Clothing Exchange

Colossians 3:9b-10

“…since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

Pastor Danny Janes of Kalamazoo, Michigan wrote about a surprise visitor to his church:  “Parishioners of a conservative, small-town church in rural Indiana were surprised one Sunday when a biker came to visit. He stuck out like a sore thumb—pony-tailed, tattooed, and wearing bikers’ colors. But the church came alongside him and showered him with love and acceptance. He kept coming back and eventually became a Christian.

But there was one lingering question: Why did the biker always wear long-sleeved shirts—even on the hottest days of summer? One day he finally confessed to the pastor that he had a tattoo of a naked woman on one forearm, and he didn’t want the other people in the church to see it.

A few weeks later, the biker walked up to the pastor and asked, “Want to see my new tattoo?” The pastor turned a little pale as the biker proudly rolled up his sleeve. “You know that naked woman tattoo I told you about awhile ago? I had the tattoo artist put clothes on her!”

Paul writes in Colossians 3 about what the symbolism of baptism is all about.  A number of first century churches (The old church of St Mary in ancient Ephesus,  an old Greek church in Thessalonica and  a fourth century Church outside the old city walls at Philippi) had baptistries  with divided steps apparently used by a baptismal candidate.  They would enter the water leaving behind their old clothes, and exit, rising into new life and putting on new white clothes.

Colossians 3 is about a clothing exchange.  Taking off our old clothes and putting on our robes of white is the essence of our sanctification.  This New Self… needs constant renewal.  2 Corinthians 4:16 states: “Outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  Romans 12:2 reminds us we are:  “being transformed by the renewing of your mind.”   Our minds are being renewed into the mind of Christ.

Told you the Colossians 3 passage was about baptism.  You have been made clean by the power of Christ.  Dress in style and burn those old clothes!

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Die Before You Die

Colossians 3:8-9a

8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other,…

Having just warned us about sexual sin in the preceding verses (telling us to put them to death), Paul now warns us about the social sins:  anger (in its various manifestations), slander (anger in the form of gossip?), filthy language (calling down curses in colorful language?) and lying (an assault on the truth).  This quartet of pain drains the joy out of living… we may as well be dead.  But die to them… and life takes on new meaning.  Die before you die, there is no chance after, Christian author, CS Lewis, once remarked.

My daughter Lindsey’s pediatric neurosurgeon when we lived in Maryland was Dr. Ben Carson.  He is a world reknown surgeon having created a surgical proceedure known as a hemispherectomy,  He has also completed several successful surgeries seperating Siamese twins joined at the head. 

My family has met him and know him to be one of the mildest and calm individuals they have ever met.  He exudes peace.  So it is amazing to learn that he struggled as a child with an uncontrollable temper.

He writes in his book Take the Risk, about a day in his childhood when he turned to God about his temper problem:  “One day, as a 14-year-old in ninth grade, I was hanging out at the house of my friend Bob, listening to his radio, when he  suddenly leaned over and dialed the tuner to another station. I’d been enjoying the song playing on the first station, so I reached over and flipped it back. Bob switched stations again. A wave of rage welled up. Almost without thinking, I pulled out the pocketknife I always carried and, in one continuous motion, flicked open the blade and lunged viciously right at my friend’s stomach. Incredibly, the point of the knife struck Bob’s large metal buckle and the blade snapped off in my hands.  Bob raised his eyes from the broken piece of metal in my hand to my face. He was too surprised to say anything. But I could read the terror in his eyes. “I…I…I’m sorry!” I sputtered, then dropped the knife and ran for home, horrified by the realization of what I’d just done. 

I burst into our empty house, locked myself in the bathroom, and sank to the floor, miserable and frightened. I could no longer deny that I had a severe anger problem, and that I’d never achieve my dream of being a doctor with an uncontrollable temper. I admitted to myself there was no way I could control it by myself. “Lord, please, you’ve got to help me,” I prayed. “Take this temper away! You promised that if I ask anything in faith, you’ll do it. I believe you can change me.”

I slipped out and got a Bible. Back on the bathroom floor, I opened to the Book of Proverbs. The words of Proverbs 16:32—[“He who is slow to anger is
better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city”]—convicted me, but also gave me hope. I felt God telling me that
although he knew everything about me, he still loved me… That because he made me, he was the only one who could change me… And that he would. Gradually I stopped crying, my hands quit shaking, and I was filled with the assurance that God had answered my prayer.

