Brick #66 – Colossians 3:15-17

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15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

The question that comes to my mind as I ponder these verses is this: How do you do it? How do you let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts? It is certainly one of those things that is easier said than done. So here are a few practical things that I gleam from this passage that might help you to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” 

Verse 15

1) Identify what actually IS ruling and reigning in your heart. Is it worry that has usurped the throne? Fear? Anger? Hatred?Unforgiveness? Be honest with yourself. Take a personal inventory of what occupies and calls the shots in your life. What drives you to action or non-action as the case might be?

2) In order to know the peace of Christ you have to know Christ the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). If you do not yet know Him then now is a good time to change that. If you do know Him then perhaps you need to spend time getting to know Him better. This is where the first disciples found themselves in Mark 4:35-41. They thought they knew Him but then real life helped them understand that they really didn’t know Him well at all.

Verse 16

3) Romans 12:2 tells us , “Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The way that our minds are renewed is by the Word of God. We have allowed worldliness to set up shop where the Lord should rightfully reign – so it is no wonder that so many people have so little peace in their lives. When God’s Word RICHLY dwells in us then fear has no claim to the throne because God “has not given us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7). When God’s Word RICHLY dwells in us then worry has no claim to the throne because “the Lord is at hand” and we can make all our requests known to Him. (Philippians 4:5-6). When God’s Word RICHLY dwells in us then unforgiveness has no claim to the throne because we can “forgive one another as God in Christ forgave us.”  (Ephesians 4:32).

Verse 17

4) If you want to experience peace then be reconciled to God. Typically we are not reconciled with God when we have done something that hurts the heart of God – when we have disobeyed His Word. If we will do EVERYTHING in the name of the Lord Jesus then we won’t have keep repairing a fractured relationship with our heavenly Father. If you need to reconcile with God then His Word tells us to confess, repent, and let the Spirit of God lead you to live a God-honoring life.

5) Three times in these three verses Paul exhorts us to be thankful. I’m thinking that might be a clue to experiencing peace in our hearts. If we are grateful for what we do have instead of whining about what we don’t have… peace! If we are grateful for the people God has put in our lives instead finding ways to resent or find fault… peace! If we are grateful for the cards we have been dealt in this life then we don’t have to languish in a life of entitlement and we can courageously take steps to move forward … peace!

May this brick help you to enjoy the peace that God offers all His children as it rules and reigns in your heart.

Quotes Worth Pondering –  Brother Lawrence (The Practice of the Presence of God)

QuotesWorthPondering

“The King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embraces me with love, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the key of His treasures; He converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand and a thousand ways, and treats me in all respects as His favorite. It is thus I consider myself from time to time in His holy presence.”

Pop Pop Epistle #126 – About the Presidential Election

Dear Grandkids,

In just a few days our country is going to either re-elect our current president or elect a new president. It is one of the great privileges that we as citizens of a democratic republic enjoy – the opportunity to vote and choose our own leaders. Many countries do not have this freedom.

It would seem that this election comes at a very pivotal time in the history of our country, for several reasons:

1) We are in the midst of a pandemic the likes of which our country has not experienced in just over 100 years;
2) Racial tension seems to be at a disturbingly high level;
3) There is a tremendous political divide between our two major parties that has the appearance of being irreconcilable;
4) Our economy is either on the brink of collapse or of soaring to new heights – it could go either way;
5) Climate change is real – I’m not talking about the weather related kind. But the moral climate of our country has deteriorated dramatically and is only going to get worse.;and
6) The spiritual culture of America has drastically changed so that we can no longer be considered a “christian country” – we now unequivocally live in a post-christian world. Tolerance seems to be a word that is reserved only for those lifestyles that do not have anything to do with Christianity.

Perhaps you will read this epistle 30 years from now and history will interpret just how pivotal this election really was. But in the meantime, how are we as believers in the gospel supposed to navigate the uncertainty of these times? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Cling to the truth of Scripture that our God is a sovereign God. He is in control even when this world seems out of control.
  • Remind yourself daily of the hope of the gospel – not only of the hope we can enjoy in this world even when we are surrounded by hopelessness, but also of the hope we look forward to and eagerly anticipate for the world to come.
  • Pray – desperate times call for desperate prayers. We are generally not good at praying out of desperation. We need to learn how to pray this way… quickly!
  • Ponder this passage that gripped me this morning as I was reading the Word – and notice what we are three times called to do as a prescription for letting the peace of God rule in our hearts.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)

No matter what the outcome of this election we are still commissioned to be agents of reconciliation and joy fueled hope-givers in the midst of a dark and despairing world. So whenever you read this, whether it is this week or 30 years from now, “stand firm in your faith knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

And never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Brick #65 – 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

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The last verse of this passage says…

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

It is an interesting way to conclude a passage that largely talks about what happens to our bodies after we die. Paul seems to be saying that if you want to be the most effective in this world on the Lord’s behalf then you need to think eschatologically!

