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This morning I was thinking about the history of mankind, from Adam and Eve, to the new heavens and earth, and new Jerusalem.  From Genesis to Revelation.   I was thinking about the high points and low points; the great positives and negatives.  The first great positive was the creation of Adam and Eve.  The first great negative was the fall of Adam and Eve, and thus, all mankind.

In my mind there was a timeline, with blips to indicate the highs and lows.  In the middle of this time line was a the highest positive blip, signifying the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The greatest negative down blip was the fall.  The next biggest negative blip was something I read in 1Samuel 7.  The Israelites come to Samuel and tell him they want a king, like all the other nations.  Samuel, who was the spiritual leader at that time felt rejected and went before God.  God tells him not to worry, that the people have not rejected Samuel, but have rejected God.

That is huge!  Almost as huge as Adam and Eve ‘s falling to the temptation of the serpent, with similarities.  Adam and Eve rejected God’s command because they wanted to rule themselves.  The Israelites rejected God because they wanted a human king to rule them, rather than the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Both great sins came down to pride, arrogance and greed.  Both entities felt that God had given them the short end of the stick;  that God didn’t really love them and want them to be happy.  They believed that they could be happier doing things their way.

God has always wanted and chosen a people to be his own.  A people who would love him, follow him and do his will.  A people that he could bless, reveal himself to, and make happy and prosperous.  A people who would respond to his generosity by being generous themselves, both to God and their fellow man.  Thus, the second up blip on the historical timeline is God’s call of Abraham.  God did not call Abraham only for Abraham’s sake, but so that Abraham would be the father of a nation who God could call his own.  Through this man and this nation, God would bless all the people on earth.

This group of people would be initially called Hebrews.  The Hebrews were enslaved by the Egyptians.  God delivered these people from slavery in a miraculous way.  This is the third high point in the history of mankind and pointed to the ultimate high point in history when God would set people free from slavery to sin through Jesus death and resurrection.

The next high point after being set free from bondage in Egypt followed closely on the heels of this miraculous event.  This was the giving of the law on mount Sinai.  God was saying to his chosen people, “I love you and want you to be happy, so I am giving you these laws, precepts and commands.  If you continue to follow me by obeying these mandates, I will prosper you and you will be truly happy and will experience shalom. Slalom was a word the Jewish people used then to greet one another. It meant peace, prosperity, and joy.

Next followed a low point where the people showed they didn’t really believe that God loved them and wanted them to be happy. When it came time to possess the land flowing with milk and honey, they balked. Ten bad spies gave the report of giants in the land that made the Hebrews look like grasshoppers in comparison. Two good spies said the enemy was indeed large, but our God, who delivered us from the Egyptians is the real giant that will go before us and conquer the enemy. The Jews didn’t trust God and thus had to wander in the wilderness for forty years until the unbelieving generation died out and a believing generation rose up.

The believers went in and took the promised land. A definite high point.

The next century was filled with high blips and low dips as God’s chosen people alternatively worshiped and obeyed God, and then fell away and were disobedient. This cycle continued through the period of the Judges and then the kings. Finally, an awful low point occurred when first the ten tribes of Israel were conquered and taken into captivity by the Assyrians, and then Judah was humiliated by the Babylonians and taken into exile.

The prophets had warned the people of Israel and Judah that if they didn’t change their hearts and their ways that God would punish them and send them into exile. They didn’t and he did. The prophets also told of a time of restoration that would come. They told of a new covenant that would be written on hearts of flesh rather than tablets of stone. Daniel foretold of a Son of Man who would come into the world and inaugurate a new era; a new way to relate to God; a new way to experience peace and happiness.

The Son of Man was Jesus. He used the title Son of Man to refer to himself more than any other title. The incarnation of the Son of God, the Son of Man, was the high point on the time line of mankind. God with us, the beginning of the end. The end of the God’s presence in the holy temple in Jerusalem, along with the sacrificial system involving the blood of bulls and goats and lambs. The Lamb of God was the ultimate sacrifice that made a way for all mankind to receive forgiveness of sins, liberation from the bondage of Sin, and to enjoy God forever.

