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Archive for January, 2014

People who try to lose weight sometimes will try almost ANYTHING to lose weight. There are a lot of fad diets out there. Out of curiosity, I went to Wikipedia and looked up “fad diets” and “list of diets” just to get a sampling (links are http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_diets and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fad_diets )
Here are just a few:
Cabbage soup diet
Israeli Army diet
Morning banana diet
Paleolithic diet

I have even heard of one recently, where some women were soaking cotton balls in orange juice and swallowing it just to get that “full” feeling (the news article went on to state that this is a dangerous diet. No kidding!)

I have tried a few diets that were on the list of considered fad diets; although I did lose some weight, I did gain it back. I had to find out the hard way that the proper way to lose weight is eat sensibly, exercise, and eat in moderation. A lot of us though will try these fads looking for a guaranteed shortcut and “sure” results.

I consulted my Holman’s New Testament Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (page 309-310) to get some background on why Paul was admonishing the Colossians about subjecting themselves to such earthly regulations. Seems he was warning them not to give into “asceticism –a religious philosophy which teaches that depriving the body of its normal desires is a means of achieving greater holiness and approval from God.” It is one thing to follow a regimen like a real diet or training program (even the Bible details the proper boundaries of fasting), but just to deny yourself thinking it makes you super-holy? Sounds about as faddish as the cotton ball diet.

When you have Jesus Christ in your life as Lord and Savior, your life is going to be spiritually transformed. There are no shortcuts to this; no fad religious cults or secrets to master. Or to paraphrase Paul, “why do you keep doing this like the world does?”

Something to think about.

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Verse 16: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,”

There is a comic strip I enjoy in the Sunday funnies of our local newspaper called Jump Start by Robb Armstrong; it chronicles the everyday lives of Joe and Marcy Cobb, a young African American couple, trying to balance family and work (Joe is a police officer and Marcy is a nurse). It also includes their extended family, friends, and co-workers.

One strip in particular was published on December 8, 2013; (it can be viewed at http://www.gocomics.com/jumpstart/2013/12/08#.Uur4CryYbIU ). Joe, Marcy, and the kids were leaving church, commenting on the guest pastor (Joe commented that he wasn’t as good as Pastor Chuck G (his last name is Glover)). A homeless man within earshot says, “Thanks, Joe”. Joe and Marcy are amazed that the homeless man is their pastor in disguise. He explains to them how he tried to attend the church in disguise as a homeless man, but was later asked politely…to leave. Joe and Marcy are ashamed at how he was treated; he assures them not to be, since they have always been nice to him. “You’ve done this before?!” Marcy exclaims. Reverend Glover replies, “A variety of disguises. Unwelcome types. Stole the idea from God.”

Ever notices how God judges us on the truly important and pertinent things, but man judges each other on the most trivial things at times? Paul was reminding the Colossians not to fall for the “more spiritual-than-thou” arguments of some in Colosse who were saying to be “truly spiritual” they had to eat certain foods or observe certain holy festivals. They had to look like this or act like that; and if they didn’t, they couldn’t be spiritual enough. Just like the reverend in disguise who wasn’t welcome because he didn’t appear as a dressed-up church-goer, the only thing that truly counts is how we know Jesus Christ; if He lives in our hearts as Lord and Savior, it doesn’t matter how the outside looks. Letting Jesus live through us results in the true transformation.

Something to think about.

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Verse 14: “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

The more I watch the TNT 1999 movie adaptation of A Christmas Carol (starring Patrick Stewart), the more I appreciate the little touches that I have not seen in other screen adaptations.

Case in point: while the Ghost of Christmas Future is showing the covered face of the dead man that Scrooge has been witnessing people talk callously about, Scrooge becomes distraught, asking the spirit to show him someone who has some emotion about the man (we of course know the dead man is Scrooge himself). The spirit shows him a young woman deep in thought about a heavy debt she and her husband owe, and how they would pay it; the husband comes with news that the man who owns the debt is dead, and the debt tied up in the courts. For now, they owe nothing, and have a chance to save the money. As they embrace, the overcome wife states that she never thought a death would bring her happiness.

Paul here is telling the Colossians how Jesus paid our sin debt for us and took it away. The translation I have been using is the New King James, and it was the words “handwriting of requirements” that caught my eye. Out of curiosity, here are some other descriptions of that phrase from other translations, courtesy of the Bible Gateway website (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Colossians%202:14):
NIV – “having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness”
NASB – “having canceled out the certificate of debt”
KJV – “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances”
ESV – “by canceling the record of debt”
Good News Translation – “he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts”

Regardless of what translation you choose, Jesus took the debt we owed, an official, non-deniable, legal debt of sin, and paid it for us. It was a debt we deserved and we owed, yet He loved us enough to pay it in our stead…freeing us. The payment: His death on a cross. But unlike the young couple in A Christmas Carol, the death here was not the end of the story…our happiness, our joy is because He rose and He lives!

Something to think about.