Say what?

Think eschatologically! It means to think about the end times. C.S. Lewis put in this way in his book Mere Christianity:

If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next…. (Those who left their mark on earth did so) precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you will earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.

He also said…

Most of us find it very difficult to want Heaven at all – except in so far as Heaven means meeting again our friends who have died. One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained: our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world.

Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthian believers, and to us, is to “set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2) Rather than this making us “so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good”, instead it reminds us that when life is hard and ministry is hard that we have much to anticipate in the life to come – therefore we can “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord”  while we deal with life on earth.

Think eschatologically!

May this brick encourage you to spend time thinking about heavenly things – and may your imagination soar and your heart rejoice as you anticipate the life to come.

Quotes Worth Pondering –  Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship)

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“Costly grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship)

Harry’s Choice (and Ours) – Romans 12:1

On the morning of October 25, a few years ago, Harry made a decision that not only would tremendously affect his life but would also tremendously affect the lives of hundreds of other families.

He got up before dawn that day, sat down at his desk and penned this letter to his fiance:

My Darling,

In the years to come do not ever doubt how much I loved you.

I am filled with much sadness as I write this letter. Sadness because I will never hold you in my arms again. Sadness because we will not enjoy our wedding day. Sadness because we will not have a family or grow old together.

No doubt by the time this letter reaches you you will have heard of my death. I hope that you will remember me as a courageous and honorable man who was willing to die for a cause he desperately believed in. I do not regret my decision – my only regret is that I cannot look into your eyes, tell you again how much I love you, and kiss you one last time.

One day all this craziness will be over and life will be normal again. My hope is that you will find love again and enjoy your life knowing that you were very very loved.

All my love,

Harry

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Brick #64 – Hebrews 12:1-3

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Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

It has rightfully been said that the Christian life is more like a marathon that a 100 yard dash. A marathon requires endurance. This passage is giving us some tips on what it takes to endure – what it takes to still be standing and to finish strong even when the race we are running becomes really really hard.

Tip #1 – We can be encouraged knowing that those saints who have already run their race and endured to the end are cheering us on and rooting for us to persevere courageously. When life is hard, stop and listen to this cloud of witnesses and take heart knowing that they have gone through incredible hardship to get to the finish line.

Tip #2 – Like a runner who would not ever think about running his race while carrying 10 pound weights, we must ruthlessly rid ourselves of anything that weighs us down and keeps us from running efficiently. These weights may not even be sinful but nonetheless they are hindering us from faithfully following Jesus. Identify them and do whatever it takes to rid yourself of worthless weight. This will involve hard choices.

Tip #3 – You can no doubt easily identify the sin in your life that “clings so closely.” You have tried to get rid of it but it keeps finding a way back into your life and just won’t let go. You try to shake it off but it just clings even more fiercely. How do you get rid of it? Here are a few thoughts: 1) Confess it as sin before God – agree with God that it is sin and that you want to be rid of it once and for all. 2) Find and memorize an appropriate Scripture verse and say it out loud to the evil one at least 10x each day. 3) Whenever you are facing the temptation to give in to this sin shout “NO” as loud as you can wherever you are and whoever might be around. 4) Find someone you trust to confide in who can both hold you accountable and can help untangle the sin that clings so closely.

Tip #4 – Keep looking ahead to Jesus  and keep your eyes on the cross. Don’t look back and wallow in shame or guilt. Don’t look around at other people who are content to live with their sin. Focus on the One who loves you, who forgives you, and who endured the hardship of the cross to gain victory over sin for you.

Tip #5 – By faith, allow the “joy of the Lord to be your strength.” There WILL be difficult days and difficult years. But find joy in the journey as you anticipate crossing the finish line and hearing the thunderous ovation from the cloud of witnesses and hearing the voice of your Heavenly Father say, “Well done! Enter now into the joy of your reward.”

May this brick help you to endure the hardships that this life brings and to run your race with ruthless tenacity as you look forward to the glorious finish line.

Quotes Worth Pondering – Randy Alcorn (Heaven)

QuotesWorthPondering

“The best of life on Earth is a glimpse of Heaven; the worst of life is a glimpse of Hell. For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to Hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to Heaven.”
“For the Christian, death is not the end of adventure but a doorway from a world where dreams and adventures shrink, to a world where dreams and adventures forever expand.”
(Randy Alcorn – Heaven)

Pop Pop Epistle #125 – About Waterfalls

Dear Grandkids,

Last week Nona and I took a few days and went to the western part of NC and did some waterfall chasing. We saw 15 waterfalls in 2 days, put 40,000+ steps on our fitbits, and had a great time exploring some of the beauty of God’s creation.

