Growing up I heard the word “strenuous” used very rarely but it was almost in relationship to some form of really labor intensive work that was going to pretty much take up my whole Saturday! I expect many of us think of the words strenuous and contend in a less than positive light. Perhaps this passage will change our thinking a bit and create in us a deeper awareness and appreciation for the things we pour ourselves into.
In Colossians 1:28-29 Paul writes to the church and expresses his purpose and passion as concisely and fervently as possible.
“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.“
The Greek word for contend used here is where we get the word agonize. That is a pretty strong image of how fervently Paul engages in his efforts to teach and share the truth of Jesus Christ. Reading this passage I was personally challenged to think about the things that I strenuously contend for. Family, work, hobbies, church…what is it that I am willing to agonize for?
While we may not be called to the same teaching ministry that Paul was called to, it is an ongoing effort in our lives to make sure that we are strenuously contending for the things that God puts before us and calls us to engage in. We do this not in our own strength…but like Paul we do it with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in us.
Sometimes the valley in between mountains can be a hard place to travel. We remember the joy and peace perhaps of the time just spent on the mountaintop but when we going through those times in the valley, where we are attacked by the enemy, we sometimes lose sight of the preserving and purposeful work of Jesus in our lives.
In between the baptism of Jesus found in John 3:13-17 and the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry found in John 4:12, in just 11 short verses, Jesus experiences the full on attack and temptation of Satan. Christ was hungry and tired and coming off what we might see as a spiritual mountain top experience.
The “in between” times in our lives can sometimes be periods of struggle and discouragement. But do not lose heart. He is faithful! He is our strength! The apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:18:
“The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”
We long for the joy of seeing the Lord work in our lives in those amazing times of blessing. But we must never forget that during those “in between” times in our lives, during every attack and time of struggle, the Lord promises to deliver and preserve us for His purposes and glory.
Great is His faithfulness!
When you hear “eurythmics” you might, if you are of a certain age, recall that it is the name of a musical group. What you might not know is that it is also a method for teaching and reinforcing musical rhythm. According to the website Dictionary.com, eurythmics is also “the art of interpreting in bodily movements the rhythm of musical compositions: applied to a method invented by Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, a Swiss composer, aiming to develop the sense of rhythm and symmetry.” In more generic terms, eurythmics helps folks understand and develop rhythm.
Why on earth did would I bother looking that up? Well, today while watching the incredibly talented drummer at our church seamlessly and passionately play the beats that provided a steady tempo and emphasized the words and phrases of our worship song, a thought…more like a concept…went through my mind. First, I thought how awesome it is when the drummer plays a consistent, unrelenting rhythm and sets the pace of the song and keeps us in sync with the worship leader. At other times the drummer will build in volume and stroke so as to reinforce and drive home the power and meaning of the words being sung. At other times he sits silently so that the words alone have an opportunity to be heard and their emphasis allowed to settle on our hearts without interruption or distraction.
While I stood listening and being led in song, I started thinking that there is a part of our spiritual lives that is a constant presence; a personal presence that helps us to keep in sync with the Leader, to grow through steady faithful reminders; a wise comforter that provides spiritual understanding and emphasizes spiritual truths and that is always providing a spiritual rhythm…a heartbeat…in our lives. That personal, living presence is the Holy Spirit.
John writes in his gospel letter: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:26)
Later he writes “…when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 15:13-15)
The Holy Spirit teaches us and guides us in truth. His work in our lives helps us to understand the mind of God himself. Much like the drummer that helps to keep rhythm and provide emphasis, the Holy Spirit works in our lives to provide a constant presence and heartbeat of God in our lives. He works in our hearts and minds to disclose the truth of God and emphasize the areas in our lives that need to grow in understanding.
Praise God for the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
As our church starts another semester of small groups in a couple of weeks, it is so exciting to see people getting more and more excited about every part of what small groups is about. The fellowship, the group study, and the commitment to loving and serving others is awesome…it is infectious.
