March 23 – Be Still

Psalm 46 (NLT)

1 God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.

2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.

3 Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!

4 A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High.

5 God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it.

6 The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders, and the earth melts!

7 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.

8 Come, see the glorious works of the LORD:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.

9 He causes wars to end throughout the earth. He breaks the bow and snaps the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”

11 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.

Sometimes things just seem overwhelming. The Covid – 19 crisis has certainly got us all on edge. Some other overwhelming things are really serious such as the unexpected death of a family member or friend or we receive news from some medical tests that are scaring us horribly. Most of the time, the overwhelming things are not so serious, but they never seem to stop coming – one small crisis after another.

During upsetting times, Psalm 46 is a good one to read. We need to know that our God is in control and that we can get help from Him. I love the first verse in this psalm: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” That is a fact, and that is true. But, how do we experience that strength? Personally, I think verse 10 contains the answer. “Be still, and know that I am God!” There are times when we need to literally stop right where we are standing, and say out loud, “God, I know You are there, and You are willing to help me, so I’m taking a deep breath and waiting on You”.

I have that verse on a wall hanging in my bedroom. It used to hang in the entranceway of the home where I raised my kids. Both those locations are ones that I needed to have that verse located. I needed to know as I came in my front door with arms loaded with stuff and kids whirling about my feet that I was coming home to a place where God lived as well. Now as I wake and start each day, I need to be aware that God is with me in whatever comes my way that day. I need to know that God is there and that He is all the wonderful things recounted in this psalm.

The words “be still” are translated a variety of ways depending on the version you read. The King James Version says, “be still” and that seems to be the most popular one. The NASB says “cease striving”. It can also be translated ‘let go’ or ‘relax’. One thing that stands out to me in all of those translations is the idea that I need to stop and get in touch with reality. There is action on my part – my willingness to let go. I don’t know about you, but I suspect that you may identify with me. I do strive. I do try my best to do all the things on my schedule. I do overbook my time. I do care that I’m doing a good job. See all that striving? See all that busyness? See all that tension? I need to stop that and consult God much more. When things happen that mess up my plans (my strivings), I need to stop and know who is really in control.

So that takes me back to verse 1. “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble”. And to verse 10. “Be still, and know that I am God!”

And that’s something to think about today.

There is an amazing song on YouTube Music called Still by Hillsong United. It is based on this psalm and takes about 6 minutes to play. There are many other verses from the Bible posted on the beautiful background scenery. You won’t regret taking some time to listen to this song.

March 20 – Held in God’s Hands

Isaiah 41: 10 (New American Standard Bible NASB)

Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 (New Living Translation NLT)

“ Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 (The Message)

Don’t panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.

As a young mom, I experienced a time of depression, that may have been postpartum depression – something they didn’t talk about way back then. This verse was my rock and foundation through that period of my life. I copied it out on a card and taped it to my frig. I also had a small imitation vase of daffodils that I set in the room where I spent most of my time playing with my girls. Those daffodils reminded me of spring, a time of renewal. I still have those daffodils and they come out every spring and are placed somewhere I can see them often. They are a reminder that God was with me then, and is with me now.

These days I don’t turn the TV on to a news channel until later in the day to catch up on the latest news about Covid-19. It’s all you hear on the news channels all day long, and that’s way too much to listen to. Now they’re saying it may be months before things return to normal. That’s scary! How long will restaurants, movie theaters, sports facilities, Parks and Rec activities, social events, etc. be shut down? Will I be able to have friends over if we have to stay 2 meters apart?

It’s easy to see how we can be anxious, afraid, panicking. And that is what this verse addresses. I like The Message translation of the verse. “Don’t panic. I’m with you.” God is with us. His Holy Spirit lives within us. You can’t get closer than that. “There’s no reason to fear for I’m your God”. We need to stop and comprehend – as much as we can – just who God is. When we realize who God actually is, we can calm down because we know that God will “hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

To help remind us who God really is, I’ve copied a section from gotquestions.org that talks about this. It’s good to refresh ourselves even though we may think we know it all:

“First, God exists. The Bible never argues for God’s existence; it simply states it. The fact that God is should be self-evident through the works He has created (Psalm 19:1-6). Genesis
1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is a simple yet powerful statement. The universe includes time, space, matter, and energy, so that all discernible elements in the universe came into being by God’s decree. Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity states that all time, space, and matter had a definite, simultaneous beginning. What has a beginning has a cause. That is the law of causality, and the fact of God easily explains the ultimate cause. God is the creator of all that is, and so we know something else about Him: He is almighty (Joel 1:15), He is eternally self-existent (Psalm 90:2), and He exists above and beyond all of creation (Psalm 97:9).

The same God who made all things also controls those things. He is sovereign (Isaiah 46:10). He who creates an item owns it and has power to utilize it as he sees fit. The ultimate cause has ultimate authority. In Isaiah 44:24 God presents Himself as the One “who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.” The next verse says that He “overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense.” This is obviously a God with power to do as He pleases.

