Colossians 1 Part 1–“Christ Plus” Theology

The Church at Colossae was unique in Paul’s writings.  Paul had never visited the city or the church.  The church at Colossae was started by Epaphras, one of Paul’s disciples. The great story of Colossae was that even without Paul’s direct involvement in its growth, the Church was having an impact. Epaphras had been a great friend to Paul and served him while he was in prison. In addition, he was an evangelist and pastor starting this church.   Paul had received the word, however, that the Colossians had been infiltrated by teachers that pushed the Christ plus heresy. Whether it was Christ Plus Judaism, Christ plus ceremonialism or Christ plus other knowledge–Paul was writing to tell the church that Christ was sufficient–no other thing, tradition or knowledge was necessary!
 
It has been and is still hard to accept that when we come to follow Christ, His salvation is a gift and requires nothing more than our acceptance. If there was a plus to Christ’s gift, in short, it would no longer be a gift. Interestingly, that is what makes men chase these false doctrines. Then and now, we simply cannot stand the idea that we cannot achieve salvation on our own.  We want to help. We want to be able to point to what we have done. God says no. To receive salvation, we simply have to trust God and accept the plan that He has offered.  The great news is that Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection opened the door for us to have fellowship with God if we will simply believe.  That does not seem like a bad thing at all!!!
 
God Bless You
 

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant,[c] who is a faithful minister of Christ on our[d] behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

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

Philippians 3 Part 1–Bragging Rights

Paul was the super pharisee.  If one wanted a poster child for how to “do religion” Paul was easily that guy. He was circumcised, Part of the tribe of Benjamin, trained by Gamaliel the ultimate Rabbi.  He knew all the traditions, all the law and exactly what to do.  He attacked the Christians with zeal and complete abandon. Any Jewish leader would be proud of Paul’s record.  Paul, however, realized that it was not his knowledge or performance that made him righteous.  Paul went as far as to say that stuff was bio-waste compared to the surpassing greatness of Christ,  Paul no longer needed to flaunt a resume–He simply needed to trust God and allow God to transform him into the image of Christ.
 
We are the same.  We are not a product of our accomplishments.  We can never “DO” Christianity to a level that our actions bring us justification.  In fact, as Paul so elegantly articulated it, our efforts to earn salvation look, smell and feel like bio-waste! We need to know Christ! As we get to know him we quickly see that it is His grace and His mercy, not our background or performance that brings us salvation. If we will simply trust and follow His lead–He will restore our relationship with God, and he will prepare us for the journey that lies ahead.  In addition, the Lord will change our hearts and our desires to conform to His image.  There is simply no greater gift than the salvation we receive by trusting Christ alone.
 
God Bless You
 

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Ephesians 2 Part 1–The Gift of Salvation

Paul was clear; if one was to take a measure of their lives, their actions, attitudes, and focus–the result would be that each of us is deserving of death and separation from God. All have followed the ways of the world, desired the things of the world, believed the lies of the world and ultimately resembled the godlessness of the world.  The great news is that Jesus death and resurrection was the ultimate gift and allowed and still allows men the grace to have a relationship with God.
 
It is by grace we are saved. It is our faith, not our works that save us. Ironically, that gift does affect our works.  We want to honor God, we want to live a life worthy of the Gospel.  We desire to follow him and complete the mission He has for our lives. The most wonderful part, however, is that the desire we have to please God is not a compulsion born out of fear, but, it is instead a longing based in love and devotion.  We simply want to please God because He first loved us.  We do not retire each night checking a scorecard of achievement. Instead, we rest in the faith that we are saved by His grace and are free to follow the Lord and complete the plan set out for us, through our faith in Christ Jesus. It is still a gift, and we are still “works in progress” but, His grace is sufficient to save us and complete the work.
 
God Bless You
 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I Corinthians 13–The Impact Love Has on our Faith and Our Ministry

Paul came to what many would call the climax of his letter to the Corinthians. It was the discussion to end all questions about Life, sacrifice and talent.  It reframed the entire discussion of faith into one single word. Love. Paul starts the discussion with what love is not–1. Love is not saying the right words or teaching the right doctrines–because to do so without love is both noisy and annoying.  2. Speaking the truth and foretelling the mystery of life is not love; to do so without love is worth nothing. 3. Personal sacrifice in deed or death is not love, because making a sacrifice without love gains one nothing.
 
Paul then addresses what love is–it is patient, it is kind, it is humble, selfless, graceful. It does not act brash, rude, boastful nor does it snicker at the sins and crimes of others. Love rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, endures all things, it is always hopeful and always positive about others.  Love is quite simply what we are all about.  
 
When operating out of love the “religious activities” naturally occur.  Amazingly, they are more beautiful, helpful and meaningful when they come from the love we have for God and for one another. As in everything else in Christianity God looks at our hearts, not our deeds.  If our heart is right, the deeds happen. But using the deeds as a way to gain approval, when done without love is a distorted mess. That is the heart of love and that is the heart of ministry.
 
