Colossians 3-4 B

Carly’s application of 3:13 last time was excellent. Love can be work, but it can also be incredibly fruitful!

“Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.” (3:22-25)

In everything, we’ve gotta keep the opinion of the LORD at the forefront of our minds.

I love that last line. “There is no partiality”. Our lives are full of partiality. Everything can be boiled down to a comparison, it seems. However, in light of the Word of the LORD, its good for me to remember to take responsibility for myself. In my frustration with someone lording something over me, do I turn around and do it to someone else?

That reminds me of the parable in Matthew 18:23-35 where a guy is forgiven an enormous debt to the king and then he goes and chokes out a guy who owes him money. So much of following Jesus circles back to “doing for others what you’d like done for you.” We will all be held accountable for our own actions and it’s not graded on a curve.

I know I’m someone who needs a lot of grace, so that should push me to be gracious. When I work for someone, I do it the way I think would glorify God and guess what? I get promoted a lot. Now, the world isn’t fair, so that’s not always going to be the case, but I think the point is to not get short sighted when it comes to circumstances, and always be short sighted when it comes to watching someone’s work.

The next verse in 4:1 is a warning for masters to remember they have a powerful boss too; and He’s been known to hear the cries of oppressed people. For those of us responsible for other people, this is a great “Fear of the LORD” moment.

What does this look like for you?

-Bethany

Colossians 1-2 B

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” 2:7

What does it mean to set roots down into Jesus and built your life secured in him? This is what it’s looked like for me:

-A dedication to reading his word. Regularly reading the Bible changes the direction of my life towards Christ every time I open it.

-Surrounding myself with godly people. Since developing a deep relationship with the Lord, I’ve always invited an older, wiser woman into my life and allowed them to direct it. This dramatically protected my life when I was in college, and I highly recommend it for all seasons of life.

-A regular habit of repentance. It’s so much easier to just ignore your mistakes and slowly, over time, create distance between you and God. I’m not always “done” with whatever I’m repenting of, and sometimes I admit to the same sin every day. But I try to remember that God knows about my sin whether I admit it or not. And leaving it unacknowledged leaves room in my heart for shame to grow.

-Regularly worshiping Jesus. My preference is through music, but this can look different for everyone. Making a habit of thanking and praising God for who he is and what he’s done develops a muscle for gratefulness my soul regularly needs to flex.

Take a minute and ask yourself, what is your life built on?

-Carly

Philippians 3-4 B

“For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (4:2)

Always remember the power of our Salvation is the victory of Christ, who removed the sting/curse of death/sin; teaching us the way to live (2:5-7) and giving us newness by His Spirit. That is what differentiates His people from others: His transformation power.

This looks like the applications in chapter four: rejoicing always, being gentle, choosing prayer over anxiety, having peace and the perspective to be content in every circumstance.

It’s not about mustering the strength to police ourselves and others, it’s walking in the truth of the gospel. That’s why Paul encourages this:

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (4:8)

Fill your life with truth. Seek it out. Study the Word. Don’t let fear or desperation become a motivator for any aspect of life. This is a great reminder for all of us.

-Bethany

Philippians 1-2 B

Today it struck me how often the Bible talks about having enemies. Isn’t that interesting? Sometimes I mistake the Christian life as a passive one. A people-pleasing, conflict-avoiding excuse to just be nice and (my favorite Christian culture phrase) “love on people”. Loving people is a gigantic part of knowing and imitating Christ. But so is taking a stand, when needed.

Paul and the early Christians faced a lot of opposition that I don’t have to in my 2018 American faith. And there is usually specific, cultural context when the Bible talks about enemies. So, I might not have a list of enemies in my lifetime, but I’m reminded not to be afraid of conflict in the name of the gospel.

I don’t think this happens often. I’ve been a Christian almost my entire life and can really only come up with one person who became a holy enemy of mine. Jesus had enemies, why did it devastate me so much when I experienced this? My eagerness to be liked was exposed, and I learned a lot about meekness.

Do you have holy enemies? Not the family member you disagree with politically, or the person you can’t stand (out of your own insecurities).

Do you love them well?

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.” 1:27

 

-Carly

Ephesians 5-6 B

The post I wrote last time about 3-4 were a good reminder to me about what the whole of Ephesians is about. Then Carly’s 5-6 was dynamite.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (6:12)

This is way too easy to forget. The natural world feels like it’s closing in on us and we have definitely turned on each other about it. Especially as westerners, we don’t put a lot of stock in the spiritual realm. I feel like that is changing a little, and it’s good.

I’ve been listening to a podcast called “Almost Heretical“, lately, and they address this in a really solid way; taking passages in the Old Testament that fly over our western heads and connecting the dots. I highly recommend it. They’re on iTunes. Start from the beginning!

Maybe it’s too late to hope there could be unity in the Body of Christ, as Jesus prayed in the garden (John 17), but maybe not. We can’t always change people’s minds or actions, but we can take responsibility for our own. We can be like Christ and absorb blows instead of retaliating. We can be patient, hopeful, and unconditionally loving, by the power of His Spirit alive within us. We can “pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” (6:18)

Meditate on the armor of God.

  1. Belt of Truth – holding everything together
  2. Breastplate of Righteousness – protecting vital organs
  3. Shoes of Readiness – given by the of Gospel of Peace
  4. Shield of Faith – extinguishing flaming enemy arrows
  5. Helmet of Salvation – protecting thoughts
  6. Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God

What difference would it make if we put them on today?

-Bethany

Ephesians 3-4 B

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” 3:16-19

Sometimes I just can’t believe how much energy, both physically and mentally, we spend trying to believe that God loves us. Paul’s prayer here should be our prayer, for ourselves and for the church.

The last time I read through Ephesians was a couple years ago (with y’all!) and I find myself with a deeper understanding on the depth of God’s love from me since I read the verses above.

My husband and I got married after just a handful of months of dating and barely a calendar year of knowing each other. I deeply loved him on our wedding day. But now, seven years in, I laugh thinking about that! I thought I loved him then? We’ve lived in three different states since then, lost a handful of loved ones, doubled our family and changed a lot. God-willing, I hope in another seven years I feel even more deeply anchored into my love for him.

Our relationship with Christ is like this. Changing, growing, evolving. I think I have a vague understanding of God’s love for us, but I’m just barely skimming the surface.

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” 4:2

I struggle to find the balance between setting aside grace for people’s weaknesses and believing the worst in them, bracing myself for them to fail me and developing bitterness. But here Paul tells us that the defining difference is one is self-preserving and the other is rooted in love, drenched in patience. 

How can you anticipate someone’s fault today and come alongside them in it with love?

 

-Carly

 

Ephesians 1-2 B

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself as the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into the holy temple of the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (2:19-22)

What I love about these first chapters of Ephesians, is that Paul is just stating facts and saying, “this is true in heaven, whether or not you see it here on earth.” This isn’t about how we feel things are going.

Even if all around, you see yourself being excluded from the family of God, I am telling you that you’re in it. Even if this wasn’t your story before, it is now. Even if you don’t always feel free from sin and temptation, you are. Even if it doesn’t look like an international tabernacle, it is.

These chapters are some of the richest in Paul’s letters, and anyone could easily (and have) spend months or years on them. We are breezing over a lot. These truths are important ifs to every subsequent then  in Christian practice.

What stands out about them to you today?

-Bethany