Pray for an Open Door – Colossians 4

As Paul is wrapping up his letter to the Colossians, in the last chapter, he asks the Corinthians:

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.

Colossians 4:3

Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles, the one who is leading the way for the Gospel to enter into Galatia, Macedonia, Greece and Achaia, and in the province of Asia. He is a great evangelist, makes disciples wherever he goes, and has leaders that are being sent here and there, proclaiming the Gospel everywhere that he goes.

But here, he asks that the Colossians would pray for an open door for his message. Paul, even after all that he had accomplished in his Gospel work, needed God to open the door for him. Paul was not doing his work under his own power. He was, instead, moving and working under God’s authority and power. And only in this way could his message of the Gospel of Jesus go forth. Only if God sovereignly moved upon people, opening a door and making a way for his message to go forward could he share in an effective way.

This is a reminder for each of us as well. As we are sharing the Gospel and looking for inroads into communities, God himself must open the door. He is the one who must make the way. As Christ’s ambassadors, we are the ones to deliver the message, but God must take the first step to open the door and make the way.


Set Your Heart and Mind on Things Above – Colossians 3

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

As followers of Jesus, our life, our priorities, and all that we have and do have changed meaning. Paul says that because we have been raised with Jesus, we should set our hearts on the things above.

What does it mean that we are raised with Jesus? By committing ourselves to him, we have committed our lives to the one who purchased us, and saved us, from God’s wrath for the sin that we have committed. Therefore, since we have been purchased, we are no longer our own. We no longer should concern ourselves with the things of this life. Instead, we have died to the concerns of this life. We left those things behind when we committed ourselves to Christ.

Instead, we have been given a new life. We have died to the old life and we have been born again, resurrected into a new life with Christ Jesus. This means that we no longer need to worry about the things of this life. Instead, we need to look forward to concerns that are much greater, and of much more significance.

What will I eat? What will I wear? Jesus said that God will take care of these things for us.

This also reminds me of the parable that Jesus told about the treasure hidden in the field and the precious pearl. I wrote about it recently, which you can see more here, but as we remove our gaze and the time that we spend worrying about the things of this life, we prove what Jesus has said about the preciousness of the Kingdom of God.

In the parable, Jesus said that the Kingdom is like a treasure or a precious pearl, and when someone finds those things, they sell everything that they own to buy the treasure or to buy the pearl. That is because they recognize the value of what they have seen. In the same way, we must recognize the value of the Kingdom of God.

As we recognize the value of the Kingdom, we should fix our minds on those things. We must concern ourselves with the things that our King has in mind for us, no longer looking back to the old things, the old ways of life, the things of this world. We must continue to look forward, fixing our eyes and training our hearts and minds on the important things of heaven.


The Fullness of the Deity – Colossians 2

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Colossians 2:9-12

The first statement, in verse 9, is pretty amazing, if you really consider what it is saying. As Paul writes to the Colossians, he says that God himself is present in Jesus. That means that we have had God himself walking around on the earth. God comes and speaks with people. The disciples and the people of that time walked with God. They spoke with God, face to face. We even have the words of Jesus written in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, meaning that we have the words of God himself as he spoke to the people.

From there, Paul says that we have been circumcised by Christ. This isn’t a circumcision performed by human hands, but a circumcision that is done by Christ, throwing off the old flesh, which is buried as we are baptized and instead giving us a new life as we are resurrected, just as Jesus was raised from the dead.


Shaping the Disciples – Mark 6

I noticed something new as I was reading through Mark 6 today, something that I hadn’t seen before.

In the early part of the chapter, in verses 7 through 13, Jesus had sent out the 12 disciples 2 by 2 to various villages around to preach and drive out evil spirits. They went out and did as Jesus told them to do and then came back to Jesus.

There is an interlude from verse 14 to 29 as Mark tells the story of how John the Baptist was imprisoned and eventually killed, but then he picks the story back up in verse 30 where it says that Jesus and the disciples didn’t even have a chance to eat because there were so many people coming and going from where they were staying. As a result, Jesus decides that, given that the disciples had just come back from their journey and that they weren’t able to eat or rest, they need to take some time away.

But it doesn’t work out. They get into a boat and leave, headed off to another place, remote location. But the people watch them from the land and run along the shore to where they end up landing.

When they land, the people are there and Mark says that Jesus had compassion on them. But I can imagine that the disciples might have been a little frustrated at that point. They were trying to get away to even be able to eat and rest after their journey, at Jesus’s direction no less, and yet all of the people keep crowding them and they aren’t able to do what they were hoping to do.

So now, there are thousands of people that have come to this remote location and it is getting late in the evening. The disciples come to Jesus to see if they can finally rest, saying that they want to send the crowd away so that they can go to eat, and Jesus says to them:

“You give them something to eat.”

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

Mark 6:37

I feel like I can hear the frustration in the disciples’ voices, the weariness from their trip and the crowds, and now it seems to me that they are frustrated by Jesus’s insistence that they solve the problem of feeding thousands of people with really nothing in their hands.

