Monthly Archives: February 2021

DEAR BROTHERS

DEAR BROTHERS

Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the use of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

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 (Col. 4: 5-9).

Who are the outsiders, and how must we treat them?

There is a tendency to regard people who are not yet believers in Jesus as outsiders and therefore, enemies. They are ‘outside’ and we are ‘inside’, therefore we regard ourselves as better than they, We are going to heaven and they are going to hell, so it does not matter if we treat them badly!

Who said so? This is not how Jesus treated people who had not yet come to faith in Him. To Him, they were lost sons and potential brothers, and He used every opportunity to invite them to come home. He said that His mission was to seek and save the lost.

Paul said, ‘Make the most of every opportunity.’ He did not tell us to dangle them over the fires of hell and bash them with the Bible. He said that we are to use every opportunity. Every opportunity to do what? I think he meant every opportunity to be kind and generous towards them so that they will have glimpses of Jesus in the way we treat them. Then we can share the good news with them that they can also become part of God’s forever family.

Paul’s generous love encircled everyone, especially the members of God’s family, regardless of who or what they were as far as the world was concerned. Take, for instance, Onesimus whom he included in his closing greeting as a ‘faithful and dear brother’.

Onesimus was immortalised in Paul’s letter to Philemon as a runaway slave who came home to the Father through Paul’s influence. He wanted to remain in Rome and serve Paul, but Paul knew that he had an obligation to send him back to Philemon to whom he rightfully belonged. It was up to his owner, not Paul, to decide his fate. It was his right to have him put to death, but Paul pleaded with Philemon on his behalf, to treat him with mercy, especially since he had become a faithful and dear brother.

Without hesitation, Paul put Tychicus and Onesimus on the same level. After all, had he not previously stated that there was no difference between slave and free in God’s kingdom? Social status no longer applied because people of every colour and culture had become brothers and one in Christ. Onesimus was the acid test and Paul accepted him as one of God’s people because he had also become a new person in Christ.

Paul would not allow the churches to forget him simply because he was shut up in prison. Through those who came and went, he kept contact with the family of God so that they would not forget to pray for him. Apostle though he was, he was not above the need for prayer. Through the love and prayers of his fellow believers all over the Roman Empire, he would not succumb to the pressures of persecution and torture and deny his faith in Christ or his hope in the gospel.

Paul was not only a believer in his own right. He was also aware of his responsibility to model Jesus to those who looked up to him as an example. He needed God’s grace in his human weakness as much as everyone else did. He was not above admitting his need and asking for prayer for himself and his ministry. It was important to him to keep his fellow believers informed about his circumstances and even his anxieties and fears so that they would know how to intercede for him.

How important it is for us to pray for our spiritual leaders too! They are not above temptation, and have to face pressures that the man in the pew will never experience. Criticism and judgment come easily to those who do not walk in their shoes. How do they react to those who are never satisfied with what their spiritual leaders do and how they perform, and tell the world about their gripes? They must answer to the Lord, not to their critics.

Paul’s counsel to us is to pray for them. Every pastor needs prayer far more than he needs public condemnation. They are ‘dear brothers’ just like Onesimus, the runaway slave.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

PRAY FOR US

PRAY FOR US

Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 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. 4:1-4).

Paul completed his prescription for household harmony with a word to masters – be the kind of master your Master is to you. Always remember to whom you are accountable and how He treats you.

The point of Paul’s instructions is – at whatever level you exercise power and authority over others, do it with the same attitude as Jesus has towards you. Treat everyone with dignity and respect, be it your husband, wife, child, servant or master. This rule of thumb is absolutely vital for interpersonal relationships at every level of society. What a difference it would make to our world if this basic rule were followed! It’s up to us as followers of Jesus to set the standard wherever we are.

Paul’s next instruction was equally vital in his world gone crazy just as it is in ours. Stay in touch with your heavenly Father because you are surrounded and bombarded non-stop with stresses and tests. Jesus stated categorically, on the eve of His departure, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing.’ Keeping in close contact with our Father will enable us to draw from His wisdom and strength as we navigate a world system that is anti-God and self-sufficient.

In the busyness and pressures of our everyday lives it is easy to forget that we have a Father to whom we are accountable for the daily choices and decisions we make and their consequences, whether we like them or not. We live in a world system that is based on selfishness and greed. It’s everyone for himself in a dog-eat-dog society.

How can we guard against being a part of the way the world lives? Paul’s prescription: Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Devote – bend all your energies towards . . . Prayer is not to be a hurried, five-minute, conscience-appeasing, ‘Good morning, God. Please look after me and my family today, and meet all our needs’ kind of greeting.

