The Gospel of Stuff

Lately things have been breaking.  First my $50 watch broke.  A few weeks later, my pickup truck was smashed up.  Shortly after than, my favorite pair of glasses (also only pair of glasses) broke.

As Sweet Wife can attest, these things get me out of sorts.  I like my stuff, I like it the way I like it…and I want it to stay that way.  I tell myself I don’t like or want a lot of stuff (ha!) and trade that off for the concept of “the stuff I have and like I want to keep.”

As I was walking in to work recently, though, I struck me how ridiculous all of this is.  Basically, as long as things are the way I want them, I am good, satisfied and happy.  This is the Gospel of Stuff.

But compare this with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This gospel says that I am a sinner and that I can’t save myself (and even if I could save myself, I would lose myself again).  This gospel says that I need someone to intercede on my behalf with a righteous and holy God.  This gospel says that Jesus Christ does that for me.  This gospel says that even though I am a dreadful sinner, my Savior won’t leave or forsake me.  This gospel says that when I am weak, my Savior is strong.  This gospel says that when my head is hung, God will lift my head.  This gospel says this Savior will look out for the least among us.  This gospel says that when we do something for the least among us, it’s as if we did it for God.  This gospel says that all of my works will be tested by fire and that the only way I come through the fire is because of the covering of Christ.

Why would I trade this gospel for stuff that will be gone and perish?  The watch will eventually wear out.  The truck will too.  My eyes will eventually deteriorate to the point where the glasses I have won’t work for me.  Why would I trade the eternal love of Christ for stuff?

This makes no sense to me, either.  Lord, please forgive my affection for the world and the things of this world.  This affection takes my eyes and heart off of you.  Lord, please keep me close to You.

 

Monday Colossians: Chapter 1, Verses 16-20

16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. – Colossians 1:16-20

Jesus wasn’t just some good guy who tried to live a good life who was eventually martyred.

This passage in Colossians 1 give a clear description of Who Jesus is and what is, for lack of a better term, His job description.  Let’s take a look at these.

  • (v. 16) He created all things – Jesus is God’s Agent in the creation process and this passage makes clear that that the writer is talking about all things.  If it exists, it was created by Him and for Him.  If it is in heaven or on earth, Jesus created it.  Jesus’ creative power also extends to “thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities.”  This means that the governments and kingdoms that are established and that exercise authority do so through Jesus.
  • (v. 16) He created all things through Himself and for Himself – This could have been put into the point above, but I want to make sure it stands out.  Jesus didn’t just create stuff to create it and give power to rulers so that someone would have it.  No, He did all of these things “through Him and for Him.”  These things are for His purpose and His glory – not someone else’s.
  • (v. 17) He is before all things – To some, Jesus is their co-pilot.  To some, Jesus is their friend.  To some, Jesus is their Cosmic Boss.  But while you do have a friend in Jesus and while you could argue in some plausible way for the other examples because you know Jesus helps you out, be clear on this:  Jesus isn’t along for the ride.  He’s not some cosmic elf that helps out when you no longer can do things in your own strength.  He’s not there just for you.  He is before all things.  Jesus is Lord.
  • (v. 17) He holds all things together – We could go science lesson here and talk about why things should fall apart, but they don’t because Jesus holds them together.  That is good and it makes sense and is true.  But let’s backup.  Even if the science book didn’t agree with us, this holds true: Jesus holds all things together.  And here’s another incredible point: He’s not even straining as He does this.
  • (v. 18) He is the head of the Church – As the passage noted, He is the head of the body, the Church.  This isn’t just talking about the biggest church in your neighborhood, this means the Church universal.  Every believer of all time, anywhere in the world is part of the universal church and Jesus is at the head of this church.
  • (v. 18) He is preeminent in everything – After reading and studying through the few verses above, we should have no doubt now that Jesus is preeminent in everything.  As the verse notes, “He is the beginning, the first born from the dead.”  This points to Jesus being part of the Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and notes the power that is in Jesus that is displayed in His victory over death.  And when we talk about Jesus’ resurrection, we aren’t just talking about waking up from the dead – which is incredible – we are talking about Him never dying again.  He has secured victory over sin and death.  Because of this, we can say that He is preeminent in everything.  He takes precedence over everything because our eternal destination should take precedence over everything in our lives.
  • (v. 19) He has the fullness of God dwelling in Him – In Matthew 17:5, God said this about His Son: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” And this Son was filled with God.  Think about that for a moment as this could be the most interesting phrase in this section of Scripture.  Jesus left heaven, but the fullness of God didn’t leave Him as he trod the earth.
  • (v . 20) He reconciles all things to Himself – The greatest need that any of us has is to be at peace with God.  Naturally, we are enemies of God.  At birth, we are not on His side.  We are born against Him.  But this Jesus – the same one Who made everything and holds everything together and Who is preeminent over everything, lovingly laid down His own life so that all of mankind could have this peace and be reconciled to God for eternity.  This doesn’t mean that everyone is reconciled to God, but it does mean His sacrifice was sufficient for all mankind to have a way to God.

