Parting Words: Jesus to the Pharisees

Everyone leans in to  listen to a dying man’s voice.  His last words. His reflections and final thoughts.

Christ fully knew when His time had come. He calculated every word and deed to coincide with the exact day that His crucifiction would take place. Consider, close to the Passover, and before His murder, Christ spoke seven woes to the religious men of his day. The 7 Woes are  discussed in detail here.

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you— but not what they do. 

The greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

~Matthew 23:2, 11-12

As we approach Easter and consider the woes to the Pharisees and scribes, we should examine ourselves to see if Christ finds the same fault in us which He found in these self-professing God-followers. (For an overview of Pharisees and scribes click here   and here.)

While they would seem to be godly, they were neither sober nor righteous. We are really, what we are inwardly. Outward motives may keep the outside clean, while the inside is filthy; but if the heart and spirit be made new, there will be newness of life; here we must begin with ourselves. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was like the ornaments of a grave, or dressing up a dead body, only for show. The deceitfulness of sinners’ hearts appears in that they go down the streams of the sins of their own day, while they fancy that they should have opposed the sins of former days. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary at Christnotes.org,emphasis mine)

Pharisees point the finger and put the focus on the external and temporal.

Scribes are tempted to neglect the spirit of the Law while upholding the letter.

Clashing symbols both, don’t you think?

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 

 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

Matthew 23:23,25-26

Jesus’ final words to the Pharisees, the religious people of His day, were stinging. As a lifetime member of a church and a Christian over two decades, I default to the pharisee and scribe status if I am not very intentional. Christ’s parting words to me, not only include His parting words to the disciples, but sadly to the Pharisees as well. Those who are Christian are by default religious, and therefore should heed the seven woes.

This Lenten Season, what does pursuing justice, mercy, and faithfulness look like in your life…in mine? What filth needs to be cleaned out of the inside of the cup before the decay spreads to the outer portion? How should we stoop in service to follow the example of Christ washing His disciples feet? 

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Mary Christmas: A Closer Look at the Mother of Christ

Mary Christmas

Mary.  Some exalt her to an equal status of holiness with the Christ-child she carried in her womb, and others nearly ignore her in an effort to compensate for the idolization of her.

What does the Bible say about Mary and how is this important to our celebration of Christ’s birth this year and every year?

The Bible says that Mary found favor with God. (Luke 1:28, 30)

In considering the Biblical accounts of men and women who obtained the favor of the Lord, the following stand out: Noah, David, Job, and Mary.

How does the righteous and holy standing of Mary before God compare with other Hebrew people recorded in the Old Testament?

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God (Genesis 6:9, 7:1).  Yet, Noah’s righteousness did not mean that he did not sin because we see that just shortly after he left the ark he sinned by becoming drunk (Genesis 9:20-21, Ephesians 5:18).  David, was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), and yet we can all point to the fact that David sinned in his adulteress sexual relations with Bathsheba, and then subsequently having her husband killed. Job, in Job 1:1 is characterized as a man blameless and upright, who feared God and shunned evil. Yet, Job, when he had  seen God, said, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:5-6)

Our first encounter with Mary is similar in that the angel Gabriel declares, Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.  Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  (Luke 1: 28, 30) Based on the accounts of Noah, David, and Job, we can conclude that finding favor with God does not equal a sinless state.  (Romans 3:23) Further,we gain hope and encouragement that finding favor with God is possible for us as it was possible for Noah, David, Job, and Mary before us.

Let us rejoice in the fact that though we are wretched sinners God characterizes us as ones who gain His favor because of our faith in the Messiah and obedience to His commands.  For Noah, David, and Job it was God’s promised Messiah to come. For Mary and for us it is in belief in the Messiah that has come.

