Tuesday, April 30, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-04-30 [Highlights from Colossians] Closing 3: Partners

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here. Colossians4:7-9

As we look at some of the names that Paul mentions in his letters, we would do well to remember that these were real people of flesh and blood with families, histories and testimonies of God's work in their lives.

We meet two of them today:

Tychicus is mentioned as Paul's travelling companion and emissary in Acts, Ephesians, Colossians, Timothy and Titus. We don't have a lot of information about him... He came from the province of Asia, joined Paul on his final journey to Jerusalem, and Paul sent him to Ephesus, Corinth and to Titus at Crete. Paul tells us about his character: In Ephesians he describes him as "dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord" and here in Colossians he is "a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord."

Wouldn't it be great to be remembered in this way?
The Greek word translated as "dear" is probably better translated "beloved." The word of minister is the word from which we get "deacon." So Tychicus is trustworthy, loving, responsible, faithful, and servant-hearted. He is remembered more for his character than personality.

Onesimus' story is told in the letter to Philemon. He was a slave who ran away and bumped into Paul in Rome where he was converted and Paul sent him back to his master Philemon. The transformed Onesimus courageously went back to "face the music" and became a valuable part of the life of the church. Legend even has it that he became a beloved and admired bishop in the early church.

Would we be mentioned in letters today? Do those around us see us as trustworthy, reliable, beloved and ready to serve?

Not everyone can be in the limelight, most of us will play side roles and maybe get a quick mention when the credits roll, but will we be servant-hearted and faithful?

It's our choice...

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Thursday, April 25, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-04-25 [Highlights from Colossians] Closing 1 - Prayerfulness

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 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. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Colossians4:2-4

Paul's letter to the Colossians moves to a number of closing comments and we'll work through them over the next few days. One should not undervalue these "parting shots" as they give us a glimpse into what is urgent in Paul's heart. As the train is leaving the station, he's hanging out the window yelling these thoughts to the congregation on the platform.

Over the last while I have been prompted again and again about prayer. I have to admit that it is one thing to think about praying and another to _devote_ oneself to it. One translation says "continue steadfastly in prayer."

Prayer connects us to God. It makes us come face to face with Him. It brings us to a place of dependency and honesty. To continue steadfastly is a reminder that by nature we hide from God as Adam and Eve did when He called them in the garden. We have to choose to pray.

We must be watchful (awake-alert-aware) as we pray and our prayers are an opportunity to express gratitude and love to God.

Finally, Paul is convinced that their prayers will make a difference in his work as an apostle, teacher and evangelist. He asks for their prayers.

While I wish I could be more eloquent in urging you to prayer and while I wish I could claim that my own prayer life is a great example, the one thing I do know is that prayer is important.

1. Devote yourself to it
2. Be alert-awake-aware (watchful) and thankful as you pray.
3. Pray for those who preach, teach and spread the Word.

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-04-24 [Highlights from Colossians] Families transformed

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.
4:1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

We come to one of the dreaded "wives submit" passages today... :-)

Paul's desire is to see these relationships transformed by our relationship with Christ.

Within the culture of the day which was patriarchal and authoritarian, Paul writes to wives before husbands, children before parents, and slaves before masters. He begins with those who are "weaker" in terms of the politics of power of the culture of the day.

In each case, he only asks for submission (as is fitting to the Lord or as pleases the Lord.) He is not asking anyone to be a doormat, but to be willing to submit. His implication is that God is fair and just and that a person would have no problem submitting to Him. Unfortunately it is true that many people don't want to submit at all even to authority that is right and just.

He also addresses husbands, fathers and masters warning them against power abuse and reminds them that they are accountable to God.

It is hard to escape the ethical questions here: Paul seems baised toward preserving patriarchy, authoritarian parenting and slavery. He seems to be urging the "oppressed" to stay "oppressed."
It's easy to dismiss Paul as a product of his culture.
But is he?
Until we get to heaven, unbalanced power relationships are unavoidable. Not all authority is evil.
Our sinful nature makes us rebellious.
We have to be willing to submit, to bend, to be flexible.
We also have to be accountable and fair.

Paul sees it from both sides...

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-04-23 [Highlights from Colossians] Living Daily with and for Christ

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 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.

What does it look like when a person belongs to Christ and lives life for and with Him?

Paul suggests three life-traits:

1. Peacefulness: that a person who is near Christ creates peace and harmony wherever they go. They have peace within and they promote peace on the outside. What does it look like when the peace of Christ rules our hearts? It means that we push aside fear and insecurity and trust that Christ is with us in our circumstances. It means knowing that He has called us and will be with us. This will transmit peace into our environments.

