Paul’s Letters

1 corin 15 58

The third division of the New Testament includes the 13 books called the Pauline Epistles – which are letters that Paul wrote.  Many of the letters are written to churches which Paul had visited or heard about during his 3 missionary journeys.  As it turns out, the issues that troubled churches 2,000 years ago, are so similar to the issues of our churches today: immorality, false teachers, disunity, the need for wise and godly leaders, and more.  The final four letters are written to individuals – pastors and friends of Paul.

Here is a general overview of each of Paul’s letters…

 

Romans – Righteousness – The Romans Road

Written to the church in Rome (which Paul had not yet visited) to explain God’s plan of salvation.  Some have called a selection of verses the Romans Road as they lay out how to be right (righteous) before God: Romans 3:10, 3:23, 5:8, 6:23, 8:1&2, 10:9 & Acts 2:38

 

1st & 2nd Corinthians – Warnings & Replying to False Teachers

Written to the church in Corinth (a large, immoral city in Greece).  1st letter warns against factions, immorality, jealousy, lawsuits, marital issues, misuse of spiritual gifts and public worship, etc.  Chapter 13, the Love Chapter, teaches us how to love supremely.  Chapter 15, the Resurrection Chapter speaks of the hope we have for a future resurrection.  In 2nd Corinthians Paul defends himself against false teachers attacking his integrity and credibility.

 

Galatians – Faith & Freedom in Christ

Written to the churches in the region of Galatia (Turkey) to correct the teaching that the new Gentile Christians had to follow the whole Old Testament law to be saved.  Instead, with God’s grace and our faith in Christ we can be free from the Law and the power of sin.  We are not free to disobey Christ or practice immorality.  We are to use our freedom to serve God and others.  See Galatians 5 – Fruit of the Spirit

 

Ephesians – One Body of Christ – The Church

Written to the church in Ephesus  which Paul had visited several times, and even stayed for 3 years during one of his trips.  Paul encouraged the church to remember they were the body of Christ, to keep Christ as the head and work together as a body does, also to stand strong against evil forces with the full armor of God (chapter 6).

 

Philippians – Rejoice!

Written to the church in Philippi when Paul was in jail.  He was thanking the church for a gift they had sent while also encouraging them to remain strong when persecuted and to be joyful in all circumstances.  The 4 chapters include ‘joy’ (or a version of the word) 16 times.

 

Colossians – In Christ Alone

Written to the church in Colosse to stress again that the church must not mix worldly and pagan beliefs with the good news of Jesus Christ.  He wrote about Jesus, the Son of God – the head of the church and the only way to God’s salvation.

 

1st & 2nd Thessalonians – Jesus is Coming Again

Written to the church in Thessalonica (Greece) which Paul had only visited for 3 weeks before being forced out by a violent mob.  Timothy had reported to Paul that the church was doing well despite the persecution – but needed a few clarifying points.  One of which was they must control their bodies in holy and honorable ways.  Also, false teachers were teaching that Jesus had already returned to Earth so Paul gave more details on what Jesus’ return would be like (which everyone would see and know) and said to keep working until then.

 

1st & 2nd Timothy – Paul’s Words to Young Pastor Timothy

Perhaps some of Paul’s last letters – one more opportunity to pass along godly council to one who would continue the work of making disciples.  Timothy had been a helpful companion on some of Paul’s missionary journeys, and Paul had sent Timothy to pastor the church in Ephesus.  Now Paul was writing to help solve some of the church’s problems, including legalism and false teaching.  He also listed qualifications for church leaders.

 

Titus – Paul’s Words to Church Leader: Titus

Titus had travelled with Paul and Timothy.  Then Paul left Titus in Crete (an island in the Mediterranean Sea) so that he could, “straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.” (1:5).  And, since the people of Crete were known for being liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons (1:12), that was a big job to do.  Paul described again the qualities to look for in a church elder.  He told what to preach to various people and to teach God’s people to do good (a lesson we still need today for sure).