God is spirit (John 4:24) and cannot be represented by any created thing; in fact, the attempt to create such a representation is blasphemous (Exodus 20:4-6). God is unchanging (Malachi 3:6). God is all-knowing (1 John 3:20) and all-present (Psalm 139:7-13). He is holy and glorious (Isaiah 6:3). He is just (Deuteronomy 32:4) and will justly judge all sin and unrighteousness (Jude 1:15). …

When Jesus entered our world, He showed us the Father (John 14:7-9). Through Jesus, we understand that God seeks to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He is compassionate (Matthew 14:14),

He is merciful (Luke 6:36), and He is forgiving (Matthew 9:1-8). At the same time, Jesus shows us that God will judge unrepentant sin (Luke 13:5) and that God is angry with those who live falsely and refuse to acknowledge the truth (Matthew 23).

Most of all, Jesus showed us that God is love (1 John 4:8). It was in love that God sent His Son into the world (John 3:16). It was in love that Jesus died on the cross for sinners (Romans 5:8). It is in love that He still calls sinners to repentance to experience the grace of God and to be called the children of God (1 John 3:1).”

March 19 – God Takes Care of Me


With all the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, I’m going to pause for a couple of days from reading through 1 John. Depending on how things are going in the coming weeks, I will likely switch back and forth from our usual reading through a book of the Bible to daily words of encouragement from our Heavenly Father.

Psalm 23
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

This is such a familiar psalm, it is easy to skim over it and not really take in the details. What I want you to do right now is read the psalm again slowly and look for a word or phrase that jumps out at you. This is how God speaks to you. What is God telling you today? Before you read on, stop for a moment and think about those words that God brought to your mind.

In these days of panic, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all I need” jumps out at me. When I look at the empty shelves in the grocery store, and wonder if I will be able to get what I need, God reassures me that he supplies what I need. I actually have a lot of faith in Canadians to calm down and stop stockpiling supplies. But I need more than canned goods and paper supplies. I am more on the introverted side of personalities, so I have always thought being by myself is a good thing. However, when we are told to stay at home and not go out unless it’s necessary, I’ve discovered a sense of unquiet in this ‘aloneness’. I know the extroverts need other people, and I suspect they find social isolation really difficult.

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me”. Knowing that God is near me is so comforting! I can talk to him any time of the day or night. He’s with me, so he is very aware of my circumstances. He knows how I am feeling. We are sharing this moment in time together. He’s not even across the room; he is “close beside me”. Stop and think about that. Pause and think. God is “close beside you”.

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.” Pursue! Now there’s an amazing word. God pursues me. I don’t have to go looking for him. He is looking for me. And in what way does he pursue me? With “goodness and unfailing love”. Think for a moment about a loving relationship you have experienced. It may be with a parent, sibling, a good friend, a child, a husband or wife … When you were having a tough time, was that person there for you? Every time? I had an amazing marriage for almost 50 years, and my husband definitely took care of me in so many ways. But sometimes he was too busy with work to be there when I needed him. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be with me, he just had other demands on his time. Sometimes he was just too tired and wanted to be alone. Sometimes he didn’t understand why I was upset, and couldn’t fully relate to how I felt.

BUT, God isn’t like that!!!! God pursues me with “goodness and unfailing love”. “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” God is right there all the time! You may be going crazy with little ones racing around your house, and you
have nowhere to take them to keep them happy. You may be living alone and feeling very isolated. You may be feeling edgy and nervous about what will happen over the next month of two. Stop and reread Psalm 23. Look for those words that your Heavenly Father is speaking to you. Take a deep breath and know he is close beside you.

March 18 – God is Light

1 John 1: 5 – 10 NLT

“This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.”

“God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.” What does that mean? Charles R. Swindoll gives an excellent definition in his Living Insights commentary:

“Light is a single term that captures the essence of God’s nature. It represents the holiness and purity of God. In John’s metaphor, God isn’t simply a source of light, a being brilliantly illumined by light, or a reflector of light. God is Light. As such, there’s no possibility of even a trace of darkness with Him. God is ALL LIGHT, ZERO DARKNESS.

What does this mean? It means that God is all good, with nothing bad. He is all pure, with nothing impure. He is all clean, with nothing dirty. He is all right, with nothing wrong. He is all truth, with nothing false.” (pages 30 – 31)

In our churches we hear that God is perfect, and we believe that as Christ followers. But do we really understand that perfection? I think our sin nature tends to obstruct our view of God. We make excuses for the way we behave. In these verses in 1 John 1, we are made aware that there is a distinct separation between light and darkness.

The Bible tells us that we are born in spiritual darkness; we have a sin nature. God’s perfection is something we will never attain ourselves in this life. Today, that’s an idea that really doesn’t go over all that well. We tend to say that people are basically good; they can be influenced by other ‘evil people’ such as Hitler. Or they can make slips, but it’s minor. Or they have been influenced by a dysfunctional childhood. We tend to blame others, not ourselves when things go wrong. But the Bible tells us that we have this basic sin nature.

