Nora Ephron is my new hero. I am going to read her books and blogs.
I was just wandering around at the internet and thinking about finances…mine are just a tad strained. I have a book called “How to Gain Control of Your Finances” by Stan Toler and it made me stop and think very hard. It is a biblical look at how we can control our desires and let God handle our needs. I just want to say that the God of the Universe and Father of humanity is doing a far better job than Andi Wittwer.
Look at your real needs: food, water, shelter, clothing, warmth. Prioritize them: that’s pretty simple. You need to figure out how to use your tools both physical and mental to acquire and maintain your basic needs.
How you try to deal with those needs? We all have built up around us a protective mental shield about how much money we need to have ‘stuff’ around us. Will you die if you don’t have an IPad? Please don’t answer yes. As I look around me I see a cozy house. I have clothing, coats and shoes. In the cabinets I have food. All this other ‘stuff’ around me is just to keep me busy and not thinking.
The writer of Ecclesiastes 3 says “12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” We can busy ourselves in this life with all the stuff. Some people gather and store it like squirrels as if it had integral meaning and thinking it can satisfy them. When they die, someone cleans it out and throws it away. It doesn’t bring any comfort at the moment of death. Consider the next line, ”14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.”
So often folks brush off the eternal aspect of life, the spiritual life. Don’t do that. Life is only temporary. Eternity with the Lord is such a marvelous gift and I think we should pursue it.
I am happy to say that I made it through the week without incident. My goal was to maintain my dignity and Christian values each day. I was able to explain without rancor that my job position was terminated. Angry customers and friends were pacified and life moves on. “Perhaps this is my reward for faithfully not eating chocolate”, I thought. It has been a year since I vowed obedience and perhaps now I am being released to do God’s work in the world. This is my chance to be His hands and feet! Rock on! I looked up and said ‘thankyou Jesus!’ for his guidance and sustenance. But you know, Jesus is not just my personal support system, someone I call out to in times of trouble…He is Lord and Savior, King of Kings, Lord of Lords. He is not my buddy, my pal. He is so much more.
In his first letter to the Colossian church, Paul iterates and reiterates that Jesus is is Lord and that He called us to faith and repentance like the prophets of old. Jesus is the center of our lives, as God and Son of God. This relationship is inexplicable to most, difficult to share for the rest of us. Can I say to you that Jesus cannot be extricated from my life? How about you? Let’s explore Colossians 1:16-23. There are churches that have done research and used focus groups to study what people want to hear and see in church. What they got back has made some denominations want to ‘deemphasize Jesus Christ’. They have begun to believe that the name of Jesus Christ excludes people. They believe that because you believe in Jesus you are somehow judging others about what they believe…and in some sense Christ believers are because we are saying what we believe is the truth. Others may quote Hindu and Zen, mingling in a few verses from the Bible and lines from Willie Nelson songs and say that they are enabling people to discover God themselves, maybe through Jesus, maybe through Buddha or another natural universal spirit. As Christians we invoke the name of Jesus the Christ as we have for thousands of years.
What about you? What do you think about this minimalist Christology? This means that pastors and leaders in the evangelical church community are not calling people to faith, repentance and submission to the supremacy of Christ. You might hear that Jesus wants you to have a happy marriage, a stress free job or cheerful life. And while Jesus will certainly help us with those things when we accept His Lordship in our lives, I believe we need to step away from “What Jesus can do for me” and get much closer to “Am I living in the light of His lordship? You can’t just add a little Jesus to our lives like creamer in your coffee or a fuel additive in your gas tank. We need to refocus and accept Him into a full partnership into our lives.
In Colossians we are hearing the false teachings that showed up in the church that were minimalizing Jesus as Christ. People thought He was important but not central. They gave Him a place at the table and in their lives but didn’t recognize that He demands and deserves the head of the table. Paul talks about three major misconceptions in Colossians 1. He says that the false teachers taught that God did not create the world because in their view matter was evil and God cannot create evil. They believed that matter was evil, they argued that God would not have come to earth as a human in bodily form. They did not believe that Christ was the unique Son of God but rather one of many intermediaries between God and people. And Paul refutes these in verses 15-17. Jesus is paramount over everything He has created and He is preeminent over all that he has redeemed in verses 18-23. He is Lord of everything He has made and He is Lord over everyone He has saved.
