OCTOBER 4

Look What He’s Done!

Bible Reading: Philippians 1:1-6

Philippians 1:1-3, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart.”

Jesus Christ changes lives.  For those who trust in Him for salvation, He works a dramatic change.  Not only are they forgiven, but He also works to transform them in an amazing way.  He alone has the power to do that.

We’ve seen some of this in Acts chapter 16 as we considered what happened when the gospel first came to Philippi.  Philippi was in Macedonia (modern day Greece).  It was a Roman colony.  It lay on a main highway leading from east to west.  The people of that day were pagan worshippers, devoted to the false gods of nature whom they believed could do to them either good or bad.  They were also worshippers of Caesar.  They were people in darkness without God and without hope in the world.

Paul was on his 2nd missionary journey.  He and his team traveled hundreds of miles sharing the gospel.  He was joined by Silas, Timothy, and Luke.  Their original intent was to go to Asia, but the Holy Spirit said no to Asia.  They intended them to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them.  Then Paul had a vision.  A “Man of Macedonia” was pleading for their help, so they headed that way.  Upon arrival, they visited a place of prayer.  A God-fearing Gentile by the name of Lydia was there.  The Lord opened her heart to respond to the gospel.  She and her household were saved.  They went on preaching the gospel.  A demon-possessed slave-girl fortune-teller was working to distract Paul in his preaching.  So, the Lord delivered that girl of her demon, and she was saved.  That caused quite a stir as her masters were then upset that they lost their source of profit.  They drug Paul and Silas to the magistrates.  Paul and Silas were arrested and beaten and imprisoned.  But then God caused an earthquake that worked to set everyone free.  The jailer, facing the penalty of execution for losing his prisoners, was about to kill himself.  But Paul intervened.  The jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?”  And Paul told him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved.”  And he and his household all believed.

And this was the group with which God began the work in Philippi—a businesswoman and her household; a former slave-girl fortune-teller, and a jailer and his household.  Ordinary people like you and me.  We read in Acts 16:40 of how they all met in Lydia’s house. 

Fast-forward a decade or so.  Paul had subsequently finished that 2nd missionary journey and made another.  Along the way, he had visited the church in Philippi a couple of times.  At the time of the writing of this epistle, he was in prison.  Just like on that first visit.  Only this time he’s in Rome.  And his imprisonment is for 2 years.

And he writes to the church in Philippi.  In these first two verses, we have his greeting to the church.  Several persons or groups are mentioned: Paul, Timothy, the saints in Philippi, the overseers, and the deacons.  But the most important person mentioned is Jesus Christ.  He is referred to three times in these two verses.  In fact, Jesus Christ is referred to by name (in various ways) 51 times in the 104 verses of this epistle.   We have in this short little epistle one of the most Christ-centered of all the books of the Bible.  The entire Bible is, of course, about Jesus.  But here it’s as if Paul can’t say or write anything without referring to His Lord and Savior.  And he does so in a very personal way.

So, what do we find in this greeting?  Jesus Christ changes lives.  He took a former Christian persecutor, the Apostle Paul, and turned him around and made him to be an exemplary servant of Himself.  And Oh My, what a servant!  It is doubtful that anyone has ever had a greater influence for good in this world, besides Christ Himself, than that man.  How did it happen?  Jesus did it.

He took a group of sinners and made saints, literally “holy ones,” out of them.  He set them on a heavenly course to a place where there will be no more sin.  How did it happen?  Jesus did that.

He took an infant church, populated by a businesswoman, a former slave-girl fortuneteller, and a jailer and his household, and grew that church up so that it possessed a Biblical leadership and some degree of maturity.  How did it happen?  Jesus Christ did that.  Jesus Christ changes lives.  Do you know Him?  Have you trusted in Him for salvation? “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).”

SINCE JESUS CAME INTO MY HEART

What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
Since Jesus came into my heart!
I have light in my soul for which long I have sought,
Since Jesus came into my heart!

Refrain:
Since Jesus came into my heart,
Since Jesus came into my heart,
Floods of joy o’er my soul like the sea billows roll,
Since Jesus came into my heart.

OCTOBER 3

Worship in a Jail Cell

Bible Reading: Acts 16:16-34

Acts 16:30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved?”

