Highways and Hedges

14 06 2017

Let’s look at Luke 14 for our Context today:

Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

Sometimes, the scripture that we read, the words that Jesus says, are very hard pieces of scripture to swallow.  This is one of those passages for me.  I first heard this passage when we got one of our new pastors after the pastor who stayed in my church for a long time.  And he preached a message on it that I will never forget.  I remember sitting there, and this pastor was using the month of August, his first month, to focus on evangelism.  And this was one of those passages.  I’ve been visiting a lot of churches lately, which coincides with God’s call for me to go away from my home church to find a new place to serve and be fed.  That’s for another time though.

This passage really has been something that my mind has drifted towards time and time again.  It’s just been emerging in my life over and over again, and so I felt the need to focus on this passage.  When I’m focusing on this passage, I find many parallels in this story.

Jesus is the “certain man”  who is hosting a banquet for many guests.
 He’s the one that has laid it all out.  He has made all of the preparations, prepared the food, found the chairs, clothed the table.  He’s lived the life like we’re supposed to, and he died according to this great plan.  I think we forget sometimes that these stories are not just stories, but they directly relate to the life that we live.

Jesus’ followers make more excuses than actions.  I’m sure you’ve said it before.  You’ve made an excuse, as your reason to not spend time with him.  If you’re anything like me, I make excuses of exhaustion to keep me from doing something.  I make excuses of being tired as justification to be unkind to people.  I make excuses of being too busy to keep me from serving the church.  I’ve heard it and you’ve probably said it.  Jesus hears all of our excuses.  But, let’s examine ourselves for a second.  We’re supposed to be the people that follow Jesus.  We’re supposed to be the worshippers of God.  We’re supposed to be the ones who are learning him and getting to know what it means to be a follower.  We use excuses of other priorities and other commitments to things and people to keep us from being there with God.  We use the excuses of family to keep us from doing the things of God.  If I’m honest, I’ve used my job, my busy schedule and my friends to keep me from doing the things that I am supposed to do with God.

On a corporate level, the church has many excuses too.  We use the excuse of people not being the “right” kind of people for us to love and help.  We say that just because that person is gay or trans, we can’t love them.  Instead, we spew words of hate and hurt.  We rebuke those who need social services, yet the church does not provide meals and homes for those who go without.  The church, us as members, do not invite the homeless in so that we can share our lives with them, like Jesus said to do.  We do not love those who are in prison, because after all, they got themselves there, even though the bible tells us to be there for them.  We excuse ourselves from caring for our neighbor, simply because that neighbor does not meet our standards.  I love the following meme:

Image result for love thy neighbor meme

We like to put qualifiers on grace.  But Jesus didn’t do that.  He didn’t say we got a choice in who we loved or how we loved them, he said to love them.  Period.  That’s it.  That’s the way that Jesus lived.  But we are pious and think that we can say who can get our grace and our love, our food and our presence.  What idiots we are!

God gave us no qualifiers.  He met us where we were.  That’s it.  Let us do the same.

Jesus’ response to our excuses.

So, let’s look at the story.  There were all of these excuses, and yet the food was still prepared.  No one who was invited was coming, yet the food needed to be eaten still.

Let’s think of the invited as church members, people who are supposed to be the ones who are eager to be in the banquet.  Those who are supposed to desire the one that made them.

Unfortunately, we often miss the mark, because the banquet table is full and the plates are empty, seats are vacant, and the host is lonely.

So, Jesus told his servants to go out to the city, go get the disabled, and bring them in.  These are the people who are often close by the church, but do not enter.  THese are the people who know about Jesus, but don’t have much experience in the church.  The people who stay home on SUnday mornings, but they watch church on TV.

Did you see what Jesus did there?  He rejected those who were in the church making excuses and went after those who don’t have that church.  He sends for them.  He gets them.  And they come.

But there was still room.

So he sends out the servants to get those people who are on the highways and hedges, and tells them to get over here, and enjoy the feast.  These are the people who are the “lowest of the low” those who are out there and we typically ignore.  He tells them to come on in, pull up a chair and eat plenty.  They’re foreigners to the gospel, and he tells them to come in.  He tells them to go for it and to come on by.  And everyone ate and enjoyed themselves.

Those are not the people of our modern churches.  These are the homeless, the smelly, the prostitute, the rejected….all of the people that we pretend don’t exist, they do at the table.  All are welcome to the table, but that doesn’t mean everyone is there.

Who do you want to be?

I don’t want to be the invited, who give an excuse for missing out on God.

I don’t want to be the adjacent ones, because they’re the ones that don’t have a relationship in the first place.  They know about Jesus, but don’t have a relationship.

I don’t want to be the highways and hedges, because they’re the ones that have no clue who God is.

I want to be the servant.  In the story, it’s the servants that go out and call everyone to the table to invite them.  It’s the servants who are reporting back to the master.  That’s who I want to be, inviting everyone to the table, because there is more than enough.

Are you a servant?  Are you the invited who miss out?  Are you the adjacent ones who don’t have a relationship?  Are you the highway or hedge?


Message for the Day

12 04 2017

I’m a deaf teacher.  I know many deaf people don’t claim me as deaf because I have two CI’s that I use to hear my students, but the nature of my job as a middle school theatre teacher is that I prefer to be able to hear instead of requiring my students to learn sign language.

When I was going to become a teacher, my supervising teacher told me “You can’t be a teacher, you’re deaf, you won’t be able to hear the kids”.  It broke my heart.

It was the first time, that I’ve ever experienced that type of attitude and recognized it for what it was.  All my life, I’ve heard “you’re deaf, but you don’t sound deaf!” or “I think it’s amazing that you’re able to function….”

I really struggled with it, because all of my life, I’ve been surrounded by people who have always encouraged me and have always pushed me forward to accomplishing the great things that I want to do.  It affected me so badly, I recognize now that I was in a period of depression.

