Pondering Paul’s Epistles – Colossians 4

EpistlesSo here we are… my last pondering post of the year.

Paul is closing up his epistle to the Colossians and giving some final thoughts. Much of them seem to be centered on prayer. This is appropriate because as usual I need an encouraging reminder about prayer. Admittedly, I do not pray well. I know a lot about prayer. I can even say a prayer that sounds impressive. But I do not pray well. Or more specifically I do not take the time to pray as I think I should. Notice that I did not say “as I ought.” Prayer is not something I ought to do it is something I get to do. And I don’t take advantage of the opportunities that I have to approach God’s throne of grace.

So here are a few things Paul mentions about prayer in this closing chapter of Colossians. Perhaps they will encourage you to pray well. Perhaps they will encourage me to pray.

Continue steadfastly in prayer (v.2) –  This is the ESV version. The NIV says, “devote yourselves to prayer.” What I hear Paul saying is that even when you don’t feel like praying, pray. Prayer is the best antidote to prayerlessness. Billy Graham once said,

“Heaven is full of answers to prayer for which no one bothered to ask.”

being watchful (v.2) – This would seem to indicate that there is a key aspect of prayer that has nothing to do with talking to God. There are two times that Jesus used the phrase “watch and pray.” Matt 26:41 and  Luke 21:36. There should be an alertness in prayer that is often missing in my prayer life. An alertness to what God is saying in the Word. An alertness to what God is doing in the world. An alertness to how God is orchestrating the circumstances of my life.

with thanksgiving (v.2) –  This is probably the thing I am best at when it comes to prayer. I am very grateful to the Lord for the many many ways that my life has been blessed.

And pray for us… (v.3) – I always find it interesting what Paul prays for or asks prayer for. Usually very different from what I ask for. In this case, even though he is in prison, in less than ideal circumstances, he is asking for prayer that he might have opportunities to share the gospel and that he might do so very clearly.

Epaphras…always struggling on your behalf in his prayers (v.12) – The NIV uses the word “wrestling.” That is not a word that would be used to describe my prayer life. I say prayers. I have much to learn about what it means to wrestle in prayer on behalf of others. One of my favorite prayer quotes is from John Piper that goes like this:

“You will never know what prayer is for until you know that life is war.”

A lesson I still need to learn. Many lessons here that I still need to learn.

I’ll look forward to pondering with you next year. Enjoy your holidays.

Pondering Paul’s Epistles – Colossians 3:17-4:1

EpistlesVerse 17 – “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Verse 23 – “Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men.”

Hmmm – seems like Paul is trying to get a point across here. Whether you are a wife or a husband or a child or a father or a mother or a slave or an employee – whatever you do, never forget that first and foremost you are doing it unto the Lord. Me thinks that this is something we often forget. It’s as if we think that our actions are hidden from the Lord. Would it make a difference in our conduct and conversation if we knew that God were standing alongside us? Well, guess what?

Check out this post from Our Daily Bread...

In August 2007, a major bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River, killing 13 people. In the weeks that followed, it was difficult for me not to think about that tragedy whenever crossing a bridge over a body of water.

Some time later, I was watching an episode of Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel. Host Mike Rowe was talking to an industrial painter whose work he was trying to duplicate. “There’s really no glory in what you do,” he said. “No,” the painter agreed, “but it’s a job that needs to be done.”

You see, that man paints the inside of the Mackinac Bridge towers in Northern Michigan. His unnoticed job is done to ensure that the steel of the magnificent suspended structure won’t rust from the inside out, compromising the integrity of the bridge. Most of the 12,000 people who cross the Straits of Mackinac each day aren’t even aware that they are depending on workers like this painter to faithfully do their jobs well.

God also sees our faithfulness in the things we do. Though we may think our deeds—big and small—sometimes go un-noticed, they are being observed by the One who matters most. Whatever our task today, let’s “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17).

Pondering Paul’s Epistles – Colossians 3:12-17

Epistles15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 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.

