This is a mysterious truth about God choosing to advance His Gospel through the least likely of circumstances. What evidence do we have that supports Paul’s truth that what had happened to him had “really served to advance the gospel?” We have his many writings including four epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon written while imprisoned! God had given Paul a unique history that preceded him to Rome. He’d appeared and defended Jesus before so many powerful Roman leaders that he’d gained some notoriety. “The whole imperial guard and all the rest” clearly knew his “imprisonment is for Christ.” Paul had become a celebrity “criminal.” He was allowed to have visitors and two-way communication about his many ministries. It’s likely he was chained to his guards and they became his very personal in-prison ministry. People who would never have heard the truth of Christ in any other way became the captive audience of an “ambassador in chains” given one of the most mysterious opportunities for the Word to create new believers and inspire “brothers” to be “more bold to speak [the Gospel] without fear.”
Poetry: Literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style, rhythm and structure.a
bear one another’s burdens
and so fulfil the law of Christ.
He who sows to the Spirit
will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
as we have opportunity,
let him who is taught the word share all good things
with him who teaches.
Let us do good to all men,
to those who are of the household of faith.
God is not mocked!
Whatever a man sows,
that he will also reap.
He who sows to his own flesh
will from the flesh reap corruption.
If any one thinks he is something,
when he is nothing,
he deceives himself.
Do not be deceived.
Look to yourself,
lest you too be tempted.
Let each one test his own work.
Each man will have to bear his own load,
then his reason to boast will be in himself alone
and not in his neighbor.
Let us not grow weary in well-doing,
for in due season we shall reap,
if we do not lose heart.
a My poetry structure was created from the RSV Bible using sentences and phrases verbatim.
97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word.
102 I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.
Right >§§§> Left
All day long I meditate on your law. Oh, how i love it! I am made wiser than my enemies because your commands are always with me. I meditate on your statutes for I have more insight than all my teachers. I obey your precepts for I have more understanding than the elders. So that I might obey your word, I have kept my feet from every evil path. You yourself have taught me. I have not departed from your laws. Sweeter than honey to my mouth are how sweet your words are to my taste. I hate every wrong path therefore I gain understanding from your precepts.
The Psalmist recognizes there is a purpose for God’s laws, commands, statutes and precepts. He’s used the Hebrew letter “Mem – waves, water” to reveal it to us as eye-catching waves rising repeatedly from the ocean of truth that is God’s knowledge. Those waves regularly break the surface of the water as they begin their push toward the shore to deposit their power and become one with it before ebbing back into the vastness of depths that are unseen.
Waves and water are the imagery the Psalmist chooses to show God’s persistence to raise up His laws, commands, statutes and precepts as a recurring opportunity to release His power upon the shore…His people…and in that moment become one with them.
The Psalmist has seen God at work repeatedly in his own life. He recognizes those waves have touched him with wisdom, insight and understanding. They’ve risen from the depths of God’s knowledge to break upon him with new realities that sustain him over and over. The imagery is God’s laws, commands, statutes and precepts are “waves”that have broken on him and united him in that moment with the unseen depths of the “water” that created them to enable him to “obey” and keep his “feet from every wrong path.”
2 Peter 1:12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. NIV
Reminders are familiar to us. Now they often come to us as notifications with banners and alert tones on computer, smart phone or tablet screens. God can use something as simple as a Verse of the Day banner on a screen to remind us of His truth and how much it still matters to Him.
God knows we need those reminders! We need His truth to matter as much to us as it does to Him! The many versions of the Word that populate our digital library remind us we have opportunity at our fingertips to read and understand God’s truth more clearly than ever before. These are God’s reminders to you of what matters to Him in June of 2020 through Peter’s Word.
Support: I will
Purpose: remind you of these things.
Faith: You know them and are firmly established in the
truth you now have.
Commitment: I think it is right to refresh your memory
Durability: after my departure.
Encouragement: You will always be able to remember these things:
Add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection,
Matthew 21:8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” [NIV]
Today is Palm Sunday. I know many of us will have the opportunity to hear the message of Christ provided by our Pastor’s via the internet. That’s a blessing. We are living in a new reality where dependence on community worship is restricted. We won’t be surrounded by a crowd of like minded people gathering together to remember this day as the moment of triumph when Jesus begins His final journey to the day of our salvation. We won’t be hearing other voices raised with our own as we shout Hosanna! There are no waving palm branches to prompt our memory of the past.
The pomp and circumstance of public celebrations has been temporarily swept aside but Coronavirus can’t deprive you of your Hosannas, “help” or “save, I pray!” Today we are the ones who must prepare the way for Jesus to enter into the midst of our exile. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Blessed is he who comes to complete His identity in you right there in your own home and offers you the opportunity to complete your identity in Him through a different kind of personal experience. Today Palm Sunday worship is up to you.
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
John 15:22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. NLT
Jesus had “come and spoken to them” to make them aware of their guilt. John records this truth about Jesus’s living Word; it reveals the destructive reaction of human nature to the awareness of sin and guilt. That same reaction has lasted across time and many generations. Is there anybody reading this that can’t understand a defensive response when confronted with their sin? Let me answer that for you…NO! Jesus’s Word only requires changing the generic pronoun “they” to make it personal enough to impact our human nature today too.
Hearing Jesus speak about sin in the same sentence with your name awakens an awareness of guilt that leaves you with a choice: defend your sin or take Jesus at His Word. Jesus has “come and spoken to [me].” He speaks to offer this replacement for excuses…opportunity. Opportunity to let defensiveness be replaced with repentance that replaces guilt with forgiveness and Grace.
James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
This morning was a perfect object lesson for me. I spent 8 or 9 hours working on this title…Repentance of Gratitude…only to accidentally delete the whole thing as I tried to copy it. Despite my best efforts it was apparently meant just for me to practice what I preach. I hope this reconstruction is just what God had in mind for you to read.
Lent is fast coming to an end and I’m still learning about repentance. It’s easy to reduce it to it’s simplest definition, “being sorry.” Regret is certainly part of repentance but James has led me to another path of thought. What if there’s a another side to repentance that involves our ability to live a good life?
We work so hard in so many ways to live that “good life” that we can hardly escape our sense of entitlement that what we have, even our wisdom and understanding, comes through our own efforts. It’s the sacrifice of that entitlement that becomes the repentance of gratitude for all God has given. Those unplanned surprises and less-than-lovely tasks that happen daily are opportunities to practice “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” That’s what the repentance of gratitude is all about. Those object lessons come every day and last longer than Lent.
“Who is wise and understanding among you?” Remember to practice the repentance of gratitude every day and “show it by [your] good life…”
Luke 5:31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Today is Ash Wednesday; the beginning of the observance many of the faithful call Lent. This is the period leading up to Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. Your church may not “officially” observe Lent but why not think of it as your own forty-days visit with Jesus in whom you have placed your life and your eternity?
We can make these days a personal, purposeful opportunity to examine our own spiritual health. That’s how we honor the Savior’s sacrifice. We can choose to repent of believing we are “good enough” because of the work he has already done in us AND we can choose to celebrate we are still under the “doctor’s” care with the promise of complete healing.