It was his job.  The authorities would bring to him the criminals, he would lock them up.  He had dealt with many prisoners over the course of his career, but never before any quite like Paul and Silas.  Their crime?  They had upset the local economy when they exorcised a demon from a fortune teller.  Her masters had profited much from her fortune telling.  When they saw that their hope of profit-making from her fortune-telling was gone, they dragged Paul and Silas into the marketplace and to the chief magistrates.  Their indictment against them?  “They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice” (Acts 16:21).  The magistrates ordered them to be beaten and thrown into jail.

The jailer threw them into the “inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:24).  It was undoubtedly a cold, dark, and inhospitable place.  They had, in that setting, no earthly reason to rejoice, but that is exactly what they did.  “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25).  Their feet might have been tethered, but their hearts had long ago been set free to worship.  The jailer had never witnessed anything like that before.  Paul and Silas were men of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, and utterly devoted to the task of sharing the gospel.  “The prisoners were listening to them” as they sang (Acts 16:25).  Paul and Silas had an attentive audience.  People are attentive to our response to difficult circumstances.  We are sometimes prone to grumble, but the Fount of Blessing can tune our hearts to sing His grace.  Praise amidst problems bears an alluring melody. 

God wanted Paul and Silas freed, so He caused a great earthquake.  The earthquake shook the foundations of the jailhouse, the prison doors were opened, and their chains were unfastened.  They were set free.  The jailer was roused out of his sleep.  Supposing his prisoners to be gone, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself.  The penalty for losing one’s prisoners was quite severe (Acts 12:19).  Paul realized what was happening and intervened.  He cried out with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here” (Acts 16:28).  The jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas (Acts 16:29).  “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” he asked (Acts 16:30).  It is important at this point to remember what has just transpired.  The jailer had locked them up.  He had fastened their feet with stocks.  He was trembling with fear—what would the authorities do to him?  What might these men do to him?  He had treated them harshly – as prisoners.  He feared retribution.  Had they been common prisoners, he might have had reason to fear.  But they were no ordinary prisoners—they cared more for their message than they did for themselves.   They said to the Jailer, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household’” (Acts 16:31).  And he believed, along with his whole household (Acts 16:33).

Paul and Silas had come to Philippi to proclaim the truth about Jesus.  Their efforts bore fruit in the salvation of Lydia and the fortune-teller.  Then God shook the jailhouse and left standing was the beginnings of a church.  The gospel had come to Philippi in dramatic fashion.  And the city would no longer be left without the light of the gospel shining in its darkness.  How diverse the makings of the newly birthed church: a businesswoman and her household, a slave-girl fortune-teller, and the jailer and his household!  Whether or not they had been previously acquainted, they were henceforth Spirit borne into a common union with Christ and a common bond in the Spirit.  God would add to their number.  And ten years later Paul would send them a letter—the book of Philippians.

HE LIFTED ME

In loving kindness Jesus came
My soul in mercy to reclaim,
And from the depths of sin and shame
Through grace He lifted me.

Refrain:
From sinking sand He lifted me,
With tender hand He lifted me,
From shades of night to plains of light,
O praise His name, He lifted me!

He called me long before I heard,
Before my sinful heart was stirred,
But when I took Him at His word,
Forgiven He lifted me. [Refrain]

OCTOBER 2

A Place of Prayer

Bible Reading: Acts 16:12-15

Acts 16:12-14, “…and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days.  And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.  One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”

I recall on one occasion how Pastor Bob Emrich and I were especially blessed by the testimony of a pastor who approached us after one of our Bible conferences in Uganda.  He profusely thanked us for the Bible teaching, and then described how he and his friends had prayed for a long time for God to send them some help, for they severely lacked Bible training.  He then explained how they had long prayed that way until the day came when God answered by sending us across the ocean and over the hills to come to them.  He was so very thankful to God for having sent us!

We read of a similar occurrence in our passage.  Some ladies were gathered at a place of prayer by the riverside.  They did not know Jesus, as the gospel hadn’t even come yet to their region.  But we are told that one of their number was a “worshiper of God.”  They were praying, yet unaware that God had already been at work in answering their prayers by sending the Apostle Paul their way.  One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 3:20, which says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.”  Say a prayer.  Think a thought.  God is able to do more, even far more, even far more abundantly than we ask.  And such was their situation.  No matter how lofty their prayers, they could not have expected an answer which would unveil to them the very “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8)!  Nor could they have imagined how the seed of their prayers would be used by God to birth a church in Philippi.  Paul shared the gospel.  The Lord opened Lydia’s heart and she responded!  And in that way, God worked to birth a church in Philippi.

