Which Will You Be?

Isaiah 21-22 and Colossians 4

Today we are going to look at two different groups of God’s people: those in Jerusalem at the time of Isaiah’s writing and those in Colosse at the time of Paul’s writing. Which will you be?

In many of the previous chapters of the book of Isaiah we read about God’s coming judgments on Israel and Judah’s neighbors and sometimes her enemies. It’s not all bad reading what disasters are coming to your wicked neighbors. Yay, God! Go get em! Show em who’s boss! But, it gets downright personal in chapter 22 as the prophecies of judgment and doom now center on Jerusalem, God’s Holy City. What did they do to deserve this? Well, much. Other scriptures tell of Jerusalem’s idol worship and shedding of innocent blood and even sacrificing their own children. But specifically in Isaiah 22 we are told of their pride and arrogance, their celebrations and their disregard for God. When they saw danger on the horizon they did everything in their own power to protect themselves, including tearing down houses to strengthen the wall and building reservoirs. “But, you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago” (Isaiah 22:11 NIV). What would have changed if they had only called out to God for help?

God was waiting for His people to seek Him, to turn to Him, to cry out to Him, to confess and mourn and repent. But, instead, they were too busy. Busy with their preparations to save themselves. Busy with their sins. Busy with their celebrations and feasting and misplaced joy. Busy in their “town full of commotion…city of tumult and revelry.” (Isaiah 22:2 NIV).

They had abandoned God first. He was still calling out to them on that day (Isaiah 22:12). But, they were busy. They drowned out the sound of God’s voice with their sinful busy-ness and celebrations. So, His holy and righteous judgement was coming.

Contrast this tragic picture with what we read in Colossians 4 as Paul is closing out his letter to the church in Colosse with his final instructions and greetings. He urges the church, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2 NIV). And, while he’s got the people praying – he says pray for me, too. Paul requests prayers for open doors (not to physically get out of house arrests, but open doors to reach more people), for opportunities to proclaim Christ and for clear communication in his ministry. And further on, I love his description of Epaphras, “a servant of Jesus Christ…He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and and fully assured” (Colossians 4:12 NIV). These people are busy, too – in prayer – in seeking God and in ministry . They are praying for their spiritual leaders and churches and those who will hear God’s message, and asking for prayer. Rather than ignoring God and drowning out His voice, they are seeking God regularly and whole-heartedly, coming to Him in prayer, always desiring to do more for Him and His Son.

Which group are you more like today?

Do you have see any similarities between yourself and God’s people in Jerusalem? Are you surrounded with so much commotion that you miss God’s voice calling out to you? Is he asking you to mourn when you are busy celebrating and feasting? Are you so caught up in your self-preservation preparations that you have neglected to call out to God? Do you rely on yourself instead of on God? When you see trouble coming do you invest time in creating a longer to-do list, throw a party, or fall to your knees before God? What would be different in your life and in your community if you called on Him in prayer instead of trying to do it your own way?

Do you see any similarities between yourself and God’s people in Colosse? Are you devoted to prayer, being watchful and thankful? Are you praying for open doors – not to get ahead or out of a jam – but to advance God’s gospel message? Are you busy praying for your Christian brothers and sisters and leaders and missionaries? Are you asking others to pray for your ministry? What would it look like if you spent time today wrestling in prayer?

Praying for you today – to Stand Firm in God’s Will, mature and fully assured

-Marcia Railton

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway here – Isaiah 21-22 and Colossians 4

What Would You Do For God?

Isaiah 19-20 and Colossians 3

I really just wanted to talk about Colossians today. But, I couldn’t. I try to avoid embarrassing discussions of nakedness. But, today I can’t.

Isaiah 20 is an incredibly short though (at least for me) difficult chapter to read. And it is one I definitely don’t remember learning in Sunday School class growing up. We learned about Isaiah, the faithful servant of God who had a powerful calling from God. When he saw a vision of God’s majesty he crumbled in unworthiness and guilt, but then God cleansed him with a burning coal to his lips and Isaiah boldly declared, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). We knew Isaiah wrote lots of chapters with many warnings and some beautiful passages of the promised Messiah. But, we didn’t know about the humiliation of chapter 20.

Today we read, “At that time the Lord spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, ‘Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.’ And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot.” (Isaiah 20:2 NIV). No, argument is recorded. Just obedience. “And he did so.” And, it wouldn’t just be for the day or even a week – but for three years! Commentaries kindly mention he would still have had a loin cloth (a.k.a – underwear). But that’s not too reassuring to Isaiah, his family, or his readers today.

