A Faithful Servant

faithfulness

“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, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, who also told us of your love in the Spirit.” Colossians 1:6b-8 NIV

These dear saints of the Beloved Lord, learned about Him through the faithful servant, Epaphras. As far as anyone knows, the Apostle Paul did not found this church. This dear servant, Epaphras, was a minister to Paul on their behalf and was relating even their love for Paul.

We will find out more about this man, Epaphras, as we move through the book, but today I believe we should spend our time pondering and meditating on the nature of faithfulness. One of the most beautiful things about grace is that it requires the same from every heart. Everyone can be faithful. That is the bottom line. Faithfulness is not a matter of gifting, knowledge, activity, position, anointing, nor appointment. It is simply a matter of choosing to be faithful to what we have been given.

So as we live today (and every day) let’s rest in the faithful nature of our Lord, and allow faithfulness to rise within us and be expressed thru His love. That is simply a matter of choosing to be as He is. Let’s do it! May the Lord call us faithful – no matter what the task.

Bearing Fruit and Growing

Apple-tree-with-fruit1“…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.” Colossians 1:5-6 NIV

We have covered most of the above scripture in previous posts, but it is needed to understand verse six. Notice the phrase “in the same way.” The way the gospel grows is being referred to and described. As the faith and love they expressed toward all God’s people was contained in the “seed” of hope that was given to them, so likewise, the gospel grows the same way – first the seed, then everything in the seed grows into reality.

This is often talked about in scripture, but it begins (as with all things) in Genesis 1. In Genesis 1:11, we are told

“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so.”

This verse was the pattern for all things on the earth – seed-time and harvest. Everything grows and matures just like the plants do. All things are changing, and as believers, we either are moving and growing forward in the things of Spirit in Jesus, or we are moving backward and becoming less and less imprinted in Him. The choice continually remains in our hands.

This “seed” principle explains the obvious problem when we understand we have been given all from the beginning. We have received from Him full grace and the fullness of the deity, yet we do not feel like it and we have trouble even reaching for that reality. All things begin in seed form and then develop into reality when they have been patiently covered, fertilized, and allowed to spend time in the Son with the rain providing the needed moisture. So, it is in Spirit. First in the natural, then in the spiritual. (1 Corinthians 15:46)

So, the gospel spreads this way and when we become Christians, we are not only like a human baby in the Spirit, we are also like a seed that has just been put into its soil. Our lives will take time to unfold. How they unfold is left to our careful or careless care. We need to see from this passage that all things take time to unfold. Let’s give Him time with us, one-on-one as well as our moments spend in our work and leisure.

It is true – God is not finished with us – yet! So we continue to trust Him and push forward into what is already given. He is so very good!

Gifts Within Gift!

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“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.” Colossians 1:3-6a NIV

Please forgive me if I just “camp out” a bit more in this passage. I realize I have already written on one aspect of it, but before we leave there is another that “springs up” at me.

The faith and love he mentions here come from the hope stored up for them in heaven. I find it very interesting how things are linked together in the Word. The faith and love he is talking about (that they are effectively using) are by-products of the hope that is being stored up for them in heaven. That is awesome to ponder.

The Biblical word “hope” does not mean what we usually think it means. In our culture, it is often used in a “wish” type phrase – like, “I certainly hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” Such usage is not the Biblical meaning of the word. In the New Testament, this word means “confident expectation.” It is closely related in meaning to “faith.” In fact, “trust” is a definition of hope in some places, which is part of the definition of faith.

So, this “hope” that has been given to us in the person of Jesus Christ – living inside of us, is the container for faith and love that is shared and enjoyed among us. Jesus is truly the gift that never quits giving. The longer I study the Word, the more I discover what has been gifted to me and I thought all along I needed to get it.

For instance, the Fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22-23 are all byproducts of living in a conscious willingness in the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t come from training my will, nor does it come from purposeful prayer and study. (All those may be involved on a Spirit dimension, but are not primary). These Spirit-Fruit items are by-products of dwelling with the Holy Spirit and learning His ways in Jesus. They are produced (as the fruit is on a tree) as a byproduct of healthy Spirit relating.

There are many, many things that are results of our oneness in Jesus. The renewal of the mind occurs as we interface in the Holy Spirit in learning to think like the Holy Spirit in the mind of Christ. The word “renewal” means “a renewal, renovation, complete change for the better.” This renewal is a by-product of the Spirit’s work in us as we devote ourselves to the Word. It is not an intellectual exercise, even though the mind is always used in its reception and release. However, the mind is not the primary muscle used. Instead, it is our Spirit in oneness in Him. This is an awesome gift.