I’m glad to say that I’ve proved him wrong.  I’m glad to say that I am soon to finish up my 3rd year of teaching.  I’m glad to say that I didn’t let that man decide my fate, and impact my choice of careers.  I love my job.  I love what I do.  I bet I love it more than he does.

Don’t let anyone deter you from your dreams.  Don’t let any one stop you.  Don’t let anyone keep you from doing what you want to do.  YOU are important.  YOU are valued.  You are loved.  You have something to offer the world.


Sunday School Series: A Higher Standard/Calling

9 02 2017

I bet God hears a lot of excuses.  If I could have a telephone wired to his ear, so that I could hear all of the prayer requests and conversations that Jesus’ people had with him, I’m sure I would hear a lot of excuses.  I’m sure I’d hear all of these perfectly valid* and honest reasons* for not being kind.  I’m sure I’d hear a lot of blaming* and I’d hear a lot of absolutely convincing* evidence that the person is doing the best they can.  (*=sarcasm).  I wonder how many of those excuses would be mine.  I wonder how many of those reasons I’ve used to validate myself or make myself feel better about the lack of commitment I’ve had/have today, when it comes to building my relationship with Jesus.

The thing we gotta realize is that excuses don’t cut it.  When we excuse our self out of opportunities to show growth or to show maturity, then we are truly misunderstanding the whole point of Jesus’ coming to earth.  See, prior to his coming, this personal relationship thing?  It didn’t really truly exist.  You worshiped as a corporate body.  God was over there, and we are over here.  When God came to earth, he ripped away the veil and was able to gain entrance into our hearts.  There’s no excuse that is worthy of giving a reason for not loving or for not caring for other people.  By excusing our behaviors or lack of behaviors, we are shying away from the responsibility of our call as a believer.  Excuses are of this world.  They’re not of the kingdom of heaven.  If we continue to make excuses, then we will live a life full of excuses, and not full of obedience and living.

Philippians 2:1-2:  Joy in Unity

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

It is not of this world for people to be in unity and not to be fighting.  In fact, all stories typically have a conflict that go with it.  One of the earliest things that I learned about the church is that you had to go.  Then, I learned why.  You go because of community, and wrapped up in the word community is the word unity.  See it there?  commUNITY.  You go because of the people there, you go to worship God.  You go because christians know that you can’t hope to grow unless you have a community that surrounds you, helping you, and encouraging you.  As a young kid, I disliked church, because it was the dreaded opportunity for me to have to wear a dress!  Gross!  But I learned something as I grew older and I wore pants, that the church is not designed to be an oppressive place, but a place of freedom and joy, a representation of the freedom and joy we have in our relationship with God.  We were not designed to grow and go through this life alone, we were designed for community because the trinity is community.  We were made for community, because it is only when we are in community that we can practice unity.

Paul is clear here, that if we have value in Christ and each other, then we must remain united.  There is no room for selfishness in unity.  We must remain supportive and we must be known by our love for each other.  Unless we do not have value in each other, then we will never rid ourselves of the selfish chains that attempt to hold us to ourselves.

We cannot hope to love each other, and to unite together if we do not understand that community/unity is expected of believers.  We cannot hope to embody the love of God if we do not hold each other to a high standard of unity.

But this comes at a great cost.  Be aware of this.  If I hold unity and community in high regards, then I must hold myself at a secondary regard.  There is no place for selfishness here, but each person submitting themselves for the sake of unity.  We must have all of the same priorities, the same desires, and advance them together for the sake of unity.  I do not think that this means that we lose our own individual personas, but on the contrary, we were all made differently so that we can approach the same goal from different angles.  If the goal is to love people, then each individual does that in their own unique way.

Philippians 2:3-4:  Humble Service

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

We are called to a higher way of living, we are called to a new life of love and living together.  We are called of a different way to live.  This type of living is very foreign in our world.  It is so foreign that I almost feel confident in saying that many churches don’t have a hold on this type of living.  Our world teaches us that our selfish ways are the only way to get ahead.  We are supposed to look out only for our spheres of influences, and no one else.  The world teaches us to divide ourselves from each other, to keep arbitrary things like skin color, religion, money, music preferences and a whole other list of things that make us different from each other.  It does not tell us to look beyond our comfort zones and it does not tell us to see beyond our own little world.  It tells us to put our blinders on, and separate ourselves.  That, my friends, is not biblical and it is not loving.  This selfish attitude has unfortunately, permeated our Christian thought too.  We seem more concerned about all of the things that divide us, and more concerned about those that we can keep out of heaven than those that we can let into the fold.  We claim that God is the excluder, but then we ignore the prophecy found in Revelation.  In Revelation, it says that all sorts of people, all kinds of people will be found worshipping God.  Do you remember that?  Excluding people is not the way of the kingdom of God.  But we are often so closed off from everyone except those who exist in our own little worlds.  And that is selfish.

When we put others’ needs before our own comfortableness, we create an excuse for not sharing the gospel, or not living out the gospel.  When we follow scripture, we realize that our own ambitions are worthless, unless they benefit the people of God.  We must seek to erase the divides and love each other like our neighbors and love each other like family.  That’s hard.  Because that means that we have to eliminate the personal bias and prejudices that exist within us.  That means that we have to do the hard heart work.  And if we don’t do that, then we’re keeping ahold of our selfish superiority.  And that’s contrary to this scripture.

Humility isn’t something that you do, but it’s a process of showing people that they are important by decreasing our importance to ourselves.  This is an attitude that also applies to our relationship with God.  If we want to show humility then we gotta submit to God’s plans too.  We gotta realize how much wiser his ways are than ours.  This is something that’s so often talked about in this life, but if we were brutally honest, then I’m sure you could join me and say that surrender isn’t quite so easy.  If I were to truly surrender, then every summer, I would not search for another job, knowing full well that God has called me to the one I have.  But I still search, thinking that the grass is greener than where it is, and honestly, it probably is, but if I were to actually cross pastures, I am certain the grass would not taste as good as being in God’s will and purpose for my life.