Jesus said, “I will build My church.” And here we read about one part of that work that He has been doing since the beginning.  These Spirit-led and empowered men were providentially led by God to go to this place and bear witness of Christ in preaching the gospel. The church is Philippi came into being by God’s doing, and was no doubt henceforth instructed and reminded one another of that, recalling with praise and thanksgiving to God for what He had done: “Remember how God led the Apostle Paul to come to us; Remember how he found Lydia at the place of prayer; Remember how she and the others responded to the gospel?” 

And note what happened in Lydia’s case.  Luke is the inspired author.  Note how he wrote about what happened.  Why and how did Lydia respond to the gospel?  She responded because the Lord opened her heart.  No mention is made of Paul’s charisma or outstanding personality or persuasion.  The attention is not drawn to any theatrics of Paul or any of his team—here’s the explanation given for Lydia’s response — “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was being said by Paul.”  And in that way, she was saved and a church was born in Philippi.  And it is no different today than it was back then so many years ago.  All the glory goes to God in the birth of a church or the salvation of a soul!

OPEN MY EYES, THAT I MAY SEE

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free
Silently now I wait for thee
Ready, my God, thy will to see
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

OCTOBER 1

Change of Plans

Bible Reading: Acts 16:6-10

Acts 16:6-10, “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

Paul and Silas were sent out on a second missionary journey.  They were joined by Luke (the author of the book of Acts) and Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). They went from city to city, preaching the gospel. Now these four men had the Holy Spirit for their guide on their journey.  He was leading the way. 

Acts 16:6. “They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.”  The Holy Spirit closed a door to them.  We are not told exactly how the matter was disclosed to them—a prophetic word, an inner prompting, or circumstances—but there was no doubt as to what the Holy Spirit was saying.

Acts 16:7. “And when they had come to Mysia, they were trying to go to Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.”  Mysia is on the western shore of modern-day Turkey.  They wanted to go to the NE to Bithynia, a highly civilized region.  A logical place for them to go.  But the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them to go there either.  So, no Asia and no Bithynia.  And note that Paul and his companions are listening and responding to the Holy Spirit’s leading. 

Acts 16:8-10.  “And passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God has called us to preach the gospel to them.”

Now what are we to make of this?  God closed two doors to them.  But then Paul was given a vision which opened another door.  Now God is the ultimate cause of the vision.  And the man is speaking according to God’s leading. This is the matter of which the hymn speaks when it says, “We have heard the Macedonian call today, ‘Send the light!  Send the light!’ There are souls to rescue, there are souls to save. Send the light! Send the light!”

When Paul and his companions cross the sea to what is now Greece, they were entering another continent.  The church in Philippi became the first church began in what is modern day Europe.  That wasn’t Paul’s original plan, but that was God’s plan.  He was providentially leading them there.  And when they set their course in God’s direction, they made excellent time, for God sped them along (Acts 20:6).

What are we to make of this?  The church in Philippi came into being by God’s providence in a remarkable way.  God closed some doors to Paul.  Then the vision.  The birth of the church in Philippi didn’t happen by accident or coincidence or any plan of man.  It was God’s idea.  He led Paul and his companions to go there.  To that specific place.  And later, as the church grew and was established, they could remind themselves of how God had worked to bring the gospel to their city. 

There is something else here of great importance.  Paul and his companions were being led by the Spirit.  They were listening to the Spirit.  They were submitted to the Spirit.  The Spirit is out in front, where He belongs.  Now, this is the same terminology that applies to us with respect to the working of the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:16).  The Spirit is still at work.  We, as a church, need to be led by the Spirit in our ministry.  You, as a believer, need to be led by the Spirit in your Christian life.  But you say, no prophet is speaking and I’m not receiving any visions like Paul.  But you are indwelt by the Spirit and the Spirit is well able to speak to your heart (Philippians 2:13, Romans 8:27; Ephesians 5:18).  Are you now in a place in your walk by the Spirit that the Spirit can work to lead you as you journey along? 

