I'm Just Saying

Dr. Paul Perkins

Join The Adventure!

For an author writing is as necessary as breathing. They don't write for money or to court literary fame, but because they believe they have something to say. It matters not that anyone will read or listen, the words must be written, and if in the process someone is blessed -- all the more wonderful

Dr. Perkins has written for a long time, but only recently has sought to publish his work and venture into new genres. He believes in education, finally earning his doctorate at the age of 55. He believes that learning never ends, giving fodder to the imagination and breathing life into the characters on his page. His hope is to continue telling stories for a new generation of readers and aspiring authors.

Dr. Perkins' first novel is "Centurion: From glory to glory", but is not his first book. He has written "Legacy to my sons", "The Lost Shepherd", "The prayer of a transformed life", "The Cost", and a verity of Christian Youth Devotionals. 

This Makes My Joy Complete

have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (1 John).

I have been a Pastor for over 25 years. In that time I have had the privilege to have served in four churches. When I think of each of those churches I thank God for the people I was able to impact with the gospel. I also thank the Lord for how I was blessed by them.

Ministry is hard work, whether you are a lay person or a full time Pastor. Just read through the New Testament in one or two settings and you will come to understand two things: 1. Church is hard, and 2. God loves the church. If we keep these two things in mind we will persevere in the church and fall in love with her over and over again.

Facebook, with all its worldly flaws, has been a blessing to me. I keep in touch with people from each of the churches that I have pastored. From time to time I peruse their websites to see how the churches are doing. And with each church I can truly say with the Apostle Paul,  "For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ"(Col. 2:5). Of course I didn't start the churches or have the fatherly investment in them like the Apostle. But I did pour my heart and soul into them while I was there, and their outcome matters to me. When I say outcome I am not referring to size, but depth. To see people that I have ministered to passing down their faith to subsequent generations is satisfying. There is no greater joy.

It is Faith EFC's 50th anniversary this year and as one of the former pastors I have been invited to preach (June 26h). The congregation doesn't know what an honor this is for me. There are a lot of people there that I know, and even better a lot of people that I don't know. The latter is the evidence that the church is reaching beyond themselves. The Apostle rejoiced because the Colossians had two things that are necessary for a healthy Church, 1. Good order, and 2. Firmness of faith.

Why is good order important? I believe It is Paul's way of saying, "Good work, you are unified and working together." In each of Paul's letters unity is a theme. Churches cannot grow if there is division. Unity of mind, spirit, and direction are essential.  Whenever there is division, backbiting, and conflict the church is distracted and Satan can claim a victory. Unity is imperative.

But unity for the sake of unity means nothing. The Apostle rejoiced because of the firmness of their faith. The word firmness can mean steadfast or consistency. Chart our lives and we can see the ups and downs of our faith. Sometimes we are strong and sometimes we are weak, but most of us have been consistently growing, persistent in our love for Jesus, and steadfast in our calling. This isn't of our doing, but the mighty work of the Holy Spirit. Left to ourselves we would quickly fall away. It is our unity in the Spirit and the firmness of our faith that keeps the church on course.

It is for this reason that I rejoice when I "lurk" my former churches. As a whole the churches are seeking to love God and love others, and for that I rejoice and give God the honor and glory. I'm just saying.

Crisis of Faith

My crisis of faith began with one sentence, "What are you reading?" I was determined to have my devotions and read my bible. I was a new believer rooming with two non-believers. Their question seemed innocent, they were curious about my early morning reading material.

I don't even remember what passage I was reading. I just wanted to be a good testimony. When they started talking about science and creation, about the impossibility of a universal flood, of the ridiculousness of miracles, I had no answers. It wasn't that I was unsure of forgotten information. Their arguments were plausible. I mean who could ignore scientific evidence.

This morning googled top arguments against Christians and they haven't changed. They all revolve around the basic assumption of naturalism, that God doesn't exist, and the triumph of science over the incompatibility of faith. They sound reasonable.

That's why Paul was writing the Colossians. He didn't want them to be swayed away from their faith by arguments that sounded good. Deception is a key tool in the devil's arsenal, and he uses it the area of weakness. If a loved one dies, "how could God allow it?" If you have cancer, "Why is there pain and suffering in the world?" If you like science, "Doesn't evolution disprove the creation myth?" If your a philosopher, "If Jesus is the only way why are there so many religions in the world?" If you are caring, "Would God really send people to hell who have never heard the gospel?" "How can a loving God even contemplate sending someone to hell?" If you don't like the bible's restrictions, "But doesn't God want me to be happy?" Plausible, reasonable, arguments abound.

When presented with plausible arguments doubt can set in, bitterness can take root, and apostasy can follow. In my crisis God led me to Bible College. For others it is a good book, their pastor, or a friend. Counter arguments, however, are not what keeps us from falling away. They are important, but they are secondary. The Apostle Paul told the Colossians that what would keep them was the knitted love of the body that led the to a deeper understanding of the mystery of God in Christ. It is the same for us today.

What anchors me in my deepest emotional need is the reality of God's existence. I cannot escape that fundamental truth. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, God teaches me that His love is unshakable, and that it was powerfully expressed in the death and resurrection of Jesus! The issues I face, the questions I have, and the doubt I encounter are always seen through the lens of His unfathomable love. There are answers to all the playable questions, there is nothing new under the sun. But unless we are set firm on the foundation of Christ the storms of life, the deception of Satan, and our own lusts will lead to apostasy.

What plausible arguments are tugging on your faith? What strong, faithful believer can you confide in? It's not a sin to have doubts, and it's not anti-intellectual to believe in God through Christ. Deepen your understanding of Jesu

An Atheist Pastor and Empty Love

I was reading an article about an atheist pastor in a church in Canada. She has been the pastor there since 1997. Since her installation all vestiges of the Christian Faith have disappeared, and the only cross left is hidden away behind some curtains. The services are a mix of self help motivational speeches to love one another, and testimonies of personal accomplishments. Just recently the national board has decided to review her situation to decide if she fulfills the churches doctrinal positions. *Sigh*

When the Apostle Paul told the Colossians they were to be knit together in love it wasn't so that they could fulfill some personal agenda or meet some emotional need. There were two specific outcomes that their love together was to accomplish: to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery. Both of which are Christ.

