Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Servicemen Singing "Days of Elijah" (who said real men don't like to sing?)

I have often heard and read that men are prone not to be expressive or participatory during the worship singing. And I'll admit that in many services that I've attended in the past, a lot of the men do tend to be more reserved and not all that demonstrative. Well, I hope that you will be as energized and touched by all male worship after watching this video of Soldiers and it looks like Marines worshiping to the song "Days of Elijah". What a pleasant and God exalting thing to see - believers of the true and living God Jehovah worshiping together. And what a stark contrast to the enemies of the Lord who seek destruction and desolation. Dear Lord, please continue to bless our military.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

To Those Who Feel Disenfranchised from Church

A few years back, I heard a sermon preached by a friend who moved away, went to seminary, and then moved out west to plant a church. The sermon was dealing with one of the women in Jesus's lineage from Matthew 1: Rahab. In the Old Testament, we read that Rahab had not only risked her life, but she also had given up her entire culture, worldview, friends, and security to help God's people -- and to become part of their community.

And yet, Rahab was never allowed to become a full-fledged member of their covenant community. This part of her story can seem painfully familiar to single women in the church, who don't always experience the same depth of connection to the "covenant stuff" that the families are afforded in local churches.

I have often wondered whether Rahab sometimes felt pain and sorrow and darkness over being treated as a perpetual outsider among the Israelites? Did she ever think that maybe she had made a bad deal by joining and following God's people? Did she ever experience unbelief, wondering whether Yahweh was harsh and demanding? Did she ever feel tempted to return to things of the past which were comfortable and familiar to her? What kept her faith from sinking into the abyss? How did she avoid slipping off into oblivion?

I also wonder if there are people in our churches who sometimes feel like less than full covenant members because of their season or station in this life. Being aliens and pilgrims in the world and having cast their lot with the people of God, is there any place where they feel like they actually fit in? I know at times in my walk it has felt pretty desolate and lonely in this sin-struck world.

The Good News is that as we joyfully and faithfully seek the Lord and serve in the body of Christ, we experience our true hope which is found in Jesus Christ alone. In one sense, we know that, whether we are married or single, the full experience and consummation of the Lord's covenantal promise has been deferred until His return. However, we also know that the Word of God promises an eternal covenant of peace in which he is compelling us to participate. 
The Eternal Covenant of Peace (Isaiah 54) “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the LORD. 
“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities. “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. (Isaiah 54:1-5 ESV) Click here for entire chapter>>>
We take His covenantal promise by faith, realizing that the eternal impact of our lives and our participation in the body of Christ cannot be fully seen or understood in the here and now. Just think about Rahab. Did she have any idea that the lineage of the Messiah would come through her very own offspring? Not at all. And like her, we have no idea what the eternal impact of lives and relationships will be. We are called to trust God with our obedience and know that by faith we have an eternal inheritance that is beyond what we can even ask or imagine.

So, here's the wonderful, amazing truth about life in the Church, this side of the Cross -- we who are in Christ are full covenant members of the church!  Jew/Gentile, Free/Slave, Man/Woman, Married/Single? It makes no difference. Christ came to reconcile us - to repair our "disenfranchisement" from Him and His people. 

Let us not believe the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil that would try to hold us in bondage to the idea that His atoning blood was not sufficient to fully in-graft us into his family of believers. And let us encourage each other with this truth!

"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3:27-29 ESV)

And for anyone who feels discouraged about the Church or who needs to hear the Truth about God's plan for His Church, I recommend this excellent audio teaching called "Cherishing the Church". It is a powerful message by Joel Beeke which he preached at the Calvin500 Conference in Geneva in 2009. And here is the text. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Legalism and the Weaker Brother

Interpreting Paul's discussion of the weaker brother in Romans 14 has taken an interesting direction in recent years. Some of the younger Calvinists have tended to characterize the proverbial weaker brother as representative of a legalist perspective. In fact, in some circles the point is all but assumed as a settled matter. However, I'm not sure that this position squares with the original context or the text itself. Ever since first studying this portion of scripture, I've had a different take on the role of the weaker brother, namely that the believers represented are not legalists at all, but rather that Paul seems to be saying almost the exact opposite.

