Colossians 3:18-22 — My First Response

Welcome to the preacher’s head.  Warning: it’s like a carnival in here.  I’ve been thinking about the message for this Sunday (November 11 2018) at Renovation Church.  I’d love to hear what you think, too.  Feel free to comment.   Don’t be surprised if it’s totally different on Sunday, as you’re getting a glimpse of a madman with a paintbrush in one hand and a hammer in the other.  

Colossians 3:18-22a:

Wives submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. 

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything…

Which one am I?

Listen, everyone fits into one of these above categories, if not three.  As I look at this list, the only thing I’m not is a wife.  I’m not a slave and no nothing of slavery, which is quite unlike some people in our world who are suffering as human slaves, but I do have a role as a servant leader and all the accompanying demands and consequences if I should falter.  All that being said, I have my fair share of responsibilities and roles in the world.  As a husband, I have a commitment to Emily that supersedes all other human relationships.  This is shown in my prioritizing of her over any other person on the face of the earth.  As a father, I have the responsibility of partnering with my wife to raise our kids in a way that pleases the Lord.  Long before I was a father, long before I was a husband, I was a child.  I’m a grownup now, but I will always have a parent/child relationship with my parents.  Though my Mom is gone, my Dad is still here and still checks up on me, which I appreciate.  And I have my employment, which is in now way equitable to the human misery of slavery, though it does keep me from doing whatever I would like.  Sure, I could leave it all behind and become a giraffe farmer, but I’m not going to do that with all these relationships tying me in to the world.  My responsibilities as a husband and a father tell me that giraffe farming isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, with its whacky hours, low pay, high danger, and minimal economic demand.  So no, I can’t just do whatever I want, though I think raising giraffes would be, if nothing else, a great source of conversation.   “They’re like horses with long necks,” I’d say, astutely, to my son’s 4th grade class on career day.  The teacher would immediately ask for the next parent to come up. I’d hang my head in shame, only to think “I wonder if giraffes can hang their heads in shame without bumping their noggins on the ground?” It is now apparent that giraffe farming is one my worst ideas ever. 

As a follower of Jesus, I am connected to the Kingdom of God while simultaneously connected to various defining roles that give me purpose, mission, challenges, aspirations, struggles and joys.  Paul writes five sentences and sends me into a whirlwind of realization about myself, my complexities, my connections, my contexts.  In a given day I “switch modes” between husband, father, son, employee in countless ways that are both divided and overlapping.  When am I not a husband?  Never!  If I shut off my “husband-ness”, I’m not being true to the vows I made.  If I decide I’m not going to be father to our children, I’m essentially shirking my responsibility as a dad.  If I look at my phone and see that it’s Dad calling, no doubt I’m going to pick up and say “Hi, Dad” and not “Greetings, Mr. Davidson.  I’m currently at work but I can be your son anytime after 5 today.” 

 

An Old Challenge

Christians have spent eons trying to figure out how to balance their religion/spirituality with their daily lives which are non-religious and non-spiritual.  Life is always spiritual.  We are spiritual beings in a world that is strongly influenced by spiritual forces.  More than bodies animated by chance, we are created beings meant to be in spiritual connection with our creator.  “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:17).  And we can’t doubt the spiritual world happening all around us.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).  Fellow human, you and I are spiritual creations in a world inhabited by all kinds of spiritual forces.  Our spirits and those forces around us are fully present in our roles as spouses, parents, children, and employees.  All of our roles and relationships are spiritual.  Our spirituality doesn’t turn off during the week and only fire up on Sunday mornings.  To put it plainly and in poor grammar, we are never not spiritual.  To view our relationships as unspiritual makes as much sense as dehydrated water.  If you dehydrate water, it’s not water (it’s oxygen).  If you de-spiritualize relationships, it’s not a relationship.  Do you honestly think that our connections are merely physical?  Of course not!  We connect with others so many levels and so many ways — emotionally, mentally, and especially spiritually.  In fact, one could make the argument that our day to day roles and relationships make up some of the most spiritual things about us.

People are funny.  We fight for independence while we ache for interdependence, forsaking our need for others.  We spend all of our time and energy with friends and never get introspective, forsaking our need for self.  Even talking about family gets me strangely anxious, like I should’d be taking the time to think this through and write about it because there’s likely something better I could be doing with my family at home.  Yet, as soon as I drop it all and head home, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m dropping the ball at work, or that I should call dad and tell him about my giraffe farming idea.  He may think it’s brilliant.

