Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Colossians Week 4 - Built, Strengthened, Thankful

We’re in our fourth week of going through the book of Colossians. As we’re making our way through the book, we’ve talked about how we’re focusing on the larger ideas that are being presented through the text. Rather than the fine theological ideas that are found in every verse. 
We’re looking for what the Spirit had to say at the time of the writing, and how that should affect us today.
In the first week, we focused on chapter 1 verses 1-14. In those verses we saw how the writer of the letter, was emphasizing that the Church, this body of world-wide believers in Jesus, are connected to each other for two reasons: 1) They have accepted Jesus as their Savior, and therefore are brought into this group called the Church, and 2) We who are in the Church are connected through praying for one another. This is why prayer is so important for the Church to be active in. Without it, we severely limit our ability to connect with each other, and the world-wide Church.
Then the next week we moved to verses 15-23 of chapter 1, and talked about how the writer, wants us to get to know Jesus intimately. We shouldn’t just know facts about Jesus, but get to know him as a person. Since God is personal, meaning he has personality and can be known on a personal level, we need to get to know Jesus on that personal level. That way, we won’t approach him as just some idea, but a living being.
Then last week, we talked about how, the writer connected knowing Jesus’ intimately to serving the Church. And we found that in order to know Jesus the way he wants us to know him, we must serve the Church with our labor, our eagerness, and our energy. We do this so that we can engage each other, unite each other, and point each other back to Jesus, the head of the Church. Because in the end, it’s all about him.

That brings us to chapter 2 verse 6. So if you have your Bibles, would you open to Colossians chapter 2 verse 6. And as you do, I want to ask you a question. Last week we made the statement, that the Church is not here for us, but rather we are here for the Church. Meaning, we should be looking to give 100% of ourselves to the people of God, not expecting anything in return. If we all had this approach, then all of us would get our needs met within the Church.
But here’s the question, “How do we be the person that is here for the Church, and not make the Church here for us?
That question is what we are going to be tackling in the next few chapters, and we’ll start today.. Let’s start reading in verse 6.

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Let’s take a quick break right here. 
If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, he is now Lord of you life. If your life was a movie, then Jesus should be the director, the writer, the producer, the editor and the promoter. We are to live our lives as Jesus would desire for us to live. 
How do we do that from the writer’s point of view? He says we need to be doing three things:
In verse 7, Paul first says that we need to be rooted and built up in Jesus. What’s that mean? It means, that we need to solidify our relationship with him. In other words: we need to truly know him. This is done by, understanding that we need him to show us what it means to live our lives for him, and we need to level deep into the knowledge aspect of our relationship.
The Second thing is, we need to have our faith strengthened. How’s that done? Well, strengthening comes through challenges, a challenge that we talked about last time was service. Service challenges and strengthens our faith, because working with people is messy. They’re smelly, mean, and broken. And God loves them. So we need to love them by serving them. This builds our faith, because when the going gets tough, the cracks in our trusting of God will shine through. By serving, we see our deficiencies in loving people the way that God loves them. And it’s those cracks/deficiencies that help us to know what areas need to be worked on in our relationship with God.
Finally, we need to be thankful. There’s a lot of things that can make us think of the bad, but in all the bad that we see, there are things that are always there that we can thank God for. I remember seeing this one greeting card where it was a cartoon drawing of two disciples of Jesus, Paul and Silas. They were sitting in a cell with their arms chained above their heads. Silas says to Paul, “What should we do,” Paul responds with, “Let’s sing, I Lift My Hands Up to the Lord.” Even in our darkest moments we must thank God, because it changes our view of the situations we’re in.

