The gardener found a place with a perfect amount of sun to suit the cravings of the rose bush. He was cautious to dig deep as he planted his prized plant. He understood the importance of drainage for the root system, as well as allowing the rose bush room to grow. The gardener adored roses, and he knew if he poured out himself into the rose bush, there would be seasons of plenty.
The gardener watched over the rose bush, spoke to it, cared for it. He carefully inspected the rose bush. He could imagine the roses that would one day bloom. He placed banana peels gently alongside the roots to promote flowering. He kept the soil moist while keeping the foliage dry. He knew exactly what was needed for the rose bush to grow and bear a beautiful selection of buds. He cherished the rose bush. It was his.
As time progressed, the gardener allowed others to assist with the care of the rose bush. The people that helped the gardener were each related to the gardener, but each helper could never be as great as the gardener. The helpers could never love the rose bush as much as the gardener and so the helpers never poured themselves completely into the rose bush. Whereas the gardener focused attention on creating and growing the rose bush, the helpers were content for it to simply exist as it is—never seeking to help it be more, to help it be what it was destined for in life. The helpers barely glanced at the instructions given to them by the gardener.
One day, as a helper was watching over the rose bush, the aphids invaded. The aphids showed up early in the life of the rose bush and they reproduced rapidly. Each of the aphids took from the rose bush. They sucked the juices from the plant. The aphids damaged the rose bush, leaving it broken and lacking. The helpers never even noticed. The outward appearance of the rose bush never gave the helpers any excuse to look closer—again, the helpers were satisfied that the rose bush simply existed. The helpers could never love the rose bush as did the gardener.
Following the invasion of the aphids, the ants arrived. The ants were attracted to the honey dew that was left by the aphids. The rose bush was scarred and broken. The damage was done. The gardener could detect the damage done to his plant, but the helpers overlooked the streaked leaves and misshapen blooms. The gardener knew what his beautiful rose bush was destined to look like in full bloom—the helpers were satisfied with blooms of any kind. Apart from the gardener, no one noticed because no one cared.
It was now time to harvest. People came by in droves to take from the rose bush. The helpers enjoyed this because the harvest brought them attention, money, and pleasure. Everyone wanted to have their own collection to use for their own purposes. For some, it made them feel special to have some of the roses to display at home. For some, the roses were used to beautify an area where people gathered for a time. For some, the roses were used as a declaration of love or as a sweet goodbye. Everyone took from the rose bush to satisfy their own needs.
As the harvest ended, the rose bush was nearly bare. It was clear that the rose bush was not in good health. The helpers never really cared for the rose bush. While pruning the plant, seeking out the healthy white centers, it was very evident that the plant was dying. What had become of the rose bush? Everyone took from the gardener’s beautiful plant. They took and took some more, until all that was left was a diseased, broken rose bush.
Now it appeared that this would be the last bloom. The pruning showed the plant was beyond help. The helpers, the ones who were supposed to care for the plant for the gardener, had instead took everything from it. Carelessly watching over the plant was to them all about what they could receive, what they could enjoy, what they could possess. What the gardener said to love and honor, the helpers decided to stampede and pilfer.
One last person approached a helper for a small collection of the blooms. He asked, “Please, let me have this small clipping. I adore the roses.” The helper was now wise to know that there was no chance left for the rose bush. He and his friends had failed to uphold what was entrusted to them. In a last-ditch effort, he imagined that perhaps this last person could treat the roses better and there could be redemption of their misdeeds. The helper clipped the final blooms from the rose bush and handed them to the man. The rose bush was now completely bare.
The man took this last bit of life of the rose bush to his home. He really liked the roses, so he said. Soon his declaration was shown to be false, as he only displayed them for a brief time. He stared at the roses and became aware of the imperfections. He saw the streaks. He saw the misshapen blooms. He became disgusted by this, the last collection of roses that remained. The man tossed the roses in the bin and deposited them outside in the trash the next morning.
All this happened while the gardener looked on. He looked on to see his beautiful roses destroyed by the helpers. He watched as the man became disgusted by the imperfections that resulted. He saw his cherished rose bush become nothing more than sickly mildew covered leaves, and branches that would grow nothing more. He knew of what was to become for the rose bush—what could have been, what should have been. If only the helpers could understand what it truly meant to love. If only the helpers could have seen the beauty in the broken. If only the helpers would have appreciated the rose bush and fought for the rose bush.
“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” ~ Romans 12:10 [NLT]
The Bible tells us to rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16, Philippians 4:4). This is very difficult, because we often find ourselves in circumstances that are not so delightful. Nonetheless, no matter what is going on in our lives, our heavenly Father is always deserving of honor, glory, and praise. This does not change with circumstances. Whatever happens – rejoice in the Lord!
