Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd ; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” -Psalm 23: 1-2

Digging Deeper:

When we picture a shepherd, it is usually in a field with rolling green hills. However, in the context that the familiar Psalm 23 was written, this was not the case. The land is arid and hostile. When the writer says, the Lord is my shepherd, it is not just some cozy metaphor, it is a declaration. God is my provider amidst this hostile land. When you realize the context of Psalm 23 it shifts from the common comfy green hill interpretation, into the realization that God is my provider amidst a difficult and broken world. Green pastures are not plentiful, and in fact they move. The shepherd does not lead the flock to the same spot every day, but instead has the foresight to see where the green pastures will be. This often messes with my desire for routine and formulas. This formulaic approach is often because I am trying to minimize the amount of faith required in following my shepherd. The shepherds provision continues with leading the sheep to still water. Sheep will not drink from fast moving water. Even if they are in dire thirst, they are intimidated. In these moment, the shepherd finds a still pool, and when there is not one available, will dig out a channel to create one for the thirsty sheep. How often has this been seen in my life. I desire to be close to God, yet fear stops me. Yet my Savior comes to me, my shepherd leads me. Life changes, our environments change, our city changes, yet God is our Shepherd, and He will lead us.

Our Prayer:

Lord may you be our Shepherd. May you lead us to your green pastures, even as they may move and not be in familiar places. May you lead us to still waters so that our hearts may be filled and quenched by your presence. May you guide us and teach us how to live. Where there is darkness may you bring light. Where there is pain may you bring healing and where there is despair may you bring hope. May you bless us and keep us, may you cause your face to shine upon us and grant us peace. May you give us faith to follow you.

Next Steps:

Over the course of this month revisit this meditation. Where do you areas that you need God’s leading and guidance, even if we don’t want to admit it.

Reflect on a time when you experienced the presence of God leading you through and take a moment to celebrate that time.

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Colossians 4

The end of Colossians feels unexpectedly….anticlimactic.

For three chapters, Paul gives us some of the richest, loftiest theology and Christology in the entire New Testament, and when you get to chapter 4, things turn oddly social. “Tell so-and-so I said hey.” “Oh, such-and-such sends their love.” “Say ‘what’s up’ to what’s-his-name.” Just take a quick scan through Colossians 4:7-18; Paul sounds like a very excited social chair for a fraternity.

Why?

Because orthodox theology drives you into the ground.

The word “humility” comes from the Latin word humus, which means “earth” or “ground.” ‘Humility’ literally means staying close to the ground. When your imagination and heart is flooded with the awareness of the exalted Christ, the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), you cannot help but develop “social humility” – staying close to the ground with people.

Over the years, I’ve observed that I and other Christians tend to avoid living on this ground-level. We either want to live way up in the theological stratosphere (“What do you think about predestination?” “Are you pre, post, or a-millennial?”). Or we want to get extremely deep and subterranean (“What is your story?” “How is your heart?”). There is certainly a time and place to travel into the stratosphere and into the center of your soul, but the reality is most people live their lives on the ground level. In the ordinary. The mundane.

People are going to the grocery store. They are going to class. They are filling their car up with gas. They are mowing the lawn. They are dealing with traffic. They are studying. They are fighting with their roommates. That’s the ground level.

And orthodox theology drives you into the ground. In other words, Colossians 1-3 doesn’t lead you into parking your life in the clouds or the core; rather it leads you into the lives of real people. When you are united to the forgiving, ransoming, reconciling, risen Christ, you are not sucked away from the ordinariness of people’s lives; you are plunged into it.

Why? Because you begin to love what Jesus loved. Real people with real issues.

The first great sign of Jesus’ great, Messianic ministry was Him fixing a party foul for some immature teenagers that didn’t know how to plan well (John 2). There’s a massive crowd of 5,000 hungry men without food and so Jesus feeds them because the small details of their need for food matters to Him (Mark 6). Jesus regularly sees people with health concerns and He heals them, because the medical details of their lives matter to Him.

Real people with real issues – however small and ordinary – matter to Jesus. And your small, ordinary issues matter to Jesus too. He stays on the ground with us. He walks through the ordinariness of life with us. And because we are united to Him by faith, we embody those same instincts.

So ask people about how their classes are going. Encourage someone in their work. Remember people’s names. Take a minute to greet someone new. Invite someone over for a meal. Check in on how your friends’ family is doing. Listen. Remember. Follow up. Pray.

People live on the ground. And the small, ordinary details matter to our majestic, exalted God. Orthodox theology drives you into the ground.