“As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” (Romans 3:10-12 NLT)

“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.” (Ephesians 2:1-3 NLT)

John says we try to avoid admitting we are sinful, that we are not perfect in three ways:

“We say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.” That is like ‘sticking our heads in the sand’. We would tell people that we love God and are Christ followers, but our actual behaviour doesn’t live up to what we say. Outside the church on Sunday, God doesn’t really factor into the way we live.

“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” If we take a look at ourselves and think we are living very well, we don’t sin at all or very little, we are not facing up to the truth. Frankly, I suspect a lot of us do that. We aren’t cheating on our taxes, we aren’t lying to our bosses or family, we put in a good day’s work, etc.. We’re good people! But John tells us we are kidding ourselves. We haven’t really grasped that God is light – God is perfect.

“If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.” If we actually say that people don’t sin, then we don’t believe what the Bible says at all. The Bible is completely irrelevant to us.

This doctrine of God’s perfection and our sinfulness is not popular in today’s culture. We like to see things in shades of gray, not in black and white. Yet if we acknowledge that what the Bible

says is true, there is wonderful news of hope. “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness”. (v. 9) I don’t think that means we can sin repeatedly and purposely and expect that God forgives us; we can’t be flippant about God’s love and forgiveness. But if we are “living in the light” (v. 7), then forgiveness is ours for the asking when we mess up.

Psalm 32: 1 (NLT)
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight.” Paul repeats this in Romans 4: 7 (NLT)

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.”

God is light, but he has made a way for us to have a relationship with him. “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness”.

March 17 – The Word of Life

We are going to start going through 1 John today. If for any reason, the Covid-19 crisis seems to be getting worse, and I think devotions about peace and calm are needed, I will interrupt our reading through 1 John.

1 John 1: 1 – 4 NLT

1 We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of
life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. (Or so that our joy may be complete NASB)

Before I begin these devotions in 1 John, I have to give credit for many of my ideas to Charles R. Swindoll in his New Testament commentary, Living Insights, as well as from reading the Intervarsity Press online commentary before I begin writing. So, what I write is a combination of what I think about after reading the verses, and then what I read in those commentaries.

John begins by saying Jesus was “the one who existed from the beginning” and was “the Word of life”. This truth that Jesus is God, that he created life on this planet, that he is the source of all life both here and in eternity is so crucial to our faith. Sometimes I think after reading about Jesus’ life on earth in the gospels, we focus on his humanity and forget who he really is. Remember those verses from Colossians that we read so recently?

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,

16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.

He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—

such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.

17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.

18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body.

He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.

19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,

20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself.

He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” (Colossians 1: 15 – 20)

John stresses this idea as he begins this epistle. He stressed it as well when he began the Gospel of John.

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

John goes on to tell us that he, along with the disciples, “saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands”. And he repeats that idea two more times: “This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him”, and “We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard. “ John wants us to know that he is telling the truth. He is not making up some crazy mythical story. Jesus is real. I find it also exciting that John indicates that we can share in knowing this God. “We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” John doesn’t have an exclusive relationship with Jesus because he actually saw him. We have that relationship with Jesus too.

Do you ever stop and think about your relationship with God? We read those awesome verses posted in yesterday’s devotions about how totally and incredibly amazing God is. Jesus is God Jesus is the Word of life. He only has to speak and life begins. And yet we can have a personal relationship with this God. No wonder John states, “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete”. The word, joy, used here isn’t about being happy about getting an income tax refund, or seeing a great movie, or having a good time with friends. It’s about a deep sense of knowing life is worthwhile, that God is in control and that we are his children.

In our chaotic world today, these facts stated in 1 John 1 are calming words. Amid all the craziness, we can know we are safe and secure in God’s hands.

Psalm 4:8 NLT
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.”

March 16 – Find New Strength

I said last week that we would start 1 John today, but after watching the news over the past few days, I decided we need some reassurance that God is in control. We’ll start 1 John later this week.

These are scary times with the spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19). I went to a couple of grocery stores on Friday looking for a few things and was amazed at the huge number of people in the stores. I chatted with a cashier who I see frequently, and he said the stores have been full since Thursday morning. Some areas of the shelves are cleaned out. On Saturday morning I read an article in The Windsor Star about the huge line-ups at Costco – the hour or more it took to check out. I am an organizer and I like things to be planned well ahead, so I understand why people are panicking, and in the coming week or so, I will make sure I have basic things on hand. But as Christ followers we need to take a step back and take a deep breath.

God wants us to know that we can trust Him. The verses today speak of God’s incredible power and ability to do things. When we get caught up with our worries and nervousness about what lies ahead for us, these words from God’s Word are so reassuring. We can stop trying to control everything and turn to a God who can do something and cares for us. So read these verses slowly, and even read them out loud, to impress on your mind and soul just who God is.