It is natural to ask WHY, God? There has to be a reason why a loving God would ask His faithful servant to go through this embarrassing and painful object lesson for three long years. In this case I believe God was having Isaiah dramatically get the people’s attention to remind them just how degrading and dehumanizing their lives would be as prisoners of war (who were often marched around in such fashion). And, that is what they will become if they choose to forsake the Lord and put their trust instead in foreign ungodly allies like Egypt and Cush.

It makes me wonder – what am I willing to do for God? What amount of personal pain, sorrow, and humiliation am I willing to endure in order to be doing what God has asked of me? Am I more concerned about what men will think of my service to God, or what God would say? Certainly Isaiah would have never lasted for three nearly naked years if he held in greater regard the approval, understanding or encouragement of his peers over pleasing God.

Could I have done what Isaiah did? I think when faced with God’s awesome majesty I could say, “Here am I. Send me!”. After all, it sounds like pretty good resume material to be a messenger for God – I bet it’s a job that comes with some great benefits, too. I would even name my baby boy Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (meaning quick to the plunder, swift to the spoils) just as Isaiah did for God. That is an object lesson I feel I would willingly participate in, even though others might laugh and ridicule my choice. But, is there a cut off line where my loyalty and devotion to God would end? Is there a job He could ask of me that I would say ‘no’ to? I hope not.

Too often when we sign on for a position working for the Almighty, we try to choose what it will look like. “I will go here for God and do this for God.” And everyone will be amazed. But, sometimes, God has different plans. Bigger plans. Sometimes, more confusing plans. Sometimes, plans that will take you far out of your comfort zone and even into the midst of personal pain, loss, turmoil, and ridicule.

While the apostle Paul never faced the exact same jobs Isaiah endured, he also gained a lot of experience facing trials and difficulties, misunderstanding and persecution while following God, and His Son Jesus. He wrote in Colossians 3:17 “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.” We can learn a thing or two from both Paul and Isaiah about serving the Lord.

What would you do for God?

-Marcia Railton

Maybe, you are interested in writing a day of devotions? This week was going to be covered by a young pastor from Indiana, but instead…he is anticipating a slightly early arrival of his first son – so if anyone would like to write for a day -contact Marcia at mjmjmrailton@gmail.com. And, remember the growing Paul family in your prayers.

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here Isaiah 19-20 and Colossians 3

“Philemon: Itty Bitty Book…Phenomenal Cosmic Message”

Daily Reading: Colossians 1-4; Philemon

The best movies are more than a fun way to spend a couple of hours, they leave us with something. And a film doesn’t have to be deep and dramatic to be able to find lessons in it. Analogies are everywhere. Learning can come from many places.

Our devotional trailer opens on a fleeing man, Onesimus, with the voiceover telling us, Under Roman law, there were no limits to the punishment a slave master could inflict on a runaway slave….but sometimes redemption comes when we least expect it. ”

Onesimus somehow found Paul, and over time he grew a faith…and a friend, it seems. At some point, Paul sent a letter to Onesimus’ former owner, telling him he was sending the slave back to his previous master.

 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you… If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.

Charge it to me.

Do you see how Paul is mirroring the story of the cross here?

In this story we are Onesimus. Like him, each of us deserves punishment. We owe a debt. And like him, someone offered to take the punishment on our behalf, to pay our debt.

Someone has given us a second chance.

Maybe you’ve never really been in the position of needing a true second chance. Or maybe you have and you’ve just forgotten how demeaning and low it can feel. The graciousness of Paul, to speak of Onesimus as ‘my son’, ‘my very heart’, and ‘a dear brother’ must have allowed Onesimus to hold his head high as he returned to his former home.

The account of Onesimus and Philemon may be a short one, but the way that Paul used this opportunity to illustrate the gospel story is pure genius.

Maybe, in Onesimus, Paul wanted each of us to know that we are beloved. That we are worth saving. We are worth sacrificing for.

Maybe he’s telling us that knowing our true value allows us to hold our heads high as we live in our ‘former home’ until our forever home is ready for us. We are Abba’s children. We are Christ’s dear brothers and sisters.

This would be one movie that would pack an emotional punch, and you could be sure you’d leave the theater changed…if you were really paying attention.

And speaking of paying attention—the next time you are unsure of your standing, remember that you have a letter in your pocket that says, “Charge it to me,” and lift your head a little.

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to here at BibleGateway – Colossians 1-4 and the itty bitty book of Philemon

Tomorrow we will read the book of Ephesians.

