My approach to reading the Bible has been the same for a long time now. I read and write about small portions of a chapter, often just a couple of verses. I know God is trying to speak to me and sometimes it’s just easier to narrow my focus in that way so I can hear better. I really had no good explanation of why that method works so well for me until I found this quote attributed to Jean-Pierre de Caussade in the book Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life.
“Fix your attention upon what you are reading without thinking about what follows. . . . Pause briefly, from time to time, to let these pleasant truths sink deeper and deeper into your soul, and allow the Holy Spirit time to work. . . . Simply let the truths sink into your heart rather than into your mind.”
I read the Word and other resources because I believe there is the reality of the life of Christ in them. I expect that reality to change my life in Christ too. Up to this point in this post I’d only read from the book Discernment. That quote was good but it felt incomplete without a Scripture reference so I did the digital version of randomly opening the Bible hoping for an unexpected surprise of applicable truth from the Word and up popped this verse of the day from biblegateway.com: Colossians 2:9-10.
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” [NIV]
That truth isn’t particularly mystical because of course the Bible is full of applicable wisdom. Nevertheless it’s interesting to consider that particular truth in that particular moment could be the reality of blessing from the Holy Spirit to remind me that “In Christ” is where I want to be. In Christ I am being brought to fullness of both heart and mind. May it be so!
NIV Colossians 1:19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Christ], 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…28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.
Maybe you’re wondering why my mind searches for such different ways to read Scripture each morning. It’s really pretty simple…I desire to do it but I have to look for ways to trick my mind into denying the lie that I already “know it all.” It’s not a particularly flattering confession but sometimes concentrating on one word or idea from Scripture is what God uses to reconcile the mystery of those two very different realities for me. That word from this Word is “fullness.”
“God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ]” “and through him to reconcile to himself all things.” Once I was “alienated from God” but God in Christ has changed my mind and given me what I need. Mystery solved! It’s a new reality that’s become a promise I can depend on from “the hope held out in the gospel: ”fullness…mine because of his.
V28 MSG The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple.
“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”
Today is the beginning of Advent, 2017. Advent may not be a familiar name to you. It’s really just a time set aside leading up to Christmas to acknowledge the fullness of what has become the “Big Event” of our life, the birth of Jesus. I’ve come to love the daily moments that catch my heart and focus my mind on the Who, What, Why, When and How the Bible records of that Big Event but the season is filled with many other things that catch my eyes and ears. It’s starting to sound like a whole body experience isn’t it…heart, mind, eyes and ears? That’s exactly what the purpose of the month-long celebration of the Big Event is about.
The words Isaiah spoke way back then have added one more facet to the fullness of this year’s celebration of the Big Event for me. This might be the best part. The weeks leading up to Christmas are one of those rare seasons when the hearts of complete strangers are softened by music, lights, food, parties, friends, family…and gifts. Softened enough that what Isaiah says to us may touch them as well. “You who bring good news…lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid… Here is your God!”
We are what is popularly referred to as snowbirds. Around Thanksgiving each year we pack our 35’ RV and head for warmer climate for a few months. That’s where my celebration of the Big Event happens each morning. Instead of a Christmas tree I have a hanging tree branch, a Jesse Tree [see above] that I decorate. It’s very simple. Today I hung an origami star with some off Isaiah’s words folded into it. I need those words to challenge myself, and maybe you too, to experience the fullness of a whole body celebration in one more way…voice!
There will never be a better time to “lift up your voice”…and bless someone. I’m not talking about a soapbox in a park or snagging someone on a street corner or even quoting scripture to them [although that might be appropriate in the right situation]. I’m only asking you to notice and respond to the people that cross your path between now and Christmas with a gift from God; a blessing given with your own voice and from the fullness of your own heart to make this year’s Big Event a whole body experience for yourself and maybe them too.
This doesn’t come naturally to me so I’ve been sitting here jotting down ideas of ways to fearlessly speak a blessing to a complete stranger. Ten minutes have gone by and after a lot of typing and a visit to look up the definition of blessing, Isaiah’s timeless truth [this is the “do not be afraid” part] has finally dawned on me. There is only one way to begin this blessing…God bless you…
…for your kindness
…for your help
…for your cheerful greeting
…for ringing that bell
…for opening that door
…for caring to ask
…for doing your job well
You get the idea, right? Make it part of your preparation during the days leading up to the Big Event to watch for opportunities to let your voice be a blessing for others. It’s really true you are blessed to be a blessing. May God bless you with his own heart, mind, eyes and ears…may he bless you with the courage to speak…may he bless you for pondering my thoughts and then coming up with your own.
Posted in Isaiah, Sunday, The Big Event
Tagged Blessing, Ears, Eyes, Fullness, Gift, Heart, Mind, Simple, Voice
• 35 “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
At the end of the day it was Jesus’ idea they cross to the other side of the lake but the scriptures says “they took him along, just as he was.” What in the world could that mean? It’s likely he was showing the effects of a full day of being surrounded by pressing crowds. The same elements that had been inspiration for his parables, dirt, rocks, and scorching heat had taken their toll. “Just as he was” likely meant he was emotionally drained as well as physically tired, just as they were.
Being human was a condition for those men. Being human for Jesus was a sacrifice. He saved them through the storm. Now his life AND the cross have become the fullness of our salvation.
I have this theory that the little “stops” that occur when I read Scripture happen for a reason. Those are the things I need to think and write about. Unfortunately the verses that kept stopping me in this chapter were all those ones I don’t like…about “rules.” I like rules well enough when I make them, but I don’t think they “bring” me, or anyone else, “to fullness.”
Just how can perfectly reasonable rules become a problem you ask? Here’s the real warning: “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.” That happens when we settle for rules becoming:
…a means of control for ourself or others
…a way we cover up our inadequacies
…the evidence of our faith
…a substitute for living “in Christ”
“Colossians 2:6 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. 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness…13b…God made you alive with Christ.”
The chapter may have a lot to say about rules but these few verses are filled with words of encouragement: continue, rooted, built up, strengthened and brought to fullness. God has made “you alive with Christ” to be his voice in your small part of the world with this message of encouragement. Fullness is about Relationship, Not Rules.
I borrowed this from Richard Dahlstrom’s blog http://stepbystepjourney.com/?p=1605
“ ‘All of us know our inadequacies pretty well – what we need is to be told how much we’re loved, where we’re gifted, where we can shine.’ ”
Tell someone today.