Philippians 2:5-11:  An Example Worth Following

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place  and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

We don’t have to look hard or far to find an example that is worth following.  We see an example for us clearly lined up for us and laid out clearly.  Quite simply, this is the message of the gospel.

The first instruction that the gospel message has for us here is that we gotta make our attitude just the same as Jesus’ attitude, and then it lists examples of that behaviors.  These specific behaviors are more than guidelines, they’re commands and commitments.  By following and doing them, we discover more of Jesus and his love.  We discover how to love each other by following that example.  If we refuse to follow this example, then we’re not true believers.  We’re not truly convinced of the saving power of the gospel to all people.  It’s one thing to preach the gospel, but believing it is another story.  If we can’t believe that it is our calling and our example, then there’s no reason for us to hold salvation to be true for ourselves.  We demonstrate our belief in this salvation story by allowing it to lead us and be a defining example for us.

Christ has a humble attitude and demeanor.  While Jesus was God, scripture is full of references to where he refers to God as his father.  Let’s take a minute.  To call someone a father is to refer to him as a superior person.  But, scripture says Jesus is equal to God?  How can that be?  Simply put, although Jesus had all honor as a son of God, he, in effect, took his crown off, and placed it on a throne and started working and walking around with beggars in plainclothes.  More than just that, he was selfless in his obedience to his father’s will.  We can see in the garden where he is struggling to accept the ultimate call of his obedience and purpose of life, in choosing to accept death on the cross.  But he made that commitment and he went  through with it, just like he said he would, even though it was difficult to do so.  He could have decided that he didn’t want to die for humanity at the last minute.  He could’ve been in so much pain that he could’ve just called a legion of angels to his rescue while he was on the cross.  But he didn’t.  He didn’t because he knew his purpose in life was to glorify God, and by his choice to be obedient, he would make salvation available to all people.  He accepted that call.  Regardless of how he was feeling.  When we have a humble attitude like Jesus, then we recognize the supreme lordship of God’s will over our lives and over our own desires.  When our plans are submissive to the will of God, then we are liberated from all of the choices that being “in charge” requires of us.  This is very hard.  It is not for the lighthearted.  It is easier said than done.  I’m still working on setting aside myself to the will and ways of God.

Christ followed up his submission with acts of obedience.  His method of obedience was in casting aside his deity, becoming a man and entering this world as a manger, surrounded by cattle and stinky, smelly sheep.  He became a carpenter who was essentially at the mercy of the hospitality of others.  He squatted to poop on the side of the road, probably experience bowel discomfort, battled illnesses and hurt feelings.  Our humility is nothing unless we follow that up in actions.  Christ did.  We cannot be humble and have no actions that back it up.  This is hard too.  This is the higher calling.  Humility means that we don’t get angry when someone hurts us.  We recognize that we too, are imperfect people, and so when people make us more aware of that fact (through hurting us), we find no offense in it.  When we make a mistake, we admit it first, we are not stubborn, but we look out for the best of others, and correct those mistakes.  This is really hard.  Truly hard.  It would be easier to never forgive someone when they hurt them, or refuse to admit that we made a mistake.  But at what cost?  We ruin relationships that way.

The benefits of Christs’ humility benefits us all.  In the same way, others are benefited by our humility.  Because Christ was humble, he is now lifted up and exalted, given a special seat at the right hand of the father.  This is very backwards, but from my experience with the Kingdom of God, it’s pretty all backwards there anyways, so it fits right in!  There, the last are first and the first are last, the humble is exalted and the proud is cast down.  If we want to take ahold of heaven, if we want to enter the gates of glory, then we must follow his example.  We must follow up our faith in actions of service and love.  We must not allow our pursuits or loves to overshadow our love for God and our desire to see him work in our lives.  Because we have his example, we are able to experience grace, and we have benefited from his humility.  In the same way, others benefit when we are humble and we are able to approach them with an attitude of grace and love.

It’s obvious to me that the call of Jesus is a call to a higher standard of living.  It is a very difficult one.  Jesus even said it would be hard.  It’s not easy to look at the face of your enemy and offer the other cheek when he already slapped you.  It’s not easy to volunteer to go the extra mile with someone when they won’t help you the same way.  It’s not easy to allow people to hurt you without striking back or getting defensive.  Simply put, the call of Jesus is not easy and it’s not human and very un-American.  But like I said, it is a higher standard of living.

Because after all, our lives are not about us, are they?


Peace and love,

Creation: A Creative Retelling

31 01 2017

You have molded the heavens with your hands, you ran your fingers to form mountain ridges.  You uplifted the waters to move the waves.  You punched the soil and made valleys.  You scooped up dirt and made hills.  You ran through the land, dragging a stick through the earth and made the rivers.  You moved the ocean into the land and made lakes.  Made mudpies, and they became swamps.  Dried otu the dirt, and deserts were born.  I have this image of God, you, playing all over your creation, to make all of these things happen.  Joyful in your creation, you bounced around like a child.  You transformed your drawings into fish and birds, monkeys and elephants.  Breathed life into those masterpieces, as all sorts of animals began to walk the earth that you created.  They explored and ate off of the trees and plants, drank of your water, and moved with joy.

Then, you made man.  You crafted every vein in his body with purpose.  You sculpted every muscle from the dirt.  You covered it all in skin to protect him.  And you took your breath and kissed man alive.  In wonder, he looked around, not understanding what had just happened, and saw all of the creation moving and growing.  And you proclaimed all of its goodness!

And then you rested.  You watched your created ones get familiar with your creation.  It was your playground and entertainment all in one.  You delighted as man ate your fruit you provided and you were pleased as he named them.  You laughed at his reaction when he saw a platypus for the first time.  You were warmed in your heart as he freed a baby lion from thorns.  Your curiosity was piqued when he saw his helper for the first time.  You had surprised him, not told him that she was going to be made.  He surveyed her beauty and she looked around the same way that he had, when you first breathed life into him.  At night, you sang them to sleep with the birds and grasshoppers singing their song of praise to you.  Your creation was all good, and it was peaceful.  Days went by, and your joy was increased as you got to spend more and more time with them, they led you on tours of your creation, and they told you all about the things that they had learned about what you had made.  You fell in love with them.  You fell in love with this, all of your creation.