Riches of full of assurance understanding. I gave my life to Jesus as a senior in High School, but I wasn't complete in Christ. My standing in Him was secure, but I had not attained maturity. In fact, in my first year at the University of Florida I was confronted by two atheists who seemed to know more about the Bible than I did. Their questions created doubt,math at led to bitterness, that led to mocking the preacher. My friends were aghast, and love took me aside to find out what my problem was. The outcome led me to go to Bible College to find answers. I did not have full assurance.

Bible college gave me a lot of the answers I sought, but created more, as well. I never doubted the existence of God again, but there was a point where I doubted my position in Christ. There were great preachers who spoke in our chapels, calling us to lives of holiness and service. I didn't grow up in a Christian home, and I felt anything but holy. I started to doubt my salvation. I expressed that to a friend and he loving led me to understand the full assurance that I have in Jesus. My works don't make me holy, Jesus' blood covers them.

The riches of a full understanding of assurance is of greater value than any riches the world has to offer. It has kept me through depression, upheld me when ministry was difficult, and keeps me steady when personal doubts weigh me down. The world will tell you that you can't be assured of anything, but God says otherwise. He tells us that nothing can snatch us out of his hand. Tragedy, difficulties, and even death can't separate us from His love.  Like the pearl of great price or the treasure in the field, this assurance is worth every worldly possession to attain. The good news is that it doesn't cost us anything. The assurance rests on the character of God.

Knowledge of God's mystery. There is a deep and though experience in knowing God's mystery. It is knowledge saturated with an experience with the Holy Spirit. It is a knowledge that is based on fist hand experience. We did not see the death and resurrection of Jesus personally. Our knowledge of his sacrifice and power have been passed down to us by reliable sources and the Word of God. But our encounter with God is a personal experience in the context of the body of Jesus. We know these disciples of Jesus because they are knitted together in love and are the hands and feet of Jesus. The body of Christ working in concert with the Holy Spirit create an experience where we can know the mystery of God.

Facts are interesting, but it is their fusion with personal experience that makes them meaningful. When the Holy Spirit speaks to our spirits that we are children of God it is an experiential moment. But it happens in the context of God's word and the life of the body. When my friend explained to me the assurance I had in Christ he explained facts, but it was the Holy Spirit who confirmed in my heart the reality of that mystery.

Knitted together in love. Our love for one another is for one thing only. To help us understand and know Christ. Yes there is healing, there is encouragement and blessing, and there is mutual care, but those aren't the end. The end is the glory of God in the Christ. John Piper reminds us that we are most satisfied when God is most glorified.

If our love for one another had its in end in our self-fulfillment, then our love would end when our needs were not met. But as a church we are steadfast in our love for one another because there is a greater cause beyond ourselves, that is Christ and his kingdom.

So, as you are loved and as you love, may you come to a full assurance and understanding of your salvation in Jesus, and may experience first hand the power of God in Christ. I'm just saying.

"being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ" Col 2:3.

Knitted Together to Defeat Satan

The greatest danger to the church is divisiveness. There are a lot of sins that can lead to it, but sins are forgivable. When we come to Christ we are to put aside envy, strife, and contentiousness, not just because they are sins, but because they lead to a fractured body of Christ. Satan has his greatest victory within the church when he gets us to fight among ourselves.

It's not easy. There are plenty of "good" and "righteous" reasons that split churches: bad theology, moral corruption in leadership, social issues, church and national politics. As I read through the New Testament the Apostle Paul wrestles with the churches in regard to the issues that divide them. He calls out their sin, corrects their theology, and exhorts them think of others first. He believed that the truth spoken in love would unite the church. He also believed that church discipline unites the church. Removing cancerous thinking and behavior is crucial to a healthy body. But he always hoped it was a way of restoration for the individual.

Today I read, "For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love" (2:1,2).

It seems counterintuitive for a Christian to brag about their struggles on behalf of others. But the Apostle didn't do it to glorify himself. His purpose noble. He wanted every believer, who had seen or not seen him, to be knit together in love. He wanted them to be united.

There is nothing like a common struggle to bring people together. The never Trump movement casts an apocalypse of a Trump presidency. Republicans try to bring us together against the evils of a Hillary presidency. We coalesce around perverse social issues and sign petitions in order to speak as one voice. As Christians we are called to pray together for the persecuted church. There isn't a drought of causes that can unite the church nationally or locally. But the Apostle Paul wanted the churches to know his struggle, not to advance a personal cause, but that their hearts would be knit together in love.

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I can still picture my mom sitting on the couch knitting. She knit afghans. Not the nation, but knitted blankets. They were the terrible colors of the 70's. She wasn't very good at it, but it was relaxing. She tried to teach me, but I was even worse. It was complicated; knit one and pearl two. They were strong, interlocking weaves stringing together multiple colors in interesting patterns. There were no two exactly alike.

That's what love does. Through the love of Christ, through our common faith in him, our love for one another links us, in all our diversity, into a stronger unit (unity). Knitted love doesn't come without struggle. The Apostle wanted to encourage us with his struggle so that we would struggle through the knitting process of love and come out on the other side a tapestry of color and diversity, united in Christ.

There is only on struggle, however, that can truly unite the Church. It is the struggle for the gospel. It is the one truth that all believers can rally around. We stand together on the foundation of Jesus and then struggle in love over our diversity. Struggle isn't the opposite of love. Strife, contention, backbiting, selfishness, and unforgiveness divide us, because they drive an unloving wedge between believers. But love doesn't seek its own agenda, but the servant seeks the agenda of his master. Our Master calls us to be knitted together in love. It is the defining behavior of the believer, "and they will that you are my disciples because of your love for one another."

So, as a minister of the gospel, who struggles on your behalf with the mystery of the kingdom, let me encourage you to set aside the sins that entangle you (that screw up the afghan) and forgive offenses, give thanks for your blessings, encourage others and be knitted together in love. The gates of hell can't stop that! I'm just saying.

I Am Struggling

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I am struggling. I am unemployed, homeless, and dependent on the people I am suppose to take care of. It's a humbling place to be. But it also has refocused my attention and effort to a call that God placed on my life; the ministry of the gospel.

