A couple of days ago I blogged about Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1 that was, for me, quite timely. Yesterday my devotional reading took me to Colossians 2, which is amazing, but about which I didn’t have time to blog because I was doing home school with my son and passing out door hangers for our Trunk or Treat this Sunday. (By the way, if you live in central Ohio, you should definitely come to our Trunk or Treat. There will be candy, and the candy will be free. Do you need another reason?)

So today I came to Colossians 3, which is also thoroughly amazing. (You know what, maybe you should go read the whole book of Colossians. It’s really great.) Here is a portion of what struck me today:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

What are you wearing today? I’m wearing my favorite Ohio State zip-up; but am I wearing compassion? Are you wearing kindness and humility in such a way that people notice the quality of your character the same way they notice the clothes on your body? When they see you coming, do they see a red shirt and blue jeans, or do they see a person who is gentle and patient?

I’m not trying to guilt you; I’m trying to change your perspective about the person you could possibly be. You really could be a person whose compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (all held together by agape love) is as evident to others as the clothes you wear. You really can possess these qualities of character because this is exactly what God is trying to do in your heart. He is remaking you–reclothing you. Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and by faith in Jesus Christ, God is slowly but surely remaking your character so that you possess these qualities.

Your responsibility is to put on the clothes. Sure, it may not feel natural at first. Yes, you may feel like a hypocrite in the beginning. But the only way to live into this new character God is forming in you is to actually try it. You’ve got to give it some effort. (Remember, you’re saved by grace, but you’re changed by active cooperation with God.) Because compassion et. al. don’t come naturally to us, we have to choose to live that way. So put on your new clothes; they look much better on you than what you were wearing before.

My devotional reading today brought me to Colossians 1, which is so full of amazing stuff that it’s hard to pick one thing to share, but I wanted to share this part of Paul’s prayer with you.

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

Isn’t this one of the most amazing prayers you’ve ever read? Don’t you wish somebody was praying this for you?

The part that stands out to me, at this point in my life anyway, is this: Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience. More than any other season in my life, I need “great endurance” right now, but endurance does not come naturally to me.

In 8th grade, my friend convinced me to join the track team. At the first meeting, we were given a piece of paper with all of the track and field events written on it. We were told to sign up for the events that we were most interested in. I checked the boxes for the shortest races. I wasn’t fast, I just knew I didn’t want to run for a long time. (The funny thing is, I probably would have done well in the distance races, but I was too big of a wuss to try.)

In order to live the life God has called me to live, I need access to that which I do not internally possess. I need strength from God so that I can have great endurance. I need the power of the Spirit within me so that I can please God. I do not naturally possess these qualities of character, so I need them to be infused into my life from above. I need Paul’s prayer prayed over me.

What about you? What part of this prayer resonates with you? Do you need this prayer prayed over you?

This week I’m going to pray this prayer over the people of Ember, and I urge you to pray it over those you love.

Last week Breena and I welcomed our fourth child into the world. Bexley came at 5:13pm on October 10th, the first of our four children to come without the aid of an epidural. Bexley was also the biggest of our babies, by almost a full pound. (And we have big babies.)

We had been waiting a long time for her to arrive. Three weeks earlier we were in the hospital, expecting to deliver that night. But we were sent home, hoping that we would be back in just a few hours. Well, a few hours turned into a few days, and then a few days turned into a few weeks. We thought she’d never get here! We were hoping that everything would happen naturally, but we wound up scheduling her delivery on Monday the 10th.

We got to the hospital at 10am and waited…and waited…and waited. Our induction had been pushed back because of an emergency. I don’t know what it was or who was involved, but there was a couple that came in right after us, and the mother-to-be looked very distressed, and not pregnant enough to deliver. I prayed that everyone would be okay, and didn’t mind waiting anymore. We were about to deliver our fourth healthy baby in four tries. We are so blessed.

Finally, we were escorted back to our room and began preparations for Bexley. Breena decided to forgo the petosin, hoping instead that her body would go into labor naturally, which it did. She did a great job of breathing through all of her contractions, and she never even thought about getting any drugs to take the edge off, much less getting that epidural. I could see on the digital chart that every other woman on the floor giving birth that day had gotten an epidural. My wife is tough.

