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I have most commonly heard and even preached on the parable of the talents as a reminder to be a steward of what we have been entrusted with. After all, our present-day usage of the term ‘talent,’ directly comes from this story told by Jesus. However, this narrative has so much more meaning to a disciple of Christ when one places the story back into the original context. Why would Matthew mention this particular parable in the situation where he did? Better yet, why did Jesus share this story exactly where he did? What was the thrust of his message? What was his purpose? The main topic at the time? The last of the last days. The end times. The conclusion to the Epic. The Day of the Lord. The ushering in of his Kingdom with all its power and glory and honor. Jesus was instructing his disciples on what to do and who to be as they waited. As they anticipated.

Persistance is made up of two things: patience and purpose. I propose that our Heavenly Father entrusts us with talents not so that we can only bring honor and glory to him – but so that we can also make others his followers who bring honor and glory to his Name. Jesus had some pretty stern words of those who claim to follow him and yet choose to sit on what they have been given. Jesus concluded the narrative by saying, “So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:28-30, English Standard Version).

Jesus demands vigilance in his Movement. He left us here to connect people back to his Father. He left us here to make the old and broken to become new and whole again. A crucial part of being intentionally missional is to actually have something to show for it. Enough with the safe and secure mindset. Enough with what the church can do for me and more of what I can do for the church – and not for the church’s sake – but for the church to be about Christ’s mission. For me to actually be about the mission. Here is what I say: Let’s partner together to use what we have to reach who we are with. Isn’t that all that he asked of those in the story? Of us as well? Some where given a whole lot and others were given barely enough. Yet, they were all given something.

What is your talent? Where is your world? Where do you work? Who do you live by? What are your children’s names? Use your talents. Use your God-given abilities, strengths, weaknesses, dreams, fears, memories, hurts, victories – and find someone to love. Even when they don’t deserve it. Especially when they don’t deserve it. The time is short. He will return as surely has he appeared the first time. Go out and spend. Spend graciously.

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Vigilant

Thinking and talking about the last of the last days used to scare me to death. End times movies used to give me nightmares. Arrests. Atomic bombs. Books have been written. Charts have been graphed. Classes have been taught. I used to go out of my way to avoid the conversation because I was unsure of the theories or because I was unwilling to join in on the debate. I used to fear the rapture – or really fear “being left behind.” There were all those theories on who was or was not the anti-Christ (it was usually the political figure that my teacher did not like at the time). Most of my life, I have actually been guilty of dreading Christ’s return. Sad but true. I would pray things like, “Jesus, I love you and want to see you face to face – but please wait until I at least get my driver’s license?” Until I get married? Until I have my honeymoon? Until I have children? Until I pastor a mega church? Until . . . . Until I do what I want, when I want, and how I want . . . and then I can spend eternity with you on my terms. Then you can lead my life.

Then one day I stumbled across John’s closing words in Revelation . . . . “Come, Lord Jesus, Come. Come quickly.” Sounds desperate. Sounds devoted. Sound urgent. Sounds like he is anticipating the return? Why, then, am I so anxious? Maybe it is because I love the world more than I want to admit? Maybe deep down inside I feel entitled to have a long and luxurious life? Why would I not jump at the chance to be in the presence of my Savior? Why would I not plead and pray for the heavens to break open and for Jesus to return to his rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords? Why can’t I be more like John?

Granted, John did not have what I have. He was, after all, in prison for his faith. He was held captive by a corrupt Empire. He was an enemy of the state. What in this world was there for John to love? However, maybe that was not the real difference between John and myself. Maybe John just loved the right things? Maybe the real difference is that John had the opportunity to spend three incredible and unforgettable and uncomfortable and unpredictable years with his Master. He saw Jesus face to face. He saw the signs and the wonders. He saw his grace and his mercy. He heard his truth and teachings first hand. He watched helplessly as Jesus went willingly to the cross for the crimes that he did not commit. He saw him three days later with a new body and a reinvigorated mission.

