Abounding In Thanksgiving

Therefore, 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.

– Colossians 2:6 –

I’ve recently been enjoying a more detailed study of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, using the Bible Arcing Method.

One of the key take-away’s for me was found in Colossians 2:6, and specifically the phrase, “abounding in thanksgiving”.

Now, I consider myself a reasonably ‘thankful’ type of guy, but I had to ask myself, “Am I truly abounding in thanksgiving? Is the overall tone of my life, my words and my conduct, marked prominently by an attitude of thanksgiving?”

The reason why I need to be marked by thanksgiving is, as a Christian, ‘thankfulness’ is all I really have to offer!

Look at Paul’s reasoning in Colossians 2:6: Our walk with Christ should continue and develop on the same basis we received Christ. That is to say, the way you received Christ as Lord of your life is the same way you should continue to walk in him.

So how did we receive Christ? What did you do to earn his redemptive work at the cross and receive salvation?

Nothing! You received him by faith.

You did nothing. Jesus did everything.

Your salvation was everything to do with grace, and nothing to do with works.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9)

So if this is the way we received Christ Jesus the Lord, Paul’s reasoning is that this is the way we continue in him. And that’s why we must abound in thanksgiving. Any growing, any maturing, any deepening, is all a work of grace and not owing to any special ability or spiritual level I attain.

In a way, salvation has robbed me of everything except thanksgiving. All I am truly left with is the opportunity to say 1000 times a day, in a 1000 different ways, “Thank you”.

When I do this, when I proclaim my dependant thankfulness, I magnify the name and worth of Christ; I say to the world, “He has become more, and I have become less. Jesus is worthy of all your honour and praise.”

Not content to leave it at that, the Lord seemingly needed to drive the point home further. I happened to watch a ‘Look at the Book’ episode by John Piper on Psalm 50:8-15, titled, ‘God Does Not Need You’. I’d encourage you to take the time to watch it for yourself.

To the praise of His glory!

Flaunting Folly

In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly. – Proverbs 13:16

It’s so easy to overlook the ‘fool’ warnings of Scripture, particularly the pithy sayings of Proverbs that seem to cut through the sophisticated clouds we love to puff up around us.

For example:

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. – Proverbs 18:2

I’ve met a few people like that. I’ve scanned countless comment threads that seem to attract fools like pigeons to seed. I’ve even been foolish enough to engage with the flaunting of folly, thus revealing my own lack of wisdom; after all, “If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet. – Proverbs 29:9“. I need to remember that. “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. – Proverbs 29:11“.

Yet, I need to remember that it is so easy to point out the fools I’m surrounded by, while my own heart foolishly deceives itself.

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. – Proverbs 28:26

I am so prone to rest in my own ability, an over-realised confidence in my own potential, and this exposes me as a fool as well. For I too have tread the well-worn path of the fool, and often still walk those winding ways. ‘For although I knew God, I did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but I became futile in my thinking, and my foolish heart was darkened. Claiming to be wise, I became a fool…‘ (Rom 1:21-22). That’s me. That’s you.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:7

This is my only hope. My heart must be instructed by true wisdom and pursue the path of real knowledge. This all begins with a high view of God, an all-encompassing vision of his holiness and majesty, all of which isn’t centred in my meagre and finite understanding, but instead, revealed in and through the eternal Word – Jesus Christ the Lord.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2

Bowed Knees Before the Father

Last week I introduced a short series on Paul Shaped Prayers; the intent being to shape our thinking about prayer by considering Paul’s prayers through the New Testament.

To begin, let’s pause for a while and dwell long enough to be touched by the magnitude of Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14–21, ESV)

The scale of everything in this prayer is enormous! From the all-pervasive nature of the Father to whom the prayer is addressed, to the glory of Christ throughout all generation, forever and ever. Nothing in this prayer is small.

When you pray like Paul, you pray big prayers! Even ‘small things’ find their true scale when you pray like this.

Paul prefaces his requests with an acknowledgement that any growth that happens as a result of his prayer comes not because of Paul’s prayer, but instead from the inexhaustible riches of God’s glory.

So pray big things humbly. Know that prayer is powerful, not because you hold sway with God, but because God’s glory holds sway over all things.

Now notice what Paul prays for…

  1. Spirit enabled power that reshapes the character rather than self-discipline over external actions
  2. That your life would be the residence of the Risen Christ, with it’s foundations established by faith – rather than an acquaintance of Jesus
  3. That because of this foundation, you would have the capacity to know the unknowable; to join with that great cloud of witnesses in seeing Christ for who he truly is; to actually grasp love, real love, not as the world defines it; to have the full full-ness of God so fill you up that there is no room left for any other selfish ambition – rather than, “Yeah, I’m giving this Jesus thing a go”

And just in case we may think we have a picture of what that life would look like, what it would feel like to see this come to life in my own existence and the lives of those around me, Paul’s prayer expands even more.

