Colossians 4 – Open Doors

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Pray that God would open doors to the Gospel

Pray that God would open doors to the Gospel

Remembering that Paul is in prison while writing this, he closes his letter with a request to the church in Colossae to be devoted to prayer for themselves and him as well.  Even though he is incarcerated, Paul is still fervently preaching the Gospel and believes that God is going to advance the Gospel through His situation, grim as it may be.  To that end, he requests prayer, not just that he would be able to tell others about Jesus, but that he would also have the wisdom to say what needs to be said.

What Paul asks for is quite profound.  We talk, in Christian circles, about always spreading the Gospel, showing God’s love to all whom we meet.  Yet how often to we ask God for the wisdom to say what needs to be said (or to not say what need not be said)?  We find ourselves in very specific contexts in our lives, no one context is similar to another.  Like Paul, we ought to be relying on the Spirit to give us the words to say, not relying on our own wisdom to get us by.

More than that, though, Paul encourages the church in Colossae to “make the most of every opportunity.”  This too is an encouragement for us.  How many times have we heard stories about people who regret not saying something to a friend, loved one, or coworker, thinking that they would have an opportunity later only to find out some tragic thing happened.

People in the world are walking in darkness, the eternity of their souls at stake.  We cannot afford to be lax in our words or our actions, simply waiting for another day.  For Paul, the time to preach the Gospel was now.  Whether he was in prison, at home, or on the road, he sought the spread God’s Good News of love and grace, praying that God would open every door and give him every opportunity.



1 Corinthians 7 – #marriedlife

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Paul would seem ill-equipped to talk about being married, having never been so himself.  In fact, he states often that he sees his position as being better than actually being married.  It is important to understand that Paul is not setting up an argument for people to not get married, or even to get divorced.  Rather, he is continuing in the same line of thinking that he has been for the past two chapters, to stay away from sinning and thus damaging the witness of the church and the message of the Gospel.

All of this is coming in response to the information that Paul heard about the actions of the corinthian church.  Rather than being set apart for the Gospel, as those who believe in Jesus Christ are called to be, they have been behaving in ways that not only damage the witness of the believers but are also detestable to outsiders as well.

His tone also indicates that his greatest desire for believers is to be dedicated to the ministry of the Gospel, having their lives set apart for God and their focus placed solely on Him.  Simply put, Paul says that this is significantly easier for those who are not married.  That said, he also recognizes that being perpetually single is not for everyone.

No matter where we find ourselves in life, there will be trials and difficulties that will come our way.  Being single, or married for that matter, doesn’t change that; neither is a sin.  Paul’s desire for them, though, is that their priorities would be kept straight and that God would be at the center of their lives.  When this happens, even those that are married to unbelieving spouses will see the impact of God’s love and grace on those they love.



1 Corinthians 6 – Going Outside

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It seems like Paul suddenly changes the subject here, moving from sexual immorality to dealing with lawsuits of believers against each other.  However, we will return to that, incorporating all of this together into one overarching subject: How is our conduct impacting our witness?

This is an important question, not because we need to pretend that we have it all together, but because it forces us to examine what we do in and outside of the church.  Do those things damage the message of the Gospel?

In the time that Paul was writing, lawsuits were not simple legal affairs.  There was some significant corruption that plagued the legal system and much of the injustice that took place happens on class-specific lines.  Those who could afford to could buy the verdicts they wanted while the poorer people were left in continual oppression.  When we look at the Gospel message, this sort of class discrimination is completely wrong.

When Paul returns to the subject of sexual immorality, amongst other sins, he draws his warnings about lawsuits into this to again pose the question: Are the things that we are doing damaging our ability to spread the Gospel?  When public perception of the church makes people question the message of the Gospel that we uphold, it should give us pause.

Paul draws this all together in verse 12.  The Corinthian church was pretty free with what it was allowing and even endorsing as acceptable behavior for its constituents.  Ultimately, though, the problem is not behavioral but rather is a weakness in their identity and beliefs.  They are not living into their new identity in Christ and are misunderstanding the freedom that is offered them through His grace.  How does your community view your church?  Is that helping or hindering the Gospel message?



Acts 28 – Journey's End

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There were so many reasons for Paul not to make it to Rome, and so many opportunities for him to escape from his captors as well.  While we don’t get much information about the other captives that were on this journey but I imagine that they have found this as quite the stroke of good luck.  Being a prisoner often meant certain death in the Roman Empire and surviving a shipwreck would have provided at least an opportunity to escape.

But for Paul, even being marooned on an island was an opportunity to minister and (though we don’t see it directly stated) an opportunity to spread the Gospel.  Paul knew where he was called and stopped at nothing to get there, and he did.  Paul made it to Rome and testified to the Gospel there, just as God had directed him.  He preached in captivity and in freedom there for two years and the Kingdom of God expanded greatly there and throughout the Roman empire.

