A good Sunday morning to all. It rained quite a bit last night, and is actually still raining! It’s a beautiful sight! It was only slightly annoying last night during the Rangers/Tigers game. There were two rain delays, totaling over 100 minutes, as the Rangers beat the Tigers 3-2 in the first round of the ALCS. It is my opinion that it would have been 3-1 had Rangers management not decided to bring CJ Wilson back in after the first rain delay. But…they won, so that’s irrelevant. The game lasted until shortly after midnight. I think. I was watching, but not totally sure on the time. By that time, I was the only one up in our house.
Today, after the worship celebration, we will go to the membership class for The Exchange. I assume that, after the class, we will be official members. Unless they want us to commit to something really, really weird. But so far, I’ve seen no evidence of weirdness at the church. Other than Joel Engle, the pastor. He’s kind of weird. In a really lovable way, though. Which is probably why I love him so much.
After the class, we will be heading out to the blooming metropolis of Pirtle, Texas. Never heard of it? I can’t say I’m surprised. My wonderful Grandmama used to live there, when she was alive. We’re going to her old house, which will soon be sold, to see what we want to bring back home with us (talking about furniture and stuff). We’re renting a small truck in Kilgore (the closest actual town), and driving back with it tomorrow. Then Tuesday, we will take said truck to Mineral Wells and unload some of the stuff at my parents’ house. I think I mentioned before that this trip will be bittersweet. I miss the old place, and it will, no doubt be the last time to see it.
Enough of that…on to the Bible readings.
Today’s Bible readings:
Colossians 2:6-23; Jeremiah 1; Proverbs 19:8-14
In the Colossians passage, Paul begins by encouraging the reader to walk in Christ, just as he was received. We are encouraged to be rooted and built up in him and established in the faith. (v. 7) This is a process. We begin by being rooted in Christ, then we build ourselves up (or allow the Holy Spirit to do the building) and eventually become established in the faith. Not that we ever stop growing…that takes an entire life.
There are warnings against being taken aptive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (v. 8 ) This is a very real danger for Christians. I have seen many Christians get shanghaied by “philosophy and empty deceit.” I have seen people’s theology get taken off track by worldly thoughts that, although they sound good on the surface, really water down the gospel. Sadly, I have heard these same empty philosophies preached from some pulpits, some in very large churches. You see, when preachers preach, people listen. Even when what is being preached is not 100% true. Because that’s just the way people are. Many people just take whatever their pastor says as truth and don’t bother to check out what the Bible says. I don’t believe, in most cases, that the pastor sets out to deceive the people. I believe that they mean well. But they get sidetracked. They get enticed by the power of having a large congregation, so they do whatever it takes to increase the size of that congregation, whether it’s Biblical truth or not. Enough of that soapbox. Paul simply warns us against these things.
Next, Paul once again affirms the deity of Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily. (v. 9) Verse 13 affirms who it was that made us alive in Christ. God has made us alive. 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. (vv. 13-14) Isn’t that beautiful? The record of our sin and debt is postponed, right? NO! It is CANCELED!! It has, along with Jesus, been nailed to the cross! Several times in my life, I have sat in a Bible study class where we wrote down sins that troubled us. Then the leader drew a cross on a piece of paper on a bulletin board. We all went up and “nailed” our sins to that cross. It’s symbolic of what God did for us in Christ. It’s a cleansing exercise, because it reminds us of what we so often forget, which is our debt is canceled! Hallelujah!
So what does Paul say next? Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. Wow! I’ve actually heard a brother say that he could never worship with someone if he ever saw them drink alcohol. REALLY?? Is that what Paul says, here? NO! We are not to judge each other on things like that. These things are not important. They are shadows. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (v. 17) The next few verses are, actually, astounding. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations–“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (vv. 18-23) Does Paul mean we are free to do whatever we want to do? I believe Paul would answer, as he did several times in Romans, “God forbid!” What he is saying though, is that we are not to establish man-made rules and regulations as “religion and asceticism.” I don’t know how many people understand what “asceticism” is. It is a practice of extreme religious activity that usually causes severe pain to the body. Centuries ago, there were people who would whip themselves in efforts to weaken the flesh. One person was even known to roll around naked in a bramble bush. Paul insists that these things (along with the man-made rules of what we can eat or drink) only have an appearance of wisdom. In fact, they “are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” How, then do we stop this indulgence? The answer is in chapter 3, which I will read tomorrow. CLIFFHANGER!!
The prophet Jeremiah begins by stating his call. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (v. 5) Jeremiah’s status as a prophet was determined before he was born. But he objected. Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (v. 6) God dealt with his objection thusly: But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Further, the Lord says, in verse 12 that he is watching over his word to perform it. God will do what he said he will do!
Father, I thank you that you are faithful and that you are watching over your word to perform it. The fact that you always do what you say you will do is very comforting to us, your children. Thank you for making me alive in Christ. I praise you for canceling the debt of sin that I have worked up in my life. I continue to add to that debt, as time goes by, for I still sin. But even that debt is canceled! I praise you for that, Father. I also thank you that we don’t have to worry about abiding by the rules of men, when it comes to “religion.” Let us not be guilty of creating formulas for being good enough or forms of asceticism to weaken our flesh. If we simply focus on you by keeping our minds on Jesus, the Holy Spirit will empower us to live and walk in Christ, just as we have received him. This will also give us the ability to be built up in him and become established in our faith. However, following man-made rules about what to drink, eat, or touch will not accomplish anything, so let us not be sidetracked by these things. I also pray that our minds be clear when it comes to our theology. Let us not get sidetracked by empty philosophy and deceitful thoughts. Let us not fall into the trap of watering down the gospel to make more appealing to people. Let us speak the truth, as shown us in Scripture. If that is not enough to draw people to you, then so be it. It is not up to us to draw them. Jesus, you said yourself that, if you be lifted up, YOU would draw men to you. Let us depend on you to do what you say you will do.
Thank you for the rain! It is beautiful and refreshing! I pray that we will be safe as we drive to east Texas today, since the rain will probably continue. I pray that we will be able to accomplish what we are going for on this trip. I pray for good memories as we take a last look at Grandmama’s place. I also pray for safety as we move around in a house that has been empty for a long time.
I pray for our worship celebration this morning. Let it be pleasing to you as we lift our voices and hearts to you in praise. I lift up Greg Foster as he leads us, along with the rest of the band, and I lift up Joel as he brings your message to us. I pray for him, that words would be given to him as he opens his mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel. Strengthen him in Christ this morning.
God is faithful. That is one of the most important things that we can remember. He will do what he said he will do.
Grace and peace, friends.