Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jesus Christ's Deity, Death, and Resurrection

Jesus Christ's deity, death and resurrection. We'll focus on his deity this week. John chapter 14 verse 6: I am the way the truth and the life. Without me no one can go to the father (CEV).
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Friday, January 30, 2009

Review of Colossians

Jesus lived the perfect life, died the perfect death, and rose again.

This changes everything.

Keep living the good life, not through your own strength, but through Jesus' example.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Personal Touch

In verses 10-18, Paul names 7 other people.

Despite Paul's hard words, he loves people.

Do I? Do you, dear Reader?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tychicus & Onesimus

In verses 7-9, we learn that Tychicus is Paul's messenger. Onesimus, the former slave that Paul defends in the letter to Philemon, is also on this mission.

Paul surrounds himself with people of high quality and character.

Never send a person with poor character to complete an important task.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mouth Needed

In verses 2-6, Paul reminds us that we ought to pray consistently, for ourselves and for others.

It is also important that we be prepared to speak wisely, particularly to people who are not Christians.

I pray that what I say will be more filled with grace as I grow in my faith.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Master in Heaven

In verse 1, we're reminded that we are not really in charge.

How would I treat my subordinates differently if I remembered this fact more consistently?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Outline of Colossians 4

  1. Masters, be kind
  2. Live righteously
    1. Pray for Paul's teaching ministry
    2. Act wisely toward outsiders (i.e.--non-Christians)
    3. Speak wisely
  3. Personal greetings
    1. Tychicus
    2. Onesimus
    3. Aristarchus
    4. Barnabas's cousin Mark
    5. Jesus who is called Justus
    6. Epaphras
    7. Luke
    8. Demas
    9. The followers at Laodicea
    10. Nympha's house church
    11. Archippus
    12. Paul's own handwriting

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Family & Work

In verses 18-25, we read about smooth-functioning families and hard-working employees.

But what about the family that has an ogre for a dad? What about the sweatshop employee? Where does "turn the other cheek" transition into "created in the image of God?"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Verses 12-17

In verses 12-17, we're reminded to live our lives the way Christ lived his.

I rarely meet this standard. Today is a hard day for me to read this passage.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Verses 10-11

I particularly like the CEV translation of these two verses.

Even as we struggle through life, if we seek to follow God, then we will learn more and become more like him.

Race and religious background are irrelevant. Only our devotion to Christ counts.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

List of Don'ts

  1. Anger
  2. Rage
  3. Malice
  4. Slander
  5. Insults
  6. Cruelty
  7. Lying

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Podcast (Audio)

Inaugural Podcast (Text)

In this podcast, I would like to consider the claim that it is impossible for a Christian to vote with a clear conscience for a pro-life candidate.

Are more Christians Democrats or Republicans?

Are Democrats or Republicans more Christian?

When I was in high school, my Mom observed that young people tend to be very liberal or very conservative, but moderate their views as they age.

This is consistent with my experience. As I've read through the Bible many times, especially the Old Testament, I've become more liberal in my thinking on some issues.

I believe that the murder of the unborn is a sin. Killing babies is barbaric.

But I also believe that murder of the living is a sin. Basing a war upon fabricated evidence is barbaric.

President Obama does not accept that life begins at conception. Therefore, in his mind abortion is not immoral. I do not agree with his conclusion, but his perspective is internally consistent.

President Bush did not accept that lying is wrong if the war is just. Therefore, in his mind the Iraq War is not immoral. I do not agree with his conclusion, but his perspective is internally consistent.

The uncomfortable life-and-death question that faced Christians in this presidential election was not simply, "Which candidate is pro-life?" but also, "Whose life is more valuable, an unborn American child or an innocent Iraqi civilian?"

In my reading of the Bible, the answer is that all humans are created in the image of God.

