Quote for 04/19/2019

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!   Psalms 46:10

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I think that the earth must look like an ant farm with all of us scurrying around doing this and that. We carry loads, physical and mental. We run into each other as we scamper to our next little goal. We fight over this, retaliate for that, and try to do what we think we’re supposed to.

God looks at our running around, and I’m sure He does not see us as ants. He loves us too much for that! But He does want us to slow down. He wants us to stop trying to figure out what we’re supposed to do. Just as we often tell someone we’re trying to teach to stop and breathe for a second, so God tells us to be still. Listen for Me. Know that I’m in charge.

Listen.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Stop. Take a breather. Reorient all you do in light of those two simple and yet greatest commandments.

Be still. Know Who is God.

Quote for 04/18/2019

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.   Psalm 126:5

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Psalm 126 speaks of Israel’s return from the Babylonian captivity. They had endured 70 years and were finally allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild. There was joy in their release, tears during the hard journey, joy upon reaching Jerusalem, and tears again through the adversity of rebuilding, including opposition from the Israelites who had not been taken to Babylon.

They sowed in tears but reaped in joy when the walls were restored, and the temple refurbished.

Likewise, we sow tears during our walks on earth. We endure the trials of life and the trials of faith. We sometimes wonder if things will ever turn out just as the returning Israelites did.

We can count on setbacks and successes in this life. There will always be tears, but joy will follow. Ultimately, the tears of living in a world of sin will give way to ultimate joy in an eternity free of sin, trails, and temptations.

We will reap in eternal joy!

St. Paul

whos who in the bibleFor the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. Roman 7:19-21

This is my favorite verse from Paul. When I despair of not living up to the life I want to live for Christ, I remember that Paul struggled with this very problem.

St. Paul, indeed, is a great example to be had for us all. He represents both the worst and the best. He represents the extent to which Jesus will forgive sins. He was responsible for the death of Christians as a persecutor of the early church. He literally held everyone’s coats as they stoned Stephen to death! Yet he became Paul, called by Christ, trained by Christ, and sent to the Gentiles of the world as their apostle. Imagine that! A self-described “Jew of Jews” and a Pharisee finds himself the apostle to everyone who is not Jewish!

The book of Acts deals a lot with Paul and documents his three missionary trips, which took him as far as Spain. Paul was beaten, stoned and left for dead, imprisoned and even shipwrecked all for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel! He easily racked up thousands of miles in his three missionary journeys, traveling by land and sea.

He even went head-to-head with Peter over Peter’s refusal to eat with the uncircumcised as cowardly and unbefitting the message of Christ. Paul collected money from other churches to help the church in Jerusalem when she was in dire straits.

Much of the New Testament was written by Paul in addition to Acts spending a lot of time on his missionary journeys. Acts was written by Luke, who was a friend of Paul’s and even accompanied him part of the time.

Let’s take a quick survey of his letters. First, there are several which some believe were not penned by Paul. First is Hebrews. Origen said in about 3AD, “God alone knew who wrote it.” Indeed, the opening passages of Hebrews does not have any attribution of authorship, but rather plunges directly into its narrative.

St PaulScholars also call into question Paul’s authorship of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. However, 1 Timothy starts with “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.”

2 Timothy’s greeting is similar: “Paul, an apostle off Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.” Timothy was a close friend and helper of Paul, so it stands to reason that they stayed in touch by letter, especially Paul writing to him with encouragement.

Titus also begins with such a greeting – “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness…” Like Timothy, Titus was a close helper of Paul’s. They first met in Antioch, and Paul brought him back to Jerusalem where he went to refute the idea that new Christians had to be circumcised to be accepted in the Christian fellowship. This policy, of course, went against the whole promise of mercy and being under faith in Jesus instead of the law. Titus was a representative of Paul’s efforts to extend the Gospel to Gentiles as well as Jews.

While not a biblical scholar, I can’t see questioning the authorship of these three letters when one considers the openings of each as well as the close relationships Paul had with both men.

Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and 1 and 2 Corinthians were letters to churches Paul had established, to people he knew personally. He was often responding to infighting over minor issues like proper Christian diet – vegetarian or not, etc. There was also one-upmanship, some claiming to be of one apostle’s teachings over another.

More seriously, Paul had to fight heretical teachings that tried to branch off from truth. The biggest problem was the arrival of Gnosticism, which essentially preaches salvation through secret knowledge. This is heretical, of course, as salvation comes from faith in Jesus and the saving power of His perfect sacrifice. Mankind has always wanted to be self-reliant, starting with Adam and Eve, so it makes sense that someone would branch off Jesus’ teaching into something that placed at least some of the onus for salvation onto men.

RomaThe epistle to the Romans is different in that he wrote it before going there. He had continually expressed his desire to visit Rome, but other issues prevented that from happening as soon as he wished. He was writing to people he had not yet known, so this was a letter that introduced him as well as provided foundational knowledge of the Gospel and its meaning until he could arrive and speak with them directly.

Perhaps this is why so many Christians today still find his letter to Rome so useful; it covers so much ground on the Christian faith and is so instructional it is a virtual primer on the Gospel.

Finally, there are the so-called prison letters – Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon. We can’t be certain of which prison he wrote from, as he had been imprisoned in both Jerusalem and Caesarea before his final incarceration in Rome. They also demonstrate how closely Timothy worked with Paul during his confinements; all of them except Ephesians were sent jointly by Paul and Timothy.

Paul died a martyr’s death, having first been imprisoned by the Jews in Jerusalem. After taking a beating, he revealed that he was a Roman citizen, which scared the Jewish authorities half to death. Beating Roman citizen could have dire consequences. Paul then appealed to Rome for consideration of his case, because he knew he wouldn’t a fair hearing in Jerusalem.

Paul is believed to have been put to death after the great fire of Rome under Nero. Legend has it that he was decapitated on the Via Laurentina outside of Rome. He was buried, again according to legend, two miles outside of Rome on the Via Ostiensis.

According to Wikipedia, “In 2002, an 8-foot (2.4 m)-long marble sarcophagus, inscribed with the words “PAULO APOSTOLO MART” (“Paul apostle martyr”) was discovered during excavations around the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls on the Via Ostiensis.”

Paul’s part in the New Testament has been praised and criticized over the centuries. Some feel he is more prominent in the New Testament than Christ Himself, as if this is Paul’s doing. However, Jesus never wrote anything that we are aware of. His job was to preach the Gospel, die for our sins, and send His disciples into the world as His emissaries. As is usually the case, we are better defended by others than ourselves, so Paul, Peter, John, and the rest should figure prominently in the telling of Jesus’ story and expounding on what He taught them. It is why He taught them!

Next time: Peter!

 

*I should note here that I’ve used Who’s Who in the Bible by Peter Calvocoressi for information in this article, but his take on the biographies do not read as a believer. His writing is from a secular vantage point. If you decide to read it at any point, I would do so with a careful eye.

Quote for 04/17/2019

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,   Romans 3:23-24 NKJV

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“What do you want to hear first; the good news or the bad news?”

We’ve all heard that question many times. I personally [refer the bad news first. Let’s just get that out of the way and hope to end on a high note. St. Paul must have known instinctively that it’s the best approach. When I looked at this verse to try and write something about it, my mind just latched onto that first phrase.

Oh. Good. Nothing like the challenge of trying to write something about a bad news Bible verse.

Fortunately, St. Paul saved me the trouble. Actually, it’s God who saved us all the trouble! We’re redeemed through God’s master plan, born in Eden. We’re saved thanks to Jesus’ saving work.

Nothing fancy and just that simple.

Quote for 04/16/2019

For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.   1 Peter 20:24 NKJV

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Jesus received unjust torture and death as a completely innocent man! It should have been us suffering like that, and deservedly so! Like the thieves on either side of Him, we should hang and realize that we are only getting what we deserve.

But as Jesus took our sins upon Himself and took our punishment meekly, we should also be willing to suffer unjust treatment. We bear witness to our Saviour’s work and effect in our lives. Just as He took our sins in His own body, so we should live as righteously as He did.