Paul finishes by reminding himself, and us, that we address a God who isn’t restricted by the small-ness of our prayer, no matter how big we think we’re praying. We cannot even begin to approach God’s capacity to do big things in the lives of those we pray for, our greatest dreams or most outlandish requests don’t even scratch the surface.

So pray big, but expect God to be bigger!

Imagine with me for a moment what your church might look like if it committed to praying for each other like this…

Now start.

To the praise of his glory… forever and ever. Amen!

Monday Throwback

One of the most popular posts in the last few years here at wordfocused, was a brief reflection I wrote following the 2014 Oxygen Conference held in Sydney. I wrote it as a way of processing my own emotions and struggles during a time of family stress, but for some reason, it seems to have struck a chord with many others.

So here it is again… A Tree Between Two Mountains

When the weeping tarries

I’ve missed writing. Sometimes, writing is hard when the weeping tarries. Like the watchman of Psalm 130 who stood on the walls, peering into the darkness, waiting desperately for the dawn’s liberating light. So I too hope in the gift that comes with the dawn.

Psalm 30:5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favour is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

In the dark of night, the weeping may tarry. Yet put your hope in the God of new days and bright sunrises. Wait and watch like the watchmen long for the dawn. For the favour of God is for a lifetime, and his joy comes with the morning. To the praise of His glory.

The Dangers of Entrepreneurship in Pastoral Ministry

Very impressed. Very, very impressed. And as a rule, I rarely use the word ‘very’.

Matt Svoboda

John Piper once wrote a book titled, “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.” It is fantastic and I recommend it for every pastor. It warns pastors of falling into the error of “professionalism.” Piper knew that falling into a spirit of professionalism as pastors could essentially destroy the essence of our calling as pastors.

A spirit of professionalism is still a danger to pastor ministry, but I think we are seeing a new wave: a spirit of entrepreneurship. While these two things are in many way inseparable, I think there is some important nuance between them.

Like with professionalism, not all aspects of an entrepreneurship are bad. In many ways it is quite helpful to have pastors that have some entrepreneur in them. The danger is in putting too much stock into entrepreneurship. A danger that can really dig against the true nature of calling and spiritual leadership 

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My New Bible

It is with a note of self-conscious, Western induced caution that I write this post. I am painfully aware of our infatuation with all things new and that many bibles do not make a man more holy.

Yet, I do want to sing the praises of the team at Crossway on their recently released edition of the English Standard Version (ESV) – the Gospel Transformation Bible. I recently received my copy in the mail and have been extremely happy with the additional content that supplements the already well established ESV text.

Taken directly from the introduction to this excellent edition are the following words.

The goal of the Gospel Transformation Bible is twofold: (1) to enable readers to understand that the whole Bible is a unified message of the gospel of God’s grace culminating in Christ Jesus, and (2) to help believers apply this good news to their everyday lives in a heart-transforming way.

My prayer is also twofold: (1) that these goals would find their fulfilment firstly in my life, and (2) in the lives of those who God has given me to minister to.

It is with sincere confidence that I add my endorsement of this edition of the ESV.

Gospel Transformation Bible

Gospel Transformation Bible

When We Send a Person to His Death

Ronnie Smith was shot and killed in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday. He was 33. He was a husband and father. The leaders of his home church have given me permission to respond to his death publicly and carefully. You can read the fuller story at World or in the mainstream media. ~ John Piper

The story of Ronnie Smith swept through the Christian blogging world like wild-fire.

And so it ought to have.

Any loss of life by a servant of the Gospel should awake us in the West from our comfort induced slumber.

Ronnie’s story has done that for me.

Then, on one hand – to ease the aching wound, yet on the other – to fan the flame within, I read John Piper’s response to this seeming tragedy.

I encourage you to read the post in it’s entirety here.

When We Send a Person to His Death – Desiring God.

Worship Together

Corporate Church life can be hard for a family.

At least, it has been for ours.

Do we leave our kids in?

Do we send them out to kids church?

If they do stay in, will it be worth the battle?

If we send them out, will it cost something precious in the long-run?

We’ve had all these questions – and more.

I’m pretty sure we’ve got it very wrong along the way – and I’m pretty sure we haven’t arrived. So when I read this, I was encouraged.

the beginning of wisdom: worship together.

I hope you are too.