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Iglesia del Pueblo
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Love God, Grow Together, Reach the World

    Daily Devotions - Entries from May 2012

    ThuThursdayMayMay31st2012 What am I here for?
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    There is so much confusion in this world regarding our purpose in life. The unprecedented levels of prosperity and security we enjoy have left us with untold amounts of free-time on our hands and a muddied sense of calling as a result. The Bible, however, sets us free from this stifling inability to make clear decisions. As we noted in Monday’s devotional, the greatest commandment is to love God with everything we have. This is how Paul phrased it in his parting words to the elders of the church in Ephesus:

    “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:22-24, NIV)

    In the middle of all the many roles and responsibilities he had been given in life, Paul is crystal clear about his primary purpose: “testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Everything else he did was driven by that one single focus. Paul sucked the marrow out of life—not by pursuing the things of this world, or the experiences of this world, but by pursuing the Author of this world and seeking to reflect His glory everywhere and in every way.

    Our time here on earth is limited and finite. It is bounded in ways we do not know and cannot control. We drift along, looking for things to satisfy the deepest longings of our souls and all the time it is staring us right in the face. The glory of God is revealed in the person of Jesus and our lives should be consumed with the desire to love and serve Him with everything we have. What is your “only aim” in life? How are you pursuing that?

    WedWednesdayMayMay30th2012 Keeping Up Appearances
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Generosity 0 comments Add comment

    It’s hard not to get caught up in the endless pursuit of things that are bigger and better. There’s a relentless pressure to upgrade everything, whether it’s the phone in our hand or the siding on our house. The neighbors have it and your friends have it, therefore you should have it too. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is lucrative business.

    Sadly this same mentality creeps into the church sometimes as well. Except, in the spiritual realm it’s not about what you buy, it’s about how you act and what you say. There can be a subtle pressure to conform to certain standards that have nothing to do with true spiritual maturity, but become visible benchmarks for judging the spiritual value of other people. The church in Galatia was particularly prone to this kind of thinking, and Paul had strong words for them as a result:

    Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:12-16, NIV)

    The temptation to put our confidence in things other than Christ (or, “in addition to” Christ) is enormous. I want to boast in a hundred good things I do for God! But Paul says none of that is worth anything. Our external acts of obedience are good, but the heart is what matters most. What God most desires from us is a heart that boasts in nothing else other that the cross of Christ.

    What in your life do you feel yourself wanting to “boast” about? How have you been “crucified…to the world”?

    TueTuesdayMayMay29th2012 The surpassing worth of knowing Jesus
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Generosity 0 comments Add comment

    New life in Christ is an astonishing gift. We were dead in our sins, hopelessly lost in rebellion against God, when God reached out and saved us. Nothing else in life can compare to that moment, and we will never fully understand or appreciate the implications of that gift until we die and see Jesus face-to-face.

    However, after the initial euphoria wears off, we usually go back to life as normal. We eat, we sleep, we work and we play, all the while oblivious to the greater spiritual realities whirling around us. Shouldn’t there be more to life than that, however? The apostle Paul thought so:

    But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Phil.3:7-9, NIV)

    In comparison to the glorious riches we have available to us in Christ, what does the world possibly have to offer? A lot of people these days talk about having a “bucket list” of experiences and activities they want to enjoy before they die. There’s nothing wrong with that. This is God’s Creation and He has blessed us to enjoy it.

    But is there more to life than diving in the Great Barrier Reef or hiking in the Andes? If we manage to do everything on our bucket list, will that be enough? Will that top the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”?

    What are we willing to lose for the sake of our Lord? How ready are we to call everything in life “garbage” that does not glorify Christ?

    MonMondayMayMay28th2012 What does God want from me?
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Generosity 0 comments Add comment

    What do I need to do to be a good Christian? What does God expect from me? How can I live a life that is “holy and pleasing to God”?

    Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matt. 22:37-38, NIV)

    These are simple words, laid out pretty clearly for us to follow. Love God with every fiber of our being. Love God with every ounce of our strength. Love God in every moment of every day. Sounds pretty straight-forward, right? Elementary, perhaps. Something for beginners, for new Christians.

    Except, I wonder. How well am I really doing at this? Certainly everything I do this side of Heaven will be marred by sin, but insofar as I can love God at all, how much of my life am I willingly handing over to him? How much of my heart have I actually handed over?

    Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38, NIV)

    The call Jesus makes on our life is absolute. There is no middle ground, no going half-way. The path of discipleship begins with our own death at the cross. You may be willing to do this, you may want to do this, but are you doing this? Does Jesus have every part of you? What are you holding back?

    FriFridayMayMay25th2012 The Image of the Invisible

    Today is the last day of our devotionals based on the Book of Colossians. We started this series in November, and all of us have experienced significant life events over the last seven months. Take some time today to reflect on the many ways in which God has worked in and through you over the course of this study. How has His Word comforted or sustained you? When did you feel furthest away from Him? What brought you closest to Him?

    Throughout everything we experience in life, good or bad, Christ reigns supreme. We cannot even begin to comprehend how expansive His reign and rule really is, but thanks be to God that He gave us the Bible and we can have hope based on what He has revealed to us in its pages.

    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Col. 1:15-23, NIV)

    ThuThursdayMayMay24th2012 Who is praying for you?

    Praying for others is vitally important. It’s an act of service, reflective of a humble heart that is filled with love for other followers of Jesus. However, just as we should be praying for others, we need to find others to pray for us as well. Paul’s greeting is a reminder to the Colossians that Epaphras is praying for them. Who is praying for you?

    Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. (Col. 4:12-13, NIV)

    I don’t know about you, but I want to “stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” I have asked a couple of my closest friends to pray these kinds of prayers for me, to be interceding on my behalf on a regular basis. Just as my own acts of prayer are a healthy recognition of my neediness, asking others to pray for me as well is a further reflection of my need for Christian community. Blockbuster movies tend to celebrate the go-it-alone hero, but the Bible speaks over and over again of an alternative culture which celebrates interdependence and mutuality, all of which is undergirded by prayer.

    Who are the people in your life who know you best and can be praying for you most fervently? Commit yourself to being honest and real with them, that they might be able to effectively intercede on your behalf.

    WedWednesdayMayMay23rd2012 Wrestle in Prayer

    Last week we talked a lot about the power of prayer and the significant role it has to play in our lives. How has your prayer life changed as a result since then? In what ways have you seen the Spirit move in your life, sustaining, encouraging, strengthening, encouraging, convicting or leading?

    As Paul closes his letter to the Colossians, he again brings up the topic of prayer, grounding the abstract commands to “Devote yourselves to prayer” in the concrete example of a real person, saying:

    Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. (Col. 4:12-13, NIV)

    What an encouraging example of a prayer-filled life! We’ve all been guilty of saying, “I’ll pray for you” and then failing to follow through. Epaphras, however, is described as “wrestling in prayer” for the Colossians. His prayer-life was an ongoing, active, involved process of prayer on their behalf, rooted in his faith in Jesus and based on a profound understanding that the Church is built on prayer first, and human effort second.

    Who should you be wrestling in prayer for?

    TueTuesdayMayMay22nd2012 It's not about Paul

    Paul is a character who looms large over the New Testament. His influence on the early Church was enormous, and it is all-too-easy to find ourselves talking about Paul as if he was just as important as Jesus. However, one thing that becomes readily apparent as we read the final greetings in Paul’s letters is that ultimately the Christian faith is not about Paul at all. Here, in these random collections of names and thoughts we catch a glimpse of the “real world” of the early Church.

    Read Col. 4:7-18 again and underline or make note of all the names—these are Paul’s partners in ministry. These are the people he worked with and relied upon, the people who prayed with him and for him. These names represent people Paul led and mentored and released for service. They each had different backgrounds, different gifts, different abilities, and different tasks, but all served in some way as part of God’s Kingdom.

    In our own cultural context the danger is to focus so heavily on the Senior Pastor, especially if he is famous, that we forget that he is simply one man among many. The Senior Pastor may lead and direct and cast vision, he may serve an incredibly important role as the primary teacher in the congregation, but the Church is bigger than just one man. Just as the early Church was so much bigger than just Paul, so to is the contemporary Church so much bigger than just a few name-brand pastors.

    Specifically, the Church functions as the collection of normal, everyday people called and equipped to serve God in whatever way He wills. That means you. Whatever hang-ups, hold-ups, hurts or hesitations you may have, God is waiting to use you in His plan for spreading the gospel to every corner of creation. When was the last time you prayed for God’s leading and direction about serving the Church? What part do you play currently in ministering to God’s people? How might the Spirit be leading you to serve in a new role over the coming months?

    Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free —and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many...

    But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
    (1 Cor. 12:12-13; 18-19, NIV)

    MonMondayMayMay21st2012 Final Greetings

    I confess that the “Final Greetings” of Paul’s letters are not always the most stimulating reading for me. I don’t know the people, I don’t know the situations and it all feels totally disconnected from me. There are no clear ethical commands to follow, no calls to personal repentance, nothing really for me to do at all. So, these passages can be tough.

    However, I have committed to put myself under the authority of Scripture, and to believe that this applies even to greetings. After all,

    All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NIV)

    The weight and import of some passages may be bigger than others, but all of it is useful, and all of it must be taken seriously as the very Words of God.

    So, take some time today to pray for the Spirit’s help in understanding and applying the closing section of Paul’s letter to the Colossians:

    Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

    My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

    After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

    Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”
    I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

    (Col. 4:7-18, NIV)

    FriFridayMayMay18th2012 Whose door will you knock on?

    How often do you have meaningful and significant conversations with people outside the church or your family? Do your neighbors have real names for you, or are do you know them simply by their habits? (“The lady who walks the little dog,” “The man with the noisy motorbike,” “The family with all those kids.”) When was the last time you had somebody into your house for a meal (not including family or your small group)?

    Paul’s prayer for the Colossians was that they would make the most of every opportunity to share the gospel, so that God might work through them to bring more people to Christ. Paul says to them,

    Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col. 4:6, NIV)

    There are important truths imbedded in this verse that can help guide the way in which we interact with other people. We should approach others in a manner that is patient, kind, loving, and generous. We should be prepared to give an answer regarding the faith that we claim to have.

    However, all of this advice is completely irrelevant if we don’t have anyone to talk with. There is no conversation of any kind (seasoned with salt or not), as long as we keep our neighbors and co-workers at arms-length. What possible use is there to knowing how to answer everyone, if the people around us are simply nameless entities we wave at once in a while but refuse to ever connect with?

    God is so patient with us it is astonishing to me at times. His love runs so deep that even in our weakness and failures He draws up alongside us to offer comfort and help. Through the power of His Spirit He enables weak, needy people to commit daring acts of bravery. Connecting with strangers is scary, difficult, awkward and sometimes uncomfortable. But it’s out there on the dangerous edge of things that we experience His power and His blessing in our lives.

    So this weekend, whose door are you going to go knock on?

    ThuThursdayMayMay17th2012 Maximize the moment

    Participating in a funeral last week was a startling reminder that life is incredibly short. This world we live in is impermanent and fading away. Our bodies are aging slowly, but relentlessly. Death will come to each and every one of us. No amount of money, good health or fame and fortune can keep it away.

    We can’t stop the day from coming, but we can control how we spend our time in the meantime. Paul’s advice to the Colossians was simple:

    Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. (Col. 4:5, NIV)

    Unless you are a hermit, you will come into contact with “outsiders” all the time. At work, on the train, at the gym, on the bleachers at baseball games, at the playground, in Starbucks, at the grocery store, at the mechanic, in the bank…The list is endless. We all spend our lives surrounded by other people, but do we really “see” them? Are we wise in the way we act towards them?

    We fill our days with all kinds of stuff, but what are we doing to maximize the opportunities God is giving us to share our life with those far from God? Our time may be drawing to a close sooner than we think or expect—long life is promised to nobody. How will we use the hours God has given us today to draw others towards the life-giving hope we have in Jesus?

    WedWednesdayMayMay16th2012 Pray for boldness

    Of course, one of the very specific needs that we have as followers of Jesus is for boldness and courage to proclaim the gospel. For all his apparent boldness and self-confidence, Paul still asked for prayer from his brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae:

    And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (Col 4:3-4, NIV)

    Why would Paul need prayer? Because he recognized the phenomenal challenges his involvement in the Kingdom of God would bring. Certainly Paul played a unique and pivotal role in the expansion of the early church, but the truth is that we all have a part to play in the expansion of God’s Kingdom, and it starts with proclaiming the gospel.

    Note that Paul prays first and foremost for God to open a door for the gospel. This is such a powerful and important reminder that we are merely partners with God in His work to bring people to salvation. God changes lives, not us. It is our Heavenly Father who alone has the power to turn hearts, bringing the dead back to life.

