The Lesser of Three…The Church at Colossae

Colossae was located 120 miles east of Ephesus in the Lycus River Valley in ancient Phrygia, part of the Roman territory of Asia Minor.  It was one of a triad of cities in the area (the other two being Laodicea and Hierapolis), resting at the foot of Mount Cadmus.  Its biblical significance lies in the fact that the book of Colossians was addressed to the church here (Col 1:2) and that Philemon lived in this city.

What is the price of Christianity? What is expected of those who chose to follow Christ? What are the responsibilities of the Church? The towns of the Lycus Vally numbered three and at one time all were of equal importance, Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse. At the time of this writing of Paul they were part of the Roman province of Asia. I add this to aid in painting a picture of  time, place and circumstance. As people of the faith we must acknowledge that things change and we will face things in our day that continue to challenge the church, it’s teachings and the authority of God’s word. We know a great deal of history about this area and in Revelation 3:17, John wrote that Laodicea was rich and in need of nothing. It is important to note that these lands between the River Lycus, for all the natural problems of nature, were capable of supporting three very thriving industries. The area was recognized as the greatest center of the woolen industry in the world. Laodicea was famous for its production of garments of the finest quality, as well as dyeing of cloth, the town of Colossae was famous for this type of industry.  Hierapolis became a trade center and was famous for its spa. You could say that Laodicea was like a county seat of the area, the political center of the area. Colosse in its day was as great as the others, it controlled the roads to the mountain passes. As great as these cities were in time they passed away and even though there are still discernible ruins of the once great buildings of two of these great cities not even a stone remains to mark the possible location of Colossae. It holds a dubious place in biblical history as being the most unimportant town Paul ever wrote a letter to. Our reason of interest in this chapter in Colossians and this town of Colosse is the dispute that rose there about this developing heresy, which left unchecked could be the ruination of the Christian faith.

This is a church that Paul had not himself founded and he had never visited it. While history shows that this is true, there is no doubt that the founding of the church was his doing and on his instructions. While Paul was in Ephesus for three years the whole province of Asia was evangelized, both Greek and Jew had heard the word. Our focus today, Colosse was only 100 miles from Ephesus and thus during that campaign of expansion the Colossian church was founded. I have decided to cover as much of this book as possible and in no particular order, there being only four chapters. To start with I share with you from the Concise Commentary written by Matthew Henry, the book overview.

This epistle was sent because of some difficulties which arose among the Colossians, probably from false teachers, in consequence of which they sent to the apostle. The scope of the epistle is to show, that all hope of man’s redemption is founded on Christ, in whom alone are all complete fulness, perfections, and sufficiency. The Colossians are cautioned against the devices of judaizing teachers, and also against the notions of carnal wisdom, and human inventions and traditions, as not consistent with full reliance on Christ. In the first two chapters the apostle tells them what they must believe, and in the two last what they must do; the doctrine of faith, and the precepts of life for salvation.

Our study today focuses on the situation that is developing at the church in Colossae. There seems to be an influx of false teachers and teaching which has prompted the church to reach out to the apostle. The result being this epistle we study here in Colossians. The serious nature of the situation at this church is evident in the letter Paul has written to them. In the first four verses of chapter 3, Paul exhorts the Colossians to be heavenly minded. As Christians they are free from the ceremonial law, they have the freedom to be closer to God in their obedience to the word. Earthly things are contrary to heavenly will, an undue affection for earthly things will weaken our will to live a holy life. You who are born again are dead to sin, its power over you is broken. It is through the power and grace of God that it has been subdued in your life.  Those of you who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you know the shame of  the lusts of the flesh and are able to despise these earthly things. The living water Christ promised us flows into our souls and strengthens us, gives us hope. Should we not look forward to that happy day of redemption and the coming of our Lord? This shall be ours when we set aside the affections of this world and live for Christ.

In verses 5-11 the instructions are blunt and strong. Paul says those members who are inclined to the things of this world should be shamed. They are to be suppressed because they are like weeds in a garden and if not destroyed they will destroy everything around them. We must be continuous in our opposition to all corrupt things and carnal indulgences. Paul addresses the need to avoid all instances of sin, lusts of the flesh, coveting the things of this world to the point they become a form of idolatry. Paul makes it clear that if we do not kill these things in us, they will kill us. Consider that the gospel brings to us the rule of right reason and conscience and stills our appetite and passion for things of this world. To be strong in the faith requires that Christ be our only Lord and Savior, he is our all and our hope and happiness.  We read in verses 12-14, chapter 1 of Paul speaking of his gratitude for the blessings which Christians receive in Christ. Two points to be made here. One being that God has given to the Colossians a share  of the inheritance granted to God’s people, those that love Him and do his will. There is a comparison to be made with the words Paul spoke to Agrippa in Acts.

The work given to me is to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sin and a place among those who are sanctified by their faith in God. (Acts 26:18) 

The Jews had always been God’s chosen people but now the door has been open to all people of all races. Those of us as Christians, have been brought into the Kingdom of Christ. In Greek the verb is methiste ̄mi. This was a much more than just a transference it was a rescue. It meant moving from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom, from condemnation to forgiveness and set free from the power of Satan to the power of God.