Isaiah 40: 12 – 31 (NLT)

“Who else has held the oceans in his hand?
Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?

Who else knows the weight of the earth
or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?

13 Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD?[c]
Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?

14 Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice?

15 No, for all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales. He picks up the whole earth
as though it were a grain of sand.

16 All the wood in Lebanon’s forests
and all Lebanon’s animals would not be enough to make a burnt offering worthy of our God.

17 The nations of the world are worth nothing to him. In his eyes they count for less than nothing— mere emptiness and froth.

18 To whom can you compare God?
What image can you find to resemble him?

19 Can he be compared to an idol formed in a mold, overlaid with gold, and decorated with silver chains?

20 Or if people are too poor for that,
they might at least choose wood that won’t decay and a skilled craftsman
to carve an image that won’t fall down!

21 Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand? Are you deaf to the words of God— the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant?

22 God sits above the circle of the earth.
The people below seem like grasshoppers to him! He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them.

23 He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing.

24 They hardly get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and they wither. The wind carries them off like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?
Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.

26 Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.” I’m stopping you right here so you can take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Is God able to deal with my problems?” But then, you might say to yourself, “But does He care enough to help me out?” Well, let’s keep going with verses 27 – 31.

27 O Jacob, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?

28 Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?

The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.

He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.

29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.

30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.

31 But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.

They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that enough? If you are in a place right now where you find your mind returning to the same problem, turning it over and over, trying to understand what you should do, how you should react – read those verses over again. Soak them in. We are human; we are not God. It’s not a surprise that we worry about things over and over again. But God understands that – “No one can measure the depths of his understanding” (v. 28) So if you have to stop many times a day to remind yourself that God cares and can give you the strength to deal with whatever is bothering you, God understands. It doesn’t mean you are pathetically weak and beyond God’s compassion. He cares and He will give you strength.

March 13 – Peace

We finished Colossians yesterday, and we’ll start reading through 1 John on Monday. So today, I decided to write another favourite verse devotional.

Philippians 4:6-8 New Living Translation (NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

These verses became one of my favourites when I was a teenager. Those were the years that I was sorting out what I believed, and what I thought was the right thing to do as I spent less time with my family and more time at school, with school friends, and at my part-time job. My Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Grant, gave each of us in her class a fancy card with that verse on it, and told us to tuck it in our mirrors at home so that we could be aware of God’s suggestions for our standards.

Now that I’m older, I still like that verse a lot. Our culture makes it easy to get dragged down and focused on the strangest stuff. Just look at the ads on TV. But I think even more than that, I find this verse helps me when I tend to get bogged down in anxiety and depressing thoughts. If I “fix my thoughts” on positive and uplifting things, life has so much more hope.

I think anxiety strikes us when we are not sure what the future might hold, and we’re not sure if we can cope with whatever it is. Living with my granddaughter who is in her second year at university reinforces that idea. For two of her courses, she is quite sure she will do well. She finds the classes easy, and so far, has done well on all assignments and tests. Another two courses have her really nervous. She finds the content of those courses challenging, and some of the tests she has written this term didn’t turn out as well as she had hoped. She’s not as sure about what will be on future tests since the profs of those courses have thrown the classes a curve or two on past tests. So when the future seems positive and we’re sure we have it under control, we are not anxious. But when the future is uncertain, and we’re not sure we can cope as well as we’d like, then anxiety strikes.

The Philippian church was anxious. They were experiencing a lot of persecution from the Jewish leaders and from the Roman occupying forces. Their future was definitely not certain. So Paul has some advice for them. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” I guess you could say – Pray, pray, pray. He also tells them to pray with thanksgiving. That’s interesting. That thanksgiving reminds us that God is in control and God will be there for us no matter the outcome.

The verse I really like is “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I see two things that are guarded by God – my mind and my emotions. Both are under attack when I’m anxious. The thoughts that go through my head about what might possibly happen are extremely unsettling. I find it hard to concentrate on the simplest of chores around the house. My emotions are all over the place. I feel like I could break down crying way too easily. I get angry about the stupidest things because my emotions are not under control. Prayer changes all that.

And then I focus on the positive things of the day – the things that are “true, honorable, right, lovely, etc.” I am so thankful for the peace that God gives. It really is incomprehensible. If I didn’t have God’s divine intervention in my life, I would be falling apart – totally failing at coping. Although I wouldn’t say I deserve an A+ in coping skills, I am aware of God’s presence and I know He will sustain me not matter what the outcome. For that I am so thankful! It is something that every single one of us can be thankful for!

March 12 – Who are the Significant People in Your Life?

Colossians 4: 7 – 18 (NLT)

“Tychicus will give you a full report about how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper who serves with me in the Lord’s work. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you. 9 I am also sending Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, one of your own people. He and Tychicus will tell you everything that’s happening here.

10 Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin. As you were instructed before, make Mark welcome if he comes your way. 11 Jesus (the one we call Justus) also sends his greetings. These are the only Jewish believers among my co- workers; they are working with me here for the Kingdom of God. And what a comfort they have been!

