In his letter to the Ephesians Paul said, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Eph 6:19-20 NIV). I find it fascinating that Paul’s focus is not on his chains, but rather on being an ambassador for Christ. Many of us who work in the church have felt we too are in chains — teachers in chains, leaders in chains, administrators in chains, organizers in chains, etc. All too often when someone puts us in chains, rather than ignoring the chains, we abandon our calling.
January 18, 2018
Our community has a historical site that, depending on whether you are an archaeologist or recreationalist, measures the historical significance. A local archaeologist, who is not pleased with the city’s preservation plans said, “All I’m asking for is due credit for the hundreds of hours I gifted to the city [in the original inventory of the site].” Unfortunately, the archaeologist took the project upon himself, so what he is gifting to the city is not something they requested. Believers can fall into the same mind set when we work for the Lord…some of us expect to be recognized for the hundreds of volunteer hours gifted to the church. Paul said, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself [or your gift] more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Ro 12:3 NIV).
January 17, 2018
Society today is so obsessed with body image that some people feel they can retain their youth, sculpt a glorious body and have unlimited strength — all through diet, exercise and body building. I’m not sure they are ready to hear that their natural body is perishable, dishonorable and weak. Paul reminds us not confuse the natural body with the raised spiritual body. “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:42-44a NIV).
January 16, 2018
Around the world temple ruins come under the scrutiny of archaeologists. Some temples have been well maintained for centuries, while others have fallen into such disrepair that only the outline of a foundation remains. I’m now contemplating how I am viewed as a temple, “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people” (2 Cor 6:16b NIV).
January 15, 2018
Often our concern for others is misunderstood and we get labeled as judgmental, hypocrite and being religiously superiority. I’ve never known how to defend my thoughts and actions once the other person has placed me in the category of being holier-than-thou. However, I stumbled onto Paul’s detailed description as he boasts of the suffering he endured — shipwrecks, flogging, being stoned, etc. “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn” (2 Cor 11:28-29 NIV)? It occurs to me that we too feel the pressure of concern when someone in the church is weak and when someone is led into sin. As mature believers we should not let others equate our concern with judging, hypocrisy or superiority.
January 12, 2018
When starting a new year many newspapers look back over the previous year with a “year in review.” My local paper is taking it a step further and publishing a column that reviews the week’s headline stories. I assume they are using the regurgitated stories as filler, but because it’s old news I don’t read the column. Pastors can come up a variety of justifications for recycled sermon material; however, they fail to understand that to the man in the pew they are delivering old news. The writer of Hebrews distinguishes between the infant and the spiritually mature. As one who is spiritually mature, let me be honest, I don’t listen to the message when it contains only milk. “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:13-14 NIV).
January 11, 2018
I suppose it’s because I’m getting older that I find myself surrounded with friends, loved ones and fellow believers who have failing health. Cancer, blindness, old age, stroke, exacerbation of MS and then there are those suffering from the side effects of their medication. I recently realized my focus is all wrong. I see physical suffering, but I’ve been remiss in looking for the fruit produced by suffering. Paul said, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Ro 5:2b-5 NIV).