Introduction to Psalms

The book of Psalms (“Praises” in Hebrew) is a collection of 150 songs compiled by several authors over a thousand-year period! King David wrote approximately half of them while Asaph, the sons of Korah, Solomon, Heman, Ethan and even Moses wrote some. There are 48 psalms that are anonymous. There are five main books within Psalms that seem to indicate they were separate for a time. It’s important to note that there are different types of psalms: hymns, laments, thanksgiving, royal psalms, enthronement psalms, penitential psalms, wisdom psalms, etc. The Psalms were written with the intention of a certain tune or musical accompaniment. The intention of Psalms is an expression of praise to God! It is an emotional journey that gives an idea of how to respond to God.

Colossians 4

Vs. 2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” In the midst of false teachings growing, we must not forget how important prayer is (vs. 2-4). The idea of watchful is being on our guard like a soldier. Question: Why is prayer so important? Because prayer gives us the ability to face the temptations of this world. Prayer gives us the privilege to be in relationship with the Lord. I love how Paul is not timid to ask for prayers to be lifted up for him. Though we are to guard ourselves against heresy, we still need to be open to reaching out to the world around us (vs. 5-6). Though Paul was not able to be with them due to his imprisonment, he would send Tychicus and Onesimus to deliver the letter and encourage the church (vs. 7-9). The latter section of the last chapter, Paul sends his greetings to his many friends (vs. 10-18). Aristarchus, John Mark and Jesus Justus were Jews while Epaphras, Luke, and Demas were Gentiles. They all would play a vital role in supporting Paul and the ministry to share the Gospel and support the poor church in Jerusalem.

Regarding application…Ready with an Answer. Vs. 6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Our task on this earth is not to just attend church, tithe, and be a good person. We are called to bear witness and testify of the Good News that came to us! Now more than ever, people are leaving the established churches. Millennial’s are leaving the church in droves because they are not satisfied with the answers. While we cannot change people’s hearts, we can have conversation seasoned with salt (knowledge and love). The more we walk with the Lord, the more we pray, and the more we know His word will give us the humility and confidence to answer for our faith!

Colossians 3

Vs. 1, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” In our previous chapter, we were reminded by Paul that we had died with Christ (Colossians 2:20). But, that death of our old nature (vs. 3) brings on new life as we are raised with Christ (vs. 1-4). Our faith compels us to move forward and be changed. Question: How is this different than other religions? Because we have the one factor they don’t have; Jesus! Paul does not gloss over the reality of the ugliness of sin (vs. 5-9). It’s not easy admitting our faults and the things that we struggle with. This is a good reminder for us to face our problems and admit the sins that can entangle us. To be like Christ means that we are being renewed (process) and one that is offered to all without discrimination (vs. 10-11). Question: Why would we want to stop living like our old selves? Paul goes on to list the great benefits of living in Christ (s. 12-17). But that benefit isn’t just something that is categorized for our public reputation. As renewed believers, we are called to have our faith lived out at home and work (vs. 18-25).

Regarding application…Ruling Peace. Vs. 15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Picture peace as a referee in sports today. The referee makes ruling judgments to keep the athletes in line and competition staying friendly. If a basketball player fouls another person too hard, they can get called on flagrant foul. There are rules with how the teams are to respond to each other. If a player or even coach gets out of line, they can get ejected from the game. When we live this life, we must adhere to the ruling peace of Christ. Question: Are you living in harmony with others? It’s easier said than done. There are hurts and legitimate reasons we may have to harbor grudges. Though we are emotional beings, let us humbly allow the peace of Christ to rule our hearts and relationships.

Colossians 2

Vs. 1, “I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.” Paul was someone special to have such a passion for people he didn’t ever meet. Question: What would drive Paul to such passionate discourse? The truth! Paul understood something we take lightly; the importance of biblical truth and the right understanding of who Jesus is (vs. 1-5)! Paul wanted to ensure that the Christians there didn’t just sit on their faith (vs. 6-8). Our faith in Christ gives us all we need to live godly lives (vs. 9-15). It’s noteworthy to be aware of the schemes of higher learning and philosophies (vs. 8). Paul also speaks comforting truth to the Gentiles and a reminder for the Jews that spiritual circumcision sets the believer apart (vs. 9-12). The clear work and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is beautifully expounded upon (vs. 13-15). The latter half of our chapter (vs. 16-23) involves Paul giving the Colossian believers clear spiritual warning signs. We should not fear the judgment of false accusers. We should not allow the bullies of this intellectual world to intimidate us from the truth.