On and on it can go. As you read and study, notice what is linked to other items. Later in the book, we will discover another link to this love that has come from hope – the one given to us.

Lord Jesus, today as we live our moments, we choose to live them in a conscious awareness of your Spirit presence within us. Begin to unfold in us what is stored up for us in the heavens as we choose to love and bless our world through your breath. Be magnified in us as we breathe.

Thank you!

 

 

Connected!

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“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.” Colossians 1:3-6a

As we ponder the new place we have as a result of our receiving Christ as Lord, we are caught with the fact that there are two motivating forces at work within us immediately. That can cause us some confusion, or outright denial. We know that faith is the vital connector to our Lord, yet we often do not understand that love of those in the church is the second.

There is much wrong with and in the church today, and that has been true throughout her history. However, the love that is given as a result of being in Him is a love for the unlovable and the wrong – within. Since our righteousness is in Christ and Him alone, a person being right or wrong has no relevance in His love for them – therefore can have no relevance in ours. We would automatically think it meant to love the lost and there is a measure of that. But as we read the letters of Paul we find that one of the connectors to the Lord as well as to the Body He loves is love for the people within.

While new believers may find this incredible, eventually we discover that people are people, even though they are saints and faithful and all the good things the Lord gives us as a result of our new birth in Him. We find in Romans 5:5,

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

We end up loving people we don’t particularly like. We find that one of our empowerments is to love the local body of people with whom we walk. We may have known that we “should” love them, but the empowerment has delivered God’s love into our hearts and we find we do love them – not in word but in deed. We are empowered to love.

This love is, of course, the “agape” love or unconditional love of the Father Himself. It is a love that refuses to remain critical and/or exclusive in our thoughts. It is a love that reaches and includes.

These folk Paul was writing were outstanding in and known for their faith and love for all the Brethren. What awesome things to be recognized. I wonder if any of them were by nature introverts and found themselves loving people they did not even know, greeting them, and spending time blessing them? When we begin to grasp the empowerment the Lord has given to us, much changes within. I remain an introvert. However, others would not even know that as I greet a room of believers (or unbelievers) and love as appropriately as I can. As He grows us in His love, so much that mattered before no longer is relevant. What becomes important is trusting our Jesus and loving Him by making certain others know the same faith and the same love as we include them and begin to express Him. This is the gospel revealed in the flesh.

Scripture Passages are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version NIV.

What Has Happened?

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“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ who are at Colosse: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Colossians 1:1-2 

“What has happened to me? What change really occurred when I choose Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord?” These questions are not asked very often, but occasionally one will be brave enough to ask when they find themselves in strange places in their thought patterns and responses. We really did have a profoundly transforming interaction in those few seconds that as believers we need to receive. Paul addresses two of them in this small section of Scripture.

Notice that Paul is talking about the “will of God” in His placement as an Apostle. I am reminded of John 1:12,

“Yet to all who received Him, He gave the power to become sons of God, to those who believed in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Paul knew that he was God’s man and Apostle by the will of God, not the appointment or will of man. When we become believers, it is essential that we understand we have been “born from above” ( the real meaning of “born again”) by the will of God. Our new birth placement determines everything in our life from this point in time.

Paul then refers to these folk he is writing as “saints” and faithful brothers.”  The word “saint” comes from the same word as “holy.” All their related words, (sanctified, sanctification, holiness, etc… all originate from the one Greek word). I know in our “religious world” the word “saint” has a meaning to designate those people of “special” gifts or anointings that make them above others. This is not the New Testament usage at all. If we are born from above, then we are a saint. We are ones who have been made into the image of the Father through the work of the Son. This is the real definition of the word translated “holy.” If you dig a bit deeper than just the one or two-word definition in Strong’s – you will discover the meaning I have given. Paul never calls us “sinners saved by grace.” That is our way of trying to stay very human. It is not Biblical at all. We are people who were sinners, but we have been saved by grace and are now sons and daughters of Almighty God.  

Believing this is a step towards beginning to accept the fact that I have been made like He is. Trying to stay as other humans is futile now as the Lord lives inside us. We are now expressions of Him in the earth – not primarily expressions of our natural heritage.

The next word Paul uses to define who these people are is “faithful.” The meaning is what you would suppose: one who is and does according to the investment of others into His life. If one is given a job and is faithful, then they receive the rewards of that position. If on the other hand, a person chooses not to do the assignment of the job, then they will be noted as unfaithful, unable, and not sufficient to the task.

