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Colossians 4: On Names and Prayers

bible study colossians theologyI finally finished journaling through Colossians. (I put it down for much longer than I intended. Lame, I know.)

I’m not the only one who tends to skim over the ends of Paul’s letters, right? Greetings and reports on individuals I don’t know, ya ya … To no one’s surprise there’s some good stuff in there if I force myself to take it slowly. (Three cheers for journaling scripture.)

Some thoughts on the (formerly-) boring end passage of Colossians.

I motion we start calling ourselves something other than, “Christians.”

Paul constantly refers to himself as, “a bondservant of Christ,” and at the end of his letter to the Colossians he refers to Epaphras the same way. He seemed to like that term, and it’s no wonder why. I’m sure it make the role of a believer very clear.

More than a title, calling yourself a “slave” over and over again, has to work an effect on your psyche. More than just a descriptor used to identify people who share the faith, it must have been a constant reminder of what we do, how we live, etc.

The word “Christian” probably did the same thing at one time, but I think it’s lost its power to familiarity. If we can stand around the water cooler and gossip, refuse to tithe, never love or serve our neighbors, never go out of our way to share our faith, and still call ourselves, “little Christs,” or, “Christ-like” with a straight face … something isn’t connecting. I think it’s time to make a change.

I’m open to ideas. Let’s put it to a vote. Or let each local community decide for themselves what they need to be reminded of. During a recent ISIS attack, the terrorists mocked our people by calling them, “the people of the cross.” I kind of like that – as long as we can remember what a cross is all about. They also marked doors with an “N” for “Nazarene.” That’s a little shorter, although maybe not so descriptive.

Like I said, I’m open to ideas. But I like the idea of referring to ourselves with some language that reminds us of our purpose and calling, rather than a fraternity-esque title. Discussion is now open in the comments …

Pray for your pastors.

Paul and Epaphras had high hopes and expectations for their churches.

Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. (Col 4:12)

The NKJV says, “perfect and complete.”

Epaphras didn’t just preach on Sunday and hold down weekly office hours. That man was invested, and he did not compromise his vision for his people. He didn’t leave “work” at the office when he went home, and he wasn’t “realistic” about how many of his church would really pursue Christ. He “always” “labored” “earnestly” in prayer for his people, that they would be perfect and complete in all the will of God.

But I’ve known a few pastors in my limited Church experience, and I’ve been in more than a few staff meetings. This is not a vision or a passion that pastors can whip up, and if we’re honest – most of us don’t make it real easy for our pastors to have this kind of hope or vision for us.

Pray for your pastors, that the Lord would give them grace to forgive, faith to believe, comfort for their wounds, so that they can pray these kinds of prayers for you.

Silent Nights

I’ve been stuck on God’s silence lately. Why does He not seem to respond sometimes? Why does He not seem to hear? Why do some prayers go so long unanswered? Why the waiting?

I know the answers about perfect timing and perfect plans, but sometimes the right answers aren’t what we really want.

Bethlehem

And as I’ve read the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke during the last couple of Advent seasons, the end of Matthew 2 sounds different to my heart.

Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she refused to be comforted, Because they were no more.” (Matthew 2:16-18)

I read those verses for a decade with a kind of distant sympathy. But with a one- and now a two-year-old son trying to climb in my lap while I read — or pushing a truck around the floor while I watch that scene — something swells inside of me and I wonder how many women they killed that night too. Because they’d have to kill me first.  Continue Reading…

“Scandal In Bethlehem,” Free Spoken Word Video Download

(That blur behind Jeff is our friend Brittania carrying a flailing toddler away from the tripod.)

(That blur behind Jeff is our friend Brittania carrying a flailing toddler away from the tripod.)

Christmas 2011 our church developed a production for Christmas Eve called, “Scandal in Bethlehem.” It attempted to demonstrate how completely crazy the incarnation really is. Bethlehem, of all places, is no place for a King to call home, and a barn is not a proper labor and delivery room for anyone. An unmarried teenage girl was not a respectable mother figure, etc.

I was invited  to write and perform a spoken word piece, and it went over decently well. The following year our worship team started recording a collection of Christmas songs, and we laid down a couple takes of the spoken word piece too, before the project was sadly derailed.

I’ve thought – randomly and sporadically – about trying to capture it in video somehow. I thought about finding another artist to actually perform it. (‘Cause you know how it is hearing your own voice on a recording … or seeing your own face on video.)

About a week before Thanksgiving I woke up thinking about it. I wanted to have it on video so I could make it available to local churches to download for free, if it would help enhance their Christmas series’ or Christmas Eve services. I had some ideas for how it would look, and I knew who to call. All of it was already decided.

‘Cause until very recently I was on staff at a mid-sized church for several years. My husband and I are youth pastors, but when a youth pastor is also a staff member he/she tends to also become the graphic designer, social media director, etc. I know what it’s like to have a team with big vision and a small budget. I know what it’s like to find a great video at a great price (or for free), and then see another church’s logo – or a designer’s sales pitch and URL – splashed across the ending.

I realize it’s a little late in the game for some churches, for 2014, but I also know there are those smaller congregations who don’t have plans set in stone yet. (I spoke with one of them last week.) And I’m not pretending to come with offerings of silver and gold, but it’s what I have and I really want to give it. If one small church uses and loves it, I will be satisfied. Leave a comment and let me know how it went.

Anyway here it is. You can download it for free right off of Vimeo. (It’s also on YouTube, if YouTube is more your thing.)

Because Jeff is just super awesome and really into this whole video thing, he made outtake reels from each day of shooting too – which is just super fun. Here’s day two (of three):  Continue Reading…

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