Welcomed

“Aristarchus, who is a prisoner like me, sends greetings.  So does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.  You have received instructions about Mark.  If he comes to you, welcome him” – Colossians 4:10 (God’s Word Translation)

 

I love this verse, but if I didn’t know who Mark was, I would probably have skimmed over it without a second thought.  Ok; you’ve seen he’s the cousin of Barnabas, so let me tell you about them both.  Barnabas means ‘Son of encouragement’, and that’s appropriate because he was the one to encourage Paul when Paul first became a Christian.  Paul (or Saul, as he was then) had a famous conversion on the road to Damascus.  He was on his way to find Christians and put them in prison.  He even had letters approving their arrests, but he saw a light from heaven and fell to the ground, and Jesus told him:  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5).  From then on, Saul put his all into showing people that Jesus is the Christ, but when he went back to Jerusalem, the Christians were suspicious.  What they saw was a man in authority, who’d once arrested Christians, now claiming to be a believer.  No one wanted to give him a chance, except for Barnabas, who persuaded others to meet with Saul and talk to him.

 

Barnabas and Paul remained close friends.  When they went on their first mission trip, they took Mark (who’s sometimes known as John) along with them, but for whatever reason, that didn’t work out.  Perhaps Mark was very young and the homesickness felt too much for him; perhaps he was afraid of opposition; I don’t know, but he went back home to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).  Paul saw this as desertion and must have felt extremely let-down because when Barnabas suggested giving Mark another chance and taking him on a later trip, Paul wouldn’t hear of it.  They disagreed so strongly that they decided to go their separate ways – Barnabas taking Mark, and Paul taking Silas (Acts 15:36-40).

* * *

So now you know who Mark is, and perhaps you can see why I love the verse:  “You have received instructions about Mark.  If he comes to you, welcome him”.  A couple of questions come to mind:  Why would the Christians in Colossae not welcome him?  How would they know about his past?  They must have heard it from Paul.  I’m not saying Paul should have kept his mouth shut.  When you’re with family in the Lord – people you’re close to, you’ll talk about trips you’ve been on; things that happened; people who’ve disappointed you, but Paul telling them in this letter to welcome him takes humility.  He’s admitting he was wrong about Mark.  In fact, he writes somewhere else that Mark has helped him in his work (2 Timothy 4:11), so they made up.  Isn’t it great to read happy endings?

 

One more question:  Why did the Colossians need instructing to welcome him?  Well, sadly, perhaps some wouldn’t have done so without being told.  When somebody’s hurt a person we love and respect, it’s in our earthly natures to treat them with suspicion and distrust, not to welcome them with open arms, but God’s nature is very different.

 

Something to think about:  Are you suspicious of someone?  Do you need to ‘Welcome them’?

A Sunday Singsong

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the

Lord” – Colossians 3:16 (KJV)

This verse really surprised me when I read it just now in the old King James Version.  The word-order is different from what I’m used to, and it seems to change the emphasis.  If I was reading a modern version, it would tell me to let Christ’s Word live in me richly as I sang, keeping the Word and the singing separate, as people tend to in lots of churches, but this older version talks about teaching in songs and hymns.  It also talks about singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord.  I wrote a post recently about what makes grace so amazing, but I was talking there about God’s grace towards us.  I’d never thought that we could have grace towards God!  But we can, so sing with feelings of pleasure in your heart towards Him.

As well as being a way of expressing our hearts to God, songs and hymns can teach us a lot.  I must confess I don’t much like singing hymns.  All you tend to hear is the organ belting out the tune, and I prefer to be able to hear the people next to me singing the words.  Plus, lots of hymns have so many verses!  I like the ones that remind me of the church where I became a Christian:

“I know not why God’s wondrous grace

“To me has been made known” (that’s a nice cheery one), or:

“I serve a risen Saviour,

“He’s in the world today”, but the hymns I like best are those where the hymn-writers have managed to put to music the good news of what Jesus did for us.  “Rejoice, the Lord is King” is a good-news hymn.  (I sang that for the first time in a communion service at the hospital and loved the words so much that when it finished, I turned to the person next to me and commented on it.)  There are many others – “To God be the Glory”, “How Great Thou Art”, “Amazing Grace” etc … not forgetting my favourites – “There is a Fountain” and “Man of Sorrows”.

 

Did any of those have you singing along?  I had fun finding them on YouTube.

 

Have any hymns or songs taught you something about God?  Which ones are special to you?

Who’s Worth Listening To?

“If you have died with Christ to the world’s way of doing things, why do you let others tell you how to live?  It’s as though you were still under the world’s influence. People will tell you, ‘Don’t handle this!  Don’t taste or touch that!’ …  These things look like wisdom with their self-imposed worship, false humility, and harsh treatment of the body.  But they have no value for holding back the constant desires of your corrupt nature” – Colossians 2:20-21, 23 (God’s Word Translation)

 

People do tell us how to live, and we get all sorts of advice – most of it intended to make us the best we can be.  “Keep away from that church!  You’ve been brainwashed” might be said by someone who sees you’re changing and wants the old you back because to them, the old you was better, but if you know those changes are doing you good, you’ll probably choose to stay where you are.  A friend who struggled to control his drinking told some of us that when he saw Christians drinking alcohol, he felt they wouldn’t understand his problem, and that made me think about what was more important; having a vodka in my hand or being approachable?  People might come to different conclusions about that, and I can see both sides – wanting the freedom to enjoy things in moderation, and yet not wanting to trip somebody else up.  You could go round in circles, tying yourself in knots about things, but that won’t do you a lot of good, so how do you decide?

