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Grace Changes Everything

one year in ColossiansI spent a lot of time, and several notebook pages, on verse six last week. Lots of little insights here:

which (the hope they have in the gospel, per v. 5) has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;

Paul uses the clause “as it has also” twice, and I think he does it to draw a parallel between two ideas.

In the first instance, he tells the believers in Colosse that the hope of the message of the gospel has come to them, “as it has also in all the world.” The truth of Jesus was spreading throughout the world, and the Colossians were not left out. The same message that was spreading across empires was the one they had heard.

The second time, Paul says that hope is producing good things in them, just like in the rest of the world. The evidence of their faith was the same as the evidence of faith all over the world.

Both seem unexciting to modern readers, but in a turbulent spiritual time — in a world without cell phones and social media — both statements may have been tremendous assurances. “The gospel that you put your faith in is the same one that is spreading all over the world. And the evidence of your faith is the same evidence that is being produced everywhere. You have not been led astray. You are on the right path.”

Because no matter how strong your convictions are about a matter, it’s always nice to know that you’re not alone in them. That it’s working.

Next, Paul singles out the start of their fruitful lives as, “the day (they) heard and knew …” Heard and knew.  Continue Reading…

The Truth of the Gospel

one year in ColossiansOne year ago, I felt like the Holy Spirit told me to spend a year in each of the epistles. It seemed ridiculous at the time, and — knowing how much better I am at starting things than finishing them — I wasn’t sure how long my best attempt would last.

But last month ended one year in Galatians. It was definitely the trial run, and I think I learned as much about the process of studying scripture — especially this way: a few chapters for a whole year — as I did about Galatians itself.

The last thing I expected was to feel not done with one short book after a whole year, but as my birthday rolled around I definitely felt like I’d only scratched the surface of Galatians. I’m sticking with the process, though, and moving on, determined to do better this year.

Part of doing better is going to be trying to write more. It helps me process and remember, so I’m going to try to share something at least every week this time around.

This time around it’s Colossians. Truth: I don’t really enjoy Colossians, but as I prayed about what would be next I couldn’t escape it.

If your own Bible study is lost for direction, or in need of something new, or ready for some accountability, you’re welcome to join me. I’ve only been at it for a couple weeks, and I’m only about 10 verses in.

One thing that I did do with Galatians, that I’m keeping (at least for now), is starting the year by journaling through the text. I pull out each word, or very small phrase, and analyze it: jot down a few synonyms and/or a quick definition. Ask why that word was used instead of another, etc. It can be a painstaking process, but it forces me to examine the text without glossing over thick verses.

And it helps me recognize some of Paul’s favorite phrases, like, “the truth of the gospel.”

I’d journaled through the concept twice in Galatians, and seeing it in the fifth verse of Colossians was like bumping into an old friend. (It also made me feel pretty fancy — connecting Paul’s language from one epistle to another — and a little more confident about giving a year to Colossians.)

because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;

The believers in Colosse had hope that they heard about in the word of the truth of the gospel. Why not just say, “the word of the gospel”?  Continue Reading…

Impossible Love

Christian literature Love Packages

Once upon a time, as a new Christian, I stood in front of shelves and shelves of bibles in a big, chain bookstore (remember those?) and in my ignorance, grabbed a King James Bible … because it was pink and that was the only variable on all of those shelves that I understood. (And it was wrapped in plastic, so I couldn’t flip through it to notice the archaic language.)

Several years later I had shelved my pink KJV for a New King James Version (a white one, because I couldn’t find a pink one), and the old spine was staring at me from an over-crowded shelf in our little studio apartment. I wondered if there was someone, somewhere who could get it to someone else who might really need it.

It’s funny how a simple Google query can be so life changing.

Read more …

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