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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:1-11 [ESV]

Golden Trumpet | Hawaii | March 2022

I took the title of this post from a book by Carole Mayhall. The back cover says, “If we need proof of the tongue’s impact, we need look no further than our own lives and the hurts and wounds our callous speech has caused. The Bible tells us that our mouths are to be fountains of life, but our day-to-day interactions prove otherwise. So how do we address our hearts as well as our words?” 

There is no truth to the children’s saying about words’ inability to hurt us. I think of my 6th grade teacher calling me dumb, or an angry man telling me I had gravely mistreated the church of which he was a member and I was pastor. I won’t even repeat his words. Sad. And hurtful. Maybe you’ve heard words of anger, bitterness, resentment, or judgment aimed at your heart. That is not the work of the Holy Spirit. 

God’s word is clear here, “But now you must put…obscene talk from your mouth.” Likewise Paul says in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Jesus counsels, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” (Matthew 12:36) God cares about our words. 

Our words grow, moreover, not from a dictionary or thesaurus. Our words grow from our hearts. Evil speaks as evil thinks. And because we have died to the things of this world. Our hearts and minds are fixed on Christ. Out of that will come words of grace, kindness, mercy, love, truth, and hope. We will speak to each other in an attitude of gentleness and humility. In that we will honor God and express our identity as children of God.

But what if we don’t? What if we slip and speak unkind and hurtful words to our spouse or child? What if your best friend ends up hearing you berate her? What if your subordinate at work is the recipient of your verbal tirade? This ought not be. But sometimes we are reminded that although we’ve died to the passions of the flesh and the world’s ways, our sinful flesh remains. And once in a while it gets the better of us. 

That’s when the pure goodness of God, his unwavering love for you and me, and his gracious kindness is such a comfort. For his words to those who realize their sin, and turn to him in repentance are words of mercy and grace that heal sin-sick souls. He says, “I do not condemn you. I forgive you. You are mine. Now, go and speak truth to your neighbor in kindness, gentleness, humility, and love. Those are words that heal.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:1-11 [ESV]

Coffee Bean Blossom | Hawaii | March 2022

We taught our children about telling the truth and used the children’s book, Jimmy and the White Lie. When his baseball goes through a neighbor’s window, Jimmy learns the importance of telling the truth, and the awful consequences of not doing so. The lie grows bigger and bigger because Jimmy has to make up more and more stories (lies) to support the first little lie that he had told. 

I love to make the point that we are really lousy gods. We don’t do well trying to create a world that doesn’t exist. But that’s exactly what we try to do whenever we tell a lie. We try to create a world that doesn’t exist. And the only way we can sustain it is by adding words to it. Propping up one untruth after another with further untruths. Eventually all lies will crumble under their own weight. We just cannot sustain them forever. 

Jesus put it this way, “There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.” (Luke 8:17) Truth will always win out. 

When God created the world, he did so by speaking. And when he spoke, light happened. Then came seas, sky, fish, land animals, flowers and trees. When it came to man, God created us in his own image. And he did that by forming us from the dust of the earth. Breathing into us the breath of life, we became living beings. That was true especially and specifically for Adam and Eve. It is also true for us. We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, knit together in our mother’s wombs. 

As creatures of God, and especially as his children, we are to reflect his character – even to the point of creating things. But we are not God, so we cannot do this by speaking. And certainly by speaking things that are untrue we are not reflecting God’s character. Jesus is the embodiment of truth. He is the way, the truth, and the life. 

So when Paul says we are not to lie to one another, that is because we are dead to sin, and called to reflect God’s character. That certainly applies also to slander, and obscene talk. 

Diane and I have grown weary of the latter on all too many TV shows and movies. Even BBC broadcasts throw obscene talk at us. And just recently I was made all too aware of how far down the path of vulgarity the music industry has gone. Bombs of too many letters to count are lobbed through our TV speakers. And don’t even get me started about the way the name of Jesus is used and abused. In fact, that is more commonly accepted by TV and entertainment executives than the other language bombs thrown our way. 

Our language is a powerful tool to bless and heal, or to hurt and offend others. God’s calling is not just a matter of being polite, but a matter of giving witness to his character. How will you honor him today with your words? Don’t lie about that!

Hello Friends,

Diane and I are hosting a trip to Ireland in 2023. We would love for you to learn more about this trip and we’re hosting an information meeting in our home on Sunday, July 17th at 7:00 PM. Please let us know if you’re coming by commenting below. If you provide your email address, we’ll keep you in the loop as further details develop.

Shades of Ireland with Pastor David & Diane Bahn

July 17th, 7:00 pm

If you are interested, please comment below and we will provide further information.