Here’s the problem…

Do you feel torn between roles? Between identities?  Who am I?  It depends on the time of day and the conversation I’m having, I suppose.  Dogs don’t deal with this.  Iguanas could care less.  Penguins seem to care a little.  Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be a penguin.  But, if I had the opportunity to make three wishes, I’d wish that I could 1) be a penguin and 2) fly.  Can you imagine a penguin that could fly?  I’d be a superhero among the flightless birds.  What?  My third wish?  Probably that giraffe farm idea… maybe I’d wish for funding. 


See what I did there?  I felt uncomfortable with being simultaneously pulled in different directions so I got weird.  I need something to ground me that isn’t so transient.  That’s where Jesus comes in.  In our short list of roles and relationships, why doesn’t Paul say “Christians, obey Jesus” or something like that?  Because he’s spent the last few chapters doing just that.  Our running assumption is that we know, follow, and obey Jesus.  In the process, we are becoming more like him.  This is why our relationship with Christ is most important: every other relationship is built on that primary connection. 

To be honest, I’m not sure how to explain this.  Jesus is the hardest person to relate to because he’s not sitting across from me at this table.  He’s “up there” or “out there” or “in here” (points to heart).  Jesus is mysteriously close and distant, immediate and eventual, remembered and forgotten by me throughout the day.  I find that our closest moments happen when I’m by myself but also when I’m with others.  Some of the most transcendent times in recent memory took place during a conversation with someone in my family.  When work is hard, I occasionally sense his presence suddenly, like wind brought the presence of Christ to the very center of the moment.  My open invitation to “be with me throughout the day” was, so it seems, taken seriously by the Lord. 

Eyes open to reality in 3…2…

If Jesus has that kind of authority over my life and range of motion in my life, it sure seems like He has the ability to guide me in how I relate to others.  Not only does Jesus have the ability to do this, he has the authority.  Not only does he have the authority, he has a credible authority in that I know his motives are pure, his wisdom is perfect, and his timing is never off.  Brother Lawrence wrote about the presence of God as he washed pots and pans in the kitchen of the monastery.  Eric Liddel felt God’s presence when he ran.  When I preach, I have a short but sweet ongoing dialogue with the Lord.  It’ s a favorite and ongoing prayer that has me asking Him “now what?”  He has never left me hanging.  I’m learning to recognize His voice in more and more situations where I’m trying to relate to others.  It’s beyond words and sometimes sounds overly spiritual or ridiculously simplistic, but Jesus is the most important thing in my life.  Wait.  That’s a sometimes lie.  Perhaps it’s more honest to say that Jesus should be the most important thing in my life and, from time to time, he gets that spot when I’m not too busy being distracted by my own glory or power trip.  That’s how it usually goes with me. 

What’s the next thing?

From here I go home to my family.  I will hug and kiss my wife. I’ll give Mac a quick hug (he’s 13, so parental affection is treated like leprosy).  Zac will run up to me and expect me to pick him up, which I’ll do while I’m still able.  When Lexi sees me, she’ll look up and say “Hi” and maybe come see me if she thinks I’ll sing a verse of Wheels on the Bus, which I shall do.  From the initial homecoming to the evening hours, I’ll be in context with these people whom I love very much.  Rather than push Jesus out of those moments, which is usually done passively by forgetting His presence, I’ll try to have the discipline to remember He’s there.  I can’t speak for my wife, but I know I’ll try to remember what Paul tells me to do for her — love her and don’t be harsh.  What does it mean to be harsh with my wife?  She would be the best judge of my harshness.  I say that because I’m surprised I came across a certain way when I didn’t mean it, which makes it sound like her fault and not mine.  Thankfully she’s gracious enough to fill me in when I’m a knucklehead.  She actually did earlier today.  While Emily was washing dishes, her computer was streaming one of the Lord of the Rings movies.  I made a side quip about a line of dialogue which I thought was hilarious.  She said “this is the problem with you watching Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Unless you’re in a room with other people who make fun of movies, it’s rude for you to do that when I’m watching.”  She’s right, you know?  The next ones I kept to myself.  Trust me, they were also quite funny.


What does Jesus have to do with this?  I can’t claim any right or stand by my arrogance.  All I know is that something I did bothered my wife, so I apologized and stopped.  This shows my wife I love her. This shows Jesus I’m aware of His presence in her, in me, in the moment.  God’s supernatural strength flows into a spiritual moment with my wife.  Jesus was there. 

How can I be the best husband, father, son, and employee?  By keeping Christ at the center of me.  I get bent out of shape by what others do or don’t do, all the while ignoring my own dysfunction.  I’m learning that I’m the one who keeps Christ at the center of my life by remembering his presence, obeying his word, repenting when I mess up.  A lifelong journey, this is.  Yet it strikes me as the only feasible solution to my selfishness and pride.  Even more, it releases me from image management and worrying about how to portray myself.  It’s not that everything suddenly becomes simple, but it does simplify things. 