The Bible says that Mary believed God and was His faithful servant. (Luke 1:38, 45)

 My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me- holy is his name.” – Luke 1:46-49

Mary praised God for the honor of being the chosen vessel to birth the Messiah who would fulfill prophecy and redemption for all mankind.  We can glean an attitude of humility from Mary that God would choose to use us to accomplish His divine purpose and eternal plan.

Following the shepherds’ visit and Jesus’ staying behind in the temple, the Bible says that Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19, 51) Mary, unlike us, wasn’t privy to cameras and recorders to capture all the special moments and firsts of Christ.  She had to record her beloved Savior’s face and firsts on the imprints of her heart and mind.  More than this, Mary pondered the ways and works of God.

In our hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and all of the year, we can neglect meditation on the words and works of God.  Mary sets another example of God-honoring living by thinking on Christ.

The Bible leaves Mary at the foot of the cross. (John 19:25-27) That is where we should leave Mary.  Not as an exalted figure by which we can speak to God, not as a iconic statue to be praised and worshiped, nor as a fashion accessory or good luck charm, but rather as Christ-servant and fellow sinner in need of the Savior. This is where everyone is found in relation to Christ–the foot of the cross.

In looking at Mary this Christmas, I will see her as:

  • A young woman who lived in such a way to please God that she gained His favor to be a chosen vessel for accomplishing God’s divine and eternal will.
  • One who believed God and served him faithfully.
  • One who pondered the ways of God and Christ.
  • One blessed to know Christ in infancy, life, death, and his glorified and resurrected state in heaven.

In response to the life of this godly woman I will:

  1. Like Mary, ponder God’s gift of Jesus and his way in which He accomplished Christ’s birth. See Luke 1 and 2.
  2. Put Mary in proper perspective this Christmas and praise the Creator not the created one.
  3. Walk humbly with God so at the right time God will see fit to use me…not all my life, but today and then the same tomorrow and the same tomorrow.

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Priscilla and Aquila: Following Their Faithful Steps

P and A Following Their Faithful

On Friday, we learned how Priscilla and Aquila entertained Paul (and thus probably his traveling companion, Luke) and equipped Apollos in the complete knowledge of the gospel. Today we consider how they endangered their lives for the gospel and encouraged the Body of Christ, His church. Finally, we will consider what women of the 21st century can learn from the life of Priscilla.

Endangering Their Lives for the Gospel:

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. (Romans 16:3-4)

We are told that Priscilla and Aquila risked their lives for the Apostle Paul but the details surrounding the specific event are not made known to us. They considered Paul’s life as more important than their own and his ministry of greater importance for reaching the Gentiles. Moreover, they demonstrated they were committed unto Christ Jesus even unto death.

Priscilla and Aquila followed in the footsteps of Christ Jesus in true love and friendship outlined in John 15:13:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

While their offering was sincere, they would be spared along with Paul to proclaim the gospel message. Additionally, like Paul, they would later give their lives for the salvation message they proclaimed. Tradition has it that Priscilla and Aquila were martyred in Rome. (Exploring Church History, J.P. Eckman, 2002)

Encouraged the Body:

Priscilla and Aquila were transient. They moved multiple times in the Bible. From Pontus to Rome to Corinth and Ephesus then reportedly back to Rome. In city after city, Priscilla and Aquila opened their home to preaching and teaching of the Word. They viewed their home as an extension of ministry; a commodity to be used for living out and sharing the gospel. Priscilla and Aquila grasped the reality that earthly life is temporary and true citizenship is granted beyond death.

What can women learn from the life of this influential woman of the Bible? 

  • She lived a life of ministry. (Mark 10:45)
  • She was an exemplary partner in the ministry with her husband. (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
  • She equipped and evangelized. Priscilla was a woman bent on fulfilling the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • She followed the teachings of Paul in that she learned and ministered in line with scriptural mandates. (2 Timothy 2:11-12)

Jesus’ earthly ministry and the teachings of his followers validated women more than any other religion in history. Priscilla’s actions fell in line with the mandates of God and we can follow her lead. We know this because Paul was accustomed to call out women within the church who were outside the mandates of God in his other writings. He does not do this with Priscilla. She is a woman who kept ministerial boundaries in accordance with the scriptural mandates.That is the type of women we need in the church today.