12 Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God. 13 I can assure you that he prays hard for you and also for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis.

14 Luke, the beloved doctor, sends his greetings, and so does Demas. 15 Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.

16 After you have read this letter, pass it on to the church at Laodicea so they can read it, too. And you should read the letter I wrote to them.

17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.” 18 HERE IS MY GREETING IN MY OWN HANDWRITING – PAUL
“Remember my chains. May God’s grace be with you.”

Who are the people who have made a big contribution to your life? Many of you would likely start with your family members, and certainly those people have made a huge impact on you. But

today, I want you to start thinking about people and friends outside your family who have really helped you in some way.

Paul mentions some interesting people who he values. Onesimus was a slave who ran away and ended up in Rome where he met Paul. After becoming a believer, Onesimus wanted to make things right with his master, and that was why Paul wrote Philemon.

“I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. 11 Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. 12 I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.

13 I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. 14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. 15 It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever. 16 He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me.” (Philemon 1: 10 – 18 NLT)

He also mentions Mark. John Mark had accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey but left half way through. That eventually caused a split between Barnabas and Paul when Barnabas wanted to give Mark another chance.

“Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. 39 Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. 40 Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care.” (Acts 15: 37 – 40 NLT)

It looks like Mark has matured over the years and Paul has become more forgiving and patient. That relationship between Paul and Mark with a rocky start ended up helping both of them.

Luke was definitely someone who impacted Paul greatly. He was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. He traveled with Paul and witnessed first-hand the beginning of the

new church. He also likely helped Paul live with the medical condition that Paul referred to as a “thorn in the flesh”. (2 Corinthians 12: 7)

When I look back over my life, I remember my Sunday School teacher when I was a young teenager – Mrs. Grant. She was a quiet woman and a business woman who owned a jewelry store. We admired her so much because she dressed well and always looked good. But more importantly, she explained scripture to us in such an understandable way. Her interest in each of us in our class made us take our faith seriously. The next teacher when in my older teens was Art Stephenson, a chemical engineer with Dow Chemical. He was so good at answering all our questions about Christianity. We were at that stage where we wondered if we had just been brought up with church stuff, and maybe it wasn’t that realistic. His calm and intelligent approach made it easy for us to say what we really thought and know he wouldn’t tell our parents, nor would he think any the less of us.

At university, Pastor Bill Steeper at Adelaide Baptist Church in London had been a full-time staff member with Inter-varsity Press before he settled down as a lead pastor at the church. So many university students went to his church, and he took a personal interest in each one of us. Again, it was a time of life when I questioned my faith, and having this pastor who found time to talk with me on various occasions made me think.

There are many more I could talk about, but now I want you to think about your life. Make a list of the people who have really helped you in some way. Thank God for the influence they brought in your life and pray for them. Maybe even write them a note and thank them. That could make their day.

March 11 – A Challenge

Colossians 4 (NLT)

Colossians 4

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3 Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive (Greek – seasoned with salt) so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

The first verse smacks me ‘upside the head’ – “pray with an alert mind”. I don’t know about you, but I find prayer difficult. I will begin to pray and then dozens of thoughts about my day (what to make for supper, appointments that week, need to call someone, do I need to buy new pillows for my couch – all scattered irrelevant thoughts) flood my mind. I can pray about things during my day as they come to mind, and that is fine. To be conscious of God’s presence throughout our day is good. But I struggle to find time to pray in a serious thoughtful way. Paul tells us to pray “with an alert mind and a thankful heart”.

When do I have an alert mind? If we stopped and thought about it, we could probably find a time of day when we know we are wide awake. Some of us are morning persons and some are night hawks. We need to be aware of when we are alert and figure out a time for prayer. Paul also encourages us to pray with a thankful heart. Start prayer by thanking God for any small thing (or big thing) that has happened in the past couple of days. I really think praise helps our minds to focus.

Charles Swindoll writes about these verses and says that we should determine to improve our prayer life but not get too strict with our expectations. Instead, determine to pray more this week. Next week, ask ourselves if we met that expectation, and if not, determine to make it better. If we improve a little over a month, that is good. He feels people sometimes set their expectations too high and then quit because they fail. Look instead for a gradual improvement. That sounds like good advice to me, and if you struggle with prayer, try that approach.

Then Paul tells us to “live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive (Greek – seasoned with salt) so that you will have the right response for everyone.” There is another wise instruction. Do non- Christians find us fun to talk with? Do they enjoy being with us? Do they find us to be kind, humble, gentle, patient, understanding and forgiving, loving and peaceful people? (Remember Colossians 3?) How can we share our faith with non-Christians if they see judgmental and isolated neighbours or co-workers? People who are just too religious?