Uncontrolled anger has never again been a threat to me or those around me. God has provided and will provide whatever strength I need to control my anger.  – Dr. Ben Carson  (Take the Risk, Zondervan, 2008)

His career almost died before it started, due to an out of control temper.  Only in dying to anger did he find life.  When will we learn the way of Christ?  Because He made us, only He can change us.  Reach out to Him today.  Die before Dying… it is the only way to live.

Prayer: Getting the Address Right

Not sure where I stand on this.  I heard the prayer and wasn’t that offended by it.  But who cares if our prayers are memorable to the people listening.  Isn’t God the person we are addressing?  Our our forgotten prayers not music the ears of God still?  Not calling down fire and brimstone… just asking questions.

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Pastor simply following the Bible with controversial Nashville prayer

By Matt Crossman
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

To read the condemnations of Pastor Joe Nelms from sportswriters is to read people with sticks far up their rear ends.

They have called hellfire down upon him because he had the temerity to offer a prayer which someone would remember for more than one second after it ended. This widespread condemnation from my brethren is weird because we would be lost without religious themes.

David beats Goliath every day. Saviors get drafted and traded for every year, and failures get crucified in the media. Even trash talk – you couldn’t carry my jock – is a paraphrase of John 1:27.

NASCAR media, more than others, should be more forgiving, or at least more spiritually attuned. The best NASCAR stories are exactly like the best Bible stories: Losers winning.

The Bible is full of no-name dirt trackers who win the Daytona 500. Moses was an orphaned murderer, David was a terrible father and adulterer, and Paul terrorized Christians before his conversion. And racing is mentioned far more than any other sport in the Bible, getting shout outs in I Corinthians, Hebrews, 2 Timothy and Ecclesiastes, to name four. Paul frequently uses racing as a metaphor for life – not necessarily because he was a sports fan, but because he knew his readers were.

That Nelms is still in the news four days after his prayer before the Nationwide Series race in Nashville is not surprising. Any mix of God and sports is sure to be controversial. That’s because the only thing the public is less unified about than sports is religion.

Still, the two are marbled together, intertwined in ways subtle and profound. Nearly all of the major professional sports teams have a chaplain service. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes has 6,623 chapters across the country. Hundreds of churches have sports-related ministries, and that’s on top of thousands upon thousands of damnably bad Southern Baptist softball teams.

Much to the consternation of fans and media, athletes have dragged God into locker rooms, clubhouses and race tracks since there have been locker rooms, clubhouses and race tracks to drag Him into – or at least since the first last-second field goal. Athletes give thanks to God whether He wants it or not, whether He deserves it or not.

Fans are vocal about condemning athletes for Godding up sports but those same fans make such frequent calls for destruction upon the enemy that it’s proof of God’s mercy that the Yankees have not been smote.

Into this eternal controversy Nelms dove headfirst. The main beef against him seems to be that his prayer lacked seriousness, as if the invocation before an event in which men will drive in circles for three hours must be full of solemn piety.

Instead, Nelms mentioned sponsors galore (which happens every week) and thanked the Lord in heaven for his “smoking hot wife.” The Bible tells us approximately a billion times to pray about whatever we want to pray about. If Nelms can’t pray to God to thank Him for his smoking hot wife, what can he pray to God for?

“Smoking hot wife” was an obvious reference to a line from Talladega Nights, and it has caused many to cast not just the first stone but a handful. There can be no doubt from the crowd’s reaction (they cheered the prayer!) that the crowd recognized the quote from Ricky Bobby.

Nelms was clearly playing to the audience. I won’t argue, even, if you call it pandering. Not only am I fine with it, I applaud it because he was modeling an example set by the Apostle Paul.

Said the Paulster in I Corinthians: “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

To the NASCAR fan, Nelms became a NASCAR fan. For that, I say amen.

– Matt Crossman is a staff writer for SportingNews Magazine.

What’s Chasing You?

Colossians 3:5-7

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[a] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

I read these powerful words by H. B. London recently.  Preaching to pastors, he said:  The other day some guy said to me, “H. B., what’s chasing you?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “What are those things in your life you need to run from?” That’s what prompted this message. I say to you: What’s chasing you? What is it in your life you need to flee from?

Paul gives us four simple categories: Sexual temptation—flee from it. Idolatry, building up things as substitutes for God—flee from it. Materialism, where we allow the things of this world to be more important than the things of God—flee from it. Evil desires—flee from it.

