One huge benefit of living in our day and time is having an extensive body of God’s scriptures available to us. We can see scriptures that clearly confirm God’s plan has been actively unfolding throughout all ages and to each generation. Leviticus 16 explains the event that we refer to as the Day of Atonement.
The High Priest would follow the ordinances on one special day once a year to cleanse all the members of the community from their sins. The people would observe a Sabbath rest because on that day atonement would be made for them, to cleanse them. “Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.” (Lev. 16:30)
Of course, as Christians we can see that these offerings were pointing to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We know that he is our great high priest (Heb. 4:14) who offers us the opportunity to be forgiven of sin. He sacrificed his own blood for our forgiveness. He wanted us to be cleansed from all of our sins and to be reconciled to God.
That was carried out through his sacrificial death on the cross and amazingly Psalm 22 reveals what this experience was like for Jesus Christ. David may be writing about personal experiences and yet he miraculously described the crucifixion. He wrote this event about 1,000 years before it occurred. This Psalm begins with the words spoken by Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet the Psalm ends in praise to God. It states that all future generations will serve Him and be told about the Lord. “They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it! (Psalm 22:31)
We have the benefit of seeing the results and rewards that Christ accomplished for himself and for all his followers. Praise God that we have the scriptures that explain this to us. Scriptures that were written through many centuries and passed on to the next generations. We have a bird’s eye view of how beautifully God works through His faithful followers. Be faithful to share the scriptures with others because all that God has spoken through them will be accomplished.
There are a lot of things going on in Mark 13, but I want to focus on verses 9-11 which say, “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.”
There are two things that really stick out to me in these verses. The first being the word testimony. In Greek, the word is marturion, and it simply means witness, testimony, evidence or proof. To me, this is very exciting. Why does this excite me? Because it means that we can become proof that Jesus really is the son of God! When we are questioned about our faith we get the opportunity to become living and breathing evidence for Jesus! That, to me, sounds like the best thing I could ever be. Wouldn’t you want a chance to prove that Jesus is real? As an interesting side note, the word marturion is also tied to the word martyr, someone who dies for their faith. When someone dies for their faith, it is the greatest act of proof that someone can give. There is no greater sacrifice someone can make to prove their belief is real. Remember, whether you are talking to a friend, speaking in front of people or sacrificing your life, you will have an opportunity to be a witness for Jesus at some point.
The second thing that really sticks out to me in these verses is the mention of the Holy Spirit. I recently finished doing a study on the Spirit and it blew my mind in how many ways it works in our lives. Giving us words to speak and teaching us what to say is just one of its functions. The good news is, with the Spirit working in our lives, we don’t have to rely on our own knowledge or ability to speak because the Spirit will help us when the time comes. This may bring you some relief. It brings me peace knowing that I don’t have to rely on my limited abilities to tell someone about Jesus. I just have to be sensitive to the moving of the Spirit in my life. This should really take the pressure off us as Christians knowing that God, through the power of His Spirit, will help us get His work done.
In Exodus 21 and 22 God lays down many laws for the Israelites to follow in order to try and establish them as a functioning and stable nation. There is a lot in there about how to judge between two people when somebody is injured, or commandments to respect parents and authorities, or punishments for thieves. Some of the laws, like the ones about how to deal with slaves, are quite outdated, but I think some of them can be very beneficial to us even today.
21 “You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
I think this is a good message today for how to treat foreigners and to help us realize that every person is a child of God and has value in his eyes, and that Jesus died for them as well. But I think it also can apply to us when we look at unsaved people, because at some point in our lives we were all wandering away from God, and so we really cannot judge others who are currently living outside of God’s will too harshly, we need to humbly chase after them with love in hopes of helping them to find the grace of God that we have, not hit them over the head with a Bible so that we can let them know how wrong they are.
Meanwhile during Jesus’ ministry he is healing people and miraculously feeding thousands of people and is starting to get through to his disciples.
