they were eating!

Even after 120 years of warning it still seemed to come out of nowhere didn’t it?

While Noah and his family were in the Ark during the judgment, do you think he wondered if he built the Ark right? If he had followed God’s instructions exactly and it would be strong enough to save him?

If he had been obedient to God, he could depend on God’s power to save him, just as - if we are obedient – if we place our trust in Salvation through Jesus, we can depend on His power to save us.

We can also depend on Him to keep us safe through any storm we may be going through in our lives. There are 2 examples of storms in the New Testament – one time Jesus calmed the storm and one time He calmed His disciples’ fears during the storm.

The flood was worldwide. The entire world was submerged. Even the mountains! Everything that moved on earth, perished.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Noah's Ark Part 2

(Genesis 6:11-17)

Now – you all know there was no rain on the earth before the flood, right? Genesis 2:5-6 tells us that “the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth…but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.”

So here’s Noah, building this huge ocean liner (!) in the middle of land for 120 years! And it was huge! The ark was about one and a half times as long as a football field and it had 3 levels. Talk about faith! And 120 years is longer then humans live now – so we’re talking a lifetime of faith and obedience.

Anyone who’s read the Bible and seen the world and the universe knows that God is a planner and incredibly detailed. God gave Noah detailed directions to follow in his building. Remember, everything in the Old Testament points to Christ: The Hebrew word for pitch is the same as for atonement. God used the pitch to seal the Ark – just like we are sealed in Christ. The Ark was God’s means of Salvation during His judgment. God judged the world back then because He is a God of judgment and it was time, but He sent a way out for the believer because He is also a God of mercy and grace.

Jesus is our Ark. Sent to save us from God’s judgment. He invites us into the Ark and to a new life. Inside the Ark, or in Christ, we are safe. Outside – destruction. Belief always involves an act of faith. We have to get in the Ark. We have to accept Christ.

(Genesis 6:18-22)

Every type of animal! The Bible doesn’t say that Noah took time off to scour the world hunting down those animals. I heard a good explanation of what probably happened: You know how birds migrate at different seasons? As do Monarch butterflies? How some animals instinctively know when it’s going to storm? Or how cockroaches sense seismic disturbances and are being used to predict earthquakes? Probably God gave them an instinct to migrate toward the Ark.

Because the Bible says that pairs of animals came to Noah and entered the Ark. Can you imagine his neighbors then? They probably pulled up chairs and sold concessions!

According to the dimensions given, when Noah had all the animals assembled on the Ark, only 60% of the available space would have been occupied. And someone figured out this would have been 75,000 animals! But, remember, not all animals were big elephants, there were birds, snails, ladybugs, and bunnies too.

So there was 40% of the space leftover for food storage and living quarters for Noah’s family.

It all worked. Sometimes we think something God’s asking us to do is impossible, but if He’s asked us – it’s not impossible – as the story of the Ark shows. But, He does require the cooperation of our obedience.

What if Noah had said, “That sounds too hard.” Or even just procrastinated? What if he liked to start things, but never finished them? What if Noah told God, “Just as soon as I’m better trained, more financially stable, my kids are older, or all those other excuses we use all the time:

“I’ll go on a mission trip when my kids are grown – some time before I die.”

“I’ll tithe when I’m making lots of money – then the tithe will be really big” – of course then it will be so big it will seem like too much to give!

“I’ll teach Sunday school when I’ve studied the Bible more.”

“I’ll volunteer at church when I retire because you know I’m working now, I have responsibilities.”

Lucky for the human race, Noah didn’t make excuses. Four times in the story the Bible states, “Noah did everything God commanded him.”

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Noah's Ark - Part 1

The flood was the greatest catastrophe ever experienced by the earth and descendents of Adam since God created the world. The Bible gives the story more space then either creation or the fall of man. It marks the end of the old world and the beginning of the new. And the new earth was most likely a shadow of its former glory.

The flood was God’s judgment on a world that had rejected Him.