Verses 15-23 in chapter 1 are a testimonial to the adequacy of Jesus Christ. They are simply the reason for being, the Alpha and the Omega, the completeness of all things.

-He is the head of the Church

-He is the beginning… the first born from the dead

-He is supreme in all things

-We are reconciled to Him because of the blood shed on the cross.

Paul tells them they must remain grounded and strong in the faith, not forgetting the hope of the gospel which you have heard and is being proclaimed to every creature under the heaven. It is a sure fact that Christians are a rather lazy lot in defense of the faith. It might be a bit more kinder to simply say that most of our minds only think as much as they have to. Whatever was happening there had a big enough footprint to get their attention and it could well be as in other situations that this opposition to the faith, the false teachings and such were doing damage to the spiritual health of the Church. All of us have a habit of not appreciating what we have till we see it slipping away. So it is with the Colossians at this Church. They are being confronted with some dangerous heresy, which has led them to realize the riches of orthodoxy. One of the wonderful things about Christianity is that with and through the Holy Spirit it can produce new riches to meet a new situation. One of the players in these cases of false teachings were the Gnostics. We have a similar problem in the church today, granted there are some differences between now and then but they are intended to weaken the word. These Gnostics which means the intellectual ones, were not happy with the simplicity of Christianity. They would much more prefer it to be a philosophy. It is important to understand that in that day other philosophies were very popular at that time. See the picture?…Are we not as the Church constantly seeking other ways that weaken the authority of God’s will and doing so by accepting certain heresies? Returning to chapter 3, the balance of which Paul gives instructions or rules if you wish for Christian households. To close out this weeks time in the pew I go to chapter 4, verses 5-6.

Behave yourselves wisely to those who are outside the Church.

Buy up every possible opportunity.

Let your speech always be with gracious charm, seasoned with the salt of wit, so that you will know the right answer to give in every case.

Chapter 4 is a set of final instructions in which verses 5-6 caught my attention. We are, most of us aware of how to behave in church and our home. Paul sets about to instruct the people of the church at Colosse three brief instructions for the lives of Christians in the world.

  • Christians should behave themselves with wisdom and tact when interacting with those outside the church. We must learn when to or not to speak to others about their behavior or beliefs, never assuming an attitude of superiority or severely criticizing them. People will not be bullied or argued into Christianity. A much more effective approach is so very simple. We must let our lives be an example, we must show Christ to others in our daily lives and treatment of all people, to the point they too would desire to be such an example.
  • This next one is short and to the point, an action verb if you will…seize…every opportunity to work for Christ and serve others daily. Every day life presents the opportunity to witness for Christ but the truth is many do not seize the time and the natural occurrences that everyday life offers. God’s people should always be on the lookout for these opportunities to serve and witness.
  • The last point is one that is assigned as a common trait of Christianity. There is a lack of charm and wit if you will in the way Christians come across to other people. There is a dullness and lack of laughter, a kind of sanctimonious outlook on life and other people. We spend a lot of time talking about what you should not be doing and not enough about the blessings and joy of a Christian life. There are many little sparklers in living a life of service to Christ and to the people of God. There is laughter, joy and assurance of better things to come.

Thank you for being in the Pew this week and hope you will come back.

Life is Good

jk

Deuteronomy 8…. Exhortations and Cautions

Chapter 8 is interesting as it gives us what we can expect in a relationship with God. Obedience continues in our study, with the reminder that all of God’s commandments are to be observed and followed. The basis bringing enforced by the Lord’s former dealings with Israel and his promises to them. It reminds of a need for the holy fear of God that encourages our obedience. It is better said in this way. The holy and reverent fear of the Lord motivates God’s people to worship him with their whole being. People who truly fear God will praise and honor him. They are reminded to look back on the providence and grace of God as He led them through the wilderness. The hard times which in some cases were an embarrassment that brought attention to their actions that were a deliberate rejection of God’s law. They should be mindful of the fact they had done nothing that would recommend them to this position of favor. They are reminded that they were given food and clothing even in their time of disobedience. They were not to look to dishonest means to supply their needs. Moses encourages them to trust the Lord for He is faithful to provide their needs. Again he stresses the rebukes they had been under and even then they did not go without. They must put the past behind them, look to Canaan which the spirit has filled with His gifts and graces. This is the good land, a land in which nothing is wanting and where there is the fullness of joy.

Moses calls to their attention the prosperous condition of the land, reminding them to give thanks in all things and to remember their benefactor. He then warns them that there is always the danger that  prosperity will give way to pride, forgetting God and having a strong sense of well being which can lead to carnal actions and thoughts. To embrace the world brings with it the anxiousness and troubled thoughts about the many things that are prevalent in today’s world. There is point to be made here. In many ways the poor recognize where the supplying of their needs come from. They seem to know that these things come from the Lord in answer to a prayer of faith. They have no difficulty in trusting him for their needs. Consider this…We all will experience changes and trials in our lives. Was it  Divine Providence, that placed Israel in the place they were now? Consider this…they will be better off as a nation and people who have been humbled and tried by their God. All of us have times that expose our weaknesses and folly and even for some, our depravity. Giving and receiving is a measure of our spiritual health. All of God’s gifts are the result of his plans for his people. Moses repeats the warning he has often given to the people, there are fatal consequences for forsaking God. Those who follow others in sin, will follow them to destruction. If we do as sinners do, we should expect to fare as sinners fare.