So, are some people who use the weaker brother argument legalists? Possibly.
... Although, Paul used it, and we know about as anti-legalistic an apostle as he could be.
In fact, legalists are typically in no danger of violating their consciences and are not tempted to participate in the action from which they are refraining and are urging others to refrain. 

But is the weaker brother that Paul is talking about in Romans 14 a legalist? Absolutely not!
In scripture, legalists include folks like the Pharisees, the Galatian Judiazers, and the older brother in Luke 15. 
They are almost always the prideful, "stronger" brothers or sisters.
Rather, Paul describes weaker brothers as tender souls who are entrusted to the care of the shepherds of the church in Rome.

In Romans14, Paul was exhorting those of stronger faith to not exercise their Christian liberty in a way that would cause those of weaker conscience to sin - don't flaunt your freedom.

This matter of exercising Christian liberty was NOT about proving wrong a bunch of legalists who were trying to impose their viewpoints on a bunch of young, idealistic pastors in the emerging New Testament church.

This was the well-seasoned, mature, founder of many early churches, Paul, looking out for new converts from a Gentile culture, riddled with extreme idol worship, passing into the holy communion of Christ-worshipping believers.

While I'm quite sure that converts from Judaism in Paul's day (much like the millennial/ emerging pastors of today who are rebelling against the legalism of fundamentalist churches), would have greatly desired to celebrate their liberty in Christ, Paul is pretty up front about how and why those of stronger faith should not give occasion for more tender believers to sin.

Paul also does not state, as some are inclined to believe, that we should 'teach Christian liberty' to weaker believers. While the knowledge and understanding of who we are in Christ can turn us away from false beliefs, it in no way validates teaching moderation when it comes to matters of conscience, which would amount to giving license to sin.

Those believers who have offered themselves as living sacrifices, to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, and to no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world, have little need for moderation when it comes to things of the world. And let's not forget, leaders will be held to a higher account.

Meanwhile, I grant, those of us concerned for our newer or more tender of faith members should be gracious toward stronger brothers or sisters whose consciences have not been as seared and wounded from being intensely immersed in worldly ways. And we cannot allow the weaker brothers and sisters to believe that their righteousness rests in abstaining from that certain thing about which they are convicted not to partake.

In either case, the principle take away from Romans 14 is that love takes precedence over personal liberty and matters of conscience. Guarding against legalism - earning salvation by works - is not really the point of the passage. We're called to sacrifice for one another and sometimes that means not exercising our liberty for the sake of others. Other times it means being genuinely glad for the freedom that others have to enjoy the things of the God's good creation. 

 Psalm 51:10 comes to mind, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" -- Amen.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

All Things New: The Lifestyle

This excerpt from Sex and Supremacy of God (pp. 83-84) essay by David Powlison is the explanation for the title of my blog. (this first appeared on my blog November 2008):

Making All Things New: The Lifestyle

by David Powlison
"What was the first trumpet call of the Reformation?

"It was not the authority of scripture, foundational as that is. Scripture is the very voice, face, and revelation of God. A Person presses through the pages. You learn how He thinks. How He acts. Who He is. What He's up to. But "Scripture alone" did not stand first in line.

"It was not justification by faith alone, crucial as that is. We are oily-rag people. Christ is the garden of light. We are saved by His doing, His dying, His goodness. We are saved from ourselves outside of ourselves. No religious hocus-pocus. No climbing up a ladder of good works, or religious knowledge, or mystical experience. He came down, full of grace and truth, Word made flesh, Lamb of God. We receive. That's crucial. But "faith alone" wasn't actually where it all started.

"It was not the priesthood of all believers, revolutionary as that is. Imagine, there aren't two classes of people, the religious people who do holy things by a special call from God, and the masses of laity toiling in the slums of secular reality. The "man of God" is not doing God's show before an audience of bystanders. We all assemble as God's people, doing the work and worshiping together, with differing gifts. The one Lord, our common King and attentive audience, powerfully enables faith and love. Yes and amen, but this radical revision of church didn't come first.

