Thursday, May 19, 2016

Partners in Crime

By Allen White

My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.  Colossians 4:10-14

Paul lists quite a cast of characters here in his closing to this letter to the Colossian church. Paul’s ministry was always a team effort. While Paul is the most mentioned in the spread of the Gospel to Asia and Europe, he had many partners along the way. Paul couldn’t do it alone.

Aristarchus met Paul in Ephesus. As a result, Aristarchus and Gaius were arrested (Acts 19:28-30). He became Paul’s traveling companion from Troas to Jerusalem and then Jerusalem to Rome. He shared Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. Aristarchus was truly a ministry partner to the end.

Mark, also known as John Mark, was not always on the best of terms with Paul. In fact, in Acts 15:36-40, we see that Paul chose not to travel with Mark because Mark had abandoned them on a previous journey. In this letter, however, it appears that Paul and Mark had reconciled, and that Mark was back on the team.

Jesus called Justus, his Greek name, looked after Paul during his first imprisonment. We really don’t know much else about him.

Epaphras was actually the founder of the Colossian church. He had traveled to Rome to give Paul a report of the work in Colossae. But, during the visit, Epaphras was arrested and found himself imprisoned with Paul.

So, imagine this: a founding pastor goes on a trip and then doesn’t ever return. We find out later that he’s in prison. The church would be in distress. The pastor would be in distress. This was the situation that Epaphrus found himself in.

The Colossian church had to depend on mature believers to guide it along. Epaphrus’ constant role was to wrestle in prayer for them. Yet, look at how the Colossian church prospered. Paul began his letter by saying, “We always thank God…when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints” (Colossians 1:3-4). Christ, indeed, does build His Church (Matthew 16:18).

Dr. Luke is the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. He joined Paul on his second missionary journey and accompanied Paul on the third journey as well.

Demas was in prison with Paul, but Demas’ story does not have a happy ending. According to 2 Timothy 4:10, “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.” There is no record that Paul and Demas were ever reconciled.

It’s amazing to see all that Paul accomplished despite the fact that He was imprisoned. Some of us can barely function when we’re having a bad day, let alone finding ourselves behind bars. Yet, there is much hope in a passage like this.

Outcomes depend on God. It’s not all up to us. That certainly takes off a lot of pressure. Now, God expects us to be diligent and to work hard, but God is the one who produces the result (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Through a very difficult period of Paul’s life, God provided faithful co-workers and friends to stand by him. They encouraged Paul. They helped to continue the work. They prayed.

God’s work will continue. If our attitude is right and our hearts are open, God will continue to use us despite our situation.

What do you feel like solely depends on you? What do you think would be greatly handicapped if you weren’t involved? How much do you find yourself depending on God? How much do you depend on yourself? Who do you need to accomplish what is in front of you?

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

God Doesn’t Just Erase Our Problems

By Allen White 

Tychicus is only mentioned about five times in Scripture. He was one of Paul’s companions on the final missionary journey before Paul’s arrest and imprisonment (Acts 20:1-4). Tychicus was given an important mission. He was to deliver the letter to the church, and then deliver a second letter to Philemon along with a runaway slave, Onesimus.

The evil of slavery is hard to reconcile. Maybe it shouldn’t be. Onesimus had fled Colossae and ended up in Rome. Somehow he had met Paul and became a Christian (Philemon 1:10-12).

Now, what we understand from Scripture is that in God’s economy, all believers are equal: Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free (Galatians 3:28). Even though Onesimus was now a believer, and even though he was very useful to Paul (Philemon 1:13-14), Onesimus was under obligation to Philemon.

For those who think that becoming a Christian causes all of your problems to go away, they just need to take one look at Onesimus to see that there are no exemptions. His eternity was secure. His temporal situation was still the same.

Paul’s hope was that Philemon would regard Onesimus differently. Now, they were brothers in Christ. (Philemon 1:15-21). The other side is that Onesimus would prove to be more useful to Philemon than he was previously (Philemon 1:11).

Now that we have a little background, let’s read this passage again:

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.  Colossians 4:7-9

The outstanding feature of both men is that they were faithful. They were faithful to the cause of Christ. They were faithful to Paul.

Faithfulness reflects God’s character (1 Corinthians 1:9). In fact, it may only be possible through God’s work in our lives.

Who would call you faithful? Why might someone doubt your faithfulness? Our faithful God can do this work in our lives as we depend on His faithfulness to us.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Before You Add that Jesus Fish…

By Allen White

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6

Most servers in restaurants hate working on Sundays. It’s not so much that work interferes with their Sabbath. It’s the customers. You know them. You might be one. Yes, church people.