We should strive to become women  and couples who follow in the Christ-centered footsteps of this God-fearing, God-honoring couple.

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Priscilla and Aquila: Models in Marriage and Ministry

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Have you ever made a decision in your life which only in retrospect you could say was a turning point? A decision that was setting into motion opportunities for encounters with believers and events that would shape the person you have become?

I believe that we could all answer yes.

Step back almost two-thousand years ago and we encounter a couple whose back-story is  unknown, yet whose choices changed the nations and generations for Christ: Priscilla and Aquila. Famed partners in ministry with Paul and teachers of the well-known preacher, Apollos.

Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned six times in the New Testament. Four of these times Priscilla (Prisca) is listed first:

  • Acts 18:2, 18,26
  • Romans 16:3
  • 1 Corinthians 16:19
  • 2 Timothy 4:19

Some scholars have speculated that either Priscilla was of a higher social status (Aquila possibly a former Jewish slave) or that in some way her ministry was greater than that of Aquila’s. Either way, this continued coupling of their names indicated their unity in marriage.  Five of the six times they are mentioned in the New Testament, their names are separated by the word and alone. This is a peanut butter and jelly pair!

This couple demonstrated that beside every good man there is room for an equally good woman.

Let’s take a closer look at the life and ministry of this influential couple and the woman beside the man in a two-part blog series.

First they are remembered for entertaining Paul.

Like the Apostle Paul, Priscilla and Aquila were tent makers by trade. Most likely, Paul, who had traveled from Athens, met Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth while he looked for work. It is possible that Paul heard of their ministry in Corinth prior to meeting them on his journey. (Acts 18:2-3) Paul stayed with them six months (Act 18:11). From Corinth the three set sail for Syria and stopped in Ephesus where Paul left them to minister to the people of Ephesus. Paul was known for traveling with Luke so it is probable that it was more than the three of them that journeyed together. Either way, Paul would travel 1500 miles before he would see them again (Acts 19:18-22)

Secondly, they equipped Apollos. 

Soon after Priscilla and Aquila settled in Ephesus, they visited the temple. They were blessed to hear a young man, eloquent in speech and competent in the Scriptures who preached the baptism of John. Enter Apollos. Apollos was a Jew from Alexandra (NE portion of Egypt), named after Alexander the Great who ruled during the Greek Empire between 356-323 BC.

Apollos was a convert of John’s most likely from the teaching of a disciple of John the Baptist. He continued to look for the Messiah as he preached in the synagogue. Priscilla and Aquila heard him and took him privately and explained the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:24-28)

Note that they equipped Apollos in a spirit of love (1 Cor. 13), accurately and with the support of the Scriptures, and they set him up for future ministry that was later equated to the level of Paul and Peter. (See 1 Corinthians 1:12)

Priscilla and Aquila both possessed an in-depth understanding of doctrine learned from Paul (and their own studies), and this husband and wife team was able to pass on their knowledge to another Christian and build him up in the faith.  Apollos’ message was not inaccurate or insincere; it was simply incomplete. That’s where this iron sharping pair stepped in.

I want to equip myself in such a way that when an Apollos walks into our lives, Ron and I are ready to further his or her understanding of the Scriptures. I hope you will join me for part two on Tuesday.

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In Green Pastures

 St. Patrick's Day

I’ve grown up believing St. Patrick’s Day to be a holiday giving every adult in America (and anywhere else the world over) an excuse to drink beer and celebrate life fully donned in Irish green. I mostly dismissed the holiday with the small exception of wearing green so as not to get pinched along with the annual viewing of Darby O’Gill and the Little People. However, little did I know about the man, St. Patrick, missionary to Ireland.