So Paul, the writer of Colossians, has moved from talking about the connectedness of the Church, to knowing Jesus intimately, to the need of serving the Church, and now he moves into the individuals. We as individuals in this whole, relationship with God and his Church, need to be built in Jesus, have their faith strengthened, and be thankful.
Why? Why would he do this? Why does Paul believe that we need to know this? Let’s continue reading in verse 8.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

Paul tells us that we need to be built in Jesus, have our faith strengthened and to be thankful, because as we’re living in this world, there will be other paths to take. 
In the book of Matthew chapter 7 verses 13 and 14 Jesus said this, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

There are multiple paths in this world. One is the path to eternal life, which only goes through Jesus. After we have accepted that path though, other paths will want to side track us from Jesus’ path.
These paths want us to leave behind the God that has saved us, to return to a world that is dying.
So here in verse 8, Paul talks to us about not being captive by these other paths, these other philosophies, human traditions, or spiritual forces.

That’s why we must make sure that we are being built, strengthen, and thankful. So these other things will not divert us away from the path that goes through Jesus.
Now, we would never have anything like this happen in the Church today right? We would never have any other philosophies change the Church. We would never have human traditions shape the Church. We would never allow spiritual forces opposed to God in the Church right? No of course not.
Yeah, you and I both know that is a lie. The reality is, we have. We have allowed the things of this world to bring us as individuals off the path God has laid out for us, and onto the things that the world wants us to be bogged down by.

What do you think the form of that might take? Let’s take philosophies. What philosophies could we have in the Church? Some might say how we reach people. In the first gathering of believers I ever worked with as a Christian, I was told, to stop reaching out to people, because they need to look like us, before they can join us. I was told, just like a basketball team all wears the same uniforms, so to, do Christians need to all be the same.
Where is it in the Bible? 
What about building a building? The line from the classic baseball movie Field of Dreams, said, “If you build it, they will come.” And there have been times in the Church were the first step after a body of believers starts to meet is, we need to build a building. Why? Where in the whole of Scripture is that philosophy of Church organization found?
What about traditions? Does anyone know why we have a table with a Bible, and candles on it in the Sanctuary of most church buildings? The table is called an alter. But why do we have it? Did you know that this particular set up of the “alter” has no New Testament basis? I’ve heard some people dismiss this as an Old Testament things. But Where is the Christians alter? Wasn’t the cross? Isn’t that the alter on which God sacrificed the spotless lamb? So what’s the reality of our “alter”. Out table is actually a relic from the Roman judicial proceedings. In the Roman court, their would be a table between the judge and the people, where the accused could plead their case from. And when Christians took over judicial buildings for their gathering places, this piece of furniture stayed.
Where in the Bible is the command to use a piano found? Or a guitar? Or any other instrument? There are references to instruments being used in music to God, but no command of do or don’t when it comes to instruments. Yet, I have heard arguments put forth that only the piano or organ should be used to lead music. 
And then there are the spiritual forces. Let’s be real, if we do not believe that there is a spiritual reality, then we might as well throw out 95% of the Bible. Because the whole thing is about how the spiritual interacts with the physical. And the reality is, when it all comes down to it, we only know of one spiritual being that is for our good, and that’s God. When we follow anything else, even our own spiritual feelings, we enter into a realm that is filled with illusionists. We only see what it wants us to see.
We need to realize that there are spiritual forces at war all around us, that we cannot see, or hear. And yet, will reveal themselves to bring us into the fighting. 

This is why it is so important that we know the Jesus of the Bible. That we know what he wants from his people. Because our philosophies, our traditions, and the spiritual forces around us, don’t always line up with the path that God is calling his people towards.

Instead the Spirit is telling the Colossians, and us today, that instead of following the world’s philosophies, human traditions, and the spiritual forces, we need to be built in Jesus, strengthen in our faith, and be thankful as we move through this world.

But how? How can we combat, worldly philosophies, human traditions, and spiritual forces with being built, strengthen, and thankful?