Then, came an intruder.  It wasn’t a battle army from foreign land.  It was an old rival that you had banished.  He was once a part of your inner circle, but then he fell from your grace.  He was conniving and jealous of you, wanted to be more than a worshipper of God, he wanted people to worship him because he knew you.  So you banished him from your kingdom, and he took his own kingdom.  He penetrated your garden.  Slithered into the body of something you created.  He slid across the dirt that you made and wrapped himself into your creation.  He thought that he could talk to your beloveds, even though they were yours.  He whispered words of adultery, and they tried to resist at first.  Then they succombed to the pressure.  The enemy said that they would have power unlike that which they had never had before.  But you watched as the connection that you had with them was destroyed.  You couldn’t believe it.

They were frozen, felt it immediately.  The fruit had given them knowledge which they had never had before, but at the price of intimacy with you.  He slithered away before the true effects of his victory were realized by them.  The fruit, they abandoned as they responded in shame.  Your heart was broken as they exprienced blame and anger at each other over what had happened.  They realized they were naked, and needed clothing.  YOu called out their name as you pushed the bushes aside, hoping against hope that they hadn’t really done this thing that you feared they had.  You looked in their eyes, and it had.  Your heart broke.  The one limit that you had given them, they had broken.  Your paradise was infected and the infection lay within them.  There was no way that you could rescue them from this now.  Later, perhaps, but not now.  Not while your heart was breaking and bruised.  Not while they began the journey out of your paradise.

It was all over.  All for nothing.  All of your dreams and all of your efforts were just wastes of time and effort.  It was all for nothing.  You tried something, gave of your heart to create something that would bring your joy, and it was all for nothing.  Wasted.  Futile.  Anger swelled in your heart, they had done wrong.  They must be punished.  Food would no longer grow freely, man had to work at it now.  Her body would no longer live in harmony, as you gave monthly pains to her.  You sealed the garden when they left, now it was plagued in sin, it had been smudged and you had to clean it up.  You would never let someone into your paradise again.  Your anger covered up the fact that you were heartbroken, and they could not see that.  All that they saw was your anger.  Your heart was broken, your creation betrayed you.  In your mercy, you could not destroy them because you loved them.  So you let them live.  But it would never be the same.  Ever again.

You did not give up on them.  One day, they’ll see that.  One day, they’ll see your plan of restoration.  But today is not that day.  Today, you’ll nurse your broken heart.  Today, you’ll cry and ache.  Today, you’ll experience pain.  So that you can give forgiveness.

Sunday School Series: Taking a Note from Paul in our Everyday Life

29 01 2017

Today’s scriptures come from Philippians 1:12-21, and are below:

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.  I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body,whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

We have all heard the dramatic conversions stories where people have been on drugs, or have been alcoholics, or what have you, and then they meet Jesus.  Suddenly, their life is changed and their old devils are gone.  They tell their story, to anyone who hear.  Me?  I used to think that my own conversion story was nothing special to share.  I was and still attending the same church I’d attended all of my life.  I went to Sunday school and Wednesday night services.  I loved to be in the church from a young age, because I had fun, I loved hearing the stories of people being used by God to do great things.  My conversion story was just the natural result of people’s influence in my lives.  It was no surprise when I found Jesus, and got saved and got baptized.  I was just following the normal process of things.  And then I hear a story of this preacher, who was in jail.  He used to tear out pieces of paper and use it as rolling paper to get high.  Now he preaches about those papers.  And I heard that God’s mercy is big enough for all of us.

How does that happen?  God’s forgiveness to me, seems so obvious, so commonplace, how can it be so radical to others?  The message and the answer is simple:  It has nothing to do with you or I, and it has everything to do with the fact that what Jesus has done, it has the power to change lives.  At first, I got mad, because those “sinners” shouldn’t be covered by the same grace as I am.  But now I realize, that my focus was not on what I deserve, but what God is willing to give me.

Before we talk about how Jesus changes lives, we must examine how he changed the life of the writer of this text, Paul.  So Paul was a Jew, and in many ways, I can relate to Paul.  Like me, he was raised in the church.  He was there every time the church opened its doors.  His sect was extremely devout to keeping the letter of the scripture.  All of the laws and all of the commands, he was concerned about it.  At one point in time, he felt as if obeying the laws, he was justified in going out and ensuring that the new emerging Christian religion would be contained.  And then he met Jesus.  Instead of moving on, his life immediately changed, and he started preaching the Gospel wherever he was.  He eventually came to a place where he was put in prison for his preachings, and so he wrote the joyful letter of the Philippian church to tell them what was going on.

Paul is Focused on Sharing the Gospel Message, regardless of where he was.

I walked inside of a prison once.  The sterile bars and cold, bland rooms.  The isolation.  I heard the doors slam shut, smelled the concrete and despair.  It’s all so bigger than life.  I imagine that if you went to prison, your demons and all of your struggles would be amplified.  I imagine that’s why so many prisoners deal with depression.  I read studies such as this about the mental health of the incarcerated, and I understand why they do.  If I were in prison, it would be honestly very easy to fall prey to things that would weigh me down.  It would be easy for me to abandon hope, even my religion, while I’m in a place that other people abandon me.  Paul didn’t.  Now, it’s easy for me to see Paul as a braggart, or boastful in these types of situations.  Sometimes, I feel like he is doing so a little bit.  But I hope that we can see past these kinds of statements so that we can get to the heart of the passage.  The heart of the passage is this: No matter what situations or circumstances Paul faced, he had one goal in mind, to advance the gospel.   He told his church in Philippi that this imprisonment does not imprison the message of God.  Our mess in our lives does not contain the message of God.  In fact, Paul says that people get inspired when we proclaim the message of God, despite where we are and the circumstances that we face.