In his autobiography, The Confession of St. Patrick, Patrick outlines his history and conversion to Christianity.  Enslaved in Ireland and working in green Irish pastures as a shepherd, Patrick recalled the truths of the Gospel which had been taught to him during his childhood in Great Britain. Patrick then put his faith and trust in Jesus Christ to save him from his sins. From that point forward, Patrick was a new man in Christ and would live with a new purpose:

Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favors and graces the Lord designed to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven. (The Confession of St. Patrick)

Once more, green pastures were the home of a man who would lead people to the One True God. Like the young shepherd, David, another disciple was being made to walk in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Surely goodness and mercy had followed a young man unaware of the future stretching out before him.

Six years Patrick worked as a shepherd, slave in Ireland before receiving a message from God in a vision to escape back to his homeland. Once safely reunited with family, Patrick dreamed another message from God to return to Ireland as a missionary spreading the good news of the Gospel. Patrick’s life work was revealed. He would later take the oath of a priest and return to the land of his slavery to set people free in the name of Jesus Christ.

Behold over and over again I would briefly set out the words of my confession. I
testify in truthfulness and gladness of heart before God and his holy angels that I never had
any reason, except the Gospel and his promises, ever to have returned to that nation from
which I had previously escaped with difficulty. (The Confession of St. Patrick)

This year as you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, remember the missionary behind the man we know as St. Patrick and the mission which continues.

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In Search of Wisdom

In Search of Wisdom 2

Women have a knack of being mysterious, but perhaps none so well as the Queen of Sheba. She is a woman surrounded in adventure, wealth, and legendary tales; but what does the Bible really say about her? What historical evidence outside of the Bible has been discovered and what can we learn from this woman of the Bible?

First, where did the Queen of Sheba hail?

Queen of Sheba came from modern day Yemen (South Arabia) and was the queen leader of the Sabeans (or Sabean Civilization). Sheba was known as a kingdom ruled by queens.

She is mentioned in the Koran and also in Ethiopian history, specifically the area of Seba or Meroe. One explanation for this is that her wealthy kingdom, the wealthiest in the Ancient East, extended to the Horn of Africa in the land of Seba. Seba and the region of Ethiopia is known even today for its frankincense industry. Perhaps this is where the Queen harvested the frankincense as a gift for Solomon? However, even today Yemen is also known for its Frankincense industry so the ties of the Queen of Sheba to Meroe or Ethiopia are unclear at best.

Here is a wonderful documentary to learn more.

Why did she travel to Israel?

The Queen of Sheba was a Gentile queen of a pagan nation. We can read in scripture that she was attracted by the fame of Solomon’s wisdom and wealth. She associated this wisdom with the Name of Jehovah (1 Kings 10:1). Next, she came to learn. She came with questions to test the king. Her questions for the wise king most likely concerned trade, agriculture, industry, kingdom rule, and a host of other questions which we can only speculate about (i.e. creation, his God …).

What did the Queen of Sheba’s quest uncover?

After viewing the riches of Solomon’s kingdom, the efficiency and efficacy with which it was run, the rulings of this wise king, and listening to the answers to all of her questions, the Queen of Sheba proclaims that she had only heard the half of what she now witnessed of this man and his kingdom. (1 Kings 10:4-9)

What gifts did the Queen of Sheba bring King Solomon?

Spices, gold and jewels. (1 Kings 10:2, 10) Two of the spices that the Queen of Sheba bestowed on Solomon were frankincense and myrrh. Both were used for medicinal purposes. Frankincense was also used in the sacred incense (Exodus 30:34-38; Lev. 2:2) and myrrh was used for perfume and for embalming the dead. Theses spices along with gold were also presented to Jesus by the wise men from eastern lands. (Matthew 2:1-11)

Today we too can offer gifts such as these to the giver of all wisdom, God.