 

Philemon – Paul Urges Philemon to Forgive Onesimus

Philemon was a wealthy landowner and the church in Colosse met in his house .  His slave Onesimus had run away – and met Paul while he was in house arrest in Rome.  Paul shared the good news with the run away and Onesimus accepted Jesus – and knew he had to return to Philemon.  Paul wrote to Philemon interceding on Onesimus’ part – asking him to forgive Onesimus and to welcome him back as a helpful brother in Christ.  We are reminded of our need for forgiveness and our need to forgive, and that all are brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

 

There are so many timeless truths, warnings and nuggets of encouragement in Paul’s letters.  And they are even more meaningful when we remember they were written by the man Paul of the book of Acts, as he was teaching and preaching about the Son of God as found throughout the 4 books of Gospels and prophesied of during the Old Testament.   God’s Word has a beautiful, orderly progression to prepare God’s people for salvation and to love and serve Him and others.  And Paul’s Letters are a wonderful piece of the puzzle.

 

Keep Reading His Word!
Marcia Railton

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Will You Accept the Gift?

Hebrews 5_8,9

Hebrews Chapter Five

Hebrews chapter seven is known for being the chapter about Jesus being our high priest.  However, that theme is found in previous chapters, including chapter five.  Jesus being our high priest is one of the main themes of Hebrews.  God appointed Jesus to be our high priest.  Verse one shows us that the purpose of a high priest is “to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin.”  Jesus being our high priest acts on our behalf in relation to God.  He is our mediator between us and God.  Jesus being our high priest also offers a sacrifice for our sins.  A normal high priest like Aaron needs to offer sacrifices for his own sins and the sins of others.  However, Jesus had no need to offer a sacrifice for himself because he was sinless.  Rather, he offered himself up to be our permanent sacrifice for sins.  That is a sign of a high priest who loves us dearly.

One would think that since Jesus was perfect that he would not suffer.  However, Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered,” (Heb 5:8).  Jesus truly did suffer when he was here on this earth.  Two examples that come to my mind are when Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died and when Jesus sweat tears of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was crucified.  It’s through experiences like this that Jesus learned obedience.  It’s through experiences like this that we too can learn obedience.  It’s often through the most difficult times in life that people draw closer to God.  Job is a great example of this, as he lost nearly everything he had in one day.  However, he responded by worshipping and praising God.  He was brought closer to God and learned obedience through his suffering.

In verse nine, we see that “being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”  Jesus truly was made perfect, and he was sinless.  He was the last person in the world who should have had to suffer on the cross.  However, because of his and our Heavenly Father’s great love, he did die and suffer on the cross.  Through his suffering on the cross, he became the source of eternal salvation!  Jesus paid our way to go to the Kingdom!  All we have to do is accept the free gift of God of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Unfortunately, not everyone is going to accept that free gift.  Verse nine states that Jesus is “the source of eternal salvation to all WHO OBEY HIM.”  To accept the free gift of eternal life, we must obey Jesus.  We accept the gift through obedience and faith.  Similar to what we talked about yesterday, don’t belittle the consequences and meaning of sin because eternal salvation is granted to those who obey Jesus, not those who disobey.

Similar to the chapter break between chapters three and four, the chapter break between chapters five and six is an awkward break.  At the conclusion of chapter five, the author of Hebrews is talking about the difference between elementary and mature doctrines, and he continues the talk in chapter six.  The author compares the elementary and mature doctrines to milk and solid food.  A baby needs milk, and adults eat meat.  New Christians focus on the elementary doctrines, whereas the mature Christians should focus on the more mature doctrines.  Since it’s a weird chapter break, I also want to sneak peek to verse one as well.  Hebrews 6:1 states, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.”  Throughout the first six chapters of Hebrews we have seen some good proof to suggest that the Trinity may be false.  This is good proof as well.  Many people who claim they believe in the Trinity cannot even explain the Trinity themselves because it is so confusing and complex.  They have to use extra biblical illustrations to describe the Trinity.  The Trinity is anything but an elementary doctrine.  It is one of, if not the most, complicated doctrines out there.  However, the author of Hebrews states that the doctrine of Christ is supposed to be elementary.  Jesus being the Son of God does sound like an elementary doctrine to me, not the Trinity.  This is just some food for thought (pun intended).

I hope you have a great day!

In Christian love,

Kyle McClain

Who is the Son of God?