A farmer in a barn was moving some hay when his watch slid off and fell into the pile.  After looking around for quite a while without success, so he hired the neighbor boys to sift through the pile.  They spent a couple of hours looking with no success, until another friend happened along, saying, “I’ll find your watch straight away if only you do as I say.  Clear out the barn of yourselves and every animal. Leave me alone here by myself.  And so they did.  And as the barn grew quiet and still, the faint Tick-Tock of the watch could be finally heard.  And then the watch was heard and found.  If we are to hear what the Spirit has to say to us, we are going to have to shut out some of the distractive noises that busy our lives and hearing, and listen carefully to what He is saying to us through the Word.

SEND THE LIGHT

There’s a call comes ringing o’er the restless wave, “Send the light! Send the light”
There are souls to rescue, there are souls to save,
Send the light!
Send the light!

Chorus:
Send the light, the blessed gospel light;
Let it shine from shore to shore!
Send the light the blessed gospel light;
Let it shine forevermore!

We have heard the Macedonian call today,”Send the light! Send the light!”
And a golden off’ring at the cross we lay,
Send the light!
Send the light! [Chorus]

Let us pray that grace may ev’rywhere abound, “Send the light! Send the light!”
And a Christ-like spirit ev’rywhere be found,
Send the light!
Send the light! [Chorus]

Let us not grow weary in the work of love, “Send the light! Send the light!”
Let us gather jewels for a crown above,
Send the light!
Send the light! [Chorus]

OCTOBER BIBLE READING PLAN

Through the Book of Philippians

DATETHEMEBIBLE READING
1Change of PlansActs 16:6-11
2The Gospel Comes to PhilippiActs 16:12-15
3A Jailhouse ConversionActs 16:16-34
4Jesus Changes LivesPhilippians 1:1-6
5Spectators of Participants?Philippians 1:1-6
6God Finishes What He StartsPhilippians 1:1-6
7Prayer MattersPhilippians 1:7-18
8The Good in the BadPhilippians 1:7-18
9Life or Death?Philippians 1:19-30
10Common CausePhilippians 1:19-30
11Bound Together in ChristPhilippians 2:1-8
12Christ-Like ConsiderationPhilippians 2:1-8
13The Selfless Love of the SaviorPhilippians 2:1-8
14Name Above All NamesPhilippians 2:9-16
15Your Work and God’sPhilippians 2:9-16
16Grumbling or Grateful?Philippians 2:9-16
17Lights in the DarknessPhilippians 2:9-16
18Exemplary ServantsPhilippians 2:17-30
19The Divine Worship LeaderPhilippians 3:1-3
20No Confidence in the FleshPhilippians 3:1-3
21Rubbish vs. TreasurePhilippians 3:4-11
22The Number One ThingPhilippians 3:4-11
23Your Place in the RacePhilippians 3:12-21
24Walk this WayPhilippians 3:12-21
25Your Heavenly CitizenshipPhilippians 3:12-21
26Harmonious HumansPhilippians 4:1-9
27Worry vs. WorshipPhilippians 4:1-9
28Some Things to Think AboutPhilippians 4:1-9
29True ContentmentPhilippians 4:10-23
30Commendable GivingPhilippians 4:10-23
31The God who GivesPhilippians 4:10-23

SEPTEMBER 30

Remember My Chains

Bible Reading: Colossians 4:7-18

Colossians 4:18, “Remember my chains.”

The Puritan, John Bunyan, was locked up in prison by the Church of England for preaching the gospel. He used the time to study and write and said: “I never knew all there was in the Bible until I spent those years in jail.” During his imprisonment, he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress, a bestselling fictional allegory of the Christian life. His book has encouraged countless souls, having sold some 250 million copies!

Paul likewise wrote this and other epistles from prison.  His imprisonment was the direct result of his preaching the gospel of grace.  He faced countless trials, seemingly everywhere he went.  Most often it was religious Jews and Judaizers who sought his demise.  All he needed to do to avoid trouble and imprisonment was stop preaching the gospel of grace.  But that’s not something he was willing to do.  He had previously spoken to the Colossians of such matters (Colossians 1:24-25). 

His willingness to endure such suffering spoke to His love for Jesus.  Nothing mattered more to him than Jesus (Philippians 3:7-8).  As far as he was concerned, sharing the gospel was akin to bringing unsearchable riches of Jesus to those he served (Ephesians 3:8).  The love of Jesus compelled him to go to all those places, and in love for Jesus, he faithfully carried out his ministry.