My thoughts… such as they are:

Let the peace of Christ rule – So it would seem that we have a choice as to what we allow to rule in our hearts. Many allow worry to rule. Many allow hatred to rule. Many allow jealousy to rule. Many allow greed to rule. Given the choice, peace is a much better option. Don’t you think? But how do you get there?

since as members of one body you were called to peace. – When we really get the fact that at one time we were enemies of God but that through Christ and the cross we have been reconciled to Him – that is that Christ has made peace between us and God – then we have a chance of letting peace rule in our hearts. In other words, until we grasp the gospel it will be impossible to experience true peace.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly – That’s what this pondering thing is all about – letting the Word dwell in us. It’s way to easy to let Scripture go in one ear and out the other. Don’t just read the Word, think upon it. Talk about it with others. Memorize it. Journal about it. As God works it into your life He will use it to work sinful habits and behaviors out of your life.

The thing about this passage that immediately caught my attention was the emphasis on being thankful. Each of the 3 verses mention this. Why would Paul seem to harp on this? Perhaps because even back then people lived as if they deserved to be blessed, deserved to have happiness, deserved to have good things happen to them. Not much has really changed in that regard. We live in a culture that feels deserving. When what we really deserve is for the wrath of God to poured down upon us. What we need is to develop an attitude of gratitude that permeates our lives. Living a life that oozes thankfulness in everything remedies the selfishness that so easily creeps in…  and makes us creeps.

Pondering Paul’s Epistles – Colossians 3:1-14

EpistlesI’m going to focus on the first few verses of this passage. (I shared these thoughts in a post back in 2011 – they have been a great reminder to me)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

So here’s the questions I’ve been thinking about: What’s the difference between “setting your heart on things above” and “setting your mind on things above”? And then, how do you set your heart and mind on things above in practice?

Setting your heart, I believe, has to do with desire. But how do you fuel desire for something? How do you develop desire? How can I increase my desire for God and the things of God. I think the answer, at least in part, has to do with “setting your mind on things above.” In other words I set my heart on things above BY setting my mind on things above. Why do I think this?

I love my wife. I have desire for my wife. But if I were to intentionally set my mind on other women, and think about them then I have no doubt that desire  for my wife would decrease and desire for women not my wife would increase. This is why porn is so destructive to a marriage. If I want to fuel desire for God then I need to think often about God. If I think often about ungodly things then my desire for them will increase and my desire for God will decrease.

Additionally, if I want to fuel desire for God then I need to participate in God experiences. Worship! Service! Missions! The more I experience God the more I will desire Him. Just as the more experiences Linda and I share together the more our desire for one another grows. If I were to neglect her and live my life without any regard for her – then any desire we share would soon fade away.

Now why would I even want to be so intentional about making sure that my heart and my mind are set on things above. Because…

1) according to verse 3, I belong to God. I have died to my old way of life. If I find that I am not interested in doing this then maybe I need to seriously consider whether I really do belong to God and really have died to sin and my old way of life.

2) According to verse 4, one day I will appear before God and I want to be able to do that without feeling ashamed or full of regret for the way that I defiled my heart and mind.

So all this to say that this is why this pondering thing is so necessary and so beneficial for me – and hopefully for you. And why Scripture memory is such a great discipline to be in the habit of doing. Both of these help me to set my heart on things above and to set my mind on things above – thus fueling my desire for God and drawing me into closer relationship with Him.

Pondering Paul’s Epistles – Colossians 2:8-23

EpistlesThe primary thesis of this passage is verse 8 – “See to it that no one takes you captive…”

Paul is concerned that believers are willingly relinquishing their freedom in Christ and allowing themselves to be bound by the “hollow and deceptive” philosophies of this world. It is a concern that he would still have for the church 2000 years later. There is a plethora of bad philosophies that are running amok in our Christian culture. Just to name a few…

  • “Just follow your heart”
  • “God just wants me to be happy.”
  • “If you believe it then you can achieve it.”

Here are a few thoughts that might keep us from being taken captive:

  1. Ground yourself in the Word of God
  2. Be careful who you listen to
  3. Be careful what you read
  4. Be careful what you watch
  5. Ground yourself in the Word of God
  6. Think critically
  7. Talk things through with godly friends
  8. Don’t buy what the world is selling
  9. Ground yourself in the Word of God

and finally…

10. Ground yourself in the Word of God

“Father, would You capture our minds attention and our heart’s affection and guard us from being captured by the hollow and deceptive philosophies of this world.”

Pondering Paul’s Epistles: Colossians 2:6-7

EpistlesTherefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

These verses remind me of one of my favorite words in the Newer Testament…”abide”. The word picture that John gives us in John 15, where Jesus talks about abiding, is that of a branch connected to a tree. Here Paul plays off the same metaphor.