Today, remind yourself to rejoice in the Lord. Take time to praise Him for what He has done, what He is doing, and what He has promised. “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:12 NLT).
“Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.” – Philippians 3:1 [NLT]
Encouragement is so important. The Bible tells us to encourage others. I have personally seen encouragement go a long way in a person’s life. Paul wrote how he wanted to encourage others in their faith, but then he said something interesting. He said, “But I also want to be encouraged by yours.” What? He wanted to be encouraged by their faith?
Faith is encouraging. When others have faith, it is an encouragement. Even Paul, who many see as this great person of faith, could be encouraged by the faith of others. It is encouraging to see what God is doing through other people. It is encouraging to see others walking in faith. It is a truly a blessing and an honor to share. What an encouragement to those who witness God’s presence in your life.
Today, remember that you can be an encouragement to others. Go out of your way to encourage someone. Speak life. Share a laugh. Walk in faith. Encourage others in their faith. And allow yourself to be encouraged by what God is doing in the lives around you. Look around and watch Him move. He is alive. He is doing great things.
“When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” – Romans 1:12 [NLT]
After the rebellion of Korah, we read about Aaron standing between the dead and the living. What an interesting display. Aaron stood between the dead and the living with the incense burning to purify the people. This incense was to make the people right with the Lord. He stood between them and the plague stopped.
This display foreshadows what is to come. Jesus Christ stands between God and us sinners, just as Aaron stood between the living people and the dead people. Remember, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). So we are the dead. God is life, we are dead in our transgressions. But Jesus Christ stands between God and us. He is the Lamb of God. He is our mediator. He is our High Priest. The Bible says that “He lives forever to intercede with God on (our) behalf.” He offered a “once for all” sacrifice. This sacrifice of His blood makes us white as snow (Isaiah 1:18, Revelation 7:14). We are right with God because we are clothed in His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).
Today, remember Who stands between you and God. Remember the High Priest that we have- “He is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven.” Worship Him. Praise His great name. In Christ alone, my hope is found.
“He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague stopped.” – Numbers 16:48 [NLT]
“Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. He is the kind of high priest we need because He is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. Unlike those other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when He offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins.” – Hebrews 7:25-27 [NLT]
Often we rush into things without giving much thought. With our fast paced world, rushing is a way of life. At times, we rush without thinking. The Bible tells us to be patient, to take careful steps, to seek out, to test, to rest in Him. Our nature causes us to jump to conclusions, to act in emotion, to not consider but to just move and do what we think is best.
Last night, I saw an empty soda bottle in my son’s room. My son has a horrible habit of leaving empty bottles laying around, a habit that drives his OCD mother crazy. I knew that my daughter needed that type of bottle for her science project so rather than taking the chaos left by my son to the recycling bin, I placed this particular plastic bottle on her desk. A few hours later, she noticed the bottle on her desk. She grabbed it and came rushing downstairs toward my son with bottle in hand. The moment I set eyes on her, I knew she was on a mission—a mission to scold her disorganized brother. I tried to step between her and let her know what happened. Wait! Don’t say anything! Hold on. I need to tell you something. It was certainly a wild moment, but not the first one.
My favorite time of the day is the morning. I love the quiet. So peaceful. So calm. What a wonderful time to consider, to meditate, to examine. The Psalmist wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10). This verse says, quit striving, stop fighting. Know that God is God. He will be honored by all. There is no need to be rushing around into things, no need to jump around like you have ants in your pants. No need to live so fast paced you miss true life. My friends, God is speaking to you with His still small voice. Stop. Listen. Rest. Take in a deep breath. Allow His words to linger. Examine His Word. Cling to it. Embrace Him. Your only Peace. Your only Joy. Jesus.
He is your life
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. [MSG]
- Christ Raised (v. 1) – Raised along with Christ, raised to life with Christ
- Christ Ruled (v. 1) – Christ rules at God’s right side
- Christ Focused (v. 1-2) – Think about what is up there, not about what is here on earth]
- Set your heart on what is in heaven – Seek the things above
- Think – phroneó – Direct your mind to, seek for, observe, care for
- Christ Hidden (v. 3) – You died, your life is hidden with Christ
- You died – apothnéskó – dying off (separation / away from)
- Life – both physical & spiritual (present & future)
- Hidden – kruptó – concealed, secret, hidden
- Christ Glory (v. 4) – Christ gives meaning to your life, and when he appears, you will also appear with him in glory. Glory (doxa– “dox’-ah”) – praise, honor, glory, high renown, splendor
Bible Study Questions:
Seek the things that are above (v. 1) and set your minds on things that are above (v. 2)
These things make the subject of CAREFUL REFLECTION
Think on these things – Give them weight in your decision. Allow them to shape you.
