Friday, February 24, 2017

COLOSSIANS 1:21 - RECONCILED


Reconciled

Once I was estranged from God,
alienated because of my sin;
but a miraculous thing happened! I accepted His gift
and turned my life over to Him.
Because of Christ’s death for me on the cross,
I am completely reconciled.
Instead of being God’s enemy,
He’s adopted me as His child!

“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,
 not moved from the hope held out in the gospel…”
Colossians 1:21-23 (NIV)

apallŏtriŏō526 – to estrange away, i.e. (pass. and fig.) to be non-participant: alienate, be alien.

apŏkatallassō604 – to reconcile fully: - reconcile.

            Often when two people are estranged, there is some guilt on both sides. When it comes to being estranged from God, however, it is always we who have walked away. We are born with a sinful nature, but God has made a way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to him. Do you know people who have heard the Gospel yet walked away remaining alienated from the Lord?
            Perhaps you are reading this and realize that you are still a non-participant when it comes to God’s offer of a relationship. The Almighty Father offers you adoption into his own family. He sent his Son, Jesus, to die in your place on the cross; so you could be fully reconciled to God. Jesus rose from the dead and holds out the hope that we can live with him forever enjoying abundant life. Stop walking away! Talk to God and confess that you are alienated from him because of sin. Ask him to forgive you and adopt you into his family. Ask him come into your life and establish a relationship with you in order to allow you to live for him and turn from wickedness. Accept the gift of salvation Christ died on the cross to give you. He holds it out, but you have to talk to him in order to accept it.
            Father, thank you for reconciling me to you through the blood of Jesus. Help me to live daily in a way that is honoring to you. Help me not to tarnish our family name of Christian. Help me to participate actively in our relationship moment to moment. I thank you for the opportunity to talk with the Creator of the universe! It’s so amazing to realize that you know my thoughts even before I type them just now. Your power is overwhelming, but so is your grace and love!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

COLOSSIANS 1:15-17 - THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD

The Image of the Invisible God

“What does God look like?” I heard a child ask;
And I thought to myself what a wonderful task.
Let’s open the Bible, God’s own book.
Let’s read his word and take a look.
We can’t describe his face or hair,
But we’ll find a description of his character there.
Jesus was God that people could see,
And the Gospels describe him for you and me.

“He is the image of the invisible God, 
the firstborn over all creation.
For by him all things were created: 
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; 
all things were created by him and for him.
He is before all things, 
and in him all things hold together.”
Colossians 1:15-17

ĕikōn1504 – a likeness, i.e. (lit.) statue, profile, or (fig.) representation, resemblance: - image.

sunistēmi4921 – to set together, i.e. (by impl.) to introduce (favorably), or (fig.) to exhibit; intrans. to stand near, or (fig.) to constitute: - approve, commend, consist, make, stand (with).

            When I moved up from teaching second graders to teaching fifth and sixth graders, I decided the zoo theme with stuffed animals would have to go. But what could I use to decorate our room that would have a meaningful theme? It was staring me right in the face – the paperclip! Our verse for the year was Colossians 1:17, and the paperclip became our reminder that Christ holds it all together.
            The paperclip has a plain and simple appearance, and yet it is an extremely useful tool.  The Bible tells us that Jesus “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him” (Isaiah 53:2), but it also tells us he is “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). In other words, just like the lowly paperclip, there is much more to Christ than his outward appearance when he walked the earth. He is the creator and sustainer of the universe.
            If Jesus keeps the entire universe on course, surely I can trust him to hold me together as well. There are days I think I might fall apart (today being one of them), but I simply need to slow down, breathe deeply, and pray. I need to “cast all my anxiety on him because he cares for me” (I Peter 5:7) because when I do so, he promises that his peace will guard my heart and mind (Philippians 4:7).
            Father, I hand over my concerns to you. There are so many stresses in my life right now – my son is in Iraq, my mother has health concerns, my work is endlessly piled up at my job – but I know you are able to keep all the pieces together even though I am not. Help me to slow down and allow your Spirit to guide me each day and minister to my heart. I trust that my Creator is also my Sustainer. Thank you for the power you provide to live for you each day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

COLOSSIANS 1:9-12 - MAGNIFICENT PRAYER

Photo courtesy of Robert Young


Once again Paul voices 
a magnificent prayer
Entrusting the Colossians 
to God’s tender care.
He asks God to fill them 
with wisdom and understanding
And to strengthen them for tasks 
that may be demanding.
He prays they’ll bear fruit 
and walk worthy of the Lord,
Growing in the knowledge 
of God through the word.
Let this be a model 
of how we should pray
For our spiritual and biological 
children each day.
And, Lord, I pray that you’ll also 
work these things in me
And help me to be all 
You’d have me to be.