“So walk in Him” – or as the NIV puts it “continue in Him”. In other words, stay connected. Don’t try to live this life apart from Him or you will find that you dry up, wither, and die.

“rooted and built up in Him” – We are to find our nourishment for a Spirit-fueled life in Him as we send out roots that soak up the nutrients we need – nutrients that He provides  that will enable us to thrive and live healthy spiritual lives. It is when we try to be nourished by what the world provides that we find ourselves living anemic and wasted lives.

“established in the faith” – The idea of being established has to do with having a strong enough foundation so that we can withstand that which would seek to destroy us. As believers we need a strong and sturdy theological base to give us the support we need to stand throughout the storms of life. We need to thoroughly understand biblical themes such as God’s sovereignty, atonement and redemption, incarnation, grace, eschatology, sin, etc. so that we are not devoured by the falsities of the world and the schemes of the evil one.

“abounding in thanksgiving” – I think there is a very good reason why Paul includes this phrase among the others even though it doesn’t really fit with the metaphor. Gratitude is the primary way that we display to God that our sufficiency is in Him and not in ourselves. It is so easy to think that we are deserving of salvation because of our goodness. By “abounding in thanksgiving” we are expressing our neediness before God as well as demonstrating an attitude of humility – both of which combat the sinful tendency that we have towards pride and selfishness.

May the Father remind us often, in whatever ways are necessary, that it is only IN HIM that we find life and hope and joy.

Screen shot 2015-11-09 at 8.57.03 PM


Pondering Paul’s Epistles – Colossians 1:24-2:5

EpistlesI love a good mystery. Evidently God does too. Note what Paul says here…

25 I have become (a servant of the church) by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

The Older Testament was full of clues that if correctly deciphered would lead to solving the mystery of the Messiah. The Newer Testament is the revealing of how all these clues were pointing to Jesus. Paul is saying that his job as a servant of the Lord is to help people understand that Jesus is indeed the One they are looking for, the One they are longing for, the One that can fulfill all their hopes, the One that can satisfy their deepest needs, the One that can fuel them with strength for each day, and the One that can excite them about the possibilities of tomorrow.

This is also my job. And I dare say that this is also your job as a servant of the gospel and a disciple of Christ. Listen to what Paul says his purpose is. Perhaps we can purpose together to do the same thing as we seek together to make disciples…

My purpose is that (believers) may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

May the Lord use us together to build a church that knows in it’s fulness what the mystery of Christ is really all about.

Pondering Paul’s Epistles – Colossians 1:15-23

EpistlesThis passage reminds of one of C.S. Lewis’ great quotes:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

You cannot read this passage and think that the Bible only depicts  Jesus as a great man or brilliant moral philosopher. The word that Paul uses here is supreme  or  pre-eminent 1:18). Here are a few illustrations that I found that help to convey what this means for us as followers of Christ seeking to give Him supremacy in our lives.

1. (From Our Daily Bread) – Pam Sneddon was taking a class in photography. For one assignment, she chose her 6-year-old daughter as her subject and asked her to sit on a serene hillside. Close by was an apple tree in full bloom. Pam just couldn’t resist. She gave the tree a prominent place in the picture. Pam was surprised when her instructor pointed out a problem with the photo. The apple tree distracted from her primary focus, the little girl. “See how it catches the eye,” the instructor said. “It competes with your subject. You need to choose one subject and leave the other out.” This observation applies to more than good photography skills. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must center our attention only on Him. Like amateur photographers, we are often attracted to the “apple trees in full bloom.” We pay more attention to our hobbies, friends, family, or work. Christ commands our attention because He is “the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality”. That may mean relegating something we deem to be important to the background–or cropping it out of the picture altogether. Whatever distracts us from Jesus has to go. As the preeminent One, He must be the single focus of our lives.