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Verse 8: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”

Although I didn’t like Ghostbusters 2 as much as I liked the first Ghostbusters movie, the sequel still had its moments. One of those moments came when the boys were investigating a river of slime flowing under New York City. While Dr. Ray Stantz was investigating it, Dr. Egon Spengler and Dr. Peter Venkman were up top, maintaining the image of city workers who looked like they were supposed to be drilling a hole in the street…until the police came by, asking why they’re digging up a busy street. The usually scientifically verbose Spengler quietly defers to his “boss”, Venkman, who immediately launches into a tirade about them trying to locate and fix a gas leak. Later, when the cops and a real utilities worker comes back (telling them that the gas leak story doesn’t check out), Peter tries another story about power line problems or the like…which the police don’t fall for either. Of course, this winds the boys up in court, where they wind up saving the day for a judge pursued by two vindictive gangster ghosts.

The character of Peter Venkman, while he is indeed a doctor of psychology and para-psychology, often uses an underrated talent of convincing people that he’s something when he’s not (e.g., con-man, etc.). When talking to the cop, he sounds like a competent, confident (if somewhat annoyed) city worker. He might convince most people that he is a legitimate utilities worker, when he is far from it.

Paul was warning the Colossians of much the same thing; he didn’t want the Colossian converts to fall prey to the smooth words of the philosophers stating that, although Jesus Christ was good, that they needed more in addition. Paul was urging them that that was far from true. He was telling them again that Christ is the “real thing” and all they needed. In the vernacular of modern advertising:
accept no substitutes!

Something to think about.

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Verses 6-7: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”

When I read these verses, my eyes were drawn to the phrase “rooted and built up in Him”. Having grown up on a farm, I naturally thought about how plants are rooted and grown. My wife then shared with me an analogy she had heard a preacher use about the process of grafting. So, in order to fully appreciate the analogy, I went to The World Book Encyclopedia, volume G, (in the pre-Internet days, this was where we old-timers went to first learn things, before moving on to other books.:-)) to brush up on my understanding of the process of grafting.

Here are a few interesting statements from that reference:
“A graft is the union of parts of two plants to make a single plant.”
“The part implanted is called the cion. The plant receiving the cion is the stock. The cion retains the characteristics of the plant from which it is taken. The stock supplies food and water for the growing plant.”
“Grafting is also used to change the habit of growth.”
“Sometimes plants that do not thrive on a soil are grafted on stock that grows well on that particular soil.”
–GRAFTING, The World Book Encyclopedia, volume G, page 290, copyright 1969.

That analogy my wife heard from a preacher? It stated that we are the cion, the part that is cut away from the old plant, and grafted onto the stock of the rooted plant…Jesus Christ. Though we physically may look a lot like we did, we are a new creature in Christ; we are adopted by Him. We are firmly rooted and built up in Him; He is our Source of life from then on.

Something to think about.

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Verses 26-27: “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

When is a mystery not a mystery? When it’s a secret. :-)

In the movie Kung Fu Panda, the main protagonist, Po, is frustrated and disappointed when he doesn’t understand the revelation of the legendary Dragon Scroll, which only the true Dragon Warrior will understand. Not Master Shifu, not the Furious Five, no one but the Dragon Warrior can divine the secret. It’s not until his father, a noodle chef, reveals to him the secret ingredient of his famous Secret Ingredient soup. “The secret is…nothing. There is no secret ingredient.” When his father tells him that, simultaneously Po realizes that the secret of the Dragon Scroll is that there is no secret power…it was believing that you were special that made you special…in his case, it made him into the Dragon Warrior.

The translation of the word “mystery” in today’s Scripture really means “secret”. For countless years, the Jews looked to the coming of the Messiah, believing He was just for them, God’s chosen people. The secret became “revealed to His saints”. Jesus came for all: Jew and Gentile alike. He was the way, the only way, to salvation. The secret was, and still is today: Jesus is the only way; all you have to do…is believe and accept Him.

Something to think about today.

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Verses 15-18: “He is the image of the invisible God; the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”

Remember taking vocabulary tests in school? I always enjoyed learning a new word, especially if I could use it in poetry or other writing. I remember learning the term “primogeniture”: the rights and privileges assigned to the eldest of children, especially concerning inheritance or succession. Since I was born first in our family, I kind of liked that term for obvious reasons. However, I have learned in life, that being the first one born doesn’t always guarantee you get everything. (For example, my son, who is taller than me, certainly didn’t get his height directly from me! 🙂 )

The passage of Scriptures that Paul wrote to the Colossian church regards Jesus’s place in things, and that is firstborn. It doesn’t mean here that Jesus was created (a misconception); Jesus is God, one of the Trinity (see John 1), and Paul writes here of Jesus’s rank: He is the preeminent firstborn over all creation. He existed before creation. Jesus is before all things, and in Him all things consist. He is like the linchpin…pull out the linchpin holding things together and everything falls apart. Paul here is countering an argument by other false religious teachers in the area that Jesus was one of several important spirits. Folks, there can only be one true holder of the title and rank of firstborn…and the title-holder is Jesus.

Also, the passage mentions “the firstborn from the dead”. As the Holman New Testament Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, & Colossians nicely states on page 283-284: “Again, firstborn here has nothing to do with time. Others preceded Jesus in rising from the dead. Lazarus is one example (John 11:38-44). Jesus is first in rank. Others were raised only to die again. Jesus was the first person to rise, never to die again. He is the first person to conquer death, and all other resurrections are based on his. The glorious truth for us is this: because of his resurrection, we are assured of our own resurrection (1 Cor 15:20-23).”

Something to think about today.

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