God Bless You

 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

I Corinthians 11 Part 2–Church is More Than Simply Gathering

The Corinthians never had a problem getting together, in fact, that was one of Paul’s major concerns.  The people were coming to argue and to party.  The regular meeting to take communion had become a combination tailgate party and runway to show the haves vs have nots.  Some people would come to the fellowship and not have anything while others would come and get drunk and eat bread until they were sick. Paul was furious.
First, communion is for remembering the sacrifice Christ, it was not about us. So, when folks came in and used it as a buffet and bar, clearly Christ was neither the focus nor purpose for the communion. 
In addition, If folks were coming to communion underfed and hungry, the church should have been meeting those needs in another forum–not communion.  The church body should not have had a “have’s” and “have not’s” division. It is unthinkable to have such issues in a prosperous and growing church.
 
As believers, we need to keep our focus on Christ, His sacrifice and His leadership.  Communion is an opportunity to stop, take stock and refocus upon Him.  When we come together as believers, we are blessed to share that experience of remembering His sacrifice and love for us. We must never use that time to focus on our needs or our accomplishments.
As a body, Christians must focus on how to serve Christ and the others in His church. We must be proactive in our service and humble in our demeanor–if we will, then the Church will be a family, not a meeting place. Our gathering will be a joyful time and not a time of jealousy, pride, and infighting. Help us, Lord, to gather with the desire of honoring you and not focusing on ourselves.
 
God Bless You

 In the following directives, I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent, I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

2 Samuel 23 Part 2–David’s Mighty Men

In a word, David was an amazing king. But, he would not have been as amazing, had it not been for the mighty men God gave him for support. This passage in Samuel lays out the exploits of the loyal guards of David. Of the hundreds of thousands of troops that served the king, these men rose to the top. Among the group were three that were so amazing, they were called, “The Three”. And beyond them were an additional 34 men that served David without question and risked their lives without any thought to their own safety or honor.  These men were all placed in God’s “Hall of Fame” because of their devotion to God and their king. One name that appears–Uriah the Hittite, was the man David had killed to take Bathsheba. Uriah was a man of honor!
 
None of us can do life alone.  We seek the Lord, but, he kindly puts folks in our lives to support us and carry us through the peaks and valleys we face. As we look back at the people God has given to us as our “Mighty Men”, none enter our lives to build a name for themselves. They all walk alongside and do what is necessary to be a friend simply out of love and devotion. We can never be grateful enough for the mighty men in our lives. we simply need to remember them, honor them and know that it was God that gave them to us. We remain thankful to Him for such an amazing gift. I am so grateful for the mighty men God has placed in my life. Many of you read this and know who you are. So please accept this note as a note of thanks and know I am forever grateful for you being a part of my amazing journey.
 
God Bless You

Josheb-Basshebeth,[a] a Tahkemonite,[b] was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed[c] in one encounter.

Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty warriors, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim[d] for battle. Then the Israelites retreated, 10 but Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.

11 Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. 12 But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory…

Abishai the brother of Joab son of Zeruiah was chief of the Three.[e] He raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed, and so he became as famous as the Three.19 Was he not held in greater honor than the Three? He became their commander, even though he was not included among them.

20 Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. 21 And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. 22 Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors. 23 He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.

24 Among the Thirty were:

Asahel the brother of Joab,

Elhanan son of Dodo from Bethlehem,

25 Shammah the Harodite,

Elika the Harodite,

26 Helez the Paltite,

Ira son of Ikkesh from Tekoa,

27 Abiezer from Anathoth,

Sibbekai[f] the Hushathite,

28 Zalmon the Ahohite,

Maharai the Netophathite,

29 Heled[g] son of Baanah the Netophathite,

Ithai son of Ribai from Gibeah in Benjamin,

30 Benaiah the Pirathonite,

Hiddai[h] from the ravines of Gaash,

31 Abi-Albon the Arbathite,

Azmaveth the Barhumite,

32 Eliahba the Shaalbonite,

the sons of Jashen,

Jonathan 33 son of[i] Shammah the Hararite,

Ahiam son of Sharar[j] the Hararite,

34 Eliphelet son of Ahasbai the Maakathite,

Eliam son of Ahithophel the Gilonite,

35 Hezro the Carmelite,

Paarai the Arbite,

36 Igal son of Nathan from Zobah,

the son of Hagri,[k]

37 Zelek the Ammonite,

Naharai the Beerothite, the armor-bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah,

38 Ira the Ithrite,

Gareb the Ithrite

39 and Uriah the Hittite.

There were thirty-seven in all

2 Samuel 9–The Power of Friendship

David never forgot his promise to Jonathan. After he settled the kingdom and established himself, he sought out any living relatives of Saul. Jonathan’s son was left.  David immediately had him brought to Jerusalem, he restored Mephibosheth with all his families Lands and wealth. He brought the young man to his table and assigned him servants for the rest of his life. He did not do any of those things because he had to, he did them simply because he promised his friend Jonathan.
 
It is great when we see such friendship and devotion.  In our lives, we are all blessed with friends and should always be ready to pour our lives into them as well.  We never know the impact our devotion to others will bring. But the investment of our lives into others can and should yield loyalty that lives long past us.  We are here to live with purpose and leave a legacy.  We should be devoted like Jonathan was to David; and, like David was to Jonathan’s son.  Father Help me to be that kind of friend.
 
God Bless You

David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”

“At your service,” he replied.

The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”

“Where is he?” the king asked.

Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”

So, King David, had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.

When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.

David said, “Mephibosheth!”

“At your service,” he replied.

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandsonmay be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)