Paul Exercised His Privilege And So Can You

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Acts 25

In chapter 16, we found out that Paul was a Roman citizen. Being a citizen of this vast empire was a great privilege. There were only two ways to gain Roman citizenship; you could either purchase it (something only the rich could afford to do), or be lucky enough to inherit it from your parents when you were born. Paul was born a Roman citizen.
The reason why you would want to be a Roman citizen in the first century is that they were given rights others were not guaranteed. The rights to marry another Roman citizen, to sue and to be sued, to have a legal trial, and to not be crucified were just some of the benefits offered to those privileged enough be Roman citizens.
As we saw in chapter 21, Paul had already used his citizenship to get out of being flogged (Romans, legally, could not be tortured or whipped). In chapter 25 Paul exercised another of his rights–the right to appeal to Caesar. Paul knew that if he was brought back to Jerusalem, the men that had pledged to kill him would probably succeed. He also knew that he had to get to Rome to testify there. Thus Paul used his privilege to get to where he needed to go, so he could do what he was required to do (though, as we shall see in the coming chapters, this journey would not be an easy one).
If you were born in the West (especially the United States), you, like Paul, are privileged. You have rights like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. But there are many parts of the world today where these rights that are taken for granted are only the ideals of dreamers. There are Christians throughout the world who have to look over their shoulder as they travel to church (if a public place of worship is even allowed) and others who are worshiping with the knowledge that every gathering may easily be their last.
There is another privilege you share with Paul: you are a citizen of Heaven. This citizenship cannot be purchased or inherited. It is not exclusive. The Kingdom of Heaven (or, Kingdom of God) is open to anyone. The poor and the rich, the weak and the strong, the lost and the found are all welcome. The cost of this privilege was paid for by God with the blood of His Son. It is offered to any who will receive it.
Paul was first and foremost a citizen of Heaven. He lived his life devoted to advancing the Kingdom and the One who will establish it in its fullness. The rights his Roman citizenship granted him were nothing compared to those his Lord did. That being said, Paul exercised his privilege as a Roman in order to promote God’s Kingdom as a Christian. He wanted to make sure as many people as possible would become citizens of the Kingdom. You also can use your rights as a citizen of your country to further the cause of the Kingdom. Exercise your earthly privileges in a way that leads others to receive heavenly ones.
-Joel Fletcher
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Make a Difference

Col 3 23

Lois and Eunice show us how God can use people wherever they are at in life to make a big difference. In today’s story, one small boy teaches us to give what we can in service of God, no matter how little we may think it is.

In the story where Jesus feeds the 5,000 (found in all four Gospels) a little boy offers his lunch, five loaves of bread and two fish, for Jesus’ disciples to feed the crowd. I wish we knew more about this boy, who he was, who he grew up to be. All we know is that this boy heard that Jesus needed food. I can’t imagine the disciples ransacking everyone’s bags looking for food. I think they must have been asking around, searching the crowd for anyone with food and this boy heard them. He saw a need, spoke up, and offered what he could. He was willing to do what needed to be done and it’s this willingness I want to focus on today.

In Colossians Paul writes “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (3:23). As we go throughout our day to day lives, we need to be willing to contribute what we can to further God’s kingdom. We already know from Lois and Eunice that seemingly small acts can make a difference. The little boy from today’s story reminds us that we first must be willing to let God use us.

-Emilee Ross

Babylon the Great

Revelation 17-19

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Friday, July 21

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!”  Great political power, great military might, great wealth, great corruption and resistance to God and to his ways in the world.  Babylon represents all the great powers of the world who have used their power and wealth in service of self and in opposition to God’s Kingdom.  In John’s time, Babylon would have been the Roman Empire as they persecuted God’s people.  In every time and place there have been Babylons.  Who or what is the Babylon of our age?  Who or what is using it’s wealth and power in service of satanic goals in opposition to God’s Kingdom?  Whoever or whatever it is, those powers are doomed to fall.  All the power and military might of this present age pales in comparison to the armies of Jesus Christ who will bring about their utter defeat at his return.
Jesus came to Jerusalem the first time gentle, riding on a donkey.  When he comes again it will be as a warrior on a white horse leading the angelic hosts to victory over the forces of darkness.
Once again, for John’s original audience in Rome, these images of the conquering Christ returning to defeat the broken powers of this earth who had been persecuting God’s people must have filled their hearts with hope and expectation.  It would have given them courage to continue following Jesus Christ, even in the face of suffering and death.
How often are today’s Christians tempted to give in to the lure of worldly power?  How often are we tempted to join forces with Babylon?  Where are we willing to compromise our faith in order to receive short term, temporary benefits?
Revelation reminds us that, as powerful and appealing Babylon might seem, it’s fate is certain, Babylon will fall.  It makes no sense to give our support to an enterprise that is destined for destruction.  Instead, it makes sense to support the one whose ultimate victory is guaranteed.  Jesus Christ will prevail, the Kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ!  Hallelujah!

