Saints

Saint” seems to be the apostle Paul’s favorite name for Christians. He used it 39 times to describe faithful followers of Jesus:

  • Romans 1:7  To all who are in Roman, loved by God, called as saints. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 
  • Romans 8:27  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 
  • Romans 12:13  Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. 
  • Romans 15:25  Right now I am traveling to Jerusalem to serve the saints
  • Romans 15:26  because Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem
  • Romans 15:31  Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints
  • Romans 16:2  So you should welcome her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints and assist her in whatever matter she may require your help.
  • Romans 16:15  Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 
  • 1 Corinthians 1:2  To the church of God at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord
  • 1 Corinthians 6:1  If any of you has a dispute against another, how dare you take it to court before the unrighteous, and not before the saints
  • 1 Corinthians 6:2  Or don’t you know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the trivial cases? 
  • 1 Corinthians 14:3  since God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints
  • 1 Corinthians 16:1  Now about the collection for the saints: Do the same as I instructed the Galatian churches. 
  • 1 Corinthians 16: 5  Brothers and sisters, you know the household of Stephanas: They are the firstfruits of Achaia and have devoted themselves to serving the saints
  • 2 Corinthians 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother: To the church of God at Corinth, with all the saints who are throughout Achaia. 
  • 2 Corinthians 8:4  they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints
  • 2 Corinthians 9:1  Now concerning the ministry to the saints, it is unnecessary for me to write to you. 
  • 2 Corinthians 9:12  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 
  • 2 Corinthians 13:12  Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints send you greetings. 
  • Ephesians 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will: To the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus. 
  • Ephesians 1:15  This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints
  • Ephesians 1:18  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints 
  • Ephesians 2:19  So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 
  • Ephesians 3:8  This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ, 
  • Ephesians 3:18  That you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 
  • Ephesians 4:12  equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 
  • Ephesians 5:3  But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints
  • Ephesians 6:18  Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints
  • Philippians 1:1  Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons. 
  • Philippians 4:21  Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send you greetings. 
  • Philippians 4:22  All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. 
  • Colossians 1:2  To the saints in Christ at Colossae, who are faithful brothers and sisters. Grace to you and peace from God our Father. 
  • Colossians 1:4  for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints
  • Colossians 1:12  giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. 
  • Colossians 1:26  the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:13  May he make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. Amen. 
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:10  on that day when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marveled at by all those who have believed, because our testimony among you was believed. 
  • 1 Timothy 5:10 that is, if she has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints’ feet, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to every good work. 
  • Philemon 5  because I hear of your love for all the saints and the faith that you have in the Lord Jesus. 
  • Philimon 7  For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

The name, “saints” is also used prominently for faithful witnesses of Christ in the book of Revelation.

  • Revelation 5:8  When he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and golden bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
  • Revelation 8:3  Another angel, with a golden incense burner, came and stood at the altar. He was given a large amount of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saintson the golden altar in front of the throne.
  • Revelation 8:4  The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up in the presence of God from the angel’s hand.
  • Revelation 11:18  The nations were angry, but your wrath has come. The time has come for the dead to be judged and to give the reward to your servants the prophets, to the saints, and to those who fear your name, both small and great, and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth.
  • Revelation 13:7  And it was permitted to wage war against the saintsand to conquer them. It was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation.
  • Revelation 13:10  If anyone is to be taken captive, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be killed with a sword, with a sword he will be killed. This calls for endurance and faithfulness from the saints.
  • Revelation 14:12  This calls for endurance from the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.”
  • Revelation 16:6  Because they poured out the blood of the saintsand the prophets, you have given them blood to drink; they deserve it!
  • Revelation 17:6  Then I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saintsand with the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.
  • Revelation 18:20  Rejoice over her, heaven, and you saints, apostles, and prophets, because God has pronounced on her the judgment she passed on you!
  • Revelation 18:24  In her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all those slaughtered on the earth.
  • Revelation 19:8  She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.
  • Revelation 20:9  They came up across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the encampment of the saints, the beloved city.

So what, or more importantly, WHO, is a saint? If you have trusted Jesus, the Eternal Son of God, as your death substitute on the cross and believe that He rose from the dead – YOU are a SAINT. All believers in Christ are saints.