“…we have not stopped praying for you 
and asking God to fill you
with the knowledge of his will 
through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
And we pray this in order that you 
may live a life worthy of the Lord
and may please him in every way: 
bearing fruit in every good work,
growing in the knowledge of God, 
being strengthened with all power
according to his glorious might so that you may have 
great endurance and patience,
and joyfully giving thanks to the Father,
who has qualified you to share in the inheritance 
of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Colossians 1:9-12 (NIV)

epignōsis1922 – recognition, i.e. (by impl.) full discernment, acknowledgment:-, ac-)knowledge(-ing,-ment).

dunamis1411 – force (lit. or fig.); spec. miraculous power (usually by impl. a miracle itself): - ability, abundance, meaning, might (-ily, -y, -y deed), (worker of) miracle(-s), power, strength, violence, mighty (wonderful) work.

            Paul’s prayers constantly challenge me to be more specific and bold in my own. When God gives me the opportunity to encourage another believer, I need to pray for her to grow in full discernment of the Lord. I need to pray that the Holy Spirit will so reveal himself to her that she will have greater understanding of God’s word and his ways. I should pray for Christ’s miraculous power to be real in her life and enable her to do good works in his name. I should encourage her to endure all things the Lord brings her through and let her know that I joyfully thank God for her salvation.
            Like the other prayers I’ve read in Ephesians and Philippians, this one shows me specific ways to pray for my children as well. As I write this, my daughter is interviewing for a ministry position and needing to discern God’s will concerning this opportunity. Tonight I will pray the prayer above inserting her name.  My son is serving in the army in Iraq. He needs to be certain of the presence of the Lord and to be infused with God’s power in order to endure. I most certainly will insert his name in the verses above as well. My son’s wife is expecting their second child, and I’m sure she could use great patience while her husband is so far away in a dangerous place. Paul’s prayer for the Colossians will become my prayer for my family tonight.

            Father, I thank you for the salvation of my children and for entrusting them to my care for the brief time they were in my home. I pray that they will grow in their understanding of your will and your ways and be strengthened with your mighty power to face all that lies ahead for them. Thank you for watching over them. Help them to live worthy of you and to be thankful. (written in 2007 by Susie Hale)

Friday, February 17, 2017

ZECHARIAH 10:1 - WATER LILIES


EPHESIANS 6:19-20 - LET ME NOT BE THE SAME

Let Me Not Be the Same
(Prayer upon retuning from Russia)

Lord, I pray that You’ll not let me 
take for granted the freedom I have 
to worship You,
to gather together with others 
simply to Praise Your name.
Lord, let me not be the same. 
Let me be forever changed.

Help me to stand. Help me be bold. 
Help me to make sure the message is told.
Help me to kneel. Help me to pray. 
Help me to know the right words to say, 
just what to say.
Help me live for You each day.

Lord, I pray for friends I made 
in that land so far away. 
Guard their freedom, Lord,
to gather together with others 
simply to praise Your name.
To show that they’ll not be the same, 
that they are forever changed.

Help them to stand. Help them be bold. 
Help them to make sure the message is told.
Help them to kneel. Help them to pray. 
Help them to know the right words to say. 
Just what to say.
Help them live for You each day. 
Help us live for You, I pray.

“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth,
words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should.”
Ephesians 6:19-20 (NIV)

parrhēsia3954 – all out-spokenness, i.e. frankness, bluntness, publicity; by impl. assurance: - bold (X –ly, -ness, -ness of speech), confidence, X freely, X openly, X plainly (-ness).

parrhēsiazŏmai3955 – to be frank in utterance, or confident in spirit and demeanor: - be (wax) bold, (preach, speak) boldly.