John was so madly in love with Christ and his Kingdom that he practically jumped at the chance to plant a church – the church. He would go anywhere and do anything. He preached about it. Wrote about it. Was imprisoned for it. Nearly killed for it. Maybe that is the difference. Do I know Jesus like that? Do I live my life in such a way that I would do anything, absolutely anything, to see him again? Is the separation all but killing me? Pushing me? Propelling me to bring his Kingdom int this Empire? The disciples lived in such a way that Jesus could and would return any day. How much more should I? How much more should I be devoted to Jesus’ great commission and great commandment? How much more should I engage seekers, enable followers, entrust ministers, and encourage leaders? Why would I not want to commit my life to connecting people to the love of Christ, the life of the church, and the need of the world? Should I not do go out of my way to preach the gospel, cast the vision, and build the teams?

Jesus once taught, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:42-44, English Standard Version).

Can I be completely honest? This portion of Scripture confuses and confounds me. Why would Jesus use the word “vigilant” to describe how his followers must be? Doesn’t that word imply that I ought to be alert towards impending danger or doom? On guard? Watchful? He illustrates this teaching by telling the story of a man who is up all night because he believes that his house might be burglarized. Now he compares his return to a thief? And you don’t want me to dread your second coming? You want me to say, “Come quickly” to that?

Yes. I am not going to begin to pretend that I understand all that he was attempting to communicate to his disciples. However, I do know this: Things are not as they are supposed to be. I am tired of a world that is broken. That is hurting. That is helpless. I am tired of seeing people killed. Of people killing themselves. Of division. Hatred. Lust. Lies. Injustice. Immorality. I am tired of humanity attempting to fix their own problems or looking to everyone or everything but the One who not only created them but who wishes to recreate them. I am tired of a world who is looking for someone to change everything so that they don’t have to change themselves. I am tired of seeing those same things in me.

I am equally tired of some in the church who pretend that Jesus is never coming back and those who act as if they know exactly how he will one day return. I want to stay right in the midst of the tension – now but not yet. His Kingdom is here but not quite. Christ’s Kingdom is here every time you and I choose to reflect him and represent him – every time we love those who hate us, feed those who are hungry, visit those who are in prison, clothe those who are naked, defend those who are defenseless, bring life to those who are dying . . . . The Kingdom is us being changed so that we might bring a little change to someone around us. However, we will never, ever, ever, be able to bring peace to a world caught up in war. Wholeness will only come when Jesus is finally acknowledged as being who he said he is and when he chooses to do exactly what he said he would do. Then we will have the Kingdom. But there is no reason that we should not try.

Though there are some of us in the church who believe that there are certain things that must happen for Christ to come back, we must also be humble enough to recognize that he could return at any time in any way. After all, he is God and we are not. More so, we should await that day with great joy and with great celebration. This will be the day of the ages. This will be what we have all been waiting for – whether we can describe it or not. Sudden. Like a thief. However, he will not come to steal, kill, or destroy. He will come to give us back what we tried so hard to lose. Until then, let’s give back what we can with where we are currently at. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Vigilant

Clean

We as Christ followers tend to gravitate between the two extremes of grace and truth. We either become so liberated that we are no longer holy and reflective of the One we claim to follow or we settle for legalism where our relationship is exchanged for more rules and regulations. Why not pursue a healthier and holistic connection to Christ? Why not be whole in our theological and practical approach?

The Gospels are full of the untouchables, unlovables, and unliklies becoming fully committed disciples of Jesus. These were the hurting, the helpless, and the haters. We are speaking of prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, zealots, homeless, felons, soldiers, etc. The list goes on and on and on. Yet, time after time, we see them eventually respond to Jesus with their trust and their obedience. They did not stay the way they were but were also not excluded for it. Transformation. We are talking about grace – but not grace for grace sake. Grace for gratitude. These crowds loved God. They loved him. They wanted to know him and be known by him. They received his forgiveness and therefore wanted to surrender their lives over to him. They came under the authority of his leadership. I want to be that type of disciple. Go anywhere and do anything – not so that I can be loved – but because I am already loved.

Here is what scares me the most: The people who angered Jesus often where the Religious Elite. Those who claimed to know God more than everyone else missed him when they were staring him right in the face. When he was standing right before them. They did not understand grace. They did not want to understand grace. They might have been guilty of loving the Law more than they loved the Lord. Jesus actually said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean” (Matthew 23:25-26, English Standard Version).