Studying the Bible, and knowing the words of Jesus, keeps us from falling into the world’s philosophies. The word of God transcends time, culture, and language. A philosophy that is of the world, speaks only to the moment. By cultivating the words of the Bible into our lives, we can learn to distinguish between the eternal transcendent truths of God, from the momentary ideas of this world.
Having our faith tested through serving people, aligns our heart to the heart of God. Human tradition would have us focus on the what rather than the who. Serving changes our focus from the what of the way we do things, to the who that Jesus died for. As people change, so should certain aspects of our traditions. We talked last week about hymns. In the most cutting edge music leaders within the Church, I don’t see a hatred for the hymns, but rather an understanding that hymns are needed. But in order for that need to be fulfilled, hymns need to be brought into the modern day, for the modern worshiper.
Being thankful to God, keeps our eyes on him, because we realize everything comes from him. Spiritual forces that are against God want us to wallow in the bleakness of this world. They want us to desire more than what is given to us. But thankfulness of what God is doing in our lives, keeps us solid in the truth that God is good, he is in control, and we need nothing, except what he gives us.

This week I have a three fold challenge for you. First, is the philosophical aspect. I want you to challenge yourself to think of a philosophy or an idea of something that you think should be a certain way in the church. It could be how people dress, how the organization of the church should be run, what versions of the Bible should be read. I want you to scour the Bible for answers. If the philosophy is not in the Bible, then ask God to strip it away, so that you can see God’s word clearer.
Next is the human tradition aspect. I want you to challenge your thinking of what is supposed to happen in the Church, then I want you to rummage the pages of Scripture to see if the tradition you think should be in the Church, is actually found in the pages of the Bible. If it is not, ask God to strip it away from you, so that you can see God’s word clearer.
Finally, I want you to come up with 1 thing that have been worried about, or hurt over. Then I want you to find 3 things, in that 1, that you can thank God for.

Each of us needs to realize that there are things in our lives that are calling us away from the path God wants us to walk.
At the beginning of our talk today, I ask the question, “How do we be the person that is here for the Church and not make the Church here for us?

We need to become people that are built in Jesus, leaving behind worldly philosophies. We need to be people that are strengthen in our faith through serving, which will crush the human traditions that take us away from the people Jesus died for. And we need to be thankful towards God, which will keep our eyes on him, rather than on the spiritual forces that wish to stumble us.

Are you willing now, to be a person here for the Church? 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Colossians Week 3 - We Are Here for the Church

Welcome back as we go into our third week of the book of Colossians. And has we’ve been moving through this book, we have talked about how we’re trying to see the big picture of what the Spirit we revealing through Paul to the people. 
So the first week we looked at the first 14 verses and talked about how Paul was emphasizing to his audience that they are a part of this world-wide Church that was established by Jesus. And this Church is not only global, but it has no language barriers, no national borders, and it is connected through who Jesus is, and through the work of prayer. Because of this, we talked about how we as, the Alliance Church, need to be engaged in prayer for the world-wide Church, just like Paul was in prayer for the Colossians Church.
Then, in week two, we talked about verses 15-23. It is here that we saw how Paul put on the breaks of talking about the Church, and instead revealed to us that we must know Jesus on an intimate level. In order for us to be connected to the world-wide Church, we need to know the One who established it. We need to know the God of the Bible, we need to know the Savior, we need to know Jesus. 
But like we said last week, it’s not just about knowing things about Jesus. We need to know the person of Jesus. We don’t need to know him sole as a historical figure who has some good teachings, rather, we need to know the living God who came to earth, wrapped himself in human flesh, lived a perfect life while here, died an undeserved death, raised back to life, and now offers the free gift of eternal life to anyone who would accept their sinfulness and his gift of cleanings.
To know things about Jesus, and to know Jesus on a personal level, is the difference between hell and heaven. Church, we need to stop worrying about knowing all the things, and begin to focus on knowing Jesus in an intimate relationship.

That brings us to this week and the next section of Colossians that we’re going to looking at. So if you have your Bibles, please open up to the book of Colossians chapter 1 verse 24.
Now one thing to understand about the Bible, if you don’t already know it, is that the chapters and verses that we use to find things were never apart of the original manuscript. In fact, the chapters were not put into the Bible until the 1200s, and the verses were not put in until the 1500s.
So, when we read through Scripture, sometimes the chapters and verses do not necessarily correspond to the thought of the writers. And that’s what we can see here. So we will follow the writer’s thought, rather than the chapters and verses.