15 As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
16 At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. 17 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? 18 ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all? 19 When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”
“Twelve,” they said.
20 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”
“Seven,” they said.
21 “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.
Even after he had produced food out of nothing they were still thinking about physical food, not the deeper meanings of Jesus’ messages, but just a few verses later we see a breakthrough with Peter.
27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”
29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”
I can imagine the relief that Jesus must have felt knowing that finally these think-headed, hard-hearted, best friends of his were starting to understand that he was doing something much deeper than just feeding people. He was changing their hard hearts to love others the way he loved them. He feels that same joy when we spend time studying his word and spending time with other believers and start to understand and reflect him more.
It is very likely that at the time of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, he was the last living apostle of Christ. In his final days, he was banished to the Greek island of Patmos for his preaching and prophesying, both viewed as ways of stirring up unwanted rebellion in the Roman Empire. It is here that he is delivered a vision of final days before the return of Christ. Of the men that followed Jesus, John may have had the least cruel fate. According to scripture or historical accounts, all had been killed – stoned, clubbed, crucified, beheaded, and speared – preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God, doing everything in their power to fulfill their commission (Acts 1:4-8) and reach the ends of the earth before the return of their friend and Savior. The disciples preached the Kingdom of God as something that would be seen by the generation they spoke to or the coming one. There was an extraordinary emergency to their message. And yet, 2000 years or so later, here we are.
I am reminded of my internal adolescent rebuttal when hearing Christ was coming soon — “If Jesus Christ has not come in the last 100 generations, why should I think that he will come in mine?” Through our reading this week, we will unpack the message of John and, like many before us, apply his words to the time and place that we live in. We live in interesting times, but so have many generations before us. They each had their own political unrest, plagues, and natural phenomenon. With all the challenges of this year included, to live in the United States as a Christian is still pretty easy by comparison to many places in the world today, and most definitely effortless compared to the challenges faced by apostles of Christ. For many of us, our ease of living has led us to share (or not) a complacent gospel. This was already happening in the days of John; a symptom shared by many of the churches in Revelation 2 & 3. As you read this week, consider the following to renew your sense of urgency to the Gospel message and reinstate Christ’s Kingdom as the centerpiece of your daily purpose:
1. You are always a single breath away from the Kingdom of God. No person knows the day or hour of his/her death. We must live our life to be found in Christ, not wait for signs of his return and scramble our way to grace. The thing is, if you’re waiting for signs before you live out the Gospel, you will be distracted, diverted, or disconnected (Matt 25:1-13, Parable of the Ten Virgins). “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” – James 4:13,14
2. No one, except the Father, knows the day or the hour Christ returns. The days before Christ arrival will be as in the days of Noah (Matt 24:38) – people will be married, there will be parties, children will be born, parents will send their teens to college, couples will be building their dream homes, and many will be working hard to retire early (v.40-42). Despite the best efforts of John to deliver his prophecy, many will be caught unaware of the harbingers of Christ’s return. Because of this, it is imperative we deliver the Gospel message wherever our feet are on the daily. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” – Matthew 24:36,37
3. Many of the dramatic events that unfold in Revelation will happen within a single generation. God has been working on His salvation plan since the foundations of the world (Col 1:16) with the culmination being (spoilers ahead) the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth. According to the words of Jesus and the vision of John there are compounding and intensifying events as seals are opened and the wrath of God being poured out. Natural wonders, dramatic plagues, famines, wars, and a global political climate will feed off one another and spur along the intervention and return of Christ. If this year has taught us one thing, it is how fast the world can change with some of these elements aligned; however, the ignition point for the return of Christ is already set. There will be a fire that follows and it will consume quickly; the temperature need only rise a bit more. “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things <Matt 24:14-33> take place.” – Matthew 24:34
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” Revelation 1:3
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Revelation 1-3
Tomorrow we continue Revelation with chapters 4-8.