Clarification of the Christ

Colossians 1:15-20

colossians 1 15 NIV

I love to look deeper into these verses in Colossians to fully understand what Paul was writing and why. Paul was poetic in his language and using wording that the Israelites used to describe the personification of wisdom. If you look through the Old Testament it is not likely that you will find the phrase “Holy Spirit”. You will however find the term “Spirit of God” which we discover is the same thing, God’s power within us. Likewise “word of God” is not seen in the Old Testament. Once there is a reference to the “word of the LORD” but the majority of the references toward the Word of God are seen describing this personification of wisdom. A different way of saying the same thing. Jesus is the living embodiment of the Word of God.

“He is the image of the invisible God” – Jesus is called the image of God in these verses and in 2 Corinthians 4:4. In Hebrews 1:3 he is described as “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being”. Two truths are revealed through the first half of this verse: God has remained unseen “no one has ever seen God” John 4:18 and second, Jesus reveals the nature and character of God for he is the image of God in which humanity was originally created in Genesis 1:26. It is the image that we as the faithful will be transformed into upon Jesus’ return.

“The firstborn over all creation” – Paul borrowed from his Jewish upbringing; firstborn was a Hebrew way of saying someone was especially honored. The nation of Israel was called firstborn (Exodus 4:22), as was David (Psalm 89:27). The word, in these instances, did not refer to their physical birth but to their place of honor before God. So here Paul is saying that Jesus has a place of honor over all creation.

“By him all things were created” seven times in these verses Paul mentions “all creation”, “all things”, and “everything” stressing that the Christ is supreme over all through the power God granted him. The tense at the end of this verse was not translated correctly in the NIV, it says “all things were” however the original language was not past-tense “were” rather present “are”.

“Before all things” like with firstborn this does not speak of time but importance. The Christ is before all things in importance for it is only through him that all things will be restored.

“All things hold together” he will usher in a new age in which sinful man will be redeemed and united with our holy God.

This passage speaks of the importance of the Christ, the place of honor over all things that he holds. Additionally it points to both Jesus’ place of honor over the church and those who will be resurrected to eternal life as well as a chronological order. Jesus was the beginning of the church as we know it. And he was the first, and only one to this point, which God raised to new life. We the faithful will follow suit once Jesus returns.

“All (his) fullness dwell” (his) was added to many translations which adds to the confusion and skepticism that people may have concerning these verses. Before moving forward think about what happens to those who come to God through Jesus. We are filled with God’s spirit, His power and character, at least to a point. But Jesus was filled with the fullness of God, all power and authority were given to him. He also displayed the nature, character, and attributes of God. Paul also had another reason for his choice of words, “fullness” was a popular term among the Gnostics who used it to refer to the combination of all supernatural influences. So Paul used their own word to elevate the Christ above all other religious ideas and systems.

“To reconcile to himself all things” Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection set the stage for not only the faithful to be made new but also all of creation. Unfortunately it does not mean that everyone will be saved from sin and ultimately death. We have free will and we make our own choices. But God does not give up on us. I believe that even those He has already seen reject Him are given daily opportunities for redemption.

It is important that we have a clear understanding of who Jesus is and the reason that we need a Christ, Messiah.

To be continued… (by someone else)

Jeff Ransom

 

(Editor’s Note – Thank you Jeff for finishing off the book of Proverbs with us this week, and giving us two free theme days to think on!  Tomorrow we will begin looking at the book of Revelation – one chapter a day through the month of November.  And in December we will finish off the New Testament with the book of Luke.  So many precious things in God’s Word!  Keep taking it in.)

Opportunities

Colossians 4

Colossians 4 5

One of the most important parts of being a human is making empathetic connections. I would describe an empathetic connection as finding a basis of similarity so you can start to build a relationship. These connections are crucially important to the Christian faith. As Christians we are to be ambassadors for Christ, helping people understand and live out the Gospel so they may be in the Kingdom of God. Often, I waste opportunities to do this very thing. But Paul has an easy way of reminding us by using a couple of object lessons in

Colossians 4:2-6 “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

Our empathetic connections we make with others are drastically important for when we share the Gospel. I would say Paul is using the illustration of a door and salt to describe how we are to handle people who we are supposed to share the gospel with. The door represents hospitality, welcome, and family. In other words, treat others as if you were inviting them into your home. Allow them to be comfortable. Remember we as Christians are not called to comfort, but to carry our cross (even though it’s hard sometimes). Treat them just like Jesus would have treated you. The salt represents preparedness (that which I am unqualified to talk about but here I go anyway) Salt was used as a preservative in the time Paul wrote this, therefore he is referring to our speech having been thought out and planned. Just like someone who wants to cook a steak but doesn’t know what seasoning they will cook it with, Paul calls us to be patient.