This passage from Colossians is scandalous.  I believe it is because of passages like this one that man wants to rip up the Bible into pieces and then to burn those pieces.  Why?  Because Jesus Christ is clearly described here and once a person reads this description, they have to deal with Him.  This passage clearly describes Jesus Christ as Lord and therefore whoever reads this section is forced to decide if they will actually follow Him as Lord.

But Jesus can’t be stored away or dealt with later. He can’t be messed around with as if we are in control. Jesus isn’t an elf on the shelf. Jesus isn’t a cosmic Santa Claus. He is God. He is our Creator. He is our Redeemer. He is our Sustainer. He is our All-in-All.

If we want to be Christians – if we are Christians, we must embrace this passage. We must realize and bow down to what and who Jesus is. We can’t fight this. We can’t ignore this. We can’t carve this out of our faith.

We can’t – or shouldn’t – minimize Jesus. Ultimately, He won’t be.

Sunday Worship: Psalm 121:1-2

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1-2

Think about all of the times we call for help. We have a flat tire or we’re running low on money. We’re trying to reconcile the bank account or a medical emergency strikes. We’re lonely or can’t get time to ourselves. No matter who we are or where we are, every single person on the planet has someone they can cry out to for help. Every single person. Wherever they are. Think about that.

Who could this be that everyone can call? As verse two reminds us, “My help comes from the LORD.” And to emphasize just who we are calling, the psalmist notes, “who made heaven and earth.” How is that for a reminder about whom we call? We reach out to the maker of heaven and earth.

But everyone can call to Him? Yes, they can. As a follower of Christ, we have the promise of access to the Father through the Son. But if we don’t know God, our cry for help acknowledges the quickening of our heart He is bringing to us. God sent His Son not to condemn the world, but to make a way for the world to Him (John 3:17).

Thursday Hebrews: Chapter 6, Verses 13-20

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 6:13-20 (ESV)

To get started with this passage, let’s first look back to Hebrews 6:11-12:

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

As we discussed previously, the writer of Hebrews is encouraging the reader to shake off “sluggishness” in their walk with Jesus Christ and to become “imitators.”  Now, imitating someone or something isn’t always a good thing.  We like to be considered the “real deal” and we like to be our “own person.”  But here it is good.  The writer wants the reader to look at the lives “of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

These “faithful imitators” will be discussed a little later in the book of Hebrews.  Now, though, the writer wants to discuss God’s promises.  And that is where our current section of Scripture takes us.  We can break these eight verses down in the following way.

* (v. 13-15) An example of a promise of God;
* (v. 16) An oath defined;
* (v. 17-18) The purpose of God’s oath;
* (v. 18) What God’s oath means to us; and
* (v. 19-20) Jesus.

An Example of a Promise of God

(v. 13-15) For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.

The promise that God makes is that He “will bless and multiply” Abraham and his descendants.  By simply making this statement to Abraham, God is swearing “by himself.”  He is in effect making an oath.  Abraham, meanwhile, obtains the benefits of this promise by “having patiently waited.”

