Philemon 1:1 New International Version (NIV)
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker—
Paul in his life sent out seven letters in the New Testament that were credited to him while being incarcerated as a prisoner in Rome. These letters were influenced by the Holy Spirit speaking through him.
He was always hopeful that he would eventually be freed in order to be a greater service to the church. Yet, Paul regarded it as a great privilege to be counted worthy to suffer for the cause of Christ.
We all enjoy and get hope from these prison letters, these notes that were written. This past week a good friend of mine showed a group of men notes that he had written and placed in his wallet. They were notes of encouragement, hope, and promises.
He shared with us that the idea came from another man who was incarcerated. He had these notes in his pocket as a reminder to stay the course, as well as, to give out to the other fellow inmates.
This man took the words of the Apostle Paul who also knew about life in prison and used this time to be used as a vessel for the Lord.
Both men could quote by heart some of the verses that were powerful prison notes.
I was challenged by having the power of God’s Word in my pocket and looking for opportunities to pass out prison notes of God’s Word. Maybe that is a challenge for you today? Write prison notes to keep in your pocket in order to be ready to share in any occasion.
Be Strengthened, Men and Stay the Course
Strength and Courage
As I racked my brain on Friday afternoon in search of a topic for today’s devotion, I found myself stumped. I scoured Twitter and ESPN, each time becoming distracted by the top stories of the afternoon or meaningless Instagram links and YouTube videos. With my eyes continuing to glance at the clock seeing my time slip away before I would have to head off for a night of recruiting, I suddenly stumbled upon a blog posted by I Am Second, titled “What a Christian should look like.”
In it, Jonathon M. Seidl starts out by reminiscing on his Evangelical church youth-group days from the ‘90s sparked by an article he’d read called “13 Thing Every ‘90s Youth-Group-Goer Definitely Owned.” Meant to provide a chuckle, Seidl reflects on how much of his experience during that period of his life revolved primarily around distancing himself from ‘the world’.
“It was about having our own music. Our own movies. Our own sayings. Our own logos. It wasn’t about helping redeem culture, it was about receding from it. It was about working hard to show you were better than all the stuff and bad people around you, thus convincing people they just had to have what you had.” –Seidl, I Am Second
WWJD bracelets, the latest WOW albums, and those ever-inspiring music video montages (think Michael W. Smith’s “Secret Ambition”) were what was embraced while Abercrombie, Coolio, and TRL were instantly taboo. We retreated, secluded, and removed ourselves from the scandalous, violent, and risqué. Ironically though as Seidl points out, our retreat become much like “pointing out the burning house but not caring about those inside.” We were shocked that culture worsened around us? We were dismayed at how others ‘out there’ became more broken while we refused to engage them?
“You poor people. You should come outside. Don’t you see how much better it is out here? I’d come in, but it’s too hot and I don’t want to get burned.” –Seidl, I Am Second
It’s not a condemnation to be different. If anything, for us as Christians, there should be commendation for not being of ‘the world’. However, when our focus shifts from things we shouldn’t do to things we should be doing, then we’re truly living the life we’ve been called to. It should be more about being for versus being against those around us. Our grace and our love demonstrates to others the life-altering power of a relationship with Christ rather than the quarantine we chose.
When we begin to shift our focus from what a Christian should ‘look like’ to what a Christian should ‘be like’ we’ve unpacked what will truly be powerful in the eyes of others. Truth be told, there are certain qualities others should plainly see. Christians admit who they really are. They do the things they don’t want to do. They make mistakes. They’re broken. They have things they’re certain of but still have things they doubt. Some are strong but others are weak. Actually, most of us are weak.
More than anything, what those we interact with need to see is a Christian who’s authentic and authentically human, admitting that they’ve got issues but hold hope they’ll conquer these struggles. We should be living life beyond our own selfish desires and admitting when we fall short. As Seidl puts it, “People whose “don’t dos” are a result of wanting to live a life of more compelling “dos.” Whether we’re addicts, sexual sinners, bad dads, bad husbands, or just in bad shape, we’re not people who have it all put together. We’re instead people that have been put back together.