1) In Philippians 4:8, Paul wrote, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (NLT).
This is to be our FOCUS. This is part of seeking and setting your mind. What do these words mean? How does the world derail us from focusing on these things?
HONORABLE / HONEST / NOBLE / WORTHY OF REVERENCE
RIGHT / JUST
PURE / AUTHENTIC
LOVELY / ACCEPTABLE / LOVABLE
ADMIRABLE / GOOD REPORT / KIND AND GRACIOUS
EXCELLENCE / VIRTUE / VIRTUOUS
WORTHY OF PRAISE / PRAISEWORTHY
2) What can we do to follow Proverbs 4:23 command to “watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life”?
This is one part of a 12-week Sermon Series and Bible Study focused on Colossians. The 12 weeks include:
You are not where you are supposed to be
Each of you is meant to be somewhere else
Yes, it’s true. God has made you for so much more. How do you get there? STRETCH!!
You cannot GROW unless you are STRETCHED!
No Easy Road
God promised He would be with you, not that it would be easy
David Livingstone – Africa missionary – received message from missionary group who wanted to join in his work. They sent letter that they had people who wanted to join and asked if there was an EASY access road to get where he was. His response – if you have people who only will come with good roads, I don’t want them. I want people who will come where there is no road at all.
Moses – Red Sea. During Exodus when Moses was to lead the people out of Egypt. When they actually were leaving, they went the LONG way (Exodus 3:17). Not only did they go the long way, then they reach the Red Sea and the Egyptians had chased after them. There they are – Egypt right there ready to get them and the Red Sea before them. God was with them. But they had to STRETCH. They had to trust in going the long way. They had to trust that God was with them. They had to trust He had everything under control. They had to trust He had a greater plan for His glory.
Exodus 14:21 “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.” [ESV]
Mark 3:1-5 The withered hand – “Stretch out your hand”
We respond to things by two things:
- What we SEE
- What we SEEK
Movement Means Loss
Matthew 8:28-34 Demons Invade Pigs. They wanted rid of the demons that possessed the two men but they lost their pigs. Those pigs were of great value to them. V. 34 “And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.” [ESV]
Abraham – left his homeland, his family, everything he knew (Genesis 12)
Focus on the Person Not Result
“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” – Colossians 2:7 [NLT]
1 Peter 1:7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. [NIV]
I’ve been to many banquets over the years; each one is a great celebration. In today’s verse, it speaks about “a banquet of praise.” The NIV says, “Sacrifice thank offerings to God.”
Now today we do not sacrifice thank offerings like they once did; however, we still should offer praise to God. He alone deserves praise. In verse 15, God says, “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” Call on Him. He will help. We will honor Him. It seems so simple but yet it gets neglected again and again.
We can never praise God enough. We can never offer Him enough thanks for what He has done for us, what He has given us. When I think of spreading out a banquet feast, I think of the big table of food at a wedding celebration or birthday dinner. I think of a Christmas family dinner or a picnic spread on a beautiful summer day. Those feasts we give a lot to make happen. We prepare. We spend. We plan. We pour a lot out for those banquets. A banquet is elaborate. A banquet is large. So when we think of a banquet of praise, it should never be only a “thank you for my food” before your meal and nothing more for the rest of the day. Imagine tomorrow morning, waking up and only having what you thanked God for today. Wow! There’s so much more to be thankful for, so much more opportunity to praise Him. Start spreading out that banquet. Honor Him.
“Spread for me a banquet of praise,
serve High God a feast of kept promises,
And call for help when you’re in trouble—
I’ll help you, and you’ll honor me.”
-Psalm 50:14-15 [MSG]
People are not always reliable for one reason or another. We often let each other down. We oversleep. We double schedule by accident. We run late. We don’t pay attention or lose focus. We misunderstand. We miscalculate. We even lie. I don’t think I would be far reaching to say that there is no person who did not let someone down.
In today’s passage, the Psalmist speaks about God who “has never let you down.” He further states that “He has never wandered off to do his own thing.” He is always there, always present, always caring, always loving—He is always.
We often wander off to do our own thing when we are supposed to be helping a friend, at work, attending a function, handling our parental responsibilities, etc. All we have is excuses for our shortcomings. But with God, there is no need for excuses. He never lets you down. He never wanders off. Today let us thank Him for always being present, for always listening, for always loving.
“Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.”
-Psalm 22:22-24 [MSG]