Now, let’s read Colossians chapter 1, starting in verse 24.

24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Let’s stop right there. What is Paul saying here? Well first off, that he is working for the good of Jesus’ Church. He says that he has become a servant, that he fills himself up with the afflictions that come with serving the Church. That he is revealing the mystery of the Gospel that has been prophesied, and hinted to for thousands of years through the Jewish Scriptures.

What does that mean for us? What is the Spirit then saying to you and me? Paul just got done talking to us about knowing Jesus on a personal and intimate level. 
He moves from that into letting us know that he is a servant. And a servant that desires to serve the Church. And with serving the Church there comes afflictions, but also joy in showing people the truth of the Gospel and of Jesus.

Why would he go from wanting us to know Jesus intimately, to talking about service?

Because to know Jesus intimately, is to serve him. But what’s interesting is, he connects knowing Jesus intimately, with serving the Church. He says, “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” 
He connects the two. Knowing Jesus intimately, leads to serving his Church. Having you ever connected the two? Last week I asked the question, Do you know Jesus intimately? And, do you want to?
If we don’t know Jesus intimately, one reason might be is that we are not serving his Church, his people. 
To know Jesus is to serve his people, the Church. Wait what? So does that mean I need to teach a Sunday school class? Or make food for the kids? Or serve on a board, or something else?
Does Paul say any of that? No, instead he says, “I fill up in my flesh…afflictions,” in other words, “I am suffering for you.” To serve the people of God, is to sacrifice for them, to hurt for them. Last week we talked about the God who cares deeply for his people. So deeply that he weeps for them.  Do we weep for God’s people too? 
See, a part of serving God’s people is to realize that the Church isn’t about us. The Church is not for us. We are here for the Church.
Now here me clearly on this, we are here for the people of God which is the Church. The question needs to not be, “What can I get out of the Church,” or, “What can the Church give me?” Rather, we need to have this question be our mindset, “What can I give out to the Church?”

When we get upset at a gathering of the Church. When we focus more on the music, the preaching, the teaching, the chairs, the carpet, the paint, or whatever it is; we are saying that the Church is here for us. But the reality is, God has intended us to be here for the Church, his people.

If we are not suffering for the people of God, then we don’t truly know the God that we say we follow.

John the Apostle,  in his first letter, says this, “11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:11-12)

To know God is to love his people, to love his people is to serve them. This means that we need to realize that the Church is not here for us, but rather we are here for the Church. 

So how do we do this? How do we serve the Church? How do we be here for the Church, rather than have the Church here for us? Let’s keep reading in verse 28.

28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
2:1 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

Paul tells us that to serve the Church means to, “strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”
Do you know what strenuously means? It means to do things with as little effort as possible.
No that’s completely wrong. To do things strenuously means to be in labor for something. It means to do something eagerly, energetically, enthusiastically. It means to work at it, and not give up. How can we know God without ever putting our full strength behind serving his people? The answer? We can’t. We will never know God the way he desires us to know him, without strenuously working to serve his Church.
We will never know God, while we still have it in our minds that the Church is here for us, rather than what God wants us to know, which is that we are brought to the Church to be here for the people of God.

And what is the goal in serving the Church strenuously? Paul says in verse 2 of chapter 2, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ…”

We are to strenuously working that everyone that is apart of God’s Church is encouraged, united, and that they too may know Jesus more intimately.

Think about that. If all of God’s people, woke up to the reality that they are here for the Church, rather than the Church being here for them, how would that change us?
How would working strenuously to encourage people, change people’s view of the Church? How would working strenuously to be united, change how the Church deals with problems that arise? How would working strenuously to help others know Jesus more intimately, change how we deal with other people’s flaws?
Now, does that mean I need to teach a Sunday school class? Feed kids? Help set up things? Work on a board?
How about instead of asking those questions, we ask a simpler one? Where can I serve, using what God has given me, that I can work strenuously to encourage, help untie God’s people, and point others into a deeper relationship with Jesus?

