Colossians 4:6, Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

I hear too many people say that Christians are dry, boring and lifeless. Sadly, I also hear that about a lot of churches. It is true that legalism, which makes Christianity little more than a bunch of do’s and don’ts, only fosters that dry, boring and lifeless perception of the church and many Christians. However, biblical Christianity is anything but dry, boring and lifeless. In Colossians 4:6, Paul says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Those three Greek words for speech, gracious and salt were used in the 1st century literature to refer to speech that was gracious, attractive, witty and winsome. In other words, the Apostle Paul wants our conversations as Christians, to capture the excitement of the Gospel.

When we talk about church and Christ we should do so with some flare, or as Paul said, give it some salt. As you head into the weekend, put a smile on your face, some salt in your speech and have a blast in Jesus name. Others will take notice.

Think about it, and have a blessed weekend!
John Mark Caton, Ph.D

Colossians 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. 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.

From time to time, I come across spiritual elites. A spiritual elitist is someone who pretends to be more spiritual than the average Christian or one who claims to have some special knowledge beyond the Bible that very few can understand. However, Colossians 3 says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom… 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.”

I am thankful for those words from Apostle Paul when he said, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you…” Those words “among you” mean every one of you. You see the message of Christ is not reserved for a select few spiritual elites. No, in fact Paul says the message of Christ is available to every one of us, and that message is found in the written words of the Bible. All we have to do is take the time to read it. So today, spend some time reading God’s Word. After all, that’s why God gave it to us.

Think about it, and have a blessed day!

John Mark Caton, Ph.D

This month our church has been studying the book of Colossians, and in Colossians 4:12, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Don’t miss those words, “…he is always wrestling in prayer for you.” The Apostle Paul was encouraging those Colossians believers not to forget the prayers of their leaders. He was pointing out that the prayer of a pastor was of great benefit to them. In this particular prayer, we are told that Epaphras prayed that they would, “…stand firm in all the will of God and be mature and fully assured.”

That is my prayer for you today- that you would stand firm in the will of God for your life and be mature or grow in your faith. In doing so, you will not only know God’s will for your life, but also be able to share God’s love with those around you.

Think about it…and have a blessed day!

John Mark Caton, Ph.D

 

Colossians 4:5, Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

Years ago, Mahatma Gandhi, the great leader who helped India secure its independence from Britain, was asked why he never became a Christian even though he expressed great admiration for Christ. He responded, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

As a Pastor, those are still hard words to hear, but the truth is, Gandhi never really saw Christ as the Christ presented in the Bible. Gandhi only really saw Jesus as a non-violent social reformer which falls short of who Christ really is. However, if we take Gandhi’s words more seriously, we have to look at our actions as Christians. The Bible NEVER says that Christians are perfect. It’s actually, entirely the opposite. We are not perfect and should never pretend to be perfect. James, the brother of Jesus, encouraged us to, “…confess your sins to one another…” (James 5:16). In other words, Christians are not perfect; we are simply forgiven.

So if you slip up today, be quick to confess. By confessing, we will be living and making the most of every opportunity.

Think about it…and have a blessed day!

John Mark Caton, Ph.D

What’s Next? Same-Sex Marriage is Legal

As I share the following thoughts on the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage in every state, let me be clear that nothing I say means to be an attack on or hate for those who struggle with same sex attraction. The proper biblical view of homosexuality is that it is a sin just like so many others: lying, stealing, covetousness, adultery, drunkenness and gluttony. Homosexual activity is a sin, but it’s not the only sin, and it’s certainly not the unpardonable sin. If you are struggling with this particular sin, you are encouraged to search Scripture for yourself and realize the great effect of God’s amazing grace.

However, the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday is the equivalent of an atomic bomb to the long-standing idea of marriage as the union between one woman and one man. In a sharply divided 5-4 decision, the SCOTUS has imposed its mandate for redefining marriage in every state.

I now share with you five categories of thought on this latest Supreme Court decision. Please note that my ultimate concern is not to condemn or cast hatred toward those who disagree with me. However, I am greatly concerned, as you will see below, with an overactive judiciary as it relates to religious liberty issues. Beyond what this means for marriage, my concern rests in what this ruling will ultimately mean to Christian colleges, Christian churches and Christian individuals.

