Category Archives: Wednesday

The Emphasis of AND

Today I’m experimenting with the idea that AND is like a blinking light to pay attention to when I read Scripture. I might be tempted to skip right over that one little word until I remember AND links the words or phrases either side of it to emphasize they go together.  So here goes…

Colossians 1-13: Segments direct from the NIV.
4 …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…6 …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.  9 … 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… 11 …so that you may have great endurance AND patience.  12 AND giving joyful thanks to the Father…13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness AND brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…

Synopsis:
Your faith in Christ AND love for all God’s people happened because of a hope stored up for you in heaven.  That hope allowed you to hear the true message of the Gospel AND see it bearing fruit AND growing.  You learned about God’s grace AND  your love in the Spirit came to life in visible ways.

The Spirit gives you wisdom AND understanding so you really can live a life worthy of the Lord AND please him with your joyful thanks.  You’ve been rescued from darkness AND brought into the kingdom of the son he loves in whom we have redemption AND the forgiveness of sins.

Ephesians 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  ” [followed by the rest of Paul’s long list].

Most of us know how to control our behavior so we “look” acceptable but we’ve all been tripped up by “stinkin’ thinkin’.” That’s the root of every thing on the list of things Paul says to avoid. That’s the darkness he’s talking about. Where in the world does that come from?

Good behavior can clean up the outside but it doesn’t wipe away the hidden and unbidden ideas that slip into our mind or show up in a dream.  What if they are our personal moments of awakening when what is buried in our mind is revealed to us?  “This is why it is said: Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

“…Ideas have consequences — consequences that bless or destroy. People’s behavior — good and bad — does not come out of nowhere. It comes from prevailing views of reality that take root in the mind and bring forth good or evil.” From John Piper in Solid Joys.

Don’t miss your opportunity to  “wake up;” to pray and confess those hidden and unbidden thoughts so Christ can change and renew that which is beyond your control – the secret parts of your mind.

Romans 12:1 & 2 –

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV

Creatively writing about the Word and how it impacts my daily life has become a form of prayer for me. “Creativity” and “God’s mercy” are all I’ve got when I write.  There are no theological credits after my name.  My words feel like a sacrifice of worship.  When I see them in black and white I begin to recognize the challenges of the renewal and transformation of my own mind.  Writing becomes a metaphor for that process: pray, read, write, edit, rewrite, think, pray again and finally post what I’ve written knowing full well the moment I hit “Publish” there will be better words and further editing to come.  

“We let our mind descend into our heart and there stand in the presence of God.” Henri Nouwen in Spiritual Direction

This Then…Yours is the Kingdom

6. Matthew 6:9 This, then, is how you should pray:..[“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”]

I was surprised to discover the familiar last line I know of the Lord’s Prayer is only footnoted in many versions of the Bible.  There’s a complicated issue of texts, dates and translations but the bottom line is many Christians have used it in worship since about 90AD when the Bible was completed. [click here for more details]

The words “familiar” and “complicated” in the same paragraph seem important to me. Familiar is comfortable and that’s what makes it complicated.  I’m often quite comfortable in this complicated world.  It’s easy to remember this is definitely not heaven…but forget it’s still part of God’s kingdom.  He’s given familiar things to remind me His glory can be found even in such a complicated place.  There’s comfort in the power of his Word and prayers to strengthen my desire to pray for the assurance he will unite our today with His forever.

This Then…Forgive Us

4. Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

• debt: something that is owed or due, a feeling of gratitude for a service or favor, obligation
• obligation: an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound;

A dictionary definition can bring up a less commonly used word like “obligation” as part of “debt.”  It’s a tool that helps me think about what I’m reading in a broader way.  That one word “obligation” reminded me of Romans 8:12: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.” That’s truth, right?

The terms of a debt are usually not ours to set but once agreed upon they are a contract.  We owe…we pay…”we have an obligation.”  What I’m pondering is why that truth is obviously grace when we pray Jesus’s words “forgive US our debts” but becomes an obligation to repay it when we add “as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  

We recognize our indebtedness. We want his forgiveness.  Our debt is too big to pay without it, but it’s easy to forget we’ve agreed to all the clauses of that contact.  That obligation is where Jesus’s prayer model meshes together with Romans to become the confession he meant it to be for us.  Lord help us to recognize your forgiveness of our debt has such an important relationship to our struggle to recognize our obligation to forgive.

This Then…123 Thy Kingdom Come

2. Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…
10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

1. Kingdom: the spiritual reign or authority of God
2. Will: expressing God’s desire, consent, or willingnes
3. Heaven and Earth: used to indicate the whole universe. Genesis 1:1

It’s tempting to ask “what went wrong” instead of praying “thy kingdom come.”  It’s easy to forget two kingdoms were created by your will Father, heaven AND earth.  Earth is not an act of creation that went awry.  The reality is you are still in charge!  We are your act of creation that went awry. That’s an uncomfortable reality.

We pray your words not because we’re perfect but because as imperfect as we are, we’re expressions of your will right here on earth.  Romans 8:12 reminds us we have an obligation to be evidence of your desire to reunite those two kingdoms.  Many of us now find ourselves with one foot in your heavenly kingdom and the other planted firmly here on earth. Who else would know what it means to live with the separation of those kingdoms?  We persist.  We pray for your reality…“thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  

A Gift Hidden in Brokeness

This idea came up Sunday morning in our adult class: the challenge for Christians is to find the perfect balance between grace and judgment in our lives and in our behavior toward others.

When it comes to the choice between grace and judgment, we’re broken.   We swing to the grace side grateful for the recognition of God at work in ourselves and others and then the next moment we’re slammed into that “other” less desirable side – judging ourselves sometimes, but mostly others, harshly.  We long to find that balance.  We long to be like Jesus, triumphant in both his grace and his judgment but instead we get caught in that pendulum of frustration at our own brokenness.    That led me to ponder what it takes to be like Jesus and what “triumphant” really looks like.  I don’t have a Scripture text today but…

This is what triumphant looks like
Grace…†…Judgment

Jesus was triumphant over death on a cross!  He is the only way we’ll ever begin to understand the perfect balance between grace and judgement.  Our responses will look different seeing them through THAT triumphant Jesus; the one who became a gift hidden in brokenness for us.

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God