I wish I could tell you that after you are faithful, after you have lived a life dedicated to loving God and loving people, that everything is smooth sailing. I wish I could make and keep a promise that you will never get sick, never be poor, never be mocked, never be persecuted, for the faith that you have. But, the truth is that we live in a world full of sinful people, a world full of broken people. We may even be the cause of some of our pain. When the world gets tough, when life is hard, what are we supposed to do?
Paul addresses these questions in his second letter to Timothy that we have in scripture. We need to recognize that, when Paul is writing this letter, he is currently under arrest for his faith. He had spoken the name of Jesus and the Jews arrested him. Because he was a Roman citizen, he appealed to Caesar for his trial. Instead of walking free, he was bound, shipped around the Mediterranean, shipwrecked, and transported to Rome, where he was kept under house arrest. (Before, I thought house arrest didn’t sound bad, but 2020 lockdowns have drastically changed my mind.) In the midst of all this, everything that Paul is going through, his message to Timothy, a young pastor, is “Keep being faithful to the Gospel message.” Even though that message is the very thing that has Paul in chains, as he follows God’s will to be in Rome, Paul knows that the Gospel is the only source of life. The Gospel message of Jesus tells us about God’s Kingdom, both later over the whole world and in our hearts now, how to live as a citizen of that kingdom today, and how to be given eternal life in the future. No amount of suffering now can compare to the hope, peace, love and joy that come through the Kingdom Message.
Paul notes to Timothy that this doesn’t make life easier. In 2 Timothy, we can almost hear the sadness in Paul’s words as he notes that his friends have left him. He’s not angrily ranting, but sadly noting that his entourage has turned into only the smallest, die-hard band. Moreover, Paul seems to know that his death is near (4:6-8). He is getting his affairs in order, even in case he dies before Timothy’s coming (4:9-15). He knows things are at the end. This is his farewell note before going to sleep.
So what does he say?
Teach others, Timothy! (2:2, 4:1-2) Paul wants the things that Timothy heard to be passed on to others, who will know the faith so well that they can pass it on to others. For the pastors reading this, this is CLEARLY meant for you (and me). If we are not teaching in order to create teachers, we are not doing the job he has called us to do. if you are not a pastor, there is still a calling for you in this. For our more mature readers, this is calling you to share your faith with others in such a way that it sinks down deep and molds people so that they will share their faith. And for those who are new to the faith, share your faith, but also seek out mature and faithful believers to see what they have to teach and offer you. Paul spoke to Timothy, AND TIMOTHY LISTENED TO, TRUSTED AND OBEYED PAUL.
This is not giving everyone you meet a complex theological treatise. There is nothing wrong with complex theology; I’m a big fan myself. But Paul tells Timothy to keep the message simple to not wrangle over words or about things that don’t matter. (2:14, 16) Be FOCUSED on the things that matter because the days will get worse. You, Timothy, and you, reader, must be strong, because all those who desire to live holy lives, the best lives we can live, will be persecuted by those who don’t want to live that way. (3:12)
Finally, Paul lets Timothy know that there should not be despair at his “departure” (death). Paul knows who he is … and more importantly whose he is. Paul knows what awaits him at the coming of Christ. A Kingdom
A Heavenly Kingdom
A Kingdom that will come down from God on high and will last forever.
Paul’s farewell letter is an ode to this Kingdom. He wants his Son in the Faith Timothy there. He wants those who have not yet heard the message there. His singular focus is glory to God through Jesus Christ.
May you my brothers and sisters, be strong in the midst of difficult times.
May you proclaim the faith boldly.
May you trust God, obey him, and serve him in his kingdom, now and forevermore.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Timothy 1-4.
A movie trailer gives us a taste of a film but by no means covers the depth of its entirety. When we read chunks of Scripture, it’s impossible to capture the fullness of its message in a short devotion. I hope that a short peek each day at a moment in each reading will tempt you to read the passage on your own and see what other plot twists you find!
Although Paul is the main character of the film, this trailer starts with a closeup of the Centurion.