Every thing required in this placement has been accomplished already for us in the person of Jesus Christ, so we are empowered to be and to do – Faithful!

Now as we go through this book together, let’s enjoy the knowledge that what the Lord requires of us has been completed for us and empowered within us. So faithfulness requires only my willingness to flow in Him. Obedience is now our first nature. 

These are New Testament truths. I know they are not normally taught, but as we willingly gave ourselves to Him, He has voluntarily given us sufficiency in all.

“We have such trust through Christ toward God, not that we are sufficient in ourselves to take credit for anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us able ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

One more verse from later in Colossians:

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of His dear Son.” Colossians 1:13 (the literal is “into the kingdom of the Son of His love.)” 

What has happened – Oh my, now our nature and our place of residency have been completely changed. We will explore this deeper as we move through the book. Thanks for joining me.

All Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, Modern English version – copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. All rights reserved. 

Becoming – Through Colossians

bible3As I was pondering how to approach the topic of our identity in Christ here in Mannaword, I have been turned to Colossians. It seems it is best that we do not take this subject topically, but instead, work with the New Covenant book of Colossians and allow the topic to develop through the writings of Paul.

Paul does not discuss identity, rather he declares its truth and then its benefits, responsibilities, and delights. It is not an isolated subject because it is not an isolated concept, but one that is understood best within the confines of a relationship shift with Jesus Christ.

Having a relationship with Jesus is not unusual in our world, but one thing I have discovered as I have lived many years in Him, there are dynamic “shifts” along the way where one can stumble upon an understanding they had not known before. (We call this revelation). I use the word “stumble” because as something unknown it happens, then we discover it has occurred. It is not something that can be anticipated because we had not known it before. I know I am writing in circles, but that it how it goes.

So to write simply on “identity” is to misjudge the topic for it can only truly be seen as we “stumble” upon it. Those who grab the identity package and run with it without having a thorough view of what Paul has written are misguided, and they end up misleading others. That is simply because it cannot be grasped in concept only. Even though it is mentally received at the first stage, it must be something that is allowed to grow and “become” deep within our emotions and spirit-man.

So we are going to work with Colossians and receive whatever unfolding He has for us as we journey. I would love for you to join me.

The Truth About Identity

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Identity is a strange controller of our lives. We identify with ideas, and people that we perceive are like us or who identify with us. This space of “belonging” is necessary for us to feel free and welcome to share ourselves – at least the part of us that is similar.

Our identity determines how we look, sound, think, and feel.  We exist because of birth in an individual family. I will often share, “Well I am ½ Irish and ½ English with a bit of Scot thrown in somewhere.” For most people that will identify me as a rather circumspect individual with a bit of a flair, you see the flair will always come out somewhere, you know, it is the Irish part. Others share, well Italian (a lot of people where I live and some of my closest friends are full Italian), or mainly Polish, and on and on it goes. We know that whatever determines our ethnic background, will to some degree, determine how we behave ourselves and how we perceive and understand our world.

So even though it is not the complete picture of an individual or a family, it is enough for us to draw certain conclusions about them and their heritage. Now let’s think for a few minutes about another controller factor in us. The country where we live and in my case, the area of the country where I live. My homeland is the USA, I have never even been to Ireland nor England. I was raised in the Southwest USA — born in Oklahoma and raised mainly in Texas. For the last 50 years of my life, we have lived in the Northeastern United States, eleven years in Vermont, and the last 40 in Central New York State.

I find I still tend to think like a southerner in matters of politics, behavior characteristics, and some language usage. However, my speech is northeastern in expression, except for those soft vowels which seem always to give my heritage away. Occasionally as I am teaching, a very southern sounding word will get out of my mouth and it leaves me stunned, and my class amused. Once again, identity has betrayed my very northern appearance and sound.

All the above is simply true in the natural. “And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we (let us) bear the image of the heavenly man.” 1 Corinthians 15:49 (The “let us” is from a very early text and I have included it because it is more in line with what Paul says in other places.

“… since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10) We are being renewed in true-experiential knowledge in the image of its Creator. That is a WOW In my book!

I want to spend a few posts exploring this concept. We are now in the “New Adam” and carry in us His Spirit and His identity. It not only should, but it does make an entirely new difference in everything in our natural lives when we begin to grasp this truth.

Being a co-inheritor with Christ, living in His body, being a son of God Almighty, being formed in His image in this world, in the here and now – that is an exciting identity. Let’s allow the Lord to unpack this as we journey. Subscribe if you want to be notified when I have posted through your email as I pursue this line of thinking during the next few posts.

Blessing your day!