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Daily Bible thoughts 918: Wednesday 8th July 2015: Colossians 4:16-18: And finally…

Colossians 4:16-18: And finally…(click here for passage)

There are three clear exhortations in the final verses of this wonderful letter:

  • Read it (16): It is important that Paul’s letters are read. Still today their contents are to be digested by the churches. Don’t neglect the Bible as a whole. Don’t let the Apostle Paul stay on the shelf! (This verse shows that there was another letter written by Paul to a neighbouring church at Laodicea. These letters were to be swapped over and read by both churches.) In living the Christian life we don’t make it up as we go along. We are not left to our own devices to decide what is right and wrong. We have authoritative documents, and they are to be obeyed and not merely considered.
  • Stick with it (17): Jesus said: ‘’No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’’ (Luke 9:62). Did ‘’Archippus’’ feel like giving up? And what happened to ‘’Demas’’ (14)? There surely is a warning in his story (2 Tim.4:10)? All kinds of forces can combine and conspire against those in Christian service, causing us to feel tempted to drop out of the race. The way to persevere is to ‘’fix’’ our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). If anyone could have given up it was Jesus. Nobody suffered like He did. But He ‘’endured’’. (By the way, we are all in Christian service!!)
  • Remember them (18): This is a touchingly simple comment coming at the end of the letter. There is no self-pity in it. It is the briefest reminder of his sufferings. He wanted their prayers, as we have seen. ‘’Remember to pray for me in this jail.’’ The Message. He also wanted them to remember his love for them; his heart for the church as a whole; and the cost of being a Christian. In a way those ‘’chains’’ sum up a whole way of life. Paul was chained to Christ, and as His ‘prisoner’ he knew perfect freedom.

‘’When Jesus bids a man come and follow Him, He bids him come and die.’’ Dietrich Bohnoeffer.

Daily Bible thoughts 916: Monday 6th July 2015: Colossians 4: 7-15: No unappreciated people.

 Colossians 4: 7-15: No unappreciated people.(click here for todays passage)

We have noted before that Paul was a team player. He valued other people in the church who worked alongside him and he affirmed their contributions. Most of the people who appear on this list, with a couple of notable exceptions, were not well known. But all of them were significant; each of them mattered. Paul loved them and was thankful for them.

What an unselfish man Paul was! Although a prisoner, he did not curl up in a ball of self-pity. His letters to the churches at Colossae, Philippi and Ephesus (plus the personal one sent to Philemon) show that he was still outward looking, and concerned for the well-being of others. These were all written around the same time, when he was under house arrest. He was thoughtful and considerate, as (10b) shows.

Whatever is going on in your world, try to keep considering others. The temptation to close in and become self-focused may be very great, but you will grow and you will be blessed if you continue to love and serve. Don’t think about what you’re getting but concentrate on giving.

And here’s a thought, why not take some time this week to drop a line or two to someone who has been a great help to you? So you love them and value them? But do they know what you think about them and feel for them? They are not mind readers. Some things definitely ought to be expressed in ‘’the living years.’’

Let no-one feel unappreciated in the church family. May no one in your world fail to feel your love and gratitude.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the people you have put around me, now and in the past, who have made my ministry possible.

Daily Bible thoughts 915: Friday 3rd July 2015: Colossians 4:7-9: No insignificant people.

 Colossians 4:7-9: No insignificant people.(please click here for todays passage)

There are no insignificant people in God’s Kingdom, and there is no insignificant work. ‘’Tychicus’’ and ‘’Onesimus’’ are not the best known figures in the New Testament. We have a little more information on Onesimus because of the letter to ’Philemon’. We know that he was a runaway slave who met Paul in prison and was converted. But in comparison with Paul these two men were not high profile. Paul, however, valued them and the contribution they made. Paul’s appreciation of people shines through his letters. You don’t get any sense of hierarchical thinking. Paul, who wrote about the church as a body, was appreciative of the role played by each part. (I once heard someone comment that a part of the body having no work may soon become ‘a grumbling appendix’!! There are to be no redundant or unemployed members in Christ’s church.)

It is believed that Tychicus was the ‘postman’ who delivered Paul’s letter to the Colossians. In the previous paragraph we saw how Paul earnestly requested the prayers of the Colossian Christians. It is helpful if people can pray intelligently, so Paul sent key information with Tychicus and Onesimus. He wanted his friends to know how he was. He wanted to assist them in their prayers: ‘’My good friend Tychicus will tell you all about me…I’ve sent him to you so that you would know how things are with us…Together they’ll bring you up-to-date on everything that has been going on here.’’ The Message. This may not seem like a glittering assignment, but it was important.

The other purpose for sending Tychicus was: ‘’…and that he may encourage your hearts.’’ (8b). You may feel that you can do very little for God, but everyone can be an encourager. There is endless scope for those who are willing to take up the work of encouraging others. Who of us can carry on without it? Who could you encourage today? There are so many ways in which this can be done.