    Just as prayer is a vital ingredient in the spiritual life of all believers, it is the necessary precursor to any and all evangelistic efforts. The gospel goes where God has already prepared the ground. What ground are you praying for? Who are the specific people you are praying for? How might you be able to pray more consistently for doors to open for you to proclaim the gospel?

    TueTuesdayMayMay15th2012 Just Pray

    Let’s review the basics. We see prayer modeled for us throughout the Old Testament. It’s hard to find a page in the New Testament where someone is not praying or exhorting us to pray. Paul was a devoted man of prayer. Jesus not only modeled prayer but taught His disciples to pray. The Book of Acts records that the very first thing the disciples did after Jesus ascended to Heaven was pray. The early church was a prayer-filled church. We read in Acts,

    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42, NIV)

    There’s not getting around prayer. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, you will pray. Prayer is not an optional part of our Christian life, it’s a necessary part. In fact, it may be the most necessary part of our walk with Christ.

    Several years ago, Dallas Theological Seminary professor Howard Hendricks pointedly challenged students to consider how arrogant they must be to treat prayer so lightly. To think that we can really do anything for or with God without prayer is an astonishing display of pride and self-centeredness.

    Yet, if we’re honest, all too often our prayer life shrinks down to a few words in the morning and a few words at night, if that. Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you realize it’s been two or three days since you last prayed privately and personally to God?

    The amazing news, however, is that even these failures meet their match at the cross. God’s grace covers even these short-comings. As we repent of our pride and turn to Him for forgiveness He gives us strength to start anew. We don’t need to beat ourselves up and struggle under the weight of guilt, when those mistakes have been paid for in full on the cross.

    This week is your chance to start over. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Col 4:2) Don’t overthink it, just open your mouth and reveal your heart to God. You are needy and helpless and that’s a good place to be, because we serve a God who calls Himself our provider in times of need and our ever-present help in times of trouble.

    MonMondayMayMay14th2012 Devote yourselves to prayer

    Last week a friend and partner in ministry took his own life. The days since then have disappeared in a blur of planning and praying and crying and hugging and questioning and sometimes simply sitting. It’s a cataclysmic event that may never fully resolve itself. Like a blurry photograph this awful moment stubbornly refuses to come into focus. The questions just hang there, unanswered and unanswerable.

    In the middle of it all is the big one—where is God? Why didn’t He stop this? Why did He let this happen? What is He doing? Why can’t we feel Him? Theologians through the ages have wrestled with all these questions, but academic treatises fail to speak to the heart. And so we pray. Not wishy-washy going-through-the-motions prayer, but clinging-tightly-to-God-because-I-don’t-know-what-else-to-do prayer.

    How sad it is that we often approach prayer so lightly, as if it were a trivial matter to be talking with the God of the entire universe; the One who holds all things together, the one who set the stars in the sky and has determined both the beginning and end of time itself.

    Paul says to the Colossians, Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Col 4:2) We, too, are to commit ourselves to a lifestyle of constant and consistent prayer. We have to. There is nowhere else to turn. Prayer is a very real lifeline to our only source of hope in this world. Prayer tethers us to the gospel, reminding us both of our painfully fallen nature and our absolute dependence on God’s gracious provision.

    Without prayer, this last week would have been impossible to endure. All other sources of comfort are like cheap band-aids that fall right off. Only prayer can connect us with our Father in Heaven. Only prayer shows us the way out of this awful darkness. We are too busy not to pray, too hard-pressed not to pray, too needy not to pray. May the Holy Spirit equip and encourage us all as we turn to the Father in prayer today.

    FriFridayMayMay11th2012 Christ at the center

    Think back over the past seven weeks since we first studied Col. 3:1-4. What are some practical and specific ways in which you have been able to “set your hearts on things above”? Almost everything else in Colossians 3 flows out of these crucial first verses, themselves a sort of summary of the first two Christ-centered chapters of the book. So, how is it going?

    Christ is to be at the center of everything we do and everything we are. Moreover, if Christ is indeed at the center of our lives, then that will have practical, specific implications in all of our most vital relationships as a result. So, for example, how do you treat your spouse? How do you treat your children? How do you treat your employees?

