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Archive for the tag “Paul’s writings”

For This Reason

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:10-12

As noted in my last blog posting, we are reading through Paul’s letters to the Churches. These letters were said to have been written while Paul was in prison. To set up the context of these letters, the study book we use gave us the background in the Book of Acts. We find a turning point in Paul’s ministry in Acts 20:22-24: “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

Paul said goodbye to his people; first in Ephesus then others along the way until he reached Jerusalem. He was arrested soon after arriving in Jerusalem and taken before officials. Every time he was given the opportunity, Paul told his testimony about how Jesus changed his life and how Jesus is the Messiah -foretold by the Prophets of Old -the One who was to come to bring salvation and redeem and restore the world to God. He never changed his message, just the way he presented it to his audience.

So then we come to the letters he wrote from his prison cell or in house arrest. His time was not wasted. He was on mission and never let an opportunity go by. Some of the letters were to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ whom he never met. He wrote to them to encourage their faith and give them examples to live by. He encouraged them to live differently than the world. It was the difference that would draw others to Jesus.

In Colossians 1:4, Paul wrote he had heard of the faith and love found in the believers in Colossi. For this reason, he prayed for them the prayer I listed above. It’s a powerful prayer; praying for knowledge and wisdom so that they could live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way. Prayer is essential to living a life worthy of the calling. We also need to be watchful and thankful as we pray. Watchful so that we see God’s answer and give Him the glory. Thankful because we know what we ask for will be done, if we ask in His will – it’s just a matter of time – God’s time. I am reminded to thank Him before I see the answer.

In Ephesians, Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus he never stopped giving thanks for them and remembering them in his prayers (1:15). Paul prayed that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.Paul prayed for those who were to hear his letters would know Jesus better, to know the hope to which Jesus called each of the believers; to know the power that raised Jesus from the dead – power that lives in each believer by the Spirit of God who dwells in believers. Paul asked all this for all believers – not just to the ones who initially read or heard his letter, but to all those who read it today.

Think about the power of prayer – there is no end date. Paul has given us words to pray for one another, but also knowing God still honors Paul’s prayers 2000 years later. I asked the Lord: please answer this prayer in this present age so that we would know, by the Spirit, wisdom and revelation for God’s glory to be evident in all believers to draw others to Himself.

Wouldn’t it be a better world if the Church would have the power, which is available to us, used for God’s glory to be revealed? To know the power – to give us strength, to know the depth of His love, to know the work He is doing in us and through us? If we were all mature believers, unified in one body, wouldn’t that be a wonderful picture? It calls for a different approach than what the world puts forth. It calls us to live a life set apart and different – it calls for humility, gentleness, bearing with one another in love and living with one focus. It means being something we’re currently not.

For this reason, we start with Paul’s prayers for believers to encourage one another. Paul was warned repeatedly about the suffering he would experience as his end drew near. I think the Church as well has been warned repeatedly. It’s time we heed the warning and stay focused on the main thing. From Ephesians 4:4-6: There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called -one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Let God’s glory be evident in each of us to draw more to the love of Jesus. It’s our only hope in times of trouble. It’s the only way to change the world we live in today. God help us!

Keep the Focus

Have you ever driven down the road and noticed the orange signs warning of a lane closure? The road crews put up the signs well in advance of the closure. The signs are nice warning of what’s ahead so drivers can get over in time before they encounter the cones. On occasion though, I have seen the signs but never encountered lane closure. I guess that’s why when I see the signs; I choose to stay in the lane even though I know eventually I might have to get over into another lane. Others will get into the next lane when they first see the signs. I wait and I watch.

Reading through the New Testament in our discipleship group, we came to a section in Acts that has caused me to think of those road signs. Toward the end of the Book of Acts, Paul has his sight on Jerusalem. He was compelled by the Spirit to go (Acts 20:22). In the next verse, the author Luke wrote Paul didn’t know what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem but in every city the Holy Spirit had warned Paul prison and hardships were facing him (Acts 20:23).

As Paul was making his way to Jerusalem and visiting the churches he established along the way, through the Spirit the disciples urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem. A prophet Agabus took Paul’s belt and tied his own hands and feet with it and said “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles’” (Acts 21:11).

First off, didn’t the Spirit urge Paul to go to Jerusalem? Second, then why did the Spirit urge the disciples to stop Paul from going? A little bit perplexing to say the least. If I had been Paul, would I have stayed the course and gone to Jerusalem? I think I would have doubted I heard the Spirit correctly.

But Paul had a different relationship with the Spirit – he actually trusted the Spirit to guide him in his daily walk. Paul knew God would provide even if he was bound and in prison. Paul’s whole focus was summed up in this one verse in Acts 20:24: However, I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

Paul kept his focus even to the very end, even in prison – when he wrote his letters to the churches; even when he was in front of officials, rulers and kings – where he testified about the transformation from chasing Jesus followers to becoming one through his Damascus road experience with Jesus.

At one point, Paul was in front of King Agrippa speaking to him about his work for Jesus. In Acts 26:28-29 Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replied, “Short time or long – I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

I noted in my study guide for this chapter – we all have a testimony to share – our elevator speech – how we were before Jesus, when and how we met Jesus, and how we are after Jesus has saved us from our sins. Paul’s mission was to share what he knew. That’s our mission too. Paul prayed for all to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus and have a relationship with Him just like he had.

He prayed for the short term – people who were listening at that moment; and he prayed for the long term – those who would come to a saving knowledge after his departure. But you know what’s really cool? Through Paul’s writings, we are his long term prayer request. His prayer is still being answered as each one of us who reads and understands what Paul knew and we find our salvation in Jesus alone. Prayer is a powerful tool that can open hearts to the amazing grace of God.

Even as we pray for others, we may not see the answer in our lifetime, but I do know prayers are never forgotten by God. I do believe I had ancestors praying for my salvation even though they didn’t know me or knew I would exist. But God did. He heard and He answered. I don’t know what future generations will come, but I pray for their salvation and that they too will have a relationship with Jesus so closely that they will never doubt His love or fail to trust Him in all circumstances.

I may need to see the “cones in the road” to heed warnings in the physical world, but I hope to never fail to see the spiritual warnings the Spirit uses to keep me focused on the task at hand. Let me be like Paul and finish the race before me, submitted to the Spirit’s instruction regardless of what’s ahead of me knowing God is in control and I can trust Him no matter what. As Jesus instructed Paul (see below), He instructs us. Let us go and do likewise.

“I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:16-18

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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