Try this on for size.

The next time you get into a conversation with your spouse, your kids, your parents, or your employer, pray this simple prayer: “Now what?”  See where Jesus leads you.  If nothing else, you’ll suddenly become aware of his presence in what seemed like a mundane and unspiritual moment.  I assure you that, if He’s involved, it’s neither. 

could

I could preach a message about how wives should submit to husbands and husbands should love their wives, topped off with an exhortation for kids to behave and for all of us to be good employees and sons/daughters, topped off with a commentary on how slavery is evil and dishonors God while dehumanizing others.  All of this is true and needs to be said.  But as of right now, it seems that the core message is far greater.  If we can get the presence of Christ right in our relational contexts, most of that stuff will naturally fall into place.  Again, not simply, but in a simplified way.  Jesus teaches the simplicity of the Kingdom when he tells us to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). 

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[RadCast] Set your hearts and minds on things above (Colossians 3:1-2)

Happy Monday, gang! Remember that Christ is with you and that you are with Christ.

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[RadCast] Psalm 104 – The Light & Glory of Christ-Centered Creation

… or, why Jesus makes it possible to see everything

 

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[RadCast] Colossians 2:1-3

[RadCast] Colossians 2:1-3
Happy Monday! Be encouraged, put Christ at the center, enjoy getting to know Him more in every moment of the day.

 

 

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[RadCast] Hebrews 4:14-16 – Relatable, Approachable Jesus

We forget the humanity of Jesus. We fear the divinity of Jesus. That’s not how it should be. He’s more like us than we realize, yet is completely different… the perfect combination.

 

 

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[RadCast] Colossians 1:25-27 – The Purpose of Your Day & the Strength Within

 

 

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Gratitude

Gratitude is powerful. Saying “thank you” communicates sensitivity, appreciation, and human decency.  It’s the one antibiotic that kills the bacteria of selfishness. When we express gratitude, we reveal at least two realizations: the realization that someone did something they probably didn’t have to do, and the realization that you got something you weren’t entitled to.  “Wait a minute!” someone in the back row shouts. “When I go to a restaurant and the server brings breadsticks to the table, it’s only because they’re paid for it, and the only reason they’re paid is because I’m going to pay for my meal when I leave the restaurant.” I agree, but I raise questions: why did you say “thanks” when the breadstick basket hit the table?  I know you were being polite but perhaps there’s more to consider. For instance: the server took your unique order and brought your own prepared food just as you ordered it (probably). Yes, they’re paid and that’s their job, but they didn’t have to bring you your food.  Your server might’ve quit during their shift — maybe because of your table — leaving your prepared food sitting on the heater ledge shelf for hours.  Sad and gross, especially as the bruschetta molts and the asparagus ferments. Or, the server may have “accidentally” spilled the pitcher of water all over your lap, or your head.  I don’t know about you, but I’m always thankful when that doesn’t happen.  Sure, it’s their job, but there all kinds of opportunities the server had to bail on you and/lor ruin dinner and they simply didn’t.  That they were pleasant during the whole ordeal only makes one more grateful. It’s a good thing you’re paying them because cooking at home is no easy task, let alone cleaning up afterwards.  Speaking of cleanup, the only thing you have to sweep up before you leave is the bill, plus tip. Your total comes to… and you fork it over. Diners Club? MasterCard? Gift Card? Bitcoin? You have bitcoin?  I’m so sorry.

 

Nonetheless you have the kind of resources that let you hit a restaurant.  It wasn’t elegant but it was delightful, right? All those dollars went to good use.  Those dollars — where did they come from? “Wait a minute!” you shout again, the second time being enough to necessitate our assigning you your own official catchphrase.  I can see I offended you a bit with the question about where you got your money, so I hear you when you say “I work hard for my money, so hard for it honey. I work hard for the money, so you’d better treat me right!”  Fair enough. You have a job and they pay you — just like the server. What makes you capable of work? Brains? Training? Strength? Where’d you get that? Oh, your parents gave you money? Wow. Where’d they get it? Working and earning money is good.  It’s how our society functions (at least for now). The idea that I’m truly self contained implies that I’m self created. But if we’re honest, we have to at least consider that somebody made us able and sustains us to remain capable. Who do we thank for that?  

 

“You’re a pastor.  You’re always talking about God.  It’s like you wear your religion on your sleeve.”  