What is prayer? Prayer is the intercourse of a son with his Father, recognising, valuing and appreciating who the Father is, and opening the heart to His presence, His authority and His will. It is the awareness that wherever I am and whatever I do, He is always there, always good and always in charge – and I am accountable to Him for every word and action.

Prayer is also the expression of dependence on the Father as my life source. Everything I am and have comes from Him and is for Him. I cannot even draw a breath without Him. Prayer is allowing Him to live His life though me, fuelling and fulfilling my desires as His desires become mine.

What was Paul’s desire? To proclaim the mystery of Christ clearly wherever he was able to go. What was God’s desire for him? To do exactly as he desired. Prayer’s highest purpose is to become one with the Father so that His will becomes ours and His will is done on earth through us as it is done in heaven.

It did not matter to Paul whether he was free to move about anywhere in the Roman Empire or incarcerated in jail. As long as there were people around him with whom to share the message of Christ, his desire was to speak it freely and with clarity so that his hearers would understand and believe. God knew his desire but it was necessary for Paul to express it to Him. In that way, his heart was bonded to the heart of the Father.

God knows your desires too but, to share your heart with Him strengthens your union with Him. Out of that union comes the power to fulfil your desires and bring glory to Him as His kingdom overrides the ungodly kingdoms of this world wherever His people are.

The atmosphere of prayer is always: awareness that I am vulnerable because I still have my old nature lurking inside and awaiting every opportunity to trip me up; and thankful because I have a Saviour who rescues me from my destructive self-will, the Holy Spirit who energised me to walk in God’s ways; and a heavenly Father who passionately loves me as His child and provides everything I need to live a godly life.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

HARMONY IN THE HOUSEHOLD

HARMONY IN THE HOUSEHOLD

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord (Col. 3: 18-22).

‘As members of one body you were called to peace.’ This was Paul’s conviction about life in the body of Christ. Peace is only achieved when each individual submits to a collective will and is more concerned for the well-being of the others than for himself.

Likewise, in the family, harmony can only come about in the atmosphere of mutual submission. However, someone has to initiate the harmony that should characterise a household that represents the body of Christ. In Paul’s book, the person to initiate the harmony is the one in charge – the husband and father of the family.

Why must wives submit to their husbands? Is he the boss? Does he have the right to call the shots and expect everyone to jump? Not according to Paul. He expanded on his prescription for a harmonious household in his letter to the Ephesian church. The pivot around which everything turns is the husband’s love for his wife. He is to love his wife as Jesus loved the church.

Of course, that does not mean that Jesus sat in an arm chair and ordered His followers around. Quite the contrary! He loved His ‘bride’ enough to give His life for her. Jesus modelled a servant heart during His earthly life. This was His take:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark10: 45).

It is far easier to submit to someone who has a servant heart than a person who lords it over others. A true husband and father is one who serves his family rather than one who rules with an iron fist.

How difficult is it for a wife to submit to a husband who loves her and shows his love by taking care of her needs? This is the essence of true love – meeting the needs of others at one’s own expense. Love is the oil that keeps the household functioning smoothly. If selfishness rules rather than love, the atmosphere will quickly become toxic as each one strives to get his own way.

What about children? Obedience is God’s first and only requirement for children in a family. Once again, however, God does not demand blind obedience because that would contribute nothing towards creating a family unit. Fathers must initiate the environment in which it is easy for children to obey their parents. Commands that reflect a father’s capricious demands produce rebellion, not compliance and fracture that love that holds the family together.

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4

How do slaves (or servants) fit into the household? Are they part of it or are they just cogs in a machine? What part do they play in the life of a family? In this family, which Paul sees as representing a Christ-controlled family, the servants play an important part. They are as much a part of serving one another as the husband, wife and children are, but even more so. Their serving is not voluntary but obligatory. What counts is why they do it and the way they do it.

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 paid for their wrongs, and there is no favouritism (Col. 3: 23-25).

How sad that believers are often no better than unbelievers in the world of work and business! What a witness for Jesus when they do their work as unto the Lord and with a heart of true worship!

Unity, in the end, is about submitting ourselves to one another and serving one another out of reverence for Christ, whether it be in the church, in the home or in the workplace. This is the only way in which society will ever really work.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

A SAFE PASSAGE THROUGH THIS YEAR

A SAFE PASSAGE THROUGH THIS YEAR

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Col. 3: 15-17).

Another year is on its way. However, yesterday was no different from today, and today will be no different from to tomorrow. Each day stands as a unit and a clean page yet to be written, but it will become what we make of it. What appears on each page will remain, indelibly written in our book of life. Will we write a story of peace and harmony or will we blot and stain the pages of our book with words, deeds and attitudes of which we will be ashamed when our book is opened?