Seidl finishes his article by quoting writer John Piper, “A Christian is a person living under the constraint of Christ’s love. Christianity is not merely believing a set of ideas about Christ’s love. It is an experience of being constrained by that love.”
Men, let’s go be the Christians we’re meant to be, not just appearing to be in the club.
Set a Fire Down in Your Soul,
Seidl, J.M. (2015, August 28). What a Christian should look like. Retrieved August 28, 2015, from http://www.iamsecond.com/2015/08/what-a-christian-should-look-like/
In this post-modern world we live in, there is a saying that seems to re-occur constantly. “Well, that may be true for you, but it is not true for me.” If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, and you’ve heard someone say this, or you’ve read it, you must know that the statement is nonsense. (John 14:6 NIV) Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It is also one of the boldest! If you believe all roads lead to heaven, I suggest you read Jesus’ words again. He didn’t give us that option. He is the way. He is the truth. He is the life. Period.
I lived a life as a nominal Christian prior to placing my heart and soul with Jesus. I have a passion for those who “say” they are a Christian, but outside of those words, you couldn’t tell that they follow Jesus. Do you know those who say this but never read the Bible? My heart is for them to see the truth and give lives to Christ that matter. Nominal Christians who want to have their way and be saved too do not have an appreciation for the truth that is in God’s word. That’s because they don’t know what God’s word says!
The interesting thing is that this country is at a crossroads. There is a very vocal minority of people out there who are pushing their agenda on the rest of us. We, however, stay quiet because we don’t want to be viewed as not loving others. I’ve stayed quiet because I don’t want to rock the boat. Can I actually defend my belief, I ask myself. Babies are murdered in the name of “women’s rights”. Same-sex marriage is being trumpeted in our White House and the Supreme Court in the name of human rights. Adultery is glorified through movies and TV, but when 37 million people are outed for having signed up on AshleyMadison.com, it is used to drag believers in Christ through the mud because Josh Duggar has a problem. The insinuation is there. “How could being a believer in Christ be a good thing when their leaders do the opposite of what they preach?” I don’t know the state of Josh Duggar’s salvation. I do know that what he did was sinful. What all 37 million people who signed up for that horrific web site did is sin in the eyes of God. Men who act on desire for men, women who act on desire for women is sinful. That’s not me, that’s what the Bible says. You have to do some pretty heady gymnastics in your interpretation of Scripture to believe otherwise. Many don’t read the full Bible, because it doesn’t match what they want to believe.
Ultimately, love for others is central in our relationships with people on this earth. Jesus taught, (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV) “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” But yet, love is not condoning wrong behavior. It is not condoning sin. Loving God means we cannot condone sin. When the Bible says that adultery is wrong, we can’t simply turn a blind eye to it. Should we support the things in this world that glorify adultery, sex outside of marriage, or same-sex marriage? So many of us just want to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the immorality that has befallen this country. It isn’t limited to just the sexual sin either, although it is the most visible.
“It isn’t what I would do, but I can’t force my beliefs on them!”. “Stop beating me over the head with your Bible!”. These are phrases that I know we’ve all heard. They are excuses we make because we don’t want to offend others. A church I used to attend never preached about sin, because that would offend people. You see, when we are mired in our own sin, the last thing we want to do is hear the truth that is in the Bible. We want to control our lives. We want our salvation, but we don’t want to give up our flesh! I just watched an episode of “The Profit” where the business owners wanted to have their debt paid up, but couldn’t come to terms with giving up any control. Ultimately, their deal with Marcus fell through. Last week I talked about the free gift of salvation. When we truly accept the gift, and we jump in to Jesus’ arms with both feet, our lives will be truly changed! But, when we keep one foot in the world, not really sure we want to give up our fleshly desires, it would seem that we want our debt paid, but don’t want to be changed. The deal is in danger of falling through because we don’t want to accept the terms. Last week I encouraged you to read the entire book of Ephesians. This week I suggest you read 1 John. It is a stunning letter describing the life that God gives us by Jesus Christ.
(1Jn 2:18 NIV) Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. (19) They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (20) But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. (21) I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.