Join us in The Pew next week as we continue to study the things we as people of the faith should know and practice. We will be working in Colossians chapter three.

Life is Good

jk

 

Deuteronomy Chapter 6…The Way

Some say the church today has lost its discipline and at times its’ reverence for God. Today we continue to look at the need for discipline and the importance of respect and reverence to the One True God. In the last two verses of chapter five…

32 So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33 Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

The only way to be happy is to be Holy. For those who are righteous their days will be happy. The believer should delight in study of and keeping the commandments of the Lord God. Now we will move onto chapter six. There is a persuasive to obedience, exhortation to obedience, obedience taught and the sharing of the precepts, along with instructions to be given to their children. We will break this chapter down into four sections.

Verses 1-3

The “commandments” denote the moral law, the “statues” the ceremonial law and the “judgements” the law as decided by judges. Moses taught only that which God commanded him to teach. We are reminded of that principle in

Matthew 28:20 – teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

It is a good thing that there is a fear of the Lord in us and even in our children. Because religious faith and righteousness advance and secure the prosperity of any people. The great commandment is found in these next verses.

Verses 4-5

Deuteronomy

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

You might say these are the first principles of faith and obedience. Jehovah, the true and living God, the only God, He is the one God.  There is the unity of the Godhead. Happy are we to have this one God, we desire no other. We all know this is the first and great commandment, we are to love Him, and all things we do as our duty to him are to be done in love. To love God with all our heart, soul and might means we do so not just by word and tongue but inwardly with truth and strength of heart. He is to be loved above all things. To love Him with intelligence and the understanding of why it is we have such good cause to love Him.

Verses 6-16

These verses will give us the things we must do to maintain our religion within our hearts and houses.

  1. Meditation…the word of God must be in our hearts in a way that our thoughts and actions reflect the power of God’s word.
  2. The religious education of children, being careful and exact in teaching them. Repeat things to them, taking care to teach these truths to them and to all under your care.
  3. When talking of these things you must be pious, reverent and serious. Do this for the benefit of your children, friends and companions, taking all opportunities to share the plain truths and laws of God and things that bring you peace.
  4. Reading and studying of the word on a regular basis, telling them to write the words of the law on their walls, in scrolls of parchment worn on their wrists and head. The intent being that the word was always available to them, it was familiar to them, thus keeping us from sin and directing us in our duties. A warning to not forget God in times of plenty, not allowing ourselves to become complacent and unmindful of the Giver. There is always the danger that good times will tempt us to neglect our Christian duties, we must guard against this. We should never be ashamed of our religion nor seek to remove ourselves from its duties.

Verses 17-25

It is important to be religious, without diligence we will miss our salvation. Living a Holy Life is wise, it must be our way of life. Godliness is the way to comfort in the life we now live, we must live our life for God’s glory. Having a spiritual mind helps us to understand the goodness of the holy law of God and shows the sinfulness of man requires a relationship with a Savior to prepare his heart for salvation. There is a plan here and it is simple in its direction. We must honor the law and be in perfect obedience to His Son, Jesus Christ. There is also the need to bring back those who have fallen away, offering them repentance, faith, forgiveness and the renewing love and grace of God.

I have enjoyed these chapters in Deuteronomy and plan to continue them. I am leaving next week’s blog open for now to explore some other areas of scripture. I get few comments or feedback and would appreciate your opinion as to what you would like to explore. You can comment at the bottom of this blog or send me an email  kcarp4211@gmail.com

Life is Good

jk

Deuteronomy Chapter 2…

We will also break this chapter down into three segments. In verses 1-7 the Edomites are to be spared and as we move into verses 8-23 two more the Moabites and the Ammonites are to be spared. To close out this chapter verses 24-37 specifically instruct that the Amorites are to be destroyed. We will start by having a closer look at …..

Verses 1-7.

We found that only a short account of Israel in the wilderness is given. God deals with them by pointing out their murmuring and unbelief but works to prepare them for Canaan. He does so by humbling them for their sin, embarrassing them for their lack of enthusiastically following God’s directives and seeking comfort in him. Although Israel has been long in waiting for deliverance and growth, it is coming at last. But God had another lesson for them to learn and understand. They must forgive their enemies in Edom. They must not use the covenant as an excuse to seize all they could lay their hands on. Religion must never be used as a cloak to hide injustice, they must not take from the Edomites because the people of Israel have a God they can depend on. We should never use questionable means to obtain what God has provided and to do so with great joy, for it is by divine providence that God gives us what we need.