We will have some light snacks and beverages and if you desire, you are welcome to bring a sweet or savory snack to share and a favorite beverage. Together we will watch an informational video about this specific trip. Please invite others who might be interested–family, friends, neighbors. We will have printed brochures available.

Shades of Ireland” tour information:

Dates: April 16-25, 2023  (Easter is Apr. 9, 2023)

Optional 3-night pre-tour extension to London 

Optional 3-night post-tour extension to Edinburgh, Scotland

Some highlights:

Dublin, Kilkenny, Waterford, Blarney Castle, Killarney, Ring of Kerry, Limerick, Cliffs of Moher, Galway, and more

Per person rates: Double $3799 ; Single $4399 (in 2020 the rates were $4049 and $4749!)

Rates include airport transfers and airfare. 

Land and air travel protection plan insurance is available.  

Optional activities include a Medieval Banquet ($115) in Limerick and a Guinness Storehouse Pub Dinner in Dublin ($105). 

Here is a link to the specifics of our tour on the Collette website:

Shades of Ireland with Pastor David & Diane Bahn & Friends

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:1-11 [ESV]

Yellow Billed Cardinal | Hawaii | March 2022

Maybe you’ve been the brunt of someone’s anger and ire. Blazing hot angry words cascade all over your soul. You are reduced to a non-person by someone else’s bitterness and rage. But anger is not always the opposite of love. Sometimes love kindles anger – or at least a strong reaction against things in us that have offended or hurt another. Where there’s anger, at least in a way, there’s hope. When there is silence – cold, unmoved, and careless withdrawal – there is no hope. 

Some see God’s wrath as the white hot blitz of retribution and active punishment. But there is another way to look at it. What if God simply withdrew. No more providential supply. No more patient waiting. No more ears open to our prayers. No angels sent to protect us. No friends coming by to offer kindness. Just darkness. Cold. Empty. Silence. 

When Jesus hung on the cross he cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the cry of anguish when we experience the wrath of God. His abandonment creates a void that absorbs our very soul. This is wrath of the worst kind: God takes his hands off of us. If he is chastising us, and his hand is heavy on us, there is hope of his presence, kindness, goodness, and grace. His hand may be heavy, but it’s there. But what if there is no hand. No goodness. No love. No grace. Just the utter black hole of a godless eternity. I do not want to face that.

Paul warns here, that the wrath of God will come on account of sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. This is the same point that he makes in Romans 2 where the terrible phrase “he gave them over…” appears again and again, as he speaks of people who abandon his ways. So whether it’s sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, or covetousness, God will let us have our way if we insist. And it will be our doom. Our utter doom. Our eternal doom.

So we put to death those things that feed the sinful flesh. Sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness are always temptations for us as long as we are in this world. But we put them to death daily. And we return to our compassionate, good, faithful, kind, and gracious God. And, thanks be to God, he receives us. Forgives us. Puts us back on the path. Gives us hope and a future. 

This is the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. We need not experience the wrath of God. We need not have him take his hands off of us. In fact we look for the nail-scarred hands of Jesus and long for his touch. He heals, forgives, and blesses.

For that we can be truly thankful as we set our minds on the things above, where Christ is. We look forward to his appearing and to that time when we will appear with him in glory. 

As you pray these psalms today praise our God: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Psalm 12:6-7

The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

You, O Lord, will keep them;
    you will guard us from this generation forever.

Psalm 42:1-6a

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Psalm 72:18-19

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!

Psalm 102:1-2

Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
    in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
    answer me speedily in the day when I call!

Psalm 132:1-10

Remember, O Lord, in David’s favor,
    all the hardships he endured,
how he swore to the Lord
    and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
“I will not enter my house
    or get into my bed,
I will not give sleep to my eyes
    or slumber to my eyelids,
until I find a place for the Lord,
    a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah;
    we found it in the fields of Jaar.
“Let us go to his dwelling place;
    let us worship at his footstool!”

Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place,
    you and the ark of your might.
Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
    and let your saints shout for joy.
10 For the sake of your servant David,
    do not turn away the face of your anointed one.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®)
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.
All rights reserved. 

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:1-11 [ESV]

Candelabra Aloe | Hawaii | March 2022

Call me cruel or sadistic, but I get a certain pleasure out of killing wasps. I’m sure they serve some  positive environmental/ecological function. But they kill the caterpillars in our yards that would otherwise become butterflies. Butterflies: who would ever want to kill one of those? Plus the wasps strike terror in our granddaughters whenever they see one while visiting our house. So…wasp…DIE! Maybe you can enlighten me about wasps’ positive contribution to the good of the world.

