Wird Geladen

Lessons from my own bible study

Archive for the tag “Paul”

Colossians 1:9

9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s[a] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding

Because Jesus declares “ask and you shall receive”,  asking for something in Christ’s name carries an inherent expectation. In prayer, asking is the same as receiving- in specific claiming what is already ours. At a library you know you can take any book you want, and it’s the librarian’s job to go and get that book for you. Mathematically, asking for a book at a library is  the same as getting the book- it’s claiming what is already available to you.

This power originates from a spirit of submissiveness on the part of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. In Colossians 3:18-4:1 Paul instructs all Christians to be serviceable and submissive to one another. It blows my mind to think that that same Spirit of submissiveness which calls us to serve one another is alive- personified, even- in the Holy Spirit. We Christians work together to support and serve one another; Jesus and the Holy Spirit are absolutely not exempt from that expectation. This is why Peter calls Jesus the paragon of serviceable shepherding (1 Peter 5:4). 

We can let the Spirit serve us. We can allow Jesus to wash our feet and give of himself for our edification. It is only fair, if we are committed to serving Him, that Jesus should serve us. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would do one great deed of service and then be like “OK I did my part- now work for me for free for the rest of eternity.” Christianity is a partnership, a marriage, between us and God. I’m going to work on growing my expectations of the Holy Spirit. I encourage us all to stretch the limits of our understanding of give-and-take with the Holy Spirit, and watch how fulfilling the relationship can truly be. 

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This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series

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1 Corinthians 2:9

But as it is written: What eye did not see and ear did not hear, and what never entered the human mind– God prepared this for those who love Him.

There’s indiscretion about exactly which verse Paul’s quoting here. This is what Isaiah 64:4 says: “From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for Him.” Both this and Paul’s quotation describe a God who achieves, by actionable works, the purposes of those who are willing to devote their time to understanding Him. He’s unlike any other God, the Gods we currently devote our attention to- money, celebrities, materials, sex, jobs, trendy science discoveries, video games, passions- and the princes (v.8) who are exalted by our civilization today. He’s superior to the torrent of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding the Information Age offers us. He is the only God who will do what he says, and achieve what He wills. “Look anywhere you want, you won’t find a God who works.” 

The wisdom of God is ours. It’s prepared for us, designed for our improvement and betterment and to make us into the Soldiers of Christ we were born to be. It’s free, it’s available, and it’s only to be had by investing ourselves into Christian communities where God is being sought and learning for ourselves. The machinations of Man are not going to unveil the mysteries of God. Watching people and asking their opinion on things is not going to lead to wisdom. Only watching God will reveal His presence and character. Only the demonstrations of God’s power will show Him to us. And then, when our hearts are hungry to understand what we’ve just seen, only study of the Word will feed us. Looking for answers anywhere else is just chasing after the wind. It will come to nothing. For only God is real, only God is solid, only God will realify us and solidify us, so that we can be USEFUL to Him in demonstrating His love and power to others.

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This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series

1 Corinthians 2:4-5

4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Practically, Paul was invoking the power of God to accomplish his goal. He wasn’t relying on God’s wisdom, which he certainly had lots of. He wasn’t relying on what he had learned, or discerned, or anything the Spirit had taught him. He only used what he knew empirically: the power of God will work to my end. It’s the difference between saying “My sword is sharp” and cutting something with your sword. We, too, can pull out the power of God. It’s there in the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge which are already inside of us. We too can yield it for direct, active, visible results in our lives. Paul did not use words. He used God. He attacked his problems head on, wisely basing his ministry on the confidence that when he pulled out his product to do the job, it would work. And not just work, it would amaze. He’s freakin Billy Mayes with Jesus.

What I’m saying is, when we’ve got an issue, or a problem, or something we need God’s help with, we don’t need to keep chanting “God knows how to fix it! God knows the answer!” Get at it and use the power of God to fix it! Our faith is based on God’s POWER. Use it.

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This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series

Romans 11:33

33 O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Those depths are  a part of us. Imagine that chest from Harry Potter. Open up the first keyhole, it’s got some clothes in it. Open up the second key hole there’s whatever. Third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and then  get to the seventh keyhole and it’s a tunnel! The depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God are not outside of ourselves but within, available and brimming with the Christ Truth of all things. Paul says “Oh! My God! The depths of that cavern which in my heart holds your riches and wisdom and knowledge…I can’t even…I don’t…” He speaks as if he’s seen it.