Everyone knew that Paul was in prison for preaching the Gospel.  But instead of shutting up, Paul prayed, preached and praised.  Even the ones who were enforcing his imprisonment knew why Paul was there.  Word of what he was doing was spreading everywhere.  It was going up through the chain of command into the king’s imperial guard.  To the government.  No matter what, Paul focused on the purpose of his life, and that was to share the Gospel.

Application for Today:  We may not face prison.  You and I may not be behind bars.  We may not be as free as a lark, but we still face adversity.  Imprisonment is a pretty severe adversity, but if we take a note from Paul, it’s all about how we respond.  If we allow these adversities to distract us from the purpose of our lives, the reason that we have hope, then we will never make an impact.  If when faced with one adversity, we revolt and protest, we are missing out on the purpose of our lives.  Quite frankly, when we do experience adversity, we honestly respond like children, and consistently lash out in response.  Sometimes in protest, sometimes in marching, and sometimes in harsh words.  The purpose of our lives is not to protest when things happen that we don’t agree with or approve of, it’s to advance the gospel.  That’s it.  When we substitute political activism for sharing the gospel, we are neglecting our true purpose, and we are robbing our stances from truly impacting people.  Instead, while we march on the frontlines, we must use this opportunity to advance Christ and what he’s done for us, and the message that salvation is available for and to all.  We cannot allow the current political climate to distract us from the preciousness of lost souls.  The only way to change lives and hearts is through personal conversations with people, unconditional love shown towards them and trust in God that he will do the rest.

Unity in the Body, despite different perspectives.

When Paul was criticised, he continued to preach Jesus.  He didn’t lash back, he didn’t try to break people down, he didn’t name call, he just continued to preach Jesus.  When people disagreed, he continued to preach Jesus.  Through all of that, he didn’t allow his focus to get him off track in preaching Jesus.  Whenever we speak Biblically, we will encounter some contrary position or some sort of backlash.  That’s okay.  We will have some people trying to undermine our efforts.  That’s okay.  People will try to tell us we are wrong.  That’s okay.  Do not allow those things to distract you from preaching Jesus and being caught up in the politics or controversy of it all.

There are many motivations for sharing the gospel and for advancing causes.  Some people do it because they truly believe in the movements.  Some people do so out of great love for God.  But a lot more people tend to use it as a method of advancing themselves or what they believe is right.  What can possibly be more important than the Gospel?  What could possibly be more important than sharing salvation?

Marching against abortion and campaigning against it is great, but you must champion Jesus as you do so.  Jesus tells us to value all lives and tells us that once the child is born, we have to provide a life for them, take care of them in health.  Love it, even if it isn’t what we wanted.  You cannot march against abortion and then refuse to provide opportunities for that child.  Quit pretending that your interest is in preventing abortion like a good Christian, if that baby won’t be taken care of.

Marching for the end of police brutality is good.  Marching to end racism is good.  But we cannot speak a word except the gospel, until we have also looked at ourselves and seen how we have taken advantage of brutality and how we have ingrained prejudices within us.  We must support fair trade coffee and chocolate and other industries that do not exploit human beings.  We must eradicate the personal beliefs we have of those that are not the same race as us.  And we must advance the gospel, we must champion the gospel.  Only when we can erase those things in our lives, can we comment on the things of others’ lives.

We cannot march against gay marriage until we address the issues that divorce and an incorrect understanding of love plagues our community.  We must have a proper perspective on marriage and self-control in human relationships if we ever want to have the right to comment on someone else’s love life.  When divorce is accepted within the church, and fidelity is not preached, then we cannot make a stand for the family, because we are guilty of destruction of the family.  And when we do make a comment, may it be on the everlasting love and fidelity of God, despite our shortcomings and not distracting from the message of the gospel.

Protesting immigrants coming into our shores, we can protest those.  But we cannot do so unless we realize that our motivations are to keep ourselves safe and being selfish and not welcoming in people in love, without conditions or regard.  Sure, it is kinda radical and naive to think that those people won’t hurt us, but if we ignore the call of Christ to be unconditional towards all, then we might was well ignore grace too.  We must realize that our opposition is because people are different from us and afraid that they might hurt them.  Then we need to examine the ways that our sin hurts God and then we will realize that we have no room to talk.  We also must weigh if this is an opportunity to show love, and by refusing them entry, we are neglecting them the chance to be loved by us.  And that’s not loving.  Particularly if they are fleeing a bad situation.

Application for Today

If we do not spread the gospel and we spread causes, then we need to quit pretending that we are Christians.  Go ahead and take Jesus out of your causes, not much changes.  We have to deal with ourselves and what our causes say about ourselves, before we can ever comment on others’ lives.  When we are approached with an adversity, it is right and well that we must make a comment about it, as long as it is motivated by sharing the gospel.  It sounds unconventional, doesn’t it?  If we emphasize Jesus, then God can change hearts and when he does, the marching goes away, because all will realize what the true purpose of our lives is, and the appropriate response to these adversities.  If we allow adversities to distract us from our purpose, then we aren’t really believers in the power of God to change lives, because we’re demonstrating that he hasn’t changed our own.

Nothing but the Gospel matters.

When we live our lives radically, where the gospel is the forefront of everything we do, then we are fulfilling the call of Christ.  We are called to give up the worldly pleasures for the spread of the gospel.  If we want to have an impact for our society, it must start with us.  It must start with the gospel.  It starts with God changing our hearts and then the Gospel is shared with others through us, and God changes them too.  Here, the desire of Paul’s life is that God is glorified in him and honored in all we do.