Church people are pretty obvious. Many are way overdressed to be relaxing on Sunday. This may be where Brookwood Church and similar churches have the advantage, since we don’t have a dress code. But, the after church dining time and the fried chicken orders still give us away.

The most obvious trait of church people is that they are poor tippers. Some are even heavy on the gospel tract, heavy on the complaints, and light on the tip. Ouch! (And, yet they wonder why they have to wait so long for a table…)

Over the years, I have had a number of friends who worked in restaurants. They hated it every Sunday. They would call in sick. They would feign death. They would get arrested on Saturday night, just to avoid encountering church people on Sunday. Okay, maybe they didn’t go that far, but you get the idea.

If we identify ourselves with Christ, then we need to show people what the Christ life is all about. If you are sporting a Jesus fish or a Brookwood tree on the back of your car, how’s your driving? Are you a courteous driver? (Please note: Letting 50 cars turn in front of you while you have traffic backed up for a mile is not courteous to the cars behind you. I’m just sayin’.) And, if you put the ICHTHUS on your business card, how would Jesus do business?

When Paul speaks of outsiders in this verse, he is talking about a hostile environment. Christians were very much the minority in the First Century A.D. The Romans had not embraced Christ at this point. Their interactions with outsiders weren’t just a matter of having a good testimony. Potentially, it was a matter of life and death. Did they act wisely? Did they give a good answer for their faith?

When I was much younger, I was afraid of having spiritual conversations with “outsiders.” I had no problem answering spiritual questions from believers. There was sort of a safety net. They were already “in,” if my answer wasn’t on par, then there was no fear of their eternal peril. But, non-believers were another matter.

If a non-believer asked me something, then I felt like I needed to fully answer their question, present the Romans Road, and close the deal before they could run away. But, what if I didn’t have a good answer? What if some doubt remained after our conversation? What if they passed into eternity and I hadn’t thoroughly prepared them? Panic.

Nowadays, I see things much differently. I understand that no one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws them (John 6:44). In that process, I am one tool in God’s toolbox. I am one link in the chain of conversations and events that will bring them into a relationship with Christ. Outcomes are up to God. They are certainly not up to me. I’m not that powerful (nor do I want to be).

But, even with the pressure off, we have a responsibility to outsiders. How can God use you to show His love to servers who wait on you? Do you offer to pray for your co-workers and neighbors? Do you lend a helping hand when you have the opportunity?

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Monday, May 16, 2016

My Brush with the Law

By Allen White

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

Paul amazes me. In this passage, he is asking for prayer for an open door. Then, he mentions that he’s actually imprisoned. My first thought is that the open door would be the prison door. But, Paul is more concerned with proclaiming the message clearly. Of course, his crime was proclaiming the message, so maybe he should have sought prayers for obscurity. I don’t know that I would have fared so well.

My picture appeared in the Greenville News a couple of years ago. Three other pedestrians and I were using a newly decommissioned crosswalk downtown. Technically, we were jaywalking. There was no big sign reading “Don’t cross here any more.” They just packed up the crosswalk signs, allowed the strips on the road to fade, and put up a couple of cones. There is a fine line between decommissioning and lack of maintenance. How were we to know? The photographer didn’t take my name, so I suppose that I am currently on the lam. Next time, I will cross at the corner now that I know it’s not a crosswalk. Whew! Glad to get that confession out there.

What I do freely in proclaiming the message of Christ, Paul did hard time for and with a good attitude. Paul’s secret was simply this: devote yourself to prayer. To devote, according to, is to apply oneself entirely to a particular activity. Paul instructed the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How do you do that?

There are several ways. Some people will set alarms on their computer or phone calendars throughout the day to remind them to stop and pray. Others will establish short prayer times throughout the day. Some, rather than stop to think about something, will stop to pray about something. Rather than thinking, “That person irritates me. I just can’t seem to get my work done when she’s around,” pray this “Lord, I am having a hard time with this person. Help me to deal with them and get my work done.” Ask and you will receive (John 16:24).

My prayer is that Jeanne Brooks, the author of the Greenville News article, doesn’t read these devotionals. She could turn me in. What is the fine for jaywalking in ignorance? Besides I'm from Kansas. I wasn't jaywalking. I was Jayhawking!
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Sunday, May 15, 2016

God’s Employee Handbook

By Allen White

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. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.
Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.  Colossians 3:22-4:1

Slavery was a large part of the economy in the Roman Empire. People became slaves for a variety of reasons: as an obligation of debt, as a punishment for a crime, or as a prisoner of war. Considering that Paul addresses major categories of the Colossian church in chapter three: wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves and masters, the assumption would be that a large part of this church was slaves. Paul has more to say to slaves than to anyone else here.