He wrote the so-called “prison epistles” as he was chained to a Roman guard.  And he wanted the believers in Colossae to know that.  Not that he might gain sympathy, but they would know of the tremendous worth of Jesus and the gospel message he was proclaiming.  And so that they would pray for him.  Even as we are likewise commanded to “remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).

Henry Alford has also noted that “these words extend further than to mere pecuniary support, or even mere prayers: they were ever to keep before them the fact that one who so deeply cared for them, and loved them, and to whom their perils of false doctrine occasioned such anxiety, was a prisoner in chains: and that remembrance was to work and produce its various fruits—of prayer for him, of affectionate remembrance of his wants, of deep regard for his words.”

One other thing should come to mind as we remember Paul’s chains.  Though Paul was imprisoned, the Word of God cannot be (2 Timothy 2:9).  History is filled with examples of this truism.

Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). For two thousand years, Jesus has been building His church and the gospel message has rounded the world. Wherever it’s gone, it has been met with great opposition. So, it is to this very day. But just as the tomb could not contain Jesus, so it is impossible to lock up the Word. It is as the church father Tertullian once said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

It is as Charles Colson has said: “The Bible—banned, burned, beloved. More widely read, more frequently attacked than any other book in history. Generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it; dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it. Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing it more powerful than their weapons. Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints.”

HOLY BIBLE, BOOK DIVINE

Holy Bible, Book divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine;
Mine to tell me whence I came;
Mine to teach me what I am.

Mine to chide me when I rove;
Mine to show a Savior’s love;
Mine thou art to guide and guard;
Mine to punish or reward.

Mine to comfort in distress;
Suffering in this wilderness;
Mine to show, by living faith,
Man can triumph over death.

Mine to tell of joys to come,
And the rebel sinner’s doom;
O thou holy Book divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine.

SEPTEMBER 29

Common Cause

Bible Reading: Colossians 4:7-18

“But we in it shall be remembered; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” Shakespeare’s Henry V

In the hallway above where I’m now writing hangs a quilt that was a gift to Laura and me on our first-year anniversary of pastoring at Lewis and Clark Bible Church.  Each square of the quilt bears the names of a family that attended the time.  Though some have departed to be with Jesus, I’ve fond memories of them all.  Though diverse in age and backgrounds, God worked to knit us all together in love.  We shared a common relationship with Jesus, a common indwelling of the Spirit, and a common cause in knowing Jesus and making Him known.  Each person was uniquely gifted to serve in their own particular way in the building up of the body.  Paul wrote as one of a band of brothers, for he realized that we believers are all part of a work that is bigger than any one of us.  A work that demands of us we be of “one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).

His band of brothers included Tychicus, the trusted postman, who was a companion of Paul for over 10 years.  Paul entrusted him with the task of making important deliveries (Acts 20:3, 24:17; Colossians 4:7-8; Ephesians 6:21).  His faithfulness in delivering the parchments earned him a forever mention in the book to which they were destined.   

Onesimus was the slave set free though the gospel to serve Jesus.  He was a native of Colossae and trusted in Jesus through the ministry of Paul (Philemon 10).  He proved himself useful to Paul, but Paul sent him back to Philemon and encouraged him to receive Onesimus not as a slave, but as a brother.  According to church tradition, Onesimus ultimately suffered martyrdom under Domitian.

Aristarchus, a native of Thessalonica (Acts 27:2), was together with Paul as a fellow prisoner.  In fact, he accompanied Paul through much ministry.  He was with him on his 3rd missionary journey, and on the voyage to Rome (Acts 19:29, 20:4, 27:2).  According to church tradition, he suffered martyrdom at the hands of Nero.

Mark was son of a Mary of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) and a cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10).  He wrote the gospel of Mark.  Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on the 1st missionary journey (Acts 12:25, 13:4), but deserted them (Acts 13:13).  As a result, Paul later refused to take Mark along on the 2nd missionary journey (Acts 15:36-39). Though he had previously deserted Paul, he was there with Paul in his 1st Roman imprisonment (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24), for he had proved himself useful to Paul (2 Timothy 4:11).  According to church tradition, he was sent by Peter on a mission to Egypt and later suffered martyrdom at the hands of Nero.  He had failed Jesus once, but later proved himself useful and served well and was even privileged to write his gospel account.