Verses 8-23

We read in these first verses the origin of the Moabites, Edomites, and Ammonites. Moses also speaks to something older than these. He tells of the Caphtorims and how they drove the Avims out of their country proving what uncertain things worldly possessions are. The world and its people change, there will be decrease and there will be increase, there is no earthly guarantee of continuance of things as they are. Then an unusual turn. They are cautioned not to meddle with the Moabites or the Ammonites. This is a good example for us to ponder over. God gives and preserves outward blessings to wicked men; these are not the best things, he has better in store for his own children. (Matthew Henry)  Sometimes we are concerned with other people, are resentful of their life when we should be celebrating the fact that God has much better things for his people. Leave judgement and justice to God.

Verses 24-37

God forbids the people to mess with the rich countries of Moab and Ammon. He gives them the possession of the country of the Amorites. It is plain that by not doing what God forbids, we will retain our obedience. One basic truth we sometimes overlook is that the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof. He can do what he pleases, with it and give whatever part of it to whom he pleases. God has assured the Israelites that the land should be theirs but they must contend with the enemy therein. What God gives we must endeavor to get. There is a whole new world waiting for Israel, a land that will bring much joy. To better understand this we must consider that we, today, are wandering in a wilderness of sin and carrying our transgressions as we travel on this earth. Just like the Israelites we too will leave this wilderness to a better place, we also have a covenant, the cross and our Savior’s resurrection. We must be earnest in keeping the Spirit within our hearts for we will be spared the wrath to come. This inheritance cannot and will not be affected by revolutions of this world or our world of earthly possessions.

Thank you for joining us this week. I want to express my thanks  to the folks in Germany and other countries for joining us in The Pew each week.  Stay strong in the faith and stay safe.

Life is Good

Jk

Study Materials: Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy…A Book of Many Names

Thank you for joining us this week. Deuteronomy is a unique book where we read of the man and the event that establishes the religion and faith of Israel and tells us of the divine calling and destiny of Israel. The existence of Israel even today is bound up in its faith. There is the assurance of God, the reality of his existence and his chosen people.As we began our read we must take note of the lack of responsiveness of the people. They wandered for 38 years, a whole generation had passed because a majority of Israelites had not the courage and faith to follow their calling. They were a faithless generation. This fact should cause us to take a hard look at our direction in life and our response to the calling of Christ. Do we wander in a faith of convenience or do we labour in the call of our Lord and Savior? If we learn anything from this book it should be that the call to faith is essential for every generation.

This series on Deuteronomy will be a challenge for all of us. It is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, credited to Moses and it is the ending book or scroll of the Pentateuch, also referred  to as the first five books of the Bible. This first five are also referred to as the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible. In chapter 17: 18-20 it is indicated that this could also be a second law.

Deut: 17- 20

18 When he has taken the throne of his kingdom, he shall have a copy of this law written for him in the presence of the levitical priests. 19 It shall remain with him and he shall read in it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, diligently observing all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 neither exalting himself above other members of the community nor turning aside from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, so that he and his descendants may reign long over his kingdom in Israel.

When you get into scripture study, especially as a layman, you are confronted with a number of rabbit trails that lead to a number of rabbit holes. Rabbit trails are the many directions that the information can take you, then leaving you stranded in a hole of contributing thoughts. I hope to avoid this and spare you this confusion. Sometimes referred to as the Book of Laws, the theological community finds that description to be inadequate. The book describes itself by content as being composed of law but also containing instruction, directives, guidance, and adds also that it is made up of decrees, statues and ordinances, Deut: 4: 44-45

44 This is the law that Moses set before the Israelites. 45 These are the decrees and the statutes and ordinances that Moses spoke to the Israelites when they had come out of Egypt, 

There was one reference that caught my attention…and without going into detail that might take us down one of the many trails here I offer an insightful thought from the NIB page 272 which says that this book could be considered as a comprehensive guidebook for Israel to live as the people of the Lord God. If we want a comprehensive term to describe what we will find in the book it most likely would be polity. I found Webster’s to have the best definition… the form of government of a religious denomination. So far we have discovered that the book of many names is a possibility when discussing Deuteronomy as we have referenced it as the last book or scroll in the Pentateuch, the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint or Greek Bible, and the one that was most familiar to me, a book of laws. These first five books make up the first part of the Hebrew Bible and lay the foundation for what we have come to know as the Jewish Nation. They provide the catalyst for the heirs of Abraham who are considered to be bound by a covenant to the Lord God through Moses on Mt Sinai as to how to live their lives as people of God. At this point I think it best to move on into this book. We start with Chapter 1 vv. 1-5.

Moses spoke in the wilderness before crossing the River Jordan into the promised land. The expanse and totality of this land that they are to live in is stated as simply “beyond the Jordan”. Moses prepares to introduce a divine law, for it stands above the “law of the land” or the “law of the King”. This is a law intended for the entire nation of Israel. We read in Deut: 6:20, that even the children are to be taught the law and are expected to respond to it in a proper manner. We read also v. 4 that Israel can win victories when obedient to the law. We began in the first chapter which I will break down into three segments.

Let’s look at vv. 1-8.