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and Lent

mardi-grasGrowing up in a non-denominational, evangelical tradition of worship, I was never particularly encouraged to participate in a liturgical event like Lent. Historically, after the Reformation, many Protestant churches abandoned the observance of Lent and other liturgical practices in distancing themselves from abuses in the Catholic church. Personally, the obscene excesses of Mardi Gras, the licentiousness of Fat Tuesday, and the legalistic penance I’ve observed on Ash Wednesday caused me to distance myself from Lent, too.

Rather than throwing out the baby with the bathwater, however, maybe we should consider the spiritual and relational benefits of preparing our hearts to remember the crucifixion of Jesus and celebrate His resurrection. Rather than giving up on Lent, it’s time we look to Jesus at Easter the same way we anticipate His Advent at Christmas.

journeyLent is a forty day journey of preparation —a season of prayer (talking and listening to God), fasting (focusing on God) and repentance (turning toward God and His purposes). It’s a time for reflecting on our shared experience of the suffering, death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, the very center of our faith.

Like the Apostle Paul, “My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Philippians 3:10

Lent could be, if observed in the context of our relationship with God by grace, a time of self-examination that leads us to the end of our self-sufficiency and to full dependence on Jesus. The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary describes Lent as,

“The English word (stemming from an Anglo-Saxon word for ‘spring’ and related to the English word ‘lengthen’) that refers to the penitential period preceding Easter. Early Christians felt that the magnitude of the Easter celebration called for special preparation. As early as the second century, many Christians observed several days of fasting as part of that preparation.”

The traditional 40 day calendar for Lent goes from Ash Wednesday (March 6) to Easter (April 21), with exceptions for Sundays (always a feast day).  Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a celebration and reminder of human mortality, as a sign of mourning over sin, and repentance of turning to God in faith.

40daysForty is a significant number in the Bible—it signals a time of waiting and preparation. In Genesis, Moses shows us Noah and his family in the ark, enduring the rains for 40 days and nights (Genesis 7:17). Moses, himself, spends another 40 days and nights on the top of a mountain, neither eating nor drinking as he experiences the presence of God (Exodus 34:28). In Numbers 14, Moses shows that the Lord God, fed up with the complaining and rebellion of the Israelites, condemned them to 40 years of wandering in the desert based on the 40 days they scouted the land of Canaan. We discover from Deuteronomy 8:2 that the purpose for the Israelites’ 40 year journey was to humble them and test them so they would realize what was in their hearts and their need for God’s presence and power.

Mirroring the Old Testament, the gospel writers of the New Testament reveal Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness, fasting, and being tempted (tested) by Satan: “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness 40 days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels began to serve Him” (Mark 1:12-13, Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).

reflections on Christ - crucifixionFollowing this pattern, followers of Jesus throughout the centuries have marked the 40 days leading up to His death and resurrection by a similar period of fasting  and testing known as Lent. May this season of Lent be one of repentance, hope, and joy in the resurrection of Christ—one that will last beyond these 40 days.

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Love One Another

At the core of every person’s life is a need for relationships — with God and with God’s people.  God designed us, as people made in His image, with a desire to love and be loved. And yet, in our selfishness and sinfulness, it seems all we can think of is ourselves – me, myself, and I.

In the New Testament of the Bible,  many “one another” commands reorient our thinking and our living to think of others more and live for others above ourselves – all because JESUS loves us, loved us first, and loves us the best.

Are you stuck in a rut of feeling lonely and alone? Meditate with me on these commands to be lived out by Jesus’ power within us to love others as He loves you and me.

Accept one another
Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one anotherand forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. (Colossians 3:12–13)

Admonish one another
Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

Agree with one another
Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. (Romans 12:16)

Bear with one another
Walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

Build up one another
So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. (Romans 14:19)

Care for one another
God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. (1 Corinthians 12:25)

Carry one another’s burdens
Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Comfort one another
Therefore encourage (comfort) one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

Be Compassionate to one another
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:32)

Confess sins to one another
Therefore, confess your sins to one anotherand pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.(James 5:16)

Be Devoted to one another
Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. (Romans 12:10a)

Encourage one another
Encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. (Hebrews 3:13)

Forgive one another
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:32)
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one anotherif anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. (Colossians 3:12–13)

Get along with one another
Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus. (Romans 15:5)

Be Honest with one another
Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices (Colossians 3:9)

Honor one another
Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10b)

Be Hospitable to one another
Be hospitable to one another without complaining. (1 Peter. 4:9)
Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

Be Kind to one another
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:32)

Love one another
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. . .(Romans 13:8)

Motivate another
And let us inspire one anotherin order to promote love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)

Pray for one another
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.(James 5:16)

Serve one another
For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. (Galatians 5:13)

Share with one another
Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

Submit to one another
Give thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

Unity with one another
We who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. (Romans 12:5)

Welcome one another
Greet one another with a holy kiss. (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26)

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

Revelation

Reading thru the Bible  over the last 365 days of 2018, I’m finishing with the vision revealed to the Apostle John who was exiled on the island of Patmos because of His testimony about Jesus some time after 90AD.

