Nov. 27 – (Col. 4:10-11) Many times we get to the end of a book like Colossians and just cruise through the closing words like they read “sincerely yours” or “with love”.  I would like to spend a little more time understanding why these people are mentioned and how they connected with Paul.  We may get a deeper understanding of relationships back then and how we can apply these godly principles now.

                Aristarchus is the first person mentioned in our reading today. We will need to back up to Acts 19 to get some background on him. He was seized by the people of Ephesus in a conflict with silversmiths over the diminished sales of silver shrines of their goddess, Artemis.  The conflict of course, was because Paul was preaching the gospel and people were convicted of worshiping other idols. Aristarchus was dragged and beaten and barely escaped with his life in the riot in the theater of Ephesus (Acts 19).  He remained firm for what he believed and became a faithful servant of Paul in the arduous trial in Jerusalem and Caesarea. He also remained close to the Paul throughout the dangerous sea voyage to Rome (Acts 27:2), and obviously was imprisoned with Paul (Col. 4:10).  Doesn’t this give you more understanding why Paul appreciated him enough to even mention him?

                Next, we have Mark. This is John Mark, whose home in Jerusalem offered a “large upper room” where Passover and the Last Supper were eaten (Luke 22:7-13). This is also the upper room where Pentecost began and afterwards became the headquarters of the apostles.  Mark was part of the exciting events as the infant church grew. He was also persecuted by Saul of Tarsus and was among those scattered abroad under the purge of the Sanhedrin. After Paul’s conversion, Mark’s life became intertwined with the Apostle’s (Acts 12:25). These strong ties were broken when Mark defected at Perga (Acts 13:13). It seems his cousin Barnabas nursed him back to spiritual health after that failure (Acts 15:37-39).  Then Peter helped him grow up in Christ (I Peter 5:13). Though it took years for his broken relationship with Paul to be healed, reconciliation did come about. Paul was the initiator of the reconciliation. He called for Mark to join him, after refusing to take Mark on his second missionary journey.  Paul not only wanted to reconcile but wanted Mark to work alongside him. This challenges us to think about those we have written off for one reason or another.  Selah!

Nov. 28 – (Col. 4:12-13) Epaphras had already been mentioned by Paul at the opening of this letter.  He was an evangelist that founded the Colossian church.  Paul tells the church that Epaphras is always wrestling (or agonizing) in prayer for them (4:12).  It was suggested that he may have come to meet with Paul and then was imprisoned with him (Philemon 23).  However it happened, Epaphras was imprisoned with Paul and away from the church he had founded.  Though he was not physically with them, he interceded for them.  The main thing Epaphras prayed was that they may “stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God”.  Who do you know who prays for you?  Does it encourage you?  Who do you “agonize” in prayer over? Selah               

Nov. 29 – (Col. 4:14-16) It seems Luke traveled with Paul since Troas, which was years before this letter was written (implied in Acts 16:10), when author Luke begins using the pronoun “we”. Luke was Paul’s constant companion. Not only was Paul encouraged and inspired by Luke’s intellectual and spiritual depth, but we got the gospel of Luke and Acts because of this ministering together!  Luke seems just as vested in the Colossian church maturing as the founder Epaphras even though he had not even met that church.  Isn’t it wonderful how God puts people together?  Isn't it wonderful when intercessors pray for those they have never met? Yes, you are an intercessor if you pray for those you have not met! Who has God put in our life that is godly encouragement?  Why not let them know? 

                There is so much I am learning about these people Paul “mentions in closing”.    Let me be brief about the others in these two verses.  Paul only mentioned Demas’ name.  It seems Paul suspected Demas was struggling with worldly pressure and later deserts Paul (2 Tim. 4:10) due to those pressures.

                Nympha housed the Laodicean church as was normal at that time.  Paul’s concern for the Laodicean Christians was justified.  It was not any easier to be a Christian in a prosperous, wealthy city than in a philosophically confused Colossae.  It won’t be may years until the Lord spoke a word of judgment through John on Patmos, telling of their lukewarm condition (Rev. 3:15-16).  Note also the Lord then followed that judgment with a word of hope (Rev. 3:19-20).

Nov. 30 – (Col. 4:17-18) Archippus in the Colossian church is reminded of an assignment Paul had given him.  Paul was encouraging Archippus to fulfill completely what the Lord had given him.  This sounds like discipleship to me.  Who are you discipling?  Who is discipling you?  We need both!

Dec. 1 – (Ps. 66:1-7) I know we just past Thanksgiving but I want to spend a couple days being thankful for who God is and what He has done.  One of my favorite ways for me to do this is to read the Psalms.  I would like to finish this week with Psalm 66. 

                What if we repeated these verses every day as we wake?  Or what if we recount all His marvelous deeds in the middle of the night when we can’t sleep?  Many times, I do just that.  Being a kindergarten teacher for many years has trained my brain to put anything and everything in alphabetical order.  When I can’t sleep, I will thank God for who He is by going through the alphabet.  “God thank You that you are Awesome and All-knowing.”  “You are the Bread of my life and I thank You for providing all I need.” There are so many words to describe Who He is and what He has done for us that I can use several for almost every letter. It is amazing how many times, my anxious thoughts change to peace and I can fall back asleep in the middle of my recitation!

Dec. 2 – (Ps. 66:8-12) This writer has known trials and tribulation but he also knows that God used it “for His good” (which also means for our good).  I love verse 12: “…We went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment.”  Yes, we go through things but as we really depend on the Lord, He will bring us to a much better place and fulfillment

Dec. 3 – (Ps. 66:13-20) In verses 13-15, the focus now shifts from Israel as a whole to a particular worshiper.  A person in Israel (including sojourners) could make a vow to the Lord in a time of need. He could fulfill the vow with burnt offerings or vow offerings (v. 13).  If you look at Lev. 22:18 and Num. 15:3, you see examples of this.  The psalm presents such offerings as joyful occasions.

                Verse 16-20 expresses a need to praise God.  There are so many ways to thank God for all He has done and for who He is.  Let’s practice some of them out loud today!