An Oath Defined

(v. 16) For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.

In v. 16, a quick definition of an oath is presented.  A good modern day example of this is when someone is elected to an office and they are “sworn” in by taking an “oath” of office.  It was the custom for many years in our country for people to place their hand on a Bible when taking their oath.  In this case, they are “swear[ing] by something greater than themselves” – i.e. the Bible.  Once in office, their oath is supposed to be their anchor and guide their service.  If there is a dispute, the oath is referred back to in order to determine the standard for service.

The Purpose of God’s Oath

(v. 17-18) So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

God wanted this “promise” to be shown “more convincingly to the heirs.”  How did He make this so?  This passage tells us He did so “by two unchangeable things.”  What are these?  One is God’s holiness, or character, “in which it is impossible for God to lie.”  The second is the oath that God gave.

Why did God do this?  As mentioned above, in verse 17, we are told He wanted to show the heirs of His promise “more convincingly”.  In verse 18, we are told God did this to give “strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”  God made this oath to comfort and strengthen us in our journey with Him and to Him.  He did not give us an impossible life to live, although it is hard.  He did not give us an impossible riddle to decipher in order to get to Him.  No, He gave us a “hope set before us.”

Jesus

(v. 19-20) We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

The “hope set before us” is Jesus.  These last two verses of the sections give us these descriptions of what Jesus does for us:

  • “A sure and steadfast anchor of the soul”
  • “A hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain”
  • “A forerunner on our behalf”
  • “A high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek”

When I read these descriptions of Jesus, the word that comes to mind is “wow.”  These aren’t just words and phrases thrown around by the writer of Hebrews.  These things are part of the mind-blowing work of Jesus Christ.  These are things that we need, things that must be done and things we can’t do for ourselves.

But why does the writer use these particular words and why does he use them at this point?  Well, for that answer, let’s refer back to our lesson from a week ago as we tried to bridge chapters five through seven.  We noted:

Chapter five begins with a discussion of Jesus in His role as our great High Priest.  The writer’s audience would surely know and question how Jesus would be qualified to serve as a priest, so he goes through the concept of how Jesus was “appointed.”  This leads to a discussion of Melchizedek, a Bible character from the Old Testament.

 But once the topic of Melchizedek came up, the writer could tell that he needed to make sure the audience was ready to hear this message.  From here, he took the reader through the first half of chapter six – questioning and then encouraging their faith, and then he returns to Jesus, our “high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”  Lord willing, we will discuss Melchizedek more next time as we begin chapter seven.

Wednesday Project: Wallpaper Off

In last week’s installment, we discussed the particulars of removing wallpaper.  Well, the wallpaper is finally gone and below you can see the before and after shots.

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Toilet.

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No toilet.

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Sink.

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No sink.

All in all, the wallpaper part of the project wasn’t bad.  It was hot, messy and fairly labor-intensive work, but the overall small space and the use of the power steamer made this project easy to get done.

As you can see above, I removed the toilet and sink.  Though I loathe plumbing, I did this for a couple of reasons.  First, there was wallpaper behind each and removing them was the easiest way to remove all of the paper.  Second, I’m planning to replace the faucet and taking the sink down actually makes working on the pedestal part of the sink easier.

Though the wallpaper down, it’s not yet time to stop and celebrate.  Really, the work is just beginning.  In fact, how we do with the next step – prepping the walls for painting – will go a long way in determining just how successful our project is.  Lord willing, we’ll discuss that next time.

The Perfect Day: The Search for Peace

Recently a friend sent me some information from a self-help course called “The Perfect Day,” or something like that.  My response was pleasant (which can sometimes be amazing).  I told him that looked “interesting” and then shook my head and rolled my eyes.  (I could do that because we were texting.)

I thought to my self, “Self, if I was planning the perfect day, it certainly wouldn’t included reading a self-help book and filling out some questionnaires.”  To me, that sounds like the worst day ever.

