The loop from the lower parking lot at Chesebro Canyon up Palo Comado Canyon to China Flat, back down to Sheep Corral Trail, and down Chesebro Canyon is between 10 and 12 miles. The canyons tend to be hotter than the weather stations report, as there are no stations in the park. Palo Comado Canyon is gorgeous!
His Great and Precious Promises
Disc or Cork?
The dawn of Easter is just gleaming above the horizon. While searching online concerning a different topic, I stumbled upon this question: Was the stone that sealed Jesus’s tomb a round disc or cork-shaped? Now those of you with Spirit fullness, just hush up please, and let me continue. In fact, you can tune out if you like–I don’t want you giving away my punch line.
Here is what the debate concerns:
Some scholars say disc, and some say cork shaped.
I must confess that as a younger Christian, I always wondered about that stone that sealed Jesus’s tomb. In my mind, I imagined a great boulder shaped object, like an enormous marble, rolled against the opening of the tomb. It didn’t quite fit.
Once upon a day, the Lord arranged a visit for me to the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem (The Garden Tomb). Given the opportunity to stay with a dear friend at her long-time home on a kibbutz near Haifa, I noticed there a gigantic disc shaped stone, like an enormous round coin. This, my friend told me, is what some used to seal tombs carved into rock. A few days later, when I visited The Garden Tomb, I saw there a groove in front of the opening in which just such a disc could be placed. Light flooded my brain.
Now, I am by no means suggesting that this anecdotal experience weighs in with any scholarly importance whatsoever. It doesn’t. It’s just that being able to visualize how a rock could seal a flat, rectangular door actually helped my faith in Scripture. Yes, I realize that my faith must have been very small. Nevertheless, God is gracious.
Within the Tomb–Grace Upon Grace
The day I visited Christ’s tomb, I was virtually alone in the Garden. Some kind gentlemen took my picture, then they, too, left. Visitors in that era were permitted to enter the tomb, which is what I did. As I just said, I was virtually alone in the entire Garden, so I set my bag down, sat down, and remained awhile. Long enough to read the signs and Scripture two or three times and to be still. Then, like doubting Thomas when Jesus appeared to him and said, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe,” (John 20:27) I believed. Because, you see, the tomb was empty. Then I could get up and leave. No more thought was necessary. I had seen what the Lord in his grace had taken me half way around the world to see. Grace upon grace upon grace.
Now this is the truth that “those with Spirit fullness” (see first paragraph) already know. Jesus is Alive!! How do they know? By experience. How did I come to believe that the tomb was empty? By experience: I sat in an empty tomb.
John 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
But God’s love is full of grace. For those who need to see in order to believe, God creates for them experiences of sight. We learn of God through his Word and through the hands-on activities of the Holy Spirit in our lives. So…
Believe and be blessed!
Colossians as a First Century Letter
I. From (1:1)
II. To (1:2a)
III. Greeting (1:2b)
IV. Prayer (1:3-12a)
V. Body (1:3-4:6)
VI. Closing and Farewell (4:7-18)
I. Opening (From, To, and Greeting) (1:1-2b)
II. Introductory Remarks: Laying a Good Foundation for What Follows (1:3-2:5)
III. Issues, Exhortations, Concerns (2:6-4:6)
IV. Final Greetings and Farewell (4:7-18)
II. Introductory Remarks: Laying a Good Foundation for What Follows (1:3-2:5)
A. Prayer for the Colossians (1:3-12a)
B. The Father’s Role in the Colossians’ Salvation (1:12b-13)
C. The Son’s Role in the Universe and in Salvation (1:14-23a)
D. Paul’s Role (1:23b-2:5)
1. for the gospel (1:23b)
2. for the church (1:24-29)
3. for the growth of the Colossians and Laodiceans (2:1-5)
A. Paul an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1a)
1. What do we know about Paul? What is his character like? What are some main events in his life? What can we conclude about his motives and purpose in serving the gospel, Christ, and the church?
2. In what ways might Paul be compared and contrasted with Joshua?
B. Timothy our brother (1:1b)
1. What is Timothy’s role in the Letter to the Colossians?
2. Would you describe Timothy as being first generation or second generation Christian?
3. Questions for thought
a. How do we learn about Timothy throughout the New Testament?
b. That is, does he speak and act directly as a main character?
c. Or, do we mostly learn about him by reading references to him written by others?
d. Is he a main player in the biblical books that bear his name?
4. Thinking about the New Testament in light of Timothy, what do we learn about its overall content? (Who are the main players?)
C. Who is Epaphras? How does Paul describe him?
1. Colossians 1:7 How would the Colossians feel about Paul, whom they had never met, when he commends their pastor? How would they feel about the gospel message Epaphras had given them?