I have been meditating on this passage for the past week, "For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me" (Col. 1:29)"

it has been a difficult meditation for several reasons.

  1. It's bigger than me. I can't get my head around the mystery of God in Christ. The facts are easy to know, but the depth of it; I can't even scratch the surface. How is it that God sacrificed His Son for my sin? The perfect for the imperfect, the light for the dark, the infinite for the insignificant.
  2. It's all encompassing. God's grace covers all sin, and requires full surrender of those who believe. You can't be a half Christian. You can't walk in the light and in the dark. You either follow Jesus or you don't. It's not about perfection, it's about commitment to an everlasting cause.
  3. It's all pervasive. Priorities aren't linear. You can't put God as number one, then your spouse and kids, and then your job. Life fluctuates too much to identify what I give my time, money, and effort as an indicator of priority. Priorities are like a circle with God at its center, spouse, family, church, the world move out in concentric circles. Things like money and time are dictated by what is at the center. God moves in and through everything. As a believer He dictates what is important about everything in our lives. That's hard when His will flies in the face of my feelings, experience, and will.

That is the context of the Apostle Paul's statement that he toils for the gospel. He works hard, and when ministry is hard, he works harder. The image of toil is not one of joy. It's plugging away through the pain when you would rather give up. It's about setting your eyes on Jesus and not growing weary when you think it's all for nothing. You keep on toiling.

When the Apostle Paul said he struggled for the gospel, he identified with all who want to see fruit, but the harvest seems meager. He struggled with rebellious, unforgiving, bitter, and contentious people, like us, and kept going. He saw people through the eyes of Jesus and he struggled through their imperfections, but not in his own strength. He struggled with the energy that powerfully worked within him. He did not rust in his own strength but the power of the Holy Spirit in him. What the heck that does that mean?

How does the power of God work in me when:

  • The church has mistreated me.
  • Leadership is so focused on their vision that I become invisible.
  • Congregants are consumed by their own needs that they demand the leaders to meet them perfectly.
  • Evil seems to be winning the culture wars.
  • Believers forget that we are to forgive 70X7.
  • When everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes.
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These are the burdens that weigh us down and cause us to give up. But Jesus said that he has overcome the world! The Holy Spirit resides in us to remind us that we are more than conquers! God's mercies are new every day. When I face a situation that seems overwhelming I rest because the outcome is not in my hands. Yes, I toil, struggle, and press on, but the Father judges, draws, redeems, and transforms.

I am to do my part; pray without ceasing, love without discrimination, teach the word, admonish the wayward, exhort the convinced, evangelize the lost, disciple the committed, shepherd the hurting, forgive those who have hurt me, have mercy on all, and give judgment over to God. I am thankful that Spirit of God gives peace, comfort, and encouragement. He does that in two ways:

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  1. Through His indwelling. The Spirit of God in us is beyond our understanding. He prays for us when we don't know what to pray. He convicts us when we are starting down the wrong path. He gives us unimaginable peace when chaos looms unrelenting. He reminds us of God's promises in His Word. He Speaks to our spirit and reminds us that we are the children of God.
  2. Through the Church. Like the Apostle Paul, who had faithful people around him, we have believers who have not forsaken their call. They come along side of us to encourage and console. They lift us up in prayer and remind us that we are loved. The church is the body of Christ. No believer can truly follow Jesus without being a part of His body, good and bad.

To this God has called me, and to him I give my struggles. For in Him I have the strength to do all things. I'm just saying.

Who Done It? A Godly Mystery!

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Everyone loves a mystery. The good ones have common elements: Hero, Villain, Plot, Sub-plot(s), suspense, twist, climax, resolution.  When the story is over we are emotionally moved to identify with the outcome. The emotion cans be positive or negative, the identification can be with the hero or villain. God has presented us with a mystery that had been hidden for generations.

Hero: Triune God

Villain: Satan

Pot: the perfect creation has been cast into darkness by Satan. How will God (if he can) redeem his creation.

Sub-plots: Cain and Able, David and Bathsheba, the Kings and Prophets, etc.

Twist: The cross. Our hero (Jesus) seems to have been beaten by Satan. The Hero loses.

Climax: The resurrection. Sin and death are defeated. Satan no longer holds captive those who are followers of Jesus.

Resolution: the church age, as it lives out the reality of the resurrection in a continuation of the redemption of all of creation. The second coming of Jesus is the finally, the curtain call, of the story.

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We are living in the resolution! We have a privilege that had been kept hidden for generations. We are now minsters of the gospel, called to make known the Word of God, through which the mystery and its resolution has been made known. God in his mercy has made known to us a way through the veil of sin, to be forgiven, washed in the blood of Jesus, to have hope to live with Him forever.

But I have a question, why did God keep the gospel hidden for so long? Three passages give us clues.

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly" Romans 5:6

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." Galatians 4:4,5

"making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." Ephesians 1:9,10

The answer is somewhat elusive. The bible doesn't come right out and say, but we do know that the time was right and the events of time had become full, complete, and sufficient. So, what was the rightness and fullness?

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It happened before, you know, back in Genesis,

"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:5

Sin had run rampant. The whole earth had turned against God. It was so bad that God regretted creating the world. This seemed to be the climax of the story, and that Satan had won. God lost the cosmic battle over man's heart and he was going to destroy it all, but was he? The twist in this sub-plot took Satan by surprise. Instead of destroying all of creation God only destroys man, and even in this he spares the ones who had stayed faithful to Him.

The fullness of time was not a positive moment. It was the wickedness of man's heart. If not for God's actions all would have been lost. If we take the Genesis genealogies at face value it was around 2000 years from creation to the flood, and from the flood to Jesus another 2000 years.

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The fullness of time between the flood and the cross was the same thing, the wickedness of man. This time it included the insufficiency of the law to bring about the heart change (righteousness) required by God to redeem His creation. Something had to be done to deal with sin and to fulfill the requirements of God's holy nature as illustrated by the law. It seemed hopeless because everything in creation was (is) insufficient.