Regarding application…Rooted Faith. Vs. 7, “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him…” It’s not often that I get to reference this verse! The English ministry that I serve at my Korean church is called, “Roots Ministry.” A couple of years ago, I thought of this particular passage as our verse to give clarity to the meaning of our name. The more we know God’s word, the more our spiritual roots will dig deep to keep us easily shaken by the winds of false doctrine. The role of roots for a tree is to provide nourishment, strength and stability. Question: Is your faith growing in the Lord? My mom loves to garden. I got to see first hand growing up that it takes tender loving care to grow a beautiful garden. It takes patience, time, watering, trimming, watching, etc. Likewise, our faith requires just as much TLC!

Colossians 1

Vs. 15, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” False religions and wayward spiritual thinking has existed long before our present age. Though Colosse was in decline, it was still a larger cosmopolitan city. Paul opens his letter with a typical thanksgiving and prayer for the church (vs. 1-14). He was thankful for their response to the Gospel! However, he needed to recalibrate their estimation of who Jesus was. There were those who were doing an effective job causing the young church to question the supremacy of Christ. Their teachings were a mixture of eastern religions and Jewish legalism. If they sought true knowledge, God would bring them to a level of spiritual enlightenment. The problem with this enlightenment was that it was based on human experiences rather than the truth of Jesus’ teachings and the prophets before him. That’s why Paul would spend the early part of his letter defending Jesus’ work and power (vs. 15-23). The latter section of our chapter (vs. 24-29), Paul asserts his joy in his present circumstances to help validate the fact that he was not in prison having been defeated. He was in prison because he was doing the right thing!

Regarding application…Holy Benefit. Vs. 22, “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” The crux of the issue was this false belief in thinking that goodness and holiness could be attained on our own. If holiness could be achieved through our own spiritual enlightenment, than Jesus’s work on the cross is a moot point. The benefit for us is astounding! Jesus did what the Old Testament was never meant to do; He saved us! This legalistic quasi approach (Gnosticism) elevated the work and intellect of humans. It is hard for me to grasp the fact that we can be holy before a mighty God. I suppose that is why Amazing Grace resonates in our hearts so much. This holy benefit is offered to Jew and Gentile alike. It is offered to all who call upon the name of the Lord.

Introduction to Colossians

The letter to the Colossians was written by Paul early on in his Roman imprisonment. It was probably written around the same time (61 AD) he wrote to the Ephesians and Philemon. The city of Colosse was located in the Roman province of Asia (Modern day Turkey) and was about 100 miles east of Ephesus. Colosse had once been a thriving city when the Persians were in power. But during Paul’s time, it was in somewhat of a decline. While the population as primarily Gentile, there was a contingency of a wealthy Jewish community.   Though Paul had not planted the church in Colosse, he was writing them because of his close ties to Epaphras. Epaphras had been saved while Paul was in Ephesus and brought the Gospel to Colosse. The intention of Paul’s letter was to address a growing heresy among the early church; Gnosticism. Gnosticism is an adherence to a belief system that acknowledges that God is good, but matter is evil. The attempt was to logically reconcile how we explain evil. But by doing so, they believed such a belief would bring spiritual enlightenment. This put Christ on a lower level and denied his virgin birth, death and resurrection.

Job 42

Vs. 12, “The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.” Hallelujah! In a fallen world, it sure brings a smile to the heart to see that righteousness prevails. The enemy has been defeated for Job was able to keep his faith in the Lord! Though Job had not specifically sinned to bring such past trials, he was not completely innocent of complaining, questioning and challenging the LORD. While Job was never given an answer to his suffering, the greatness of God humbled him. His repentant heart was not a reflection of his lack of faith. I have to confess that there was a bit of pumping my fist attitude towards the rebuke of Eliphaz and the others (vs. 7-9). It was nice to see that God humbled them as well. The latter section of our chapter (vs. 10-17), brings comfort that God would restore a person who endured so much. What a tale from riches to rags and then rags to riches!