1) LEGALLY: Legally, this decision appears to be a disaster for the Constitution. Granted, I am not a lawyer, nor am I the son of a lawyer. Chief Justice Roberts rightly noted in his minority dissent, “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not a legal judgment.” It should concern every one of us when the highest court in the land imposes its will on people instead of making legal judgments.

Justice Kennedy, who expressed the majority argument, asserted that the right of same-sex couples to marry is based on: a) individual autonomy as related to sexuality, b) a superior context for raising children, and c) upholding marriage as a central pillar to civilization. However, the intuitive reader notes that the Justices in the majority did much more than simply affirm marriage as it relates to sexuality, child rearing, and the importance of marriage. The majority did much more than simply affirm marriage—they “redefined” marriage as an institution.

In order to redefine marriage as an institution, the majority used the nation’s highest legal authority to not only render a judicial decision, but instead to impose its will on the people of our land. Read again those words from Chief Justice Roberts’ minority dissent: “The majority’s decision was an act of will, not a legal judgment.”

Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority, “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, couples of the same sex cannot be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

It is worth noting that as hard as Justice Kennedy might like to try to assert that a right to marry is in the Constitution, the truth is that marriage is not found in the Fourteenth Amendment. Actually, marriage is found nowhere in the Constitution. Thus, as the Chief Justice Roberts previously noted, the majority opinion did not make a constitutional argument at all. Their argument was based on personal, moral will and philosophy, and not on the Constitution.

In his dissent, Chief Justice Roberts accused the majority of nothing less than “judicial policymaking” that puts our democratic society in peril. The Chief Justice went on to repudiate the majority of his colleagues by stating, “The Court today not only overlooks our country’s entire history and tradition but actively repudiates it, preferring to live only in the heady days of the here and now . . . Over and over, the majority exalts the role of the judiciary in delivering social change.” It should disturb each of us when the highest court in the land is driven more by moral philosophy and social change than they are by the Constitution and legal prudence.

Some of you may be asking, “What does a pastor know about the Supreme Court’s operations and decisions?” That is a valid question, but let me remind you that I am not sharing my opinion; I am simply quoting what the Chief Justice wrote in his minority dissent.

The question the Chief Justice poses to those in the majority was this: “The majority lays out a tantalizing vision for the future for members of this Court. If an unvarying social institution enduring over all the recorded history cannot inhibit judicial policymaking, what can?” Now that is a poignant and provocative question. If the Supreme Court will place itself above such a revered and historic institution as marriage and give unto itself the power to redefine marriage, there is no limit or judicial restraint whatsoever.

Lest you think that I am making this a bigger deal than it really is, look at these words from Justice Scalia found in his harsh rebuke of the majority. He said, “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed super-legislative power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government.” If that were not harsh enough, Justice Scalia goes on to say, “A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.” Again, these are not my words; they are his.

I stated earlier that I am not a lawyer, nor am I the son of a lawyer. I am also not a prophet or a son of a prophet. However, several years ago, I stood before our church and read a statement speaking directly against our current President’s support for legalizing same-sex marriage. In that statement, I said that legalizing same-sex marriage would do two things: 1) it would redefine marriage completely; and 2) it would put us on a slippery slope that logically and legally leads to polygamous marriage and a host of other things masquerading as marriage. I received several sharp rebukes from people who said I was being a sensationalist, but we are here, now. Marriage, as an institution, has been redefined.

Listen to these words by the Chief Justice in his minority dissent. He wrote, “It is striking how much the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage. It is even more striking that the majority is not even concerned about the extension of its laughable logic to polygamy and beyond.”

You can bet there are teams of lawyers high-fiving all over the nation as they prepare their legal sleds for the slippery slope to anywhere. The logic in the majority decision has no, as in zero, legal or Constitutional basis, and therefore cannot be limited to the right of same-sex couples to marry. Now that individual autonomy and equal protection is the law of the land, other groups will the nation’s highest court driving their Mack truck through the same argument. At that point, the Court will find itself in a noose of its own making.

2) RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: As I move beyond the Court’s laughable ruling, I must now address an issue that is actually in the Constitution—that issue is none other than religious liberty. The majority’s verdict jeopardizes every religious institution that intends to uphold its biblical certainty limiting marriage to one man and one woman.