The trumpet call, Thesis Number One of Luther's Ninety-five Theses, was this:
"When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said 'Repent,' He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

"That first of Luther's theses dismantled all the machinery of religiosity and called us back to human reality. Luther glimpsed and aimed to recover the essential inner dynamic of the Christian life. It is an ongoing change process. It involves a continual turning motion, turning toward God, and turning away from the riot of other voices, other desires, other loves. We tend to use the word repentance in its more narrow sense, for decisive moments of realization, conviction, confession, turning. But Luther uses the word in its wider, more inclusive sense. If we are living in Christ, we are living from-to.

"John Calvin put it in a similar way: "This restoration does not take place in one moment or one day or one year... In order that believers may reach this goal (the shining image of God), God assigns to them a race of repentance, which they are to run throughout their lives." The entire Christian life (including the more specific moments) follows a pattern of turning from things and turning to the Lord...

"Lifelong, progressive sanctification was the trumpet call back to biblical faith."

Monday, August 25, 2014

JEHOVAH NISSI - The LORD is my Banner

JEHOVAH NISSI - The LORD is my Banner: Reflections from Names and Attributes of God.

Introduction: Historically and even today a banner signifies that by which military troops or citizens of a country, tribe or group are identified or around which the troops or citizens rally. The banner is also often carried by people leading a band and behind which all of the musicians follow and fall in line. So, by recognizing and praying this name of God, we are saying we rally behind Jehovah. He is our banner, to whom we look and it is He whom we follow. I’ve taken a moment to study scriptural references to the LORD as our banner and I have found the Word to be amazing on this subject.

1. THE WAR: ENMITY WITH AMALEKITES - (also: Sin, the world, the devil)
Exodus 17:14 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven."
15 Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. 16 He said, "For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation." emphasis added
The Amalekites represent three things that are always warring against the children of God: Sin, the world, and the devil. Ever since the fall, God said there will be enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). The battle with the Amalekites is a picture of this battle. We know that one day the memory of Amalek-sin, satan, and the world - will be completely blotted out, but until then, there is this war.

We also see that it is the LORD who will be at war against the Amalekites. Joshua led the army against the Amalekites while Moses, with help and encouragement from Aaron and Hur, lifted up his hands to the throne of the LORD.


Deliverence begins with conviction. When Israel sinned against God in the wilderness, He sent serpents to drive them back to Him. And His provision provided healing and life:

Numbers 21:4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!"

6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. emphasis added

At its core, the Fall consisted of rebellion and insubordination to the claims and rights of the Creator over the creature. Adam and Eve opted for an independent and irreligious existence from God. After making themselves enemies of God, Adam and Eve were immediately stricken with guilt and shame associated with their sin. "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. " (Gen. 3:7) and "He (Adam) answered, "I heard you (God) in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

Similarly, Israel developed a serious pattern of rebelling and complaining against God and the servants of God while they wondered in the wilderness. So often I do the same today as a meander thru this pilgrimage. But God, in His mercy, usually does not strike us dead right on the spot (as we deserve) nor does He leave us dead in our trespasses forever. He sends a spirit of conviction so that we might repent. The people in Moses day prayed that the snakes would be taken away, instead the LORD provided a banner - the bronze snake on the pole. All who looked it were healed and lived. That is a picture of redemption, as we will see.


The Redeemer's work is continuous and prophesied:

Isaiah 11: 10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea.

12 He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. emphasis added

Victory arrives in Christ - the seed of the woman

John 3: 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
The only thing more persistent than or continuous as our rebellion against God through the ages is His gracious provision, culminating in the Messiah. His redemption was foretold in Genesis 3:15, typified in Moses' bronze serpent, and prophesied throughout the old testament. The thoroughly obedient God-Man, who knew no sin, became our mediator and offered himself as a ransom for our continued disobedience. Praise Him for His faithfulness.


