Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Speaking the Mystery of Christ

"Praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds; That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward them that are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man."

Colossians 4:3-6

I love the transparency of the people that are found in God's word. This passage was written by Paul who had been on many missionary journeys and literally spent his life witnessing to others about Christ. At the time that he wrote this letter to the Colossians, he was in jail. Yet, he did not let that affect his thinking or his emotions. He humbly asked the Colossians to pray that he would have "open doors" to make the gospel known and that he would speak in a way that God would have him speak. Satan wants us to think that if we are living a life that is pleasing to God, that our lives will be easy and problem free. But the truth is that the people in the Bible endured hardship, suffering, and persecution as they lived lives that were pleasing to God. Some of them even died for their faith. I have a tendency to forget that when the early Christians accepted Christ they were often persecuted and disowned from their families. Paul did not ask God the questions I probably would have, "Lord, I’m witnessing to all of these people, starting churches everywhere I go, and serving you and other faithfully, Why are you allowing all of this hardship? Why am I being punished?" Instead, he trusted God’s sovereignty and asked the Lord to "open doors" so he could continue to do what he knew that God had called him to do.

It is obvious that Paul followed Christ's example in always doing what pleased his heavenly father. Paul knew Christ never sinned and was persecuted for healing, feeding, teaching, speaking the truth, and loving people. So Paul did not let the persecution stop him from doing the right thing. He obeyed God in the face of conflict, persecution, and even in the face of false allegations. Some responded to Paul's message and trusted Jesus as their Savior, but others hated him and wanted him dead. Still, Paul daily made the choice to obey and follow Christ in the midst of it all. It amazes me that in the middle of his trials, Paul remained more concerned that people hear the gospel than his own discomfort.

Paul's exhorts the Colossians to be wise towards those in the world. He instructs them to let their speech be always gracious and seasoned with salt. Someone who has come face to face with God’s grace should become more gracious in his or her actions and speech. With speech I am including their body language. When we first joined a large church I was really hurting and overwhelmed by the size of the new youth group that we wanted to be volunteers in so I would slip in early and sit down. As a result I would brush quickly by the youth pastor. One day he took my hand to shake it and he did not let go until I turned and looked at him face to face, eye to eye. In his eyes, I saw kindness and godliness and as a result I began to let God heal me. The pastor did the same thing at a later date after we had had a hard conversation. His body language and facial expressions continued to express acceptance and care as did his words.

I love Paul’s use of the words "seasoned with salt". We often think of salt as seasoning, but it is also a preservative and a mineral that is necessary for life. In Biblical days it was also used as an astringent to clean wounds. The people hearing Paul’s instructions would have known all of these uses for Salt and would have interpreted his words in light of what they knew. I get excited when I think about it, because the gospel does all of those things! Just as each of one of us likes a unique amount of Salt, he tells us we need to be wise and sensitive to people so that we can give them what just what they need, not what they think we need. That means being sensitive to give someone the right balance of grace and truth that fit their unique needs. Some people respond to straightforward truth, others to a more gentle presentation of the truth. As God's people we are called to discern how to respond to each person.

As one of our children was turning 16 we had had several misunderstandings with him over his choices of friends. Hoping to bridge the gap we had a surprise birthday party with both his school and church friends. He floated comfortably back and forth between the two groups helping them feel comfortable. I wished the Christians at my son's party would have mingled and shown God's love and acceptance to his school friends in the same way that he did. However, most of the night we had a polarized party with only our son moving between the two groups. The same thing occurs in our youth groups and in our churches. As we welcome new students and adults many of us simply look over the visitors as if our territory is being invaded. We should be careful as we build a "spiritual family" that we be inclusive of those who walk in our doors for the first time.

I wonder if we would treat the people Christ related to the same way that He did? Would we welcome a known prostitute, a thief, or a beggar? Would we pray for a student hearing the gospel if we knew he killed someone while driving drunk or if we knew he dealt drugs? Would we embrace a girl broken by the fact she had an abortion or the guy who took advantage of his girl friend sexually? I am becoming more and more aware of the confusing balance God has called us to – we are to boldly speak his truth as we compassionately and radically love the lost. We should be humble enough to ask other’s to pray for us to have open door to speak the gospel and the wisdom to know how to balance grace and truth in such a way that we radically impact our world with the gospel.

Father, thank you for Christ and Paul's examples. They loved people and yet walked in a way that honored and glorified you. Give us wisdom to speak your truth in the midst of all circumstances whether they are good or bad. Help us to be able to give an answer from your word to each person you put in our path. Help us to be your ambassador's--so secure in our relationship and our heavenly home that we do not hesitate to make other's feel welcome and comfortable around us. Father, if people reject us for reflecting You to them, give us the grace to keep on loving them. Help us to love as Christ loved us. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!