We can have hope of God changing our society in the lives of others being impacted by God changing us, and us sharing that message.  If the gospel changed our hearts, then it can change our approaches to adversity, and that will change our society.  That’s where we have hope.  That’s where we have something to look forward to.  Many Christians today live defeated lives that are always in defense of some issue or another, but never share the difference that God has made in their lives.  We have an obligation to share the gospel and that takes precedence over anything else in this world.  Christ didn’t stutter or stumble when he made the challenge to go all over the world, right where we are, and share the gospel.  The message of God will not be hindered in our present political circumstances, it breaks chains and frees people.  A proper perspective and focus will allow the gospel to do that.  But it cannot change the world without our unconditional, unwavering commitment to sharing the gospel and our taking advantage of the opportunities we have to share.


I don’t know about you, but I have some heart stuff to deal with.  Some perspective that I need to take, forgiveness to ask for and some changes to make.  The way to do that is through prayer and revisiting the gospel.  If we want to make an impact on society, we must do so with a proper perspective and advance the gospel as we encounter adversity.  Only then, will we respond in love.  Only then can we eradicate anger and change hearts.  It’s time to try the gospel.

Author’s note:  I debated posting this, but as I was writing, it was like the words flowed from the heart of God through my pen and unto my journal page.  These words are God’s and not mine.  But I pray that I would have the boldness to post these and not worry about the response or backlash, but be obedient to what God spoke through me.  


Peace and love,


Sunday School Series: Happiness, Joy and Partners in Ministry, Philippians 1:3-11

22 01 2017

Author’s Note:  Please see the previous post to give you some of the context of this church’s founding and Paul’s relationship with it.  I made a post earlier about this, and I’m so very glad that I did so!  Thanks!

Everyone is trying to find joy and happiness.  We buy things, thinking that they will make us happy and they will fulfill us.  Our government is built upon the premise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  We read that it is an “unalienable right.”  We expect happiness to be lasting, and then, like a whisper, it fades away.  In my life, I can remember times when I have thought “If ________ happens, then I will be really happy.”  The happening happens and then I’m the same person, there’s no great upheaval of personal change or growth.  Eventually that happenning only becomes another page in my book of life.  For example, my college graduation.  When I was in high school, I was so focused on getting into college.  I filled out scholarship applications left and right.  I got into college, and I started focusing on that graduation date.  This dream never seemed more happiness-inducing than the nights where I was holed up in the library for another late night working on a paper.  I would get lost in my dreams of walking across the stage and shaking Chancellor Peacock’s hand.  When the day finally, arrived, my work was done, and I remember that I sat there as a friend made a speech about something, and I remember thinking “this is it.”  And it wasn’t like this great event.  It was just me, sitting in a polyester gown, shaking a hand and walking across a stage.  I was so proud that I did this, but then the next day, I woke up, and I was myself again.  Now, five years later, my graduation day is just another memory.

It doesn’t last, does it?  Happiness?  That’s the difference between happiness and joy.  Happiness is an emotion, and emotions honestly, they’re fleeting.  They change and disappear after awhile.  But joy, I think truly is more permanent, despite the present circumstances.  It’s sort of like the difference between liking someone and loving them.  You can like them all you want to, but that “like” fades at the first sign of annoyance.  Love exists regardless of how annoying the person is, or when they scream “I don’t speak chinese” in your ear as they sleep.  (True story)

Paul’s Partners in Ministry:  Philippians 1:3-6

 I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

If we use happiness to describe Paul’s emotions towards the church in Philippi, then (because we know of his previous experience in prison because of his preaching of the word) it would be odd that Paul would be thanking God for the memory of this church.  If it were me, and I had been arrested, then I would want to do anything possible to push the memory of that horrible experience out of my mind.  But Paul here was “praying with joy” each time he thought of them and was full of thanksgiving about them.  Each time he gave thanks, he remembered them in love.  It’s a wonderful thing to have such a good relationship with those that you serve in ministry with that they give thanks for you, each time that they remember you.  In that way, I identify with Paul.  In my college years, I served at the Appalachian Wesley Foundation, and as I served, I never remembered to take a moment and recognize just how blessed I was to not only be friends with those that I was serving God with, but also, to enjoy the moment with them.  Now, all of us are spread across this great state, and some are across the continent, and I miss them, and pray for them every so often.

Why am Paul and I filled with joy?  It says so here, “because of their partnership in the gospel”, a partnership that has been solid from the founding until now.  A partnership that has led to blessings and growth that has lasted, both in each other and in Christ.  Obviously, Paul and this church have had contact since Paul left, and they possibly exchanged many letters until this letter was penned.  I think that there was a certain amount of peace knowing that he had a group of people that were united, supporting him.  I think that encouraged him greatly, and I think it helped him to endure, even when he was facing a lot of difficulties ahead of him.  I think it helped him feel his load lightened because he knew that there was a group of people praying for him, and they were peacefully there, waiting his return.  The relationships that he had created while there, they were very important to Paul.  Paul’s encouragement from his relationships with Lydia and others in the church sustained him in ministry, and Paul was confident that this growth and maturity would continue until the day that Jesus came back.  I am confident that Paul knew this fact, because Christ began it!  I think it’s important for us to note that our confidence in God and what God is doing is ultimately the source of our joy!  Apart from that movement of God, relationships cannot growth or initiate, our relationships cannot encourage use.  Our interactions cannot produce fruit, without his touch.  And if he begins the partnership, he will build that partnership until the end.  He will continue to give it all blessings and growth.

Paul’s Affections towards Them:  Philippians 1:7-8

 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

I truly think that Paul and the believers of this church felt a special bond between them, and this special bond was strengthened especially when they experienced great hardship at the beginning.  I truly think that they thought it was worth it because it brought them closer together.  The evidence that I draw this from is because Paul is never as personal as he is in these letters.  He never spent much more than a sentence proclaiming his affections towards a church other than this one.  It’s for that reason that Paul is so affectionate towards them.  From verse 7, I don’t really understand why he said “it is right”, but I imagine that he was facing some criticism because of his obvious affection towards this church.  This often happens when you find yourself in a new friendship or relationship.  I’ve experienced it, sometimes, people get jealous because of the companionship that you’ve found.  They’ll sometimes make passive aggressive statements and remarks or something to say that hints towards their disapproval.  I think this is the perspective that Paul is coming from in this particular passage.  I can imagine that he was hearing some remarks from some of his churches about his perceived favoritism.