One thing I do love about the Bible – and also dislike – is its honesty and the challenge it brings to my life. I am so thankful when I read about how much God loves me. And I’m so thankful when I read about what God wants from me; at least I have great advice on how to live well. I’m not always thankful when the Holy Spirit takes those words and challenges me ‘to smarten up’. But as I read verses like the ones we read today, I am thankful that God does challenge me in his loving way. His Holy Spirit helps me as I struggle to pray and live well.

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings’ that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8: 26 – 28 NLT)

Isn’t that wonderful?!

March 10 – Positive Actions

Colossians 3: 12 – 4:1 New Living Translation NLT

“12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Instructions for Christian Households
18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
20 Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not aggravate your

children, or they will become discouraged.

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the
Lord. 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. 25 But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites.”

4: 1
Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master – in heaven.”

(NASB – New American Standard Bible – the translation of 3: 25

“For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.”

I didn’t like the New Living Bible translation of verse 25 so decided to include another translation that is considered accurate. The NLT tends to suggest that God punishes us for everything we do wrong. Being punished and taking consequences are different.)

The person described in these verses is completely different from the one described in the earlier verses of this chapter that we looked at yesterday. These are the characteristics of God!

Tender-hearted Merciful
Kind
Humble

• • • •

Gentle Patient Forgiving Loving Peaceful Thankful

Can you imagine what kind of world we would live in if all people acted with those characteristics? That is how God treats us. As his children, that is how we share our faith in a marvelous God, by behaving the way he does. We want people to come to know our wonderful God because they see those God-like qualities in us.

How in the world can I develop all those amazing qualities? Galatians tells us about the work of the Holy Spirit in each of us.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.” … “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (5: 16, 22 – 23)

These godly qualities make a huge difference in the way we treat other people. Paul gives us examples in household situations. Wives are asked to submit to their husbands. That sounds absolutely awful in the 21st Century! This is not talking about a relationship where a man treats his wife badly, orders her around, checks her every move, etc. In fact, the husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Paul expands on this idea in Ephesians 5: 25 – 29:

“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.”

• • • • • •

If every husband loved his wife as much as Christ loved the church, no wife would hesitate to follow his leadership.

This loving relationship should also characterize parent/child relationships. Take another look at those characteristics the Holy Spirit develops in us – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If that defined the relationships in every home, it would be a peaceful place.

Our culture doesn’t have the slave and master situation, but Paul’s advice could apply to our work situations. Employees who are Christ followers should “try to please them (their bosses) all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (v. 22 – 23) Is that your attitude toward your job, toward the person you work for?

If you are “the boss”, someone who is over other employees, you have a responsibility too. You are to be fair in the way you treat those under you. In fact, God is the example you need to follow. Oh … that means as a boss I need to be tender-hearted, merciful, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, loving, peaceful, and thankful. Now that brings the level of being the boss to a whole new level.

Paul tells us in these verses what we are to hope and strive for. “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (v. 16 – 17)

There is a very old hymn that became my favourite hymn back in my late teens, and it is still one of my favourites. The words of this hymn echo these verses in Colossians. You can hear it on YouTube.

May The Mind of Christ My Saviour

By Kate B. Wilkinson, 1925

May the mind of Christ my Saviour Live in me from day to day
By His love and power controlling All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly In my heart from hour to hour
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father Rule my life in everything
That I may be calm to comfort Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me As the waters fill the sea Him exalting, self abasing This is victory.

May I run the race before me Strong and brave to face the foe Looking only unto Jesus

As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me As I seek the lost to win
And may they forget the channel Seeing only Him..

March 9 – Some Unpleasant Advice

Colossians 3: 1 – 11 New Living Translation (NLT)

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in
God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.”

Paul begins his very practical guidelines for the way Christ followers should live with that statement. Does he mean that we should live some ‘other worldly’ lifestyle? Should we spend all our time praying and living a ‘reclusive monastery-like’ existence? No!

What does he mean when he says, “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” Let’s look at a couple of things Paul said in the first two chapters. “ … you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (1: 21 – 23) “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (2:6)

There are two worlds out there – one world that is influenced primarily by Satan. Paul tells us that before we accepted Christ by faith, we were in that world. “You were his enemies”. Our thoughts and behaviour centered around ourselves and what we wanted; not what God wanted. We saw that in the Garden of Eden when Satan urged Eve to eat the fruit of the one forbidden tree. His argument was that the fruit was forbidden because God didn’t want Adam and Eve to be as smart as God was. Adam and Eve fell for that line; the idea of being as important as God and controlling their own lives introduced sin into this world.

Paul asks us to set our sights on the “realities of heaven”, a very different world. This is a world where God was willing to die and take on all the sin of each one of us, so we could have a close relationship with him. God is a God of love, wisdom and creativity. And that is what Paul tells us to set our sights on – “think about the things of heaven”. It doesn’t mean we pull ourselves away from our families, friends, jobs, hobbies, etc.. It means as a child of God, we put God’s priorities first in our minds and actions.

Now Paul is going to tell us what we need to avoid. Tomorrow, we’ll look at what God wants us to concentrate on.

“5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.”