Sin, on the other hand, is a bit more illusive. The lure of the sinful flesh, and the deceit of Satan conspire with the world’s glitzy appeal. They team up to make sinful choices pleasing to the eye, good for food, and desirable for wisdom (cf. Genesis 3:6). Why not give in? Why not take the bait? Why not let this pet hang out for a while. The bottle of booze that mocks your willpower. The credit card bill too easily hidden from your spouse. The stop on the way home that you can blame on a traffic snarl. The secret bank account that you dip into from time to time. No big deal. You can hang out with them, right?

Wrong. Every forbidden fruit is poisonous. Every juicy bait hides a sharp barb. Every pet demands to be fed. Sometimes you just have to put things to death. You have to shred the credit cards. You have to move the computer out of the out-of-the-way office. You have to tell the guys you won’t be stopping by. You have to kill the sin. You have to put to death the deeds of the flesh. 

Some would would have you move into a monastery. Some say abandon all worldly pleasures. But that’s not really a solution. Paul makes that clear (cf. Colossians 2:20-23). These, he says, may have the appearance of godliness, but they don’t really deal with the inner self. 

To die to sin is an act of repentance. It’s contrition for the things done wrong, or the things left undone. It’s faith in Jesus’ love and God’s goodness. And it is a daily practice. It’s what Martin Luther offers in his explanation of the significance being baptized with water. He asks, What then is the significance of such a baptism with water? His answer speaks to us today:

It signifies that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily sorrow for sin and through repentance, and on the other hand that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:1-11 [ESV]

The Other-Worldly-Appearing Volcano at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park | Hawaii | March 2022

In the movie, Little Big Man, Dustin Hoffman plays the part of Jack Crabb, the sole surviving white man at Custer’s Last Stand at Little Bighorn. Jack is adopted by the Native Americans and is taken in by Old Lodge Skins, played by Chief Dan George. He becomes Jack’s adoptive grandfather. Whenever Jack visits him Old Lodge Skins says, “My heart soars like a hawk to see you again.” But at the end of the movie when the old man goes out to die, things don’t go quite as planned. He awakens from his near death experience and asks, “Am I still in this world?” 

We seldom need to ask that question. Life is hard all around us. Reminders of our broken world, fallen humanity, and our own sinful flesh regularly remind us that we are still in this world. Life is not easy. There are many challenges. And although we may long to be with Jesus in heaven, we know we’re not. 

But Paul says here that we have died, and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Certainly that is true; scripture would not lead us astray. This comes after we have been reminded that we have been raised with Christ. Through baptism we have been united with Christ’s death and resurrection. We died with Christ. We have died to sin. We have died to the elemental things of this world.

But we must be reminded of this. The world’s ways all too often sweep us up in their strong currents. We get distracted, deceived, and deluged with opportunities to ignore God’s ways. Somehow we need to claim a death to those things. 

It happens in baptism. It is secured in Jesus’ resurrection. And it is a daily need to repent and believe all this. Living with no concept of God’s ways, or how we have been led astray from them is all too easy. Letting go of the world’s allurements, and setting our minds on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father is a continuous process of repentance and belief. 

Holding the vision of Christ in glory, where he deserves to be, and anticipating our eternal joy in him is the essential element of such a life. Such a life is built on a daily recalling of our baptism, and intentional self-reckoning (cf. Romans 6:10-14) as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. That’s the world I want to be in. 

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 2:16-23 [ESV]

Maybe you know the name of this flower! | Hawaii | March 2022

In the movie Shadowlands, Anthony Hopkins plays C. S. Lewis, the renowned author of “The Chronicles of Narnia” series, a bachelor and Oxford University professor who spends his free time debating with fellow academics at a pub. Although he seems entirely uninterested in love, Lewis agrees to marry Joy Gresham (Debra Winger), an American writer who is looking to secure British citizenship. Their arrangement soon becomes a romance, and, when Joy is diagnosed with terminal cancer, their bond grows even stronger. It’s a powerful and very edifying movie about suffering and the Christian hope. 

Lewis was a gifted former atheist who was converted to the Christian faith and became a strong apologist for the faith he once renounced. One of my favorite Lewis quotes expresses how we live in the shadows of life without realizing it.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” -― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses

Paul point us to religious practices that have the appearance of godliness but have no power to shape the heart and bolster true faith and hope. These are shadows of something far greater; these celebrations, observances, and ceremonies. Grand pomp and glorious circumstance may tickle our imaginations. We may want to stay on the mountaintops of extraordinary experiences. We may wish to capture the winds of late spring or late autumn in hopes of letting it out in the dark days of winter or heat of summer. But those are only glimpses of a greater glory that awaits us with God in heaven. 