In other words, they looked really good on the outside – but really good is never really good enough. The outside only impressed – intimidates really – those people around them, but never the One who really matters. God knows the heart. The Pharisees chose to avoid the deep cleansing of repentance and instead settled for mere formality. Going through the motions is not equal to being grateful for what we have been given. Where was the love for God? Where was there love for people?

I don’t think that Jesus minds when we put barriers around our own lives – ways in which we protect ourselves from crossing dangerous and destructive lines. That really was all the Pharisees probably were intending to do to begin with. In the midst of the chaos and crisis of three hundred years of oppression, in losing their Land and Leadership, their hope was to at least salvage what little identity they had left – the Law. However, where they went wrong was when they chose to slowly but surely impose their additional standards upon others. When their identity was no longer being lovers of God but being leaders of Religion. We need to be disciplined – but that discipline must always stem from a heartfelt devotion – and ultimately that leads to a desire to change the world around us. Our mission is to participate in transforming others in the image of Christ – not to be dictators in transforming others in our image. We are talking about cleansing from the inside-out.

Clean

Dignity

There are few things more valuable to us than our own privacy or dignity (one largely exists for the sake of the other). We do not like people to invade our personal space. We prefer to uphold our public image no matter how little that image actually correlates with the private reality. There are friend codes and family secrets. Trust can thus be easily lost and rarely regained. Community takes a backseat to individuality. Corporate responsibility plays second fiddle to personal liberties. This is the American Way. Integrity is not as important as reputation.

This attitude, whether intentional or unintentional, even has the tendency to bleed into our worship towards God. We care far too much about what we look like as we express our allegiance and adoration to our Creator. This misstep can take us into several different directions. There are those of us who pay far too much emphasis on our outward expression and public appearance. We have to be the ones who sings the loudest, gives the most, goes to church every day of the week, etc. We make sure others are watching – we want to impress – we somehow gain our self worth on receiving praise from others rather than giving praise to Jesus Christ himself.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those who will do anything to stay dignified. They will not do anything in praise which would dare draw attention to themselves. Never outwardly express what God is doing inwardly. This is a private relationship with our Lord and Savior. What would people think of me? I might appear charismatic? A fanatic? Some of us even go as far as to over-spiritualize our self-absorption . . . “I don’t have to worship a certain way at a certain time to show my certain love for Christ.” Somewhat true. However, there are definite times in life where our worship should cost us something valuable – and what is more valuable to us than looking good? Worship is attributing worth to God. That is a good definition – but an incomplete definition. Worship is attributing worth to God at the cost of something (including ourselves).

Saying yes to God means that we are saying no to something else. Giving to the mission of God through our tithes and offerings means that we will not spend that money elsewhere. Offering our praises, even when those praises are painfully humbling, means that we realize we are not as important as we once believed. Take King David as an example. The bible says, “As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, and she despised him in her heart” (2 Samuel 6:16, English Standard Version).

He was king. He was the most powerful, prosperous, and popular figure in the land. Yet, he was willing to lay aside his dignity – even when his own wife would grow to despise him. David was in love. He loved God enough to love himself less. Don’t we show the same loyalty and passion to our favorite sports team or musical group? Don’t we do anything to get on the Jumbo-Tron or win the million dollar prize? Does this mean that we actually place greater value on fame or fortune – even though those things are so short-lived and not as satisfying? Isn’t that how we are with those who we love? Aren’t there times that we swallow our pride and ask the tough questions, say the difficult phrases, and even spend the hard-earned cash? Think of how much you spent on the girl you took to the high school dance? What about the first time you went into for a kiss? Or you said “I love you” for the first time? How you made her laugh? What movies you were willing to see? How you looked as you finally sucked it up and got down on a bended knee? Why? Because you were madly in love with her. And it paid off. You won her heart. You get to spend the rest of your life with her. You get to know her and be known by her.