2. Gratitude: Paul mentions gratitude and thankfulness three times in this section. When our lives are infused, permeated and immersed in a sense of gratitude for who we are, how we have been saved and the privilege of being alive and of serving, then others will see Christ in us. The gratitude Paul is talking about here is marked by singing. That we sing songs of praise as we live and work because for we realise that our lives are privilege and not a right.

3. A deep sense of being rooted and founded upon the principles of Scripture. Paul talks about the Word dwelling richly (abundantly, plentifully) in us. The principles of Scripture should define our choices and actions... Our lives should be thoughtfully based on the guidance and examples we find in Scripture.

Do a quick audit...
How peaceful, thankful and Word-based is your life?
Would those observing you agree?
What can you do to improve?

(Remember that peace comes FROM Christ, gratitude comes from seeing HIM clearly and it is HE is the embodiment of His Word. )

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Friday, April 19, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-04-19 [Highlights from Colossians] A new uniform...

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians3:12-14

If we really belong to Jesus (under new management), then this is what people will start seeing in us.

Enough said...

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Thursday, April 18, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-04-18 [Highlights from Colossians] The nature of the new uniform

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians3:9-11

Before we get into what our new garments (the new self) look like, there are some vitally important things that we must understand about our new threads.

Firstly: These clothes are never out of fashion. They are constantly "being renewed in knowledge in the image of the Creator." Christianity isn't a static or historical tradition. It is a relationship. Our new uniform is reflective - it is to be a reflection of Jesus. Our "new self" is to look like Him. We cannot wear our parent's understanding of Christianity, we cannot wear last year's view of Jesus, we aren't wearing the same garments we wore on the day we gave our hearts to Christ. If the "brand" is authentic and not a rip off, the clothes are up to date - they come out of the conversation we had with Him this morning...

Secondly: Our new clothes are more a uniform than a costume. Although many of you liked my Spiderman analogy yesterday, Spidey's costume makes him stand out as unique and different. The garments of the new-self that we wear are more like a uniform: we all look the same, because we are all becoming like Jesus. Although this sounds bland, it is remarkably freeing: there is no Greek, Jew, slave or free. There are not big and little sinners, just people who are saved by Christ and longing to be more like Him. The ground at the foot of the cross is level.

Psalm 30:11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and CLOTHED ME WITH JOY,
12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-04-17 [Highlights from Colossians] Undressing

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices Colossians3:5-9

Two stories:
1. In one of the recent movies, Spiderman discovers an alien material that he uses to make a costume for himself. Unfortunately the material is alive and has a very bad effect on him - it amplifies all his baser character traits. The alien material begins to bond with him and he finds it very difficult to separate himself from the costume and its dark influence. The key moment in the movie is when a church bell is ringing and the sound of the bell disrupts the alien's influence and Spiderman rips the uniform off.

2. A few years ago, when our complex got a new management agent, our complex gardener was issued new overalls....

Paul tells us we must take off the "old self" with its practices. But there is a key difference between Spiderman's situation and ours... In our case, the evil doesn't come from outside, it is locked up in our own hearts...

When we give our lives to Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts. He begins to root out the darkness in us. This means that we are under New Management. There is a new uniform we can wear.

But we have to take the old uniform off.
That means we identify the old garments and make a conscious decision to remove them...

Thankfully we don't need the clanging of a bell to help us get the old self off, we have the help and resources of the Holy Spirit. Our lives can be transformed.

So... let's be clear: We are not saving ourselves by taking off the old self. We cannot save ourselves. We take off our old self, because we are under new management!!!

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-04-16 [Highlights from Colossians] Things above

After a bit of a break, the EmmDevs are back - I hope you had a blessed Easter! Appropriately the passage today picks up on resurrection!
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians3:1-4

If chapter 2 urged us not to go back to old shadows, superstitions and disconnectedness, chapter 3 talks about the new life we can embrace. It could also be seen as the new uniform that we can put on.

I'm busy reading a book by Chip Ingram who said this about today's reading:
"Wherever your heart is located, that's the direction you will move.
If we "set our hearts on things above," if we begin to look at life from God's perspective, everything else in life will tend to follow...
Jesus seems to have had this same process in mind when He said, "Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth... but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also..."

We have to begin with the end in mind.

As much as we get caught up in present realities, the bottom line truth is that when we gave our lives to Christ, we died spiritually to an old life and have a new reality: we have been raised with Christ.

Try being a little "heavenly minded" today...
Think about hearing our Lord say "Well done good and faithful servant..."
This can have a huge impact on priorities, relationships, decisions and values.

We were dead, but now alive.
My life is hidden (secured/safeguarded) in Christ.
My eyes need to be on things above.
Try doing that through today...

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/