“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
Psalm 86 / Read
After reading through the entirety of this psalm, re-read vv. 11 and identify what you think the writer is getting at. In other words, what do you think he meant when he asked the Lord to teach him his way and give him an undivided heart?
Where in your life are you finding it difficult to trust in God’s faithfulness? Where are you especially tired, worn out, discouraged or feel like you’re not getting answers to your prayers?
What would it look like for you to live with an “undivided heart” when it comes to walking closely with God?
As you reflect on and pray through this psalm, what is most resonating with you? Is there a word of grace or good news for you? How will you allow that word to change how you relate to God through your thoughts, prayers and actions?
Colossians 1:24-29 / Read
Anyone who is truly a member of God’s family (the “capital C” Church) knows what it is to suffer. Our sufferings can rarely be compared to those that the Apostle Paul underwent, but that is not the point. For each of us, being part of the Church means that we are part of a family and, therefore, give up our rights as individuals for the good of the group.
The Gospel is at the core of Christian suffering. “The word of God in its fullness” - the message that reconciliation and relationship with God are available in Christ not by works, but by faith - is what brought on Paul’s suffering (vv. 25). Yet the Gospel had saved Paul in the first place and was what defined his identity. God had given him everything in Christ - even though he deserved none of it - and his joy was so profound that he chose to become a servant of Jesus and his Church. The Gospel wasn’t just what brought on his suffering; it brought him through his suffering.
To what degree is the message of the Gospel “center stage” in your life? In other words, how much does the Gospel impact your thoughts, emotions and actions?
Spend some time considering all that Jesus faced and endured from his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane to his death on Golgotha. Where is suffering in his story? How does suffering for the Gospel bring us closer to Jesus?
What would it look like for you to live as a servant for the Church (other followers of Jesus)? What challenges or barriers are there in you becoming that sort of person? How will you embrace Jesus’ victory in suffering to experience victory of your own?
Colossians 1:15-23 / Read
We started our reading of Colossians earlier this week with the question, “Who is Jesus to you?” Today we read who Paul declared Jesus to be - and his words are transformational for those who choose to reflect on them.
Read through the passage several times. Then consider the following:
Of all that Paul wrote about Jesus (“the Son”) in vv. 15-20, what most grabs your attention? Why?
Imagine you were a member of the Colossian church. How would you have received vv. 21? Do you understand what Paul said? Do you agree with it?
What is the good news the Paul expresses in vv. 22-23? It is one thing to hear good news, but how do we live in it? In other words, how does the good news expressed in this passage become our reality?
Psalm 86 / Read
Take your time reading through this psalm. What about David’s (the author) words most grab your attention? Why?
How does David posture himself in relation to God throughout this psalm? What do you think is the connection between acknowledging our needs and God meeting our needs?
Is there anywhere in your life in which you feel “poor and needy” (vv. 1)? Consider your life physically, spiritually, emotionally and relationally when answering that question.
Close today’s reading and reflection by praying with God. Be honest with him about your place of need and invite him to meet it. Believe that he hears you and will respond with your best in mind. Invite him to give you a “sign of his goodness” (vv. 17).
Do you sense God saying anything to you about your place of need as you pray with him? Is he inviting you to respond to him in any particular way?
Colossians 1:1-14 (Part 2) / Read
As we again read through this passage from Paul’s letter to the Church in Colossae, we would do well to observe the way in which he and Timothy prayed.
Even for those familiar and comfortable with prayer, the temptation is that it is about us. We come to God in the difficult times, what what about the easy times? We come to God when we need relief, but what about when others need relief? Our thankfulness and praise toward God can become merely a ritual on the way to asking God what we really want of him.
Paul’s words show us the humility and unity that mark true Christian prayer. It is evident that Paul spent considerable time reflecting on the condition of the Colossian church; he praised the good that they allowed God to do in and through them and asked the Father to grow and strengthen them in specific ways. If we’re honest, Paul’s attitude sits in stark contrast to many of ours. The Western lures of comparison and competition have so infiltrated the Church that we pray hard for personal success and the health of our family while neglecting to pray for the spread of the Gospel and the health of God’s family.
So, then, how do we move toward humility and unity?
For Paul - and as should be for us - God was the beginning, the end and everything in between for Paul (vv. 3, 8, 9, 12, 13). In Jesus, God had saved him and called him and in the Spirit, was empowering him to carry out his call. As he continually acknowledged this reality, it was only natural for his prayers to focus on God and his purposes. Ultimately, this included the awareness of what God was doing “throughout the whole world” (vv. 6) and, specifically in this passage, in the Colossians.
What place does prayer have in your life? What tends to be the content of your prayers?
What time of day and in what setting is prayer most meaningful to you? In other words, what are the conditions under which you most easily connect with God through prayer?
How do you sense God leading you based on the questions above? How are you going to respond specifically to his leading today?
Colossians 1:1-14 (Part 1) / Read
“Who is Jesus to you?”
How our lives hinge on our answer to that question! Our culture considers many: teacher, philosopher, prophet, reformer, revolutionary … God? We are reminded of the walk that Jesus and his followers shared in Galilee, when the crowds carried many opinions of him, and he turned to them and asked pointedly, “But what about you? Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
Jesus had once been one thing to the Apostle Paul, but at the writing of the letter to the Colossian church he had become something entirely different. Once Jesus had been a heretic and his enemy (Acts 8:1-3); now he was his Truth and Lord (Acts 9:1-22).