Moses recounted to the people all that God had given him. Here they were at Horeb, only eleven days from Kadesh-bernea. How could this be? They had wandered for forty years due to their disobedience and bad conduct. Had they now come to understand the value of and need for obedience? If so, they might be ready to go forward. How many times have we as church or as a believer been disobedient to God’s will in order to do our will? But God in his wisdom and mercy having brought us into hard times knows when we have been tried enough. When God commands us to go forward his word and law sustains and encourages us.

vv. 9-18

Moses reminds the people they now have in place a body of fundamental principles and law by which they are to be governed. He then says that my and your presence here is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. We have good laws that have been given to us and good men to carry them out, in these things are the proof of God’s goodness to the people of Israel and the care of Moses.

Vv.19-46

To paraphrase Moses he says to the people….You have gone through so many trials, come through that terrible wilderness and now you are so close to that happy settlement in the land of Canaan. It must have been hard on those hypocrites to find their work for naught, to be so near to the kingdom of God. The core of all this was an unbelieving heart. Had any of them ever looked into the Holy Land and understood that for it to be a good land they must go into it? The problem is that disbelief springs forth from a disobedience to God’s laws. Can they not give thanks for God’s  mercies received, confess and seek forgiveness of their sins, renew their covenant to God and seek the courage to renew their service to God? Do you reading this today perhaps believe that as a nation we also should do the same?

On our own plans don’t always work out but here we read that with courage in the exercise of our faith as we go about our duty to our calling and to follow the Lord fully, when we look past the opposition we will triumph and firmly hold onto our promised blessings. 

Life is Good

jk

Resources: New Interpreters Bible Volume 2

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary/ Deuteronomy

                                                                                                       

The Vision, 1st Thessalonians

Luke writes of Paul’s coming to Macedonia in five short verses in Acts 16: 6-10.

They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

The significance of Paul’s arrival did not express itself in the few words written by Luke in Acts. This would be the first time the Gospel came to Europe. Alexander had believed that he had been sent by God to unite the whole world. This whole area was still very much enamored with and still had memories of Alexander. I am sure this fact was not missed  by Paul; it is not unreasonable to think that Paul also saw it as much more than a country or continent but as a new world ready for Christ. There is a lot more to this journey of Paul to Thessalonica but for this week we will go to 1st Thessalonians 5: 1-28, or simply the 5th Chapter. Just a short bit of history here to set us on the right path. The New Testament book known as 1 Thessalonians is one of the earliest of Paul’s letters. A bit of history before we continue. The city of Thessalonia is in northern Greece. Its location was excellent being situated along a highway linking east and west. We know that Paul had sent Timothy back to Thessalonia to continue the word  and report back later as to the state of the believers there. Timothy reported back and Paul was pleased at the generally good report. It was at that time that Paul wrote this letter we know as 1st Thessaloians. You may of course want to read the whole chapter for context but for now I will be sharing vv. 12-28 with you.

One thing about this letter is that expresses Paul pleasure with the people there and the progress of the church. Chapter five gives details about Christ’s return and some of that famous Pauline advice.

We ask you, brothers, to give due recognition to those who labour among you and to those who preside over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to hold them very highly in love because of the work that they are doing.

Paul starts in v. 12 got to lay out some good advice, he does so in a very ordered way and each one could apply to the church today. First Paul encourages the people to respect their leaders. It is not the title, the office held or position within the Christian community that Paul is alluding too, it is simply the task, the service being given that is the badge of honor and requires their respect. We know in this day that the Spirit cannot be present in a community of hate. You must live at peace with one another. It would be far better to leave a congregation if you are unhappy there, for their peace and your own.(added jk) Paul is very thorough in being sure to mention those who need special care. This next bit of advice is not all that clear until we understand the meaning of lazy in this context. It was originally applied to a soldier who had left the ranks. In this context it means we are to warn the quitters. In every Christian community there are those that are fearful, not secure in their faith and there are those whose faith is strong and they should step up and assist those who are falling away. We must hold on to the weak and provide them a place of refuge as they grow in the faith. We as the Church should work to strengthen the bonds of fellowship and that will require patience. We must seek the better good for all people. There is also the New Testament thought that there should, be no “eye for and eye’ because in the end we will be victorious by seeking to forgive and do good to that person.

In vv. 16-18 Paul writes to what makes the church real and genuine. There is a joy, the church is a happy place to be. The people are excited, true Christianity is not depressing. Prayer is an important part of the church. Prayer is a powerful thing when we come together in Jesus’ name and it is made even more so when we pray as individuals. There is always something to be thankful for. A thankful church is a strong witness for the blessings of our Lord. There is a warning in vv. 19-20 concerning spiritual gifts. We can compare the Prophets of Paul’s day to the modern preachers of today, they bring the message of God to the people. Paul here is saying, if the people have something to say, then let them say it.