I may have offended some people in this writing today. Some of them may even be family members. But if you truly believe in Christ as your Savior and you don’t feel changed, I implore that you let Christ change your life. I realize that the topics I mentioned above are not easy. The crossroads is here. Will you stand with the truth of the one true God who made the heavens and the earth? Or will you stand with those who think that truth is whatever they make it? This battle is not unique to this time in history. The Bible shows that this battle has been waged since Adam first sinned. In America, we are starting to feel the pressure. Joshua says it best:
(Joshua 24:15 NIV) But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
For His Renown
Maybe it is inherent in our DNA, but men like to fix things. When we encounter a problem, or something breaks down, our first reaction may be frustration, but we quickly think, ‘what do I need to do to get things working again?’ This past week, I encountered an issue when a newer car I had been driving for a couple weeks unexpectedly died and would not start when I was 50 miles from home. After a tow and several days of not starting, I had been trouble shooting, and consulting others for ideas. Unexpectedly, it started running again as if it never had an issue, but the problem of why it quit is not fully resolved and still takes up some attention. We work on solving problems all day and celebrate small victories when each thing is resolved – that was easy! Even if a friend or your wife consults you with a problem they are facing, it is natural for you to offer up a suggestion, whether they want to hear it or not.
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:27
What happens when you encounter a problem you can’t fix? You may try several times to get something to work and if it still is not resolved, you may become angry or frustrated. You may even start to look to someone else for advice or assistance. If it is mechanical, you may take it in to someone who has experience working on that device. If it is relational, you may seek counsel with someone who has dealt with similar problems. If it is spiritual, you may consult your pastor or even God for advice. At some point, we realize we can’t do everything on our own and we need help, sometimes lots of help.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned. Romans 5:12
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:8-9
The main problem we all face is sin. Everything else is secondary. All our other problems originate from this one problem. Broken people dealing with other broken people in a world full of sin leads to problems. But there is hope. God provided a way to solve our problem of sin. We just have to recognize and accept that trusting in Christ daily for our redemption is how to fix this issue. It doesn’t guarantee us a problem-free life, but when the main problem is resolved, the others are more manageable.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. Ephesians 1:7
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17
So, as you take on all the little obstacles throughout the day, how do you deal with the bigger problems you can’t seem to fix on your own? Find a trusted friend or counselor to help you work through these things when all your other attempts seem like dead ends. Take your concerns to God on a regular basis and seek his counsel in how to deal with the big and little problems you face in this life. He already fixed our biggest problem, and gave us an owner’s manual to use along the way!
He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:10-12
Made Right in Christ,
For the last 10 years, I have been reading the Proverb of the day. There are 31 days in the longest month and 31 Proverbs. My rhythm has been to ready Proverbs 17 on the 17th of the month. I miss days here and there but each day I do read it I see something fresh. I think life experience has helped here as well.
So I was reading Proverbs 24 a couple days ago, and very 16 jumped out at me:
Proverbs 24:16 The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.
What I see here is that when life happens… Life happens to the Godly and the wicked! If something bad happened to you it is not punishment or God being mean, but life happening. People get sick, people die, people loose their jobs, tragedy strikes, and we say and do things outside of our character. Life happens to all of us!
The question is not if bad things will happen to you, but how you will respond. According to this verse, the godly are able to get up while the wicked stay down. I believe the difference is two things: Hope and Chosen Perspective.
Hope is where it begins. Those who follow Jesus can have hope because their source of strength, courage, encouragement, joy, and love do not come from their own well. Hope is that in the end this goes well! Death is not the end, sickness is not the end, and sin is not our end! We know that we are eternal because we are in Christ. Sin has lost its power and death has lost its sting. There is great reason for hope!
James 1:2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
Consider it an opportunity for great joy is a chosen perspective. Is it another day at school or a privileged education as a federally funded missionary? Did you get fired or do you get a new start at matching your gifting with a new opportunity? Are you going to spend months sick in a hospital or do you have month of opportunity for you to share you reason for hope with those who do not? Are you broke or did you learn a way how not to handle money again? Perspective changes our outlook and it is very much a choice!
Have you fallen? Then get up! Are you looking to Jesus for hope? Have you chosen a perspective that honors the One who purchased that hope? Go be vital!
Recklessly, obsessively following Jesus