This is a fitting ending to the book of Acts, bringing its main theme, the expansion of the Gospel from Jerusalem all the way to the ends of the earth, full circle.  However, this theme does not reside in the book of Acts alone, but throughout the whole of Scripture the people of God have always been called to be a light to the world.

Sadly, we often find reasons and ways to move away from this call.  Paul demonstrates in his actions and his life the bold and courageous preaching of the Gospel throughout the world.  His mission, however, and ours will never actually end until Christ returns.  Our mission never ends, no matter what opposition we face as the people of God, we are called to be both disciples and witnesses.



Acts 24 – The Two Year Trial

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Paul’s first official Roman trial begins with a man named Felix, a governor over the region in which Jerusalem was a part.  When the Jewish religious leaders arrive, they present “charges” against Paul that coincide with his missionary journies throughout the Roman Empire.  Interestingly, though, if we were to read back over Paul’s journeys, we would see very quickly that it was actually the fault of the Jews in each of the cities where Paul was that riots broke out.

One thing that is missing from this chapter is the history of the Jews and the Roman Empire, and why the question of riots was so important.  The Jews were not a willing people when it came to Roman subjugation.  Throughout the rule of both the Greeks and the Romans, the Jews rioted and revolted constantly resulting in a Roman garrison being set up in Jerusalem.  Many soldiers were stationed there in an effort to keep this peace.  Being accused as a “troublemaker” and someone who “stirs up riots” was a big deal; the Romans had no patience for it.

But Paul’s defense leaves little doubt that these charges are, at best, incomplete, and lack the proper witnesses for the accusations that are being brought.

I have to wonder what Paul was thinking as the days, weeks, and months in Caesarea wore on.  He stayed with Governor Felix for two whole years, all the while being questioned in hopes that Paul would slip up.  He never did.

So for two years Paul waited to move on to the next step of the journey that would lead him to Rome.  It must have seemed like an eternity to him.  Yet during this time, God was setting the stage, preparing both Paul and those he would encounter along the way.



Acts 22 – Paul's Story

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I have heard it said that all we have to do is “tell our story.”  Leaders and pastors tell Christians this to communicate that there is no fancy degree or qualification that is needed to share your experience with God and what He is doing in your life.  This is incredibly true.

Far too often, Christians remain silent or are afraid to share with others because they feel that they “aren’t educated enough” or “won’t know what to say.”  The fact is that no one knows your story better than you and no one knows what God is doing in your life better than you (except God of course).

Here, Paul doesn’t actually share the Gospel as he had in other places.  Instead, he shares his experience of transformation and how his life was changed.  For this moment apparently, Paul felt that this was what God was directing him to say.

One thing that we don’t often here in the “tell your story encouragement” is what the results might be.  This, actually, is the reason why we don’t readily share things with others anyway; we don’t know what will happen.

In some accounts in Acts, people readily received the Gospel message in whatever form it was shared.  Yet here, the response is profoundly negative.  The crowds call for Paul’s death in a scene that looks markedly similar to Jesus’ trial.

Yet there is something we need to take into consideration here: God’s plan.  Paul’s testimony leads to a conversation about his citizenship.  This conversation ultimately leads to his journey to Rome.  That journey leads to countless people hearing the Gospel.

We may never know where one conversation leads, but we are still called to share and to trust God’s work in that moment and every one that follows.



Acts 6 – Deacons

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Many agree that this beginning narrative was the founding of the role of “deacon” within the Church.  Deacons are called to serve and oversee the physical needs of both the church and the community in which they serve.  For many churches, this has defaulted to overseeing the budget process and making sure that the churches finances are in order.  It has also meant the creation of funds that are specific for benevolence.  To be clear, none of this is inherently bad.

However, there has been a disturbing trend within the Church in North America that often creeps its way into how deacons operate within their churches.  We don’t always like to get our hands dirty in the work, believing that others are more suitable, more equipped, and have a “special calling” to go and ‘do ministry,’ whether local or abroad.  Instead, we are content to just throw money at these people or ministries.  It makes us feel like we are helping and participating without having to put any skin in the game.

This mindset has crept into our deacon boards who have often taken the position that, as long as the finances are in order, we are doing our job well and are ready to respond when a need arises.

While this is all well and good, and we should be ready for such needs, I wonder if we have maybe gotten a bit lazy in matters such as this.  I wonder if, instead of waiting for problems to come to us, we should be going out and meeting people where they are?  After all, Jesus’ commission to us was to “go into all the world,” not wait for the desperate and desolate to come to us.  Acting in this way could redefine and reinvigorate the Church’s witness.