Not all of us can be up in front, nor should we. Not all of us can serve food, nor should we. Not all of us can help set up, nor should we. But all of us, no matter what our age, have things that we can offer to others to encourage, unite, and point them back to Jesus. 

So today, I want you to write down three places you can find to serve God’s people. Three places that you can work strenuously to encourage, untie and point people back to Jesus.
Now here’s the thing. Don’t take the easy way out. Don’t say, “Well I’ll pray.” Don’t make that your first choice, if you have the physical ability to do something. Taking something that’s easy, and doesn’t take effort is the exact opposite of what strenuously means. But on the other hand, if you can’t physically do anything else, and prayer is all you can do, then work at it with all the energy God supplies. 
But let’s never take the easy one, the one that doesn’t require us to work at it, because that is not what we’re being called to do.

We as the Church, need to realize that the Church is not here for us, but rather we are here for the Church. We are to give 100% to God’s people looking for 0% in return. If each Christian had this 100 to 0 mentality, every person in the Church would feel encourage, united, and wanting a more intimate relationship with God. Because everyone would be looking out for everyone.

Paul wants us to know Jesus intimately, we can’t do that without serving his Church. And why is that? Because as Paul was talking about husbands and wives to the Ephesians Church, he made this statement, “25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

If Jesus gave all for the Church, how can we do anything less, than to wake up to God’s reality that the we are to be here for the Church, and leave the lie behind that the Church is here for us.

Are you ready to step into the strenuous work that God brought you to the Church for, so that you can know God intimately? Or are you satisfied with others serving you, and a surface level knowledge of the Creator of the Universe?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Colossians Week 2 - Let's Get to Know Jesus

Last week we started on this journey through a book of the Bible called Colossians. We talked about how the writer of the book, who’s name is Paul, wrote the book while in prison. He had been accused of the crime of starting a rebellion against the Empire of Rome. Even though his judge pronounced him innocent, the judge was still going to allow Paul’s accusers to try him in a court of their own. So, when Paul saw that this type of trial would lead him to certain death, he appealed to the highest court at the time; which was to the Emperor of Rome himself.

It’s in Rome where Paul awaits his day in court, and where Paul writes to this church in the city of Colossae. We talked last week about how Paul never met these people, but he wanted them to know of the unity that they had with him and all the churches that were around the world. 

We then talked about how we too are connected to all the churches around the world, where believers are worshipping God. We also looked into how we need to not look at our Alliance church as the focal point of what God is doing, but rather as a grain of sand on the shore that, when joined with the other grains of sand, show the beauty of the shore. And when we realize that we are the Church with the other believers down the road and across the world, we will then show to the world that God exists.

Now, let’s go back into the book of Colossians as we make our way through the entire four chapters. Today, we’re going to be in the book of Colossians chapter 1, starting in verse 15. So if you have your Bibles, please open up to Colossians 1:15.

Like last week, we’re going through the book of Colossians, because we want to follow what God wanted to speak to the original people that heard it, through the writer. 
The first section, which is the first 14 verses, talks about how the Church is united because of Jesus, and through prayer. 

Today, Paul is going to go deeper into understanding this Jesus that unites the Church.
So let’s read together Colossians 1:15-23

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

So, what’s Paul saying here? In the first section, Paul talked about how prayer connected us, because of Jesus. So one would think that he would have two options going forward in his writing. Prayer or Jesus. Should he talk more on what prayer is, and how it connects believers and the Church? Or should he talk more about Jesus, and how he connects the Church together?
Paul opts to talk about Jesus. But not just telling us about how we need to follow Jesus to be a Christian, or how Jesus has some good moral lessons for us to apply to our lives. No, Paul doesn’t doing any of that. Instead, Paul talks about who Jesus is. Why is that?

The week of June 20th, the teens had their In-Town youth mission’s trip. We did a lot of work projects in the church, and if you get the chance to look around the building you’ll see a lot of projects they did. The teens also lead a VBC or vacation Bible camp for the kids the live in town year around. We had a great turnout and the kids, like every year, are excited for what will happen in the future.
Ever night we did a time where we sung songs to God, and shared with each other out of the Bible. The thing that I shared with the teens on our last night together was getting to know God.