Why should our relationship with Christ be any different? Why not be undignified at times? Why not take a risk? Why not say the hard things like, “Here is my life. Do what you will.” Why not? One bit of caution: Constantly check your motives behind your crazy commitment. Don’t be like some of the disciples who grew to love their position in Christ’s movement more than they loved Christ himself. They, at times, began to fight over who was the greatest. I think that question has already been answered for us. Wasn’t it Jesus who is the greatest? Remember that he did not take that title by imposing himself upon others or by going about certain rituals and religious activities or even by saying and doing the popular things. He was exalted into that place of honor because he was willing to be undignified. He willingly went to the cross to die a public, painful, and shameful death. Out of obedience. Because the mission of God was more valuable to him than his own comfort and reputation. He lived a life of worship to his Heavenly Father. Reflect upon the words of David when he bravely stated, “I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes” (2 Samuel 6:22a, English Standard Version). Are we willing to be undignified for the right reasons? Just dance.

Dignity

Track

Being a Christ follower is difficult. It is so unnatural. This whole business of trusting and obeying Someone Else with our existence and eternity runs so contrary to the way we are used to living. The way we are taught to live. The way, even, that our culture encourages us to live. Haven’t we heard it all before? Knowledge is power. Your destiny is in your hands. The world is at your finger tips. If it feels good – do it. I live in the richest and most powerful nation in the world. I am apart of the most technologically advanced period in the history of humanity. What am I waiting for? Even so, things just don’t feel quite right. The world seems to be in a bit of crisis. Crisis being plural. Uncertainty. Instability. What went wrong? What is wrong with me?

Are we the first to feel this way? Am I the only person who prefers to make his own path? To order my own steps? To call my own shots? To go where I want, when I want, and how I want? Even as a Christ follower, as a pastor, as a leader – I often find myself attempting to strive. To push. To prod. To propel myself – as if that is even possible. I forget who really is in charge. I forget what happens to superpowers and supermen who have tried to take their lives into their own hands – they ended up losing them. I could many of them . . . but the list would be far too long and far to personal.

Jeremiah was surrounded by this type of arrogance. His own nation had come to believe that their destiny was in their own hands. They were the Elect. They were the untouchable. Their path was theirs to forge. After all, they had the Temple. The very Presence at the center of the their capital city. Who would dare attack them? The irony was that deep-down inside, they were deathly afraid. They knew they were vulnerable. They were afraid to stand out – to look different than everyone else. To be missional. To bless in a world that was cursing. So they began to blend. They made alliances with their enemies. The superpowers swooped in and took advantage of God’s first covenant people quickly.

More irony for you: The very superpowers of Jeremiah’s day also were digging their own graves. They finally seduced Israel to the point that she was attacked. She was eventually enslaved. Exiled. Yet, they too were not above the Law. They too were not above Justice. Judgment. Their day was coming. Their steps had been ordered. But not by themselves. The bible says, “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O LORD, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing. Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not, and on the peoples that call not on your name, for they have devoured Jacob; they have devoured him and consumed him, and have laid waste his habitation” (Jeremiah 10:23-26, English Standard Version).

Life can be quite unexpected. Joyful. Surprising. Shocking. Disappointing. Sometimes all at at once. Some is our own doing. Some completely the doing of others. Tears of happiness. Tears of hurt. Just when we think we have it all figured out . . . just when we think that life could not get any better. One of my favorite all-time verses reads, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, English Standard Version). This can go either way, really. There are times where go where we want to go and finally God is there is correct us. Challenge us. Hopefully, to change us. There are other moments where we do all that we can to trust and obey the leadership of Christ. We listen to his Holy Spirit who has been gifted to us. We guard our character and trust God with our reputation. Who knows? Sometimes he just has the way of confounding and confusing the wise by appointing the foolish.

Who is ordering your steps? Okay, who is really ordering your steps? Where are you going? Where are you really going? Do you want to end up there? Will it all be worth it? Who will get the honor and the glory in the end? Will you be okay with that? Does it even matter? Will you be better for it? Will your world be better for it? I would like to echo the song of the Psalter who once said, “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way” (Psalm 37:23, English Standard Version). Delight in his steps today.

Track

Weep

What are you known for? What is the adjective that best describes your life? What would be your title? Better yet, what breaks your heart? What ignites your passion? What are you known for? What will you be known for? What do people call you to your face? Behind your back? One of my all-time favorite prophets in the bible is Jeremiah. He was known, and still referred to, as ‘weeping prophet.’ It was not so much that he cried – it was why he cried that caught the attention of the people. He was infamous for using strange props to make a point. He was, in a sense, called to make a scene. Holy disconent. God asked him to publicly embarrass himself to make a heavenly point. He wore out belts, smashed antiques, walked around town strapped in a yoke, threw rocks, avoided memorial services and wedding feasts, and had to buy a useless lot of land. He was also called to never marry or have a family of his own. I would cry, too.