But Paul isn’t saying that they should stop being so affectionate with each others, in fact, he’s doing the opposite, he’s affirming the value of this church in his heart.  He’s mentioning that their joy towards each other is holy and right because it is rooted in the fact that they are partners in ministry, mutually supporting each other.  More than that, they have supported him regardless of where he is or what is going on.  Whether he is in prison or enjoying ministry, he continually feels their support and their love of him.  I think this is really valuable for Paul because he probably had a few lonely evenings where he wondered if any of this was making a difference, if it was worth it.  I’m sure he felt especially isolated when he was travelling, and their encouragement helped him to continue on further.

Often, when people are partners in ministry together, they don’t get to be in the same place of service together, and they’re not able to see each other as often as they want.  But they have a sense of calling to each other, that no matter the space, we’re serving God together, and we are mutually growing each other.

Paul’s Desire for Maturity:  Philippians 1:9-11

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Here, we get to the desires of Paul’s heart for this group.

He first prays and desires that their love will grow.  He desires not that their love will only grow for each other and for him, but also that they’ll grow in their love of God.  Through growing in their love for God, they will find knowledge and discernment.  Obviously, we know that the love for each other is already there and it is already thriving.  But now, he wants them to grow more in their knowledge of God and who God is.  By growing in the knowledge of who God is and what God wants for their lives, they will be able to better discern what the will of God is.  Discernment is a process by which a believer or a group of believers figures out how they feel and where they stand on issues.  For example, this last election.  I don’t know which way you voted, but I’ll tell you how I figured out how to vote.  I looked at the candidates, and I looked at what they said they believed.  I looked at what they stood for, and I looked at what God values.  I voted accordingly to my mindset on all of the evidence.

In the early days of the church, they were trying to figure out what they thought and believed.  They didn’t have a moral code to abide by, and they had to figure out what christian values were.  Christian lifestyles were so new, and they did not have the clear definitions that we hold so tightly to today.  So these believers had to figure it out.  Now, remember, they didn’t have written gospels, they just had each other and their relationship with God to depend on.  All of the discernment was for the purpose of appearing blameless before God.

Discernment and growing in character and knowledge of God leads to maturity, and that was what Paul wanted for their faith.  He wanted them to grow in Christ and he wanted them to produce the fruits of righteousness.  No doubt, he was having the story of Jesus teaching about the vine and fruit in his mind as he was writing this.  He no doubt remembered that Jesus told us we can recognize him through the fruit produced.  Believers should have the good fruit being produced that brings others to knowing Christ, and not chasing them away from the things of God.  If we live our lives producing fruit that is pleasing to God and enticing to others to seek God, then at the very last day, we will be declared righteous before God.  On that final day, praises will ring out for God’s faithfulness and for the gifts of love we experience through each other!

For that reason, I am glad that we are partners in ministry together!  For that reason I am glad you are a reader, and I am able to share with you the conclusions of my heart from scripture.  It is my prayer in this life/ministry that we live together, we can grow together and we can produce fruit together.  Fruit of joy and peace and love, not discord.  With God’s help, may I be that for you!

Peace and Love,


Sunday School Series: Context of Philippians

18 01 2017

Author’s Note:  We will be beginning a series in Philippians on Sunday, to prepare for this, I have referenced some scripture in Acts to help give us a context for understanding the church’s history.  I hope this helps in your understanding, because it certainly helped mine!

Paul and Silas are travelling around, preaching and ministering to areas and churches in Acts.  The first time (that I know of) that Paul visited Phillipi, he had a lot of things going on!  I was interested in these events so I started reading.

Meeting Lydia  Acts 16:11-15:

From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

This is the first opportunity that we have to meet Lydia, and it certainly won’t be the last.  Lydia will later be a member of one of the founders of the church here.  She will raise Timothy who will later become a “son-in-ministry” to Paul.  Paul probably had no idea that he would meet someone who would be so influential to his ministry.

  1.  Lydia was successful financially.  She was a seller of cloth, and was actually probably selling in the marketplace when she heard the message of Paul.  She was in a group of women who probably were makers or sellers of cloth like her.  She sold purple cloth, which was the most expensive of the cloths, because the dye was the rarest found.  Reserved for royalty and higher-income families, she had very wealthy clients who probably paid a hefty sum for her cloth.  The fact that they mention her name at all, and what she does, indicates that she is in a prominent position in the society, because everyone would’ve known who Lydia is by her trade.
  2. Paul’s words made a believer of Lydia in Christ Jesus and his resurrection.  It says that Lydia already was a believer in God, so she was probably Jewish in faith already.  But God opened her heart to Paul’s message, it says, and she began to believe.  God used Paul’s words to convict the heart of Lydia.  Just a moment ago, I tried to put myself in Lydia’s shoes.  I tried to imagine that I was a Jewish person, and then Paul was standing there with a message from God.  I was faced with a choice, to continue to believe what I believe, or to change my heart and follow God.  I’ll be honest and readily admit that I wasn’t so sure that it would be an easy choice for me to make.  But I’m glad that she did, because God used her in amazing ways to impact the world for the sake of the Gospel.
  3. Lydia allowed God to use her to minister to other people through hosting them. All because Lydia believed, her household also began to believe.  They all were converted and they all were saved.  Then, she invited Paul into her home.  As wealthy as she was, she was able to use that wealth to give rest and refuge to the ministers of God because she had extra room in her household.  She used her possessions and what she had to not only lead her household but to also, give Paul and Silas a place so that they could be ministered to.  I’ve never been a vagabond minister, a nomadic disciple, but I imagine it would be very draining to give and give of yourself the way that Paul and Silas did, without return.  I imagine she gave them food, a place to sleep, and Christian company that cared about their struggles.  Often, we forget that even though Paul and Silas were moving and grooving great things for God, they also had their own struggles that they dealt with on a daily basis, and they wrestled with.  It must have been very wonderful to ease their personal load by sharing their troubles with another person, by finding a person to pray for them.