That is quite a list! If you stop and look at that list, you will see that all the behaviour mentioned has at its root, selfishness – the desire to get what we want regardless how much it might hurt or diminish someone else. Paul first mentions sexual issues. Sexuality is not evil; God created it for us to enjoy within marriage. Paul’s list of sexual sin is all about sex outside of marriage and for making sex something that controls our conduct and thoughts.

Paul next mentions greed. Our culture is obsessed with getting more. It’s not wrong to want better or nicer things. God created this amazing world. He loves beauty and variety, and he made us in his image. There is nothing wrong with wanting a better job, a nice home, lovely clothes, a new car, fun gadgets, etc. But when those things become our major focus, that is greed. And it’s so easy to do in our culture. Just stop and think about all the things you were focusing on today.

How much had to do with the things you own or hope to own; the success you have and hope to have?

Then Paul talks about our relationships with others – anger, rage, malicious behaviour, slander, dirty language, and lying. All of those things happen when we’re upset that we didn’t get our own way. They involve putting people down and getting some kind of revenge; treating someone with disrespect or just plain being dishonest.

Paul pleads with us to “put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him”. (v. 10) We belong to Christ; he has given us a new life and forgiven us all the self-centered things we’ve done. We want to be like him. And that is what Paul will talk about tomorrow. Just what should we be like in practical terms?

March 6 – Freedom

Colossians 2: 11- 23 (New \living Translation NLT)

“When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

16 So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. 18 Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, 19 and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.

20 You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”

Paul begins this section with a reference to circumcision. Jewish readers (and I imagine even Gentiles would be aware of this practice) definitely knew that circumcision was the mark of a “true” Jew. Genesis 17: 10 – 11 talks about this covenant between God and his nation of Israel:

“This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you.” But new believers in Christ, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, don’t need to follow this procedure anymore. Jesus’ death and resurrection has changed everything. Our faith in what Jesus has done for us is what makes us God’s children – not circumcision.

Paul mentions that baptism is now the sign of a believer’s faith. Baptism is a symbol of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. As we are baptized, we go under the water, a symbol of death, and then we are lifted out of the water, a symbol of resurrection and new life. Being baptized doesn’t make us a child of God; it is just a public declaration that we have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for us personally. This Easter there is an opportunity to be baptized at LSA. If you are a believer in Jesus, and have never taken that step, I encourage you to contact the church office and arrange to be part of that special occasion.

Again, Paul can’t emphasize enough that we have freedom when we believe that Jesus died for us personally. “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” (v. 13 – 15)

Paul goes on to say that we should stay away from people who try to tack on things we must do to get God’s approval. Some of the new Jewish Christians wanted the Gentile believers to follow the Old Testament laws. If you remember from our study of Acts, some thought the Gentile believers needed to be circumcised, and there were many more laws they tried to enforce. At that time in history, there were also people who said the human body was evil, and therefore it should be punished in various ways – very limited diet, whipping yourself, lack of sleep, etc. By doing that, you would free your spiritual side. This was the Greco-Roman Empire with its myriad of gods and mystic beings. (You may remember taking mythology in high school English class.) Paul warns the new believers not to get sucked in with these mystical theories.

We can get side-tracked with legalists today – people who forbid dancing, drinking alcohol, dressing in certain ways, etc. Or people say a person must give a certain amount of money to the church, or attend a certain number of services. There are people who say Christianity is OK, but too limited; there is a spirit world that we should immerse ourselves in. We need to concentrate on what Paul said.

“Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” (v. 8 – 10)

There is a new song that we’ve sung recently at LSA that helps us remember that we are loved by God without needing to do things to please him. You can find it on You Tube.

The God Who Stays -By Matthew West

If I were You I would’ve given up on me by now I would’ve labeled me a lost cause
Cause I feel just like a lost cause

If I were You I would’ve turned around and walked away I would’ve labeled me beyond repair
Cause I feel like I’m beyond repair

But somehow You don’t see me like I do Somehow You’re still here

Chorus:

You’re the God who stays
You’re the God who stays
You’re the one who runs in my direction
When the whole world walks away
You’re the God who stands
With wide open arms
And You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart From the God who stays

I used to hide
Every time I thought I let You down

I always thought I had to earn my way But I’m learning You don’t work that way

Somehow You don’t see me like I do Somehow You’re still here

Chorus:
You’re the God…

My shame can’t separate My guilt can’t separate My past can’t separate I’m Yours forever

My sin can’t separate
My scars can’t separate My failures can’t separate I’m Yours forever

No enemy can separate
No power of hell can take away Your love for me will never change I’m Yours forever

Chorus:
You’re the God who stays …

March 5 – Strong Ties of Love

Colossians 2: 1 – 10 (New Living Translation NLT)

“I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. 2 I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. 3 In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

4 I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments. 5 For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you. And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong.”