The weeping prophet once said, “Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men. They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the LORD. Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth;they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity. Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:1-6, English Standard Version).

Jeremiah was to be a walking illustration of God’s broken heart. Israel had fallen fast and had fallen far. The Chosen People were now the Forgettable People. They not only were rebelling against him – they had now reached a place where they were living as if he did not exist. Their allegiance was elsewhere. Everywhere else. Anywhere but where it was supposed to be. How would you respond living in their midst? How would you choose to deal with them? Anger (how could they?). Arrogance (I am so much better than them?). Self-pity (this is not fair!). Jeremiah wept.

Jeremiah was not the last prophet to weep. Just hours before his wrongful and shameful execution, Jesus cried out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'” (Matthew 23:37-38, NIV).

If anyone had a right to walk away from those who had abandoned him – it was Jesus. Yet, his heart was broken. He loved his people. He loved his city. He became a living (and dying) illustration of God’s love for humanity. He brought about the Kingdom of Peace in the midst of an Empire of War. He did so much more than smash pottery and cage himself to a yoke. He gave his life. The questions that demand answers: What breaks our hearts? What is worth dying for? What is worth praying for? Speaking out on? Better yet, what is worth living for?

Weep

Struggle

Have I ever had to defend someone who was in trouble? Why?

It is no secret that I used to torment my brother endlessly. For example, we spent a lot of our summer months, growing up, watching all of the Rocky movies. We would always end up acting out the boxing matches ourselves. We would put ice cubes in our mouth (they would act as both make-shift mouthpieces and sweat/blood spray upon contact) and snow mittens as boxing gloves. I “let” my brother be Rocky Balboa and I would play the part of the villain. My ploy was simple: The bad guy commonly beat the living daylights out of the Italian Stallion for several rounds until finally the Champion had the last laugh. I took much greater satisfaction hitting him relentlessly and finally being knocked down only once rather than suffering the opposite. I am convinced that Troy never caught on to my ploy.

In all fairness, I was the first to defend my brother the few times that he was in harms way. Why is it that a big brother can bully his younger and smaller sibling – but no one better dare try to do the same? Sometime during his sixth grade year, Troy seemed to be coming home from school more irritable and upset than usual. After days of prodding, I finally got the information out of him that he had stuck up for himself on the bus to another student his same age. I was so proud to hear that he was being strong and courageous – the problem is that this particular student had an older brother on the same bus. The eighth grade sibling did not take too kindly to Troy’s bravery. Ever since, he was following him home everyday – talking trash and tormenting him – threatening to get revenge.

The next day I decided to put a stop to it once and for all. I waited until I saw Troy walking nervously and quickly home with this much bigger student following him. Me, being eighteen years of age, opened the door and stepped out on to the front porch to say, “Hey Troy, is there a problem here?” I probably also flexed a time or two. The little punk saw me and turned around to walk the other direction. He never bothered Troy again. The irony is: He could have probably taken me – little did he know.



Are there moments where we are to let others go on to take risks?

Many of you have learned the tough way: You cannot always be there to defend the ones that you love the most. There are times where you have to trust them to make the difficult decisions and be strong enough to face the most serious of situations. Parents know what I am talking about. We will never forget what it was like to drop our child off for kindergarten or their first summer camp. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to leave your teenager behind to begin their first semester of college or to give your daughter’s hand away in marriage. How about the less pleasant times that people have to walk through. We have to step back and watch helplessly as our friends waste their finances or destroy their relationships.

Imagine what Paul must have felt like concerning his church in Colossae. Just thirty years after Jesus’ death, Resurrection, and Ascension, Paul was far removed, being under house arrest in Rome. He had received word from the founding leader, Epaphras from Ephesus, that this young church was battling ritualistic emphasis and neglecting the very humanity of Christ himself. All Paul could do was to write a letter of encouragement to them. He wanted to let them know that he had indeed heard of their faith in Christ and their love for each other. However, they needed to be careful to follow the leadership of Jesus in both their walk and their work. They were not to forget that Jesus was the rescuer, the reality, and the reconciler. He wished to make known the riches of Jesus’ hope and his glory.