This is at the heart of what Paul is saying here in Colossians. We need to get to know this Jesus. Paul tells us that Jesus is: the Image of the Invisible God, that Jesus is the Creator God, that Jesus created all things for his personal enjoyment and to be recipients of his love.
Paul gives us a brief look into what is the incarnation, that’s a theological term for when God the Son comes down to earth, and wraps himself in humanity. With our our frailties and limitations. Jesus is the full God colliding with the full man.
Paul also tells us the reason for God coming down to his creation. Which is, because we as humans have the great tendency to do the opposite of what God created us to do. God has stated a set of laws that everyone must follow perfectly to be acceptable to heaven’s perfect entrance requirement. And when we break the least of these laws, we can no longer be admitted to heaven and to God’s presence, because a perfect God in his full awesomeness, can’t be around a person that has even the smallest taint of imperfection.

But, Paul tells us that, Jesus comes to earth as this fully God fully man collision to live the life that we couldn’t, die a death that he didn't deserved, and raise back to life to show that it was all true.
In this short little section Paul tackles who God is, the Creator, why this world is messed up, our not doing what God created us to do, and how God went about fixing all of it, through he himself coming to earth in the collision of God and man together, and who died to provide us a path back to God. That’s a lot in only nine verses.

So, why would Paul do this? Why would Paul want us to know Jesus like this?

As I read this, the Scripture from Matthew 7: 21-23 popped into my head. This passage of Scripture has Jesus telling a crowd that there will be a lot of people standing in front of Jesus some day that will say, “look at all the good things I’ve done.” But Jesus responds with these cutting words, “Depart from me I never knew you.”

To me, this is the saddest passage of the Bible. Why? Because I see in it Jesus’ heart breaking. Another place in the Bible, the book of Luke chapter 19 verses 41-44, says this, “41 As he (Jesus) approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’”

The distance from God that our sin has caused, breaks God’s heart. Jesus wept over the people that he came for. Jerusalem might as well be standing on Q-Mountain over looking Quartzsite. Jesus weeps over us too, that we may know him. Paul writes to the Colossians Church that they would know him. And the Spirit desires for us to know Jesus in our own lives today. 

God’s desire is that humanity would know him. But having a working understanding of who God is, and a moral understanding of right and wrong, isn’t what Paul is getting at in the passage. Paul’s talking about knowing the who of Jesus. In other places, Paul talks about Jesus’ being the groom to the Church’s bride. And just like a husband knows, or should know, his wife’s response to things even before she can say a word, the Church, the people of God should know Jesus in the same.

Paul goes into such a quick summary of who Jesus is, because he wants us to go deeper into knowing Jesus on our own. Paul’s not talking about learning facts and figures about who God is; Paul is talking about knowing God on an intimate level, so much so that we would know what he wanted before even knowing that he wanted it done.

How much different would our lives be, if we knew intimately the God who created us? And because of that, how much more would we know ourselves?

I shared with the teens on Friday about how Marika and I pin trade at Disneyland when we go there. While pin trading I came across this one pin that I thought was fantastic, but after I bought it, never saw it again. But it’s image is etched into my mind. The pin was a picture of Mickey Mouse painting a self-portrait of himself. As he leans over to look at the mirror to get his facial features just right, the mirror reflects, not Mickey, but Walt Disney, Mickey’s creator.
To know this Jesus that Paul is talking about, is to know ourselves. We ask questions like why am I here? Why is this world the way it is? We struggle over money, family, relationships, the future, the past, the present. We self-doubt, self-harm, self-degrade. And because of all this, things can seem to become bleak around us.
And the remedy for all of that is what Paul is trying to get us to understand here, that we need to know this Jesus, who is God collided with man. Who loves us enough to leave his perfect throne, to slum it with us in all of our problems. This God, who died to bridge the gap between us and him so that we can not live in the failures of the past, but in his victory of eternity.