I’ve heard people say many times that Jesus was testing the faith of the disciples, and ultimately showing them his power because they later picked up 12 baskets full of bread and fish, one for each disciple. And I think that is correct. But I think that, given the situation, Jesus might be doing something even more here.

Often, when we are at our greatest level of stress, feeling challenged on every side, feeling tired and not able to move forward well, we can truly see what is inside of us. Our social filters are worn down and we can frequently see more easily what is truly in our hearts.

In the case of the disciples, we do see that their priorities are different than that of Jesus. Jesus has compassion upon the people, but the disciples are ready to send them home. Jesus tells his disciples to feed the people, obviously knowing that they didn’t have food for thousands of people because they had just traveled to that remote area in a boat, but without thinking about what Jesus might be doing or teaching them, they immediately react indignantly.

So, I think that this situation was tailor-made, at least in part, to mold and shape the disciples. Jesus kept them on the move, teaching them through the situations to grow and become more like him.

How often does he do the same with us? How often does Jesus put us, his disciples of today, into challenging situations, to allow us to see what is truly inside of us and show us how he wants us to grow?


Be Amazed – Mark 5

We have all had something happen that we were amazed by and told other people many times what had happened in that situation. But soon, we’ve told the people around us, and maybe, if we’re forgetful, we’ve even told the story several times to the same people who have either been patient with us or have told us that they have already heard this story one or more times previously.

In Mark 5, there are three stories that are truly amazing that, if someone told us today that they saw them happen, depending on how we react, we would either not believe them, or we would want to go see for ourselves!

Jesus drives a “legion” of demons out a notoriously well-known man in the region of Gerasenes, then he heals a woman who had been constantly bleeding for twelve years, and finally, he raises a little girl, the daughter of a synagogue leader, from the dead.

So we see three different types of healing: spiritual, as he drives out evil spirits; physical, as he heals the woman; and finally death, the most final of all sicknesses, as Jesus even overcomes the physical death of this little girl.

And so it is for this reason that, in this chapter of Mark 5, we see this type of statement two times:

Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.

Mark 5:42

In truth, the miracles that Jesus is doing are amazing. No one has ever done anything like this, let alone in such rapid succession, moving from one person to the next, performing one miracle after another. And yet today, we can often say… Oh, yeah, hang on… I’ve heard that one before.

We’ve forgotten the fact that we are reading about God himself walking on the earth, offering healing from physical and spiritual ailments, but even overcoming death itself. We are so wrapped up in our own lives, in looking at all of the things that we are worried about, in our ability to get ahead, in our own issues and emotions, that we’ve forgotten that there is a God in heaven who came to earth in the form of Jesus to offer us hope. He gives us hope for healing in our physical bodies, in our emotional lives, and in our spiritual being, both now and forever. Jesus calls us into his Kingdom where we can live with him, our Creator, forever.

So let’s be amazed that these stories, while true for people more than 2000 years ago, can also be true for us today. They act as a promise for the hope and life that Jesus also offers to us – so be amazed!


Turn on the Light – Mark 4

Mark 4 is a significant chapter in the work that I do these days. I am frequently meeting with believing Christians, trying to help them see that God designed their lives to be used for God, not for them.

For example, if we look in verses 1-20, Jesus talks about the four different soils and how the good soil is the only one that produces a crop. Not just growth and life, but a crop is produced from one seed. That one seed was used to bring in many plants to glorify God. I wrote more about this last year in this post: Am I Good Soil?

Later, in verses 26-29, Jesus talks about how the farmer scatters the seed, waits for it to grow, and then harvests a crop. We frequently talk about how this is a parable that speaks to how the Kingdom of God works, that God wants each of us to be like the farmer and harvest a crop to bring him glory. You can see more about this in the post and video on the Search Party website: The Four Fields

I think this chapter shows how Jesus is preparing his disciples to begin to do the work that he is doing. He is teaching them how the Kingdom works prior to taking them and showing them, which he will begin to do at the end of the chapter as they set off in the boat to reach the “other side” of the Sea of Galilee, the Gentile side.

In the midst of this chapter, Jesus explains to his disciples that they are like a light. Here is what he says:

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Mark 4:21-23

Jesus’s disciples are in the same situation that we are in. In the midst of our societies, in the midst of our communities, it is not popular to follow Jesus. People will accuse us of many things – leaving our community’s traditions, acting morally superior to others, betraying our families, and so on – and so we feel that we want to hide, that we want to be tucked away without being noticed.

And then further, we listen to people who talk about how they were “called” by God to speak to others about Jesus and we assume that this means that, because we feel afraid or that we want to be hidden, that these other people must be the ones who really are “called” to be a light in the open, to speak to others. And so therefore, we end up reverting to ideas like, “Well, if I just live like a Christian, people will know. That is my way of sharing my light.

But that isn’t what Jesus says here. He explains that you cannot put your light under a bowl or under your bed. It isn’t meant for that. You aren’t meant to be hidden. You are meant to shine and to bring light to others. You are meant to be disclosed and to bring glory to God. This is the call of God, that all are called to live the life that God has made within them, in public. Yes, in deed, but most certainly also, in word.