BUT, at the right time, when we were in sin, God sent His Son to fulfill the requirements of the law. The climax to Satan and the world was the cross. In that moment everyone but God thought the Father had lost. When the darkness couldn't be any thicker God pulls back the veil and reveals the twist: Jesus is resurrected, death is defeated and sin no longer has a hold on creation!

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Today we are ministers of this great story, making known the word of God and God's victory. The sub-stories in the process of resolution are the skirmishes between Satan and the Church. In his death throws the evil one is still trying to thwart God's plan, but everyone who knows the Word understands that the battle of redemption is over and now we are fighting for the hearts of those who are still lingering in the shadows.

Paul says in Romans that the whole of creation groans waiting for its resolution. Peter says that God is not slow in keeping his promise to resolve all of Creation, but that one day the totality of God's creation will be consumed by fire and something more majestic will takes it place!

To this we have been called! The story is ripe for the telling. Are you with me? I'm just saying.

You're Called What?

I have been called by God. That is a weighty claim. It can be full of abuse, misuse, and arrogance. It is also full of responsibility, fear, and obligation. Looking back at the Old Testamentsaints, prophets, and kings who had been called by God is a sobering study. There were those who were persecuted, Kings who abused it, and those who stood steadfast in their call to deliver the Word of God. 

The New Testament apostle, prophets, and pastors felt the same weight of their call. They could not resist it, they struggled with it, they endured hardship as a result of it, they wrestled with the church through it, and they often died because of it. They found their inspiration and strength in the Spirit, their hope in the resurrected Jesus, and their security in a loving Father. They felt the love a grateful church, and they were spurned by the same.

I have been called by God. As I look back on my life I believe the Spirit has affirmed this call, over and over, and when I have resisted it I have be discontent. It is in understanding the nature of the call that helps ground me in it and persevere through it.

Colossians 1:25a, "I became a minister by the stewardship of God." All those who have been called by God are given a stewardship. The ministry doesn't belong to us or the church, it belongs to God. He gives it to us to care for, to feed, and nurture. He expects a return when He comes back, but it is not based on the world's idea of success. Have we been faithful and have we invested in the lives of others for the glory of God? The call by nature is ouward. It is not about me, but about others. It is a ministry.

Colossians1:25b, "that was given to me for you." Ministry by nature is for the benefit of someone else. It isn't about building personal kingdoms, majestic cathedrals, large incomes, or personal followers. It's about building God's kingdom, God's church, God's investments, and followers of Jesus. That means as a minister, called by God, I exist for you, the church. Not to be at your every beck and call, but to serve you in such a way that will make you fully devoted followers of Jesus.

Colossians 1:25c, "to make the Word of God fully known." As a minister I am called to make the Word of God fully known to the Church, so that it can become the bride which is honoring to God. The Word of God defines how I am to minister. I am to speak the truth in love, bring comfort to the broken hearted, pray for the sick, strengthen the weak, help the poor, and equip the saints to do likewise. I do this on behalf of God, for the church, unto God's glory.

I have been called by God. I know I haven't done it perfectly, but I hope that I have done it faithfully. I don't want to come to the end of my life and find that I have wasted my call, that I have invested unwisely, that I have set my bar too low, and my legacy was but sand.

Have you been called? Maybe not to full time ministry, but to minister within the Church. You have been given a gift, how will you use it? How will you invest it for the kingdom of God? Don't bury it and hope for the best. Hold it out for God to bless and use, and watch what he does with it. It's not ours anyway, we are only stewards. I'm just saying.

Ouch! That Hurt!

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I am not a big fan of suffering. In fact I would rather avoid it if possible. I would chose a pain free life over the alternative any day. I'm with the Apostle Paul when he instructed Timothy to "[pray] for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way."

Of course Jesus said that the world hated him and they will hate us as well. Which means we don't need to go looking for trouble, it will find us. That's why suffering at the hands of other believers is so discouraging. Most of us have experienced it at some level or another, and depending on the severity and our threshold for pain, we either stick it out or leave. *Sigh*

This is where I struggle. If the church is the body of Christ, how can I in good conscience abandon her just because things get difficult? There are some who say that they haven't abandoned their faith just the church. But the church is the body of Christ. It is in the midst of the church that we demonstrate our love for Jesus. The church is the hands and feet of Christ, not the individual.

I don't want to diminish anyone's pain, because I know from experience how harsh the body of Christ can be. But what does Paul mean when he tells the Philippians that to truly know Christ they need to experience the power of his resurrection AND the fellowship of his suffering?

Paul tells the Colossians that he rejoices in his suffering for the sake of the church. I know that part of that suffering is from unbelievers, but he also suffered at the hands of believers. He doesn't make a distinction, but rather rejoices because his efforts promote the gospel and gives glory to God.

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All I know is that people who give up on the church, even though they have faith, are not living in obedience. Even though obedience is difficult we are still to walk in it. This suffering is what was lacking in the suffering of Christ.

Jesus' suffering wasn't insufficient for the salvation and sanctification of the church. But suffering in this life is continual until the day of Jesus' return. When we suffer for the sake for the body of Christ we are continuing in Jesus' humility toward those who believe. In a sense we are filling what is lacking, and since we are the body of Christ, it is Jesus who suffers.

So how do we, who have suffered at the hands of the church, turn it around so that we are suffering for the sake of the church?

1. Rejoice. James says that we are to rejoice in our suffering because the outcome is godly character. Paul tells the Philippians to rejoice and not be anxious because God is in Control. Some times it takes stepping back and taking a deep breath to see and understand what God is doing in your suffering. But he is doing something. Don't disengage.

2. Restore. Seek restoration with those who have wronged you. This might mean asking or granting forgiveness. It might mean bestowing mercy if they are unrepentant. It might me swallowing pride and confessing where you might have been wrong. This isn't easy. It wasn't easy when I did it, and it won't be easy for you. But then suffering for the sake of the church never is.

3. Return. Find a church to fellowship with. It may be the one you left, or it may be another one. Whichever you chose it is imperative, obedience calls for it. We are not individually the church, and we can't live in fellowship with Jesus apart from his body. To think otherwise is to have fallen for a lie.