Let us not stop at justification. We've also been adopted as children of God and grafted into His body. Not only this. We have been bethrothed to our redeemer. He has made the unlovable lovely in His sight and has taken us unto Himself to be His own.
Song 2:1 I am a rose of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.
2 As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among the young women.
3 As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
so is my beloved among the young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste,
4 He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.
Because of God's great love for us through redemption, adoption and in Him calling us to Himself, we are now free to Love Him and glorify Him in our very lives. So we worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.

We lift our hands to His throne, singing and saying "the LORD is our banner" and none other. 

We have absolutely nothing in our hands to commend ourselves to Him, except His very own banner of love. And although we have no dowry to offer Him, He has prepared for us a feast in His banqueting house to be cherished. His banner over us is love. Believe it.


Christ's banner of love over us ought to motivate us to encourage one another to not forsake meeting together as an assembly, to sit under the preaching of the Word, and to partake of the sacraments, given as a means of Grace for HIs Bride until He returns.  Let us not be like those in Jesus' parable who were invited to the Great Banquet, but who were too busy to attend, having just bought a field, or embarked upon a new vocation, or gotten married. 

As a key means of grace, we see through The Lord's Supper the past, the already, and the not-yet of life under His banner.

a. In the Lord's Supper, we celebrate what Christ has already done for us:
As He broke it and gave it to His disciples, He said, “’This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:19-21) 
b. We also consider our present relationship with Him and His body:

In the Lord's Supper, we continue to participate in Christ's death and in the new covenant because we participate in His life through the Church. Paul wrote: 
"Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" (1 Corinthians 10:16). 
In the Lord’s Supper, we show that we share in Jesus Christ. We commune with him. We are united in him through the body, and when we partake, we examine ourselves so as to continue to walk in the light.

c. The Lord's Supper reminds of Christ's return:

Whenever we participate, we are reminded of Jesus’ promise. There will be a great messianic "banquet," a "wedding supper" of celebration. The bread and wine are miniature rehearsals of what will be the greatest victory celebration in all history. Paul wrote that "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26). In that day, we will come as those who came to the banquet in the parable, thirsty and needy.  

In summary:
God as Jehovah Nissi reminds us who we were, who we are, and what we're called to be. 

Let us hold up Christ's Banner and call others to salvation, just as Jesus had the servant do in His parable:
‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.'
Rally around His Banner of Love only. And let us call all ethnē to do the same in love to serve as one body in Christ!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When ‘Army Strong’ Looks Weak: memoirs of a reluctant servant leader

When ‘Army Strong’ Looks Weak:
Memoirs of a reluctant servant leader
by Deb W.
(note: this is the basic text of a speech I gave to a group of government workers recently. The intent was not to be a testimony, but instead it was considered an icebreaker.)

When most people meet me, they have a hard time imagining me as having retired from the Army seven years ago - with a total of 24 years in the military!

For the most part today I think I tend to be soft-spoken and a bit reserved. At work, I tend to be serious-minded and analytical. But that has not always been the case.

Today, I’d like to share a snapshot of my unique military experiences, which I believe God used as a main catalyst in developing me into the person who I am today. 

Body: Enlistment.
When I first enlisted, joining the Navy was really an act of self preservation.

I had fought so much with my parents growing up, that I was kicked out at the age of 18.

So, I was trying to work full-time, go to college, and maintain a social life while renting a studio apartment. But I was failing miserably on all fronts.

College frustrated me because I chose based on what would pay the most after graduation. But I hated computer science.

Work was a means to an end and that end was my party life. And the party scene was taking me places I never expected. I knew if I didn't make a serious change, I’d probably get arrested or maybe end up in jail.

So, with that backdrop, at the age of 19, I landed my keister in the Navy recruiter’s office and within a couple of weeks, shipped off to Orlando, Florida for Basic Training.

I spent the better part of the 1980's in the Navy where partying, working, and training were the symbiotic ecosystem of my post-adolescent experimentation. Learning to work hard and play hard was my mantra during those years.

Blue to Green.
After six years of travel fun and meritorious achievement, my Navy tenure ended and I was ready for a new chapter.