What John wrote in the book of Revelation fascinates us and has caused generations of Christ followers to wonder as we wait for the end times. We’re strangely curious about Bible prophecy. The visions of the future seen and written down by John are similar to political cartons of our day that would seem strange without specific context and knowledge of particular individuals or circumstances. The intense scenes of real events yet to come encourage us to persevere today and remain faithful in the days ahead (Revelation 13:10).

Revelation isn’t primarily about prophecy, though. It’s about a person: JESUS. The book of Revelation focuses our attention of the person, power, and, future program of Jesus, the Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world.

To him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests, to his God and Father—to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:5–6

 In the same way Christmas is not just about Jesus coming as a baby in Bethlehem; it’s about Him returning as our King to judge the nations and the rebels of God.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the One who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever. Revelation 11:15

The book of Revelation isn’t just a fitting conclusion to the end of the year, but also to the end of Advent season as we anticipate the second coming of Jesus and his coming kingdom on Earth.

As we look back today over the events and activities of the past year (2018), we also look ahead with faith as we wait for our coming King.

He who testifies about these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ in 2019 or until He comes back.

church fights

Fighting-in-the-Pews

It has been said that “church fights are the worst fights,” perhaps because they break out among people who profess to believe in unity and love. You name it, Christians fight over it. Sometimes the disagreements are over trivial matters, but often they are serious conflicts from different viewpoints. Many Christians have been so hurt by a fellow believer that they walk away from the church and never return.

In a recent blog Dr. Thom Rainer, President & CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources & former Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Professor, listed 10 reasons for conflicts that arise in the church. They mainly include unfair expectations and misunderstood intentions but are common issues in many churches. Conflict happens in every church. This conflict is sometimes managed well. Other times, not so much.

We can observe a biblical example of a personal conflict between two good, godly men, Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:36-41. Their conflict is not about even an essential or biblical issue, but personal one regarding a person: John Mark.

Here’s a great story that highlights the realities of relationships. God is moving in the hearts of His people and working through them to take the message of salvation by grace through Christ to the world. Paul and Barnabas decide, let’s go back and encourage the believers in the church. Yea! From Barnabas’ perspective, it made perfectly good sense to take his cousin, John Mark, with them again because he started out with them the first time. “What?!?” Paul thought. We are not taking that guy, that quitter, with us again. Earlier in Perga (Acts 13:13), John Mark left Paul and Barnabas to return to Jerusalem. Paul didn’t approve of John Mark’s decision and Luke did not record his reasons or motives in either chapter. Regardless, Paul and Barnabas “had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and departed.”  Unresolved conflict.

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So how can we preserve unity while personally disagreeing with another? Here are four things to consider in every disagreement over non-essential, personal issues.

1. Expect disagreements as normal because of natural differences. Like fingerprints, each person’s background, temperament, experiences, relationships, and perspectives are unique. Because of differences, people will naturally disagree with one another. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just a part of being human. Consider some of the differences between Paul and Barnabas: Paul was about the work; Barnabas the worker. Paul was more task oriented; Barnabas who was more people oriented. Paul was missional whereas Barnabas was personal. Paul was a teacher and Barnabas was more of a pastor. They had a different relationship with John Mark since he was Barnabas’ cousin (Colossians 4:10). There were other differences between Paul and Barnabas in regard to their training, home-life, temperament, spiritual gifts, experiences, and passions. In other words, they were different.

2. Even good, godly people will not always agree. This personal, relational conflict between these two godly men helps us see this. The Greek word, paraxusmos, is the word from which we derive our English word paroxysm, which denotes violent action or emotion. This was not a mild disagreement but an intense and passionate conflict! The term, when used negatively, describes anger, irritation, or exasperation in a disagreement. In Hebrews 10:24, it is used positively of stimulating or stirring someone to love and good deeds. Disagreeing is not always a sign of sin or selfishness. Robert Cook has said, “God reserves the right to use people who disagree with me.” By accommodating one another in love, mature believers can disagree without being disagreeable.

