Prayer Challenge

I want to ask you to say this prayer out loud, if possible.

“I belong to God. I am a holy vessel, because I have the Holy Spirit of the Living God. The Lord of Heaven and earth has said over me; “I declare you holy!”. I commit to start believing what He says. I AM HOLY! Remind me daily, Spirit of the Living God, to treat myself as holy, open my eyes to every scheme of The Enemy to treat me as if I'm not. You God, are Holy. Your word is truth. This day Father, I chose to believe you! I ask this in the mighty name of your son Jesus Christ, who died on a cross for me so that I could be a coheir to the kingdom of God. Amen”

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Verse of the Week - Galatians 1:18-20

John Gill Wrote*
  • Then after three years, I (Paul) went up to Jerusalem... Not three years after his return to Damascus, but after his conversion; and now it was that he moved to become a member of the church at Jerusalem; 
  • They did not care to admit him to the church, fearing that he was not a disciple, until Barnabas took him, and brought him to the Apostles Peter and James, and related his conversion and his boldness in preaching the Gospel at Damascus.
  • Paul's view in going up to Jerusalem at this time was partly his own safety, being obliged to fly from Damascus, but chiefly to see Peter. 
  • Paul went not to see what sort of a man he was, but to pay him a Christian visit; to talk with him about spiritual things; to know how the work of God went on under him...and to relate to him...but not to receive the Gospel from him, or to be ordained a preacher of it by him.
  • Paul had already in the work of the ministry for three years before he made this visit to Peter; and besides, his stay with him was very short, (15 days) nor could he have received much from him, in so short a time, in an ordinary way.
  • During this time, Paul wasn't just visiting with Peter but he was also coming in and going out at Jerusalem, where he preached boldly in the name of Christ and disputed against the Grecians.                           
*adapted from Gills Exposition of the Entire Bible

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Verse of the Week - Galatians 1:17-18

Paul wrote that after God came to him and revealed Christ in him he didn't go to Jerusalem and meet the twelve apostles. Instead, he went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus. Three years later, Paul went to Jerusalem and met Peter and James, the brother of Jesus. 
Luke wrote about Saul in the book of Acts.
In Acts 9 we learn that Ananias baptized Saul and Saul's sight was restored. After spending several days with the disciples in Damascus, Saul began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues. Can you imagine the reaction many Jews would have had? Saul was known as the persecutor of Jesus' followers and now here he was preaching the Jesus is the son of God.

The Jews did not take this well; specially after the highly educated Saul proved that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact,  the Jews in Damascus plotted to kill Paul. The Jews were watching the gates in and out of Damascus. In order to escape Damascus alive, Paul was put in a basket and lowered from a window in the city wall by his disciples.
 Six Points About Paul and His Conversion*

  • Paul was wonderfully brought to the knowledge and faith of Christ. 
  • All who are savingly converted, are called by the grace of God; their conversion is wrought by his power and grace working in them
  • It will but little avail us to have Christ revealed to us, if he is not also revealed in us. 
  • He instantly prepared to obey, without hesitating as to his worldly interest, credit, ease, or life itself. 
  • What a matter of thanksgiving and joy it is to the churches of Christ, when they hear of such instances (as Paul's) to the praise of the glory of his grace, whether they have ever seen them or not! 
  • They (the churches of Christ) glorify God for his power and mercy in saving such persons, and for all the service to his people and cause that is done, and may be further expected from them.
*adapted from Matthew Henry's Bible Commentary

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Verse of the Week - Galatians 1:14-16

In my last post on Galatians, I said that I thought Saul loved God and that this was speculation. As I continue to read Paul's testimony, he says that he was at the top of his class in Judaism and that he was intensely passionate for the traditions of his fathers.  Paul was highly educated and extremely focused on Judaism. He studied under Gamaliel (Acts 5:34-35) who was the leader of the Pharisee Sanhedrin. Gamaliel was also a teacher of the law. Paul, or Saul as he was called at that time, apparently had wealthy Pharisee parents who bought Roman citizenship and then had him educated by the best teachers at the temple. Paul knew the law and his description of himself as being extremely zealous makes me think of the word "driven." His zealousness is why he was persecuting those who were following "the way of Jesus Christ" because he felt they were following false teachings. The Notorious Saul of Tarsus Saul of Tarsus was notorious for his pursuit of the followers of Jesus and he was very successful in capturing them. He must have been because Jesus himself descended from heaven and appeared to Saul on the road going to Damascus.