One of the things that excites me is seeing people grow in their faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ. What excites me almost as much, is seeing people learning how to learn better. That may sound a bit odd but it is true. Seeing and hearing how people are figuring out how better to study God’s Word, how to dig in deeper and put the pieces together, how to find tools and approaches that will help them to get the most out of their time in the Bible is awesome.
So it is with each of us as we continue to grow and mature in our Christian faith that we continue to love how to learn how to learn better. We continue to commit ourselves to a lifetime of learning how to learn better, to grow deeper, and to mature from walking to running…from sipping milk to chowing down on some solid food of God’s Holy Word.
We should never be satisfied as learners; not just in what we learn, but in how we learn too. Our Lord is immeasurable and our desires should echo the words of Paul in Ephesians 3:18-19 where he prays that others might: “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
As we all continue to grow in our knowledge of Christ, let’s not get sedentary in our approach to our study. Rather, lets challenge ourselves to be better learners, working hard to become “excellent” students (Colossians 3:23-24), growing and maturing so that we might be effective and productive in our knowledge in our knowledge of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 1:5-8).
His follower and student
“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”
Titus 2:7-8 NIV
These verses are not a “stretch goal” for teachers of the Word of God. They are the model for strong, biblical teaching. They set the bar where it needs to be because the truth of God’s Word demands and deserves no less.
What incredible reminders that the Lord provides to remind us of his omnipotence. The bible is replete with passages that point to God’s creation and how it declares His glory.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. ” James 3:17
One of the key factors that contributes to the success of any local church leadership is the fervent prayers of the church. Great godly leaders will strive and endeavor to seek, know and obey the will of God with love, in humility, and honorably. They are deeply aware of the important purposes to which they have been called. As a church we are called to lift them up in prayer (1 Timothy 2:2), to encourage them (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and to not cause them grief (Hebrews 13:17).
I have recently been studying through James and recently found my mind focusing on the need to pray specifically for the wisdom of God for those in leadership of my own church. James writes that true wisdom, the wisdom from above…that comes from God alone, is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, and without hypocrisy. A leadership team in a church that demonstrates that kind of wisdom would be a powerful, God-honoring group, capable and empowered to do great things for His kingdom.
Our prayers for those in leadership should absolutely include a fervent, impassioned plea to God for His wisdom that will be evidenced by these types of interactions and characteristics. We pray that as they lead and shepherd the “sheep” of the church, you know…all of us that are prone to wander, to be needy and messy, the ones that sometimes are more sheep-like than we care to admit (guilty as charged), we pray that the leadership is abundantly blessed with a God-given wisdom that results in their joy and unity, and in our being blessed by godly leadership as we serve the Lord together.
The age old idiom goes “Busy as a bee”. But when the cold weather sets in the cool morning forces bees to slow down, conserve energy, and then, as the day warms they become more active. Today was our first cool morning of September and this little bee was camped out on our porch waiting for the sun to warm the air and it’s little fuzzy body. Personally, I thought it was dead, but first impressions aren’t always what they seem to be are they.
Far too often it seems many of us feel that we have to be as busy as a bee all the time. It’s the pattern of our society to push, stretch, and wring every morsel out of every waking day. Jesus didn’t see it that way, nor did his life demonstrate a state of constant busyness. He often rested and restored his soul. He made time to pray and to be alone.
John 12:36 says that Jesus “…went away and hid Himself from them.” In Luke 4:32 it says “When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place…” In Mark 1:35 it says “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” It is a behavior that was modeled by Christ, so shouldn’t we consider it to be an important part of our lives as well?
Sometimes bumble bees need to simply enjoy the gracious gift of warmth and rest that God provides to them without their even asking for it. Sometimes we need to be at rest and be thankful for the blessings that God provides to us that we don’t even ask for. In those quiet moments we can warm ourselves in his loving kindness and grace.