Colossians 1: The Supremacy of the Son of God 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”
Verses 15 through 23 are so important in defining for us who Jesus Christ is and His relation to us. He is God, and Paul doesn’t mince any words or skirt around the subject. Jesus is “the image of the invisible God,” Yesterday I did a wedding and the groom slipped a lovely diamond band around Ariana’s ring finger. That wedding ring represents that they are a couple, it is a constant reminder of the love that brought them together. When you see an American flag there is a reaction quickly that might be emotional. That burned and tattered flag flying over the location of the former trade towers in New York evokes even a deeper reaction. But as powerful as these images are, they are only representations of the reality. The ring doesn’t make Alan and Ariana married, the ring is a symbol of that marriage. If Ariana loses her band she will still be married. The American flag can be ripped, shot at, torn to shreds or burned but it still represents a country that honors freedom. The flag is a powerful symbol but it only represents what our country is all about.
This is the distinction. Jesus doesn’t just represent God. He is not a just a symbol of God. The truth is that He is God himself. That is what we believe. The word “image” in Greek is “eikon” and it refers to “likeness or replica”. In that culture the “image” was a die or stamp that was able to make exact reproductions. Passports in Paul’s day ad a section called “eikon” or distinguishing marks that said something about the person that set him apart from everyone else. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. He is the precise copy because He is God Himself: He both is the manifestation and the representation or image of God in the world.
In John 14:9, Jesus says about himself that “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” In another passage Hebrews 1:3 says “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.” 2 Corinthians refers to Christ as “the image of God”. Jesus is the First born over all creation. Some evangelical groups teach that Jesus was a created being and therefore not God. We believe that Jesus as first born ranks above everything else and was the true Son of God. Jesus was, always, and eternal. Paul also taught that all the thrones, dominions, principalities and powers on heaven and earth of the visible and invisible world are under the authority of Christ because he created them. He says that Jesus has no rival either; neither the angels, the seraphim or cherubim or even Satan himself are greater. Jesus is Lord over all. Jesus is the creator of all things. Jesus is the sovereign creator, not created. And as the creator all creation should glorify Him. Jesus is protecting us from chaos, not just a generalized support. In verse 17 you see that “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Jesus was, is and
always will be. John 8 says “Before Abraham was born, I am.” Jesus is the glue of all creation, everything is held together with His powerful Word. If He were to leave us on our own, everything would dissolve into disorder.
My experience this week has shown me again that God answers prayers to His faithful and that we don’t have to flip out and get nuts when things seem to spin out of control, because they are not out of His control. Through His Word, Jesus holds everything from spinning out of control. There are no crises in heaven, Jesus upholds everything by the power of his Word.
I tossed and turned the first night after I was told my job was done at the Hardware Store. I was more excited than hurt or angry. After I looked over my budget and tightened up a few bootstraps, I realized that Ron and I have always lived pretty simply and so letting go of a few luxuries like Friday night fish fry or having friends over on Sundays to eat with the family was not a big issue.
We will turn the lights off earlier, hang clothes on the line and eat more venison and rice. A big worry will be health insurance but alot of people don’t have insurance. We will park one car and ride together; my little pickup is not good on the winter roads anyway. God has been talking to me about not buying anything for a few months and my accountant Randy told me to quit donating money last spring.
I am excited because I have wanted to spend more time pastoring for several years. I loved being at the hospital’s nursing home and preaching, now maybe I will have more time. I want to visit the sick, comfort the dying and encourage the discouraged. I pray that God will release me long enough that I can serve Him with all of my heart and soul.
On Monday, Sept. 19, 2011 when I came to work, I was asked to sit down and read a letter from the General Manager of the Northern Lakes Cooperative in Hayward, WI. It said that my thirty one years at the company were appreciated and that my job as Assistant Manager was terminated. I would be allowed to worked through Sept. 30 and they would pay out my vacation I earned this year. I would recieve one week of severance pay.
I am 58 years old and suddenly my Co-op life is over. I have been a part of the Coop since I was seven years old. It took a few seconds to drop into place but I had expected this for several years and it was a sort of relief to get it over with…I would be free to pursue a life of my own. Then during the day there were those moments where I realized how I would miss the other employees I lived with most of my adult life and the customers who depended on me. In the afternoon I cleaned out my desk drawers for the new guy. It began to almost feel good. I would be able to finish my book, do some more writing, study and put more time into The Woodland Church and spend some time with my kids.
But then coincidentally my credit card company sent me an email that my credit card limit would be cut to the current balance and I thought about the financial issues. I would have next to nothing on unemployment and no health insurance. I worked for so many years at the Coop just for the insurance because my daycare and car expenses took my wages. It gave me a night of tossing and turning. Fortunately Ron’s cancer and my Lupus are both in remission because we take care of ourselves. The medications we take will be difficult but we will figure it out! Ron and I agreed that we have been poor in the past and we can do it again. God is watching over us.