The ultimate high point will be the day when God creates the New Heaven and New Earth and the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven.  God’s radiance will be our light, and his presence will be our joy.  We will enjoy Him, evermore free from tears, pain, loss, suffering and grief.  All will be glory and peace, and that is the point in mankind that I am looking forward to.  Come quickly!

*****          *****          *****         *****

mankind

 

I have been enjoying  Paul’s letter to the Colossians for the last month or so, and the idea of thanks, thankfulness and gratitude keeps popping up. Seven times in four chapters.  Some say Philippians is a book whose theme is joy, because the words joy and rejoice are prominent.  I think it’s safe to say Colossians is a book whose theme is thanks.  See what you think.

Colossians 1:3
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.

A Good Start

Paul starts most of his letters with a word or prayer of thanksgiving for the recipients, and the Christians in the church in Colossae were no exception. Paul had never visited that church, but they had a great reputation for their faith in Jesus and for loving God’s people. What if we started everday with a prayer of thanks for God’s people? All of God’s people – even those we don’t get along with, those who think differently than we do, those who offend us. Paul had to deal with all those types in his letter to the Corinthians, but he starts his letter to them by saying, “I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” A great way to start a letter and a day.

1:12
(We are) giving joyful thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

Joyful Thanks

Paul is not just thankful, but for the second time in his prayer, he (and Timothy) give joyful thanks to the Father. He is full of joy as he gives thanks because he knows that these believers in Colossae, whom he has never met, are in the same boat with him with regards to being graciously chosen by God to share in the inheritance and to be brought into the kingdom of light. Certainly something to give joyful thanks about.

2:6-7
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Overflowing With Thankfulness

First Paul gives thanks, then expresses joyful thanks, and this escalates to overflowing thankfulness. Considering a persons life in Christ, rooted in Christ, built up in Christ, and strengthened in the faith, it should be a natural reaction to overflow with thankfulness. I think of water being poured into a glass, and I have to ask myself, what is my level of thankfulness. Is it about 1/3, 2/3, full, or overflowing? Too many times I have to say 1/3 or 2/3. On a good day it may be full. God help me to truly realize the blessings of a life lived in Christ, and to overflow with thankfulness.

(the peace of Christ, the message of Christ, the name of Christ)

3:15

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Thankful For the Peace

God gives a peace that passes all understanding to those who invite God to sit on the throne of their life. He gives that peace so that we can enjoy personal contentment, but more importantly, to enjoy peace with members in our communities of faith. The peace He gives is more than just the absence of conflict. It is a sense of completeness, wholeness, health, safety, tranquility, rest, prosperity, and harmony. This extends from the individual to the entire community of Christ. Psalm 133 says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in harmony.” Truly something to be thankful for.

3:16
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Grateful Hearts
When the message of Christ dwells richly in individual hearts and corporately in the community of faith, then singing, and shouts for joy full of gratitude will be heard. A thankful heart is a happy heart.

3:17

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Do it All
Have you got something to say? Then say every word in the name of the Lord Jesus, as if He were saying it through you. Have you got something to do? Then make every action count, as if Christ were working through you. It’s amazing that God has chosen any of us to cooperate with Him in building the kingdom with our words and deeds. Thank you God for allowing us to partner with you with our lips and with with our hands in making this world a better place.

4:2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

A great Ending
Paul set the example in the first chapter. He prayed for the Colossians. He thanked God for them. Paul was ever watchful, alert for stories of Christ followers living lives of faith, hope and love. He heard about these Colossian Christians and was grateful for their lives, their words and their works. Now in the last chapter, Paul admonishes them to follow his example by being devoted to prayer, watching for good gifts from a gracious God, and being thankful.