Within those depths I believe lives every other human soul. Since those depths are inside of us, then we are all a part of one another as part of God. One. Jesus knew the depths of his soul. He alone had gone to the walls, and knew the layout of the inside of the Cave of Wonders in his heart. That’s how he was able to connect with every living person on the planet. That’s how he is able to love us- because he knows us there. That’s how Jesus healed the sick, too. He saw the healthy person inside of every sick person, and called out “Come up here!” We all have this power. The deeper into the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God we go, the further out into the world we spread, and the more we connect to it, heal it, and love it.

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Wanting God At The Center Of Our Lives

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
                                                                                                 Gal 5:6

No action we perform is going to put God at the center of our lives. The tips in this series only work to clarify and solidify in our minds “Yes, that is what I want: for God to be at the center of my life.” Once that mindset is decided, God takes up the work alongside us, with us, to form a union in Him.

We must never underestimate the two-sidedness of this relationship; the urgent desire that God has for us to get to know Him. The whole reason Christ died was to set in place the spiritual mechanisms that let us and God be united. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 that it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that our hearts and lives become God-focused:

No one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received that spirit so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.  
1 Cor 2:11-12

Wanting A God-Centered Life Requires A Deeper Choice

Choosing to focus our lives on God only comes after a harder decision has been made: change. We have to want the inevitable changes that come as the Holy Spirit moves us into Godliness.

Paul says to the Galatians:

Walk by the spirit, and you will no longer gratify the desires of the flesh.
Gal 5:16

A God-centered life requires that we deny ourselves and let the Holy Spirit transform us into new beings entirely. This verse is not a commandment but a truth! When we choose to change, the Spirit clears out our sinful human habits- anything about us that does not worship God- and fills us with light to guide us toward ultimate righteousness.

Change is a painful and daunting task. It requires we do that one thing which is completely anathema to our Selves: submit. In the war between God and Self, Satan fights his hardest on the side of Self, and submission is what He fights against.

The Holy Spirit Helps Us

But even here we find comfort through the Holy Spirit! In this miserable struggle between Self and God, the Holy Spirit offers us the ultimate pass: we do not have to earn our Godliness. Technically we cannot. Before Christ, we were not worthy of God’s love. Now the Holy Spirit makes us worthy through no power of our own. All we have to do is submit to letting ourselves be changed. God does the rest. It’s still not easy, but at least it only requires one step.

Success Comes Through God Himself

But isn’t that beautiful?! Responsibility for our salvation does not lie in our hands! Our livelihood and flourishing success is not ours to worry about! What a comforting thought.

When we desire God to be at the center of our lives, changes will come that amaze and thrill us. Our hearts come to see the enormous value of empathy, love, compassion, and consideration. This is because our work is no longer our own. Our decisions aren’t guesses- we don’t worry that what we’re deciding is right, useful, effective, or righteous. We can trust that everything will be set up for us to the good of the Kingdom.

This is all because every move and prayer contributes to a higher project for which we are not ultimately responsible, and to which all of our contributions can only be put to use for good. The most mundane parts of our day gain meaning because God accepts our offer to let them contribute to His Kingdom.

God works all things for the good of those who love Him.
Romans 8:28

Our thoughts, passions, urges, and directions come from no other place than God himself. They go to no other place than God’s glory.

Practical Application- Change + Tips 1-5 = Trust

Build others up and let it change the way we speak. Pray regularly and let it change the way we use our time. Be responsible with our bodies and possessions and let it change the way we live. Concentrate on what and how much we sacrifice to God and let it change the way we think.

Feel the urge to submit to these changes, but also feel the urge to resist them. Where there is resistance, know that God is immediately at hand to discuss the matter. Waste no time with thinking “I’ll worry about that later” or “I wonder what that means?” God is always in our thoughts, available the instant an issue arises. We can ask for strength in the desire to overcome our natural sinful urges. We can ask for clarity to see how important it is that we overcome this temptation in the first place. We can pray to be successful, even if not a single ounce of ourselves actually wants to be. When we do this, God carries us through and set us down closer to His center.

Practically, this means we have to trust that those changes will be for the better of us and God’s Kingdom. We need to trust that they are at work even though we can’t feel them, and can’t see the end of the means of which we are a part; like ivy slowly covering a brick wall.

The Promised Result

Keep going in the faith, trust, and excitement that it will become easier and easier to find God as we search for Him. Our centers will get closer and closer to His, thus we’ll have less distance to travel. Get to know God so that we can contribute to His Kingdom. That’s the purpose of our lives.

