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open door

But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. Then they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. The next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe. Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. And they stayed there with the disciples for some time. (Acts 14:19-28, NRSV)

God had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles!

God has made a way for everyone to be included and to know they are welcome!

Through the crowds stoning Paul and thinking he is dead, and he rising up and continuing what God had called him to. And because of this, a door is opened for all to come to the mercy of God…

Are you ready to do what God has called you to?

 

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humans

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:22-31, NRSV)

God does not need us.

He does not need us to make dwelling places for Him.

He does not need us to serve Him.

He created everything, including us.

Paul looks around Athens and discovers what theAthenians need to hear and he tells them.

He looks at their context and talks to them in ideas and concepts they will understand.

That is how the message of God is received by others. By us understanding who they are and us speaking to them in concepts and ideas they understand.

Here is a cute cartoon about this:

 

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martyred…

But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. (Acts 7:55-60, NRSV)

Stephen gives a beautiful understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures and how Jesus is the messiah promised by God.

He lays it out and those gathered can’t stand to hear it because it goes against what they were taught and believed. So they rushed him and dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death.

In this scene, we have Stephen taking after our Lord and asking God not to hold the sin of those killing him against them, and we see Saul, who will become Paul and the greatest witness to Jesus in the Greek world.

I wonder how many of us would have stuck to our faith and beliefs if we faced what Stephen did?

Would we be martyred?

 
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Posted by on 2017/05/18 in Biblical, Devotional, Easter

 

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I am what I am

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe. Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:1-26, NRSV)

I yam what I yam… I remember Popeye saying this on Saturday morning cartoons. He was different from everyone else and they made fun of him for it, but he didn’t care.

And Paul says the same thing. “But by the grace of God, I am what I am.” But by the grace of God. But by the gift of God.

God made Paul who he was, and God makes us who we are!

Gifting us with many wonderful things.

So be  you, everyone else is already taken and God didn’t make you to be someone else!

 

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What did he say?!?!

160908Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:7-16, NRSV)

Whatever gains Paul had, they are no longer gains. They are not important. It is right before this that Paul lays out his bragging rights.

“circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:5-6) Paul basically says he is perfect in the eyes of the Law! But none of this matters because when Christ came into the picture the Law does not matter anymore. Now Jesus did not come to get rid of the Law but to fulfill the Law. And that is a post for another day. But Paul’s reason to brag mean nothing to him. In fact, he goes even further with this.

Paul says, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him,…” Paul here says all things are rubbish. The word in the Greek is σκύβαλα and this is the only time it is used in all of the New Testament, and it is translated differently in all the translations. Some say rubbish, garbage, filth, and my favorite dung. But none of these get to what Paul was saying. You see the word σκύβαλα means something most of us would not say in polite company. As the image above says, “σκύβαλα happens!” And we all know what that means! Pauls says all things are shit, compared to what I have in Christ. And it was shocking. Because he was one who could brag and hold up his list, but that means nothing.

Nothing defines us but Christ, not our past, not our future. The only thing that matters is we are found in Christ!

So hold fast to Christ!

 

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Have you seen?

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.  For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe. (1 Corinthians 15:1-11, NRSV)

Here Paul reports to the Corinthians how Jesus has appeared to the disciples.

First to Cephas and then the 12, but the 12 would have included Cephas and Judas, so not sure where Paul gets his numbers from.

But then, after this, Jesus appears to 500 brothers and sisters, then to James, then the apostles.

And lastly to one untimely born, Paul.

But has Jesus appeared to you?

Have you seen Jesus?

Look around you, all of creation was made by Jesus, and we are all created in the image of God, so Jesus is with, and in all of us. So in your brothers and sisters is Jesus.

So have you seen Jesus?

 

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σκύβαλα

160315If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:4b-14, NRSV)

How many of us rely on the past? Or look to the way things were, and if we could only get back to that?

The good old days were the best and if we could only get back to them, then everything would be perfect!

But that isn’t how this works. That isn’t how any of this works.

Paul lays out for us the reason he should be justified, and why he was persecuting Christians. He laid out his pedigree. And in that he held all hope, until he met Christ!

Once Christ had come in nothing of old mattered. It is not about looking back and wanting what was, it is about clinging to Christ and following Him where He leads us.

The past will not save us, only Jesus will!

So let go of everything that could have saved you and cling to Jesus. Give up everything else as the refuse it is. All of life is rubbish, refuse, garbage, dung without Jesus!

So cling to Jesus and don’t look back, and get ready for the trip of a lifetime!

 

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