I wonder if the church at Colosse thought Paul was overdoing it when he said “I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally.” Our culture tends to emphasize independence – to stand strong on your own. Paul is talking about a bond between believers that is strong even though we have never met. The church is the body of Christ. Remember “Christ is also the head of the church which is his body”. (1: 18) We are joined together no matter where we live with the Holy Spirit living in us. I think we get a glimpse of that when we travel and meet Christians for the first time. There is a bond between us that doesn’t happen with just anyone. Sure, we may meet someone on a vacation who we discover, after talking for a while, shares an interest with us in some hobby or career. When we meet another believer, there is a stronger bond because we know that we share the most central and meaningful part of our lives – Jesus.

Paul emphasizes this when he says, “I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love.” This is a prayer for the Colossians and for us. We are not solitary in our faith. That is why it is so important that we put down some roots in our local congregation. It’s a place

where we can encourage and love one another. If we just walk in the door at 11 am on Sunday and then head out to our car the moment the service ends, we miss so much. Just like one part of our physical body can’t get along on its own, so as part of Christ’s body, we don’t survive well independently.

Paul is concerned that there are people with ‘well-crafted arguments” who are deceiving the people at the Colossian church. They need to stand together in love and they need to concentrate on Christ alone. It is in knowing Jesus that they will have “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. And that is what we get in a local church. Our children hear Bible stories and talk about Jesus. Our young people get a chance to question their faith with their friends and youth leader to figure out what they believe. We hear sermons on Sunday, and we have the opportunity to attend small groups and/or classes during the week (God Questions/Alpha right now at LSA) to strengthen our faith. We have friends at church who will pray for us. At the end of services people at the front of the auditorium are there to pray with us. When we have those strong ties of love, we can grow in our faith in Jesus.

“6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow
him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

8 Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. 9 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. 10 So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.”

Paul uses the picture of a plant with roots. When we bought our house many years ago, there was a red maple in the front yard. It was fairly big – big enough that our young girls loved to climb up and sit in the branches – but it didn’t have a huge trunk and root system. After a few years, we noticed that it appeared to be dying. We got advice and tried several things to revive it, but nothing worked. So we decided to take it down and replant the area with something else. When we began digging the roots up, we discovered that the roots were bound in very tough cloth and

wire in a huge ball. Some roots managed to get out and grow a little, but not enough to keep the tree healthy. It appeared that whoever planted it, didn’t cut away the binding to let the root system develop. Without a strong root system, a tree can’t grow. Paul encourages us to let our roots grow down into Christ so our life can be built on him.

How do we do that? We can get involved in various church activities as mentioned before. We can read our Bibles on a regular basis so we get to know what God says. We can pray – set aside time to pray, and also consciously decide to pray about small things throughout our day or thank God for those good things we experience during our day. We can encourage others by talking to them, writing a note, sending an email, texting, etc. Being aware of our connections to other believers encourages us as well. Remind ourselves frequently that we belong to Jesus and have been set free from all our sin, thanking God that we absolutely belong to him. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” (v. 9 – 10)

March 4 – Jesus is First in Everything!

Colossians 1: 18 – 29 (NLT)

“18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body.

He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.

19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,

20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”

Yesterday we looked at Jesus the creator, the one who created everything and holds it all together. Today, we see Jesus at work in our world. Christ is the head of the church!

We definitely belong to Jesus; we are his body. The second part of verse 18 is sometimes misinterpreted. The Bible tells accounts of people being raised from the dead, even in the Old Testament. So how is Christ supreme over all who rise from the dead? He is the first to rise from the dead and stay alive. Others were brought back to life, only to die again later. So Christ is the first to rise and stay alive, just as all believers will when someday we experience eternal life with him.

These verses also talk about Christ being fully human and fully God at the same time – something that is very difficult for us to comprehend. But it is the truth – “God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ.” That is why Christ’s death completely reconciles us to God – only God’s perfection was good enough to take the punishment for our sin.

Let’s look at all those verses again. This is who Jesus is. This is what Jesus has done. Isn’t it amazing that Creator God would do all that for us?

“15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,

16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.

He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.

17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.”

“18 Christ is also the head of the church,

which is his body. He is the beginning,

supreme over all who rise from the dead.

So he is first in everything. 19 For God in all his fullness

was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled

everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth

by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” Now we’ll finish chapter 1:

“21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.

Paul’s Work for the Church

24 I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to
Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”

Paul repeats what he said in those hymn-like verses. We can be in God’s presence “holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault”. Isn’t that incredible? When I think about all the pathetic things I’ve done and said, it seems impossible that I can stand before God without feeling totally ashamed. Yet, this is truth. Paul says – “you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it.”

This is so important for us to believe. It’s easy to get side-tracked and think we need to do something, give something, etc. to be accepted by God. Some churches even preach that. We need to be so careful not to get pulled into believing that we must do something. Jesus did it all. If you find that hard to believe, post verses 15 to 20 someplace where you can see it. Read it over and over, and ask God to help you to trust him completely.

Hebrews 1:3 (NLT)
“The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honour at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”

It’s truth!