Regarding application…Ultimate Blessing. As I reflect upon the life of Job, it is wonderful to see the happily ever after ending. But the outpouring of blessing isn’t the focal point. The ultimate blessing was for all of us to see the raw struggle and faith between God and those who trust Him. God has not forsaken us even when all hope seems to have been lost. James the ½ brother of Jesus point us towards Job, “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” – James 5:11. What an example of persevering faith that Job gives us. We are blessed because of God’s compassion and mercy upon us!

Job 41

Vs. 1, “Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook or tie down its tongue with a rope?” Having used the Behemoth as an example in our previous chapter, the LORD now uses the Leviathan to further illustrate. The Leviathan was thought to be different things to different cultures over the years. In antiquity, they looked at the Leviathan as a sea monster. Some compared it to a dinosaur type of monster, shark, whale, and even a crocodile. Leviathan is a Hebrew transliteration which means: to twist or to whither. Since humans cannot possibly overcome a Leviathan, how can we believe we have figured out the LORD? No weapon can penetrate the Leviathan, and likewise no power on earth can defeat the LORD.

Regarding application…Rightful Fear. Vs. 11, “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” Some of the most powerful creatures the world has ever known would cause us to tremble in fear; sea monsters, lions, tigers, bears, dinosaurs, etc. Yet, the LORD is reminding Job, his friends, and all of us that there is someone far mightier. We are indeed a foolish people. Question: What causes us to go to work? Fear of our bosses, fear of not having money, fear of disapproval from others, etc. These fears drive us to succeed. But there is someone who is boss over all! Who’s the boss of your life? Let us have a rightful and godly fear!

Job 40

Vs. 2, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” Having presented His case over the last two chapters, the LORD Almighty waits for Job’s response! Yikes, this must have been quite a wakeup call for Job! All Job could do was spout out that he was unworthy (vs. 3-5). My heart goes out to Job as I ponder all that happened to him. Yet, the crux of the situation was that Job had earlier expressed that he felt that the LORD was unjust in how he treated Job (Job 27:1-6). To add insult to injury, he also questioned God’s response to the wicked (Job 21:29-31, 24:1-17). Job needed to hear God’s rebuke regarding His justice (vs. 6-14). The Lord goes on to use the Behemoth as an example for Job (vs. 15-24). God created both the Behemoth and Job. Can Job subdue it? If so, then perhaps he has the power to judge. It’s likely the Behemoth was a hippopotamus, elephant or water buffalo.

Regarding application…Judging the Wicked. Vs. 12, “look at all who are proud and humble them, crush the wicked where they stand.” Question: Would you like the responsibility to judge everyone whether or not they were guilty? It’s easy for us to be in judgment looking from the outside in. This is not an enviable task by any means. God possesses something we do not; omniscience. He knows everything. He knows every action, every thought, and every intention of the heart. Question: Even if we had such power, would you want it?

Job 39

Vs. 1, “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?” In our previous chapter, the LORD finally spoke! Job had assumed he had God figured out, so the LORD proceeds to question Job. All of our eyes were opened a bit more to the intricacies of the creation of the universe and the world we live in. Our chapter today continues God’s probing questions as he uses the animals he created as object lessons. Six animals: lions, goat, deer, wild donkey, ox, and horse are mentioned. While five birds: raven, ostrich, stork, hawk and eagle are mentioned. If Job and his friends have God figured out, do they know how the creatures of the earth He created work? We pride ourselves in inventions we have made over the years. But, just one of God’s creatures He has created is marvelous in detail! The LORD is able to have control and power over far more than we could possibly imagine.

Regarding application…Questions. Vs. 19, “Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?” We have many questions in this life we live. Think about all the questions children ask. Though our questions may grow deeper and more profound, we never really stop asking them. However, there is a point in which we should just sit back and marvel at God’s handiwork. It must have been pretty intimidating for Job to have God turn the tables and question him. I suppose in the end, we must come to the realization that some questions just won’t be answered. It’s interesting that God never really answers the elephant question in the room; why did Job suffer? Likewise, God doesn’t always answer our questions. That’s where faith comes in!