Slavery seems like such a distant thing to us. We are separated by generations and cultures from its affects, yet according to the Harvard Gazette Online, there are 12 million slaves in the world today, including in the United States. ( To make this a little more personal, the Bible tells us that if we are in debt, then we are slaves to the lender (Proverbs 22:7).

Yet, slavery does not touch most of us in any personal way. Let’s turn this discussion from slaves and masters to employees and employers. This verse would sound like this:

“Employees obey your boss in everything. Do it, not just when they are supervising you to score some points, but sincerely and reverently for the Big Boss, God Himself. Whatever you do, entering data, sweeping floors, building cars, fixing computers, engineering tires, serving food, marketing products, selling shoes, writing devotionals, making music, editing video, caring for children, whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.

Put your whole self into it. Sing every song like it’s your favorite. Manufacture or service a product like it’s your own. Prepare and serve food to your honored guests. Care for children who will be mechanics, politicians, nurses, attorneys, police officers, teachers, doctors, business people, sales reps, engineers and computer technicians. Most importantly, give it all you’ve got because the Lord is your number one customer, patient or client. People don’t always deserve our best. But, God always deserves our best effort.

If you do wrong, you will pay for the wrong. It doesn’t matter who you are, no one will get away with treating others poorly, stealing, taking shortcuts, or being lazy.

If you’re the boss, treat your employees fairly, because you still have to answer to the Big Boss, God Himself. Appreciate your employees for their successes. Encourage them to develop their gifts and skills. Don’t micromanage them to the point of discouragement. As the leader, raise the morale. You will have happy, effective employees who produce stellar work.

How’s your attitude at work these days? Whether you work in an office, a factory, your car, a school or at home, you are working for the Big Boss.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

No One Likes Consequences

By Allen White

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
Colossians 3:20-21

Raising children is hard work. It can be a lot of fun. It can be a lot of heartache. Newborns are great, until they learn to tell you “No.” Then, the hard work begins.

To treat our children fairly, we need to let them know up front what the consequence of their action will be. If the child knows that he will lose a privilege if he chooses to disobey, then it’s not mean old dad taking something away for no reason. The consequence is the product of the child’s choice.

We live in a world that would prefer to deny the consequences. People want to do whatever they want and then complain when they face a negative consequence. They needed a parent when their parent decided to be their child’s friend instead. Maybe the parent was treated harshly as a child, so he is lenient with his children. She doesn’t want to be like her mother, so she becomes her daughter’s best friend. The problem is that children need boundaries and consequences. Without them, children don’t feel safe or loved.

Years ago, I heard a speaker say, “Your children may hate you at times for disciplining them, but that will keep them from growing up to hate the world.” No discipline seems pleasant at the time (Hebrews 12:11), but parents owe it to their children.

Discipline crosses a line when it’s abusive, inconsistent or heavy handed. If you would like to learn biblical parenting, check out Intentional Parenting by Doug & Cathy Fields.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Degrees of Difficulty in Marriage

By Allen White

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Colossians 3:18-19

No marriage is easy. In fact, I don’t even think you can choose between easy and difficult. It’s all levels of difficulty. Like a ski resort, the difficulty ranges from the bunny slope (the honeymoon) to double diamond (contains cliffs, 50 degree or greater slopes, rocks and other hazards or in other words, marriage after the honeymoon). It’s not impossible. It’s just difficult. But remember, the more difficult the slope, the more exhilarating the experience.

The difficulty in marriage began with the curse after the Fall. “Then he said to the woman, ‘I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you’” (Genesis 3:16, NLT). The implication is that before the Fall, Eve did not desire to control Adam, but from that point on, she would. (This translation differs from other translations, but appears to more accurately capture the original intent. For more

Now, what this verse doesn’t say is: “Husbands, do whatever you want and wives put up with it.” Paul charges husbands with loving their lives. To the Ephesians, he ups the ante by adding “as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Loving your wife is not like loving yourself. Loving your wife is an adventure. It’s a mystery. Sometimes it keeps you guessing. What gets in the way is a man’s desire to accomplish loving his wife. It can’t just be checked off of the list.

Wives, your husband needs respect, not because he deserves it, but because he needs it. Men really don’t want to have anything to do with people who disrespect them. Disrespect from his wife puts a man in a real dilemma.

Many husbands have said, “I would love my wife more if she would respect me.” Many wives have said, “I would respect my husband, if he would truly love me.” Many children have said, “If I can’t have what I want, then I won’t give you what you want.” It’s time to put away childish things.

Many people with far more wisdom and success have written many things about marriage. The bottom line is this: how does your relationship with your husband or wife measure up to this verse? Wives, how well are you submitting to your husband and following his lead? Husbands, how well are you loving your wife and not treating her harshly? The test: ask your spouse how you’re doing. The solution: pray and ask God to help you love your spouse the way he or she needs to be loved.

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