TIP #5- WANT GOD TO BE THE CENTER OF OUR LIVES, AND HE WILL BE.

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This post has been the final addition in the “Putting God At The Center” Series, a project of learning how we can bring our lives to focus on God.  The four previous posts are: Centering Our Conversations On GodMealtime PrayerWorshiping God By Worshiping Our Bodies, and We Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To. If this series has helped you, I and other readers would love to know how! Please comment, like, and share!

Centering our Conversations on God

“Preach the gospel always, with words if necessary.”  -St. Francis of Assisi

I have not come to baptize but to preach the gospel. And not with eloquent words, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
                                                                                                                1 Cor. 1:13

The job and directive of a God-centered life is to proclaim the Gospel. But Paul says he preaches not with eloquent words. One does not have to be talking about God to have a God-centered conversation. Saying God’s name out loud is not the most practical way of communicating Christ by our speech.  Nor is it the most effective, really.  We say God’s name more times a minute simply by building others up.

Let no evil come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
                                                                                                              Ephesians 4:29

Consider that everyone has pain that they’re not sharing with the world- pain that’s hiding just below a fake smile. This is a pain we cannot reach, but which Jesus can most certainly heal. Whether they know it or not, they’re waiting to hear God’s name- as there is need. And whether we know it or not, our conversations are an opportunity for us to give grace to someone who’s hurting, even in the simplest way. Literally to bring Jesus to them.

We do this by encouraging one another. Be Loving. Patient. Kind. Inclusive. Polite. Constructive. Funny. Pleasant. Helpful. Build people up! Make them smile! Make them glow! God reaches the world through us. We convey His message when we build others up. The impulse to do this comes out of a heart full of the simple wish that everyone should feel the joy of God all the time.

We don’t have to fake smile in order to do this. We should never deny our own emotions for the sake of letting someone else have a good day. Paul tells the Ephesians “Be mad, but do not sin (Eph 4:26).” Whatever our mental state, we must first and foremost preach God’s name. And we shall be rewarded for this.

The wages of doing our job are that our hearts become God-centered. It’s a fascinatingly roundabout process (not to mention easy to the point of cheating). A mouth that worships God feeds the heart that worships Him. And the heart that wants to see God worshiped pours forth the words to get the job done. In what may be the most miraculous concept of the entire Bible, Jesus says:

The Word of God feeds you going in as well as going out.*

Short story: yesterday I rode my bike to meet a friend at a café. The place she chose was very far away. The long drive, cold wind, and bad traffic all put me in a terrible mood. In my anger I blamed her for picking somewhere so out of the way, along with a bunch of other things that were actually my fault. I rode along thinking how silly this girl was, imagining all the nasty things I would say once I got there. But then I remembered this sermon. “Saying something nasty to her won’t make either of us feel better,” I thought. “I don’t know what kind of hardship she had in getting here either. It just wouldn’t do any good to be negative. I wonder, if I bring God into our conversation by being encouraging, will my anger and pain disappear?” So I dug down deep, found what little positive vibes I had left in my heart, and poured them out onto her once I arrived. And you know what? It totally worked! I felt instantly better, and we had a great time! Both my heart and hers got filled by the Holy Spirit just as soon as I brought Him into the mix. It was extremely encouraging.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
                                                                                                Luke 6:45

The power of the cross of Christ is that our hearts would be filled with good. A God-centered conversation blesses both the speaker and the listener by building them both up. The Holy Spirit works through a quick, positive word of encouragement in ways we cannot fathom. He moves out from the abundance in our hearts to ease the pain of everyone involved.

Such habits of speech can have no other result than to center our hearts onto God. If we focus our conversations on uplifting whomever we’re speaking to, we’re actually focusing on achieving God’s will and spreading His name throughout the universe. Whenever we concentrate our efforts onto the actions of the Holy Spirit, in any capacity, we are praying. Conversations, hearts, lives- all three will naturally flow toward God as we pray for them to do so.

Encouraging words are the physical manifestation of our desire for others to have God’s peace, and to live a God-focused life. They spring into reality out of the spiritual universe burning inside our own hearts. They lay onto our listeners like a warm breeze on a cool day- a blessing from somewhere else.

Tip #4: Build others up with speech, and our hearts will center themselves on God.

*I was in a rush and didn’t have time to cite this, but I know it’s in there! If anyone knows please write it in the comments

Happy Lent today, dear readers. I hope you find a great church service to go to. Or a beautiful Bible passage to connect you to Jesus’s sacrifice. If you falter in your Lenten resolution, just remember NEVER to beat yourself up over it. Move on and praise God anyway. Amen.