We visited Skinny Dip Falls, Lower Graveyard Falls, Soco Falls, Mingo Falls, Dry Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Glen Falls, Upper Whitewater Falls, Looking Glass Falls, Moore Cove Falls, High Falls, Triple Falls, Hooker Falls (these last 3 were all at Dupont State Park) Pearson’s Falls, and Catawba Falls. Nine of those included hikes to get to them which made the experience richer as we got away from the more touristy falls and out into nature.

One of the things that we marveled at was the amount of water that came over the falls we visited – that just kept coming and coming and coming. An unceasing flow of thunderous water that provided a majestic, awe-filled spectacle of nature that was wondrous to behold. It was in many ways a spiritual experience. When author Charles Dickens first visited Niagara Falls in 1842 he made this statement, “When I felt how near to my Creator I was standing, the first effect, and the enduring one—instant lasting—of the tremendous spectacle, was Peace.” There is very much a sense of enjoying God’s nearness while marveling at His creative genius.

Here is an interesting story about Niagara Falls. It is estimated that about 30 million people visit Niagara Falls each year. I was one of those people when I was about 10 years old. (And a bit of an adventurous daredevil as you can tell from the picture). It really is an amazing sight even if it is so touristy. But if you happened to be a visitor to the Falls on March 30, 1848 you would have been very disappointed. The mighty Niagara had slowed down to a mere trickle. The bed of the river was exposed. Fish died. Turtles floundered about. People were able to walk on the river bottom. For about 30-40 hours the waterfall ceased to exist.

So what happened? Well, it turns out that huge chunks of ice had formed at the northeastern tip of Lake Erie blocking the lake’s outlet into the head of the Niagara River. The ice jam had become an ice dam and the bottleneck effectively  stopped the flow of water over the Falls.

There is a lesson to be learned here. Psalm 42 says:

1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?…
Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.

When the love of God washes over us like the rejuvenating waters of a refreshing waterfall then our souls are nourished and we can almost literally hear God singing over us. But when we choose sin over obedience, our ways over His ways; when we walk a wayward path and turn our face away from His; when the things of this world become more important to us than the things of His Word – then the music stops. The Lord seems far far away. And the refreshing waters cease.

I hope you will take this lesson to heart – and whenever you find yourself chasing waterfalls stop and ponder the deep deep love of God and let it wash over you and nourish your soul.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Brick #63 – John 15:1-11

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Abide!

The word is mentioned 10x in these 11 verses. Evidently it is a key word in this passage. It is an awesome Biblical word and a great concept to understand and practice.

Why wouldn’t any believer want to know how to abide in Christ when they understand the results of abiding?

  • Verse 5 – Abiders bear much fruit!
  • Verse 7 – Abiders have their prayers answered
  • Verse 8 – Abiders bring glory to the Father!
  • Verse 11 – Abiders are joy-filled!

Shouldn’t all believers aspire to those 4 things? So let’s ask two questions as we ponder this passage:

1) What does it mean to abide? Jesus uses the illustration of a vine and a branch. As long as a branch is connected to the vine and drawing it’s nourishment from the vine then it will produce fruit. So abiding has to do with commitment, connection, and clinging fiercely to the vine. Jesus identifies Himself as the True Vine so when we are committed, connected, and clinging to Him we are abiding. But when he says He is the True Vine He implies that there are a lot of false vines that often capture our attention and allegiance. When this happens our souls are nourished not by Jesus but by other things – which prevents an abiding relationship with Jesus.

2) How do we abide? Jesus gives us two specific ways in this passage that answer this question. Verse 7 says, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you…” So a key to abiding is to make God’s Word a priority in our lives. Read the Word. Ponder the Word. Memorize the Word. Study the Word. Listen to the preaching of the Word. Sing the Word. Talk about the Word with others. Pray the Word. Obey the Word. Being a man or a woman of the Word will go a long way toward fostering an abiding relationship with Jesus. Secondly, verse 9 says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” Never forget that it was Jesus’ love that compelled Him to go to the cross. Think often about the cross. Think often about how our Savior suffered so that we would not have to suffer the consequences of our own sin. Think often about how you were once far from God but have now been brought near… because of the incredulous love of Jesus. Let it daily wash over you and refresh you. Abide in His love.

May this brick encourage you to do whatever it takes to become an abider so that you can indeed bear much fruit, have your prayers answered, glorify the father, and experience His unspeakable joy.

 

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