Paul and Silas Identified Acts 16:  16-19

 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.

So obviously, there has been quite some time between the first few verses of today’s examination and the verses in this section.  Which is fine, but I think we need to acknowledge this.  So what happened in between verse 15 and 16?  A lot, from what I can understand.  See, if these things happened the next day, scripture would say the next day, it’s usually pretty keen on keeping up with that.  So, it had to be some time after Lydia was converted, so to speak, and in the meantime, Paul and Silas probably set up camp there and was ministering to the people in the area.  No doubt that their connections with Lydia created some really influential connections for Paul.  The church probably had started out of Lydia’s home and was growing in the knowledge of God.

  1.  Even demons recognize that God is at work.  Meanwhile, in their day to day life, Paul and Silas were going to the marketplaces each day, and sharing the gospel.  This lady, we don’t know her name, but she was a fortune teller.  We do know her occupation.  Well, she started walking behind Paul and Silas, telling everyone who they were and what they were doing.  I imagine she wasn’t following from afar, I’d like to imagine that she was almost like a parrot, squawking every time that Paul turned the corner.  She was taken by this spirit who told the future, and she was able to identify these people by what they were doing, whose they are, and what their message was.  I’m sure the evil spirit was motivated by wanting to send people running from Paul.  I’m sure it was meant to deter Paul’s work from being effective.  My point is this, even people who aren’t involved in the things of God can recognize when God is at work.  I’m not saying those people are full of demons and all of those things….not at all.  But what I am saying is that it’s easy to recognize when God is at work through his people.  In fact, it’s hard to hide God working in his people!
  2. God will provide a way out or a way through obstacles  Far too often, though, when we are encountered with an obstacle or something/someone who opposes what we are doing, we shut down.  Or we give up.  We think that if God brings obstacles and hardship, he must not be in it, right?  Oh dear believer, nothing could ever be further from the truth!  When we encounter the obstacles and hardships we face in ministry, that’s just the time for us to buckle up and prepare for something great to happen!  In Paul’s case, he dealt with the figurative parrot for days, until he couldn’t take it anymore, and then, he turned around and cast out the demons that were inside this fortune teller.  At that very moment, they were gone.  She was vacant of the spirits that robbed her of herself at that very moment.  I imagine she just sorta stood there, stunned, and walked away.  I wonder what happened to her?  Anyways, back on track, God provided the way for Paul to leave his obstacle of that parrot, and he will provide the same way out for us.
  3. If God works, expect consequences!  Paul’s consequence is found in the owners of this fortune-teller, who no doubt, were angry that their source of income was done away with, she was good for nothing, in their eyes.  So they grabbed him, and honestly, they probably felt like Paul was stealing from them.  “They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”(vs 20-21) He was stealing their livelihood, their person that they could use and abuse.  He liberated her from their bondage, forever.  Can I just take a moment and say that those same words are the very same that the enemy says about those that we minister to?  He says the very same things about those who find encouragement under the wings of our care and concern.  He says the very same things about those that find hope in the way that God uses us.  So we’d better be ready for consequences.  When we submit to God’s call to ministry, then we’d better be ready for consequences.  Regardless of the consequences.  In the case of Paul and Silas, they were humiliated in the marketplaces, stripped of their clothing and flogged.  Then, they were jailed.  (Vs 22-24)

Paul and Silas and their Ministry in Prison Acts 16:25-40

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.  He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”

But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”

The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

This is a rather intense story.  I’ll try to refrain from summarizing, and insulting your intelligence, but I do want to make some commentary.

  1. Paul’s Response.  I think Paul and Silas’ response to being jailed is very interesting here.  It’s actually very contrary to what our human nature leads us to do.  Paul and Silas went into jail and were given the highest area of security, and not only that, they were chained to the stocks.  I don’t know if you know anything about stocks, but when in a prison in that time period, the stocks were literally bolted/connected to the entire foundation.  So in order to break these locks and chains, it would have to take a super-human hulk person to do it.  So they’re given the tightest of security, and if it were me, I can honestly say that I would truly, truly be woeful and pitching a fit like a four-year old.  Instead, they used the opportunity to minister.  How often am I presented with an opportunity to minister, but because of my own selfishness, I don’t?
  2. Paul’s impact.  Because Paul was faithful to use any opportunity to minister, God opened the chains that bound him, and kept him captive.  Likewise, when we minister, God will open those chains that bind us, because that’s what he does.  When my heart was broken in times past, when I allowed myself to be used, God healed me, in ways that I never thought possible.
  3. God saves!  Well duh!  But look at it!  Look how God used Paul’s situation to bring more people to him!  It is so true, that God can use any and every situation to bring people to knowing him, and God can use any and every situation to change hearts!  There is no heart that is too hopeless that he can’t lift.  Look at that jailer!  After the earthquake, God broke the prison, and the jailer awoke, thinking that all of the prisoners were gone, and he was ready to kill himself.  He was ready to face death instead of hope.  But God pulled him out of that area of despair and he saved him!  How exciting!
  4. The Message spreads.  Prison cannot contain the message of God.  Bad news cannot contain the message of God.  God’s message and his ministers on this earth will not be contained.  They will not be silenced.  Even though Paul’s message, they attempted to silence, it was not.  Knowledge of the works of God spread.


After this, Paul left the area.  The church in Philippi grew and more and more people were adding to the family of God.  No doubt Paul received word of the church’s growth in numbers and no doubt that he was continuously hearing encouraging words from this body of believers.

This is the context of the book of Philippians.  If I have missed anything, understand that I’ve never studied the Bible academically, I’m just sharing what I know.  I hope this helps you understand more of the book of Philippians and their church.