 

Probably the best advice I can give is from the chapter I’ll be reading tomorrow:  “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” – Colossians 3:15.  In the end, these things have to be between you and God.  If you want to follow Him, God will show you His plan for your life by the peace He puts in your heart, and He’ll get you through it even when others don’t understand.

 

It has been suggested that perhaps I’m unteachable, or I don’t take on people’s opinions when they’re honest with me.  I hope I don’t come across as arrogant!  It’s not that I don’t value people’s advice; I do, and sometimes I take it, but not always.  When I stand before Jesus, I won’t have anyone else to answer to for the way I’ve lived my life.  It’ll be Him, and Him alone.

 

Have you been given any advice lately?  Maybe you’ve handed some out.  I’m here for a chat if you want one.

At the Counter

“God has rescued us from the power of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of His Son, whom He loves. His Son paid the price to free us” – Colossians 1:13-14 (God’s Word Translation)

 

I like this translation of the Bible.  It was published in 1995 and I’ve only recently come across it.  Sometimes reading a more modern translation than I’m used to helps me take it in, and makes it feel fresher.  I enjoyed reading the chapter today, and especially these 2 verses.  I love how they explain the word ‘Redemption’:  “His Son paid the price to free us”.  Will you use your imagination for a minute?  Come and stand with me at the counter.

 

Jesus said everyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34), so let’s think of our wrongdoing as a slave-master, who’s bought us as his slave and has power over us.  The only way we can get free is if somebody buys us back, but no one can break his power unless they’ve done nothing wrong.  There is only One who’s lived a perfect life and is able to break that power.  When Jesus rose from the dead, death had no power over Him, and because He was free, He could buy our freedom too.  It’s as if, when He came out of the tomb, Jesus was given vouchers with all our names on.  When someone puts their trust in Him, Jesus can go to the counter, hand their voucher to the slave-master and say:  “I’d like to redeem that person”, and the slave-master gives them to Jesus – the One who bought them on the cross.

 

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life” – Romans 6:23.  We deserve only death for the things we’ve done wrong, but Jesus offers us the opposite – totally undeserved, totally motivated by love.  Thanks to Jesus, death need have no power over us.  Aren’t you glad?

Learning the Secret

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” – Philippians 4:12.

 

Confession:  I’m still learning.  I mentioned in another post about the cuts the UK-government are making, and how things aren’t looking as secure as they used to.  This is affecting me personally.  I’m not pleading poverty; I hope I’ll never do that as long as I’ve got clothes to wear and food on the table, but I am having to be more careful with money because I sponsor my lovely children.  When I sponsored them, I did it because I could afford to, but now the government have decided I need less money to live on.  I want to be a good steward of what God has given me so I can see them through to the end of their time at Compassion, but sometimes, like this morning when I felt like thanking David Cameron for ruining my life, I feel disconnected from my children.  I wonder do I love them at all?  And if I give to the poor, but have not love …  I’m tempted to drop the sponsorships and live for myself.  Sounds ugly, doesn’t it?  And then I go to my Bible … and read this verse … and I know I need God to teach me the secret.

 

God has an amazing way of helping put things in perspective.  When I’m being all melodramatic and having thoughts like this morning’s, it’s not just disconnection from my children; I’m distancing myself from Him, but His peaceful presence is always there for us.  Within about half an hour, I had stopped feeling I wasn’t ready for today and had given myself a reality check:  David Cameron hasn’t ruined my life.  He’s only the Prime Minister; he’s not God.  If God has called me to sponsor my children right up until they leave the programme, He’ll take care of it.  I don’t like not knowing, but God wants me to be free from worry; free from bitterness …  He wants me to be content.

 

This is a song I can’t seem to stop singing lately.  It’s so cheerful, and as the chorus says:

“You’ve done a good work in me,

“And You won’t quit till I’m free”!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsOoJ2OuMK0

Thanks for reading these posts on Philippians, and I’d love to chat to you in the comments.

From the One Who’s Been There

There’s such a lot in Philippians 3!  I wrote down a couple of things I could have shared with you all, but this one resonated the most:

 

“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death” – Philippians 3:10.  I wonder if that verse will ever stop being a challenge!  Oh, I want to know Christ, but what about this sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death?  Let’s think about Jesus’ death for a minute and the horrors He went through.  I don’t just mean the physical horrors – the beatings; having His hands forced behind His back and nailed to a cross …  There were mental anguishes too.  He took 3 close friends with Him into Gethsemane – His soul overwhelmed with sorrow.  He wanted Peter, James and John to pray with Him, but they fell asleep.  They didn’t understand the immensity of what their Lord was about to face; Jesus understood the full scale of it.  Do you have friends like that – friends you’re really close to, and you want their prayer-support in the important parts of your life, but they give up instead of praying along-with you?  That can be really painful, and then of course there was Judas betraying Jesus.