2. In Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting of The Last Supper, our Lord’s hands are empty. And therein lies an inspiring story. Da Vinci dedicated three years to this painting, determined that it would be his crowning work. Before the unveiling, he decided to show it to a friend for whose opinion he had the utmost respect. The friend’s praise was unbounded. “The cup in Jesus’ hand,” he said, “is especially beautiful.” Disappointed at once Da Vinci began to paint out the cup. Astonished, the distinguished friend asked for an explanation. “Nothing,” Da Vinci explained, “must distract from the figure of Christ.” Da Vinci focused attention solely on Christ by removing the distraction of the cup. Having removed the cup, he had to do something with the hand. The left hand was already outstretched just above the table, lifting, as if to bless and command. Now the right hand, also empty, was also outstretched invitingly.

May the Lord more and more have supremacy in our lives – over our spouse, our kids, our job, our favorite teams, our finances, or whatever else has supplanted Him as the Pre-eminent One.

Pondering Paul’s Epistles – Colossians 1:9-14

EpistlesI’ve always loved the prayers that Paul offers in his epistles for the churches that he is writing to. Rather than comment on this prayer to the Colossians I thought I would instead offer a prayer for my church.

A Prayer for Ridgecrest

Father, I am very grateful for this church I have been privileged to work at for 22+ years. I have watched as You have worked in the lives of young men and women and developed ambassadors for the kingdom. I have watched as You have created a hunger to help the helpless as we have worked in Haiti all these years. I have watched as You have created a place which people can call home and where people can find hope.

But now I want to ask that You would do more. More than we can even ask or imagine. Yet I will ask anyway. I want to ask that You use Your Word by Your Spirit to bring about transformed lives. Would You capture our heart’s affection and our mind’s attention as we hear Your Word preached, as we listen to Your Word being taught, as we read Your Word for ourselves. Would you create in us a hunger that can only be satisfied by  You. Would You create in us a holy discontent with the things of this world. Would You create in us an eager anticipation for heaven and eternal life.

Would You teach us what it means to abide. Your Word says that “If a man abides in Me and I abide in Him, He will bear much fruit.” Teach us how to abide in Your Word. Teach us how to abide in Your incomparable love. Enable us to grasp just how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ – and to know this love deep down in our souls, that we might be filled to the measure of all of Your fulness. As we learn to abide may we be a fruit-bearing people that delights your heart and that nourishes the souls of those who are lost and desperate and helpless and hopeless.

And would You teach us how to pray. We confess our prayerlessness. We confess our anemic attempts at intercession. We confess that our prayers lack contrition and unction and fervor. We need You to energize us to pray. We need You to empower our praying. We need You to give us an urgency for prayer.

But mostly, Father, we need You. We have tried to live the Christian life in our own strength. We have tried all the tips for successful Christian living. We have tried to work up the courage to live consistently. We need You… for “apart from You we can do nothing.” 

Forgive us for our waywardness. Fuel us each day with Your joy. Fill us each day with Your compassion. May Your Spirit equip us to do Your work and enable us to worship You in a way that brings honor and glory and praise to You and Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Pondering Paul’s Epistles – Colossians 1:1-8

EpistlesI have always loved the way that Paul started his letter to the Colossians. But, every time I read it it always makes me think about how the church that I serve in is perceived by others. When people around our community talk about Ridgecrest Baptist Church what do they say? What is our reputation – both among believers and unbelievers?

Have they heard about our faith? (1:4a) – By definition the church is made up of a community of believers. Our faith is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. But how is this confession worked out in our lives day by day by day. Does our behavior reflect what we believe? As James says, “faith without actions is dead.” Many people are quick to confess that “Jesus is Lord” but nobody around them would ever guess that this true by the way that they live their lives. This is not only a damaging testimony personally but also damaging (and dare I say damning) testimony to the church they represent.

Have they heard about our love for all the saints? (1:4b) – John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Both Paul and John are talking about how believers love and care for other believers. And both seem to indicate that the world will take notice when we demonstrably love one another. Is this what Ridgecrest is known for around Durham? Are we known far and wide as a church that deeply loves one another?

Have they heard about our gospel fruitfulness? (1:6) – Again, what are we known for? Are we known for the great programs that we have at our church? Are we known for our friendliness? Are we known for our great facilities? Or… are we known for the lives that have been changed, the families impacted, the churches planted, the souls saved, the disciples made – the eternal fruit of gospel faithfulness.

What are we known for? I admit that I do not have an answer to this question for my church. I am on the inside looking out. My prayer is that more and more that we will be a church known for our faith in Jesus and our love for one another and our fruitfulness due to gospel faithfulness.

%d bloggers like this: