“I’m praying for you,” said a woman to me today. I didn’t even know her name, but she knew of me and knew some of my story. Apparently my mom has a big mouth. I’m not complaining I love my mom and I appreciate her having people pray for me. It got me to thinking about how connected we are. Actually this whole day has me thinking about that. I had coffee with a friend earlier today, then I went and hung out with my mom and finally ended up at a friends house. Besides me, the other thing all those moments have in common is the discussion of unity in the body of Christ.
What I find fascinating about all three conversations is that the people I was talking to are seeking the same thing I am. I started this ecumenical journey to answer questions I have about the modern church, to help me understand why there are denominations and to clarify how I fit into the body of the church, but above all else I am seeking unity and community. In my first conversation, I discovered that my friend is getting ready to launch a new aspect of her ministry that will bring together a community of people from a variety of denominations and backgrounds all seeking deeper relationship with Jesus and each other. Interestingly, that is exactly what my other friend is doing. My mom is building around her a group of people that all share one thing in common, and that is their love for Jesus, and she doesn’t care about anything else.
These three women are living life as we were meant to live. Jesus laid it out for us when He said that we are to love God, ourselves and others. And He did say to love with all our heart, mind and soul (Matthew 22). That is to act and think and speak in love and only love.
Sunday was a bad day. Six bombings, casualties over 500 and a death toll over 250. As I said, it was a bad day. It was also Easter, a day dedicated to celebrating life and love, the greatest act of love. In the wake of that tragedy in Sri Lanka a beautiful thing has happened, a call for unity. Around the globe, people of many faiths have been expressing one message clearly and that is that we need to stop fighting and just love. That was Jesus’s ministry and it is His message to us. What happened in Sri Lanka was not the first and unfortunately it will not be the last act of hate that will result in pain and bloodshed, but how we respond could change things. If all those voices crying out for unity and love and peace were actually heard, minds could be changed, hearts healed and lives saved. We could go from having so many black marks across this human existence and start seeing real truth and community as God intends.
Jesus was hung on a cross after being beaten and humiliated and cut and stabbed and pierced. Death was eminent and He was facing a darkness that none of us could ever know as all of our sins were about to be placed on Him. And what did He say, ”Father, forgive them.” Pure love. All He wanted and all He wants is for us to be in unity with Him and each other. We don’t always have to agree and we don’t always have to believe the same stuff and we don’t always have to understand one another, that’s not what He asked us to do. We were commanded to love Him, ourselves and each other. True unity, true community and true relationship and not only in the body of Christian believers but in the children of God. There was no stipulations about only loving people at your own church, or only those of your own faith or only the people in your own backyard. He made it clear in everything He said and everything He did, we are meant to love, and that extends to all. We are all God’s children and we are all seeking that kind of love, acceptance and community.
I’m praying for you. I don’t know who you are, I don’t know your story, and I don’t know what you believe, but I’m praying for you.
And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death...
And if your right hand leads you into sin, cut it off and throw it away—for better you lose one part of your body than march your entire body through the gates of sin and into hell.
Just to clarify right away, this is not actually talking about mutilating your body. I think it’s self-explanatory, but I just wanna make sure we’re on the same page. We are talking about removing the things in our life that are bad for us that cause us to sin and die a little each day.
What originally inspired me to look at the book of Colossians for these texts was the scripture we are about to go through. Back at the end of August I was reading some random scriptures and I came across this particular scripture and it seem like such a good thing to talk about. It jumped off the page at me. What’s interesting is that I don’t know why. The moment I read that scripture I could see exactly the best way to tackle it in a discussion, and it just was laid out in my front of me. And here we go…
Death is not a bad thing! In this case, death to our baser side is a very good thing. In order to grow, the things that halt our relationship and the things that keep us distracted from God must be shorn away. This is all about cutting out the things that come between us and God. It could be perfectly good things, but when we make those things more important than God then we have a problem. It’s about dying to ourselves. That’s how we live. I know it’s completely bonkers, but it is completely true. The more you drive the bus of your life, the more times you are going to crash that sucker and send everybody around you screaming because they’re on fire. We screwup, we hurt one another, we succumb to our darkest nature and deepest temptations. But, we have God and when He is our focus and when the Holy Spirit is guiding us and when Jesus is our all, then those things of earth that want to squeeze the life out of us fade away. We all have things that distract us. In reality, we are deep rivers of brokenness that have built up over a lifetime and we use our distractions to hide from that brokenness. But, God knows it all. He knows how to heal those scars and pains, and He knows how to love you through your mistakes. God loves you. He loves you so much that He sent His only son to die for you so that all those things that want to drain the life from your soul, mind and heart are defeated so that you may live in Christ. We die to ourselves so that we can live in God’s glory and grace.
Talk to God about the things that you know are distracting you; the big and the little and everything in between. What have you set between you and God? Ask Him to reveal these truths about your life, and while you are at it, ask Him to help you heal from what is weighing you down now so that you may die to self and live anew.