Justice Clarence Thomas noted in his dissent that this decision would have “ruinous consequences for religious liberty.” Justice Thomas further argues, “The majority decision threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect.”

To be fair, I must share with you excerpts from the single paragraph in a very long majority opinion that Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote to affirm his commitment to Religious Freedom. Justice Kennedy wrote palatably, “Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premise . . . and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here.” However, he notes that their sincere, personal opposition cannot be enacted law and public policy any more without violating the Fourteenth Amendment.

Kennedy further tries to allay our fears by stating, “It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.” He goes on to say, “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” He also recognized the importance, “to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”

Chief Justice John Roberts is less confident about the protection of religious liberty. In his dissent, he argues that the majority’s decision “creates serious questions about religious liberty.” He wrote, “Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is . . . actually spelled out in the Constitution.”

Chief Justice Roberts continues, “The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to ‘advocate’ and ‘teach’ their views of marriage.” However, Chief Roberts then has to remind the majority that, “The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to ‘exercise’ religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.” The term, “exercise,” is defined as bodily or mental exertion or something done or performed as a means of practice or training. In other words, exercise is more than teaching, and it is more than learning—it is practicing, acting and living out the Gospel beyond the walls of the church in our homes, neighborhoods, schools and places of employment.

Chief Justice Roberts then gives note of a few upcoming battles that will call into question the tax status of Christian colleges and universities over this ruling noting that President Obama’s Solicitor General has already noted that the tax status of some Christian colleges will be called into question if they do not abide by this ruling. However, that tax status question most assuredly will not be limited to Christian colleges and universities.

That religious liberty challenge will ultimately affect every individual who holds to the biblical belief in the traditional view of marriage. Justice Alito notes, “The majority attempts, toward the end of its opinion, to reassure those who oppose same-sex marriage that their rights of conscience will be protected. We will soon see whether this proves to be true. I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.” Justice Alito carries the idea of advocating and teaching of biblical doctrine in homes and perhaps houses of worship, but suggests Christians dare not exercise their religious freedoms in public.

Justice Alito candidly noted that the majority decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” The majority’s decision repeatedly vilifies any individual or any institution that holds to a theological conviction that marriage is between a man and a woman. The majority’s decision equates our biblical conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman and our belief that homosexuality is a sin to the assumption that Christians hate all homosexuals. Thus, in one fell swoop, many revered individuals and organizations have been reduced from law-abiding citizens and establishments to scoundrels and houses of prejudice, and our nation’s highest court bears direct responsibility for this unholy transfer.

3) OUR CHURCH: Our church is a Bible teaching and Bible believing church. We simply cannot and will not perform same-sex unions because the Bible teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman regardless of the legal or societal pressure. (See Gen. 2:22-24; Deut. 24:5; Prov. 5:18-19; 12:4; 18:22; 19:14; 20:6-7; 30:18-19; 31:10; Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; 1 Cor. 7:1-16; Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-19; Heb. 13:4-7; etc.)

4) OUR MEMBERS: While, as God’s children, we do acknowledge the Supreme Court’s authority in legal matters and still disagree vehemently with the Court’s decision. At the same point, as God’s children, we are called to be godly citizens and good neighbors. However, a biblical Christian can never accept the redefinition of marriage. We cannot join in this moral revolution or devolution. We are a Bible-believing people called to believe and live the truth, even when the truth is unpopular. There is also no place for hatred of those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Our church is a place of grace, redemption and hope.

5) OUR MISSION: The Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage has changed a lot, but it has not changed everything. God’s truth revealed in Scripture has not changed. The Gospel has not changed. The mission of the church has not changed. Jesus has not changed, for He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Amen!

Matthew 26:36-40 reads “’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

Colossians 3:9-10, Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Mark Twain once said, “A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar”. That thought is both discouraging and truthful because we all do lie. If you have children, you are familiar with the process of teaching your kids the importance of telling the truth. It is almost as if there is a natural mechanism in each of us to stretch the truth or even more seriously just flat out lie. That deceit is the old self.

However, in Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul says it ought not to be that way for the child of God. He says, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

With those words, the Apostle Paul both acknowledges that as humans we are prone to sin, and one of the most common sins is the sin of lying. However, Paul reminds us that as Christ-followers part of the “old self” we put off is the sin of lying. In putting off the sin of lying, we are naturally putting on the image of Christ.