We will join angel choirs, throngs of worshipers, elders, living creatures, seraphim and cherubim in praise to God on that Great Last Day. For his glorious grace will be fully realized. He will have his way in us: life, joy, peace, love will all be complete. No shadow. No quickly gone fleeting shadow. Reality. Unmoving. Unchanging. Joy. Life. Peace! Come, Lord Jesus! 

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 2:16-23 [ESV]

Fallen Arch | Hawaii | March 2022

Gotta watch those email chains! I learned that the hard way years ago when I made an ill-advised and incorrect comment about someone. That someone eventually got wind of it because he was in the email chain. Boy did I regret what I had said. It was not particularly evil. But it was definitely unkind. And wrong. I accused someone of “not getting it.” I sincerely thought he didn’t. But I was the one who didn’t get it. I didn’t see the connection of his thoughts. I didn’t see how his idea would work. I didn’t get it. 

It might be said that Paul’s rejection of the connection between regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch,” provide a greater control over the indulgence of the flesh. Seems to me at first glance that such regulations would help. By not touching, not tasting, not handling certain things I might be more able to resist the temptation to other indulgences. 

Perhaps this is just the forbidden fruit syndrome. If I am told I cannot have something, I’m much more likely to want it. Like when I’m on a diet and I can’t have sweets or snacks. I want them more. Perhaps this is part of the story. But when Paul speaks here of “stopping the indulgence of the flesh,” it is clear that this is more than mere outward actions. The flesh is within us. It’s the part of our being that delights in the devil’s schemes. It’s the part of us that wants nothing to do with God. It’s the part of us that can too easily hide behind outward shows of piety. A priest can wear a collar while doing unspeakable things to those in his care. Outward piety is no guarantee of inward purity. 

So is the opposite true: eat, drink, and be merry! No rules. No laws. No prohibitions? Paul is not arguing for that. Shall we sin more that grace may abound? No never! (Romans 6:1) What, then, is the key to stopping the indulgence of the flesh? It’s not asceticism and severity to the body. Nor is it epicureanism and sensual abandon. 

It’s a matter of remembering who you are. You are a redeemed child of God. You are part of the Body of Christ – of whom Jesus is the head. When Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread, the issue wasn’t bread or stone. The issue was from whom was he going to take his cues? Who would lead him? We are followers of Jesus. We follow his lead. He leads us to love God first and most, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are part of a body of believers, knit together in the bonds of faith and love. Faith and love defines us. Thusly defined we will battle the wiles of the sinful flesh far more successfully. The connection we need is to the Head, and to one another in the Body of Christ. 

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 2:16-23 [ESV]

One of many chickens we saw free-ranging in Hawaii | Hawaii | March 2022

John Ortberg is a gifted author, and inspiring teacher. In one of his books he makes a challenging observation. In essence, people have different ways of identifying themselves as followers of Jesus. Some wear crosses. Others have a very pious manner of speech and mannerisms. Still others have a unique way of dressing. He asked (I think in regard to a particular type of clothing and unworldly lifestyle) whether we’ve decided that if we can’t be observably different from the world, we should be weird. 

I have friends who have a peculiar way they hold their hands as they walk to Holy Communion. I have other friends who wear clerical collars almost everywhere. A friend of a friend even wore his on a canoe trip! You may know I don’t wear a clerical collar any longer – though I used to. And here’s the marvelous thing about the true Christian faith: we’re free in regard to all these things: clothing choices, clerical garb, crosses, crucifixes, or any other outward expression of our faith that is in keeping with love for God and love for neighbor. 

That’s part of what Paul is getting at here as he writes to the people in Colossae. Don’t let people judge you by outward expressions of religion, or the lack thereof. And in regard to the things identified by Paul, the issue had to do with the impact of the Judaizers, a group of supposed Jesus-followers who wanted to require things beyond that which had been determined in Acts 15. There, the requirement was simple:

“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements: 29 You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell.” – Acts 15:28-29

To add a requirement of circumcision or other Old Testament observances to the requirements of being true Christians was a stumbling block of man, not of God. So Paul doesn’t just say that it’s OK not to observe these Old Testaments rituals. He implores them not to let anyone tell them they must. 

Why would he do this? Perhaps it’s the same reason Luther refused to baptize by immersion: Because people were saying that the only valid baptism was by immersion. He would not acquiesce to that demand. In fact he refused it. He didn’t want to cause people who had not been immersed to doubt the validity of Jesus’ words, and God’s promises. 

I have no quarrel with my collar-wearing brothers. I don’t really care if someone walks a certain way to go to the communion rail. As long we we are not being offensive or provocative, we are free to follow these customs or not. But that’s not often an issue I wrestle with.

More important is whether any of these things actually help us live more godly lives. In the eyes of the world such a life is way more weird than any garb. And God just might provide the opportunity for witness through such true weirdness.