A rugged soldier, captain of 100, standing on the deck of a ship at sea. He’s worried. A storm is brewing and as he looks to the man beside him, the man says, “You should have listened to me.” The man is not a sailor, he is a Jewish scholar and a prisoner, and he proceeds to instruct the Centurion how he can save everyone on board.
“Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”
Scenes flash across the screen of the Centurion cutting ropes in the blowing rain, Paul praying to God, the ship running aground a sandbar, soldiers arming to kill prisoners before they can escape, and the Centurion stepping in to protect Paul.
Dry and ashore the island of Malta, we watch, from the Centurion’s vantage point as Paul is bitten by a poisonous snake with no ill effects and as the islanders come to him to be healed. Music swells and we know that this is a story of changing perspectives and growing faith, and ours is growing right along with this hardened soldier’s.
Acts 28:16 says, “When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.” If I were writing this movie, I’d take some artistic license and that soldier would be the very same Centurion from the ship. It would make a great last shot, wouldn’t it?
Really, though, I wonder how this Centurion’s life was altered having made this trip with Paul. We’re told that his name was Julius, “When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius,” but not much else. The things that Julius saw and experienced must have changed him. They must have.
Along those lines, think of the ‘Centurions’ in your life. Those who live life in your peripheral. They might not be main characters, but they are on the sidelines. How is their life being altered having had you in it? What can you do to be more intentional about being a positive influence, planting a seed, showing a glimpse of the Father so that their story might be changed?
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Acts 27-28
Tomorrow we read 2 of Paul’s letters – Colossians and Philemon.
This is the first of 5 straight days going through the book of Romans. That’s not much time for a book loaded with so many great refrigerator verses. This is also my favorite book to read through, and something different stands out to me almost every time I read from it. So my intent is to share one or two things that stood out to me THIS TIME from each section.
Romans 1:16 says, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
I hope you are not ashamed of the Gospel. I do understand the temptation to be somewhat embarrassed or secretive of it. Many of the ideas and truths in scripture are no longer “acceptable” in today’s progressive world. That’s not really new, but it seems to be more true than ever before. I think we also are often afraid of appearing foolish for believing many of the miraculous aspects of scripture, up to and including the existence of a Creator God.
1:17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.“
We as believers must live by faith. We have never seen God. We did not witness the mighty miracles recorded in the Bible. But thankfully, we do not have a blind faith that is not backed up by evidence. We have had life changing experiences due to our decision to accept Christ. We have had direct answers to prayers. We have an abundance of historical documents and artifacts that confirm scripture. We also have evidence of our faith all around us and even inside of us.
1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Simply put, we can know there is a Creator because we reside in His creation. You can know there is a Creator because you are reading this right now, and YOU were created! Well, at least that’s what scripture tells us. But the secular world has different ideas, doesn’t it? The secular world is only interested in what can be proven. Or at least that is what they claim. This is where the foolishness comes in. We Christians are viewed as foolish for believing “a big guy in the sky” made everything in nature, when science has clearly shown that all living things have evolved from a common ancestor over millions of years. Those who deny Darwinian evolution are mocked by its adherents.
Either the world was created or it wasn’t, and those who fall on the wrong side of belief in this area probably are foolish. So which side does the actual evidence back? As a side note, I have presented this very topic at churches and camps in the course of hours and sometimes days, so this is going to be a VERY abbreviated version of that.
As a Creationist, my confidence in the world being created is because everything actually appears to be created. Staunch evolutionist Richard Dawkins even admits that (though he proposes that possibly aliens created our world). Again, if everything appears to be created, then there is likely a Creator.
Perhaps the best evidence that living things specifically are created is the DNA found within every living cell of every living thing, including you. This DNA is essentially a programming code, much like your computer uses, but DNA is much more complex. Bill Gates has said that DNA is a more complex code or programming language than any of his best programmers could have created. Languages and codes do not arise by chance, and to suggest otherwise is actual foolishness. Beyond that, living cells themselves, as well as the systems that they combine to create, are so unbelievably complex, that they are beyond the law of probability to have evolved by chance.