Verses 4-7

  1. Christ hasn't been fully-revealed yet
  2. His followers will be revealed at the same time as Christ himself
  3. Before this time, we can only use indirect measures to determine if others are truly Christians
  4. This does not prevent me from evaluating my own standing before God
  5. Warning: the human heart is "deep waters"
  6. Control your sinful desires
  7. But not directly
  8. Pray for the strength to do the right things and not do the wrong things
  9. God's wrath is a consequence of sin
  10. Everyone was once on the wrong side of sin

Monday, January 19, 2009

Verses 1-3

  1. "If" means this passage applies specifically to Christians
  2. Seek things above
  3. This implies that things "below" are of lesser importance and significance
  4. Think about Christ
  5. Reflect upon where Christ is right now
  6. What is "the right hand of God?" It sounds important and honoring, but I don't have a handle on what this phrase means
  7. As a Christian, I have "died"
  8. If God is good, then only the bad part of me has died, not the part created in his image
  9. Since I'm human, the bad part of me can't be completely eradicated.
  10. This would be like harvesting the wheat with the weeds: both the good and the bad would be pulled up
  11. My life is "hidden with Christ"
  12. Does this mean that my sins are not visible to God?
  13. Does this imply a level of relational intimacy with the Lord?
  14. I can rely upon Jesus to help me through tough times, not my own strength

Sunday, January 18, 2009


There are logical consequences of our faith when we ask Jesus into our hearts.

Christians should act differently than if we didn't follow the teachings of the Bible.

Why is this so often not the case?

Colossians 3

  1. How to live, self
  2. How to live, relationships

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Jesus’ Final Week: Initial Reflections

Although Matthew's account of Palm Sunday is somewhat better-known, I feel drawn to the account in Luke 19.

The geography of Jesus' trip into Jerusalem is interesting. He starts by passing through Jericho. This is where he stops to spend time with Zacchaeus. Then he approaches Bethphage (on the Mount of Olives) and Bethany (lit. house of unripe figs). There are about two miles remaining from this point in the journey.

Jesus uses this road in his Parable of the Good Samaritan. Clearly it had a reputation for being a dangerous route.

This trip is a total of 17 miles. I wonder how early Jesus started his trip, and how he was able to arrive at Jerusalem before sundown. How long did Jesus stay at Zacchaeus' house? Did Jesus' disciples ride uphill on camels or horses? Mark 11:11 indicates that it was already late when Jesus got into the city, so this appears consistent.

Jesus directs two of his disciples (which two?) to go ahead into Jerusalem and get a colt which had never before been ridden. According to Max Lucado, the phrasing of their request, "The Lord needs it," indicates royal privilege. This is a king's trip, but on a commoner's ride, clearly prophesied in Zechariah 9:9.

The Pharisees are upset by the praise Jesus is receiving, but Jesus tells them that even the stones will praise him, if necessary, in Luke 19:39-40.

In verses 41-44, Jesus prophesies the upcoming siege of Jerusalem and persecution of God's chosen people. I wonder what he means by the phrase, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes." Why is it hidden? Who is hiding this truth? There appears to be a complex relationship among good and evil, natural and spiritual, free will and predestination.

One of my earliest memories in church is singing the song, "Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man." It's a simple story of the profound change Jesus can bring to anyone open to his forgiveness. But I'd never realized that this happened early on Palm Sunday.

How incredible that before participating in his public inauguration he would spend a significant amount of time at a tax collector's home.

There are striking parallels between the atmosphere describing Palm Sunday and the anticipation I sense around the United States in anticipation of Obama's inauguration next Tuesday. The excitement is palpable.

However, there is a strong note of caution. Jesus tells the Parable of the Ten Minas, what I've always thought of as a darker version of the Parable of the Talents. In Luke 19:11 (NIV), we read:

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.

This parable parallels a historical event from Jesus' boyhood:

"The historical background for the parable was the visit of Archelaus, son of Herod the Great, to Rome to secure permission to reign as a so-called client king, i.e., over a territory actually subject to Rome. This petition was opposed by a delegation of Archelaus' own subjects" (Expositor's Bible Commentary).

By implication, the kingdom of God is not intended to "appear at once." Just as Archelaus was not accepted by his subjects, neither is Jesus.

This is an incredibly full and rich day, and there are an infinite number of lessons available to those who dig into the historical and spiritual record of Jesus' final week of life before his crucifixion and resurrection.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Who doesn't want to be complete?

In verses 9-10, I'm reminded that Jesus is my head.

