Colossians 2:8 -Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ. (HCSB)
In Paul’s day a magician was called a philosopher, so in v.8, Paul is saying “don’t be fooled by smoke and mirrors and slight of hand.” I once heard someone say that cults prey on Christians because the average Christian only knows the scripture someone else has told him. As part of a Bible study, my husband once made a list of well known and often quoted “scripture” verses that aren’t scripture at all.
- “God works in mysterious ways” (from a 19th century hymn written by William Cooper)
- “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” (coined by John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church)
- “Spare the rod, spoil the child” (possibly a paraphrase of Proverbs 13:24 – “the one who withholds the rod is one who hates his son”, but Samuel Butler, a 17th century British poet, actually coined the phrase)
- “Pride goes before a fall” (possibly a paraphrase of Proverbs 16:18 — “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall”)
- “This too shall pass” (from an old English poem)
- “God helps those who help themselves” (credit is given to Ben Franklin but is also found in one of Aesop’s Fables)
- “the lion shall lay down with the lamb” (possibly from paintings done about scripture that includes animals, but Isaiah 11:6 says “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together”
- “it is good that man show moderation in all things” (Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean)
- “The Lord works in mysterious ways” (possibly a link to Isaiah 55:8 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord”, but the first stanza of a poem by William Cowper reads, “God moves in a mysterious way”)
- “Money is the root of all evil” (very close to 1 Timothy 6:10 – “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.’)
Satan will use our false knowledge to create smoke and mirrors and slight of hand. He rearranged words, mixed some lies with truth, and misquoted scripture with Jesus (Matthew 4), and we are easy prey to him when we “almost” know God’s Word. Instead of relying on “scripture” we heard from someone else, let us study our Bibles, talk to God in prayer, and be able to join the psalmist in declaring “I have thought much about your words and stored them in my heart so that they would hold me back from sin.” (Psalm 119:11 TLB)
Matthew 17:20 – “Because of your little faith,” He told them. “For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (HCSB)
Have you ever had a Bible verse that you have probably read hundreds of times, heard read thousands of times, and heard explained too many times to count? That is Matthew 17:20 for me, but today I saw a word I had never really seen before, this. A very small word, a word easy to slide over while focusing on the “important” words, a somewhat insignificant word. Is it insignificant? Many Bible scholars and great Bible preachers have explained about moving the mountain, how it takes great faith, how it may take a shovel, how it may even involve moving one rock at a time. But, Jesus does not say move “a mountain”, and He does not say move “every mountain”; He says move “this mountain”. How many times have I prayed with a friend going into surgery and asked God to bless the medical staff, to calm my friend’s nerves, to make the surgery a success but failed to pray for miraculous healing simply because I didn’t believe it would happen? Because of your little faith. I believe God can do it, I’m just not convinced He will. If you have faith the size of a mustard seed. There have been times I prayed for miracles that didn’t happen. That was another mountain, not this mountain. The dictionary defines this as “a pronoun used to identify a specific person or thing close at hand or being indicated or experienced”. You will tell this mountain to move and it will move, not last year’s mountain, not a mountain from once before, not someone else’s mountain but this specific mountain that is close at hand being experienced right now. God tells us to call on Him and He will show us things we can’t even imagine (Jeremiah 33:3). Maybe that means telling this mountain to get out of my way!
1 Chronicles 16:11 – Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always (NIV)
I am a planner who thrives on making a list. I have an ongoing To Do list and sometimes a daily To Do list. I especially love those big check marks that signify the job is done and I have been known to add a completed chore to the list just so I can mark it off! I have a calendar with huge blocks filled with eye-catching multicolored commitments because I am not simply a planner, I am an organized planner. I shop with a list and the most efficient route mapped out for my errands, but I am not rigid in my plans should a friend surprise me with a “let’s go out” call! Sometimes surprises are like a warm hug – an unexpected gift, a dinner invitation after a long day, a spontaneous day out with friends. Sometimes surprises are more like a fall down the stairs. One Friday my mom was admitted to the hospital for a night of simple observation. I went to visit her, planning to possibly stay the week-end but as my mom’s prognosis changed, so did my plans. My possible one week-end became a definite two weeks. During those two weeks I felt more scattered than organized, more chaos than control, but also during those two weeks I understood the truth of the old hymn that says “where could I go but to the Lord?” or as 1 Chronicles 16:11 puts it “Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always”. Seek His face. Remember His wonders. Know that my lists and my plans, no matter how organized or how many checks, can never replace the peace that comes with knowing God is in control.
