A Personal Devotional Journal

I invite you to journey with me. Sometimes we will look at short passages of Scripture and I will give my first thoughts and impressions. Other times, I will just share my thinking about spiritual issues. Always, you are welcome to comment and add your thoughts. Together, we could learn something.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Bless One Another" Colossians 3:16, James 3:15-16, Luke 6:28

Colossians 3:16
Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
This sets up a basis for how we should speak to each other in a Christian community. This isn’t saying that we should only speak to each other by quoting Scripture and singing songs. Try and picture that in your mind. That’s some kind of very bizarre Broadway musical –everything you say here has to either be sung or quoted. But this isn’t a stage production, this is real life and if God’s Word has any meaning at all, it’s got to mean something in real life, not just in theory, so what does this mean?

This is teaching us that allowing the Word to dwell in us –to be a part of us –to be internalized so that it becomes the basis for our world-view will make us wise. So, speak to one another and relate to one another from a specifically Christian world-view. Encourage one another and bless one another with the wisdom that comes from knowing God, and the joy that comes from praising God. Our words to each other, then, should be encouraging and uplifting –they should be a welcome blessing. There is good, godly wisdom in speaking blessing into each other’s lives.

Contrast this with the worldy wisdom James speaks of in James 3:15-16:
For jealousy and selfishness are not God's kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and motivated by the Devil. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil.

This worldy wisdom that drives us to curse others is all about selfish ambition and watching out for number one. It’s not even wisdom as we like to think of it –it’s more of a self-preservationist street-smarts. And because we live in the world where this street-smart kind of wisdom rules, it sometimes rubs off on us. We might find ourselves –even in church –watching out for our own interests. We might find ourselves angrily or selfishly speaking curses into the lives of brothers and sisters –although probably not out loud because we still like to keep up appearances. But, it’s not unusual, even in churches to hear people talking about each other behind one another’s back, spreading gossip, speaking ill. It’s kind of human nature and it’s so prevalent in the world, that this bad stuff sometimes creeps into the church.

That is how the culture of the world operates. But in the church, it is supposed to be different. The church by definition is counter-culture. At least it is by Jesus’ definition. Look at Jesus’ instruction to us.

Luke 6:28
Ask God to bless anyone who curses you, and pray for everyone who is cruel to you.

That’s not how it works out there, is it? But that is how it is supposed to work among Believers.
The world’s way is a way of self-seeking, self-serving, selfish ambition -looking out for number one. That is destructive. It harms us. But, God has given us the right and the responsibility to care for each other and pray for each other and speak healing and blessing into each other’s lives.

Our words are important –they matter –they make a difference. We can curse people and speak lies into their lives –or we can bless them and speak truth into their lives. We can build them up or we can tear them down. Knowing the importance of words and the affects they have, Paul encourages us to let the Word of Christ dwell in us –to be imbedded in us -to become part of us –and to speak to each other out of this specifically Christian world-view that develops as a result of knowing God and worshiping Him sincerely.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

"Bear With One Another" Colossians 3:12-13

Colossians 3:12-13  “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.”

This is Paul’s instruction for Believer’s –The Church –Followers of Jesus.  Although we are being transformed and changed into the likeness of Jesus, none of us are the finished product.  Some days we seem more like Jesus than others.  In those moments when it is obvious to all that we have a ways to go, we are to bear with one another.

Maybe you’re wondering what it means to bear with one another –how do we do that?  Fortunately, it doesn’t say “bear with one another; you figure out how.”  It gives us the plan.  It tells us the steps, the ingredients that go into bearing with one another.  Bearing with one another involves compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Interestingly, these are mostly the same ingredients that we find in Galatians 5:22-23.  There these ingredients are called “fruit of the Spirit.”  That means these are by-products of walking with Jesus –the Spirit filled life.  These by-products of living in the Spirit are a result of intimacy with God.  I’m sincerely hoping for a day when my natural responses to the circumstances of life consistently involve compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  But for now, I’m a little inconsistent.  So are you.  I’ve noticed.  For most of us, these things are not fully internalized, so Paul has a recommendation.  He tells us to clothe ourselves with them.

By definition, clothing ourselves with these fruit of the Spirit means that they are not yet fully internalized, but that we are able to recognize them, take hold of them, and apply them to the situations of our lives.  Clothing ourselves means applying externally something that is not fully internalized.

Think about that for a moment.  If w are told to clothe ourselves with these things –if we are told to take these things and put them on –apply them to our lives so that we can respond appropriately and redemptively to others –then I would say it’s possible for us to do that –wouldn’t you agree?  God is not asking us to do the impossible. 

What He tells us to do, He gives us the ability to do.  So, if He tell us to do this and He gives us the ability to do this, then we have a very real responsibility to do this.  When things aren’t going smoothly –when there is friction in the church –when somebody says something or does something hurtful.  This is what the Bible says to do: clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience so that we can bear with each other.

Sooner or later I’m bound to say something or do something that will really tick you off.  I’d apologize in advance if I could –but I don’t know exactly when or where this is going to happen –but I know that it is bound to happen.  And if I don’t say something or do something that irritates you, some other brother or sister will.  It will happen because we live in real life.   I’m not sure there is even anything we can do about that part of it.  We can’t stop real life from taking place.

When something annoying or hurtful is said or done, however, we have a choice about how we are going to respond.  We can choose to clothe ourselves with compassion.  We can choose to put on kindness.  We can choose to wrap ourselves up in humility.  And we can choose to cover ourselves with gentleness.  We can choose to robe ourselves in patience. We have the ability to bear with each other through stressful times. 

And why do we want to bear with each other?  Because we love each other –because we are a community of grace -because this is the church God wants us to be.