3. Every disagreement has an issue and varying viewpoints.  The issue always involves principles. The viewpoints always involve personalities. Differing points of view on the same issue are what usually causes conflict, not two different issues. Sometimes, identifying the issue and the viewpoints can greatly help us understand one another and move us toward a resolution and reconciliation. What is the issue? Is it essential, biblical, or personal?  What are the viewpoints? How could two godly men, both with good intentions see the same issue and come to such different conclusions? Why it so difficult to understand what another person is thinking?

4. Each viewpoint is valid in most disagreements. The story of the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas makes us uncomfortable, but Luke’s realism in recording it helps us to remember that these two godly men, as they themselves said to the people of Lystra, were “human beings with feelings like” any other (Acts 14:15). Notice that Luke does not relate the conflict in such a way as to put Paul in the right and Barnabas in the wrong or vise versa. BOTH of them had a valid perspective. In the heat of an argument, we usually see only one side - our own (perspective, personality, communication style, bias, etc.). But if the disagreement issue is not objective (either theologically or biblically), then it’s subjective. It’s personal for each Christian and not universal for every Christian. There’s room for someone else’s view, right?

A phrase used and applied often in our home that addresses disagreements because of various, valid viewpoints is this: “It’s not wrong; it’s just different.”

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The easy thing, the natural, and, unfortunately, normal thing to do when we’re involved in a conflict is to blame the other person (write them off) and/or walk away (either emotionally or physically or both). For me personally, nothing wears me out or weighs me down more than unresolved conflict. Maybe it’s because as I was growing up in my home, conflict was something to be avoided. And what I learned by experience in my family was that usually unresolved conflict resulted in withdrawal (physical, emotional, or both). So out of fear of distance and lost relationship, I naturally want to avoid conflict at all costs. I’m still growing, I’m still learning, I’m still very much “in process”.

What we need when sharp disagreements arise is for God’s Spirit to HEAL our relationships by resolving our conflicts.

How? I’ll address resolving conflict in my next blog post. 

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

Racism and Racialization

Most of the people I know are not guilty of racism, but many (whites) like me, and including me, are culpable of racialization – the collective misunderstanding of cultural position or unintentional misuse of power which causes racial division and results in diminished life opportunities for other racial groups.
Racialization is so embedded within our culture, it seems so normal, and it’s so difficult for some to see that the intentions our words or actions don’t have to be racist to contribute to racial division and inequality. Because our racialized society often both produces and reflects misunderstanding, hostility, disorder, unequal treatment, conflict, violence, compromised life opportunities, and other social problems, our nation has historically, with varying degrees of intensity, searched for ways to overcome it. And, yet, our nation still struggles with it.
Racial reconciliation with others will never happen by simply pursing love or unity – it will only come from pursuing Christ who reconciled us to God so that we can be reconciled with each other (2 Cor. 5:18-20).

That’s why I’m committed, as a white man by God’s creation and a follower of His Son, Jesus, by faith, to pursing multi-cultural relationships, multi-ethnic reconciliation among them, and multi-facited collaboration within and among local churches as a part of Threaded.

As we meet together and share our lives together (who we are), I’m constantly challenged in my thinking and perspectives, I’m continually encouraged by other fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ, and I’m completely loved (when I ask stupid questions or same dumb things) by amazing men and women who by God’s design are different than me.

Follow me… not because I’m perfect… but because I’m following Christ.

 

Music and Memories

Music helps us connect life experiences with past memories. We need older songs to help us remember God’s Word and His faithfulness. At the same time, we also need new songs to make new connections. Words may challenge the mind, but music speaks to the heart.

This morning while reading through Psalm 9, I was reminded of a Keith Green song from years ago that helped me connect God’s Word during some difficult circumstances.

“I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders, I will be glad and exult in Thee.” 

I remember the verse because of a simple musical tune. I’m reminded of times as a much younger man when I was faced with decisions to either give in to doubt and become bitter OR trust the LORD and give thanks.
Now years later, I can rejoice in the God who delivered me and continues to lead me. The Keith Green song is definitely dated and probably wouldn’t mean much to my kids or a younger generation. They need new songs to remind them of God’s Word and His faithfulness.

And the reality is that I need new songs, too, to be reminded that God is still working in the world. He’s still making things new. And He’s still working in me.

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.