The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind in others the conviction and the will to carry on (Walter Lippmann).

Paul wrote, “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ” (Colossians 2:1-5, English Standard Version).



The Apostle Paul was struggling on behalf of the faithful. Believe it or not, he was actually strenuously exerting himself – an intense and earnest inner-battle. He understood that he was facing an opposition that wished to ruin the work that he had begun. He chose to face the conflict immediately and directly by using his only weapon that he had – prayer. The irony is that Paul did more chained up in a cell than most of us do free to walk around in the real world. He interceded for those he did not yet even know – those living in both Colossae and Laodicea. This reminds me a bit of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Sweating blood while in the midst of an intense encounter with his Heavenly Father.

He so wanted them to be encouraged in heart and united in love. He let them know that he was right by their side – through think and through thin – he hoped that they would stand strong in the face of any attack and error that the enemy might throw their way. We might want to consider what Paul already knew – that the church would only stay true as long as they decided to stay together. They were called upon to guard against any revelation outside of Jesus Christ. False teachers had worked their way in and began to claim that they had secret knowledge in relation to angels. Paul set the record straight. Jesus is the final and complete revelation of God. He is available to anyone. The mystery is hidden in the sense that he is of great value – but the mystery can be found by any of those who are willing to seek after him.

He was calling the church to be on alert against those who aimed to mislead them away from Christ. Life is full of fast talkers and smooth one-liners. We as Christ followers should have the discernment to see them for what they are – mere deceptions. Paul was not speaking as a spectator in a far away place but as a concerned general willing to put his neck out on the front-lines. He was affirming that their lines be unbroken, insisting that their devotion be unwavering, and persisting that their dependence be unrelenting.

Paul was strengthening them in their faith. He went on to write, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (vv. 6-7). Make no mistake, he chose his words very carefully and intentionally. He referred to his Master as “Christ Jesus as Lord.” He was calling him the Anointed by God, the Historic Savior, and the Sovereign Leader. He was challenging the Christ followers of Colossae to continue their walk with Christ by being rooted in their faith (a specific moment in time), to being strengthened (an ongoing process), and to being overflowing with thankfulness (an attitude of gratitude). Maybe it is in those moments that we forget what we have been given where we are most vulnerable to deception?

Who do you struggle for? Who do you convey conviction to? How so?

We know what Jesus fought for. Go back again and ponder his prayer time in the Garden (look up the account of Mark 14:32-42). Being fully God and fully man, even he was deeply distressed and troubled over his mission and movement. So much so that he actually went as far as to ask that the cup be taken from him. Even so, his greatest desire was that his Father’s will be done rather than his own. How many of us can honestly say that about our own lives? In similar terms, I have been witness to a reinvigoration of my lead pastor’s passion and purpose. He has a renewed fire in his belly. He is going places for the Kingdom and he wishes to take his church along with him. His dream is to truly build bridges to all generations by connecting people to Christ and to one another. The question is, how badly do we want it? We will truly give of our time, of our resources, and of our energy?

Take a moment to contemplate on who you have been entrusted to fight on behalf of. Are you to improve in the area of setting time apart with your family for prayer and devotions? Are you to commit to a Life Group this Fall? Are you to do your part in redeeming the web (participating via means such as YouVersion.com or Blogger.com)?

How can we become people who are overflowing with thankfulness?

God knows us better than we know ourselves. He has always gone out of his way in giving us outward signs attached to inward works – so that we might not forget him and his work in our lives. Think about the way that he marked the first covenant calendar with the Passover festival. He hoped that they might always remember their Exodus from Egypt – the time that he took slaves and turned them into his sons. His intent was that they all receive the sacrifice that spared their firstborn.

In a similar way, he has now established the new covenant with communion (look to Mark 14:22-25 for more details). We are take the broken bread as a symbol of his body which was broken (past sacrifice). We are to enjoy the drink as a symbol of the very blood of his covenant (a present transformation). Finally, we are to be confident there will be a day where he will join us for this very special meal again (his return is imminent, after all). We struggle today as the church. We fight today for the church. We are grateful today as the church.

Struggle