  • Consider our offering of fragrant spices as outlined in 2 Corinthians 2:15.
  • Jewels: “Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.” (Proverbs 31:10)
  • Gold: “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world”. (1 Peter 1:7)

The parallels for the Gentiles coming to salvation in Christ Jesus are seen in the account of the Queen of Sheba as well as the wise men’s visit to Jesus. The Queen of Sheba’s visit to Solomon and the wisdom of God he shared with her foreshadow the salvation that Christ would make known to the Gentile nation. What the Jewish nation rejected would be shared with the Gentile people.

Did the Queen of Sheba convert to follow God?

The Queen praised Solomon and his Lord for the wisdom which God gifted Solomon with. Further, Jesus, when asked by the Pharisees for a sign that He was who He claimed to be, gave only the sign of Jonah and the Queen of Sheba:

The Queen of the South Shall rise up with this generation at the judgment and shall condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. (Matthew 12:42, emphasis mine)

Let’s take a closer look at the words of Jesus. “The judgment” Greek “krisis” refers to the final judgment which is also used in Matthew 10:15, “ Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment (krisis) than for that city.”  (“That city” is referring to vs. 14, the one that does not receive a disciple.)

“Shall condemn” Greek “katakrino” from “kata,”against, and “krino,” to judge, to pronounce sentence against, condemn. This term is also used in Hebrews 11:7: “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”

In each of these examples which used the same Greek words, “the judgement” was referring to the final judgement, and those standing in the place of judge where followers of God. This lends me to believe that the Queen of Sheba converted to be a follower of Yahweh after her visit with King Solomon. Further, 1 Corinthians 6:2, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” It would not be logical for a pagan queen to stand in judgement over others at the final judgement.

In conclusion, we citizens of the 21st century continue to have many questions much like the Queen of Sheba in the 10th century BC. Today we must continue to be wisdom seekers like the Queen of Sheba and be willing to pass along what we have learned as disciples of Christ to make more disciples so that the gospel may go forth and multiply.

Continue your search for wisdom,

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Out of the Darkness

When the water surrounded me, I was no longer afraid. Hours earlier I feared for my very life, but now all that had changed. As the darkness encompassed me, I felt the hands that guided my plunge. Then, I rose to a new life and continued to feel the pull of the guiding hands lifting me out of the depth which I would never have escaped on my own.

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I was a simple guard. I followed orders, gave commands, and made sure people did what they were told. However, even for rule-abiding officers there are forces beyond our control…especially an earthquake.

I knew the two new inmates were different. In all my years of service, I had never seen two men beaten and accused singing praises with the fervor of those two. It seemed as if nothing that I could say or do would deter them from their mission. It was as if they knew something I didn’t. It was as though they counted their lives as nothing compared to the knowledge of knowing and doing the will of their Master, Jesus.

That night as I went to sleep, the other inmates were listening as the two men continually sang praises and prayed to their God.

In the midst of a fitful night’s sleep, a rumbling and crumbling of the cell awoke me. When I went out to see about the prisoners, I was horrified by the sight that awaited me. The doors were all unlocked, open in fact, and all of the prisoner’s bonds were unfastened.

I quickly drew my sword. Surely a swift death would be better from my own hand than the stones of an angry mob. That is when I heard his voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” (Acts 16:28)

Could it really be? The shackled had become the willingly subdued? The prison break scenario every inmate had wished for and yet they all stayed?

I ordered the torches lit and light flooded the beaten bodies. They were each there. Such men of unceasing integrity and zeal, I had only one request, “Tell me, what must I do to be saved?” I must know the God who can free men’s souls from the confines of bodily chains yet subdue them to go against their own will and live in obedience unto death.

“Believe on Christ Jesus and you will be saved. You and your household.” Believe on Jesus, of Nazareth? It would take a dead man rising to new life for the changes that I witnessed in these two professing Christ-followers.