In these last few verses Paul puts down the first and most important duty of Christians. The teachings of Christ must be the standard they adhere to and by which they judge the actions of themselves and others. They must hold themselves above evil and strive to keep themselves apart from it. They must keep on doing the right thing, they must follow the way. The Church must be a light among the darkness, having the God given power to win others to Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:23–28

May the God of peace himself consecrate you through and through; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete so that you will be blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. You can rely on him who calls you – and he will do this very thing. Brothers, pray for us.
Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I adjure you by the Lord that this letter should be read to all the brothers.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Brothers, pray for us”… Paul believed in the power of prayer and that no man was so great that he did not need the prayers of others.

Life is Good

jk

 

Luke The Beautiful Book

Each Gospel presents Jesus in a different way and we lose this uniqueness when we try to blend, mix, or create a general consensus. Their beauty lies in their difference. As a whole the four gospels present a total picture of Jesus but each inspires and challenges the reader in different ways. Matthew brings to us a Jesus who fulfills the Scripture through the authority of his words. Following the Jesus of Matthew means keeping his teachings and making other disciples. The Jesus of Mark, we find him to be misunderstood and abandoned. To follow Mark’s Jesus we must take up the cross and follow him. John’s Jesus is the word incarnate. He is the revealer, sent to make known God to us. It is a symphony of living water, the bread of life and taking our place within the community of “the children of God.” Luke presents us with a compassionate Jesus, one of deep concern for the outcasts.  It seems that Luke’s Jesus tends to tell the story of God’s redemptive power while relating to the history of Israel, the scriptures and the contemporary world of his day. Jesus is sent to save the lost and for Israel there would be tragic consequences. The religious leaders reject Jesus and hand him over to be crucified but the people in general seem to survive the harsh judgement of history. Luke brings his Gospel to end with the disciples going forth with the good news and “the rest of the story” following in Acts.

I in the past have written other blogs with scripture verses from the  book of Luke as the basis. I think one of the interesting things about this book is the author. First off, Luke is a Gentile. Luke is the only Gentile writer with a book included in the New Testament Bible. As to authorship there can be little doubt that Luke is the author. It was a custom of early writers to attach the name of a well known author or church person to increase the chance of it being accepted but Luke was never one of the famous persons of the early church. Luke wrote this Gospel and there is little chance that anyone one would have attached their name to it. We read in Colossians 4:14 he was medical doctor and it is often cited as the reason for his sympathy for all people, it gave him a gentle and caring spirit. As a doctor Luke truly saw people as they really were. Over time emblems have been assigned to the Gospel writers, interesting to note that the symbol of Luke is the calf. The calf was viewed as an animal of sacrifice and in Luke’s eye that was how he viewed Jesus….God’s instrument of sacrifice who broke down the barriers between Jew and Gentile, a Savior for all people, all the world. Luke wrote his Gospel mainly for the Gentiles. Luke is writing in one sense to most likely answer a request or question from Theophilus, he himself a gentile. Luke was a trusted companion of Paul and most likely knew or knew of all the great figures of the church. His was a life of walking through history and he was meticulous in his recording of it. He was careful in all he wrote and it is evident his careful research included the opportunities he had to ask questions of these figures. Luke very seldom quotes the Old Testament. Luke quite literally was writing not for the Jews but for people just like us.

Luke’s Gospel paints a picture of Jesus that gives us a side of Jesus that while noted in the other Gospels, comes to the forefront in Luke’s writings. Luke’s Gospel puts forth the picture of a praying Jesus…at the moments of great stress or challenges we see Christ at prayer. Luke believed that to open the door to prayer was a powerful thing. Luke was a native of Macedonia where women were respected more than anyplace else. It comes across in his writings about Mary, Martha and of Mary Magdalene. With Luke it was a praise thing and here in Luke’s book the phrase praising God occurs more often than all the rest of the New Testament put together. There is Mary’s song of praise Luke 1: 46-55, The Benedictus 1:68-79 and the Nunc Dimittis 2:29-32. But there is yet the wonder of the Gospel, the Universal Gospel; the Gospel of no barriers, the Gospel for all people.

These are just a few of the wonders of this beautiful book. In the DBS, Barclay takes note of this written by F.W. Faber….

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,

Like the wideness of the sea;

There’s a kindness in his justice,

Which is more than liberty.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measures of man’s mind;

And the heart of the Eternal

Is most wonderfully kind.

A good summation of Luke, The Book Beautiful.

God Bless,

Life is Good

jk

Christian Inclusiveness…The Latter Additions Matthew 13: 47-48

This parable we are studying today is often referred to as the Parable of  the Drag-Net or other wise known by its proper name the seine net. We note that most scholars consider vv. 47 and 48 to be where this one stops and vv. 49-50 were added later.

Matthew 13: 47-50

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I am getting ahead of myself but it is at v. 48 that the sorting out starts. In those added verses 49-50 we have the when and how those sorted out are dealt with. So now back to the net. The drag-net had corks at the top and the weights were at the bottom. When the net was dragged it formed a cone into which all creatures of the sea in its path were caught. In Galilee the net was drawn to the shore and the fishermen started the sorting out process. There were vessels there on shore that most likely contained water into which the fish were put. This was done to ensure that the fish remained as fresh as possible for the market. Those things that were useless or unusable were cast away. Our first point to be made is that the seine net gathers every kind of creature. We have seen how Jesus through these parables would paint a picture that all who had ears could hear, see and understand. We might picture the church much like that net. When we cast our net it should also bring in all people. Ours must be the invitation of Christ…all are welcome, the gospel is for all. It is an all embracing call to salvation and there can be no selective preaching of the gospel. The gospel was for everyone. We as the church have over the years accepted this with no hesitation because it is the right way and the will of our Savior. Not so in the ancient world, there were barriers and blatant contempt between the people everywhere.