The labor grew very intense for about 15 minutes, but then there was Bexley! The doctor’s first words were, “Whoa! I think you’ve got your ten pound baby!” The nurses could barely lift her to clean her up and give her to Breena. They weren’t used to such big babies, I guess.

When I saw her, I cried. I cried for joy at the birth of another healthy child. I cried for pide in my wife going totally natural, like she had hoped to do. I cried because this is the last time we’ll do this, and Bexley is the last Holt baby we’ll add to our family.

As you can see, she’s beautiful. And she’s very greatly loved. I love you, Bexley Holt.

Last night, at Ember, I was ordained as an elder through the Alliance for Renewal Churches. It was a humbling and special time for me and my family, and also for our congregation. So many people came from all over the state to be there to love on us and support us. Pastor Doug Rumschlag, from Grace Church in Toledo (my home church), delivered a challenging message on the responsibilities of an elder-pastor. Rick Widener and Ray Nethery, from the ARC, performed the ordination ceremony. I love being a part of the ARC, where I get such wonderful support and encouragement.

The music team was especially brilliant last night. If you’ve never been to Ember, you need to come out and experience it sometime. I know I’m the pastor, so I’m supposed to say that, but if I didn’t mean it, I wouldn’t say it. I was talking to my wife after the service about how much I love this church, and the way God has brought our team together, and what he is teaching us. It’s a high honor to be the pastor of Ember Church. I get to do this! God has been so good to me, my family, and our church. Ordination is just the beginning, and I’m earnestly looking forward to all that God will do in and through our congregation.

Have you ever heard someone ask that old skeptical question, “If God exists, why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?” That’s a good question. It’s a question that deserves a thoughtful, reasonable answer.

But there’s an assumption that lies underneath that question, and it is this: “If God exists, and he is good, then he should only allow pleasure into this world.” But who, by pursuing pleasure, has ever truly found happiness, completeness, and fulfillment? Isn’t our world littered with stories of people who looked like they had it all—money, sex, power—but who were utterly void of character and contentment? Haven’t we seen, through the AIDS epidemic and the horrors of abortion, that the unbridled pursuit of pleasure has brought as much, if not more, pain and suffering than any war in human history?

Not only has the pursuit of pleasure caused untold amounts of pain, but pain and suffering are often far more redemptive than pleasure. Most of us grow and develop character through the most painful, difficult periods of our lives; but few of us grow when things are easy.

Human beings were created by God to exercise dominion over the world. We were created to be Stewards of the earth and Servants of the King, God himself. I believe that God’s intention was to, in the course of due time, invite human beings to reign over Creation with him, seated with him on his throne, so to speak. (By the way, that’s exactly what Jesus promises to those who are faithful in the book of Revelation.)

But our first parents didn’t see that; they got greedy, and so they rebelled against God. The stewards of the earth rebelled against the King of Creation. In our rebellion, we have frustrated our world, living in conflict with it rather than ruling over it with wisdom and grace. We have very little say over the manner in which we live and die on this planet. It’s not so much that we live in a fallen world, it’s that we are fallen people bringing the world down with us.

Listen to how Paul puts it in Romans 8.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

What the Christian faith tells us, and what you won’t hear anywhere else in the world, is that God has intimate, first-hand knowledge of human suffering. Jesus, the Son of God, suffered an excruciatingly painful death on the cross. Not only that, but he endured the emotional pain of abandonment, rejection, and betrayal, all in his hour of greatest need. Even more than many of us, God knows what pain and suffering feel like.

But the pain and suffering of Jesus turned into the redemption of all humanity. Through the crucifixion, God forgave us of all our sins. And after the crucifixion came the resurrection, where Jesus’ suffering became his glory. We, too, through faith in Christ, await the day of our own resurrection, when our suffering becomes our glory, and when we begin to do what we were made to do, rule over the earth right alongside the Son of God.