At the time there was only one man who worshipped God and took a stand against the evil and wickedness of his day. His example shows the power of one – because if he hadn’t done what he did, the entire human race would have been eradicated by the flood. This man was Noah.

(Genesis 6:1-10)

Man’s evilness seemed to have reached the point of no return, “the earth was filled with violence”, “all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.”

Doesn’t sound much different from us today! What was the world’s wickedness that was pushing the patience of God to the limit?

First, it may have been a dilution of God’s principals.

Some scholars think the “sons of God” mentioned here were the sons of Seth, the remnant who had placed their faith in God and were now marrying the “daughters of men” – or the daughters of Cain.

We are told, when we marry, to be equally yoked. Believers shouldn’t marry unbelievers. The Israelites were told not to marry pagans. This was because God knew the strong influence the ungodly have – that faith gets diluted in the next generation. That compromise would have to be made to preserve the marriage. And compromises would inevitably lead to the neglect of God’s Word.

What other wickedness was pushing God’s limit? Well, Jesus talked about the flood in Matthew and said the root of wickedness in Noah’s day was indifference to God.

(Matthew 24:38-39) “ For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

Nothing was really wrong with any of these activities Jesus described…except apparently God was left out of them. We can apply this to our lives by asking what we are leaving God out of: our discussions - our business – our home – our marriage – our plans and activities? And then make sure God isn’t neglected by our family. As Christians, our families should be in church every Sunday, there should be family prayer and Bible reading. We should be instructing our children and grandchildren on God’s principles and the world should see something different in us. Something good!

There’s another thought about the wickedness of Noah’s day and that’s a form of demon possession. Some Bible scholars think the Sons of God mentioned here were actually fallen angels (demons). Maybe/maybe not. But, if you remember the story of Jesus calling a demon to come out of a man and the demon said its name was legion because there were so many and it begged Jesus not to kill them and He sent it into a herd of pigs, who then jumped off a cliff – totally getting rid of them seemed to be the only way to deal with them – which does fit in with the story of the flood.

But, whether this was the reason or not, even in today’s world we need to be aware of demonic activity. Many Christian writers and preachers have pointed out that; “slasher movies, pornography and heavy metal music are all designed to arouse the human emotions to violence and destruction. We should also stay away from: witchcraft, channeling, satanic cults, tarot cards, oujia boards, séances and even horoscopes. A few of these things may sound harmless, like horoscopes – we all know what sign we are, but Satan is subtle and an expert at sucking people in– all he needs is a tiny crack. And the Bible prophesies that demonic activity will increase in the days preceding God’s final judgment on the earth.

We’re not to be afraid though because we’re told that the one in us is stronger then the one in the world. And besides, we’ve read the end of the book – we know how it’s all going to turn out. But, we do need to be aware and on guard.

Where the passage said that, “every inclination and the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Can you picture a world like that?

A world of no goodness or kindness?
No humbleness? No thoughtfulness?
Road rage all the time? School shootings? Abortions as common as getting your teeth cleaned? Lawsuits all over the place?

Maybe we can imagine it…

It’s possible that God’s final judgment is nearer then the world thinks. We as Christians need to study Noah’s story and follow his example to be prepared, obedient and to warn our generation that God will not be mocked. And we can choose right now to live as if the message of God is of no importance – or as if it is the most important thing in the world!

Well, the world back then may have been ignoring God, but it had His undivided attention! God saw their sin. He saw it all and it grieved Him. Grieve is a love word. This is like saying it broke His heart. And since He never changes we can assume that our sin grieves Him too.

The time was ripe for judgment. God will only put up with so much. Through the flood God would exterminate a corrupt race. This was justice. But, God also showed His grace because He would preserve the race through the seed of the righteous Noah. And if anyone had listened to Noah they would have been saved too.

God gave them 120 years to change their ways. That’s how long it took for Noah to build the ark. So far God has given us about 2000 years.

He’s very patient.

