If you’re anything like me, I love to read the Bible with others and share our thoughts. Well, this week, worship-songwriter Gwen Smith is taking her readers through Colossians on her blog, starting yesterday (3 September) and ending Friday 6th. Thought I’d let you all know about it.
“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).
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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’?
“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:
“To me has been made known” (that’s a nice cheery one), or:
“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?
“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.
“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?