2. Colossians 4:12 This may refer to physical imprisonment, or more likely, metaphorical servitude to Christ.
A. To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ (1:2)
B. What do we know about the town of Colosse?
1. Where was it situated? Was it on or off the main trade thoroughfare?
2. How large or small was it?
3. What was its importance, if any?
C. Had Paul ever visited Colosse?
1. Did he know the people personally?
2. What effect might this have had on the tone of his letter to them?
3. Compare Paul’s tone in the Letter to the Galatians with his tone here and relate this to his personal history with each of these churches.
Next Week: Colossians 1:2 more on “To” and “Greeting” with a focus on the words “holy,” “grace,” and “peace.”
‘Áγιος pronounced ha-gui-os, or hagios.
Definition: set aside, consecrated, for a specific purpose for and/or by God; as the quality of persons or things that can be brought near or into God’s presence (Friberg). Example verse:
1Peter 2:5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
An Old Testament word that sums up this particular aspect of the word hagios, or “holy” in English, is the word “devoted,” or set aside, consecrated, as the definition above suggests.
Psalm 119:38 (KJV) Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear.
The phrase “is devoted” is displayed with italics in the KJV to indicate that this specific phrase is not found in the original Hebrew text but has been added for clarity by the translators of the KJV. The meaning of the phrase, however, is embedded in the concept of “servant,” and brings out a certain characteristic of servanthood very well (think Downtown Abbey.)
In Scripture, when something was set aside as a tithe or offering for use by the Lord, this item merited the description “devoted.” Three biblical examples follow:
1. Leviticus 27:21 (NET) When it reverts in the jubilee, the field will be holy to the LORD like a permanently dedicated field; it will become the priest’s property.
2. Joshua 6:17-19 (ESV) And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. 18 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. 19 But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.”
Joshua 7:1 (ESV) But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.
3. Mark 7:10-12 (NIV) For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)– 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother.
We have examples of things “devoted” in our own lives: 1) Our tithes and firstfruit offerings to the Lord, 2) our “cookie jar” money that we save for that “special something,” or 3) a special, one-time-only income, such as an income tax refund or an unexpected inheritance, that we earmark, or set aside, for a special and specific purpose, such as a family vacation or college tuition fund for the kids.
So, getting back to the verse Psalm 119:38 (KJV), the Scripture is saying that the speaker of this psalm himself has been set aside, earmarked, for a special use by the Lord: to be his servant.
When we discover that we ourselves have been set aside by the Lord for his service (see 1Peter 2:9), this is at once an honor, a privilege (he’s the ruler of the universe, and he takes good care of what belongs to him), and a duty, or responsibility. Also, who does this make the BOSS in all we think, say, and do?
Prayer: Lord, thank-you for calling me to be “devoted,” or set aside, for you. Help me to be aware that this is why I am here and to step up to my role in Christ Jesus.
I. Finish General Introduction from first week.
A. First week: Why study the Bible? What to pray before each reading/study time?
1. To hear God Isaiah 55:3
2. Life Psalm 119:92-93, John 1:2
3. Stability, unchanging truth Matthew 7:24
4. Helps us pray more effectively as we learn God’s will 1John 5:14-15
B. This week: Study and/or Reading?
1. What is the difference between studying the Bible and reading the Bible?
a. reading is once-through; relatively rapid; distance; overview; the forest
b. studying is in-depth; spend time on one section; details; the trees
c. some prefer reading with pray and dependence on the Holy Spirit
d. pastors and teachers must study in addition to reading, so that they can present God’s truth more fully and accurately
e study and reading are both necessary
f. nothing is as wonderful or takes the place of God opening Scripture to us directly as we pray and spend time with him in his Word
2. What activities of study can we be doing as we “spend time” on certain portions of Scripture? What can we be doing as we ask God to “open” his Word to us?
a. participate in a group study, as we are doing now. Example: Pastor Leaf’s study on Nehemiah which lasted over one year
b. read the passage, reread, reread, etc. (As we read and reread the same passage, the Holy Spirit will draw our attention to details of interest we had not noticed before. In the hiking world, this is like hiking the same trail over and over again.)
c. as we notice individual words, phrases, and thoughts, ask questions like a child—what’s this? what does this mean, really? I don’t understand this? is there another way these words could be understood? why this? why that?
d. have a set time and a set place—a structured routine
e. take notes, draw charts, make diagrams, write/journal our thoughts, look at a map, outline
3. What are some resources we may at some point want to use as helpful aids in our study?
a. find a Bible with side, center, or bottom-of-the-page references to look up related passages and words. Let Scripture interpret Scripture.
b. What is a “study” Bible and should we use one?
c. access to more than one translation
4. “Head” knowledge and “heart” knowledge
a. what is head knowledge?
b. what is heart knowledge?
c. which is more important?
d. why might we need both?
i. all of Psalm 119 combines head and heart
Psalm 119 2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart– 3 they do no wrong but follow his ways. 4 You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.
Psalm 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
ii. short answer: We will be judged for our actions, not for our knowledge. Actions proceed from the heart. The head can be a powerful ally of the heart when the head informs the heart and keeps the heart in check. Both need to be brought into submission to Christ.