– Matt Howell

Director of RUF at the Univeristy of Tennessee

Colossians 3

The third chapter of Colossians is a story. It is not just any story however; it is our story, the story of all of those who have come to Christ as Lord and as Savior. But it is not only a story of the past, but of our present and of our future. When Paul begins this chapter he has one thing in mind: Baptism. Since (or if then) you have been raised with Christ is not some ethereal reality or some “idea”. It is the very act of being buried and raised with Christ in his resurrection. It is the very act of baptism. This is the marker, the point that distinctly separates Christians from those who are not. Have we passed through the waters? If so, we have been buried and resurrected with Jesus. Now note that Paul doesn’t use this kind of language to say, “you’re finished with the life of faith, well done!” No, he immediately calls us to the future story of our lives, lives in Christ. Seek what is above. Find yourself hidden with Christ in God who has ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven.
Once again, this seems like some ethereal reality, some “tapped- into- other- world”, but it is not. It is a very real and tangible part of our story. Because, whether we realize it or not, our story must continue in Christ. In other words, we must live into our baptism. See what Paul says next? He gives us a list of those things which “must be put to death”. Or better yet, those things which must continually be baptized. We can’t come to the waters of baptism, identify with Him in his death and resurrection, then be raised up only to live lives that are not baptized, not holy. Paul says that immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, greed, anger, fury, malice, slander, obscene language and lying are all things which must be buried. However, something is raised when those are put to death. Compassion. Kindness. Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Forgiveness. These are the fruits of a resurrected life. This is what it means to be raised with Christ.
But above all of these we are to put on Love. It is love, God’s love that moved towards us in Christ. For which the story began in the very beginning. My Story . Your story. Our Story. God has called us to live baptized lives. Our lives are to be buried with him in his death, where all of those things which are not of Him find their grave. Then we are to be raised with Him in newness of life, full of the virtuous life, the full life.
I started a little practice a while ago. It is easy to forget what we are actually called to at times. Life has a way of taking our attention off of the important things, the big things, even the main thing. I started reminding myself of my baptism vows. It reminded me of the life I was called to live in Christ.
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers? I will, with God’s help. Will you persevere in resisting evil, and , whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? I will, with God’s help. Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? I will, with God’s help. Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? I will, with God’s help. Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? I will, with God’s help.

-Father Aaron Wright

Colossians 2

We have a problem. All of us do and all of us know it. We all will admit that we’re not perfect. Even the most conceited among us will admit that they have at least a few flaws. We all know we have a problem.

The big question is, how bad is the problem? I’ve heard it said that, “the magnitude of the solution is directly related to the magnitude of the problem.” Here’s an example…

Say you have a headache, what’s the solution? For me, it’s taking a few Advil.
If you fall and scrape your knee then what’s the solution? A band-aid.
But what if you get shot? A few Advil or a band-aid won’t do much for a bullet wound.

The magnitude of the solution is directly related to the magnitude of the problem.

So what is our problem? Paul makes it clear in Colossians 2. Verse 13 says this, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses…” We were dead in our trespasses. Our problem is not that we’re sick, it’s not that we’re a little messed up, it’s that our sins have made us spiritually dead.

If you have a headache you need medicine.
If you scrape your knee you need a band-aid.
If you’re shot you need surgery.
If you’re dead you need a miracle….

And by God’s provision, we have one.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:13-15 ESV)

Jesus is our provision for life. We were hopeless. We were done for. We were dead. But God sent His Son Jesus to be our miracle. He was nailed to the cross and through Him we can have life.

We all know we have a problem. That problem’s name is sin. But our horrific problem has a miraculous solution.

Blessings,
Jake

Colossians 1

What do you pray for?
That question may seem rather broad or abstract, but one of the things that I have found is that I tend to pray about those things I care about. When my heart is engaged my prayers are more than just petitions, they are conversations with God expressing my desires, hopes, fears, anxieties and longings – either for myself or for others.
In Colossians chapter one we have the chance to read Paul’s prayer for the believers at Colossae. Many scholars believe that Paul had never visited Colossae, but it did not prevent him from expressing his gratitude for them and greeting them as members of the family of Christ.
Paul thanks God for the fruitfulness that the gospel has had in the lives of the church, and even though his communications with them may be brief and scattered, he has not ceased to pray for them.
He takes this opportunity to thank God for the unity of their story. Their stories are different, but their is the commonality of the transforming power of the gospel in their lives. He uses expressions and analogies such as moving from darkness to light and transferring from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of Christ.
In verse fifteen he takes the opportunity to develop their understanding of the work and preeminence of Christ.
In a culture that challenged their identity, Paul is writing to them to remind them that their foundation is in Christ and his work on the cross.
Paul, like an older brother is explaining to his younger siblings that the central figure in the lives of believers is Christ. In Him the fullness of God dwells. In Him, those that were once far off have been brought near.
He then urges them to live accordingly. They have gotten off to a great start, but must not forget that Christ is the focal point, not our accomplishments. Paul lovingly encourages them, yet also exhorts them to be mindful that things can be difficult.
In verse 24 he takes the opportunity to share the reality of life. That he has suffered and made sacrifices to follow God’s call. Yet he goes on to say how any sacrifice was worth it to proclaim the riches of Christ. Paul shares and lives out his calling to help those that believe in Christ to develop into maturity, and this is why he labors and makes the effort to share with them, although he had never met them.
Through Paul’s prayer and letter we see the heart of Christ and the community found in the body of Christ. Never ceasing to pray for those he has never met and writing to help them to develop into maturity are just the initial pieces of this letter.
May we pray as Paul did both for those that we have met, and then those that we only have heard about. May God mature us as believers in Him and help us to cultivate life and maturity in the lives of those around us.
Grace & Peace,
Britton

Introduction to Colossians

I was influenced by a lot of things when I was younger but mainly television.
I was always trying to be cool and fit in, I would attempt to keep up with the latest cool trends, which in turn made for some really embarrassing pictures.
I was always trying to find my place and where I belong, however this was complicated because I was also trying to figure out who I was.
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he is writing to a group of young believers who are struggling with identity.
They are influenced being both influenced and tested by their culture. Their hearts are confused and weary. They have lots of questions.
Paul both affirms them and exhorts them. He has been encouraged by their faith that he has heard about from Epaphras. Yet he is aware of the needs this group of young believers may have.
As you read through Colossians reflect on the truths that Paul is pointing out to them. What advice or warnings does he give? What analogies does he use?
Paul is helping these young believers in Colossae to draw closer to Christ by revealing these truths about Christ.
May God use His words, written by Paul, to draw us close to Him as well.