Paul wants us to realize our connection to each other is because of Jesus, and he wants us to know this Jesus intimately. The question is do we?

The best way to do it is by first reading about Jesus in the Bible, but also to talk with him. Because as Paul says in his other writings, Jesus is alive and we can talk with him.

Do you know Jesus? If he were to stand before us right now, would he say depart from me, because I don’t know you? Or would he say, welcome friend and child of mine?

Today, I want to give you a chance to respond. Let’s take a sincere look at our lives, and our beliefs about God. If Jesus came right now, would you know that you were accepted because you know him intimately? Or are you not sure?

Take a moment and answer that question for yourself. Be honest, it’s just you and him. If yes, then praise him. If no, what is holding you back? As you answer that question, my prayer for you is the uno matter what, you will know Jesus intimately and deeper than anything you could ever yet imagine.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Colossians Week 1 - Strengthening the Bond of Love with Prayer

As I get the opportunity to share with you, we will dive into Scripture, being led through a book of the Bible, just like the writer was led by the Holy Spirit when he was writing it.
The book that we will be studying is the book of Colossians. And instead of taking a piece of Scripture and looking at it, we’re going to start at the beginning of the book of Colossians and move, verse by verse, section by section chapter by chapter, until we come to and end.
So are you ready to navigate through the book of Colossians?

If you have your Bibles, please open up to the book of Colossians, which is at the back of the Bible between the books of Philippians and 1st Thessalonians.
As you open up to the book of Colossians chapter 1 verse 1, let me give you a little background on the book.
First off, it was written by the Apostle Paul between 60 and 62 AD. At this writing Paul was a prisoner in the city of Rome, because he was accused of starting riots in Jerusalem. Paul used his right as a Rome citizen to appeal his case to the Roman Emperor, and because of that, was waiting in custody until the Emperor had and an opportunity to hear his case. While Paul was in Roman custody he spent his time teaching the people that would come to him, and writing letters to the churches to teach and strength them.
This is where Colossians was written, in Roman custody waiting to appeal the charges brought against him. So what does Paul start off his letter to this Church in Colossae? Let’s read together, starting in verse 1 of Colossians chapter 1.

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father. 3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you.
In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

So Paul starts off his letter by saying who its from, and addresses it to the Church in Colossae. This Church is one that was founded by a man who had come to a saving relationship with Jesus during Paul’s final missionary journey in Asia Minor. Paul had never met with this Church, yet, he understood and wanted them to understand that, though they had never met, they were all brothers and sisters in Jesus. 
This is the unity that Jesus talks about in John 17. Paul’s telling them the same thing, we are united as one Church, because of Jesus. Right now all over the world, we are joining together with other brothers and sisters in Jesus. Even though we have never met. Even though we are from different social, economic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, we are united in Jesus and we are one Church.
Paul connects these believers in Colossae to the Church all over the world that is expressed in many different ways. We here at the Alliance Church are a lot like the Church at Colossae. We are an expression of Jesus’ Church that is around the world. But we are still connected. We are connected to our brothers and sisters in the baptists churches. We are connected to our brothers and sisters in the Assembly of God, at the Isaiah Project, and at the Community Bible. We are connected to the Church in Africa, in Iraq, in Brazil, in China, and every where else Christian believers meet together.
We are even connected through history with the Church of Colossae, and them with us. 
Paul understood this, and began his letter with this affirmation. Therefore, we too must come to this understanding as well. That we are not alone doing are own thing, but that we are connected with every other believer that is worshiping around the world, and who has worshiped throughout history.
But as Paul ends his greeting, he gives us a little insight into how we are connected to each other. 
Let’s keep reading.