But, don’t mix up patience with tolerance. Keep in mind in Noah’s day – time did run out. There will come a time of no more bargaining for more time for us too. And even if our world doesn’t end in our lifetime, when we die we will still face judgment. Hebrews tells us it is appointed that each will die one death and after that judgment.

So whether Christ comes back tonight or we personally die in 40, 50 60 years – we need to be ready. God warned the world back then and He warns us today.

In Old Testament times He would sometimes warn them through natural or national disasters; plagues, invading armies…

Some people think that’s happening today with events like 911…maybe…..

He does for sure though warn us through our conscience and through Godly people, who take a bold stand for Him. Who will say, “Judgment is coming – listen and repent.”

You know, one of the ways Noah may have pleased God was that he listened! He apparently was the only one back then listening to God. Noah was right with God when everyone else was wrong.

That must have been hard, when you stop and think about it, no one would understand you, they probably wouldn’t want to be around you because you made them look bad. You made that little neglected and ignored conscience flare up.

But, Noah got his strength from listening to God. From walking with God. Since he may not have had anyone else to really talk to, he probably talked to God about everything. And this is part of his example to us too.

Instead of working so hard to get in step with a world that is out of step with God, we need to just walk with God. Spend time with Him. There’s loneliness in the human spirit that only God can satisfy. He made us that way! So we’d come looking for Him.

Do you ever feel like no one really understands you?

They don’t!

But, God does. He knows everything about you. He “gets” you when no one else does. There’s a Christian song I like where one of the lines is “God sees your heart when the world just sees you crying.” He knows why we act the way we do. What happened to us that morning or 20 years ago that makes us react to something the way we do…He gets us….

It pleases God to have us walk with Him, just as it says Noah pleased God. Why do we care what this world thinks as long as we know God is pleased?

The more time we spend with God, the more He will reveal our work to us; how He wants us to be involved in bringing people to Him.

And so, while Noah and God were walking together, God told Noah what He was going to do and what He wanted Noah to do. God doesn’t want us to be just listeners of the Word, but doers.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Spreading God’s Word to all Nations

Matthew 28:19 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

My blogs and website all have StatCounter attached to them, which allows me to see where people are coming from when they land on one of my pages. I always get a kick out of the many countries represented: Singapore, London, Canada, South Africa, Finland, Paris, Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland and more. And I thought of this verse in Matthew and how the internet has allowed and of us to that!

I think that is so cool!


Thursday, January 17, 2008

God Is Looking for Someone Just Like You

Bill Hybels who wrote the book, ‘God Is Looking for Someone Just Like You’ said something that really spoke to me about finding your purpose in life. He said that while as Christians, many things will bother us; we aren’t all called to do all things. But, there will be one thing that reaches out to us and grabs us by the throat, or “wrecks” us.

Here’s what he said: The reason why it is so critical for you to dig in and figure out what it is that wrecks you is because you may be the one person God is looking for in order to reverse some ugly and destructive trends in your generation. In fact, when you find yourself standing on the sacred ground of your burning-bush experience, don’t be surprised if you hear God say, “This is why I made you and why I wired you up like I did! This is why I allowed the mountain-top, reason-for-rejoicing times in your life, as well as why I let the pits of despair sneak in. None of your tears of anguish will be wasted; I plan to use every ounce of what you’ve been through for good in this specific area. I know you are devastated by the same problem that grieves me, and I just happen to have in mind someone exactly like you to help me solve this!”

I can’t wait to hear God say that to me someday!

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Monday, January 14, 2008

God's Rescue Plan

Here’s another wonderful article I’d like to share. Mostly because I want to save it someplace to read again! It’s from Christianity Today and written by Sam O’Neal and it explains in very simple words how the Bible is one big story of God moving again and again to save us from ourselves.

You can read it here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/cl/2008/001/1.34.html

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Cancer was a Gift

I just read a great article on Beliefnet.com called ‘My Cancer was a Gift’. It was written by David Wolpe who is a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

It talks about having had cancer and visiting a man dying of the disease. They couldn’t come to any conclusions about why the man got sick, but the man ends up telling the rabbi, “At least you understand.”