Without Jesus, I'm headless! Dopey, but true.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hollow Philosophies

What hollow ideas do I cling to? If I eliminate them, will I live a more faithful life?

And if I adopt more right thinking, will this lead to more faithful living as well?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stop Trying Hard(er)

Jesus did the hard part.

Stop trying to look good. You aren't!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Verses 16-17

Focus on what matters, not the peripherals.

This is great advice in life, not just in spiritual matters.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Christ is Enough

In verses 6-15, Paul reminds us that after we accept Jesus in our hearts, it's easy to get sidetracked.

We stay grateful by avoiding control beliefs which are devoid of Christ as the center.

Jesus completes us. Anything else is empty.

Jesus took on our greatest enemies, and he laid them bare. There was an element of public humiliation to the Resurrection.

All arguments against Christianity dismiss out-of-hand the Resurrection and divinity of Christ. These are not arguments of logic or reason or scientific reasoning, but of denial.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Colossians 2:1-5

  1. Paul wants the Colossians to know he struggles on their behalf
  2. And the Laodiceans, too. Why the Laodiceans? Is this intended to be a circular letter?
  3. And people who've never met him face-to-face
  4. To encourage their hearts, knit together in love
  5. Attaining full knowledge and understanding of Jesus
  6. So they won't be fooled by "persuasive argument"
  7. Rejoicing in their faith

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Outline of Colossians 2

  1. Being an effective disciple involves great struggle
  2. Christ's power cannot be replaced by convincing human arguments

Friday, January 9, 2009

By the Will of God

Paul uses the phrase "by the will of God" in several places:

Colossians 1:1
1 Corinthians 1:1
2 Timothy 1:1
Romans 1:10
Acts 18:21
Romans 15:32

Do I approach life with this humble attitude, one which acknowledges that God is in control?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Plato, Colossians 1 and Hebrews 1

In response to tonight's Common Ground message, an overview of Hebrews and an exposition on chapter 1, I did the following Google search: plato colossians 1 hebrews 1

One of the top results was "Plato 1 lecture outline"

Victor Shepherd was awarded an honorary doctorate from Roberts Wesleyan in 1995. I wonder if I was there when he was honored? I remember several speakers receiving honorary doctorates during chapel services.

Shepherd writes, "The Apologists and Fathers of the early church saw large affinities between Plato and biblical thought." However, "the Middle Platonists (1st cent. BCE) identified the forms with the divine mind. Now the universe was deemed to be a reflection of God's mind (rather than a reflection of the forms.) Result:

  1. the study of the created universe leads to a knowledge of the mind of the creator
  2. science can arise, for now it is affirmed that natural things aren't God.
Christians who took over Plato at this point falsified him, since for P the mind is receptive, not creative: it recognizes its objects but doesn't create them. For P the world of forms is independent of mind. For P, forms can be grasped by the mind and are used to order matter, but forms arise from neither mind nor matter. The forms are part neither of the craftsman's mind nor the world soul's mind."

This gives me pause. Clearly, Plato's ideas were a precusor to biblical thought and concepts in the New Testament, but Dr. Shepherd makes a strong case that the connections between the Bible and Plato may not be as strong as I originally thought.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Outline of Colossians 1

  1. Paul and Timothy are thankful for the Colossian believers
  2. Jesus has done a boatload of things
  3. Paul serves faithfully because God called him

Point A sticks out to me the most tonight.

Who do I need to appreciate more? How can I express this in a way that encourages them without being awkward?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Focused Living

We learn in verses 25-29 that Paul was specifically drafted by God to serve the Gentiles in Colossae and around the region.

Who has God specifically called me to serve?

When I answer this question, I will struggle less with time management and scattered energy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Rejoice in Suffering

In verse 24, Paul and Timothy write about rejoicing in their suffering.

I don't have this kind of faith.

I don't know that I want this kind of faith!

This is not the right attitude. I wonder how to change my perspective.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Describing Christ

In verses 13-23, Paul and Timothy describe God the Father and Jesus.