In this beautiful chapter of Colossians, Paul shows us how to write a personal and family history of which we will be proud if we all, as God’s children, write an interconnected story of love and peace.

Step 1: Your old self has gone. Live as though it no longer exists. Leave your baggage at the cross where Jesus destroyed it once and for all.

Step 2: Put on your new self like dressing in brand new clothes. Act like a son of God and you will be one – a true reflection of your Father.

Step 3: Listen to the referee. He is in charge of your game of life. His peace in your heart will guide and confirm your moment-by-moment choices. As long as His peace rules, keep on going. When He blows the whistle, you have overstepped the boundary. Go back and check where you erred. Put it right immediately and get on with the game.

God’s peace is a powerful force in your life, given to you at the moment when you believed that Jesus Christ is Lord, and turned your live over to Him. His peace stands on two legs which give you balance and security as you walk through life.

  1. We have peace with God. Jesus’s death and resurrection made it possible for us to be reconciled to the Father. We are no longer enemies. He has forgiven our sin and removed the barrier of guilt and shame that made us afraid of Him and of punishment. We have been justified – declared ‘Not guilty’ and our record book wiped clean of all debt.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand (Romans 5: 1-2).

  1. We have the peace of God. His peace guards us from worry, doubt and fear if we play open cards with Him. Life is full of uncertainties. There is no guarantee that we will emerge unscathed from the troubles that infect this world. God did not promise us a trouble-free life but He did promise that good will come out of every adversity if we trust His love.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29

Instead of harbouring our anxieties and fears, let’s be honest. Let’s confess them to Him and in exchange, He will guard our hearts and minds with His peace.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7).

Step 4: Fill your mind with His word. Let His word guide your thoughts and attitudes instead of the anxieties and fears that will intrude if you let them. Be encouraging and positive towards your family in Christ. Build them up; don’t tear them down.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly …

Step 5: Be thankful and keep on being thankful; all day, every day, all the time, in every circumstance, just keep being a grateful person.

“….Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Step 6: Do everything for and with Jesus, no matter how big or small. Get out of bed in the morning for Jesus. Go to work for Jesus. Do your work for Jesus. Live in your home for Jesus. Love you family for Jesus.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

What a simple prescription for a prosperous and successful life!

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

CHOSEN, HOLY, AND DEARLY LOVED

CHOSEN, HOLY, AND DEARLY LOVED

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Col. 3:12-14).

Imagine wearing an identity like that – chosen, holy and dearly loved! Who, me? Yes, you. You were once . . . but now you are . . . That’s how Paul described the erstwhile idolatrous, promiscuous and sin-loving Colossians. That’s how he describes everyone who has been rescued from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God.

You have been delivered from the clutches of the one who insisted that you belong to him and that you could only live under his control. You are now free to become who you are, God’s chosen, holy and dearly loved son or daughter. Oh! how we need to get hold of this truth; think it, believe it and live it until it infiltrates every fibre of our beings so that we become who we are!

Close your eyes for a moment and think about Jesus. He perfectly matched Paul’s description of a child of God. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiving, loving – don’t these qualities all fit Him perfectly? How amazing that you are now free to become just like Him! He was the perfect model of a true son and He made it possible for us to become just like Him, true children of God.

Why is it so important that we clothe ourselves with these virtues? What difference does it make whether or not we live holy and pure lives in this world now? Are we not destined to be changed into the likeness of Jesus when He comes or calls us home?

Yes, we are, but there are several good reasons for us to change our ways from self-centred living to becoming like Jesus now.

  1. Jesus rescued us from a life of selfishness. We are no longer citizens of this world system which is based on getting everything we can for ourselves. What drives the world? Money!
  1. Living for ourselves alone leads to death and hell right now and not only in the hereafter. We cannot have fellowship with God and live greedy, self-centred lives now. The two are incompatible. When we live only to take care of ourselves, we are dead. We create hell through the selfishness that drives people apart.

3. God’s children have been given His nature – God is love and God is light. God’s                       children resemble Him, not the devil who is responsible for the chaos in the                           world.

Through these (His own glory and goodness – verse 3) He has given us His very great and precious promises so that, through them, you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world cause by evil desires. 2 Peter 1:4

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control perseverance; and to perseverance godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .(2 Peter 1:5-6)

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:10)

How do we ‘clothe’ ourselves with these virtues? We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. By replacing our ways of thinking with the thoughts of God, we change our beliefs and our behaviour. Do you believe that you are chosen by God and holy and beloved? Then remind yourself of this truth until you become who you are.

By becoming who we are, we will fulfil God’s highest purpose for His human family, to become one as God is one so that we perfectly resemble Jesus, His perfect Son who, through His life and death, revealed His oneness with the Father.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.