It was said of Hudson Taylor, I believe, that he was ‘’a man small enough for God to use.’’ He was due to speak once at a meeting, and the convener, no doubt meaning well, gave him an impressive build up. It is said that Hudson Taylor came to the pulpit and simply commented, ‘’I am but the small servant of an illustrious Master’’, or words to that effect.

In the church, some people will become well known, such as Paul was. Others, like Tychicus and Onesimus, will be in the ‘support cast’. They won’t win any ‘oscars’ for their performances. They will not be lauded as ‘stars’. But their work is vitally important. Whether well-known or anonymous, remain small in your own eyes, and look to serve and glorify your infinitely big God.

‘’There’s a work for Jesus none but you can do.’’

Prayer: Lord God, help me to be humble and usable before you.

Daily Bible thoughts 914: Thursday 2nd July 2015: Colossians 4:2-6: Prayer changes things.

 Colossians 4:2-6: Prayer changes things.(please click here for todays passage)

Paul the apostle clearly believed in the effectiveness of prayer. He regular asked the churches under his care to pray for him, and he obviously wasn’t simply trying to fill up space in his letters. He genuinely believed that these prayers would make a material difference. He was humble enough to ask for help. The help he wanted most of all was that which comes from God in answer to the faithful prayers of His people (see Philippians 1:19).

Evangelism involves our words (6) and our actions (5), but it is to be carried on in an atmosphere of prayer. Prayer and effective witness are ‘married’. God has joined them together and we must not separate them. Let us pray for our own outreach efforts, whether they are personal or collective, and also, let’s not fail to pray for preachers and missionaries and Christian leaders working on the ‘front lines’. We can partner with them in this way. No-one is big enough to succeed by themselves. There is a need for committed intercessors in the ‘supply lines’. Do we believe that our prayers will make a difference?

As we pray, we need to be sensitive; alert to God and anything He may be saying or doing. We must keep our eyes open to observe what is going on around us. ‘Watchfulness’ is a vital ingredient of prayer. And it’s not simply a matter of asking God for things. Let’s also be ‘’thankful’’ for everything He has done for us. It will add fuel to our prayers if we take the time to remember how the Lord has already answered prayer in the past. We can (and we must) combine ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’.

In particular, Paul asked for prayer for an ‘’open door’’ for the message to be preached, and for clarity in communicating it. (Compare this with similar requests in Ephesians 6: 18-20). Here are important points to still inform our praying for the spread of the gospel.

Someone said that he had noticed that coincidences happen when Christians pray which don’t occur when they’re not praying! We need a lot more of these ‘coincidences’.

Prayer: Lord God, let me see prayer through your eyes. Help me to believe all that the Bible teaches about prayer’s power. Enable me, please, to resist every temptation to stop praying, and to fight the lethargy that would keep me from ever starting.

Daily Bible thoughts 905: Friday 19th June 2015: Colossians 3:12-14: A Christian’s Wardrobe.

Colossians 3:12-14: A Christian’s Wardrobe.(please click here for todays passage)

Your clothes say a lot about you. What do your ‘clothes’ say about you?

This morning I looked in my wardrobe and I saw a couple of dirty shirts hanging there. One was called ‘’anger’’ and the other was labelled ‘’rage’’. I also clapped eyes on a pair of trousers bearing the label ‘’malice’’, and there was a suit hanging up that said ‘’slander’’. Then my eyes fastened on a familiar jumper – ‘’filthy language.’’ I confess that I was tempted to put on these old clothes. I’ve had them for so long, and have become comfortable with the feel of them. They are like old friends in a way. I have a kind of love-hate relationship with them. Even though I know they look terrible, and do nothing good for my appearance, they are just so easy to slip into.

But then I realised that there were other clothes hanging in the wardrobe, just waiting to be used. They carried lovely ‘Designer’ labels: ‘’compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.’’ And there were other garments saying, ‘Bear with other people’ and ‘forgive’. This was a brand new set of clothes, provided for me free of charge by a very dear friend. It cost Him so much to make them available. So although I felt a tug towards my old familiar clothes; even though I was drawn in the direction of putting the old, shabby stuff on once again, the awareness of His deep love for me helped me to reach for the new clothing. It was even like I could hear Him speaking to me; a voice that seemed to be inside me saying, ‘Go on and wear them. You know you want to. And always remember how very much I love you.’ In fact, I was aware of Him in the room with me, and I could sense how strongly He wanted me to choose correctly.

So I’ve decided that I’m done with the old gear. I was inclined to put them in the wash, but I’ve now decided to be radical. They’re going out. I’m getting rid. I choose not to wear them anymore!

As I walked down the street in my new set of clothes, many people seemed to notice. They smiled admiringly, and paid me lovely compliments. That never happened before. I get the impression that they prefer this new me, and I’m certainly happier with what I see in the mirror.

So I’m determined to keep the new look and not return to the old slovenly and scruffy ways. And with the assurance of my Friend’s love, and the encouragement of His companionship, I believe I will be able to stick with this resolve. But even if I do slip every now and then, and dig out an old cardigan or something still lurking in the back of the wardrobe, I know He will be there to gently but firmly get me back on track. So, with His constant Friendship I am always hopeful, and endlessly thankful.