With a few months of separation under my belt, boredom started to set in. So I ended up in an Army recruiter’s office, who essentially guaranteed me a slot in the job of my dreams if I enlisted in the Army. So, in 1990, I became an Photo Journalist in the 101st Public Affairs Detachment – the opportunity of a lifetime. I enthusiastically seized upon the opportunity as my “reason to be”.

At first, I under estimated the challenge of going from “Blue to Green” – transitioning from serving in the Navy to becoming an Army Soldier. Almost everything I learned about being a Sailor was completely different from being in the Army!

But I did what it took to graduate in the top of my class from most of my Army professional development courses. Somehow, this naïve, self-absorbed, misguided, post-adolescent grew up in the Army and became an NCOIC (non-commissioned officer-in-charge).

Being in Public Affairs, I almost always found myself assigned to some General officer’s staff in a high profile position, with a much greater degree of responsibility than the rank on my collar would seem to indicate. My sense of pride and self-worth was in the success and recognition I’d find in assignments all around the globe: Italy, Panama, Japan, Germany, Kosovo, Normandy, Belgium, and Turkey. The windows and doors of opportunity being opened to me seemed like they would never end.

By the time I reached the rank of Sgt. First Class, E-7, all of these roles and opportunities started to feel bland and boring. The most exciting job I could have ever imagined had become dull and passé to me. So, I sought out even more challenges and ways to become influential and powerful.

Green to Gold.
As I listened to the voices of the recruiters once again, they assured me that becoming a commissioned officer would be the golden ticket to the influence and acknowledgement that I was craving. At that time, I idolized officers and had this fairy-tale image of how they lived glamorous and privileged lives, while at the same time holding the power needed to change everything.

So, when the 9/11 tragedy hit our country, I was more than primed to embark upon the great “Green to Gold” Army tradition and enrolled in Officer Candidate School. The lessons I would learn from my time training and serving as a military officer are not written in anyone’s textbooks. Chief among them was the lesson of humility.

"Lower than worm poop" is what they called us. That was the title I put on after taking off my chevrons. Every former NCO who descends from the enlisted leadership ranks to the training ground of the future commissioned officer undergoes this transition. But it took me longer and quite a bit of more emotional pain to concede. The process simply made no sense to me.

Why would becoming an officer entail such an excruciating surrender of pride? Isn’t pride the whole point of why I wanted to be an officer in the first place? To be the best? The brightest? The strongest? The smartest?

The humbling process was more difficult for me than any of my classmates. On my LES (leave and earnings statement), I still outranked most of my drill instructors, but now I had to submit to their commands, no matter how much I agreed or disagreed. Plus, I had always enjoyed the privilege of “having the General’s ear” before, but now, it was nothing more than ‘suck it up’ and ‘do as you’re told’ – ugh!.

In retrospect, officer training taught me more about the art of leadership than anything I had ever learned before. It was just so much different than I had envisioned it.

Putting on Pure Gold.
When I graduated from officer training, all of my close relatives came to my graduation. Which is saying something, since as you might remember, I was disowned and kicked out when I was 18. This was a monumental experience for me.

I won’t go into all of the details and assignments that I had over the six years that I served as an officer, other than to say that I had two company commands (one as acting commander, the other was on official orders) by the time I was promoted to Captain. The pride that I had in serving in those commands had very little to do with pride in myself, but rather it was the pride I had for the Army and every Soldier under my charge.

Through this process I learned that everyone is uniquely qualified to contribute to the unit’s success, while at the same time acknowledging that everyone is fighting a battle I couldn't even see. The former taught me to protect the inherent dignity of all people and the latter allowed me to show compassion and understanding even when they inevitably let me down.

Conclusion: I had finally learned and could see what the officers before me had done to facilitate my growth and development. Being an effective leader is not all about the getting the glory and changing the world. It’s about being available at any given moment to use my influence and knowledge to open doors and windows of opportunity for those I might serve. 

So, if I seem soft-spoken and restrained to you in how I present myself today, I hope you understand a little better that there is more to me than meets the eye. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Living for the Lord - Not as People Pleasers: Col. 3:18-4:1

COL 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. 4:1 Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Col. 3:18-4:1 Paul continues the exposition and application that he began in the previous section: Because our relationship with God has changed through Christ, our relationships with those around us must change for Christ.