This post has been the new addition in the “Putting God At The Center” Series, a project of learning how we can bring our lives to focus on God.  The three previous posts are: Mealtime PrayerWorshiping God By Worshiping Our Bodies, and We Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To.  Stay tuned for the final installment and please comment, like, and share!

Mealtime Prayer

Praying before we eat is one of the simplest ways I can think of for getting God into the center of our lives.

It waters our relationship with God

Paul is referring to the Corinthians’ failure to pray before eating when he says:

For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
Paul1 Corinthians 11:30

He implies that praying before every meal builds us up and makes us strong, both in faith and life.  Just as food is central to our lives, culture, and survival, so is the prayer that comes before it.  If we let God bless our food, we let Him also bless our lives, culture, and survival.

Mealtime prayer is an act of worship

Food sits before us, our appetite tells us to eat, eat, eat!  By sacrificing these impulses for just a few seconds to consider God and thank Him for his goodness, we affirm that we choose God first (I wrote earlier that we worship whatever we sacrifice to).  Mealtime prayer is an exercise of obedience through which we display our love and appreciation for Him who loves and appreciates us.

Meals offer us built-in check points with God throughout our day

Praying before each meal is the perfect opportunity to align ourselves with God’s peace, joy, and love.  Three times a day, they’re an opportunity/reminder to thank Him for our blessings, as well as invite Him into our hearts.  Through mealtime prayers we can celebrate God’s gift to us in short, positive bursts.

(I’d like to add here that a few weeks ago I put an alarm in my phone to ring at 3:00 every day- when it goes off and I stop whatever I’m doing and just say a short thanksgiving for letting me be where I am, doing what I’m doing, safe and sound.  I call it “Hour of Prayer”, and it has really be uplifting for me, so I recommend it to my readers as well!)

We must understand that sacrificing a few seconds before each meal is only going to be done, and thankful prayers only going to be prayed, if we truly delight in God’s warmth.  Thus mealtime prayer also allows us to constantly consider where our hearts lie.

“Examine yourselves, and only then eat the bread and drink the cup.”
  Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:28

Is God important enough to my heart that He comes before food?  Am I fully aware of the wonderful miracles Jesus has wrought in my life that brought me to this table here and now?  Do I understand what those miracles mean for me eternally?  Do I care?  Asking ourselves these questions three times a day will certainly yield answers, and quickly too.

Mealtime prayer nourishes our relationship with God.  We worship Him by sacrificing the time.  We remind ourselves what good things He’s done for us over the course of the day.  We consider our position in Him.  These three acts together bring us out of ourselves and focus our minds on God instead- both in the long and short term.  When we pray before we eat, we scoot closer to God in ten-second bursts.  It’s a powerful habit that will very quickly put Him at the center of our lives.

Tip #3- Make a point to pray before every meal, giving thanks to Jesus for His gift of freedom to us, and assuring God that we want Him to be at the center of our lives. 

The problem I have with all of this is that I can never remember to actually do it!  Praying before I eat is not a habit of mine yet, so I always end up sitting there after I’m finished thinking “Oh man, I should have prayed first!  I’ll get it next time.”  How do you remember to pray before meals?  What kinds of tips can you offer other readers to improve their (and my!) consistency in mealtime prayer?  Your comments will add huge value to this series!

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This post has been the new addition in the “Putting God At The Center” Series, a project of learning how we can bring God to the center of our lives.  You can read the previous two posts:  Worshiping God By Worshiping Our BodiesWe Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To, as well as the project directive.  Stay tuned for the next installment, and please comment, like, and share!

On The Pursuit of Your Passions, Acts 20

Now that I’m in my just-out-of-college years I have a lot of freedom.  To be whatever I want, to do whatever I want, to live wherever I want.  But that freedom comes with a heavy weight- I need to be pursuing my passions.  I need to figure out how I can turn my life into the thing I want it to be.  Music, theater, writing, those are the things that I want to do, and failing to achieve those goals would be…very disheartening.  The pressure to pursue my passions without getting lost or flagging in enthusiasm has weighed on me for a long time, even before I graduated college.  I don’t think I speak only for myself when I say that I used to labor under the miraculous idea that God would give me the life I dream about if I lived righteously, and maybe prayed once in a while.  That would be my reward, as it were, for being a Christian.  Paul tells me this is not quite accurate.  A little while ago I had the realization that the goal of getting to know God is not to satisfy my own desires, but to contribute to His Kingdom [LINK].  In Acts, Paul reiterates this truth, but expands on it to explain how, if we pursue knowledge of God not for our own sake for the sake of getting to know God, it actually will result in living the life we crave.  Confusing.  Here’s what he says:

I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me.  But I do not count my life of any value to me unless I may finish my course and ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus to testify the good news of God’s grace.”  Acts 20:23-24

20 second context: Paul has been traveling around to various towns telling people the laws of Judaism are outdated- Jesus is the new black.  This infuriates the Jewish leaders who intend to kill him first chance they get.