In the Greek world those who could not speak that language were look on with contempt. There was the difference between slave and free man. Aristotle believed there were those that were meant to serve, so as to leave the cultured class free of any of the ordinary tasks of the day. There were those who spent their lives seeking wisdom and then those simple folk of simple minds. These people were the uneducated and ignorant and they were held in contempt. The Roman world was much simpler. There was the Roman citizen and then the rest of the world, commonly referred to as the lesser breeds. Rome in its day was truly a thing of wonder. In the latter years it became a place that used the lesser folks for the ease and comfort of the Roman citizen. The Jewish world had the most barriers. The first was short and to the point…They believed themselves to be the chosen people, the only people in the world God loved. They looked down with contempt on any other race. The next barrier was between man and woman. Pretty much a case of women being despised. There is no better proof of this than their morning prayer…The Jew thanked God, that, “Thou hast not created me a Gentile, a slave or a woman.” The attitude of most Jews was that women didn’t matter. Sadly we are not done yet. Two other groups, those who keep the law and those that did not. Those that didn’t, they were called,  The People of the Land. Most Jews would not do business with them, or allow marriage between a Jew and them. In addition to that they did not keep company with them or travel anywhere with them. The Jew had utter contempt for those who did not keep the law.  To the Jew goodness and badness was related to your keeping the ceremonial law, but they went past that. They believed there was a great joy in heaven when a sinner went down. Barclay uses the story of the woman who was caught in an act of adultery (John 8: 1-11) to make this point. She was to be stoned to death as per Jewish law. Stoning though a harsh and horrible death administered by the people was not shied away from by the people and they did not see the harshness of it. They were most eager to get on with it. The picture presented here is they seemed to find a grim and sadistic pleasure in it. This attitude prevailed among the Jews. The Jews were disappointed by the fact that Jesus was a friend to the sinners and outcasts. Let’s go to vv. 3-5 in Psalm 24.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?

    And who shall stand in his holy place?

Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,

    who do not lift up their souls to what is false,

    and do not swear deceitfully.

Without the presence of God or the grace of Christ this shuts most of us out. This was the Jewish thought and was the example of utter contempt for the sinner.

There are still the barriers of this day. The Parable tells us of an all inclusive, wide open invitation to Christ. Unfortunately the sins of exclusiveness and contempt still are part of the church today. We can find the attitude that a person can sink so low they are no longer redeemable. There is the story of the great scholar Muretus. He traveled to many cites teaching and learning, then found himself sick in an Italian city, no-one really knew who he was. The doctors treating him thought him to be a vagrant with no friends or resources. They felt no one would miss him and he was of little use. They were speaking in Latin, the scholar’s language.  At the close of their conversation he looked up and said to them“call no man worthless for whom Christ died.” We are of course in this day and in this country dealing with a race problem, the issue of color prejudice. Our attitude toward persons of color is one of condescension. That is not the Christian way of treating all people as brothers and sisters, all are equally a part of the family of God. We still as members of the church have an attitude problem. We tend toward the habit of labeling people good or bad, closing our hearts, minds and doors to the sinner because they make us uncomfortable. We must ask ourselves if we turn them away where can they go? There is and always will be a mixture in the church. If the church were for only the perfect people it would be hard pressed to seat a choir. The mixture of good and bad within the church is a testament to its purpose.

Remember the net and the fact that it gathered all in its path, then when brought ashore the sorting out of the good and bad started? The bad were cast away. We would do well to understand that when we are confronted with Christ it is at that moment. our actions judge ourselves and are judged by God. We are making the decision in which direction our lives will go. Will you be cast away?

Life is Good

jk

 

The Misinterpretation…?

Last week’s parable dealt with the Orthodox Jews belief that good deeds would enhance ones standing as a righteous person. The more good deeds the more righteous a person was in God’s eyes. That righteousness was the result of good works. We learned that good works were not to be motivated by our desire to establish credit with God but rather the result of doing our duty as expected by God. This week we look at a different view and a different assessment. It is important for you to read James 2: 14-26 at this point.

Let’s start with these verses from James 1: 22-25:

22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves[h] in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

Yes, our study today is in Chapter 2 but even before we get there James lays down his assessment of faith, deeds and works. It is important to remember that the word of God can never be just one or two verses from a chosen reading, in the study of scripture context is important. James early in his book insists that his readers be not only be hearers of the word but doers. James specifically writes that one true mark of the faith would be those who care for the needs of others and it is not far into the second chapter before he is writing this:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters,[e] if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (2James vv.14-17 NRSV)

Repetitive as this is, his words continue to bring home his dedication to his belief that faith without works is dead. He made the point in the very first chapter and got no farther in the second chapter than verse 14 before writing it again. His passionate insistence that faith must be translated into works is the overwhelming theme of this section of writing. Just knowing the right truth or the holding the right position does not make us righteous. Again and again verse 14 hits us in the face…To the Jew almsgiving was a big thing. So much so that it became one and the same. Righteousness and almsgiving were looked on by some as a way to atone for their sins. I found this in my research and include it here as a telling picture of the church’s view of the importance of works and faith.