But I did start thinking about what would be my perfect day.  It then struck me that most of my days are “perfect.”  It’s not that everything goes perfectly, that’s not ever the case.  It’s that I’m not really searching or looking for anything else.  I have a great wife and we love to spend time together.  The kids are healthy and generally do pretty well at school.  I’m employed and I enjoy working.  And there’s a Starbucks right around the corner.  There’s not a lot that I don’t have.  There’s not a lot that I’m seeking after.

But there are days that aren’t perfect.  These are the days when the doors of Hades appear to fling open and all sorts of crazy stuff flies at us.  Something breaks.  Somebody doesn’t act right.  Somebody sends a bill we weren’t expecting.  All of those are interpreted as “somebody is attacking me.”  And because of that, I lose all perspective.

The reality is that we don’t learn or grow much during the “perfect” days.  We go along easy, filling up at Starbucks and eating sushi for lunch.  Times are good.  We are good.  We are lulled into the perspective that we are owed this good life.  After all, haven’t we worked hard and done the right things more times than not?  But with this perspective, I’m knocked for a loop when things go wrong.

The reality is that each day – whether good or bad, we need Jesus Christ.  We need to remind ourselves of His gospel every day.  We are sinners – in good days and bad – and we need a Savior – in good days and bad – and we have that Savior in Christ – in good days and bad.  If we come to Him – in good days and bad – and confess our sins – in good days and bad – He is faithful and just to forgive our sins – in good days and bad.  When we are “good,” the gospel reminds us of who we really are and humbles us.  When we are “bad,” the gospel reminds us that we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

The search for peace and the perfect day is a vain one apart from Jesus Christ.  Without Christ, there is no peace – either temporarily or eternally, because we are not at peace with God.  If we have peace with God, it should (and can) change our perspective about what happens to us.  And if we keep the right perspective, we can manage our expectations and our reactions.

It’s early in the morning as I write this.  As I get up from here, I’m sure the gates will fly open once again.  Lord, let me remember Your gospel this day.  Let me focus on the Perfect One and keep my perspective on that versus a vain search for a perfect day.

Monday Colossians: Chapter 1, Verse 15

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. – Colossians 1:15

In the early morning hours of Christmas Day 2015, I sat at my desk to read my Bible.  When I opened Colossians and picked up where I had left off, this passage was before me: “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”


How wonderful, gracious and kind God is, I thought, for him to lead me to this passage on the day when His Son’s birth is celebrated.

Jesus Christ, “the firstborn of all creation,” “the image of the invisible God” has come. He has arrived. God is with us. Emmanuel.

He came to make a way where there seems to be no way. We are consistent, constant sinners in need of the righteousness of God, but we were separated until Jesus came. The way was dark, but now there is a Light.

It’s easy to get sucked into the “Christmas season.” It’s festive and fun and there are lots of activities to see after. It’s nice to give people stuff. It’s nice to get stuff. But the real reason for this is way far away from the going and giving and doing. The real reason is God with us. A Way has come. We now have hope.

Thank You, Jesus, for setting aside the glorious riches of heaven to walk among us, to make a way for us, to give us hope.

Sunday Worship: Psalm 100:5

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.  (Psalm 100:5 ESV)

Here are three blessed reminders from Psalm 100:5.

  • “For the LORD is good” – At the heart of God is His goodness.  When life is tough, we may often doubt this.  Let us constantly remind ourselves that God is good.
  • “His steadfast love endures forever” – God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  He never changes.  And we because of this, we know that His love for us is steadfast; it never changes.  Once we are His, He doesn’t love us more or less because we are “good” or “bad.”  His steadfast love endures forever.
  • “His faithfulness to all generations” – Not only does His steadfast love endure forever, but so does His faithfulness to all generations.  God is faithful.  He does what He says He will do and it doesn’t tax or strain Him at all.  While there is still time, let us not harden our hearts in rebellion against this faithful God.

Now is the time to worship our Lord. Let the reminders of God’s goodness, steadfast love and faithfulness fuel this worship.