4. Re-engage. You are uniquely gifted to fill a role within the body of believers. You add to its fullness. If it needs a teacher, teach. If it needs a giver, give. If it lacks compassion, be merciful. Every believer has a gift to use, use it.

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I am falling in love with the church again. Not because she is perfect. Not because I have found the secret to be pain free. Not because anything has changed (though maybe in me). I am falling in love again with the church because she is the bride of Christ. She is the body of Jesus. She is the vehicle God has chosen to express love to Him, to each other, and to the world. I am finding my first love again, and it is the best feeling ever. I'm just saying.

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church." Col. 1:24

Dried Up And Useless

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Over the past couple of weeks I have been visiting my son in the Middle East. In their small group we have been studying the book of Leviticus, in particular the offerings. Last night we were reflecting on the the incongruity of the sacrifices' as a sweet aroma to God and the reality that the numerous and continuous sacrifices would have smelt horrible. Blood splatter, flies buzzing, and decaying flesh served as a reminder of the human condition. So what made such a stench a pleasing aroma to God? It was the Israelites' faith that their offering would reconcile them to God. It was the sweet smell of grace and forgiveness.

Paul says that the cross is an aroma of death to unbelievers but an aroma of life to those who believe. It's a messy process delivering people out of darkness and into the light. But then again we are messy people. We who believe are most fortunate because Christ's blood has reconciled us to the Father in order to present us unblemished and above reproach to God. We celebrate in the prospect of standing before our Father loved and accepted. But there is a condition.

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Wait just a minute! I thought once saved always saved. I thought no matter what I do me and God are good? I thought works is dead?

Colossians 1:23 gives a clear warning that we need to heed. We will be brought before the father unblemished if we continue in the faith. I have seen too many parents watch children wander from the faith and then say, "well, at least he accepted Jesus as a child." But according to Paul past professions are meaningless in the face of apostasy.

The Armenians will say he left the faith and the Calvinist will say he was never a believer, but it doesn't matter how he gets there if the lack of faith sets him a part from God. There are too many wolves in the church that want to water down or add to the gospel. They preach prosperity, liberation, legalistic, and hedonistic gospels. They delude the cross and blood, and sanitize Jesus' death. They pick and chose what scripture will make them feel good or justify their behavior. They are unstable and shifting, and in the end abandon the faith for an empty forgery.

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We have less to worry about outside the church than we do inside. We hear of the atrocities against Christians by Muslims and worry that the church will disappear in the wake of its brutality. But the self inflicted wounds of textual criticism of the late 1800s turned Europe into a Christian wasteland by 1905, and the twentieth century has seen an increasing decline within the church of America. The church needs to listen to Paul's words to the Colossian church. We need to use them as a rallying cry to a deeper faith on the foundation of Christ. Only then can we stand unshaken amidst the storm.

Our behavior matters. Our thinking matters. Our love for one another matters. Our deep and abiding faith in Christ matters. Praise God that we have been reconciled by his blood and that he is presenting us unblemished and above reproach before the Father! Don't be led astray. I'm just saying.

"he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard." Col. 1:22,23

Impossible?

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 "It's not going to fit," I told her, but she wasn't going to listen to me. She pushed and squeezed and rearranged, but there was no way all those clothes, shoes, and presents were going to fit into that suitcase. "Even if you do fit it in," I hedged my bet. "You're going to rip the zipper." Her confidence just smiled. Stepping away from her masterpiece she turned and asked, "do you want me to help you with yours?"

I am always amazed at how much Rebecca can fit into our luggage. If not for the airline's weight restriction she would be taking the whole house to Bahrain in that one suitcase. Yet, as amazed as I am with my wife, I am blown away by this short description of Jesus.

"For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. (Col. 1:19)."

It is easy to glance over this passage and think, "Yeah, Jesus is fully God," affirming our belief that Jesus is deity and then move on. This sentence isn't just an affirmation, it is an extraordinary description of an unimaginable possibility. The emphasis is on what pleases God. What pleases God is what indwells Jesus. What indwells Jesus is the fullness of God, not in part but in whole. And here is the conundrum,

"But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you. 1 Kings 8:27"

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Solomon built a temple dedicated as the dwelling place of God, but God doesn't live in buildings made by man. His own creation cannot contain him. Paul makes that point in Colossians when he says that it is through him (Jesus) everything that has been created was done so through him. He stands outside of his creation and his creation proceeds from his very being.

That is what makes this verse so extraordinary. The God of all creation packaged himself in human flesh so that he could move among us, so that we could see, touch, and hear him. As the Apostle John said, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

But God didn't become flesh just so that he could have a cosmic picnic with us. He did it so that he could have an eternal relationship with us. All the fullness of God dwells in Jesus so that God could reconcile all things to him by  the cross.

Sin separates us from God. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. Only God's blood is sufficient enough to forgive all sin, once and for all. God can't shed blood unless he is human, ergo, Jesus. 😳

It is unfathomable! So marvelous! So incredibly wonderful! And that demonstrates why Jesus is preeminent over all things! I can't exclamation mark it enough!

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"For God so loved the world (in all of its sin and darkness) that he sent his only son (in whom ALL the Fullness of God dwells) so whoever believes in him (his sacrificial death on the cross and his glorious resurrection) will have eternal life (reconciliation, forgiveness, peace with God).

I'M JUST SAYING!

 

"that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:19,20"

Two heads are NOT better than One

The church is a living, breathing organism. Modern, western Christianity has adapted well to the culture and the church resembles more of a business model than it does a body. I have a folder entitled "God's strategic plan to change the world." In it there are charts filled with goals. Advice on how to brand the church for optimum exposure to the culture. Creative activities designed to market our product in the least offensive way. Curriculum and training to help each member of the team to maximize their success in producing more for the kingdom. *Sigh*

I'm not against strategic planning, because God is orderly and does have a strategic plan. However, the picture God paints is not of cooperate America, but of a body of individuals who are dependent on one another to live, breathe, and multiply. Where every part, from the least to the greatest, has a special place and purpose.

And, of course, every body needs a head. The Apostle Paul describes Jesus, the creator of all things, as the head of the body, "And he is the head of the body, the church. Colossians 1:18."