  1. God rescued us.
  2. This means that we needed rescuing.
  3. From what? "the dark power of Satan" (v. 13)
  4. To where? "the kingdom of his dear Son" (v. 13)
  5. This may imply that we were in hell, or at least on the pathway to hell, before we were rescued.
  6. God's Son "forgives our sins and sets us free" (v. 14)
  7. Sins need forgiving
  8. Sins hold us captive
  9. Without forgiveness, we're not free
  10. Christ=God
  11. God can't be seen
  12. Christ took on human form, so Christ is God-who-can-be-seen
  13. Can we say that we've "seen" Abraham Lincoln or Plato or other historical figures?
  14. If yes, then we can say we've "seen" God through Jesus Christ
  15. Creation was made by and for God's son
  16. God's son preexisted all creation
  17. Does this mean that God existed in the infinite past, or simply that God prexisted our universe?
  18. The orthodox answer is yes, but is there a logical difference between the two possibilities?
  19. v. 17: by him everything / is held together
  20. This sounds kind of like the theory of monads by Leibniz
  21. Jesus is head of his body
  22. Jesus' body is the church
  23. Jesus is the first to be raised from death
  24. This can't mean the first to come back to life from an earthly perspective. There were resurrections in the Old Testament.
  25. In the Apostles' Creed, it says Christ "descended into hell"
  26. This is a disturbing phrase, but describes Jesus' spiritual death for our sins.
  27. A physical death and resurrection would not have been sufficient to save us from our sins.
  28. Calvin discusses this phrase here
  29. This puts Jesus above all others
  30. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the position of honor
  31. God lived fully in Jesus
  32. God was pleased to do so
  33. Does this imply that God is less pleased to live in us?
  34. No, because when we ask Jesus into our hearts, God sees us as he sees his son.
  35. This is an amazing and humbling and exciting truth
  36. God was "pleased" to have Jesusshed his blood on the cross
  37. The word "pleased" in this context must have an element of willingness, rather than excitement. No parent is excited to see his or her child suffer and die.
  38. I have two questions about verse 20b: all beings in heaven / and on earth / would be brought back to God
  39. Does this mean that Jesus' death applies to everyone? "all" can't mean every human being, because "wide is the pathway to destruction" (Matthew 7:13)
  40. Does this mean that Jesus' death provided salvation to heavenly beings? Or is it a statement related to the phrase "angels long to look into such things" (1 Peter 1:12)
  41. I used to be far from God
  42. Until getting right with God, everyone is far from God
  43. Jesus is our GPS to get us to heaven
  44. My thoughts separated me from God
  45. Often I feel like my thoughts still separate me from God
  46. I did evil things
  47. Some of the things I do now I would label evil
  48. Since Jesus became human and died for me, I'm forgiven before a holy God, despite my continuing struggles with sin and rebellion.
  49. Through Jesus, God made peace with me
  50. I'm allowed to stand in his presence
  51. Nothing and no one unholy or guilty or imperfect is allowed to do this
  52. Now I'm treated by God as "holy and faultless and innocent" (v. 22), which is different than saying I am actually "holy and faultless and innocent"
  53. Stay deeply rooted in my faith (cf. the parable of the sower)
  54. The gospel brings hope
  55. It is possible to lose hope as we go through life
  56. This message was preached to everyone
  57. Really? Not yet. This can't be an absolute statement of number. Not everyone has heard the good news yet. That's why we have missionaries.
  58. Paul and / or Timothy are servants of this message
  59. It is possible to be a servant of an idea, not only a person
  60. But all ideas are linked to individuals, so the two can't be separated entirely

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Prayer Begets Prayer

Paul and Timothy coauthored this letter.

They begin with a prayer of thanks for the faith of the Colossian church. Prayer begets prayer, and appreciation begets appreciation.

If I am missing thanksgiving, or prayer, or some other positive thing, it is important that I make the first step.

You get what you give. You reap what you sow.

In this new year, I pray that I'll reap wisely and according to God's will for my life.

Friday, January 2, 2009


I was surprised to learn that Colossae is not currently inhabited. Additionally, the site has not been examined by archaeologists.

I wonder what makes this ancient city less interesting to archaeologists than other locations?

Thursday, January 1, 2009