            When I read Paul’s prayer request, I was reminded of that of another dear saint. Her name is Vera, and she served as one of our translators when I went on a two-week mission trip to Russia in 1997. Vera’s father had been a pastor in Ukraine during communism’s reign in the Soviet Union. He was arrested for having Bibles hidden in his basement and spent several years in prison under extremely harsh conditions. It took a horrible toll on his health. He was never the same.
            Vera shared with me that she felt called to share Jesus in her homeland through singing and speaking. She also expressed a belief that the freedom to share the Lord we experienced on our trip to Russia would not last long. She asked me to pray for her continued boldness when persecution returns. She requested that I write a song for her based on Acts 18:9-10 because the Lord had used that passage to give her peace that he would protect her and provide help for her.
            So many times we pray for jobs, for healing, for peace; and we need to continue praying for these. However, we need to pray for boldness in spreading the gospel. The song at the top of the page was written shortly after my return from Russia. I’m reminded to pray it again tonight.
            Father, thank you for the reminder to pray for Vera tonight and to pray that I, too, would be a bold witness to the good news of Jesus. I’ve lost touch with Vera, Lord, but you know exactly where she is. I lift her up tonight, and pray that she would continue in the boldness and confidence you have provided for her. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

EPHESIANS 6:18 - ALERT FOR PRAYER


Lord, let me be alert to pray
On all occasions and every day.
May your Spirit guide as I intercede
And lift to you my brothers’ need.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions 
with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and always keep on 
praying for all the saints.”
Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

agrupnĕō69 – to be sleepless, i.e. keep awake: - watch.

prŏskartĕrēsis4343 – from 4342; persistency: - perseverance

prŏskartĕrĕō4342 – to be earnest towards, i.e. (to a thing) to persevere, to be constantly diligent, or (in a place) to attend assiduously all the exercises, or (to a person) to adhere closely to (as a servitor): - attend (give self) continually (upon), continue (in, instant in, with), wait on (continually).

            My second graders and I had just returned from a field trip to the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens when one of the moms approached me.
            “Miss Hale, what was my son doing at exactly 10:20 this morning?”
            “Why do you ask?”
            “I was having my quiet time and praying for others when the Spirit urged me to pray for Brian.”
            “Well…at about that time, Brian left the group and ran directly into the path of an oncoming car. One of the chaperones grabbed him out of the way in the nick of time. The driver never even saw him! I made him hold my hand the rest of the day.”
            “I’m glad I obeyed that call to prayer!”

            Are we alert to the need to pray for each other? If we wake up in the middle of the night with someone on our mind, do we pray for them or just roll over and go back to sleep? When we tell someone we’ll pray for them, do we offer up a perfunctory word or two and then forget all about our brother’s need; or do we diligently lift his burden to the Lord?
I can find more excuses for not spending time in prayer when it should be one of the most important services I perform. A synonym for assiduously in the definition above is tirelessly. I need to make prayer a priority, first and foremost because it is the only way to become more intimate with Jesus.  But I must also persevere in prayer as a ministry to fellow believers and in intercession for those whom God is drawing into relationship with him.
Father, help me to be more diligent in prayer. Specifically, help me to find a time to go to the prayer room at church and lift up the burdens of others and encourage them. I pray that you will develop that ministry in your timing and will. Continue to grow it into the effective, fervent prayer ministry that it needs to be. Lord, let our church be known as a house of prayer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

EPHESIANS 6-10 - PUTTING ON THE ARMOR

I will put on God’s armor 
while putting on my face.
I must prepare myself spiritually 
before the daily race.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand
against the devil’s schemes.”
Ephesians 6:10-11

ĕnduō1746 – (in the sense of sinking into a garment); to invest with clothing (lit. or fig.): array, clothe (with), endue, have (put) on.