The rabbi said it reminded him anew that his cancer was a gift; that as a rabbi, it validated his compassion. People knew that he really did understand. He also had noticed that when he was sick, people watched his reaction; would his faith help him? He said that feeling their eyes on him helped him realize that in sickness we are not powerless. We still have the ability to teach.

He told this man that his children and grandchildren were watching him. Here was a chance to teach his greatest lesson. They would remember much about him to be sure, but they would never forget how he died. His acceptance, his dignity, even his hope, could change their lives.

Having had cancer myself this past summer, I know what he means. I found out I had uterine cancer on a Friday the 13th of July. I taught Sunday School that Sunday, had surgery the next Wednesday and taught Sunday School the following Sunday. While I was lucky (besides the fact that they caught it really early and got it all) that I felt well enough to be up and around right away, I thought a lot about my faith and how it was important not to have a “why me” attitude or be down in the dumps. I had taught too many lessons about having a trusting and joy-filled attitude to undo it all now! I think it helped me heal faster too!

Rabbi Wolpe’s article can be found at: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/227/story_22779_1.html?WT.mc_id=NL44

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Colossians 4:5-18

Colossians 4:5-6 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

We are called to be disciples, but we need to do it with tact and respect for the person we are talking to. And it is much more important to show someone Christ by our lives, then our words. Also, our daily life and work provide us continually with chances to witness for Christ and we are told to take those opportunities.

Colossians 4:7-15 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here. My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

It was dangerous at this time to be a friend of Paul’s and he lists the people who stood by him.

Colossians 4:16-18 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. Tell Archippus: "See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord." I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Paul also wrote the letter Philemon to Archippus whom he called “a fellow soldier”. And he’s encouraging him not to give up his ministry. Paul mentions his fetters or chains, not for pity, but more to show his right to speak. This is not a letter asking someone to do something he isn’t prepared to do himself. It’s a letter from someone who has also carried the cross of Christ.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Colossians 4:2-4

Colossians 4:2-4 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

Paul would never write a letter without urging the duty and privilege of prayer. He tells them to persevere. Our persistence is an expression of faith that God does answer prayer.

God always answers prayer, whether His answer is Yes, No or Wait. When He says no, He has something better in mind for us and we might need to learn a different lesson. When He says wait, we need to trust His perfect timing.

Paul often asks people to pray for him. But, notice here, he asks them to pray for his work: not his release from prison or a successful outcome to his coming trial – only for the strength and opportunity to do the work God sent him to do. Sometimes we need to realize we shouldn’t ask to be released from some problem or illness, but for the strength to get through it the way God wants us to.

One commentator wrote, “Prayer should always be for power and seldom for release; for not release, but conquest must be the keynote of the Christian life.”

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Colossians 3:18-4:1

Colossians 3:18-4:1 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

This again stresses that though we are to keep our eyes on things above, we have an obligation to live a certain way in the life God has given us.

In Philippians 2:15 we were told we are to be shining lights in the world. Paul’s point of view seems to be that though a human life in this world may not be a long one, it is to be lived in all of it’s dimensions, as long as it lasts.

This section contains the earliest Christian prescriptions for family life known to us. The Jews of course always spelled out God’s requirements for family and social life, but the motivation was different. First, Christians who are in the Lord are to do what pleases the Lord. Second, the superiors have obligations to the inferiors, not simply the other way around. There are rights and duties on both sides.

Slaves occupy a large section of this passage, probably because there were so many back then. It’s been estimated that there were between 200,000 and 300,000 slaves in Rome in Paul’s day, which would have been about 1/3 of the population.

Under the Christian ethic, no man is without rights, but equally, no man is without his obligations. This was a new thought. Under Jewish law, a woman was a thing; she was the possession of her husband. In Greek society a woman lived in basic seclusion. She was never on the streets alone; she lived in the women’s apartments and didn’t even join the men for dinner. All privileges belonged to the man. Also back then a parent, under law, could do anything he liked to a child, even selling him to slavery or believe it or not, condemn him to death AND carry out the execution!