Life, Paul says, is testifying to God’s good grace.  That’s what a true life is.  “I count my life as nothing unless I finish my course that I received from Jesus Christ.”  These passions of mine- these goals that I know if I could just find a way to make money with music, theater and writing I would be happy- they are not a life.    They are the illusion of life, the magic forest that people who are lost wander through without ever getting to Oz, or Heaven, or whatever you want to call it.  Life is testifying God’s good grace.  But man that seems like a lot of work.  Am I gonna have to give everything up to become a minister so I can testify God’s grace professionally?  No.  Do I have to go knock on doors and tell people the good news of Jesus Christ?  No.  What then?  In order to testify God’s good grace we only have to celebrate God in our hearts- then God will shine out of them and do His own testifying!  Now, is it possible for a sad, miserable, discontented, unsatisfied person whose passions and dreams have failed by the wayside to joyfully celebrate God in his heart?  No.  Then doesn’t it stand to reason that the only way a person could testify the goodness of God in his heart (which, remember, means to bring renown to God’s name, which is the purpose of our creation), the only way he could do that is if God gave him something to celebrate in the first place?  This is quite the case as we shall see.

“I count my life as nothing unless I may finish my course and ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus to testify the good news of God’s grace.”   Jesus is not only aware of the passions in our hearts- aka our personal ministry- but he actually gave them to us!  (this is backed up in the old testament when God told the Israelites “I gave you your name (that is, your essence, your you-ness) in the womb.”)  Our passions aren’t accidents.  They don’t conflict with the will of God- they are the will of God.  But in order to know the will of God you’ve got to know God; in order to truly understand your passions you need to understand God, and that’s where the whole “pursuing God for the sake of knowing God” comes in.  When our passions are satisfied then our hearts grow full of joy- happiness is a necessary byproduct of knowing God.  A man who understands that his passion has been satisfied by God will be full of joy for what God has done for him- true joy, accurate joy.  From thence his heart will overflow and God will shine out of it, bringing renown to his name and lighting up the entire world.  That’s what Paul means when he says “the ministry that I received“- we minister to the world when we love our God.  God will not only give you your passions, and clue you in to what they are, but he will also help you achieve them, all so that you may be happy of heart and celebrate the fact that the wonderful God did such a thing for you.

But how can God lead us to fulfill our passions and glow with joy for His goodness unless- unless- we know him deeply and pursue His knowledge and open up our hearts to let Him work?  The more I learn about God, the more I learn about myself- the more I see what I love, what I hate, what I fear, what I need.  Most interesting of all is how I’ve changed.  In the last few months God has taught me new passions, and stripped away old ones, and the funniest thing is that I feel the passion of my heart getting closer and closer to something that could genuinely contribute to his kingdom- this blog being a good example.  Thus I’m starting to see the truth behind what I said earlier:  pursuit of God happens for the betterment of His Kingdom, not myself, but also that my personal happiness turns out to be a happy “coincidence” alongside that.   Knowing God isn’t a mental thing.  It’s not like knowing about Hamlet or how to work a microwave.  Like I said before, God is a who, not a what.  You give something to God and He will give right back to you.  You give Him your heart and He will give you His.  You get to know God in order that you two can trust each other, work together, fuse, meld;  Our true nature is oneness with God.  The closer you get to Him the more you get back to what you really are; the more whole and complete you become.  You learn about God so that you can know and recognize His blessings and His ideas for what would make your heart celebrate the most, at which point he will give you ever necessary resource to make those ideas into reality.  Damned if He won’t.  Then your life will be happy regardless of what happens because your passions and the things that satisfy you will always be in line with what God has to give you.

Paul says here that the real way to live your life is not to pursue your passions, but to pursue God, in whom the realization of your passions lives and waits.  All other life, it seems, is store brand Pop-Tarts.  Pursue God, learn about him, date Him, read the Bible for 20 minutes every day.  If you do this God’s way will become your way and you won’t believe how much better your life will become.  You’ll never go back.  I’m living proof.

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