The Colorful Church

The Church of Many Colors

10 “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Ephesians 3:10-11, NIV

3 “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors.

Genesis 37:3, NKJV

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“The complaint that church is boring is never made by people in awe.” 

R.C. Sproul

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This word “manifold” is very curious and quite engaging. In the Old Testament this particular word is used to describe Joseph’s coat of many colors. I can only imagine that it was striped like a rainbow, or maybe even tied-dyed. Whatever it was, Joseph was quite distinctive as he wore his colorful coat.

Joseph’s coat

Paul in Ephesians 3, intentionally borrows this word to explain “the manifold wisdom of God.” Paul’s use of this dramatic imagery of Joseph’s coat to describe God’s wonderful wisdom that has saturated the Church. There is something variegated in this wisdom (balance, comprehension, understanding) that infuses His Church.

We are people of color. There is wisdom given to each believer. This defines us, and portrays us. God’s own wisdom, defined quite incredibly in our hearts and spirits, describes our coloration and hue.

Some are merciful, and others are bold. Some are very gentle, and others are “prophetic” and sharp. A few are wise, and others can endure much. But our personal coloring should never threaten another. Those who see only blue– should never be shaken when another sees yellow.

Our fleshly attitudes would militate against this understanding. We seem to insist that everyone be green, or yellow even. But this isn’t how God through the Holy Spirit comes to our spirits. We should receive each brother and sister, in the wisdom that God has chosen, to flow and grow. It seems we are each a “prism” that reflects a certain light.

We can see the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. They are distributed (but definitely never ‘dumped.’) They come out in many ways through many different personalities and backgrounds. But it seems we are slowly learning that each believer has a definite place and purpose.

I suppose that pride confines us into something that is restrictive. We definitely prefer ideas and proclivities we can control (or maybe label.)  Perhaps, it is we that need to be adjusted. We should see the broadness of God’s grace, and how each one is touched and shaped.

The Church is God’s unique reservoir of wisdom and grace for the world. We gleam with the certain light of His presence and goodness. Each believer, radiates an aspect of grace from the heart of God.

We are indeed the “Church of Many Colors.”

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aabryscript

The Blessings of a Long Struggle

falteringfaith

It’s a familiar story. A person has become a Christian in recent years and is engaged in spiritual practices–prayer, Bible study, meditation, church attendance, fellowship, tithing, and/or the sacraments. They’ve listened closely to their priest or pastor and have developed some formulas that are supposed to help them overcome the problems, sins, and weaknesses in their lives.

They’ve heard sermons and/or read books that have titles that start with “Three Steps,” “Five Keys,” and “Four Ways,” that are supposed to lead them to the abundant Christian life. They see progress in their lives but are discouraged because they still struggle with certain sins, problems, and/or weaknesses. Some feel like they can’t overcome the very deep negative legacy from the unhealthy family they grew up in.

Church leadership would do many believers a service by teaching them about how God can bring good out of their protracted struggle. No , it’s not God’s will for us to habitually sin , but God, in his tender mercies can work redemptively in this long and frustrating battle.

One of the first good things that can come out of a long battle with a character flaw or problem is deliverance from a formulaic Christian faith. “Do these three things and your problem will go away” you learn from a best–seller, but your problem doesn’t go away. The fallen human heart is a complex and formidable thing, and these canned approaches are a little like taking a squirt gun to a forest fire.

When people experience sustained adversity, their lives feel out of control, and they will often grab on to formulas to give them a sense of righting a ship that’s taking on water. Unfortunately, they end up trusting in the formulas more than God himself. Faith in formulas will always eclipse faith in God. The Christian life is more about a restful trust in a Person than embracing a set of principles no matter how spiritual those principles may sound.

The New Testament is clear on the centrality of faith (not self–effort or formulas) in the overcoming life:

When asked by his disciples what they must do to do the works God requires, Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe on the one he has sent” (John 6:28, 29). When describing the person who overcomes the world, the Apostle John said, “He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (I John 5:4, 5).

The failure of formulas is a good experience because it drives the believer to faith in the living God. In this faith, there is a wonderful exchange: I give Christ my pitiful attempts to live the victorious Christian life and he gives me his transforming power to overcome sin. However, this exchange may not happen overnight; it may be a process that takes years.

For those of you in a long struggle, please be comforted by the mercies of God that endure forever. If he can forgive a murderer and adulterer like David, he can forgive you and me. Please take the advice that Winston Churchill gave the British people during World War II: “Never, never, never, never give up ” or listen to the lyrics from a U2 song called “Miracle Drug” : ” There is no failure here, sweetheart/ Just when you quit.” Even better is C.S. Lewis from The Business of Heaven:

“I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations. It is not serious, provided self–offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience, etc. don’t get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home, but the bathrooms are already, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and to give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us: it is the very sign of his presence.”

Amen.

ybic, Jonathan

Jonathan is a old friend of mine. He writes like I wish I could. You would do well to visit his site. http://www.openheavensblog.com/ –Bryan

About Barnacles and Masks

prayerforpast

‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS , 
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM  ME .”

Matthew 15:8, NASB

“Of all bad men, religious bad men are the worst.”  C.S. Lewis

This singular verse is set in a series of other verses– it certainly does not stand alone.  When these come together, we realize how much the Holy Spirit despises hypocrisy. He hates it, I suppose, because of the destructiveness wreaked on our spirits.

A father or mother may feel a hatred at the dealers who sell the drugs to their child. It’s not that they have any special animosity toward the pusher, but rather, they love their son so much. They will do whatever it takes to protect him.

I really think this is what Jesus feels when it comes to the purveyors of religious legalism, or hypocrisy. He burns with a holy hatred against this particular form of darkness. His vehemence seems reserved, not for sin so much as these lies of “religious pretending”. His repeated “roughness” has to be considered– why?

This should jar us into what is real, and all that is not. The word for hypocrite is “two-faced”. It was used in the Greek theaters for the masks worn by the actors. They would wear whatever the script called for. The audience never knew what was real, and what was only theatrical props.

With our lips (speech) we will honor God. We’ll only speak good things, and words (and actions) become an issue of being appropriate. We put on the particular mask of the moment, and enter the theater. Our hearts are hardly touched, and the deepest part of us becomes inoculated to the real presence of God.

The deep hatred Jesus has is due to the enormity of this sin. It is spirituality gone bad. Twisted and confused, with the shallow veneer of “respectability”. It seems to work for many of us. When our discipleship gets used to wearing masks, things can get very religious.

One last thought. Ships and boats often have to go into dry dock to be scraped clean. Weeds and barnacles can actually cover the hulls; they can severely impede the ships function. Periodic inspection is needed. Jesus wants us to be truly clean.

“Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.”

Charles Spurgeon

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ybic, Bryan

Bryan.Lowe1@live

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