    Paul ends his “household code” with the following command:

    Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. (Col. 4:1, NIV)

    Paul’s command was addressed squarely at the masters of the slaves, calling upon them to treat their slaves with justice and fairness. This call might have been somewhat revolutionary in the overall context of the Roman Empire, but for believers in Christ, this call simply reiterates the core of Christ’s teaching.

    Believers in Christ are considered to be brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a leveling of the playing field in the sense that we are to love and serve each other as equal partners, even if we have each been assigned different roles to play. So, how do you treat those over whom you have authority?

    ThuThursdayMayMay10th2012 Bad work has consequences

    There is, of course, one more motivating factor for Christian slaves (and for all Christian workers today); the threat of punishment. Whatever our status before Christ, however spiritual we may be, bad work will still be found out and may lead to punishment (or in our case today, dismissal). As Paul tells the Colossians:

    “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.” (Col. 3:25, NIV)

    Christianity is not something we can hide behind. Grace is not an excuse we can use to cover up poor performance and a bad attitude. Work is work. We are to do it well, not just because our work matters to God, but also for the very practical reason that if we do not, we may face some rather unfortunate consequences.

    This principle applies across pretty much all divisions of our culture today. Students are certainly not slaves, but insofar as they have put been placed under the authority of the school administration, they learn at a fairly young age that if the teacher assigns homework, they need to do it. If not, there are increasingly negative consequences.

    It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian or not, the same rules apply for everyone across the board. If your employer asks you to do something, and you don’t do it, you will be punished in one way or another.

    How much more so then, as followers of Christ and witnesses of His Kingdom, should our work lives reflect obedience, sacrifice, humility, service and excellence? Our work matters to God, and doing it well indicates that there is a degree of congruence between what we claim to believe and the way we actually live our lives.

    Performance reviews usually only come once a year. But as you read this passage in Colossians, how would you gauge your own work as of today? In what areas have you been slipping recently? How is God calling you to renew your efforts at work?

    WedWednesdayMayMay9th2012 Who are we working for anyway?

    When I was growing up in England, one of the things that attracted me to America was the incredible work ethic. The focus on pulling yourself up by the bootstraps was very appealing and I loved this idea that you can be anything you want to be in America, if you work hard enough. This is the lens through which I have always read Paul’s command to the Colossians:

    “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.” (Col. 3:23-24, NIV)

    Work hard! Work with all your might! Strive. Pursue. Build. Be all you can be. Do great things (for God, of course). Yes, God has called us to work hard at what we do. We’ve all been given different gifts and abilities and God expects us to use those, wherever He has placed us. However, the emphasis in this verse is not on the degree of effort we ought to be exerting to accomplish our goals.

    Nor is this verse mean to be used as a kind of guilt-inducing motivator (for getting your children to do their homework for example). When we use guilt as a motivator we will never get obedience that comes from “sincerity of heart.” What we end up with is a kind of begrudging obedience that will almost always be limited to those times when we are watching (the absolute opposite of the kind of thing Paul calls us to in Col. 3:22).

    What Paul does want for the Colossian slaves (and by extension, us as well) is to see the bigger picture—their work matters. It is significant. The call is not to work harder, but to set their work within the grand scope of God’s Kingdom. Our work is something we do for God, and as such is far bigger than we even imagine.

    Do you think your work is insignificant? Imagine being a household slave in a small house in a small town in an insignificant part of the Roman Empire. You’re cleaning and cooking and sweeping, maybe doing some minor administrative work. Few people outside that family even know you exist. So what’s your reason for pressing on, day in, day out? The answer comes in the truly astonishing claim from Paul that your work is somehow for God, and that one day it will be rewarded by Him.

    Sound incredible or unlikely? That’s understandable. After all, while a fulfilling career can be the source of incredible satisfaction, a bad job can suck the life right out of us. Either way, Jesus wants us to know that what we do matters. Even if our boss hates us and ignores everything good that we do, God truly does see it, and it pleases Him when our hearts reflect His heart of grace and love, even in the middle of a broken and fallen world.

    TueTuesdayMayMay8th2012 Slaves, obey

    Humans sometimes seem to be hard-wired for disobedience. One of the first words that babies learn is “No,” shortly followed by, “Mine.” If we’re honest, not a whole lot changes as we get older. We’re happy to get along with others as long as they don’t mess with our stuff or tell us what to do. Of course, the problem is that rarely happens. What will we do then?