Jesus called Justus is not otherwise spoken of in the New Testament.  He was a Jewish believer, together with Aristarchus and Mark, reminding us that although most of Paul’s brethren (his fellow Jews; Romans 10:1) were antagonistic to him and his cause, there were these who joined with Paul—despite the cost—and brought much encouragement to him.

Epaphras was the hometown hero.  Having been saved through Paul’s ministry, he returned home and shared the gospel in his hometown (Colossians 1:7).  Paul had strong words of commendation for Epaphras, for he was a man who labored in prayer and had a deep concern for the church.  According to church tradition, he suffered martyrdom in Colossae.

Luke, the beloved physician, was the writer of the 3rd gospel.  He joined with Paul at Troas and sailed with him to Macedonia (Acts 16:10-11; AD 50).  He also accompanied Paul on his trip to Jerusalem (Acts 20:6-21:18) and the trip to Rome (Acts 27:1).  Luke remained faithful amongst the defection of others in Paul’s 2ndRoman imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:11).  Church tradition holds that he died as a martyr, but it is not known where.

Something is said of every other companion of Paul, but nothing else is said here about Demas—no commendation, no recommendation to the church, no mention of his character or efforts.  The book of Colossians was written in AD 62.  The book of second Timothy was written during Paul’s 2nd imprisonment (Fall AD 67).  Sometime between the writing of the two books, Demas deserted Paul (2 Timothy 4:10).  He reminds us of the danger associated with love for this world and need to guard our hearts (1 John 2:15-17; 2 Timothy 1:14).

They were a diverse group, a band of brothers, sold out to the cause of making the gospel known.  And they suffered, and even died, for that cause.  They suffered and died, and through their sacrifice, the gospel message spread.  And spread.  Until one day it came to you.  That you might be enjoined to your own band of brothers and sisters, who are likewise bound together to a common cause.

GOD OF GRACE AND GOD OF GLORY

God of grace and God of glory,
on your people pour your pow’r;
crown your ancient Church’s story,
bring its bud to glorious flow’r.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour.

Lo, the hosts of evil round us
scorn the Christ, assail his ways.
From the fears that long have bound us
free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
for the living of these days,
for the living of these days.

Cure your children’s warring madness;
bend our pride to your control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal,
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal.

Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore;
let the gift of your salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
serving you whom we adore,
serving you whom we adore.

SEPTEMBER 28

Witnessing God’s Way

Bible Reading: Colossians 4:2-6

Colossians 4:5-6, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

C. T. Studd, “Some wish to live within the sound of Church or Chapel bell; I want to run a Rescue Shop within a yard of hell.”

One thing of note in our passage is the interrelationship between making the best use of our time and how important we make use of that time in our witnessing efforts.  We are to measure our walk (how we live) and talk (what we say) before those outside of the faith, in terms of the opportunity provided to us make Jesus known.  In view of the brevity of our lives here on earth, and the eternal destiny (heaven or hell) that awaits every soul, we must value every opportunity and seek to make the best use of it. 

In fact, there are lots of reasons for us to be motivated to witness well for Jesus.  It’s only natural that we’d want to pass on to others what we ourselves have experienced in being saved from our sins.  Paul spoke of the gospel as “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11).  To proclaim such a truth about God and His gracious work is an act of worship.  Jesus is coming soon.  Judgement awaits those without Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).  It is our duty and privilege to work to rescue the perishing. 

Of all the things that we can spend time on, giving attention to our witnessing efforts is a matter of preeminent importance.  That requires of us, of course, that we be in the Word (Colossians 3:16), and that we be devoted to prayer (Colossians 4:2).  But it is important to keep in mind that time spent in the word and prayer are not a goal unto themselves. The goal of each is to instruct and equip us that we might know Jesus better and make Him known. 

It is as Wayne Barber has said, “Making the most of the time means to redeem the time. To redeem the time means to purchase it. That is one thing that we all have in common. Every one of us has exactly the same amount of time. You’ve got 24 hours, and what you do with it is your business. You’ve got to make choices…Life is filled with one choice after another choice after another choice…Now to be the right choice, it has to be a choice that honors Christ and what His Word has to say. That is the way I purchase time. I have only got one time around, and I must learn to make proper choices. How many choices did you make yesterday?”