 

I wrote a song a few years ago about Jesus’ death and the sufferings He went through:

“You were despised; rejected by men,

“So when I face hostility, why should I complain?

 

“Left all alone in Your darkest hour,

“So when I have no company, why should I complain?”

 

The truth is, whether we want to or not, as Christians, we will share in Christ’s sufferings, but we can have the assurance that whatever we go through, He’s already been there.  He knows exactly how we feel.

 

Are you going through a difficult situation at the moment?  You don’t have to go into details, but if you leave a comment, I’d love to pray with you.  Thank you for reading, and please take comfort from the One who’s been there.

Faultless Children

If there are any parents of little ones reading this, that title might have brought a smile and an:  “I don’t think so!”  Your children – the ones who throw food on the floor, write on the walls instead of paper, or sit in front of the TV for those few more minutes when you’ve told them it’s bedtime – faultless?  Surely not, but they’re still your children.

 

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe” – Philippians 2:14-15.  I recently heard a challenging message about these verses, basically saying that if we grumbled, then we were ungodly, and how could we then expect to become children of God?  The message had its desired effect – it encouraged me to complain less, but it also sounded very harsh, maybe because it was missing something.

 

“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” – John 1:12.  If you believe in Jesus, you’re already a child of God – His precious, dearly loved child.  Those verses from Philippians 2 aren’t about becoming children of God, but becoming ‘Children of God without fault’.  Parents, can you imagine disowning your child every time they put a foot wrong?  I’m not saying bad behaviour is acceptable.  A good parent wants the best for their child, and God’s like that too.  He gives us warnings; His Spirit counsels us; He finds ways of correcting us, but we never cease to be His.

 

As for me, though, I want to become a child of God without fault.  And the way to do that?  Well, I’m working towards it every day.  I wrote earlier in this blog about the church being sanctified (made holy), and how we respond to life is part of that sanctifying process.  The more we respond in a Christ-like way, the more like Him we’ll become.  Sometimes I feel like I’m going backwards; I may not have said that complaint out-loud, but the thought was there, etc … but the important thing is not to give up.  If you’re still here on this earth, it means God’s not finished with you yet, so if you mess up, ask Him to forgive you:  His kindness is fresh for you every morning … and then keep going, knowing He’s with you at every stage.

 

Are you, too, on this journey towards becoming a faultless child?  And shining like a star?

Philippians 1

Status

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” – Philippians 1:20:

Don’t give up.  Take courage and keep going for Jesus.

The Armour

“Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” – Ephesians 6:13-17.

 

When I moved to where I live now, I had to spend about 6 weeks without E-mail or the Internet.  I had lots of sympathy from friends and family, who knew how many hours I spent at the computer, but actually, the time went quicker than I thought.  During that time I was sitting on my bed, thinking about the armour of God, when I realised something.

 

The belt of truth buckled around your waist – who is the Truth?  Jesus (John 14:6).

The breastplate of righteousness – who is the Righteous One?  Jesus (1 John 2:1).

The good news of peace – who is our Peace?  Jesus (Ephesians 2:14).

The shield of faith – who do we put our faith in?

The helmet of salvation – who saves us?

And finally, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God – doesn’t John talk about how the Word became flesh and made His home among us (John 1:14)?

 

I see Jesus as the full armour of God.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18), so if we take Jesus into our situations, the devil’s “Flaming arrows” (his attempts to ruin our lives) will be blown out like a candle.  I think of when Jesus breathed on His disciples and they received the Holy Spirit.  Once Jesus breathes His Spirit into a situation, the devil doesn’t have authority over it any longer.

 

With Jesus, we can stand.

* * *

And that brings us to the end of the book of Ephesians!  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these posts as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.  Shall we keep reading with Amy till the end of the month?

One

“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the

church” – Ephesians 5:31-32.

 

You might have read in a previous post about when these words “become one flesh” were first used.  It was in the context of a marriage, so how can the church be “one flesh” with Jesus Christ?

 

As I asked that question, Jesus’ prayer before His death came to my mind.  “I pray also for those who will believe in Me” says Jesus, “… that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You” – John 17:20-21.  That’s what it means to be one with Jesus – His Spirit lives in us.  He’s part of us – not a physical oneness (as in marriage), but spiritual; and as Christians, we’re part of one another (Romans 12:5).

 

In the Old Testament, there are lots of pointers to Jesus, and to what God has planned for the future.  Could it be that marriage is also like that – a temporary thing on this earth, pointing to a spiritual truth that’s everlasting?  No wonder that when He spoke about eternity, Jesus said people would neither marry nor be given in marriage:  They won’t need to.  They’ll be where temporary things have vanished away, and what remains will last forever.