Previously, Paul wrote about our servanthood to one another as the body of Christ, as we "put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" and "let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts" (Col 3:12 -- also, cf. Eph. 5:21Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”). When the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, He mediates our interactions with one another. Our testimony to the watching world in this way glorifies Christ:  "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35)".

Now, we see Paul moving along to focus particular attention on how freedom in Christ also affects the other relationships close to us—in our homes and our work. Since we have experienced the grace of Christ, Paul calls us to likewise be gracious to one another in our day to lives - in our vocational callings.

Note first how many times Paul reminds his readers and us that in each of these relationships “the Lord” is present. It is not human or man-made rules to which Paul appeals, but rather how we were originally created to relate to one another as His image-bearers. These are not "traditional roles" but rather "biblical roles" we are to walk in by faith. 

  • wives submit fittingly
  • husbands love sacrificially
  • children obey rightly
  • parents discipline unprovokingly
  • workers work diligently, and 
  • bosses act justly

Notice how these verses in Colossians mirror the same teaching Paul gave to the Ephesians in Ephesians 5:22-6:9:

wives submit fittingly (cf. Eph. 5:22–24), 
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

husbands love sacrificially (cf. Eph. 5:25–32), 
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

children obey rightly (cf. 
Eph. 6:1–3), 
6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

parents discipline unprovokingly (cf. 
Eph. 6:4), 
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

workers work diligently (cf. 
Eph. 6:5–8), and 
Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, aspeople-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. 

bosses act justly (cf. 
Eph. 6:9).
Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

This is the beauty of the life into which the gospel of grace calls us. It is a life we can now live as new creations in Christ, glorifying Him as His image bearers in our various callings, as we growing in grace.

Related link: Five Things to Avoid When Discussing Gender

Additional notes on the text: 

Col. 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands
Instead of telling wives to “obey” (Gk. hypakouō), as was typical in Roman households, Paul appeals to them to “submit” (Gk. hypotassō), based on his conviction that men have a God-given leadership role in the family. The term suggests an ordering of society in which wives should align themselves with and respect the leadership of their husbands (see Eph. 5:22–33). Paul is not enjoining the wives to follow the prevailing cultural patterns of his day but to live as is fitting in the Lord, thus stressing the importance of evaluating everything in light of Christ and his teaching. A wife would not submit to her husband in a way that would be disobedient to the Lord or that would enable her husband to willfully sin against the Lord.
  • Have you ever noticed? Directly after Paul’s teaching in Ephesians on marriage and family, Paul instructs the church to “Put on the Full Armor of God”. I don't think this is a coincidence!

Slaves and Masters
The kind of servitude practiced in the first century was seldom in keeping with God’s will; the Scriptures regulate the institution without commending it (see notes on 1 Cor. 7:21; Eph. 6:5; 1 Tim. 1:10), and the evil of trafficking in human beings is condemned in the NT (1 Tim. 1:10; cf. Rev. 18:11–13). As in any other city or village in the Roman world, there would have been many slaves (or bondservants) at Colossae; Paul treats them with dignity and appeals to them directly to honor Christ in their hearts, work, and behavior. Philemon (see the book of Philemon) was a wealthy Colossian who benefited from the labors of his bondservant, Onesimus. Paul later writes to Philemon, compelling him in love to “do what is required (v.9)”, "that you might receive him back forever, no longer as a bondservant, but more than that, as a beloved brother. (v. 15b-16)” 

* Today, we typically view the principles of slave and master as they might apply to employers & employees. It's important to understand the cultural context in which the Colossians lived. Slavery, just like other institutions referenced in the Old Testament (such as divorce and polygamy) were given certain boundaries of practice among the Israel nation, but these were never God's original intent or design for human relationships, as the Genesis creation account attests.

(Attribution: Many of the above notes were paraphrased from text notes found in The Gospel Transformation Bible and time spent in Bible study preparation)