So you can imagine where a slave stood!

Christianity says, in any home the whole tone of personal relationships must be dictated by the awareness that Jesus is always an unseen, but ever-present guest. He is the 3rd person in a marriage. His relationship with His Father is our parenting example.

Martin Luther’s father was so stern with him that Luther, for his whole life had trouble praying “our Father.” Luther himself taught that while “sparing the rod spoils the child” is true, he also said, “you should also keep an apple to give him when he does well.” We must give discipline and encouragement in equal parts.

And finally third, (back to a Christian’s motivation in family life) love is the central ingredient in harmonious and effective domestic life. Love is that unselfish, other–regarding attitude that puts others’ interests ahead of our own.

The direction given to a Christian slave can apply to all of us, whatever our job. We must do everything as if we were doing it for God. If we are sweeping the floor, we don’t sweep the dirt under the rug. And I think this goes back to being shining lights. People should be able to pick out Christians from the crowd, not because we are pious and grim, but because we do our tasks well, we are conscientious, we treat people well and they can count on us. We give a testimony by the quality of our lives.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Colossians 3:14-17

Colossians 3:14-17 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 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. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

What a beautiful prayer! And it sounds like the words in the song “Love will keep us together.” That’s what Paul is talking about – love is the bond that makes it all work.

Where he says, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (some versions say “Let the peace of God be the decider within your heart.”) Anytime you are pulled in 2 different directions at the same time, when Christian charity is at war with unchristian irritation and annoyance, go with what Christ would want. If you accept His decisions, you can’t go wrong.

Notice the reference to singing. The Jews would often spend whole nights in hymns and songs and the early Christian church inherited this.

Paul ends this section by saying everything we do or say should be done in the name of Jesus. One of the best tests of any word is, “Can I speak it and the name of Jesus in the same breath?” “Can I speak it, knowing He will hear it?”

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Colossians 3:10-13

Colossians 3:10-13 You have started living a new life. It is being made new so that what you know has the Creator's likeness.

Here there is no Greek or Jew. There is no difference between those who are circumcised and those who are not. There is no rude outsider, or even a Scythian. There is no slave or free person. But Christ is everything. And he is in everything.
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Becoming a Christian changes a person. But, it’s a progressive change. This new creation is a continual renewal, God is slowly and steadily changing us to become like Christ and we won’t be completely there until He comes back.

The part where Paul talks about no divisions, but that we are all equal in Christ – I think he says this in almost all of his letters. But, realize that the ancient world was even worse then we are now about dividing people. The Greeks were the aristocrats of the time and they looked down their noses at everyone else as barbarians. The Jews were God’s chosen people and they looked down on everyone else. Slaves had no rights and there was no fellowship between a slave and a freeman.

It was Christ who broke down the barriers. In the early church, quite often a slave was the preacher in a church and the master a humble member. Max Muller wrote that the study of language is relatively new because people didn’t want to know about each other until Christ replaced the word Barbarian with the word brother!

Where Paul calls the Colossians, “God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved.” Those are 3 terms that originally belonged to Israel. And Paul gives them to the Gentiles. He shows that the love and grace of God has gone to the ends of the earth and there is no “most favored nation” anymore.

Again in the list of virtues notice that they all have to do with personal relationships between people. And there’s nothing listed like efficiency and organization. Actually, that doesn’t mean those 2 things aren’t important, but Christianity is a community. One of the virtues I do want to mention though is compassion. In the ancient world the people were very unfeeling. There was no provision for the aged. The sickly and maimed were left to die and the treatment of the simple minded was unfeeling and inhuman. And it was Christianity that inspired helping those kinds of people.

The last thing I want to mention about this list of virtues is that in other places in the Bible they are virtues attributed to Christ and God. (Romans 2:4) (2nd Corinthians 10:1) (Philippians 2:8 and 3:14-17)

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