3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.                                                                                                                                       Acts 9:3-9

Paul then says that when God was pleased to reveal Jesus in him so that he might preach among the Gentiles. Paul was uniquely suited for this job with his education and teachings. Does anyone else see the irony of Saul persecuting followers of the Way because they were following a false teaching and after his conversion he found himself writing to the early churches because they were listening to false teachings? I believe the Lord has a sense of humor.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Verse of the Week - Galatians 1:11-13

Paul's Testimony is Amazing to Me
Here he is owning that he had a personal and intimate revelation from Jesus. He is facing a crowd and admitting how intensely he was persecuting the church.
From Spiritual Revelation to Testimony
As I read these words, I think of the many testimonies I have heard from people who have had an intensely spiritual revelation from Jesus that completely altered their lives. Sex, drugs, and addictive behavior are left behind in the dark shadows of a painful lifestyle. Their path in life changes after they decide to become followers of Jesus Christ. In the past, theses people would awake to a new day with dread and fear in their hearts. Now they wake up with the light of the Son shining from within and complete confidence that this new day will be fine no matter what happens. Honestly, only a divine intervention can explain the testimony of Paul and the countless brothers and sisters who have had similar revelations.
I Stand in Awe of the Lord

God shows us his power by transforming people who no one else would want, into his strongest servants! Saul was responsible for the deaths of many people. He imprisoned men and women because they followed Jesus and his teachings. Saul's conversion was completely unexpected. I am sure there were people familiar with Saul who saw his transformation and were at a loss to explain what had happened to him. Can you imagine being Saul's mother, father, or synagogue teacher?

"It is hard to explain what happened to me. I was blinded by this light on the way to Damascus and the Lord talked to me. He called me to follow Him even though I was killing his people. Then, I had to find my way to Damascus and find a man who could teach me about Jesus and heal my blindness. I know it sounds unbelievable, but I knew it was the Lord. I know I am giving up a lot, but I am following my call."
All of us can imagine the conversations Saul would have had with family members can't we?
Persecutor Turned Teacher
Early church members didn't trust Saul. Most thought Saul was just finding a new way to seek out Christians to persecute and kill. However, that thought was proven wrong as the newly named Paul began his ministry and taught about the life of Jesus Christ.
As I sit here reading Paul's words, I gain a sense of how miraculous his conversion truly was.
How does a Roman citizen/zealous Pharisee who is bent on seeking and destroying heretical Jews change like this? At the heart of this question is my personal belief that Saul must have loved the Lord. Yes, he channeled his belief into killing people, but I think he must have had a love of God, too. This is sheer speculation on my part, but it is based upon my own life experiences with Jesus. However, what matters more than my speculation, is that after his Damascus road experience, Paul spent the rest of his life as an obedient servant to Jesus Christ and he shared the teachings of Jesus with others every single day that he was alive.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Verse of the Week - Galatians 1:10

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people?
Good questions aren't they? As I grew to maturity as a branch on the Lord's vine, I had to be willing to let God prune some extra leaves and twigs from my actions and behaviors. One of behaviors that had to be pruned, or removed was my need to be a people pleaser. Yep, I had a terrible time learning that I could not please people first and God last. Below, is a list of lessons I have learned and strive to live by today.
  • I can only accomplish a set number of tasks in today.
  • Go to bed early and get up earlier to finish a task. I work more efficiently when I am rested. 
  • It is okay to gracefully say no. Example: Thank-you so much for thinking of me. However, I already have a full calendar at that time.  Another graceful way to turn someone down is: I am so happy that you thought of me for this job, but I already have commitment(s) for that time, day, or week. 
  • Giving of myself to gain approval - wanting others to recognize my contribution and give me a little pat on the head - is putting man above God. It isn't okay
  • Faith requires me to go ahead and step out to do what God tells me to do, even when I feel fear. 
  • There are always going to be people who don't like me and it is okay. 
Did you catch what I said about the lessons? 
I am striving, or trying, to live this way.  Am I always successful at living this way? Of course not. However, the moment I become aware that people pleasing behavior has crept back into my life, I remove it as quickly as possible through the following actions:  
First, I call on my father in heaven and ask him to remove that people pleasing sprout that has sprung up again. 
Then, I tell him I am willing to have it taken away. 
After that, I tell him that I am his to command and that I only want to do his will and not mine. The time in between each people pleasing pruning has become longer and longer as I trust my heavenly father to continue to shape me into the person he has plans for. 
If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
To be a bold witness for Jesus, I cannot worry about pleasing people. I can only please Jesus. I am his servant and that is all the approval that I need. Jesus gave me a job to do. I have to tell others about the Good News of Jesus Christ. My Jesus loves me and cares about me. God knows me intimately and sent the Holy Spirit to live in me. I don't need any more approval than that. Amen?