He took our sins into Himself. We should likewise take his righteousness into ours

Quote for 04/15/2019

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.   Romans 1:16

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Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles and spent a lot of time with the Greeks. Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom.” They loved their debates, depending on their own reason and wisdom of others.

Faith, and thus the Gospel, cannot be debated. It is simply accepted or not. Our God-given reason can point us in the right direction when we honestly look at the Scriptures, history, and even the world around us. However, that final step of faith cannot be reasoned or argued.

Paul likely endured ridicule from many over something as seemingly non-sensical as the Gospel, but he held fast, never ashamed of the Good News he was tasked with sharing. He had known its power first-hand on the road to Damascus. He knew the saving grace personally.

Neither should we ever succumb to the temptation to be ashamed of the Gospel. People will ridicule us, but we must stand firm. We know where power and salvation – with Jesus!

Quote for 04/14/2019

Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.   Zephaniah 2:3

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Meekness and humility. Those are the keys here. Those are the attitudes that breed justice. It is ego that looks to make its own rules. It is pride that thinks the rules are for others.

We’ve all seen it. The wealth and power someone has, the more they start mistaking themselves for God. The rules become a nuisance. Even laws are disregarded, because they “know better!” That false sense of superiority is what got Adam and Eve in trouble to start with. They wanted to be like God.

The humble do not think they are better than the law. The meek do not look for fights. Justice is their goal for themselves and others. Let’s all be equals in humility. It’s what is right. It’s what Jesus told us to do.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead. The dead in faith will feel His wrath for disobedience and unrepentance. The humble, righteous people will feel His joy and comfort.

Meekness. Humility. Those might be words to put next to our front door to remind us every time we head out into the world.

Quote for 04/13/2019

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.   Romans 5:6-8 NKJV

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Would you lay down your life to save someone who doesn’t need saving – a righteous person? Of course not! You might consider it for someone who’s good but not perfect. Maybe you could justify that person. They need saving, and they are decent. It could be worthwhile.

Would you lay down your life for the scum of society? Would you sacrifice your life for a filthy, drunken, diseased individual who commits crime and is a burden to society? Probably not.

Jesus told the Pharisees that the healthy have no need of a physician. He came to save the lost. He came to save the scum. That’s why He spent so much time with prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, Samaritans, and more.

That’s why He died for you and me. We’re the scum in need of a physician. We’re the tax collectors and sinners Jesus wanted to save from destruction. His sacrifice for the spiritually diseased show how much He loves us!

Quote for 04/12/2015

The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.   Psalm 24:1

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Lest we forget and think that we own…anything, David reminds us that we are owned! This is not a matter mistakenly thinking that we own something and then remember that God actually owns whatever we have. This is remembering that we are not our own either.

An imperfect analogy, but it would be like us, theoretically “owning” a dog and the dog thinking that my bed is his. He doesn’t just need to be taught that I own the bed. He needs to remember that I own him too; I bought him with my money. I feed and shelter him. He’s mine. And so is everything he “has.”

Likewise, God created us, bought us with Christ, feeds and shelters us, etc.

So, let’s not make a mess in His place. Let’s show some respect and gratitude. As David continued in the psalm, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord, And righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

Quote for 04/11/2019

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.   Galatians 2:20 NKJV

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This is a verse I’ve read many times, but today the first phrase caught my attention: I have been crucified with Christ.

That is a spectacular thought! Then, in true Scripture-interprets-Scripture mode, I recalled Jesus’ prayer for His disciples and all believers in John 17:20-22 –

 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who [a]will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:

Through faith, we are one with Jesus. Even better, we are one with God Himself! Like said…spectacular!

While we did not physically hang on the cross with Jesus, in oneness with Him we share in that history just as, even though we didn’t eat the forbidden fruit with Adam and Eve, we share in that original sin, being hereditarily one with them.

But we no longer must live under that cloud of inherited sin or even our own personal sins. We are one with Jesus, one with God through faith.

Spectacular!