In Christ

Read Colossians 2:6-8

Some passages from the Bible can appear fairly simple on the surface but when examined closely, they can contain some valuable insights. For today’s passage we will do some mining to see what insights we may glean.

The passage begins with a reminder that those hearing this message have received Christ as Lord. The concept of receiving has been viewed in a variety of ways. First, there is the image of receiving Christ’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit. This image has associated with it the understanding of allowing the Spirit to enter our lives and our hearts as a guide and support. Second, by adding the phrase, “as Lord,” the concept of receiving includes an acknowledgement, maybe even a declaration, that Christ is the Lord of our lives.

The next portion of the passage comes with the instruction to “continue to live your lives in him.” This is a curious and complex thought. What does it mean to live “in” Christ? The idea that the source of our life is Christ comes to mind. Seeing our life enveloped in Christ would mean how we respond to people and aspects of our lives should be from a Christ-like perspective.

Then the writer expands upon the instruction by defining some of what this might look like. Our anchor is to be in Christ. We grow by being securely planted in Christ, his teachings and his expressions of love. This allows us to withstand the challenging times of life as we mature into being followers of Christ.

Next, the writer tells us to become stronger in the beliefs which we have been taught. Here we are reminded that our learning does not have an ending point, on earth there is no graduation as a believer. Instead, we continue to study God’s word, listen to the messengers God places in our lives, and explore with fellow believers how to live out the grace and love which we receive from the Lord.

The final phrase of this section tells us to overflow with thankfulness. There are a variety of ways we can express our thanks. The easiest is by using words to speak of our gratitude to the Lord. The expression which brings the greatest joy to God is by living out our thankfulness. Through the ways we give to and interact with others, we can demonstrate how thankful we are for what we receive. A combination of these approaches will allow others to see our lives of gratitude.

The remaining section of today’s passage is a warning. The warning is for us to not be led by human understanding but solely by Christ. Human interpretation of life and how to live it, void of Christ’s instruction and guidance, lacks substance and accuracy. Human teachings must always be viewed through Christ-given lenses.

May we take these pieces of wisdom and strive to live according to them.

Not Just For Easter

Christ has risen! Christ has risen indeed!!!!

For centuries, this has been a greeting often used during the Easter season, especially on Easter morning, in the church. Not a lot of words but words with a profound meaning. Yet what do these words mean? Why do we say them? Do we believe them?

At first glance, these words easily appear absolute absurdity. One of my friends who is not a strong believer struggles with these words. He reminds me that no physical proof exists for these words. He reminds me that all we know about the human body and the rules of nature indicate that this is not a possibility. So how can one respond to a set of logical facts like these? Well, my response is grounded in faith. At first, I agree with my friend because according to logic and our understanding of the world, my declaration of Jesus’ resurrection is not supported. But since I believe in the God who created all logic and all that is in the world, I believe that was is impossible according to human standards is not impossible for God. So if God chooses to resurrect Jesus, then it can (and did) happen.

Another notable aspect of these words are that they are said with enthusiasm, hence the exclamation points above. Why should such words cause this type of response? Well, the reality of what those words proclaim is something that causes tremendous joy in those who believe them. For we know that since Jesus was resurrected, death no longer has any power. We also know that we share in that resurrection which means that life here on earth is not the only life. Our life here is a portion of our complete life. We will share in a never-ending life with our Lord. The joy that comes from this truth is one that cannot, and should not, be contained. Christians should be shouting from the rooftops. Our lives should show this great joy.

However, this prompts two important questions for me. Do I live my life in a manner which demonstrates my belief in these words? Second, do I limit my expressing of this belief to one Sunday a year?

The Church made a decision hundreds of years ago to refer to Sunday as the Lord’s Day. People began to think of the Lord’s Day as their sabbath. In fact, not that long ago in the history of the United States businesses were closed on Sunday, it was unacceptable to mow your lawn or hang out laundry on a Sunday, and only essential human/animal care need providers were allowed to work on Sunday. The Christian Church had adopted many of the rules of the sabbath from their spiritual ancestors, the Hebrew people. All this because Sunday was intended to be a day to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Not one Sunday a year, but every Sunday. This leads me to wonder why in worship services we do not declare the same statement which we tend to use on Easter morning.