So to believe in a Creator does still require faith, because we have not seen our Creator. But it is not a blind faith, because we have ample evidence that we reside in His creation.
On the other hand, if you do not believe in a Creator, then you also must have a large amount of faith. You must have faith that something can come from nothing (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is how big bang theorists imagine the universe started. You must have faith that living things can come from non-living things (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is how most secular thinkers imagine life began. And you must have faith that less complex organisms can become more complex over time, completely by chance (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is the essence of a belief in Darwinian evolution.
Do not be ashamed of the faith that we hold dear. It is indeed a faith-based belief system, but not a blind faith. And keep in mind that those that do not share our faith have also been created by our Great God, and are also loved by Him. If we have opportunities to share our faith and the reasons we believe with non-believers, I sure hope you will take them. In the end, they will be without excuse if they have not accepted Christ, but what a shame it would be if they had an opportunity to hear truth from someone like you, and you passed on that opportunity.
Most everyone following this blog has probably read through these passages today… each chapter could have its own devotional! Within these we have the passage on Spiritual Gifts, we have the Love chapter, and we have one of the more argued and misinterpreted verses regarding women in the church – all in one day!
The not so crazy thing about all these chapters is how at the heart of each of them, there is one message that prevails: Love others and tell them about Jesus. Whether it is an outsider, a fellow believer, a spouse, or anyone you meet… we are told to show them love and tell them about Jesus.
When discussing the spiritual gifts Paul talks about the importance of each member of the body being placed exactly where God wants them (12:18) and remaining united within the Church (12:25). I have usually heard these verses used to showcase why everyone is equally important within the Church and that you should never compare yourself or your gifts to someone else’s. However, Paul gives a pecking order in verse 28: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages… At first this can seem a little harsh, especially if you’re a helper or someone who speaks another language! And it is harsh, if you stop reading there.
In chapter 14 Paul continues “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy.” Paul is telling everyone that the main goal is to spread the message of Jesus, and love others. He doesn’t say it’s bad to do any of the other tasks or fill other roles within the church, in fact in the previous chapter he describes at length why it is so important for everyone to be unique and do the work God intends for them. What he is also saying here is that it is everyone’s mission to tell others about Jesus and the fact that he is coming back. Just as every part of the body functions independently with the purpose of living daily, every part of the body of Christ must function independently with the message of the Kingdom coming.
This message continues even in chapter 14 verse 34, when Paul writes that the women of the church should be silent and submissive. In these verses it is important to remember the historical context in which Paul is writing. At this time, women did not hold places of leadership, and women did not *generally* have a role in proclaiming the message. Additionally, the church in Corinth had women who struggled to act as godly women, partially because their husbands and other leaders in the church also struggled to live righteous lives. I do not think that Paul is hating on the women, but rather explaining that when the church is struggling and in need of repair, the gossiping, adulterous, and unrighteous should not have a say in the direction of the church. He is describing the importance of church leaders to be focused on the mission.
The call to prophesy is not one to be taken lightly, and Paul wants to make sure that the church understands that. It is also one that the church is called to eagerly strive for, for the sake of the Kingdom. Chapter 14 verse 24 reads “But if all are prophesying and some unbeliever or uninformed person comes in, he is convicted by all. The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall facedown and worship God, proclaiming, ‘God is really among you.’”
Let that be our goal as the Church, that anyone who walks in will have no other inclination but to fall down in worship of our great God because of our focus on His mission!
Remember when I said yesterday that the message about spreading the Good News was coming? Well, we start slowly diving into that idea with these passages today.