    Paul’s advice to the slaves in the church at Colossae is simple:

    “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything…”

    The command is blunt and to the point. Obey. Do what your master commands. Now, if Paul’s command ended there, this would be nothing new. After all, they are slaves—of course they have to obey. And the application for us would be very straightforward – just do what you’re told.

    But, as is so frequently the case in the Bible, God is calling us to far more than just simple lip-service. Paul continues,

    “…and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” (Col. 3:22, NIV)

    How often is your obedience really based on an honest “sincerity of heart”? Pause for a moment and think through the many different situations where God has placed someone in authority over you—at work, at home, at church. How heart-felt is your obedience? How much of yourself do you withhold? How quickly is your heart even now generating all kinds of excuses and reasons to explain your lack of sincerity?

    Note that Paul at this point drops the biggest bomb of all—this obedience is not ultimately to the person in authority over us, but to God Himself. Our heart-felt submission to other people is, somehow, an act of reverence towards Jesus. How, then, can we be satisfied with simply going through the motions?

    So today, as you read these verses, you may find yourself needing to repent. We all fall short of the glory of God and desperately need His help to live differently. Turn today and seek the Spirit’s help in approaching your earthly relationships in a completely different manner from this point forward.

    MonMondayMayMay7th2012 Slaves and masters

    How in the world does a passage talking about slavery apply to my life today? Paul’s letters may be filled with all kinds of other useful ethical commands, but the chances are pretty good that most of us are neither slaves nor slave-owners. So what are we to do with these verses?

    Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 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. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. (Col. 3:22-4:1, NIV)

    Paul obviously does not have in mind the kind of slavery that was rampant throughout the world in the 1700’s and 1800’s. Although slavery was sometimes used as a way to subjugate a conquered people or force people to do jobs nobody else wanted to do, many people purposefully and willingly sold themselves into slavery. So, we have to be careful in the way we read the word “slave” in Paul’s letters.

    That said, how do we jump contexts across time and culture to contemporary suburban life in the Mid-West of America? For some workers, the application may come a little too easily. Trapped in a lousy dead-end job with no opportunities to move or find something different, many people feel enslaved in every way except by name. Technically they may be free to go and do as they please, but functionally they are at the beck and call of their employer. For these people, Paul has a word.

    Others may excel in what they do, enjoying a large measure of autonomy and freedom at work, but the reality is that everyone who earns a paycheck is still beholden in one way or another to the person writing the checks. Of course, that’s a far cry from being a slave, but it is still reasonable to extend the application of these verses to most employer-employee relationships.

    So, where would you place yourself on this spectrum? Do you feel totally trapped, basically enslaved to your boss? Who holds power and control over your life? What does that feel like right now? Take some time to honestly assess your work situation and then pray for the Spirit to be at work helping you to understand and apply these verses this week.

    FriFridayMayMay4th2012 Discipline

    Discipline is an unfortunate, but sometimes necessary and important part of life. It’s never pleasant at the time, but in the best situations can be used to bring about significant and lasting spiritual growth and development.

    We end this week considering the following words from Hebrews. May everything we do to guide and shape our children be modeled on the way that God guides and shapes us.

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

    In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

    “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
    because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

    Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline —then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:1-11, NIV)

    ThuThursdayMayMay3rd2012 How to parent

    There’s no place quite like home when you’re looking for a good fight. Sure, you may get into it with a neighbor or a co-worker occasionally, but nobody quite gets under your skin the way a relative does. In fact, I would argue that there is no clearer confirmation of the historical accuracy of The Fall (Gen. 3) than the kind of strife that only families seem capable of brewing up.

    So, what are we to do as a result? Clearly the status quo is not acceptable for any follower of Christ. Will we struggle and fight at times? Of course. Will there be arguments and “heated discussions”? Absolutely. Community is messy, especially in families. However, believers have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit and called to surrender themselves completely to the Lordship of Christ. So take a moment and read back over Col. 3:1-17.

    Instead of giving in to the temptation to let anger rule our hearts, let us instead “Set our minds on things that are above.” Let us be parents who “put to death what is earthly” in our lives, slaying sin in all its ugliness. May we be leaders in our families who put off “anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk” and never allow lies to infiltrate our closest and dearest relationships.

    Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Col. 3:20-21, NIV)

    However you translate the word “embitter,” the command is the same—do not act in a way that would unnecessarily exasperate, incite, provoke, embitter or enrage your children. This does not mean that parents should be hands-off, letting their children do whatever they want. It does mean that parents should exercise the authority they have been given in a loving, kind and supportive manner.

    If you have been blessed to have a child, you know that at times they will drive you crazy. The gospel should determine how we respond in any given circumstance. Will we up the ante and keep escalating the conflict? Or will we respond in love and grace, seeking reconciliation and peace?

    If you are looking for more resources on dealing with family conflict, contact our Children’s Pastor, Vance Frusher, .

    WedWednesdayMayMay2nd2012 Obedience pleases the Lord

    Teaching children to obey is tough. Although we try to “lay down the law” in a grace-filled, gospel-centered manner, all too often we slip into less admirable patterns of parenting. We can find ourselves motivating through fear (“Obey me, or face the consequences!”), guilt (“If you really loved me, you would do what I say”), shame (“What kind of child doesn’t obey their parents?”) or any combination of the above.

    Yes, we have all fallen far short of the Godly goals set forth in parenting books and seminars. In fact, parents, perhaps more than anyone else, should be the most exuberant worshippers of all when it comes time to celebrate God’s grace on Sunday mornings.

    Paul encourages the children in the Colossian church to obey their parents for one simple reason—not because parents are perfect, but because it pleases the Lord.

    So, why does it matter to God if a child obeys their parents or not?

    First of all, obedience reflects a love for God’s law. Although the fifth commandment does not say that children are to obey their parents, certainly obedience is one way to show that they honor them (Ex. 20:12). Secondly, obedience to one’s earthly parents reflects the relationship that all believers are to have to their Heavenly Father. God demands absolute obedience to His laws, commands and decrees. We are to worship God and God alone, having no other gods besides Him. This is not an optional command that we only obey if and when it works for us and feels good. God’s claim on our lives is absolute, and children learn this deeper spiritual truth by acting out obedience to their earthly parents first and foremost.

    One final reason that children should obey the Lord is because it reflects the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing unity and love to bear in families. A family has the power to witness to the world the restoring power of grace and forgiveness. We are all sinners, parents and children alike, but when we let the Holy Spirit work in our lives, He can bring about incredible change and lasting unity. Such unity can in turn be a powerful witness to a hurting and broken world that knows only anger, confrontation, bitterness and struggle.

    TueTuesdayMayMay1st2012 Everything

    According to Paul’s letter to the Colossians, children are obligated to obey “everything” their parents command, but what does that entail? What does the Bible say a parent’s duties are with regard to their children?

    Yes, there are certain commands and laws a child needs to obey simply in order for a family to function in a healthy manner. Clean your room, eat your vegetables, don’t run in the street, stop juggling knives… These are all necessary and important boundaries we must teach our children to obey.

    However, as parents we have also been given the significant and awe-inspiring authority and responsibility to shape the spiritual lives of our children.

    These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deut. 6:6-9, NIV)

    Parents are instructed by God to impress the commands of God on their children. Not just once a week by dragging them to church, but constantly, at all times. There are opportunities for shaping and forming our children to know and love God every minute of every day. When we’re driving them to school, when we’re eating dinner together, when we’re waiting for a sibling to get done with soccer practice, when we spend all day at a baseball game, or even when we watch a movie together as a family.

    On the one hand this is overwhelming – why would God put me in charge of the spiritual well-being of a child, when I struggle just to keep my own spiritual life afloat and headed in the right direction?

    On the other hand, this is liberating – when we see all of life as a classroom for teaching our children about God, it removes the burden of trying to lump all spiritual instruction into a single “deep conversation” or special class or event.

    However, perhaps most significantly of all, God has not abandoned us in this process. Sometimes people joke about the fact that children don’t come with an instruction manual, and in one sense that is true. But God has actually given a vast amount of direction in the Bible. Pretty much everything we could need to know about how to raise our children to be healthy, loving, obedient worshippers of God living meaningful and significant lives in whatever career they choose can be found in the Bible.

    Not only that, but God has also given us His Spirit—the guide and counselor who never leaves us and provides us strength, wisdom, direction and leading in everything we do.

    Children are to obey their parents in “everything.” So where are you going to lead them?

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