Lust is no respecter of persons. It’s a luring voice. It can infiltrate the most intelligent mind and cause its victims to believe in lies and respond to its appeal. And beware. It never gives up. It never runs out of ideas. Bolt your front door, and it will rattle the bedroom windows or crawl into the living room through the TV screen. Lust is persistent. If it’s knocked on your door once, it will knock again and again. You’re safe so long as you draw upon the Savior’s strength. Try to handle it yourself, and you’ll lose every time.  Who is chasing you? What’s chasing you? When you look behind you, how close is it?”

Powerful message.  At the end he offered these suggestions in battling lust:

1. Intimacy with God

2. Right relationships

3. Adequate rest

4. Honest accountability

5. Meaningful ministry

6. Attitudes of joy and thanksgiving

7. A vigilant spirit

These are all good, but Paul offers one more.  Put it to death.  Kill it.  Don’t allow one opening for its return.  This may mean selling the TV set or trashing the computer… but lust can and will destroy your Christian walk.  An all out effort is the only thing that can defeat it.

If all else fails?  Run!

Something is chasing you… when you look behind… how close is it?

Prayer… the Wrong Thing to Do in a Crisis?

Frank Bruni wrote in his New York Times column that when it comes to fixing out country’s problems, “faith and prayer just won’t cut it. In fact, they’ll get in the way.” Is Bruni right?
Love the response from this New York City pastor.
How prayer ‘works’
by Founding pastor of New Hope Community Church, Jason Poling
The S&P downgraded America’s credit rating, the country remains engaged in two wars, millions are unemployed and approval ratings for Congress are at historic lows. It was against this backdrop that Texas Governor Rick Perry held The Response, a prayer event in which he prayed for the economy, among other areas of “darkness” in America. In a critique of the revival, Frank Bruni wrote in his New York Times column that when it comes to fixing out country’s problems, “faith and prayer just won’t cut it. In fact, they’ll get in the way.” Is Bruni right?

In fairness to Bruni, I think his argument was not that prayer per se would get in the way, but that political (and other) ideology that rises to the level of theology is irrational and destructive if followed in a simplistic fashion.

But let me play along with the question.

Is prayer counterproductive? Those who believe in its efficacy will not even entertain the question, so I speak to those who doubt it, who believe those who pray are mumblin’ sumpthin’ to a non-existent (or perhaps merely disengaged) deity. Such behavior, they might say, is not merely a waste of time; it is, rather, a decisive avoidance of responsibility, a choice to throw Hail Mary passes when you really need to ground ‘n pound.

You may have heard of people being “so heavenly minded they’re of no earthly good.” The problem with that notion is, as one of my seminary professors sagely pointed out, very few people are like that. I can think of one, perhaps two people who’d fall into that category, and in my line of work I’m probably more likely than most to encounter them.

It turns out that prayer has a number of benefits which ought to be appealing even to those who see it as a pointless ritual. For one thing, prayer develops humility; on your knees beseeching a superior being, you are more likely than not “to be glad to be holden vile and nought,” as Thomas a Kempis put it. I do not believe our present economic difficulties spring from an overabundance of humility.

For another, prayer tends to spur appropriate inaction as well as appropriate action. When we “give it to God,” or “lay it at the feet of the cross,” or as Peter put it in his first epistle “cast all our anxieties on him” then we convert unproductive worry into productive petition. There are plenty of things that we’re concerned about that we are powerless to change. So we bring them to somebody who is, and then go about doing the things we can do – in Niebuhr’s famous serenity prayer, having “the wisdom to know the difference” between what we can and can’t change. In prayer the supplicant brings a confused mess of worries and allows God to untangle them; or, if you prefer, the supplicant unloads emotional baggage on an imaginary friend and feels better about things she can’t do anything about. Most likely it’s a win either way.

A third benefit I’d submit to you, gentle reader, is the way prayer can soften the heart of the person praying. As Elizabeth Scalia puts it in a lovely piece on First Things’ online blog On The Square, “Being Irish-Catholic, I hold no pious illusions that in merely professing Christ I am somehow immune from the temptation to hate, but I know that I do not “hate” Barack Obama.

I know this because for all I may not understand about the mysteries of God or prayer or love or hate, I do know this: it is impossible to hate someone if you are sincerely praying to Almighty God for their sake.”

It has been my experience in ministry that many of the conflicts we face arise from elevating ideology to the level of theology. It has also been my experience that prayer is the most effective countermeasure to this vain and destructive tendency.