Be kind to those who are ignorant of the Gospel and those who might not live a lifestyle you don’t accept. The only way you will be able to effectively share the Gospel is through a relationship that shows them Christ’s love before they are changed.

Jesse Allen

Together

Colossians 3

Colossians 3 14

It is not always easy getting along with people in the church. When I first became a Christian, I thought after that point it might all become easier and I was just along for the ride at that point. However, God has challenged me to grow and to even get along with people I never thought I could. Has that ever happened to you? It appears Jesus joins all of us together no matter the strife that does and will happen.

Paul recognizes this in Colossians 3:14-15

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the Peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body: and be thankful.

What Paul said here is that Love is what “Holds us Together”. That is because of Christ’s rule in our hearts. But we must allow Him to rule. Today I want you to think of the people you never got along with until some Church or camp activity and thank God for them. Maybe even let them know too!

Jesse Allen

Roots

Colossians 2

Colossians 2 6 7

 If there was just one thing, I had to point out in my life that has been consistent it would be my faith. With unpredictability being a close second. Ever since I can remember God has always provided me an opportunity to go to church, VBS or camp. These opportunities I believe gave me the idea “church is good”. So, when I was a teenager, I felt it was necessary to return to church and go every week. It is this foundation I am so very thankful God built for me. I became rooted and strong in faith because of those experiences when I was young. Paul in Colossians 2:6,7 says this,

 “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”

What things are you rooted in that you are thankful God laid out for you to grow in Christ?

Jesse Allen

Endure

Colossians 1

Colossians 1 24

I like to listen to audio books. Most of the books I read could be considered “self-help” or “Leadership” books. The one that I have just started in the last couple days is called “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins. David is a former Navy seal and an ultra-athlete. The premise of his book is to have a mentally tough and disciplined mind that allows us to push through the worst experience’s life can throw at us. This idea of “Can’t Hurt Me” reminds me of what Paul said in Colossians 1:24-29

 “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh,  I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose, also I labor striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Here we see Paul bringing up a time where he had been persecuted for bringing the Gospel to the Colossians. Where he endured hardship while preaching fully the Gospel to them. He mentions in verse 27 “God willed to make known the riches of the glory” and also mentions “hope of glory”. I believe that this for Paul was meaning no matter what kind of tribulations, trials, or persecution he goes through Jesus also went through this, and God revealed the mystery of resurrection power to the world as well as the Gospel through Christ.

We will have days, often, that are going to be horrible from our perspective. Now I don’t know what David Goggin’s believes personally. However, if we adopt what I think David Goggin’s and Paul would say is a “Can’t Hurt Me” mindset, we can look forward to the resurrection and the kingdom of God.

Jesse Allen

Do Your Best…Always

Colossians

verse-of-the-day (4)

Saturday, July 1

Colossians 3:23-24 states, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  It starts out by saying “whatever you do”, which means we are talking about everything that you do.  We are talking about your homework, your job, mowing the lawn, taking a vacation, praying, and brushing your teeth.  We are talking about how you spend your time every day all day long.  You need to do everything with all of your heart.

That seems a bit extreme.  Everything?  Really?  When you are baptized, you are saying that you are no longer going to live your life for yourself, but rather for God and Jesus.  Therefore, your whole life, everything you do, should be for your heavenly masters.  You will want to do your best, work with all your heart, because you are doing it for Christ, not for human masters.

If you find yourself not giving your best effort, you need to ask yourself a question.  Should I even be doing what I am doing?  If your grades are slipping in school because you just aren’t trying very hard, you should ask yourself if you should even be attending school.  If you come to the conclusion that school is important because of all of the learning and that it will help you be much more successful in life, then you should start doing your best because you are doing it for Christ.  If it is worth doing for Christ, you need to do it well.

Most people fail at this from time to time with their jobs.  You may not enjoy the work you do and are just doing it for the money.  You may not like your boss and find it easy to slack off at times.  However, if you have determined that you should keep your job, even if it is just for the money, you need to work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.

If you are baptized, you have given your WHOLE life to Christ.  If something is worth doing for Christ, you need to do it with all of your heart.

-Rick McClain

(Photo Credit: https://biblia.com/bible/esv/Colossians%203.23-24)