“If only I had more…” We’ve all said in one form or another. More money, more success, more happiness, more knowledge, more clothes, more excitement, more of this and more of that. Not only in our society but also in the church, we cry for more. If only we had… more leaders, more money, more prestige, more people, more space, more influence, more workers, more faith. Guru’s abound to help us fill our desires for more. But what if we slowed down for a minute and remembered Who and what we already have; Jesus Christ our Savior and the fullness of life in Him.
This week in New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan we’ll read through Paul’s epistle to the Colossians. This epistle will be one of Paul’s strongest declarations of the uniqueness and sufficiency of Christ, his full authority over all powers and the fullness of life He gives. Paul spells out the implications of this fullness of life again and again in the letter. Like the Colossians, we are bombarded by longings for something more. But Paul declares, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:9-10). Enjoy it! Be satisfied in the Lord!
In addition to reading Colossians, we’ll have our first reading from the gospel of Mark (let’s wait until next week to introduce Mark). There will also be a psalm from Asaph, and two from David rooted in two troubling episodes of his life. Then from Proverbs we’ll, among other things, be challenged to have generous hearts and for the ladies a challenge to wisely use the power you possess as wives. These questions were a pleasure to write. I hope they are a blessing for you. Keep on reading and God bless you with every word you read.
Monday, April 29 – Colossians 1; Psalm 50
There’s a lot going on in Colossians 1. As was customary in ancient letters, Paul begins by identifying first the senders, then the recipients (vv. 1-2a). He follows with a greeting (v. 2b) and continues by listing the reasons he is thankful to God for the Colossian church (vv. 3-8). He reminds the Colossians how he prays for them, demonstrating his sensitivity to their needs (vv. 9-14). To combat teachers who were denying the deity of Christ, Paul not only declares Christ’s supremacy – he sings it in this example of early Christian hymnody (vv. 15-20). Finally, the chapter ends with a word on the reconciling work of Christ and Paul’s role in spreading the gospel (vv. 21-29). Let’s focus on Paul hymn. Drawing from vv. 15-20, make as many statements as you can about why Jesus is supreme. Begin each with “Christ is…” How should each of them affect your attitudes and actions? Choose at one or two, and write down how they are personally important to you.
In Psalm 50, the first psalm contributed to Asaph (see also Psalms 73-83), we find a picture of God seated in His heavenly throne room. He has two indictments against His people Israel (vv. 1-6). The wicked among them were hypocritical in their worship (vv. 7-15), and rebellious in their actions (vv. 16-21). The Lord ends each accusation with a warning and call to return to Him (vv. 14-15, 22-23). When do you find yourself most often going through the motions of worship? How can the Lord’s words in vv. 14-15 help you break out of a worship rut? Be honest with yourself, when do you find yourself most often rebelling against God? How can the Lord’s words in vv. 22-23 help you break a rebellious spirit?
Tuesday, April 30 – Colossians 2; Proverbs 11:24-31
With Colossians 2, Paul turns his attention to point out the flaws in the fins-sounding arguments to which the Colossians have been listening. He starts by reminding them, “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (v. 6-7). According to the false teachers, believing in Christ was a good beginning, but you must do more (see vv. 8, 16, 18, 21-23). Why do such humanly conceived additions appeal to us? To protect Christians from such heresies, Paul declares in v. 10, “in [Jesus] you have been made complete.” How do you respond to the idea of being complete or having fullness in Christ?
At the heart of our reading from Proverbs today stands the call to be generous and not stingy with our resources. It is axiomatic that greedy and selfish people, epitomized in Western literature as Mr. Scrooge, are hated by the populace at large while generous people gain love and respect. What the hoarder fails to realize, however, is that in God’s economy the greedy ultimately lose even the material things they try so hard to keep while the benevolent only prosper more and more. When are you reluctant to help a person in need? Why, according to Solomon, is generosity wiser than stinginess? How do these proverbs motivate you to respond to the needs of the poor rather than pretend they don’t exist?
Wednesday, May 1 – Colossians 3; Psalm 51
By starting with “Therefore…” (v. 1), Paul is about to draw conclusions from what he has been saying. Christ is supreme; He has freed us from the dominion of darkness; He has canceled our record of sin debt and disarmed the evil powers; He has released us from their delusive and oppressive rules. We have died with Christ and been raised with Christ. In Him we are complete. What then? In Colossians 3, Paul explains how these truths should impact out day-to-day lives. What does Paul mean when he speaks of setting your mind on “things that are above” and not on “things that are on earth” (v. 2)? In what kinds of situations are you tempted to set your heart and mind on earthly things? How, according to this chapter, can you proactively set your heart and mind on things above rather than on earthly things?