John 16:33 – I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (HCSB)
My friend and I were discussing the troubles in life, and basically surmised “no one ever thinks it will happen to them”. Jesus said there would be suffering in the world, but surely He didn’t mean in MY world. I quote the scripture and sing the songs but am dumbfounded when any unpleasantness happens to me. Somewhere in my subconscious I think Jesus meant other people would have problems, irritations, and illnesses, not me. I read about Job. I quote scripture from his book and share his story to hold him up as an example ……. for others, never for a moment believing God would allow me to suffer that way. I promote and proclaim that all things should bring glory to God and stand on a platform of praising God through the good and the bad ….. until something bad happens to me. When bad things happen to you, I can share with you the importance of using your pain to witness to others. When bad things happen to me, it’s all different. I cry out “why me?” and demand God explain Himself for allowing this to happen. Sometimes the pain isn’t about me but about bringing others into the presence of God. I may try to make it all about me, but it’s not. Sometimes my trials have a purpose I can’t see, a purpose I can’t understand. God does not take joy in seeing me suffer. He takes joy in seeing me praise Him in the good times and the bad times. He takes joy in seeing my faith and having my actions and attitude cause others to want to know Him. St. John Chrysostom says, “Do you seek any further reward beyond that of having pleased God? In truth, you know not how great a good it is to please Him.”
Romans 3:24 –“All need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ” (NCV).
I am totally hooked on Bible journaling. I love the drawings in the open spaces, the swirls and curls, and all the fancy lettering to capture the scripture. I love combining the neon of gel pens and the softness of colored pencils to highlight God’s word. There is only one small problem, actually a BIG problem ….. I have the artistic skills of a one toed bullfrog. Actually, I should probably apologize to the bullfrog for the comparison. Imagine my delight to discover an online DIY site that offers page after page of “free” Bible journaling pictures. I can print these “free” pictures and trace them to make my Bible a colorful masterpiece of images and fancy lettering. I can use these “free” pictures to have my favorite verses jump out as I turn the pages. And its all “free” ….. for a starting price of $1.99. I recently upgraded my cell phone and was offered a “free” accessory …. for $10. A company specializing in storage containers offers a life time guarantee of free replacement. The container is free but there is a charge for placing the order, a handling charge, a shipping charge, and possibly even a replacement charge. There always seems to be a catch, something in the fine print, a loophole saying “I will give you this free gift but you will have to pay for it.” And we wonder why the world is skeptical about the free gift of salvation! Salvation is a gift to us with no hidden charges and no fine print. We don’t have to do anything to earn our salvation because it has already been done and is the greatest gift (free or costly) we’ll ever be offered. The words Elvina M. Hall wrote in 1865 are still true for us today – “Jesus paid it all.” When Christ spoke on the cross “It is finished” (John 19:30), He was using an accounting term meaning “paid in full”. Salvation is absolutely free, the true gift of God in Christ, and our only responsibility is to receive the gift by faith.
I recently read an article from The Gospel Coalition – Stop Photobombing Jesus – on a social media site and found myself identifying more than I’d like to admit. There have been times I was hurt because no one seemed to notice how hard I had worked and times I wondered “why her and not me?” and even times I gave more energy to impressing others than to serving God. I’ll have to confess — there have been times I photobombed Jesus.
Haggai 1:2-7 – This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’” Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. (NIV)
How many of our fellow church members would say they believe God should be first priority in our lives? How many people in churches across our country? Around the world? The book of Haggai is written to people like many of us – people with busy schedules, people just trying to “make ends meet”, people who say “God needs to be first”, people whose actions did not match their words. Haggai 1:2 quotes the people as saying “the time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house”, but they were actually saying it wasn’t important enough to be considered a priority. The same people who claimed to put God first were living in luxury while the temple was in ruins. They probably had a running list of excuses (too busy, too tired, no time, needed the money for other things), but all of their excuses were proof that God was not a high priority. God’s answer was to tell them twice (verse 5 and verse 7), “Take a good, hard look at your life and think about it.” The people were eating but were always hungry. They were drinking but nothing could quench their thirst. Their clothes no longer kept them comfortable. They worked hard but could not budget or save enough to pay their bills. Their work was not productive and their possessions did not satisfy because their priorities were their own and not God’s. Haggai draws attention to common problems we face today – we are so busy juggling the immediate, the urgent, the right now that we have neither time nor energy for what is really important, for what should be the main thing. We get confused with our priorities, but as Stephen Covey puts it, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Haggai 2:12 tells us the people took God’s advice, gave careful thought to their ways, and realigned their priorities. Haggai told the people to rebuild the temple. In 1 Corinthians Paul tells Christians to build our lives on the foundation of Jesus Christ (3:10-17) and that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (6:19). As you go about your day, ask yourself these questions:
- “Am I building a life that reflects my status as a temple of the Holy Spirit?”
- “Are my actions matching my words?”
- “Are my priorities bringing glory to God?”
It is so easy to allow our focus to drift. Lord, I seek Your wisdom is setting my priorities. I pray that my main thing will be to acknowledge You as the main thing and keep You as the main thing.