II. Read the text
A. What is the letter’s tone?
1. friendly, conciliatory, filled with compliments and praise
2. corrective, especially beginning in Chapter 2
3. different than Paul’s tone to the Galatians
a. Paul had founded the church in Galatia; the Galatians were his spiritual children; his emotions were more tied up with them
b. There is no evidence that Paul himself had ever visited Colosse; he may have been writing to strangers
B. What is the letter’s purpose?
2. correction and guidance
3. to protect the integrity of the church’s beliefs
III. Next Week: continue specifics of the Introduction to the Letter; begin studying the text–greeting
I see the sky
The hills are green
I sleep and rise again
For at each turn
I find a friend
Always the same
The same friend
Who knows my name
Who watches over me
Waiting, singing, for me
To greet me finally
To welcome me…
…my dear friend.
Two Methods to Help Us Memorize
I just want to encourage us all to keep working on our memory verse for this week. It is Colossians 1:13-14 from The Message Bible
God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.
I chose The Message paraphrase because it reminds me of my own personal life, most recently–Psalm 18.
You can also memorize it from the NIV. It’s shorter!
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Two Helps for Memorization:
a. I find that for me the best way to memorize something is to keep reading it over and over again (no memory at this point–just re-reading and re-reading.)
b. Then I begin to say it out loud by memory. I might need up to 20 or 30 tries before I remember it all.
c. When I forget, I just look at the words right away. I don’t waste time trying to remember what I don’t remember!
d. Keep the verse handy. I have the verse printed or typed in very large letters on a small card, perhaps an index card, which I prop up where I am working or carry in my purse or pocket or wherever. I cannot practice memorizing something if I don’t have it with me at several points throughout the day.
e. Eventually, by day number five or so, I find that I am beginning to be able to say the whole verse without looking.
f. Finally, it’s just a matter of repeating what I now know, until I REALLY know it, and can say it out loud at normal speed.
g. Being able to say the verse ALOUD is an important test of whether or not I actually know the verse.
Yes! This is hard work. Dietrich Bonhoeffer tells us that in the ancient church some pastors needed to demonstrate that they had memorized the entire book of Psalms before they could be ordained! (Think of all that we have lost by gaining the media.)
You might find the method that Wendy suggested easier for you:
a. Simply take a sheet of paper and begin writing.
- On the first line, just write the first word.
- On the second line, write two words.
- On the third line, write three words of the verse.
b. You proceed like this until the verse has been completed, or perhaps until you run out of paper (just joking!)
The important thing is to find a method that works for you and to not become discouraged. When we say the verse aloud at our next gathering, you will be amazed that you are not the only one who may have had difficulty memorizing the verses. I know that memorization does not come easy for me, and I am not just saying that.
The advantage of memorizing verses together as a group is that we are accountable to each other. I find this accountability very necessary for myself. What I mean is, I do not have the discipline to go through this process simply on my own.
Whatever else, be blessed and have fun!
Jesus will tackle those werewolves with you and prevail.
Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:16. Jesus spoke concerning false prophets. Can we extend the metaphor to include religions? We can judge religions by the fruit they produce; we can judge people’s beliefs by the person’s fruit.
Does what I believe produce goodness, including everything I keep private from others? Or, do I go around hurting others and myself?
Two examples of how people perform harm: 1) the demon-possessed man in Mark 5:1-20 hurt himself and possibly others. 2) Remus Lupin of the Harry Potter series was an unwilling victim of werewolfry. Remus Lupin suffered greatly by the harm he caused himself and those weaker than he. (Werewolves cannot keep themselves from killing others Harry Potter Wiki.) His wife loved him and his many friends loved him. He did much good in life. Nonetheless, neither their love and acceptance of him, nor his own love and acceptance of himself, neither all their combined willpower, nor their wizardry, nor any manner of ways of thinking positively about his problem could heal or change his affliction. His mental pain concerning his affliction may have diminished, but the affliction itself remained. If Remus had his druthers, he’d druther not be a werewolf. His fruit included good fruit and bad fruit. Is that the kind of fruit Jesus had in mind when he spoke of a tree as being “good?”
Jesus healed the man afflicted with demons. This man went home changed, clothed, and in his right mind. This man “believed in Jesus” after that and went home to tell his own people how much the Lord had done for him, and how the Lord had mercy on him Mark 5:19-20. His life bore fruit. All the fruit was good. He did not sometimes cut himself and sometimes not. No one ever needed to chain him again. By their fruit you shall know them.
I love wizardry. Who doesn’t? But I love Jesus Christ more, because he has real power to change me. Although those who know me well on a personal level might disagree, I no longer hurt others the way I used to do. Although the harvest may be small, my life does show signs of bearing fruit.
What about you? People are ready to invest years of their lives searching and trying to gain control over that which masters them, when the answer is so simple: Invite the Lord to come near the place where you keep your heart protected. Werewolves cannot live in his presence. Jesus will tackle those werewolves with you and prevail.