According to the Psalm 51’s superscription, David offered this prayer when Nathan confronted him with his sin following the king’s affair with Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11-12). To David’s credit, he recognized fully how horrendous his sin was against God, blamed no one but himself, and begged for divine forgiveness. Following the style of penitential psalm (also: Psalms 6; 38; 102; 130; 143), the psalmist confesses his sinfulness to God and begs for forgiveness and a transformation of his inner character. It seems that at the least nine months has lapsed from the time David committed his sin with Bathsheba till the time Nathan confronted him. One has to wonder how David dealt with the guilt he felt for what he had done. What is the role of guilt as an emotional response to sin? Why is guilt often seen as something to be avoided or downplayed at all cost? What God-honoring purpose can guilt fulfill? What sort of things cause you to ignore the sin-caused guilty feelings? From David’s example, in what way(s) will you address the guilt you feel because of your sin?
Thursday, May 2 – Colossians 4; Proverbs 12:1-7
The last section of Colossians illustrates the two faces of a Pauline epistle: the timeless instructions from the Spirit of God to all Christians (vv. 2-6); and the personal comments from a very human writer to a certain people on a specific occasion (vv. 7-18). But even the newsy bits of this personal letter are part of God’s Word and give us insights into living the Christian life. Let’s focus on how to reach those outside the church. It’s been said that debating whether what we say or how we live is more important in spreading the gospel is like asking which leg is more important for walking. In vv. 5-6, Paul gives instructions for how Christians are to act wisely toward outsiders – unbelievers. What’s the benefit of acting and talking this way? What do you need to do to live and speak the gospel so that others will want to know Christ? Look over the names and places mentioned in vv. 7-18 each one represents a person, or group of people, who were united by the common bond of Christ. How do you think the unity of these people Paul mentions was a testimony to outsiders of the power of the gospel? What does you fellowship of Christians need to do to live and speak the gospel so that others will want to know Christ?
“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones” (v. 4). This proverb contrasts wise and foolish wives by the metaphors of a crown on the head verses decay in the bones. The former is high, outward, and visible; the latter is deep, inward, and invisible. The noble wife strengths and empowers building up her husband’s very being. On the other hand, the ignoble wife invisibly saps her husband’s strength and vitality, deconstructing him from within. When have you seen the twin truths of this proverb demonstrated? Why is the wife’s influence so powerful to either make or break her husband at home or in the community? What wisdom do you think Solomon wants to impart to wives? To husbands?
Friday, May 3 – Mark 1; Psalm 52
Unlike the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, the gospel of Mark doesn’t have a formal introduction or a genealogy to get our bearings, there isn’t even the familiar infancy narrative. There’s simply a two verse quote from the Old Testament, from there Mark hits the ground running. The intensity of Mark’s writing and his enthusiasm for Christ’s gospel brings us a powerful message of salvation, inspiration, and encouragement. From vv. 14-45, what does Jesus do to show that “the kingdom of God is at hand”? Summarize how the people respond to Jesus’ ministry? What’s your impression of Jesus from what you’ve read so far in Mark?
This Psalm is a poetic lesson about the futility of evil, the final triumph of righteousness, and the sovereign control of God over the events of history. According to the superscription, David wrote this psalm during the period when Saul was seeking his life. On one occasion Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s head shepherd (1 Samuel 21:7), informed Saul of David’s whereabouts (see 1 Samuel 21-22). Doeg was a horrendously evil individual. What appears to have been a desire for favor from Saul, Doeg slaughtered “eighty-five person who wore the linen ephod” (priest), additionally from the priestly city of Nob “he put to the sword both man and woman, child and infant, ox, donkey and sheep” (1 Samuel 22:18b, 19). David’s acceptance of the blame for this tragedy weighed heavy on his heart as he composed this psalm (see 1 Samuel 22:20-23). What words or phrases does David use to describe the rashness of the wicked in vv. 1-5? How should the righteous react to wickedness men? (vv. 6-9) Specially, in what ways would the acts of v. 9 fortify your faith to face the wickedness of the world?