Jesus’ revelation to Paul and Paul’s response to Jesus changed everything. No longer did he live according to his own will, but rather “by the will of God” (vv. 1). No longer was his message judgement and punishment, but rather “grace and peace” (vv. 3).
For some of us, like Paul, Jesus reveals himself to us in a vision; but for many of us, his true identity is revealed when we stop and quiet the voices around us and take an honest look at him for ourselves. Only then can we see him as he is and respond appropriately with our lives.
Take a moment to pray with God, thanking him for his Word and asking him to guide your understanding of today’s reading as well as your response to it. Then consider:
Who is Jesus to you right now? It will helpful to be as honest and specific as you can.
What would it look like for you to live “by the will of God”? Again, be as specific as possible.
To what degree do grace and peace define your life? How do you sense God leading you to live in his grace and peace through Christ and offer his grace and peace to others?
Learning from Exodus
Yesterday concluded our reading of the book of Exodus. Today we pause to look at its totality and reflect on its meaning for our lives.
Each of our stories can be found in the Exodus narrative. We, like the Israelites in Egypt, have experienced times in which God has seemed distant, times when we’ve wondered if he existed or worse: if he existed, but didn’t care.
We have all experienced times of great breakthrough, when we were freed from a difficult circumstance or experienced great breakthrough in a way that couldn’t be explained simply by our own strength, smarts or charisma. Whether or not we knew it at the time, we experienced God.
As God revealed himself to us, we understood our place and purpose in the world. He chose us to be his people, set apart in the world to know him, love him and glorify him through the actions and activity of our lives.
If we are honest, we also have set our hearts and our hopes on things other than God. We have worshiped created things rather than the Creator and have tried to make our own way, only to find ourselves lost in the wilderness. We’ve needed to confess our adulterous ways and repent of them, to turn back to God and begin walking with him once again.
Through it all, God remains faithful, good and gracious. We may not embrace his reality in every present moment, but over time his character, power and authority become undeniable.
His most undeniable revelation has come to us in Jesus Christ. Jesus recapitulates the story of Exodus so that we might see him as both the Way of God and the Way to God. He is a living example of what life could be if we remained in our relationship with God, lived with the character of God and exercised the authority of God that he has given us because of our standing with him.
Yet he isn’t just an example to be imitated, he is Savior and Lord. He became the Passover Lamb so that those who believe would be spared God’s judgement and wrath. He is the Bread of Life, who daily nourishes the souls of his followers. He is the ultimate Prophet who perfectly reveals the truth of God’s word. He is the Great High Priest, who intercedes on our behalf and gives us direct access to the Father anytime, anywhere.
He is the only way to God because he is the only who who could - and who has - done what we could never do: defeated sin and freed us from death. Now we, too, like the Israelites have a Promised Land before us: a home in heaven with God where we will live in fullness with him forever!
Take time to reflect and pray on Exodus and the commentary above. Below are some prompts that may help you.
What portion of the Exodus account do you currently relate to the most?
If you’re honest, who is Jesus to you right now? To what degree do you see him as the Way of Life and the Way to Life?
In what way(s) do you tend to be tempted to disbelieve your identity in Christ: that you are a child of God, saved by grace and loved apart from your performance?
How do you sense God calling you to live in a more closely in your walk with him today?
Exodus 33:1-11 / Read
Today we find both a significant challenge and an amazing opportunity as we read and reflect on what God is saying to us through this passage. Through God’s interactions with his people at Mount Horeb, we see the terrifying effects of human pride and restorative power of the Gospel.
Pride is self-love. Pride says that we can - we deserve - to live on our own terms no matter how it impacts others. Pride makes us walk with our heads held high (“stiff-necked”), unwilling to admit that we need others and unwilling to respect those with authority over us.
Pride is self-worship and, therefore, idolatry. We give ourselves the praise due to God and elevate our preferences over his commands. In essence, we tell him that we’re good on our own.
But if and when we grasp the reality of life without God, it is utterly distressing (vv. 4). Our pride fools us to believe that we can make it alone, but how dark and heavy life becomes when God is truly absent! Apart from him, what can satisfy our longings? Who will comfort us when life is crushing? To what will we hold on in the midst of life’s unpredictable change?
The Israelites felt this weight and were terrified. They were convicted of their pride and knew they needed to change. They needed God back as God.
Moses continually stood in contrast to the Israelites as a man willing to humble himself before God - to keep God in his rightful place - and, in turn, enjoyed an intimate relationship with him. The Lord spoke to Moses “face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (vv. 11)
The great opportunity before us is that Moses’ life can be our life. It was what God intended from the beginning and what he reiterated in the terms of his covenant: “I am your God; be my people. Follow me, worship me, love me and you will enjoy the fullness and blessing of my presence.”
Jesus bore the wrath of human sin in himself “to bring you to God”. (1 Peter 3:18) Those who believe this - who have humbled themselves and believe their need for God’s saving grace - have had their relationship with God restored and can stand with him face to face, speaking to him as a friend. Anytime. Anywhere. No “tent of meeting” required.
What most grabbed your attention from today’s reading and commentary above?
Do you sense God saying anything to you about your relationship with him? Is there anything about your attitude toward him that needs to change?
If you are a follower of Jesus, do you believe that you have direct access to God at any moment? What might you do to live more and more into that reality?