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The Sea of Galilee on this particular night was unusually disturbed. A raging storm had suddenly arisen, tossing the tiny boat around like a toothpick in a whirlpool. Fearing for their lives, the disciples awakened their sleeping companion who calmly rebuked the wind and the sea and reduced the fury of the storm to a peaceful hush. Awestruck, they murmured among themselves, asking the question, "Who, then, is this man, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:41...Read More

Seeing is believing, or so we are told. But if that's true, how can we ever be expected to believe in God? Several biblical texts make it clear that God is, by nature, invisible. It isn't just that he has not been seen: he CANNOT be seen (cf. John 1:18; Romans 1:20; 1 Timothy 6:16; Hebrews 11:27). Even here in Colossians 1:15 he is described as "the invisible God." In Romans 1:20, Paul says that God's existence and eternal attributes can be seen in the things that are m...Read More

I admit it sounds pretty weird at first, but there’s something stunning about prepositions. That’s right, prepositions. I’m really not nuts. Trust me. Yes, I’m talking about those words like “in” and “over” and “through” and “by” and “for”, just to mention a few. There is immeasurable spiritual wealth in those little words. I’m fascinated to think that God would entrust the revela...Read More

I've never been in an earthquake, and I hope I never am. I've seen quite a few tornadoes in my life. Having grown up in Oklahoma and Texas, I actually grew somewhat accustomed to hearing the warning sirens and seeking shelter in the appropriate place. But I have no idea what it is like to have the ground beneath your feet shake and split open. That is one sensation from which I've been spared. But the Colossian Christians knew what it was like. Ancient Colossae was loca...Read More

If it weren't for biblical texts like Colossians 1:18, it would be easy to get discouraged about the local church. There Paul continues his description of Jesus Christ with the statement, "And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent." I've ministered in a lot of churches from a vast array of denominations: Presbyterian, Vineyard, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Nazarene, Assemblies...Read More

In my travels I've had the opportunity to visit a wide variety of churches. Not long ago I was in a mainline Protestant denominational church where I couldn't help but notice a variety of Sunday School classes that were being promoted in the foyer. On the table were a number of books to be studied in the respective classes. To say I was shocked to see a volume by the Episcopalian bishop John Shelby Spong is an understatement. Spong has become (in)famous in recent years ...Read More

I generally loathe tautologies. Needless redundancies drive me nuts. Saying the same thing twice when once will do generally ruins my day. Well, I hope you get my point! But there are biblical tautologies that need to be noted. They are often theologically profound and deserving of careful attention. One such tautology is found in Colossians 1:19 where Paul says that in Christ "all the fullness" of God was pleased to dwell. But what other kind of "fullness" is there: "p...Read More

After speaking at a recent conference, I was approached by an inquisitive man who asked for clarification concerning something I said about the incarnation of Christ. "Yes, you heard me correctly," I responded. "The incarnation of Christ never ends." He was understandably befuddled. "I always just assumed," he replied, "that once we were all in heaven Jesus would somehow divest himself of his human nature and revert to his former mode of existence, like he was with the ...Read More

Yes, insists Carlton Pearson, pastor of Higher Dimensions Family Church of Tulsa, Oklahoma. But not everyone agrees. Pearson's church, whose membership swelled to 5,000 before he announced his theological convictions, has dwindled to about 500. Pearson was ordained by the Church of God in Christ, the largest black Pentecostal denomination in the U.S. According to Pearson, everyone will end up in heaven whether or not they exercise conscious faith in Jesus Christ. The doo...Read More

We considered in the previous meditation the suggestion that when Paul says "all things, whether on earth or in heaven" have been reconciled to God through the blood of the cross that he had in mind the redeemed citizens of the new creation, those who are now and will be members of the Church of which Christ is the living Head and Beginning (thereby maintaining a close connection between v. 20 and vv. 18-19). But there is another possibility that we need to consider. Ac...Read More