Day 362: Revelation 8-12; Trumpets, Witnesses, and a Great Battle

We talked a bit about judgment and wrath yesterday, however we did not speak of one important aspect to God’s wrath and God’s judgment, something that I think needs to be mentioned here as we continue in our journey to the end of all things.  If we think back to the prophets, we see the warnings of the impending doom that come from the mouths of the prophets, warnings of the judgment AND a call to turn to God, to repentance so that the judgment may be averted.  While many of these images are unique to the book of revelation, they do hold similarities to those warnings spoken by many of the prophets about the judgment that would take place on Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem.  Here too we see God working to get the attention of all people, working to call them to repentance that they may turn to Him and be saved.  The image of the trumpets then, is not one that is so strange as trumpets and horns have been used throughout the ages to communicate with and get peoples’ attention.

I’m kind of at a loss for words in what to write next.  As we are walked through the judgments we see a great number of people dying and horrible natural disasters.  There is this meteor that falls into the water of the earth called “wormwood” which is the  name of a very bitter plant.  It could be representative of the bitterness of God’s judgment.  We also see that only a portion of the world’s population was killed, which means that there are limits to the judgments that are being poured out, at least for the time being.

There is really so much to write about here in these five chapters, we see a number of angels and demons working in different ways.  The demons seem to be working to torture and tempt those still on earth, working against God to continue to keep humanity on its destructive and sinful paths.  The Angels also seem to be at work, warning humanity of its impending judgment, carrying out the work of the Lord.  We also see that there are “witnesses” that show up as well.  In the “Left Behind” series these witnesses are Elijah and Moses who come back to earth with supernatural powers.  Actually, many of the signs that they do are indicative of the things that both did while they lived on this earth.  They were also present at the transfiguration of Christ before He journeyed to Jerusalem and to His death.  It could also be symbolic of the witness of the Word of God to the people, the two could simply represent the Old and New Testaments.  In any case, these join with the work of the Angels and that of the believers in declaring the Word of the Lord and warning humanity of the impending judgments and encouraging them to believe in Jesus.

Finally today we come to a somewhat extended narrative in this vision about “the woman and the dragon.”  There is a lot that takes place in chapter 12 and we will be revisiting it in further chapters as well.  John says that “a great sign appeared in heaven.”  This sign was that of a woman that was dressed like the sun, and had a great deal of imagery about her that is similar to one of the dreams of Joseph way back in Genesis 37.  It is enough to say that with this imagery, most people think that she is representative of the people of God.  In fact, we have talked about Israel being represented in the Bible as a woman adorned for her bridegroom, who is God.  Here she is pregnant and gives birth to a Son, another image of Jesus present in Revelation.

The dragon is also there, ready to snatch up the baby, who we are told is “the one who is to rule all the nations…”  Many people associate this dragon with Satan, with the different heads and crowns and horns to represent his earthly rule over the kingdoms of the world.  Some have also seen this as an image of the Roman empire, or perhaps corrupt world governments in general throughout history.  However, what we see is that the powers of evil were working against the plan of God, trying to prevent the coming of Jesus and the salvation that He brings.  We saw this with Herod at Jesus birth and we tend to see it often in our lives with those that persecute Christians and repress the freedom to worship God.

The deeper imagery here is revealed in verse seven of chapter seven, of a great war that is going on between the angels of God and the dragon, the evil powers that would seek to enslave and destroy all things.  While we may be naive as to what is going on all around us, there is a great war that is being waged between good and evil, between God and Satan.  This is something we tend to dramatize, glorify, and even over emphasize.  I think though that the point here really is that we need to make sure that we are aware of what is going on around us in our world today.  Satan would have us believe that he doesn’t exist, that demons don’t exist, and that he is not working against us to bring about our destruction.  What John is showing us here is that there is definitely more to this world than what we see with our eyes.  This doesn’t necessarily give us the right to start attacking corrupt governments, destruction groups, or evil people, but rather to pray against them, pray for them, and ultimately trust that God is on our side and that He is fighting for us.

We see clearly that the dragon is defeated here.  He has been thrown out of heaven and though he is still on the earth seeking those that he may devour, his doom has been sealed and his final defeat assured.  It is only a matter of time really, which is yet another thing that John is communicating here.  Has he had been encouraging the churches with his letters, so to does he encourage them now by laying out this vision that we might persevere with the assurance that the end of this story has already been told, and that our victory is assured in Jesus Christ the only true King and ruler of this world.

(I would like to mention, that the articles that I am referencing as “related” are those that have been suggested by wordpress and do not necessarily support of coincide with the beliefs that I hold or write about.  I neither cast my unknowing support to them nor do I say that they are wrong, simply conversational partners in this journey through the Scriptures.)