Think about, the God of all creation, the omnipotent, omniscient, all consuming God is the head of the church. That has tremendous implications for the Church. The body isn't an unwielding blob, without direction, and it shouldn't act out of concert with the rest of the body.

As I speak with believers from around the world I am captivated by their faith stories. If they claim Christ as their head, no matter where they are, there is a continuity amidst the diversity. It is the hidden string that connects us together in the chaos. There is the security of salvation and the hope of the resurrection.

"He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Colossians 1:18."

Jesus is the head, the beginning, the first born from the dead. The head of the body is instructing the body toward the city on the hill, the kingdom of light, and along the way he is calling others to join the adventure.

I could give you a list of things that the head does, but that is too western, analytical. I want you to feel, sense, absorb the reality that you are not in control. That you are not preeminent. That life does not revolve around you. I want you to stand in awe that you have been included and given worth because of what God has done in Christ, and that you have been placed under his headship.

Fell that, smell that, it tastes like freedom. I am glad the Jesus is our head. I'm just saying.

All Things

It would be enough for me if I could just look into the face of God. All doubt would disappear  and every question would be answered. The chaos of the world would finally make sense. My personal situation would find meaning and purpose. If only.

"Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. John 14:8."

To know Jesus is to know the Father.  It is a stumbling block to both Jew and Muslim. Non-Christians have said that Paul perverted the gospels and developed an idea foreign to the Apostolic Church, the deity of Jesus. The Apostle Paul does not create a new doctrine, but writing to the Colossians expounds on Jesus' declaration.

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17."

He doesn't mince words, he merely states a fact, Jesus is the image of the invisible God, deity made flesh. John 1:18  says, "No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known." Jesus said "not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. John 6:46."

Paul then attributes to Jesus an act that in both the Jewish and Gentile world is attribute only go God, the creation of the world. Everything that exists, both physical and spiritual, thrones or dominions, rulers and authorities has been created by him -- all things. But not only by him but through him.

The Geek word "through" means place or medium. Jesus didn't take a ball of dirt and fashion something, but through his essence and being created out of nothing all that exists. And he did it for himself.

Why do we exit? For the pleasure of Jesus. We were created in love so that we might give pleasure through our interaction with Jesus. When a mother and father have a child they do it for their own pleasure. They desire to interact, give direction, and enjoy the fellowship of their child. God has created us for this same purpose, so that we might find pleasure in his.

Paul then says something extraordinary, "he is before all things, and in him all things hold together." Whether it is the macrocosm or the microcosm of the universe it is held together by Jesus. He is the glue that holds atoms together. He is the force that keeps the stars in their place. I know it doesn't sound scientific. But I am sure when we sit at the foot of our creator he would be happy to explain the physics behind it, but the science doesn't make it any less true.

As God, Jesus is preeminent over everything that exist. It is by his authority that the universe and the nations exist. We do not lose hope in the chaos that surrounds us because he who has created the worlds holds us in his hands. "Fear not," Jesus said. "For I have overcome the world."

I am reassured that the invisible God has made himself known, and continues to make himself known through his Spirit. The same Spirit of Truth that lives inside all who believe. I'm just saying.

Bad Credit Welcomed

Significance is a feeling of self worth, purpose derived from an external source. We find significance in our family, our work, in doing good toward others. But significance can be fleeting. What happens when you lose your job, or your marriage fails, or the people you try to help are unappreciative? Sometimes our significance can be illusive from day to day as our emotions take us on a roller coaster ride because of nothing at all.

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It is particularly difficult for men who have prolonged unemployment. Whether God built it into us or culture has shaped our psyche, we will wander aimlessly if we don't find work that is fulfilling. I believe we have been created to do significant things, but our significance should never  be anchored in the things that we do. Who we are is not defined by activity, pain, or circumstance. When Paul prayed for the Colossians to be strengthened in all power it was so that they would have hearts of thanksgiving and joy in the Father. No matter the circumstances our joy is secure because of what the Father has done for us and in us.

"Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:12-14)."

Inevitably in a television show there will be a moment where someone is sad, hurt, or dying and the hero promises, "everything will be all right." I always think, "don't make promises you can't keep." Fortunately we have a Father who makes promises he always keeps. Our joy is not founded on the flimsy word of earthly flesh, but the sure word and strength of God's glorious might. So what moves us to be thankful and joyous in every circumstance? We have been qualified, delivered, and transferred.

1. Qualified. Going through the process of qualifying for a home mortgage can be grueling. They poke around your employment, your bank accounts, your debt and your credit scores. And even if you know there is nothing that could go wrong, you never know what might trigger a rejection. You are at the mercy of faceless lenders.

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When God qualifies you it has nothing to do with you. Bad credit is his specialty. It is on the basis of his son. Jesus' credit score qualifies us to share in the greatest  inheritance of all, the kingdom of God.

2. Delivered. Darkness, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually is suffocating. Prolonged absence of light causes depression, alcoholism, and high rates of suicide. Emotional and spiritual darkness can be just as destructive, if not more. But God has delivered us from darkness. We no longer have to live in its oppressive clutches. When the evils of life bear down on us we don't have to go to the dark places because we have been delivered from them.

3. Transferred. What is so cool about God is that he doesn't just deliver you and leave you alone. He takes action and transfers you to a place of safety and purpose. When we are transferred from darkness he transfers us to the Kingdom of his Son. It is the inheritance that we don't deserve but share in. It is a way of life that is filled with love, acceptance, and forgiveness. It is not based on the empty promise of sinful people but in the character and nature of His beloved Son.

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I struggle with my sense of significance. I get caught up with the expectations of the world and my own misguided perceptions. It is when all is stripped away that I am left with the unshakable reality of God's grace. It is no wonder that the Father has to strip the world away. How else will we come to realize how much more we have. I'm just saying.

I Need Your Prayers

I was on my computer yesterday when a message popped up from a friend. He said he had been praying for me. I have been seeking the Lord about going back into full time ministry and he was wondering how the search was going.

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It's daunting to start over at any age, but after 55 it can be overwhelming. Statistically the prime age range for hiring a Pastor is 35 to 50. Once you get over that magic number the prospects drop dramatically. So when my friend said he was praying for me it meant a lot. I know God is sovereign and has changed the world through people who have "passed their prime". 