I don't know who it was that first conceived the idea, but one of the more durable and effective advertising schemes is the "before" and "after." I can remember as a young boy turning to the back page of my Superman comic book only to find myself looking at the less than flattering, black and white, picture of a pathetically scrawny, virtually emaciated man, under which was written one word: "Before." On the other side of the page was the impressive, color portrait of a ...Read More

Thank God that there is something "after" the "before"! Before Jesus there was only alienation, hostility, and evil deeds (v. 21). Not a very flattering picture! But now . . . (v. 22a). Oh, my. But now! Were ever more glorious words spoken to otherwise hopeless and helpless sinners? But now! Were it not for the divine and gracious "But now" we would be forever mired and entrenched in the "Always" of sin and death and darkness. There would be no purpose in speaking of a ...Read More

If "before" we were alienated, then "after" we are reconciled. What a wonderful word, reconciliation. But what does it mean? Perhaps more than any other word in the language of the New Testament, reconciliation highlights the personal and relational nature of our salvation. Justification points to the forensic (or legal) declaration that we are righteous in Christ. Redemption emphasizes our being ransomed from bondage to sin. Sacrifice has in view the Old Testament ritua...Read More

If you're among Christians, talking about politics will rarely lead to an angry debate. Disagreement, yes, but usually a civil and constructive one. Sports? Even Christians have their favorite players and teams and will defend them vigorously, but not at the expense of unity. There is a way of creating a furor, if you're so inclined. Just bring up the question of whether or not a believer can lose his/her salvation. State your position, and then duck! I've been in a few...Read More

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake" (Col. 1:24a). Does that strike you the way it does me? Who in their right mind would ever "rejoice" in their "sufferings"? I suppose people who take a perverse pleasure in pain for its own sake might conceivably utter such words (minus the "for your sake," of course). But why would a Christian, like Paul, say it? The New Testament perspective on suffering is truly unique. In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus pronounced a blessing on ...Read More

Colossians 1:24 has consistently baffled and bothered Christians for centuries. Understandably so! Look at it again: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church." Here are a few of the interpretive possibilities, concluding with the two I find most convincing. First, let's be clear about what this text does not mean. Paul is not saying that the redemp...Read More

If I thought, for a moment, that this life was all there was or ever would be, I would fall immediately and irretrievably into utter despair. If "this," as the beer commercial suggests, "is as good as it gets," I think I'd pop a pill or pull the trigger or find some way to escape as quickly and painlessly as possible the futility and meaningless of this life. But I have hope. I am confident that "this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of ...Read More

What is your responsibility to other believers with whom God brings you into contact and relationship? Have you yielded to the temptation to give them over to someone else to warn and admonish and instruct concerning Jesus? Do you read about the life and ministry of the apostle Paul and say to yourself: "Well, that's Paul. It certainly isn't me. I'm no apostle, that's for sure. I can't possibly read how he related to others and think that I should do the same." If that'...Read More

There's simply no restrained or measured way of saying it: Colossians 1:29 is a stunning passage of Scripture! The ESV renders it this way: "For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me." The NASB reads, "For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." There are several reasons why I'm excited about this text. Let me begin with Paul's description of his ministry. But don't disengage. ...Read More

The secret of Paul's success was not his education, his cultural heritage, his homiletical techniques, nor the appeal of his personality, but God's power working in him. To make this point he piles up, one upon another, words that focus our attention on the energy and activity of God: "For this I toil, struggling with all his ENERGY that he POWERFULLY WORKS within me" (ESV). Or again, "For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His POWER, which MIGHTILY WORKS w...Read More

Paul opens chapter two of his epistle to the Colossians with this description of his prayers on their behalf: "For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and kno...Read More

That Paul agonized and struggled in prayer for the Colossians is obvious. That we should do the same for other believers, whether we know them or not (cf. Col. 2:1), is also beyond dispute. But what did he pray for? What should WE pray for? To answer this question we need to look closely at v. 2. There are two different ways of interpreting this passage. According to one view, Paul is informing them of his struggle on their behalf so that their knowledge of his labor an...Read More