Taking the above thought a step farther, why do we limit the greeting to Sundays alone. If I truly believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead on Easter morning, and if this belief is something which brings me great joy and benefit, why would I not live every day in a way which demonstrates my belief. I will be honest, I am not truly sure how that might look since I have never tried to live this way before. I suffer from a behavior pattern which other believers seem to suffer from as well. I tend to compartmentalize my life so much that I have certain times for faith matters.

What would it look like if I lived my life in a manner which demonstrates my belief in Jesus’ resurrection?

This is a question to which I would enjoy hearing your responses. I will ponder this some and it will be the topic of a future blog. Please give me your ideas as catalyst to my future post.

Like a Child

Santa Clause

Easter Bunny

Tooth Fairy

These are all characters from our childhood which most of us understand in a much different light now that we are adults. However, when we were children these characters were as real to us as the people living in our house. We heard stories about them. On specific dates or times, we expected them to arrive at our home. We planned for them. We may even have written notes or set out special treats for them. Each of us tried to sneak a glance at them. But then we became adults and realized that our understanding of them had changed and most of us stopped believing in them.

My husband and I were having a conversation last week about the difficulty of believing. We were looking at the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. The passage we were discussing was John 21:19-30. In this passage Jesus appears to the apostles who are locked in a room in fear. One of the apostles, Thomas, was not present and when he was told about the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, Thomas struggles to believe. My husband pointed out that the difficulty most of us have, like Thomas, is that we no longer accept aspects of life as we did when we were children. We want some type of evidence if we are going to believe something is real.

I agreed with that but was reminded of something recorded in Scripture and attributed to Jesus, “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'” (Matthew 18:3, NIV) I had always viewed this statement completely concerning access into the kingdom. But my discussion with my husband brought about an “aha” moment. Being part of the kingdom means believing in the improvable. Like a child, we accept something not based on evidence but on the feeling that it is real. Thomas was acting as an adult and needed evidence that Jesus was truly resurrected. Thomas did not have that child wonderment and acceptance of something that could not be totally explained.

A number of us struggle with not just the concept of the resurrection but with the reality of God. We search for evidence. We want someone to prove to us that what we have been instructed to believe is real. The stories which we heard growing up, the words we sing in worship, the variety of celebrations related to events recorded in the Bible, are all nice concepts but at times we struggle because there does not seem to be any proof. When life throws a curve at us, we ask ourselves are any of these ideas which I claim to believe real?

Yet I go back to the words of Jesus mentioned above. Each of us have to become like children. Not that we are to return to temper tantrums but that we believe without all the evidence. This does not require us to abandon all the education and knowledge we have accumulated. Instead, this requires us to accept the reality that no one knows everything. We have to acknowledge that there remains items which are without explanation. We believe in what we have not seen as a child is able to do with Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy.

If you are struggling with this type of belief, I recommend you sit down and watch The Polar Express or Rise of the Guardians. These movies will help you understand the importance of believing as a child. When we stop believing in what we do not have evidence for, we lose out on the chance of discovery what is truly possible.

Is It Faith

There exist two words which are used a lot in normal conversations – faith and religion. Numerous people think these words are synonymous. Yet that could not be farther from the truth. Let’s take a couple of minutes to explore this misconception

We will begin with the textbook definitions of each of these words:

FAITH

  1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
  2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
  3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
  4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
  5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
  6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
  7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one’s promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.

(Definitions from dictionary.com)

RELIGION

  1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
  2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
  3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices:a world council of religions.
  4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.:to enter religion.
  5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
  6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience:to make a religion of fighting prejudice.

(Definitions from dictionary.com)

As can plainly be seen by looking at the definitions, the words are not synonymous. They do have a relationship to each other but when used they must be understood to be different. This is exactly why I think we have so many issues in dialogue about organized religion. I also find this as the source of those who claim to be spiritual but do not wish to be associated with organized religion.

The keywords found in the definitions above are “belief” and “practice.” My understanding of faith is “this is what one believes.” Religion is “how one practices what is believed.” Taking this understanding a step further leads to the concept that a group of individuals may unite around practices and therefore have religion but those practices do not always indicate each person’s faith. Another way of putting this might be that you can have religion without faith and you can have faith without religion.