In 1878, a visiting preacher asked C. T. Studd, a well-known cricket player, if he was a Christian. When Studd knelt in prayer and thanked God for saving him, peace and joy flooded his soul.  Unfortunately, he did not share his faith with others, and for six years grew spiritually cold in his love for the world.  But then, Studd went to hear Dwight L. Moody speak. His love for Jesus was kindled afresh and immediately he began to tell others about Jesus.  He would later say that he had tasted of the pleasures of the world, but that nothing gave to him so much pleasure as bring his first soul to trust in Jesus.

Two years later, C. T. Studd sailed for China to join Hudson Taylor as a missionary. He dressed like a Chinese, ate Chinese food, and learned the Chinese language. While in China, he turned twenty-five. Under his father’s will, that is when he would inherit a large sum of money. Reading the Bible and praying, he felt convinced he should give his fortune away to show the world that he relied not on money but on a living God. The Lord, he was sure, would bless him a hundred-fold in non-monetary ways and provide him sufficient money to live on. “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him,” he argued.

C. T. Studd served as a missionary in China and India and Africa.  He was zealous in his witnessing efforts until he died.  Some criticized him for being too zealous.  His response?  “How could I spend the best years of my life in living for the honors of this world, when thousands of souls are perishing every day?”

He once wrote a poem that has since been much read.  He lived his life according to its truths.  We do well to make to follow in his example:

ONLY ONE LIFE

Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

SEPTEMBER 27

The Priority of Prayer

Bible Reading: Colossians 4:2-6

Devote 1: to dedicate by a solemn act 2 a: to give over (as to a cause, use, or end) wholly or purposefully b: to center the attention or activities of (oneself).  Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary.

God commands us, as believers, to devote ourselves to prayer.  Our lives should be characterized by purposeful persistence in prayer in all its various aspects—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication.

Prayer is to be as natural to the believer as is breathing.  It would be fair to say that every human is devoted to “air.”  And if they ceased in their ‘devotion to air’ they would not stay alive for very long.  The believer is to be devoted to prayer.  As any of us cannot survive long without air, so the believer cannot fare well spiritually apart from devotion to prayer.

Jesus was devoted to prayer.  He prayed…In the beginning, during, and at the close of His ministry (Luke 3:21, 5:16, 23:46).  He prayed after ministering all day (Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35) and through the evening (Mark 1:32-35).  He prayed all night (Luke 6:12).  He prayed amidst His own suffering (Luke 23:34). He prayed before making important decisions (Luke 6:12-13); and while amid a trial (Matthew 26:36-44).

Andrew Murray, “Oh, why is it that God’s children have so little faith in the glory of prayer, as the great power for subjecting our own wills to that of God, as well as for the confident carrying out of the work of God despite our great weakness?  Would that we might learn from our Lord Jesus how impossible it is to walk with God, to obtain God’s blessing or leading, or to do His work joyously and fruitfully, apart from close unbroken fellowship with Him who is ever a living fountain of spiritual life and power.”

The Apostle Paul was likewise devoted to prayer…Colossians 1:9, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you.”  As was Epaphras…Colossians 4:12, “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers.”  If Jesus needed to devote himself to prayer, and Paul and Epaphras too, how much more then, do we. 

Prayer is not a religious duty to be exercised out of mere obligation, but a tremendous privilege, in the activity of worship, in which we we’ve opportunity to speak to God Himself.  Inasmuch as He loves us—and we love Him—prayer is as natural to the born-again believer as breathing is to us all.  It is also essential to us, for in prayer we access the divine resources of love, grace, mercy, wisdom and peace—that we might be sustained and equipped to meet the temptations and trials we face.  In prayer we also confess our sins and give thanks to God for His gracious and abundant provision!

Andrew Murray, “This great promise (unbroken fellowship with Jesus) is now the inheritance of every believer, although so many of them know little about it.  Jesus Christ, in His divine personality, in that eternal love which led Him to the cross, longs to have fellowship with us every moment of the day, and to keep us in the enjoyment of that fellowship.  This ought to be explained to every new convert: ‘The Lord loves you so, that He would have you near Him without a break, that you may have experience of His love.’  This is what every believer must learn who has felt his powerlessness for a life of prayer, of obedience, and of holiness.  This alone will give us power as intercessors, to conquer the world, and to win souls out of it for our Lord.”