Think about it…and have a blessed day!

John Mark Caton, Ph.D

Colossians 4:1, Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV)

This week we have studied the Apostle Paul’s closing thoughts to the Colossian believers in chapter 4 of the book of Colossians. Point 1 (Monday’s Blog) was that employers should pay employees a fair wage, and that an employee should work hard to earn their pay. Point 2 (Tuesday’s Blog) reminded us to be devoted to prayer, but not just any prayer, a prayer that is focuses on being thankful. Point 3 (Wednesday’s Blog) urges us to be effective witnesses and pray for others to proclaim clearly Christ’s message, and point 4 (Thursday’s Blog) reminds us that being a good witness takes talk and actions.

Today, we look at Paul’s 5th concluding thought. He said, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt…” Paul is saying when your actions are right and respectable, it makes your conversation or words about your faith that much more productive. He said the most productive conversations are always full of grace. As you speak with others this weekend, and perhaps even speak of your faith, do it with grace. In doing so, it will be like adding spice to your conversation which will make your words more palatable to others, just like a little salt or spice. So, speak graciously today.

 

Think about it…and have a blessed weekend!

John Mark Caton, Ph.d

 

Colossians 4:1, Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV)

This week we have studied the Apostle Paul’s closing thoughts to the Colossian believers in chapter 4 of the book of Colossians. Point 1 (Monday’s Blog) was that employers should pay employees a fair wage, and that an employee should work hard to earn their pay. Point 2 (Tuesday’s Blog) reminded us to be devoted to prayer, but not just any prayer, a prayer that is focuses on being thankful. Point 3 (Wednesday’s Blog) urges us to be effective witnesses and pray for others to proclaim clearly Christ’s message.

Today, we look at Paul’s 4th concluding thought. He said, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” Did you hear that, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders…” In other words, if you really want to be a good witness for Christ, it is more than just words… it is actions. Paul said be wise in the way you ACT. Sometimes people can’t hear what you saying because of the way you are acting.

Today let’s think before you act! Your actions may be the greatest positive influence for Christ you can have today, and in doing so, you will be making the most of every opportunity.

Think about it…and have a blessed day!

John Mark Caton, Ph.D

 

Colossians 4:1, Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV)

This week we have studied the Apostle Paul’s closing thoughts to the Colossian believers in chapter 4 of the book of Colossians. Point 1 (Monday’s Blog) was that employers should pay employees a fair wage, and that an employee should work hard to earn their pay. Point 2 (Tuesday’s Blog) reminded us to be devoted to prayer, but not just any prayer, a prayer that is focuses on being thankful.

Today, we look at Paul’s third concluding thought. He said, “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” Paul asks for prayer that he would be an effective witness for Christ. Think about someone today that you can ask to pray for your witness.  Someone who would pray that you would have an opportunity to witness and that you would be ready to share God’s Word clearly with others. Also, we need to pray that other Christians around us would be good witnesses. Praying for someone else to be a good witness  will also make us a better witness.

So today, pray that others would be a good witness, but don’t forget to be one yourself.

Think about it…and have a blessed day!

John Mark Caton, Ph.D

Colossians 4:1, Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV)

The Apostle Paul makes some significant concluding remarks to the Colossians Christians. Point 1 from this passage (in yesterday’s blog) showed Paul’s admonition for employers to pay a fair wage and employees to work hard and earn their wages because both honor God. Paul’s 2nd significant point in this passage is to be devoted to prayer. In Colossians 4, Paul tells us, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Did you hear those first few words, “Devote yourselves to prayer…” In other words, prayer is not something we do only when we are in need, trouble or in a crisis. It is something that requires devotion and commitment, but what exactly does that devotion to prayer look like?

Read those next words…“being watchful and thankful!” In other words, we should always be looking for something to be thankful to God for in our lives. However, most of us simply forget about those things for which we should be thankful and instead focus our prayers on things we want. The Apostle Paul reminds us not to be that way, for each and every one of us has something for which we can show gratitude. You might think, “But Paul, you don’t know my situation”. Let me remind you that Paul wrote those words from a Roman prison, so be prayerful and thankful this week.

Think about it…and have a blessed week.
John Mark Caton, Ph.D

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