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

Paul tells us that there are two things that connect us to each other. 
The first is prayer. Paul says that since he first heard about the Church at Colossae, he has been praying for them. Paul’s been praying for their knowledge of God’s will to grow. He prays for them to have wisdom in what the Spirit gives. Paul prays that they would live lives worthy of Jesus, lives that will please him. He prays that they would produce good work. Paul prays that they would have God’s strength to endure hardship and have patience while going through them.
He praises God that they are apart of God’s Church. That they have been saved and are no longer enemies of God, but are his sons and daughters. 
And in praising God for the believers being apart of God’s Church, he tells us that the second thing that connects us is Jesus work on the cross. By these believers putting their trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they have been brought from death to life. From darkness to light. And from a dominion headed for hell, into a kingdom in eternity. 

By giving us these two connections, Paul confirms that the acceptance of Jesus’ work on the cross is a primary teaching of Christianity. By accepting what Jesus did on the cross you are accepting that there is this thing called sin in our lives. Sin are the things that God says are wrong. And when we do those things that God says is wrong, then we sin. By sinning we become imperfect and make ourselves an enemy of God. And because we’re an enemy of God, we are destined to be destroyed as an enemy.
But God doesn’t want that. He created us to be recipients of his love. So instead, he took out all that destruction that we deserve and put it on Jesus, who gladly took our place. And by taking our place, Jesus reaches out to us and tells us that all we have to do is accept this free gift of new life. We are no longer enemies of God, but his sons and daughters.
Paul is saying to the church at Colossae, that if they are people who have accepted this gift that Jesus offers through his death on the cross, and they are joined to every other Christian through out the world and history. 

Paul also reveals to us, that prayer is something that the Church needs to be engaging in. Not just for our own people around us, but for those believers across the world, and those that will follow us in history.
Through Paul’s words, we should be challenged to join with our brothers and sisters across this world by praying for them. 

Right now in North Korea there is a Church that makes up about 1.5% of the population. If these believers are caught practicing their beliefs, they will at the least be arrested and sent to labor camps where they will work long hours without food, water or rest. Recently a Pastor named Han Chung-Ryeol, who worked with border churches between China and North Korea was brutally murdered. They are now without a pastorate aid them in their spiritual walk, and their access to food and other supplies.

In the African nation of Sierra Leone, there is supposed to be freedom of religion. But with Islam on the rise, and occult religions very active, it is not uncommon for a Christian to have their homes burned down, be killed with stones, or even poisoned.

We could go on and on about the difficulties that the Church around the world faces, and if you’re interested in knowing more, groups like the Voice of the Martyrs can give you more information. But this is what we need to realize: we need to follow the example that we have from Paul in his opening to the Colossians We need to step up in praying for our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

We see this very same attitude of prayer from Jesus in his final prayer in John 17.  But even though we have two examples that show us that we need to be praying for the world-wide Church, we tend to think that it’s useless. And the thought passes by our mind, “What is really the point?” 

And in this passage of Scripture, in Colossians 1:1-14, we see that the point of praying for the world-wide Church at the very minimum is to be connected with them. The point is to join, as a spiritual body in ways that none of us could ever fully comprehend, with each other. It is a way for us to get our head out of our own problems, and onto the world stage. It is a way for us to stop bickering over secondary doctrines and teachings, and refocus us onto the unity of God’s Church. 

So how can we do this? Because, I don’t know about you, but knowing what to pray for is hard. I want to challenge you to visit persecution.com, as God leads you, find one church in another country that you can become a prayer partner for. You may never meet anyone from there, this side o heaven, and they might not even know that you are praying for them, but begin connecting with them through the work of the Holy Spirit, by praying.

We are called by God to lift each other up in prayer, as Christians around the world. We are given examples of this in Scripture, and to not do so is to disregard Jesus’ call for unity in his Church. Prayer connects us together in ways that we may never know this side of heaven, but without it, we tend to lose sight of God’s bigger work in the world. 

The question then is: are you willing to join with the other believers here at the Alliance Church to pray for our brothers and sisters around world, strengthening the bond of love with them. Or are we going to continue to be only interested in our own world here in Quartzsite and our little Alliance Church? 

Because I see God moving us into the direction of being a Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and ends of the earth focused church. Will you join me?