 

Luke 22

luke 22_46

Yesterday, in Luke 21 Jesus was warning the disciples (and those who would follow) of persecution while encouraging them to stand up under it.  And today, in Luke 22 Jesus himself is cast into a fierce storm of persecution.  He will now be showing – not just telling – the disciples, his contemporaries, and all those who would come after him how to stand up under persecution.

But first, a private dinner with his closest disciples to commemorate the Passover – when God saved his people from slavery by the blood of the lamb.  And very soon a new lamb would be sacrificed to save God’s people from slavery to sin.  Jesus tells his disciples that he will not eat the Passover meal, or drink of the cup again, until the Kingdom of God comes.  Communion services are a great reminder of this promise.  At the dinner, he uses the opportunity to remind them once again the secret to great leadership – be a servant.  Stop fighting over who is best…just serve.

I love how even though Jesus knew ahead of time that Peter would fail him, he had still prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail.  And even though Satan would have the opportunity to “sift all of you as wheat,”  Jesus saw a future for Peter in which Peter would be using those painful experiences to help strengthen his brothers.
And then, in the garden while Jesus is pouring his heart out in prayer – his disciples are sleeping.  I wonder how many times he would prod me and say, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  How much better would Peter – or I – stand Satan’s arrows if he – or I – were fully filled up with prayer rather than whatever feels good or most urgent at the moment?

Enter, Judas – and the chief priests and the guards and the great betrayal!  And even in the midst of the hurt and personal persecution – Jesus gives healing as he restores the servant’s ear.

Early the next morning, Jesus is brought before the chief priests and elders and is questioned about who he is. Is he the Messiah?

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”

They didn’t expect the Son of God to have appeared as a baby in a manger.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to have a rag-tag group of followers in the countryside.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to be persecuted at their own hands.  Beware of what you expect from the Son of God.  Keep reading the gospels – and all of God’s Word to see who God really is, and who the Son of God is!

-Marcia Railton

 

 

What Shall I Do? I Will Send My Son.

Luke 20

Luke 20 13

Merry Christmas!

May your day be full of sweet reminders of God’s love.  And may you pass along that love to others.

It is easy to lose sight of the whole picture of Jesus when we gather to feast and exchange presents amid the tinsel, lights, tree, and nativity scene.  A pregnant virgin, a faithful fiancé, a holy night, an angel assembly, a crew of shepherds, traveling wise men, pass the ham, and unwrap the presents.  But wait . . . why??? And then what????

It appears Jesus didn’t spend time preaching about his miraculous and incredibly true birth.  In fact, only two of the four gospels record bits and pieces of his birth story.  But here in Luke 20 Jesus taught the Parable of the Tenants.  And while it isn’t likely used in very many Christmas sermons or devotions, it actually paints a very fitting picture of why Jesus was sent – and what was “the rest of the story” – beyond the shepherds and wise men.

In this parable God plays the role of the vineyard owner.  He entrusts his vineyard (earth) to mankind as farm tenants to care for his vineyard.  The owner sends back several servants (Old Testament prophets) to the vineyard to retrieve some fruit for the owner.  Instead the selfish, greedy tenants mistreat the servants and send them back with nothing for the master.   

“Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ (Luke 20:13).  And so, the Son of God is given a mission for his Father: go to the vineyard to represent his Father to attain what belongs to his Father – the fruit of the vineyard.  God could have done this in so many ways.  He could have sent a violent and powerful son to use force to swiftly get the Father’s work done and repay the tenants for their selfish, greedy wickedness.  But instead the Son was given – a baby – as the Son of Man and Son of God.  And the angels rejoiced.   And the shepherds were in awe as they found things just as they had been told and then joyfully shared the news.

And the Son of God “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” – the tenants of the vineyard. (Luke 2:52).   And the son of the vineyard owner teaches and preaches and performs miracles to display and prove the goodness and sovereignty and master plan of the vineyard owner.  But, they still don’t get it.  Forsaking the master’s plan, as well as his very son, they conspire together and the tenants kill the son.  Now, they figure, the vineyard will be theirs.  There is no longer an heir.  And so, the tenants triumph for a time and seem to have free reign of the vineyard.

But, that is not the end of the story.   In his parable Jesus now switches from past tense to future tense as he says, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?  He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”  So, too, there is a future in our Christmas story today.  And, there is a price that will be paid for all tenants who have chosen to forsake the son.  