SWEET HOUR OF PRAYER

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
that calls me from a world of care,
and bids me at my Father’s throne
make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
my soul has often found relief,
and oft escaped the tempter’s snare
by thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
the joys I feel, the bliss I share
of those whose anxious spirits burn
with strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place
where God my Savior shows his face,
and gladly take my station there,
and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
thy wings shall my petition bear
to him whose truth and faithfulness
engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since he bids me seek his face,
believe his word, and trust his grace,
I’ll cast on him my every care,
and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

SEPTEMBER 26

Worship at Work

Bible Reading: Colossians 3:16-4:1

Colossians 3:22-25, “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”

Years ago, I was employed as a Training Specialist at Trojan Nuclear Plant in Rainier, Oregon.  My job was to train reactor operators, and I worked hard at it, writing lesson plans and conducting classroom training.  I didn’t hide the fact that I was a believer, in fact, I’d oftentimes spend lunchtime in my office reading my Bible.  There was one fellow amongst our staff that loved to give me a hard time about my faith in Jesus.  He was always saying something derogatory about Jesus and my faith.  You can imagine my dismay when I learned he was promoted to be my boss!  But you know what?  I just kept on doing my job to the best of my ability.  And while I may not have been privileged to see him being won to Christ, I won his trust and maybe even his friendship.

The main theme of verses 22-25 has to do with how a believer is to relate to his or her employer, though it applies to other aspects of life as well.  We sometimes tend to compartmentalize our lives, thinking that worship happens once a week and in a church building.  The fact is, worship is the 24/7 activity of the believer, in which He acknowledges God for who He is and what He has done, in what he says and what he does (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:23).  This passage speaks to what the worship of God looks like in the workplace.

Worship involves every aspect of us, and that applies to how we perform in our jobs: with our heart (“With sincerity of heart”), and our hands (“DO your work heartily”), and our heads (“KNOWING that from the Lord you will receive the reward”).  The Christian employee is not just working for an “earthly master” (Colossians 3:22), but ultimately for his “Master in heaven” (Colossians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:15).

So, we should seek to do our jobs as if we are working for the Lord Jesus Himself, because in essence, we are.  As Haddon Robinson has commented, “Your work may be tedious.  You may have an employer who doesn’t appreciate you or pay you what you’re worth.  You may want to quit.  But you are working for Christ.  Do your daily work so that your Master in heaven can one day say to you, ‘Good job.  Well done.’”

Sometimes things aren’t easy in the workplace, but it’s good then to remember that God is sovereign over the affairs of our lives.  God has worked to bring you into a job, so for as long as you are in that job you need to give it your all.  Be thankful for your job, there are others who aren’t so fortunate (Colossians 3:17).  Remember that you are serving Jesus in all that you do (Colossians 3:17).  You may have a difficult boss, but you serve a perfect Lord who knows of your struggles and your perseverance (Hebrews 4:15-16). 

Charles Spurgeon, “’Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.’ This saying ennobles the weary routine of earthly employments and sheds a halo around the most humble occupations. To wash feet may be servile, but wash his feet is royal work. To unloose the shoe is poor employ, but to unloose the master’s shoe is a princely privilege. The shop, the barn, the scullery, and the smithy become temples when men and women do all to the glory of God! Then ‘divine service’ is not a thing of a few hours and a few places, but all life becomes holiness unto the Lord, and every place and thing, as consecrated as the tabernacle and its golden candlestick.”

GIVE OF YOUR BEST TO THE MASTER

Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth;
Throw your soul’s fresh, glowing ardor
Into the battle for truth.
Jesus has set the example,
Dauntless was He, young and brave;
Give Him your loyal devotion;
Give Him the best that you have.

Refrain:
Give of your best to the Master;
Give of the strength of your youth;
Clad in salvation’s full armor,
Join in the battle for truth.

Give of your best to the Master;
Give Him first place in your heart;
Give Him first place in your service;
Consecrate every part.
Give, and to you will be given;
God His beloved Son gave;
Gratefully seeking to serve Him,
Give Him the best that you have. [Refrain]

Give of your best to the Master;
Naught else is worthy His love;
He gave Himself for your ransom,
Gave up His glory above.
Laid down His life without murmur,
You from sin’s ruin to save;
Give Him your heart’s adoration,
Give Him the best that you have. [Refrain]