Tag Archives: life

When Life Hands You Lemons

I heard a funny spin on an old cliché a while back that really made me laugh.  It said, “When life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade.  But, unless life ALSO hands you sugar and water, your lemonade is going to stink.”  I tend to be a notorious over-thinker and this very often translates into pessimism so this quote really resonated with me.  I must have been having a rather hard day because the verse that came up during my quiet time that very same day was 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.  It reads, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Does this really mean that God expects us to be happy and thankful when we are going through tremendously difficult times in our lives?  I don’t know about you but I can’t even muster a smile when I have to just put new sheets on my bed.  (That is one of my LEAST favorite chores.  Can I get an amen?)  So, if I can’t even manage that, how am I supposed to learn to be happy or even thankful when life throws lemon grenades at me?

As I started to really delve into this scripture, I began to see what it was actually saying and not what I was just interpreting.  First, I looked up the definition of “joy”.  Yes, there are some dictionaries that likened it to happiness.  But, it is just so much deeper than that.  I finally came across a definition from a biblical dictionary that said that joy is “a state of mind and orientation of the heart; it is a settled state of contentment, confidence, and hope”.  I.love.that.  It isn’t saying that we should be giddy and happy but that we should be hopeful and confident in God.  Feeling a warm fuzzy from that definition, I moved on to the next part of the verse – “pray continually”.  Well, of course.  That one is pretty easy to understand and get on board with.  Next.  “Give thanks in all circumstances.”  Ugh.  So, it isn’t enough for me to just be joyful as I am dealing with hurt and pain but I also have to be thankful for it?  That is just asking too much.  “But, wait.  You read that wrong.” God said.  It doesn’t say to be thankful FOR all circumstances.  It says to be thankful IN all circumstances.  We are to not lose sight of the blessings that we do have in our lives.  Those are the times that we need to be mindful of those the most because sometimes they are the only things that are going to help us just get through the day.  We should also think back on other times in our life where we thought we wouldn’t survive and remind ourselves of how God not only brought us through it but possibly even turned it into a blessing for us or others.

My original interpretation was completely turned on its ear.  Once again, as always, I was looking for what I needed to DO in order for God to step in and help me.  It isn’t about that.  All he asks is that we not become hopeless and lose sight of who he is and what he has done.

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

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Christ the Triumphant

Colossians 2:14-15 speaks of Jesus’ accomplishments on the cross. In the NIV this says:

“[…] having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

This translation says it was the ‘charge of legal indebtedness’ which was canceled. Other translations make it sound like the law itself was canceled. The KJV for example says:

“[…] blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

One reading the KJV and several others (including the original NIV from 1984) would assume it was the law being canceled (KJV: ordinances; 1984 NIV: written code).Those reading the latest NIV or others, like the LEB, would see this as canceling the list of debts (violations). This distinction is important because if only the debts are canceled, then the law is still in force. If the law is canceled then the debts against the law go with them. The latter removes not only the current debt, but also removes any possibility of future indebtedness. The former removes past debts, but leaves the possibility of future indebtedness. So, it is important to know exactly what is said here. The word used is δόγμασιν, which is the word for ordinances, or commands. Its root is the origin of our word ‘dogma.’ The passage says the ordinances (laws) themselves, which once condemned us, have been removed from the page. The NAS translates it as:

“[…] having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

The word for ‘canceled’ or ‘blotting out’ is the word for a scribe using a sponge to remove the ink from the page. In their day, they had no pencils and erasers. To erase something from the page the scribe would use a damp sponge to blot the ink from the page. It is this which Paul says Jesus did to the ordinances which were bringing us condemnation—he washed the words right off the page.

The passage goes on and says Jesus disarmed the powers and authorities, making a spectacle of them. He triumphed over them by the cross. The imagery here is that of an ancient Roman Triumph. When a general returned from campaign, the Senate would often vote them a triumph. This would involve what we would recognize as a parade. During this, the enemy leaders captured would be paraded through the city before the people. At the end of the triumph the captives would be killed. It is this graphic image that Paul uses to describe Jesus victory over the ordinances and law.

In case you are still of the opinion that this only referred to the list of debts for past violations and not a triumph over the law itself, remember that this would leave you facing the possibility of future law violation. However, Paul, in verse 16 says not to let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or judge you concerning religious festivals, holy days, or even a Sabbath day. If the law was still in place, you would still be liable to judgment over these. Christ wiped the law off the page. He took it away and nailed it to the cross. He paraded it in a victory march and dispatched it. The law was taken away and we no longer face the guilt of past violation, neither do we face danger of future violation.

This does not make us free to sin, however. Paul says the law was a shadow of realities to come. The reality is found in Christ (Col 2:17). We no longer live to keep the law. We no longer live to sin. We live for Christ; we live in Christ; we live empowered by Christ.

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