Doing God’s Will – Mark 3

At times, I think that we have possibly read the Bible too many times because we miss what it can say. It seems to me that we frequently will read quickly over a passage and will determine in our minds that it has a particular meaning that is different from what it is actually saying. Here is one like that for me today:

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 3:31-35

Jesus draws a line with regard to his family, saying that he is not necessarily tied to his family by blood and he will not be dissuaded from his work just because the rest of his natural family thinks that he should be doing something different.

No, instead, Jesus is going to be about the work that God has given him to do, and those that are his mother and his brothers and sisters will be determined by those that are doing God’s will.

The part that struck me today was Jesus saying, “Whoever does God’s will…” as he referred to his family members. I think that, for me, I had it in my mind that Jesus was talking about those who weren’t sinning. I suppose if I were to rewrite what Jesus said with what I had in my mind, it would be something like: My mother, brothers, and sisters are those that are here with me, not sinning.

But of course, that is not at all what Jesus said. He said that his family are those that are doing God’s will. But do we know God’s will? Do we understand what God’s goal and mission is, what he has been doing and is still working toward to bring to completion?

If we do know what God is doing, and we want to be considered part of Jesus’s family, shouldn’t we also be doing these things? It seems that it is only in this way that we can be considered part of Jesus’s family. Otherwise, we can be left outside calling to Jesus, but he won’t respond.


We have written a course on how we can know God’s will and how we can find the purpose for our life within God’s purpose and plan. You can see that here:

Finding Your Purpose in God’s Plan


Get the Doctor – Mark 2

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17

Jesus has no problem in entering Levi’s house, sitting with his friends, the tax collectors and the sinners, staying with them, eating and drinking together with them. But the Pharisees see what Jesus is doing and criticizes Jesus for being with those who need him even more. They are spiritually sick and need the doctor. And the doctor, Jesus, has come to make them well.

If only we, as the church, would take the same view as Jesus. We routinely say that we want to see the lost saved, but we take little to no action to do what Jesus did. We have not gone to share the Gospel, we have not made many, if any, disciples of Jesus, and we have not taught many, if any, people to make disciples of others. And what is worse, we instead stand in the way, creating special classes of Christians that can do religious works like baptisms or lead the Lord’s Supper.

And all that we have to do is to learn to go where the sick people are instead of keeping them collected in our hospitals.


The Revolution Has Begun – Mark 1

OK, today is the day that we transition back into the Gospels, today into the book of Mark.

It isn’t abnormal for me because I am frequently thinking about the Kingdom of God and its level of relevance in my life, but as I read Mark 1 today, I’m noticing again that Jesus begins his public preaching with these words:

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Mark 1:14-15

This chapter seems to show Jesus bursting onto the scene. There are dramatic things happening everywhere he goes:

Jesus is baptized and the heavens open and God speaks audibly.

Jesus goes into the wilderness and does spiritual battle with Satan.

Jesus begins to put his team together by calling the first disciples.

Jesus starts driving out demons and healing people, creating huge crowds wherever he goes.

But in the middle of all of this, he also announces a revolution. The Romans control the Israeli land, and speaking against the Romans would result in death, but Jesus bursts onto the scene and announces a new Kingdom, the Kingdom of God.

Jesus is announcing a new Kingdom, but it is not a political kingdom. It is not a kingdom of this earth. It is one Kingdom to rule all other kingdoms and there is one way into it: To repent and believe. We call out to God asking for forgiveness for how we have lived without him and we move forward in belief and reliance upon the King.

In the Kingdom of God, Jesus is the King. Jesus said that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. We, therefore, live under a new authority, that is the Kingdom of God and the kingship of Jesus Christ.


Strive for Restoration – 2 Corinthians 13

Paul has been writing to the church in Corinth, speaking to them about how they have had those that have been in sin but that he has been rebuking them, calling them to repentance, to unity, and to a demonstration of love for one another and toward Paul. Then, at the end of the letter, in verse 11, he says:

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

2 Corinthians 13:11

Paul had just told the Corinthians that they should examine themselves to see if they are in the faith, and that they should realize that, if they pass the test of their examination, they have Christ living within them! So now, he says that they should rejoice! They are rejoicing that, even though they have all of these problems that Paul has been addressing, they have Christ within them and God is moving mightily amongst them.

But the reason that I wanted to highlight this particular passage is what he says next. He say that they should strive for full restoration. Based on the context in that he says that they should encourage one another, be of one mind, and live in peace, I believe that means that he is speaking of restoration between the believers within the church. He says that they must strive to achieve this restoration. So often, we deal with discord through distance or anger, but the truth is that striving is required. To restore relationships, whether as a husband and wife, as friends, or even as brothers and sisters in Christ, it requires effort. It requires work. Blood, sweat, and tears. Probably a lot of each! Paul calls the Corinthians to strive to reach the point of restoration…something that I believe that he calls each of us to do within our relationships today.