            As you dress each day, consciously put on the armor of the Lord found in Ephesians 6:13-17.  Spend at least as much time preparing yourself for the day spiritually as you do preparing yourself physically.
Belt of truth – While dressing, whether you wear a belt or not, ask the Lord to encircle you with His truth and help you to live honestly and speak truthfully all day.  In New Testament times, the belt was used to pull up the tunic and secure it to free a man to run or be more active without tripping over a skirt. In John 8:31a-32 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Breastplate of righteousness – As you put on your blouse or shirt, ask for help in behaving rightly before God and in your dealings with other people. Ask Him to cover you with the righteousness of Christ, to clothe you in Christ-likeness as in Galatians 3:26-27.  Rest in Him to make you righteous.  You cannot consistently do the right thing just by a sheer act of your will.  You must die to yourself and allow Christ to live in you (Galatians 2:20).
Feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace – Put on your shoes and think of Christ’s feet pierced for your sins and that you are forgiven. Then remember that those shoes should carry you to others who need to hear that Good News. Ask God to make Jesus so evident in your life that witnessing opportunities will present themselves to you.  Then ask Him to give you boldness to share verbally the reason for the confidence people see in you. When the believers began to be persecuted after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, they did not pray for protection from those that sought to harm them.  Instead they prayed, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness” Acts 4:29
Helmet of salvation – As you style your hair and spray that stuff on it that makes it like a helmet (Steel Magnolias – brown, football helmet) or use a hat to cover the fact that you don’t style your hair, remember that your mind is kept in tact by God’s saving grace. Ask God to help you guard your thought life.  Memorize Philippians 4:8-9 so that God can bring that to mind when you are tempted to dwell on a thought that doesn’t fit into those guidelines.
Sword of the Spirit – Have Scripture verses taped to your mirror in order to repeat them several times while applying make-up or shaving.  This will sharpen your sword and allow you to carry God’s word with you even when you don’t have a Bible handy.  If you are not good at memorizing, ask God to help you.  I believe that is a prayer He wants to answer!
Shield of faith – From the time you wake in the morning until you emerge from the bathroom ready for the day, you can be praying and making the choice to live that day by faith.  Say aloud to the Lord, “I will trust You to take care of today because You’re God, and I’m not.”  When a difficult situation arises and you are tempted to believe the lies of Satan and the world that this is just too hard, determine to hold up your shield of faith.  If necessary, say aloud, “God, I know You can handle this.  I trust that You are still in control.”
Father, help me to remember to don my armor before interacting with anyone else each morning, or at least before leaving the house. Help me to focus my thoughts on you and your provision first thing every morning and spend as much time preparing spiritually for my day as a do preparing physically. 

EPHESIANS 6:7-8 (NIV) - SERVE WHOLEHEARTEDLY

Serving your employer as if serving the Lord
Means going beyond what is asked.
Remember the Lord will reward your good work
However small or great the task.
So, do what you do with a good attitude,
Serving Jesus rather than just your boss.
Doing your work with a spirit of good will
Is a witness to coworkers who are lost.

Serve wholeheartedly
as if you were serving the Lord, not men,
because you know that the Lord 
will reward everyone for whatever good he does,
 whether he is slave or free.”
Ephesians 6:7-8 (NIV)

dŏulĕuō1398 – to be a slave to (lit. or fig., invol. or vol.): - be in bondage, (do) serve (-ice).

ĕunŏia2133kindness; euphem. congjugal duty: - benevolence, good will.

            Paul is addressing the slave and master relationship in this passage, but I believe we can apply the admonitions to the modern workplace. Most people are either an employer or an employee, and many are both. The verses above address employees.
            Paul says we are to serve. Am I just doing my job in order to draw my pay, or am I really considering what I do a service to my employer? Christ said he came into the world to serve rather than to be served (Matthew 20:28), and we are to be imitators of Christ. We are not in bondage to our boss in the sense of being a slave, but I believe we are bound because of our witness for the Lord to be the best employee we can be.
            We are also instructed to serve wholeheartedly, out of benevolence and good will, not with the attitude of just doing enough to get by. If we are truly doing our work as if working for the Lord, our work is praise to him and can bring joy to us.  I thought it interesting that the word translated “wholeheartedly” appears to have also been a euphemism for conjugal duty.  Since we are the bride of Christ, one way we show our love for him is to serve our employers consistently well and thus bring honor to his name.
            When I was only twenty, I supervised a part-time employee who did only enough to get by. We worked on a quota system, and he was below or right at quota every month. It was widely known that he was a seminary student. After giving him the typical counsel that he might lose his job if his production didn’t improve by next month, I asked if I might speak to him as his sister in the Lord. I explained to him that his work was a poor witness to our bosses and made it more difficult for me to witness as well since we were from the same denomination. He became very angry at me for “preaching” to him and stormed out. However, at his next evaluation, I was able to tell him he had exceeded quotas on every type of work. He apologized for his anger the previous month, and said the Lord had set him straight afterwards. The Lord strengthened our bond in Christ as well as our witness to our coworkers.
            Father, help me to remember that my goal is to serve you and in the process, serve my employer well. Help my work to be a positive witness for Jesus. Let me serve wholeheartedly rather than grudgingly. May it be a faithful duty to my First Love.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

EPHESIANS 6:4 - FATHERS

“Stupid! That was just absolutely stupid!”
The frustrated father berated his son;
And once the words had left his lips,
They could never be undone.

