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Archive for the tag “Paul’s writings”

The Clear Message

The story goes: a fellow came into an office chatting up the receptionist. He leaned over and said “my friends call me Tom Cat, what do they call you?” She replied, “I don’t know, I’ve never met them.”

I had to chuckle at that… it was from a show I watched last night. (I’m into British dramas and found this one on my Roku.)

This morning, I sat with Paul in his letter to the Galatians. His letter was written because of words spoken from “false brothers” who were spreading a “law-based Gospel” – the original “fake news.”

Words matter…the right words are essential for the clear message you want to send. Tom Cat didn’t get through to the receptionist; the message was completely lost on the poor girl. But Paul knew how to deliver a good message that mattered. His words changed people – even today.

Paul had to make sure what the Galatians heard from him was the true message without anything “added” to the message. Paul went to Jerusalem to confirm his message – salvation comes by grace and by faith not by the Law of Moses. The false brothers wanted Gentiles (non-Jews) to take up the Law in order to be “true” believers.

Paul’s conclusion about the gospel message was summed up in this manner “if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21b). The leaders added nothing to Paul’s message to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:6b). The leaders actually affirmed that Paul was entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews (Gal. 2:7).

Paul had harsh words for the ones who were spreading a gospel other than the one he preached to the Galatians. Galatians 1:9 states: As we have already said, so now I say again: “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned.” Paul’s message was not something man made up (Gal. 1:11), nor did a man teach him, but only by revelation from Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:12). Paul’s message was clear. Words matter and the source is just as important to confirm what we know to be true.

Yesterday, my office had a celebration of life for an employee who died in February from cancer. As the co-workers began to share what this lady had meant to them, it was very evident she was a light shining in this dark world. She had such joy, a smile on her face and was a good friend to all. It’s a shame I didn’t get to meet her. I started this job after she had already left because of her sickness. This time of celebration brought to me remembrances from another death that changed my life.

My friend and coworker died suddenly by tragic circumstances on this day 28 years ago. At that point in my life, I knew about Jesus – after all I grew up in Church – but I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. When my friend died, I had to step back and take stock. I realized if I had died suddenly like my friend, I didn’t know if I would be in heaven like my friend. Her death gave me a perspective I hadn’t contemplated until that time.

Here I am 28 years later, hopefully wiser, but also walking the walk I didn’t know how to walk back then. One thing I am contemplating this morning that still sits in my soul after so many years – how am I using my life to further the Gospel message? Paul fought the good fight – he ran his race. After 28 years of walking with Jesus, what do I have to show for it? I want my life to count for Kingdom purpose. Does it?

At the end of my life – no matter when that will be – have I led anyone to Jesus? Have I pointed my life to Him so that others coming behind me can follow? That’s what Paul did. He walked, he talked and then he wrote so that others would be able to follow the Gospel message as Jesus had revealed it to him.

In this day and time, it is essential to share this Good News, especially around this time of year – this Easter season. It’s supposed to be easy to share this wonderful message when it has made such a difference in our lives.

After this year we’ve had, if our circumstances haven’t changed us by now, nothing will challenge us to do what we know to do. We are losing ground to the enemy. How will people know the Truth unless we speak it? How will people hear unless we go? These are the things that circulate in my heart when confronted with the Gospel message. Let me be aware of who God places on my path and let me be bold to share. Words matter… it’s time to share what we know to be True.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

The Letters to the Churches

I don’t know if you are as sick of this election cycle as I am, but I will be so glad when it’s all over. If I hear one more commercial about what he said or what she did – that goes for national and state too – I think I’ll just scream. I keep waiting for the truth to come out; after all, what’s done in darkness will come to light one day. Satan loves to reveal his work especially when it comes to God’s people.

There’s been too many occasions lately when I have heard of moral failures in the leadership of churches. It’s pretty common place to have moral failures in the membership; even though that shouldn’t be, but it is. But leadership has a different standard which they should be held accountable. The dark deeds always come to light. God will not let us “get away” with anything that is done in darkness when we are supposed to be of the light. He pursues us in those pig sty locations! He will set us up to get caught. Been there, done that; didn’t enjoy the consequences of my actions.

In my Bible, the chapter heading for the fifth chapter in 1 Corinthians says to “Expel the Immoral Brother!” That seems pretty harsh. Paul wrote that the Corinthian church body was not to associate with sexually immoral people (vs 9). The letter was written to the church for the church body. Paul had sharp words for those allowing such sins to remain in the church body. Paul wrote that a little yeast will work through a whole batch of dough. Sins left unchecked in the Body will have consequences and bring harm to the church’s influence.

In Galatians, we read how Paul offers the hand of reconciliation to those who are caught in sin (Galatians 6:1-5). We are told to help carry the burdens of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus tells us not to cast stones at those caught in sin. We can also fall into the same trap and need to be watchful for Satan’s attempts to harm the church through us. Paul wrote to the church body in Ephesus about living as children of the light. “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians 5:3).