That's why it is important to know how to pray for someone. Being specific about the content of prayer is important, but what I ask for is a prayer that will last forever. Look what Paul prayed for the Colossians,

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"that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father" Colossians 1:9-12.

1. He prayed that they would be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. This can be taken two ways. First, that understanding the will of God needs spiritual wisdom and understanding, or second the will of God is about spiritual wisdom and understanding. Or rather spiritual things. Maybe that is straining gnats, because it is probably both. Either way God's will is the key, and understanding His plan is essential and it leads to what is important, and that is the way we live.

2. So that, we walk, live, behave in a manner worthy of the Lord. Understanding God's will is essentially knowing how to live in a right relationship with Him, with fellow believers, and the world around us. If we do that we will fully please Him. Too many Christians, and this one included, seek God's will so that we will be pleased, happy, and fulfilled. Except, living according to God's will is about being inwardly changed and outwardly focused.

3. So that we bear fruit in two things, our good works and our knowledge of God. Notice the order? Good works is first. I believe that we get to know God best when we are bearing fruit in good works. When we serve the least we are serving Jesus. We find out more about God through the humility of meeting others' needs than we do from seeking or meeting our own.

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4. So that we may be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might. Now that is what I'm talking about! Who doesn't want that kind of power to excel, to achieve great things, to stand victorious before an unbelieving world? But that isn't what the power is for, it is for patient endurance. When you learn to know God by reaching outward you are going to face difficulties you have never imagined. You will want to quit, it's too hard, people are mean, the world isn't fair, and it is easy to become cynical. I know, I have been there. It takes the power of God to have the kind of patience that endures the messiness of people and the pain of ministry. It takes the power of God to maintain joy and be thankful in order to carry on.

When I think of going back into the ministry I want to believe that I have achieved the knowledge of God's will in wisdom and have seen it bear fruit. Most days are better than others. So as you pray for me, that God will bring the right ministry at the right time, first and foremost pray that I can discern his will, serve without expectation, and be strengthened to patiently endure with a grateful and joyous heart. I'm just saying.

Not Ugly Just Old

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I did it again. I looked into the mirror. I have to stop doing that, but too many of my routines call for it. Every time I look there is another hair growing where it shouldn't, the gray is more prominent, another wrinkle creases my skin, which is dry and flaky. Don't get me started on my profile. I've gotten so ugly that my driver's license photo makes me look good. 😕

There are benefits to growing old but physical isn't one of them. But I am going to put a positive twist to my inevitable dilemma. I'm not getting ugly I'm getting older.

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Our culture is so optics driven that it works endlessly to stave off what eventually happens to all of us. Cosmetics and surgery might give the illusion of keeping it at bay but old age will poke through eventually.

But what will people remember me for? Will it be my youthful vigor or indiscretions? Will they say that he aged gracefully? I hope there will be something more substantial, like Epaphras.

When the Scripture gives only a few words about someone we should take notice because it portrays the true essence of the individual. Epaphras is mentioned three times, twice in Colossians and briefly in Philemon. He is well known by the believers in Colossia and was a currier of news between they and Paul. So what did Paul have to say about him?

"from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. Col. 1:8"

Epaphras will be eternally known as one who was loved, a servant, faithful prayer warrior, and hard working (4:12).  All of this for the sake of the gospel. People loved him because he didn't think of himself first. He grasped the depth of God's grace and tirelessly worked to bring the good news to his family and friends.

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They didn't see a judgmental bible thumper, but an industrious lover of Jesus. They knew that he would take their needs to the throne of God and petition Him on their behalf. He wasn't a flash in the pan celebrity preacher but a faithful, in it for the long haul shepherd. He struggled, not with doubt but with God. Not for himself but for others. That is what the people saw when Epaphras walked into the room.

I have been a follower of Jesus for a long, long time. I pray that I am cultivating the character that points people to Jesus and not to myself. I want to get past the feelings I have when I look in the mirror and appreciate what God has spent years developing on the inside.

I'm not ugly, I'm old. With age comes a deeper appreciation of what truly matters. It's what is etched on my heart, not what is etched on my skin. I'm just saying.

It Only Takes One

Dr. Cliff Bedell. 

Dr. Cliff Bedell. 

A friend of mine's father recently passed away. He was a professor at the Bible College we attended. Rebecca remembers him for teaching the course on the book of Romans. I remember him for his years as a missionary in the Philippines. Long before he stood in front of our class teaching us about how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news, he was living out the gospel in a far away land.

Dr. Cliff Bedell

Dr. Cliff Bedell

That's what it takes. Wherever there is a community of believers in the world there was someone who brought the good news. Look at Colossians 1:6 and 7

"[The gospel] which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras."

Notice the frame. "Which has come to you....learned it from Epaphras." The gospel always comes to some one by way of someone else. It's that simple. What we need to be is available. Not necessarily as missionaries around the world, but missionaries to our family, neighbors, and friends. If you are praying that God will send someone and you are standing next to them, that someone is already there. You might be nervous. You might stumble over your words. You might even be rejected, but if you don't say something then the opportunity will pass and they may never hear.

Epaphras

Epaphras

The fruit of the gospel only comes through hearing, understanding, and believing. The gospel bore fruit all over the Roman world of Epaphras' day and in his home town because he chose to speak out. We are encouraged and emboldened by the stories of the gospel's fruitfulness around the world. We are spurred on to have the same impact on the people around us. And just like the missionaries on the mountains, in the jungles, the deserts, and the cities of the world we have a responsibility to bear witness to the hope that lies within us.

Take a moment and identify two people in your area of influence. Pray for them today. Sometime in the next week ask them if they have ever considered following Jesus. Ask them if they will let you tell your story. Maybe even invite them to go see the movie Risen and talk to them about it over coffee. There are a hundred different ways to engage the people around you. The question is "will you be their Epaphras?" I'm just saying.

When All Is Stripped Away

 "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus Name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand."

I sat in the hospital the other day with a couple I have known for a many years. They are in their eighties, and he just had surgery, of which didn't bear good news.