In your celebrating today, and in your work tomorrow, in your heart and mind and actions, in your time, in your giving, in your whole living – do not forsake the son.

-Marcia Railton

The Boy who Changed – and Is Still Changing – the World

Luke 2

Luke 2 final

“Do not be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Luke 2:10-12

 

Today, we are reading through Luke chapter 2 which contains one of the most popular accounts written in the Bible—which is the birth of the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. Regardless of our religious affiliation or background, we are familiar with the story line. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to be registered under Caesar Augustus’s decree. While there, it comes time for Mary to give birth. Because there is no room in any inn, she must give birth in a stable.

 

For us, this narrative is important because it is the beginning of the story of a man who turned (and is still turning) the world upside down. We can skip forward and see how much of an impact Jesus had on so many, and we can also see how he works in our lives today.

 

But imagine being in the shoes of Mary, Joseph, and even the shepherds. They weren’t able to skip ahead, they had to live it out. For Mary and Joseph, they had to trust in God that he would see them through. They had to have strong enough faith that God would do what he said he would do. For the shepherds, imagine going from a normal day to having an angel tell you that the Son of God has been born. The Messiah is here! It is even written that they were terrified (Luke 2:9).

 

Why does this matter? I just think it’s important for us to realize that these heroes we read about in the Bible were more than just characters. They were real people. They didn’t get the luxury of knowing what was written on the next page. They had fears, and they weren’t perfect. They had to trust in God and his purpose. They had to believe that God was going to hold their hand through everything. Imagine the trust! Imagine the faith!

 

So as you read today, place yourself in their shoes. Because if we can understand what Mary and Joseph went through, maybe we can learn to emulate their faith in our own lives.

 

-Leslie Jones

 

 

Allow Me to Introduce You to Luke…

Luke 1_4

 

 “I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,  so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.”    Luke 1:3-4

If you have grown up in the church like myself, you were probably taught basic theology at a young age. I sang the songs, made the crafts, remembered my memory verses, and before I realized it, I had formed beliefs. Everything seemed so simple.

As we grow older, everything becomes complicated. We look at all the denominations around us, with many differing perspectives, and that child-like belief starts to become muddled by all of the confusion. This is the point where we ask ourselves, “What do I really believe?”

This is why I love Luke. His in-depth account of the Lord Jesus Christ from his birth through his resurrection not only gives us insight into the Son of God in an intimate way, it gives us backing to the beliefs that we hold dear.

Regardless of any creed, doctrine, or ideal, I know, without a doubt, that I can sit down and read Luke’s account of the story of Jesus and know that it is true. That validity is such a faith builder and invigorates me to dive deeper into the gospel.

This week, we are going back to our roots. Let’s start from the beginning together shall we? Because, sometimes, in order to jump forward, we have to get back to the basics.

 

-Leslie Jones

Graysen’s Favorite Gospel

Mark 1-1

 

Hey everyone!  I’m excited to be back 😀  Bethany helped us move this past week from the Old Testament into the New Testament with the gospel of Mark (thanks Bethany!).  This week, we’ll be exploring the second half of the gospel of Mark and see some of the themes that Mark has been setting up come to their close.

Before we get into looking at the text itself, here’s just a bit about Mark that will be helpful for us as we read.

First, Mark is the oldest of the gospels and it sets the stage for the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke).  As the church grew in the years after Jesus’ resurrection, there wasn’t any need to write down stories about his life – the people who were there and saw it were still alive and present.  It was only around the end of the first century CE that people who were followers of Jesus began to write down what they knew about his life and teachings.  Why?  Because all the witnesses were dying!  They needed to keep a more permanent record of Jesus’s words that didn’t rely on having witnesses of the events nearby.  That first written story came to be known as the Gospel of Mark.  The writers of the Gospel of Luke and Matthew would later use Mark as the skeleton for their gospels.

It’s because of this that the gospel of Mark is my favorite of the gospels.  It’s the pre-cursor and contains the most concise collected narrative of Jesus’ life and teachings.  And – the end is just great (but we’ll get there soon enough)!

So, I hope that you’ll join me as we explore what one of the earliest authors of the life of Jesus had to say about “the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1)

-Graysen Pack