In chapter nine Paul discusses how he reaches outsiders… by becoming like them (9:20-22). Did anyone else have to reread those verses a few times? What apostle would tell people that they should become like the outsiders in order to reach them?!? (Hint: Probably one who knew what he was talking about!) Before we get too worked up, let’s look at what was really being written here:
Paul wasn’t saying that we need to go out and change our lifestyles to match the sins of the world, and then try to convince them that a godly lifestyle is better. Rather, Paul is saying that in order to reach people on the outside, we must actually go out and meet people where they’re at. As the Church, we cannot expect to sit high and mighty in a physical building and still reach the lost. We must go out, find those people on the outside, and witness to them from a humble perspective that understands how desperately we need the same message of grace and hope that they do.
Within these chapters Paul does not let the Corinthians forget to think introspectively. In fact, he spins it to describe the importance of checking on our own faith life to continue in our mission. Chapter nine verse 27 reads “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I will not be disqualified.” And chapter 10 verse 12 reads “So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.” And finally, chapter 11 verse 28 says “So a man should examine himself [before] he should eat the bread and drink from the cup.”. All these verses are essentially Paul saying “Check yourself before you wreck yourself!” Which is completely valid! As the Church goes out into the world to reach those outsiders the temptation and draw away from righteousness is greater than if we only surround ourselves with like-minded people. Without taking time to focus on our own faith life, we will be just as ineffective in spreading the Word as if we did not go out in the first place.
The other idea that Paul writes about in these chapters is how the body of believers must respect one another and stay focused on what really matters. “No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person.” (10:24) I think it is pretty clearly laid out here; put others first! In chapter 10 Paul is touching on the disagreements that came up related to what the believers were eating, in chapter 11 it was on what the women were wearing while praying. In both these areas, essentially Paul is saying, “It doesn’t matter as long as they aren’t going against God!”. Sometimes the Church can get wrapped up in those little disagreements and start to divide over things that will not matter in the Kingdom, which is why Paul tells us that “whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” (10:31) When we can recognize what issues in the Church truly matter, the body is built up and can refocus on their main mission of reaching those on the outside.
Today, take time to evaluate your own walk of faith. See where you can come closer to God while still being closer to those on the outside. Reflect on your local church and see which little issues you can set aside for the sake of the Kingdom.
I’m excited for our next few chapters as we talk about the importance of each member in the Church!
Happy Monday everyone!
Sarah Blanchard Johnson
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 9-11.
Acts 18:9-10 – One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
Paul’s missionary journey has led him to Thessalonica where he spent a few weeks teaching in the synagogue but was eventually run out of town, but not before some were persuaded to believe and be saved. His escape took him to the next town of Berea, where again, the Thessalonicans caught up to Paul and he had to make a sneaky escape. He landed in Athens, a place known for philosophy. And while a few people accepted the gospel that Paul preached, others sneered at his message and so he continued his journey to Corinth. Corinth had a reputation. All kinds of sexually immoral practices existed in this place and yet, this is where Paul received a vision and was told “I have many people in this city”. Isn’t it just like God to take what many would consider the least likely of people and bring them into a relationship with himself.
Let’s remember something – we are all the least likely of people. There is nothing that I have done that makes me worthy of God’s love, mercy, and grace. It’s not my cultural heritage. It’s not my level of intelligence or my financial standing. It’s not who I know or what I do. It’s only by the gift of Jesus’ atoning death on a cross that I can even be in a relationship with God.
Too many people today believe that they have to “get right with God” before they can attend church or pray or be of use for service. Too many believers avoid interacting with non-believers because they fear the Gospel message (or more likely they themselves) will be mocked, rejected or persecuted.
Sometimes God gives us opportunities to associate and fellowship with other believers so that we can build one another up. Other times, God invites us into the messy lives of non-believers so that we can show them that God loves all of us exactly where we are. And then there are other times, when God provides opportunities for us to invest in others’ messy lives long term to really show them what a life serving God is all about.
As we read about Paul’s journey, we can appreciate that Paul made himself available to God’s leading, even staying for a year and a half in a city that was full of immoral practices because it was ripe for a spiritual harvest. Wherever God has you today, “Do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent” and look for the spiritual harvest.
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 17:1-18:17.