-Jeff Fletcher

(Photo Credit: http://www.heartlight.org/)

Don’t Lose Heart

Revelation 13-16

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Thursday,  July 20

Revelation 13-16 gives a continuation of God’s judgments and wrath which are poured out upon the earth.  We are introduced here to two beasts.  For those who are familiar with the Old Testament book of Daniel with it’s four beasts, this material will be familiar.  These beasts are ferocious looking images that represent some of the great oppressive empires of the ancient world.  The land which we today know as the nation of Israel has always been a strategically important piece of geography.  It is a point of convergence for three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.  It has been hotly contested for thousands of years.  All of the major world empires up to that time took turns occupying the land.  It was occupied by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans.  I’m sure that if you were a peasant trying to eek out your life living in a small village in Israel, you would look at these various invading armies as  monstrous beasts.  Suddenly, you were forced to follow a new set of laws and customs, and learn to speak new languages in order to understand your captors.  You would have to get used to new kinds of money in order to be able to negotiate your way in the new culture.  I imagine it would have been scary and overwhelming.
John foresees a time when these beastly powerful world empires who control all of life, will be brought to an end, to be replaced by God’s Kingdom.  Even though, for a while, it seems that they are all powerful and all controlling, this will not last forever.  Patience is required to live as a believer in this current world system, but one day, our patience will be rewarded.  Don’t lose heart.  While the mark of the beast would seem to protect you from temporary suffering by the powers of this word system, it is the mark of God, which we are given when we follow Jesus Christ, that will protect us from God’s wrath.  Which mark would you rather have?

-Jeff Fletcher

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.trackingbibleprophecy.org/revelation13A.php)

Who Will Stand in the Gap?

Ezekiel 22-23

ezekiel 22

Saturday, March 25

Throughout Ezekiel there are certain themes that keep circling back around: God’s judgment against Jerusalem, Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  In today’s reading we see another very graphic depiction of Israel’s immorality.  This time, it’s the northern kingdom of Samaria and the southern kingdom of Judah.  They are likened to two sisters who prostitute themselves.  They again perform lewd acts shaming themselves before their neighbors.  It’s very sad, indeed.

God searches for someone to help:  “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”  God could find no one righteous to fill the gap and act as the mediator between God and His people.

We know the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom.  One day, Jesus would stand in the gap to keep God from destroying the earth.  Jesus on the cross fills the gap between a holy God and a sinful people.

I hope that these devotions from Ezekiel will help you to see some important truths with greater clarity.  God loves His people very much.  God wants His people to be faithful and obedient.   Some are and some aren’t.  When His people are unfaithful, God brings calamity and judgment, in order to turn people’s hearts back to Him.  It’s not the judgment that ultimately turn hearts, but it’s the fact that despite all of our wicked acts that deserve punishment, God is faithful to His promises and His steadfast love remains.  Ultimately, its God’s mercy that leads us to repentance.  May you know His love and His mercy through Jesus Christ, the man who did stand in the Gap for us.

-Jeff Fletcher

He’s Not Finished With You Yet

Jeremiah 46-49

Jer 46

Tuesday, March 14

These four chapters chronicle how Nebuchadnezzar and his armies defeated many different nations. It’s easy to get lost in all the war talk, but there is a little gem near the beginning of this passage on which I want to focus today. Check out chapter 46, verses 27-28 (from The Message):
“But you, dear Jacob my servant, you have nothing to fear.

    Israel, there’s no need to worry.
Look up! I’ll save you from that far country,
    I’ll get your children out of the land of exile.
Things are going to be normal again for Jacob,
    safe and secure, smooth sailing.
Yes, dear Jacob my servant, you have nothing to fear.
    Depend on it, I’m on your side.
I’ll finish off all the godless nations
    among which I’ve scattered you,
But I won’t finish you off.
    I have more work left to do on you.
I’ll punish you, but fairly.
    No, I’m not finished with you yet.”

Israel was God’s chosen people, and their future looked uncertain. However, God would not let their whole race perish! He still had great plans for Israel, and many prophecies to fulfill through them (SPOILER ALERT: including the birth of His Son, Jesus!). God is giving a reminder to his beloved children Israel that he’s got their back. Yes, he reminds them that they will be punished (fairly), but he clarifies to them, “I’m not finished with you yet.”

Even though these words were spoken to Israel and not specifically to us (though as believers in Christ we have been grafted into God’s family), I still like to take that promise to heart and remember that God is not finished with us yet. He wants to work in and through us to accomplish his will! I don’t know about you, but I want to leave a legacy for God – I don’t want the work he’s done in and through me to ever be finished! I want to teach others about God and his grace so they can grow to know and serve Him too, and therefore continue the work of spreading the gospel. I don’t have to be famous (in fact, as an introvert, I would prefer NOT to be famous!), but I want to leave a legacy from this life that will continue to grow God’s Kingdom long after I am gone… don’t you?
Philippians 1:6 – “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” 
Pray and consider how you will leave a legacy. We are all called to be missionaries everywhere we go, every day in every way – at home, school, work, community, and beyond. Ask God to show you in what ways He is “not finished with you yet” so you can serve him every day in every way with your whole heart!
-Rachel Cain
(Photo Credit: http://www.quotescodex.com/p.php?author=jeremiah+46:27)