Prayer: Thank you Jesus for my lovely new clothes. Thank you for the price you paid.

Daily Bible thoughts 904: Thursday 18th June 2015: Colossians 3:5-11: Pursue Holiness.

 Colossians 3:5-11: Pursue Holiness.(click here for todays passage)

In the pagan religions of Paul’s day, little or nothing was said about personal morality. A worshipper could offer his/her gift on the altar and return home to live the same old way. But it is not like that in Christianity. A Christian is someone who will become more and more like Jesus.

You may quickly notice the paradox suggested by (3) and (5): ‘’For you died…Put to death…’’ It’s what commentators call the tension between the indicative and the imperative; between what has happened, and what must happen in the light of what has happened. We have ‘died’, therefore we must ‘put to death’.

Verse five speaks about definite action; decisive action. This is not something you drift into. These words agree with those of Jesus in Matthew 5:27-30, where He called for radical (you might even say ruthless) action to deal with temptation and sin. You can’t make a truce with these implacable enemies of your soul.

What do you know needs to change in your life? It may have to do with the sins listed in verses five and eight. But we do not have an exhaustive catalogue here. It’s just a sample. Your ‘’earthly nature’’ is capable of other wrongs. But wishing won’t change anything. Definite steps have to be taken against indwelling evil. It is important to realise how much God hates all sin (6). We have to hate it also, and declare war on it. There are things which belong to our old life and not to the new resurrected life in Christ. That previous life is now dead; it is in the past tense. We have to recognise this fact and not go back. There is a picture in this chapter of changing clothes; taking off dirty ones and putting on clean garments. As someone said, we must ‘’take off the grave clothes and put on the grace clothes.’’

As in (5), there is in (8) reference to decisive action. It is also urgent.(N.B. ‘’you must’’). We can’t afford to sit around waiting to change or be changed, but have to get on with making the necessary changes. It is important to see that if you are a Christian you can do this, because you are alive with Christ (1); you are dead to your old life (2), and you have a new godly nature (9, 10). Paul is asking for the possible (to those who are in Christ) and not the impossible. Once you trust Christ for salvation and the Holy Spirit comes to live in you, you have a new endless power supply to live differently. ‘Turbo-charged’ behaviour is now possible! You can pursue holiness because the HOLY Spirit lives inside you.

The church is a new community made up of new people who are enabled to live a new life. In the church all the old distinctions mean nothing (11). Jesus is ‘’in’’ everyone. He is ‘’all’’ we need. He is our ‘’life’’.

It’s been said that we were each formed in the image of God. We were deformed from that image through sin. But now we are being transformed into that image through Christ.

Prayer: Thank you Lord that remarkable change is possible because of your work in me.

Daily Bible thoughts 903: Wednesday 17th June 2015: Colossians 3: 1-4: Intentionality.

Colossians 3: 1-4: Intentionality.(Please click here for todays passage)

Good news! We are new people in a new position (1, 3). So we can do everything we are told to do in this chapter.

‘’Having laid the doctrinal foundation, Paul now makes the personal application, for truth is something to live as well as to learn.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.784

‘’They now share in his resurrection life, so their lives are to be different. Their interests are to be focused on Christ; their minds, aims, ambitions, in fact their whole outlook, are to be centred on that heavenly realm where he rules, and where their lives truly belong. A continuous ongoing effort is required (lit.’keep on setting your minds/hearts’) for such a focus does not come automatically.’’ Peter T. O’Brien: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.1272.

Our lives must be continually re-orientated towards our real home, for we regularly drift off course. But no one ever does anything significant without putting their mind to it and their heart into it. So there’s an intentionality here, expressed in the repeated word ‘’set’’ (1, 2; see Malachi 3:1). This is about ‘mind-set’ and focus. But such concentration will not happen without time. It’s easy to tell ourselves that we are far too busy to donate time to the cultivation of our spiritual lives. When John Ortberg was about to enter a very busy season of ministry, and he asked Dallas Willard what he needed to do to stay spiritually healthy, Dallas replied, ‘’You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life?’ When Ortberg came back asking, ‘’What else?’’ the reply was, ‘’There is nothing else. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.’’

Today’s reading also raises the question, ‘To what extent is Jesus my true treasure?’ ‘’…set your hearts on things above, where Christ is…’’ (1). Surely my heart will follow my love; it will be where my love is. Our real life is now bound up with Jesus (3, 4; 1 John 5:12), so why would we keep our hearts and minds distanced from Him? If Christ is your life, keep your heart and mind in the place of life.

Verse 3 speaks of our security: ‘’So here we are in Christ, who is in God, and no burglar, not even Satan himself, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom.8:31-39).’’ Dr. A.T. Robertson.

Our real identity is not clear to the world at the moment, but one day it will be openly displayed (3, 4). ‘’Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life – even though invisible to spectators – is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too – the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.’’ The Message. C.S. Lewis said that if you could see your brother or sister today, looking how they will one day appear, you might well be tempted to bow down and worship them!

‘’…make the new life the focus of your attention. Set your mind on it; seek to experience all you have in Christ.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe.

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