There were tears; I could see disappointment in his eyes. He didn't want her to leave for the evening and we arranged for an extra bed to be in his room. They are inseparable. She leaned over the tubes and wires connecting him to monitors and IV's and kissed him on the forehead. "We are in His hands," she said. He closed his eyes and tear rolled down his cheek.

In the midst of pain and struggle the surety of their life was in the strength, mercy, and grace of God. When their prayers weren't answered in they way they wanted, they rested in the providence of God. When questions of doubt drifted from their lips their final words were for God's will to be done, and they were were at peace.

I marvel at their hope. When all is stripped away what ever is left reveals the character of a person. But it isn't a hope based on wishful thinking, but rather a hope grounded in the love of God that redeems men through the death of His son. It is a hope based on the truth spoken through centuries calling each of us to follow Jesus. It is a hope that our sins are forgiven, that the dust of this life isn't all that we are, and that God will welcome us into his presence. It is a hope that stands when man's riches, power, expectations, and dreams melt away in their final moments. That is the truth. That is the good news, that is the gospel.

I want you to meditate on this hope. What motivates you in the morning? Through what lens do you look at the world? When you make a decision, whether political, ethical, or economic what guides you? When the dust settles what are you left with? Is it the word of truth, the gospel?

My elderly friends have difficult decisions in the coming months. Their emotions will be a roller coaster ride of peace and sorrow. But I know that through it all they will cling to the only hope that matters, the Word of Truth, the gospel of Jesus. And my faith is bolstered. I'm just saying.

"because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel." Colossians 1:5

But For The Hope

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It had been a long day, and the papers in the briefcase hinted that the work wasn't left at the office. Dropping into his favorite chair he allowed it to swallow him as his eyes fluttered shut. And just at that moment before drifting into a deep sleep he jerked awake; his phone was ringing.

"Hello," he sputtered. The voice on the other end was crying, and he couldn't understand what she was saying. Piecing together the fragmented sentences he jumped up, grabbed his coat and knocked the brief case off the table as he rushed out the door. Papers spilled onto the floor and the evening of work forgotten in the moment of need.

Every moment is a choice between doing one thing or doing another. Most of the time the decisions are routine, dictated by todo lists and chores that need to be done. Interruptions are annoyances that must be navigated to accomplish each day's goal, but life is more than checking off lists. For believers in Jesus every moment is an opportunity to express a living hope that resides deep in our heart. We are motivated by something far greater than personal gain and achievement.

In the book of Colossians the Apostle Paul had heard that the Christians in that city had grown to understand what it meant to live out their faith in love. It was the deep and abiding agape love that sacrificed for the needs of others and sought the other's wellbeing before their own. They didn't pick and chose which Brother or sister received their love, but lavished on all those who called on the name of Jesus.

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Their motivation wasn't recompense, they didn't love for the sake of applause. They sacrificed for one another because they had experienced the deeper and more abiding love of God. The were compelled to care for one another because they had grasped the depth of what God had done for them in Christ. They gave their money because their riches were in Christ. They gave up their time because Jesus was coming back and the days short. They engaged emotionally because their strength came from the Spirit. They understood that the earth was passing and their hope was secure in heaven. They had gained perspective. That doesn't mean that they neglected their daily responsibilities, but it put those responsibilities in proper order.

We are in an election year where the vitriol, petty name calling, and ambitions of men are revealing to us the character of our next president. Men who claim the name of Christ while dragging that very name in the mud. Where is the love, where is the sacrifice, where is the humility? I am embarrassed by the antics that are played out on the evening news. I am disappointed that the church revels behind their favorite  huckster. The noise has left me wondering if there is any decency left in our county.

Then I see it. The couple praying in the corner. A helping hand giving a coat to the homeless. One man leaning on the shoulder of another after losing his son. Moments in time where the hope of the kingdom is expressed in the quiet corners of our lives. Love expressed not for the clamor of the crowd, but for the gratitude of a savior. I bow my head and give thanks because the light of Christ breaks forth in the darkness and reaches out in love. I'm just saying.

By The Will Of God

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I have been thinking about this little phrase lately, "by the will of God". It is rich with meaning, and rife with misuse. I have heard over the years people claim to do this or that because they have had a "word" from the Lord. Too often their claims are inconsistent with a holy life or in contrast to the scriptures.

Yet, the phrase can't be dismissed as meaningless. We can't set it aside for fear that it is misused by others. There are legitimate times when God speaks to us through his word, a sermon, worship, or the exhortation of a friend. We have to be open to hearing what the Spirit whispers to our hearts.

In Colossians 1:1 Paul makes it clear that he is an Apostle by God's will. There were those in the church who questioned his credentials for ministry. He had, after all, been a fierce persecutor of the church. But Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. God had literally knocked him off his feet, blinded him, and called him by name. There was no way that Paul was going to let anyone dismiss his call to ministry.

It was that clear call from God that anchored him in the worst of times, and grounded him in the best. His call was according to the will of God, and to do otherwise was disobedience. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel."

There have been moments in my life that I have sensed a clear call from God. There have also been times where that call was hidden behind a cloud of pain and confusion. But God never changes, and he never takes his hands off those he has called for His purpose. It is that call in my life that I have recently been reflecting on.

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When I was older my mom recounted a time when I was only five years old. We were driving down a side road in Bradenton, Florida. Stopping at an intersection I pointed to a church and said, "I'm going to have one of those some day." Who would have known that as a senior in High School God would open my eyes to the gospel, direct me to Bible College, prepare for me a wonderful spouse, and call me into ministry. Jesus knew all along.

There have been ups and downs over the course of the years, but God has kept me anchored and grounded. Over the past year and half I have stepped out of full time ministry, an opportunity to rest and reflect. But circumstances have converged, and God's promoting is reminding me again of His call. Pray for me and Rebecca as we engage God for His direction.

Each of us who believe have been called, created, saved for specific works of service. We must listen and respond to God's gentle prompting to fulfill His will in our lives. To do otherwise is disobedience. I am praying for you, my dear friends in the Lord, that you will open your hearts. There may have been pain or confusion clouding God's will for you. Allow him to shine the light of his healing and bring you back to His calling on your life. I'm just saying.