"God created us for a relationship with him and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in God."
I was five years old when I first accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. My parents sent me to Vacation Bible School that particular week and the teachers talked about inviting Jesus into my heart. That night I talked to my mom about it and she explained to five year old me what Jesus was all about. I asked her to pray with me. That was the first time I gave my life to God. I can’t necessarily say that I experienced God or felt like God was revealed to me in some blinding light, but I knew something in my life had changed, a focus, a purpose had arisen in me even at that tender young age. Throughout my childhood it’s very evident that I was seeking a deeper understanding of God. I wanted more of Him. I was the one that dragged my mother to church. I was reading the Bible and memorizing scripture and asking questions. I sincerely wanted to understand who God was. I’ve always believed, even before I accepted Jesus into my heart, that there was a God and I knew that He loved me. Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich explain it like this, “Some people at this stage clearly and completely experience God first through their senses…we simply experience the presence of God.” God revealed himself to me through my faith and by creating a connection. His presence was felt even without the aid of a talking donkey.
There are some amazing stories of those fantastical moments where Jesus appears and shakes everything with His presence (Daniel 3, Matthew 14, Acts 9). Each of these reveals something new about our Savior. But, I think one of the most important things to take from this is how personal and specific each of these incidents are. Jesus reveals Himself to each of us in a personal way. To me, it was simply letting me connect with Him and sense His presence in my life. For Paul it was blinding light. How did Jesus first show Himself to you? How does He continue to do that in your life? How have you encountered Christ in the past 24 hours? What is your story of God’s presence in your life? I truly want to know. How did you meet your Savior? How did you, when did you, and where did you accept Him into your heart? Maybe God has revealed Himself many times, and maybe you’re still on a journey seeking that moment. Open your heart and mind to Him now. Let Him show His heart for you. Whether it’s a big shake up or quiet and steady touch or some where in between, God has something incredible and intimate just for you!
The Bible is full of stories of encountering God, people experiencing and reacting to the ultimate realization.
Sometimes they worship:
Along the way, Jesus suddenly appeared in front of them and said, “Rejoice!” They were so overwhelmed by seeing him that they bowed down and grasped his feet in adoring worship.
Matthew 28:9 (TPT)
At other times they simply obey:
Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.
Mark 1:17-18 (NLT)
There are those who weep:
Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
Luke 7:38 (NLT)
And those who ignore:
Excitedly, Mary told them, “He’s alive and I’ve seen him!” But even after hearing this, they didn’t believe her.
Mark 16:11 (TPT)
Yes, feast on all the treasures of the heavenly realm...
“Don’t keep hoarding for yourselves earthly treasures that can be stolen by thieves. Material wealth eventually rusts, decays, and loses its value. Instead, stockpile heavenly treasures for yourselves that cannot be stolen and will never rust, decay, or lose their value. For your heart will always pursue what you value as your treasure.
What do you treasure? What does your heart desire? What treasures do you seek? How do you define treasure? Where is your focus?
These are important questions when it comes to determining where our hearts will lead us. The verse in Colossians 6 is encouraging us all to focus on the treasures in heaven. What treasures might those be? First thing that comes to mind is love. God is love. All the love we have in our lives is a treasure from heaven and is a treasure in heaven. Joy, because true joy (I’m not talking about happiness which is entirely reliant on our emotions and our circumstance) comes from God and it’s what will carry us through the hard times, it’s what allows us to stay focused on God and still be able to worship and rejoice in Him no matter what is going on in our lives. That is a true gift from God, a treasure in the heavenly realms. Peace is often hard to find, so when you experience a moment of peace you have to hold onto it with all your might, because that is beyond anything the world can manufacture…peace of the soul, peace within our spirit is the peace which transcends all understanding. Something like that is a treasure that is so priceless, it can only come from God. These and so many other wonderful things that we get to experience in this life are those treasures that we need to seek, are those treasures that our souls longs for. We get to feel and get a sense of the amazingness of heaven while we’re still on earth, thanks to our great and glorious God who made a way through Jesus’ sacrifice and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We can experience God...YOU can experience the presence of the creator of the universe right now, there is no greater treasure you can ever find. You know how to do that? Turn to Jesus. Set down your phone, turn off the television or the music and just stop and be with God. You don’t have to say anything if you don’t feel compelled to, just be with Him, just give Him your time. He will show you the treasures that He has brought into your life, the people, the plans, the talents and the experiences that He is so excited to go through with you. You don’t need to be some perfect person or some spiritual master or anything like that, because He loves you just as you are. He created you, and nobody knows you the way that He does. What a gift to be known so truly and deeply as He does! He created every cell in your body, He breathed life into you, He has dreamed of you forever. Just turn to Jesus. Experience God and let Him help you experience the treasures in heaven that you can store so deeply within yourself. Turn to Jesus.