“Never, I’ll never be able to please my dad!”
The exasperated teenager cried to a friend,
“I might as well not even try.
It’s all the same in the end.”

“Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger –
do not exasperate them to resentment – but rear them [tenderly] in the training
and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.”
Ephesians 6:4 (Amplified)

paidĕia3809 – tutorage, i.e., education or training; by impl. disciplinary correction: - chastening, chastisement, instruction, nurture.

nŏuthēsia3559 – calling attention to, i.e. (by impl.) mild rebuke or warning: - admonition.

            Seems like every Sunday school or Christian elementary school class has to memorize Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” I wonder how many adult Sunday school classes memorize verse four. They should.
            God’s word has much to say about children. They are a reward from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). They must be trained (Proverbs 22:6). We are not to stand in the way of a child coming to Jesus (Luke 18:16). In fact, we are to be like children, trusting and humble, in our approach to the Lord (Matthew 18:3-4). Christ warned us not to cause a believer to stumble and sin (Matthew 18:6). Our goal as parents should be to lead our children into a relationship with the Lord Jesus.
            Do children sometimes need to be admonished or disciplined? Of course, they do. In fact, Proverbs 13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13, and 29:15 & 17 all talk about the importance of disciplining children. In Hebrews, we are reminded that God disciplines us as his children for our good (Hebrews 12:7-11). Discipline is never pleasant whether it is a spanking, taking away privileges, or the hardships God uses to train us as adults.
However, the point of discipline is that it is for the good of the child. If we are training him to be more like Christ, we cannot use methods that go against what Christ teaches and demonstrates. He blessed the children as he touched them. We should never use words that tear our children down (Ephesians 5:29).  We should exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) in our dealings with our children and show them the love described in I Corinthians 13:4-8.
            It is possible to express disappointment with a child’s actions and discipline him without wounding him emotionally and spiritually. A principal I worked for would make sure a child bought to her understood what behavior was being punished. Then after spanking the child or announcing other punishment, she would reassure that child of her love and explain that she would be shirking her responsibility to their parents and to the Lord if she allowed the child to continue in behavior that was not good. Then she expressed her confidence that the child would “do better” in the future and gave them a heartfelt hug. The children loved her.

            Father, help us to discipline the children in our lives with love. Father, I pray for all the parents of young children that I know. I ask that you give them wisdom in disciplining their children. Help them to discern the difference between teaching and nagging so as not to exasperate their children. Most of all, let your love so flow through these parents that their children come to know you at the earliest possible age.

Friday, February 10, 2017

EPHESIANS 5:25, 29-32 - UNITED


United

Lord, you gave yourself for me.
For me you bled and died.
Yet, today you live in me,
And in you I abide.
Lord, you have adhered to me,
You cleave, you stick like glue.
No matter what the world throws my way,
Nothing can snatch me from you.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
“After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it,
just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body.
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 5:25 & 5:29-32 (NIV)

paradidōmi3860 – to surrender, i.e. yield up, intrust, transmit: - betray, bring forth, cast, commit, deliver (up), give (over, up), hazard, put in prison, recommend.

mĕlŏs3196 – a limb or part of the body: - member.

prŏskŏllaō4347 – to glue to, i.e. (fig.) to adhere: - cleave, join (self).

            Most people use Ephesians 5:22-33 to talk to wives about submission and husbands about what true love means, and this is good. However, as I listened to this passage again today, something jumped out at me. Paul says he is talking about Christ and the church right after he discusses the husband and wife becoming one flesh.
            Jesus surrendered himself for us, became our substitute on the cross, in order to redeem his wayward bride. He has made us a part of his body (I Corinthians 12:12), and he also calls our bodies his temple (I Corinthians 6:19). Jesus’ prayer for the body is recorded in John 17:21-23 “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
            The marriage relationship is used to help us picture our union with the Lord. We are to be glued to, adhere, cleave, and join ourselves to Jesus. We are the bride he loves as one loves his own body. We are the betrothed for which he gave his life. We are the precious ones he desires to draw unto himself for eternity. As the beloved in the Song of Songs says, “I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me,” (Song of Solomon 7:10). He lives in us and wraps us in his glorious love eternally and no one can take us from him (John 10:28).

            Lord, thank you for desiring a relationship with me and drawing me to your side. I look forward to the wedding feast when we, the church, will become your bride. Lord, help me to share this wondrous love with others.