 

So it goes.  If I may, I’d like to submit that saying “thank you” to a food service provider is a significant act of worshipping God.  In that genuine expression of gratitude, we’re pushing out a ripple effect that ultimately centers on Jesus. We’re saying to a fellow human created in God’s image that “you did this for me and I’m grateful that it was you, at your expense, of your energy, and for you to survive.  We’re in this together.” And “I recognize that I don’t deserve this kind of experience but by God’s provision and grace I get to be waited on, I get to eat, I get to pay for it without worrying too much about it afterwards.” Life is a miracle. Grace is amazing. Food is a gift. Every day is an opportunity.  And here we are, breathing yet bored. Behold! God’s glory is on display all over the place if you’re looking for it. Think about this next time someone brings rolls to your table and asks how you’re doing, even if they don’t seem to really care. Even if they don’t, they’re still human. Plus, you’ve opened the door to ask how their day is going.   Ponder and be grateful when you give a tip.  Globalize your perspective and consider how rich we are compared to the majority of the world, that we have the luxury of hiring a temporary butler while so many eat rice and beans in their bare feet. Gratitude.  It puts us in our place and opens our eyes to God’s beauty in a broken world.

 

If I can be this thankful for the gift of breadsticks (and I am), imagine how grateful I should be for the sacrifice of Jesus.  Consider what He’s done and be grateful! Jesus did something that He didn’t have to do. Paul writes that Jesus “became sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.”  It was my sin that needed His perfect sacrifice.  And He did that for me. And I didn’t deserve it.  I am not entitled to salvation.  I cannot pay for the free gift of grace.  I have no resources to offer, nothing to bring to the table.  Salvation cannot be found anywhere else. It is exclusively in Christ, and He has lavished this gift on me like some kind of quadrillionaire creative genius who loves us too much.

 

Has anyone ever done something for you that was so generous that it seemed unreasonable?  The kind of thing where “thank you” wasn’t enough? When people bring meals to our family, and they bring roast or chicken fingers or chocolate chip cookies or (Help me, Jesus) brownies, I give a hearty “Thank you” and it doesn’t seem like enough.  I can’t repay them. I suppose I could return the gesture sometime and Emily and I could bring a meal to their house. While we’re at it, we can return their casserole dishes. Such a simple thing, yet so generous. It’s helpful and humbling when you’ve got a wife who was in the hospital for kidney stones, 3 kids in 3 different schools, and all the other stuff as well when someone shows up with a complete meal, ready to go.  “Thank you” isn’t enough.

 

A few families over the years have helped send our daughter Lexi to a special needs camp — a week at camp costs about $600.  We haven’t found that kind of money laying around quite yet. But we have found God’s blessing through His people who give so Lexi can experience something which helps her and helps our family, too.  The resources we lack are easy for God to provide, and it makes all the difference for us. “Thank you” isn’t enough.

 

A few times now we’ve received something as a family from an outside source — sometimes an unknown source — that seemed unreasonably awesome to us.  A number of years ago I needed a particular piece of sound equipment to do my job well. It wasn’t in the budget, so I just did the best I could with what I had.  Admittedly, I was not grateful but rather frustrated. A few weeks passed after it didn’t make it on the ledger and I opened a card with $1200 cash that said “you need what you need to do your job — be blessed!” from anonymous.  It seemed so unreasonably generous! So helpful. So humbling. I wasn’t sure what to do with that thank you, except for saying “Thanks, anonymous” to a bunch of people in hopes it would spread to the right place.

 

What Jesus has done for us is completely unreasonable.  Without Him we’re not just having a bad day. We’re sunk!  His gift is so generous, so perfect, so sufficient. We won’t need another Jesus or a second crucifixion or some kind of new atonement in the future.  Jesus paid it all.  His sacrifice is enough.  “Thank you” will never be enough.  

 

Never enough.  Can’t repay.

 

So I give Him my life.  What does that look like?  Surrender. Submission. Letting Him be God, not me.  I call Him “Lord” because He’s in charge of Adam. Doing His will is not always easy, but it always leads to joy.  Any time my selfish hackles get up, I try to get thankful. It’s a good habit that saves me from a lot of self pity and self generated sorrow.  Jesus is Lord. Jesus is enough. Jesus has given me all I need. How unreasonable. But love — perfect love — is by nature — unreasonable. Jesus isn’t natural with His love.  He’s Supernatural.  I can’t find that kind of generosity anywhere else.  You? Gratitude is powerful. Breadsticks are pretty good, but God is most worthy.  

 

Thank you isn’t enough, but Thank you anyway.  A million times Thank you.

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