Jason Poling | Aug 10, 2011 11:27 AM

Move That Bus!

Colossians 3:4

4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

In the hit ABC television show, Extreme Makeover-Home Edition there is one scene that usually makes me cry (yeah, I admit it).  It is that moment when the host of the show, Ty Pennington gets on his bullhorn and shouts:  “MOVE THAT BUS!”  This moment captures the surprise and joy of a (often) needy family as they see their remodeled home for the first time.  [sample of this, here:  http://youtu.be/nyL5tGnW__g]   Their last memory was of a delapitated structure that was too crowded, or mold infested, etc.  Then after the oversized bus gets out of the way… the big reveal takes place.

I’m still waiting for the “big reveal” in my own life.  God has been working on his own “extreme makeover” of me, since he wonderously saved me on Dec. 14, 1980.  Those who view me from the outside might not see that much of a change (aside from the aging and the gray).  But inside… I’m bursting at the seams with Jesus joy, with Jesus compassion,  with Jesus life.  If only I could get this fifty ton bus out of the way.

There is an old Rosemary Clooney song which says:
This ole house is a-gettin’ shaky
This ole house is a-gettin’ old
This ole house lets in the rain
This ole house lets in the cold
On his knees I’m gettin’ chilly
But he feel no fear nor pain
‘Cause he see an angel peekin’
Through a broken windowpane

Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer
Ain’t a-gonna need this house no more
Ain’t got time to fix the shingles
Ain’t got time to fix the floor
Ain’t got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend the windowpane
Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer
He’s a-gettin’ ready to meet the saints

I love that old song, but it is only partially true.  We don’t just leave “this old house” behind when we go to meet the saints.  That house is “made-over.”  Remodeled into the image of its builder.  1 Corinthians 15:42&43 – “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable, it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.”

The big reveal is coming… One day Jesus will reveal to the world who He is in all his glory.  And just as His glory will be revealed, so will ours.  The inward life we have kept hidden will burst into view.  What a great day that will be!   And it is though all of creation is waiting behind that bus, ready for this moment.  “…in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” (Romans 8:19)  For now we groan under the weight of “This Old House.”  But take heart… I just saw an angel peekin’ through a broken window pane.   MOVE THAT BUS!

The Answer to the Six Foot Hole

Colossians 3:3

3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Robert Russell in his sermon Resurrection Promises, told this story about professional golfer, Paul Azinger.  “[Paul] was diagnosed with cancer at age 33. He had just won a PGA championship and had ten tournament victories to his credit.  He wrote, ‘A genuine feeling of fear came over me. I could die from cancer. Then another reality hit me even harder. I’m going to die eventually anyway, whether from cancer or something else. It’s just a question of when. Everything I had accomplished in golf became meaningless to me. All I wanted to do was live.”

Then he remembered something that Larry Moody, who teaches a Bible study on the tour, had said to him. ‘Zinger, we’re not in the land of the living going to the land of the dying. We’re in the land of the dying trying to get to the land of the living.’

Golfer Paul Azinger recovered from chemotherapy and returned to the PGA tour. He’s done pretty well. But that bout with cancer deepened his perspective. He wrote, “I’ve made a lot of money since I’ve been on the tour, and I’ve won a lot of tournaments, but that happiness is always temporary. The only way you will ever have true contentment is in a personal relationship with Jesus  Christ. I’m not saying that nothing ever bothers me and I don’t have problems, but I feel like I’ve found the answer to the six-foot hole.”

Paul passage here (Col. 3:3) is about the crucified life. The Greek sentence begins with the word, apethanete: Died. It is placed at the start of the sentence for emphasis. Our life is truly not our own.  We have died with Christ that we might share in His resurrection.

As missionary James Calvert approached the Fiji Islands, the captain of the ship tried to discourage him from setting ashore on a cannibal island. “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages,” he said. Calvert only replied, “We died  before we came here.”  He understood Colossians 3:3 well.

So… what kind of life is that…  living as though one has already died?  Well… it is one that is hidden with Christ in God!  To the world which views us only from the outside it looks like a denial of fun and desire.  The believer who is truly abiding in Christ knows differently.  The true life is inside us.  That is why in this land of the dying… our hearts and our minds are set upon heaven.

Eternally your heart and mind is safe in the hands of Christ, whose hands are in the hands of God the Father (John 10:28-29). You are double covered.  Go live as though you have nothing to lose.  Nothing can touch the true life inside you.  You have already died… and you have solved the answer to the Six Foot Hole.