Paul’s writings were for a different time, right? This doesn’t apply now, does it? I believe these truths still stand, and I believe the church body will be sifted for any “weeds that have grown up in our wheat field.” If Jesus is getting ready to come back to get His bride (the church) like I hear from prophecy experts, then the church has to be ready. The church needs to be clean. And the leadership needs to be held to the certain standards set for overseers and deacons as stated by Paul in 1 Timothy 3. Paul reminds us that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

We go to the letters to the church found in Revelation, and Jesus warns these churches of the coming wrath. To the church in Ephesus, He said to repent and do the things they did at first; they had forsaken their first love – Him. He warns them if they do not repent, their lampstand will be removed (Revelation 2:4-5). To the church in Smyrna, He reminded them of the coming persecution; to stand strong in the face of it (Revelation 2:10). To the church in Pergamum, He called them to repentance because of the teaching that was allowed to entice the believers to sin. To the church of Thyatira, again this church was misled into sexual immorality. He reminded the hearers of His word that He searches hearts and minds; “hold on to what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:25).

To the church in Sardis, He tells them to wake up! He tells them to obey what they have heard and repent (Revelation 3:3). To the church in Philadelphia, He tells them to hold on as well. He said He is coming soon; how much more so now than then. And to the last church letter to Laodicea, He warned them about being lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). Being lukewarm is repulsive to Him. But He said to those whom He loves, He would rebuke and discipline. He stands at the door waiting. If we have ears, we need to hear and be obedient to His teachings.

Church, it’s time to wake up; it’s time to clean up our act. It’s time to turn away from the darkness and live as children of the light. Leaders of the church, you set the example we must follow. Teach the truth even if we don’t want to hear it. It’s time to thrive again. Politicians and government cannot do what the church is equipped to do – love one another and be the light to our communities. Jesus is counting on us. For those with ears, let them hear.

Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Luke 13:23-25

Paul’s Walk

When I was first started studying the Word, I had a difficult time understanding Paul’s writings; Romans in particular. It was just deep stuff! This past week I listened to a sermon concerning Paul’s (or Saul at the time) conversion. He was a religious man, zealous for God’s law. He thought he was doing God a favor by killing or persecuting those who walked in the Way (aka the followers of Jesus). Paul was a brilliant man; very passionate about religious law. He had been taught by one of the masters of the Law. He knew the Law; memorized the Law. However, his focus was wrong. He didn’t understand the truth of the Law. He didn’t understand Jesus was the one who would fulfill the Law. He had the book knowledge, but did not have the heart knowledge. His heart was hardened to the truth.

His conversion is known as the Damascus Road conversion. It was pretty drastic. Paul (Saul) had a letter from the ones in charge to go about the countryside clearing the land of those who proclaimed the name of Jesus. He was willing to travel miles upon miles to stamp out this rebellion. Along the way, Paul was confronted by Jesus in a supernatural way. When Christ’s church is hurt, He is also hurt. If the church didn’t survive, the message of Good News would not reach the ends of the earth as it was intended. We wouldn’t know it today. The church would not have survived if Paul had continued his quest. But Jesus stopped Paul in his path, and changed Paul’s focus. Paul was blinded physically so that his spiritual eyes could be opened. When his eyes were opened to the truth, his whole focus changed. However, his determination didn’t. He was still zealous, but zealous for Jesus and His message. He was still willing to walk mile upon mile to reach the ends of the earth for a new purpose; not to kill the message, but to give a life-giving message.

As I have grown in my spiritual maturity, I have developed a deeper understanding of Paul’s writings. The Holy Spirit did a major work in Paul and used his brilliant mind to bring us wisdom in the written word. Sitting under Paul’s teaching now is still difficult if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit guiding me to the truth. But learning from Paul is part of my process of growing to maturity. I don’t want to stop learning. Like I wrote last week, I want my hunger and thirst to be even greater. However, what I am most concerned about today is my willingness to go mile upon mile for a cause greater than me.

The preacher asked his audience “what are you willing to walk 20 miles for?” That was usually the amount of miles walked by Paul on any given day. Ever since I heard that, I wondered. What am I passionate about? Passion is about suffering for a cause. Can I actually say I am suffering for anything right now? Tough questions; with little answers. God is looking for those who are willing to go the extra mile. He is searching for those who want what He wants. I want to want it. Paul had a message to share. His testimony is powerful; but so is each and every one of us who know Jesus’ salvation. We all have a decision to make. Will we use what God has given us for His glory or will we try to kill the message by our disobedience? Each decision made for God’s glory will bring us closer to a passion that cannot be extinguished. Paul had it; I want it too, don’t you?

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

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