“When the leaders of the Jerusalem church agreed that Paul should go to the Gentiles, the one specific instruction given to him was not to forget the poor (Galatians 2:10). This stress on practical help was one of the great and lovely marks of Jewish piety.” (DBS page 87)

All of us at times experience the need to help someone, I believe that there is a little good in all of us. Sympathy for others needs is a fine emotion and yes we all do have that emotion from time to time. James adds the blunt assessment that if we do not act on that it is highly likely that we will ever respond to any needs. When our emotions allow us to see a need and feel sympathy, we must be willing to make the sacrifice to meet that need. The study of the parable last week led me to linger a bit beyond the words. Luther regarded Paul as the true apostle and he was at odds with James and his position that faith without deeds was dead. Luther had an enormous amount of influence on the development of the NT scholarship, he more or less demoted James, a better term I guess would be he marginalized its standing in the Gospel. There has been much written about this matter but what I found interesting is the majority opinion is that this was a matter of interpretation and lays aside the idea that Paul and James were at odds as to faith and deeds. There are few if any Christian communities in this day that would be in disagreement with James as to faith and works. We learn with James it is not a situation of “either or” but one of both and more.

James makes it plain that we should greet and welcome those less fortunate than us into our assembly, give aid to those on the street that are perennially part of an impoverished population and remember the widows and orphans. Do we set aside that lesser person, removing them from our sight and mind, replacing them with those we relate to and placing them in a position of prominence? Have we sought to cover our neglect of the hungry and ill-clad with good wishes and pious language? Have we clung to our safe orthodoxy and comfortable rituals, not stepping out and answering God’s call to feed, cloth and care for the less fortunate among us? If we can say yes to any of these questions, then we cannot meet James’s standards, nor those of Christ. It is through our faith in Christ that we are enabled to do our duty. It is the strength of our faith that brings forth the deeds that serve and preserves the faith and wellbeing of others.

God Bless, Life is Good

jk

Tally Me Good, Tally Me Bad…Luke 17: 7-10

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

There is no score card or tally sheet in heaven and we are not the master of the ship. In some ways this would be one of the more difficult parables but it is simple in its depiction of the people Jesus was speaking to at the time. We often tend to forget that in Jesus’ early ministry he was speaking to mostly Jews. These were his people and prior to the start of his active ministry he lived and worked among them. In this Parable we learn that we cannot put God in our debt. Jesus is making that very point here in this parable. The Jews had this doctrine of works, plainly put, the more good you did the more points you got, a score sheet for mortals if you will. A Godly credit account.

( I will note here that next week we will look at an interesting conflict that exists with todays subject and can be found in The Book of James Chapter 2: 14-26)

One of the lessons here is when we have done our duty there is nothing extraordinary about that, for we have only done what was expected of us. Bear Bryant, Alabama football coach said it best. A player after scoring a touchdown in a critical game engaged in some rather over the top end zone celebrations. Coach Bryant called him over as he returned to the sidelines and reminded him that was not necessary. He is reported to have said…”son that is not necessary, act like you’ve been there before.”  When we do as God would have us do we have only done what is expected of us. We are after all always and forever servants. The Jews believed that those who had done a sufficient number of good works were justified and they were the righteous. There were two other levels but to be noted here was the belief that those in the lower levels could pass into the ranks of the righteous by doing some extra good works. The Jews believed that any good deed could improve their Godly account. In short they did believe that man could put God in his debt. Barclay points out that God’s relationship with us is one of love. He points out that in reality the love a parent has for their child…so strong, so consuming,is a love that there is no way we could ever pay them back. No matter how generous that deed or gift might be, it would never be enough for the life they gave us and the love that sustains it. If we approach this from love’s view, we know it has no bounds and is not constrained by time…it is never ending and expects nothing in return.

We need to develop a servants heart. I have my own definition of a  servant. A servant serves because it is expected of him, it is a duty born of necessity and cultural  expectations. The righteous servant who serves with a servants heart, does so out of an abundance of love and expects nothing in return. We also learn here that there are no set hours for living a Christian life. There is a truth here that is very present in today’s world. I call it the faith of convince, you can’t take time off from being a Christian because it is inconvenient in a particular time or place or the company of others. As I wrote earlier this Parable can be difficult but if we look closely there is much here. God has given us his very best. God does not ask us to serve at our convince, he demands our very best at all times…..Christianity is not a part time endeavor. We are to serve, we are his servants and don’t need to engage in end-zone celebrations for doing what is expected of us.

Join us next week as we move to the Book of James chapter 2 for a different look at deeds.

Life is Good

jk