The two men came to my house, and I cleaned and bandaged their wounds as they spoke simply, but persuasively, of the divine plot of God to rescue man from sin and eternal damnation by the blood of Jesus. They spoke of the resurrected Savior, and of his appearance to one of them on his journey to Damascus. When they had finished talking we wasted no time. My whole family was baptized just as Jesus had instructed the disciples.

When Paul’s strong arms guided me out of the water I knew that my life would never be the same again. It was Paul and Silas’ voice I had heard  in the darkness and it was out of that darkness Jesus spoke grace upon my life.

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

*This is a retelling of Acts 16:25-34. Artistic liberties were used to recreate the account of the Philippian jailer and Paul and Silas.

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Preparing a Friendship

Have you ever made an unexpected friend? I have! On more than one occasion my first impressions of someone  has given me a skewed version of reality. Upon further inspection, combined with greater portions of time spent in their company, I made friends with people whom I considered outside the realm of my personal comfort zone. First, this required my speaking up and reaching out, much like Barnabas to Saul.

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In Acts 9:20-30, Luke records Paul’s meeting with the disciples in Damascus. Paul then preaches in the synagogues proving Jesus is the Christ which leads to the plot of the Jews to kill the ex-persecutor of Christians, Paul, or Saul of Tarsus. However, Paul’s disciples take him by night and let him down in a basket through an opening in the city wall.

Paul travels to Jerusalem, where the disciples are afraid of him; they do not believe his conversion is true. But Barnabas raises the risk and puts faith in the profession of Paul. Thereafter, Paul preaches boldly in Jerusalem until the disciples learn the Hellenists are seeking to kill Paul. So the disciples send Paul off to Tarsus.

Later in Acts 13, we see Barnabas and Saul (Paul) commissioned by the Holy Spirit to be set apart for His work. Although Paul and Barnabas will later have such differences in ministry that they part ways, I wonder if during their stint in joint ministry did these two men talk over the time when Barnabas took courage to believe in the evidence of Paul’s amazing grace conversion?

Jesus said that people will know we are His disciples by our love for one another. In choosing to give Paul a chance and believe on his word that he was a changed man, by the grace of Jesus alone, Barnabas demonstrated the love of Christ to Paul.

This week’s memory verse for Colossal Coaster World, VBS 2013, is  2 Timothy 1:7:

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but of power, love, and a sound mind.

God’s Spirit continues to work power, love, and a sound mind in and through disciples of Christ Jesus. We too are to be known by our love for one another. This week at Calvary Church, our children are packing bags of food in partnership with Feeding Children Everywhere (here). One way we can show our love  is by sharing our resources to pay for the food of brothers and sisters in need. The cost is $2,500. Prayerfully consider if you will give to this cause.

First impressions, and past impressions, aren’t always correct. We can choose to be fearful and subsequently miss out on relationships that will bring us closer to the person Christ is developing us into, or we can live out of His Spirit of power, love, and a mind that is unafraid. Praise the Lord, He has given us a Spirit to guide us and the gift of a sound mind to face our fears and trust in God. (1 Timothy 2:7)

What about you? Is God preparing you for a friendship with an unlikely candidate? Pray that He will guide you to speak up and reach out to the people that He places in your path today. Who knows, one day you may look back together and say, “Remember when…?”

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Paul: A Life Transformed

 Flower

Vacation Bible School (VBS) is more than construction paper, stories, and cookies. VBS is a time to instill in young, pliable hearts the Word of God. A time to equip children with the truth so that they can defend their faith when the tough questions rise within, in their own souls, and without, from the fiery darts of the enemy.

This week I hope to provide table talking points for Lifeway’s VBS curriculum that we are using at Calvary Church in Florida. These will be points that you and your family can discuss around the dinner table, during the ride home, and throughout your day to further impress upon your children the truth of God’s Word.

First up: Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. Acts 9.

 Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? (Acts 9:4) 

It is imperative that we distinguish this is Jesus addressing Paul for two reasons (verse 5). 

