Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Gift of Prayer (Colossians 4:2-4)

Today's scripture: Colossians 4:2-4

Prayer is one of the greatest gifts and one of the greatest mysteries for Christ-followers.

It's a greatest gift because, through prayer, we can talk with our triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

Through prayer, we can praise Him for His blessings. We can praise Him for His attributes. We can praise Him for His work in our lives.

Through prayer, we can thank Him for provision, for healing, for protection.

Through prayer, we can intercede on behalf of our friends and family.

Through prayer, we can make requests, asking for the desires of our heart.

But prayer is also a great mystery. If God knows everything—and He does—and if He has a plan in place for each of us—and He does—then why do we bother praying?

Well, part of prayer, as I mentioned, is our praising Him. Our glorifying Him. Our acknowledging that He is God.

What about making requests, though? How can my asking for something have any affect if God already knows the big picture? You know something? I don't really know the answer. I do know, however, that we're commanded to pray. I do know that time spent in prayer brings me closer to my Lord. My focus is on Him and His will. When I do pray for something, I always ask for it according to His will.

And I do believe that God brings desires to my heart that come directly from Him, so when I pray for them, I'm praying for His desires for me.

Prayer also leads to trust. If I trust God to care for me and provide for me, I can trust Him to answer prayers according to His will. Prayer also helps make me more patient because, even though He may answer "yes" or "no" right away, often times He asks me to "wait."

I may not always understand how God does what He does, and I may not have a full understanding of how prayer works. But one thing I do know. Prayer does work.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Words for Employers (Colossians 4:1)

Today's scripture: Colossians 4:1

Many who don't know Christ read the word "slave" in the Bible and immediately focus on the atrocity of the slave trade in the United States. However, it's important to understand context. Timothy Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, wrote a wonderful book called The Reason for God. In it, he expounds on this topic:

In the first-century Roman empire, when the New Testament was written, there was not a great difference between slaves and the average free person. Slaves were not distinguishable from others by race, speech, or clothing ... From a financial standpoint, slaves made the same wages as free laborers, and therefore were not usually poor. Also, slaves could accrue enough capital to buy themselves out. Most important of all, very few slaves were slaves for life. Most could reasonably hope to be manumitted within ten or fifteen years ...
So, in the time Paul wrote about masters and slaves, his words were really more about our modern employer and employee. Employees are paid fair wages, and many work at the same job for ten or fifteen years.

Employers should, therefore, look at today's verse as an exhortation: Just as they are "masters" of employees, they serve the Master heaven. And just as they want to be treated by God with "justice and fairness," they should treat their employees in the same way.

Do you supervise others? Take these words to heart.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Consequences of Sin (Colossians 3:25)

Today's scripture: Colossians 3:25

Many wonderful attributes describe the triune God. He is gracious, merciful, and loving. He is our Redeemer, Savior, and Teacher. He is our refuge, our stronghold, our strength. He is personal. He is holy, righteous, and just.

Most people can get on board with the majority of these descriptors. But many have a problem with the last. God is just. They say if God is loving, then why does He punish? Why is there a hell? Wouldn't a loving God just let everyone go to heaven?

The fact that God is just goes hand-in-hand with the fact that He's holy and righteous. God cannot co-exist with sin. Yet, because He loved His first created man and woman so much, He gave them the choice to obey Him and remain in intimate communion with Him or to choose their own way. And though it's a mystery to us, the all-holy, all-perfect God allowed sin to enter the world.

It was always God's plan, though, to offer the means of man's reconciliation with Him, first through animal sacrifice and then through the once-for-all sacrifice of God the Son, Jesus Christ. God has revealed Himself to mankind throughout the ages, and He still does so today through the general revelation of His creation and the biblical revelation of the gospel.

We all have the opportunity to choose to follow Him or choose to go our own way. And if we choose the latter, there will be consequences. Those who choose not to follow Christ on earth—to, in essence, separate themselves from Him—will spend eternity separated from Him.

Yes, God is love. Yes, He offers grace and mercy. But He is also holy and righteous and just. And because He is a God of justice, He must deal with sin. He must deal with those who don't choose Him.

And they will reap the consequences.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Work as for the Lord (Colossians 3:22-24)

Today's scripture: Colossians 3:22-24

Few of us are able to do our "dream jobs." It seems like most of us fall into whatever we do for a living, and sometimes, that's hard. I'm very blessed that I'm now able teach writing and literature, which I love to do, but for many years, I worked various jobs, and much of the time, I did so just to make a living.

I have been blessed with great bosses and co-workers, but far too often, the jobs themselves were ... just jobs.

And far too often, I'd whine and complain, if only to myself. Why do I have to do this? Or why can't I do that?

I found Colossians 3:23-24 years ago, and it put everything into perspective. No matter what I was doing for an occupation, if I focused on doing it "heartily, as for the Lord," I found myself more content. If I remembered that it is the "Lord whom [I] serve," I could find the joy in doing whatever He'd called me to do for that season.

You may not be doing what you dream of doing. You may be "just" doing a job. But no matter what, you can still find joy and contentment in where you are now. You can still work "heartily" as you remember Whom you serve.

The Lord. Not men.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Healthy Families (Colossians 3:18-21)

Today's scripture: Colossians 3:18-21

In these three verses, Paul gives some guidelines for healthy families. If Christian families followed them, I truly believe this world would be impacted greatly for God. The family is—or at least it should be—the foundation of society, and when families are healthy, so will society be.

Wives are to be subject to husbands. Oh, I know how controversial this is. I know some women will rise up and say, "I will not submit to my husband. I'm an independent woman, and I don't need to cater to his whims." I believe there is a huge misunderstanding about this whole issue. I wrote a short Bible study for a small group I used to lead. We were a sisterhood of women married to unbelieving spouses. In that study, I wrote that being submissive is "being willing to be subject to something." I went on to say, "Did you catch that? To submit is an issue of willingness. I read recently that a wife-to-husband relationship is similar to a vice-president-to-president relationship. Certainly, a vice president is able to do as much (or perhaps more) than the president. They work together, often make decisions together. However, he willingly submits to the authority of the president because there needs to be one leader. In the same way, we wives contribute and have a voice, but there does have to be a final authority." As long as a husband doesn't ask his wife to go against biblical principles and is not a bully or abuser, we wives need to be willing to be subject to our husbands.

Then, Paul writes to husbands. Husbands are to love their wives. Elsewhere, Paul writes they are to love as Christ loves the church, and His love caused Him to lay down His very life for the ones He loves (Ephesians 5:35). In addition, husbands are not to be "embittered against" their wives. They should not antagonize or aggravate, disgruntle or estrange. They should, instead, love their wives with the tender love with which Christ loves them.

Next, Paul writes to children. Children are to be obedient to their parents. The first commandment that was written regarding how we're to interact with others is, "Honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12). Honor means to "treat with admiration and respect" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Some might say, "But my parents mistreated or abused me. How can I honor them?"

This leads us to the final exhortation: Parents aren't to "
exasperate [their] children." Exasperate means to "excite the anger of; to cause irritation or annoyance to" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Parents should raise their children with discipline, certainly, but also with love, nurturing, caring, gentleness, and kindness.

If wives willingly subjected themselves to the godly guidance of their husbands, if husbands loved their wives with devotion and Christ-like love, and if children obeyed their parents who raised them with love and caring, imagine how healthy families would be.

Imagine how healthy society would be.

If you agree, share this devotional with your own family.