First, this is pertinent in the revelation that when a Christ-follower is suffering, Christ Himself suffers too. What is done to the Body of Christ, the church, is done unto Jesus Himself. The Bible clearly tells us that persecution of Christ-followers is to be expected and that we should rejoice in our suffering. Saul of Tarsus, later called Paul, was a persecutor of the early church “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” (Acts 9:1)

Secondly, it is imperative that we note this is in fact Jesus talking with Paul because he is another eyewitness of the risen Savior. More specifically, an eyewitness by a professing enemy of the gospel following the ascension of Jesus into heaven. (See Acts 26) Paul’s conversion is significant in this fact as he was a primary witness of Jesus. Paul did not come to be a Christ-follower from a secondary retelling of the gospel; rather, he encountered the risen Savior himself.

Why was Saul’s name changed to Paul?

Saul was Hebrew, and Paul, Latin. It was common to have a name in each language and to use the Latin name among Gentiles.*

Because Paul was a missionary to the Gentiles that is one reason for the change in Scriptures from referring to Hebrew, Saul of Tarsus, to the Gentile missionary, post-converted, Paul. This post (click here) explains this point very well.

Further, let us look at the meaning of Paul’s names and the name of the Christian brother, Ananias.

Prideful Saul was a Pharisee of Pharisee’s, perhaps named after the first King of Israel. Saul in Hebrew means “asked for” or “prayed for.” Paul is a Latin name meaning “small” and “humble.”

I find it interesting that the first king which the people of Israel petitioned God for was Saul, the very name of which means “asked  for.” Further that the converted Christian, Paul, would be initially referred to as Saul and then post-conversion as Paul. In name and demeanor Paul bore the humility of Christ after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Ananias’ name means “the Lord is full of grace.” It was in the fullness of God’s grace that he transformed prideful, persecuting Saul into the humble Christ-follower and missionary, Paul. Indeed, God allows all of our hardships in light of his great grace.

I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother. My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. (1 Peter 5:12, emphasis mine)

Following Paul’s conversion he was baptized.

“Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; (Acts 9:17-18)

This week your child may come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior just like Paul around 2,000 years ago. He or she, like Paul, should follow in believers baptism to signify they now follow, and belong, to God through Christ Jesus. If you have questions about baptism then I encourage you to read this post and then encourage your child to make their conversion public through baptism.

May God bless you and your table conversations! If your child is of preschool age, I would highly recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible (see the link below). Also, if you would like to read more about proof of the resurrection of Jesus, then click on the references below to purchase them from Amazon.

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*Adams, A. D. (1996). 4000 questions & answers on the Bible (123). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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Fallen But Not Forgotten

Fallen But Not Forgotten

In celebration and remembrance of the valiant, willing men and women who sacrificed their own lives to enable us to live in freedom. You are fallen but not forgotten. May your memory go forth and your deeds be remembered as long as men are born free and liberty resounds from sea to shining sea.

Father, thank you for all our armed service men and women. Thank you for the scores of men and women who have served on our country’s behalf. For those who have stood guard, charged ahead, and kept the peace in turbulent times. Today, we honor their sacrifice and that of their families.

Thank you for bravery in the face of fear, for fortitude when retreat seems logical, and for sacrifice of self for the good of fellow man and soldiers. No one can fathom the face of war unless they have looked into its dark eyes themselves. Likewise, none know the pain of heroism like the widows, children, and parents of the fallen.

Thank you for our freedom in America and for those who served and are serving. May we not give up what they fought so hard to provide and maintain.

Please forgive us our sins as a country and as the body of Christ. Help us to turn from the bondage of sinful living and turn to the freedom found in obedience to your life-giving commands.  May we remember and spread the good news of your Son, Jesus, who also laid down His sinless life so that we might live in your presence in total forgiveness of sin.

In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Happy Memorial Day.

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