(click here for the video) The Apostle Paul includes a prayer over the church in Ephesus in one of his prison epistles. This prayer has shaped my life as a pastor for 30 years. It is one of Paul’s crowning jewels in prayer over a little church 2,000 years ago. It’s applicable today in so many ways. Paul prays with a confidence that comes from knowing we can enter into God’s throne room at any time and God will hear us. God’s desire is that we utilize the power of God in our daily circumstances so that we might grasp just how unfathomable are the riches of God for us. If we were to realize the full measure of grace God has granted to us in Christ Jesus, we could change the world. This is Paul’s prayer, that we could know the riches of God in Christ. My prayer for the church is that we might move past ourselves and begin to comprehend our location in the heavenly realms in Christ. Nothing can stop the one who believes in the full measure of God in us.
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Philemon was a guy who wanted to seek revenge on a former slave, for some crime done against him. The Apostle Paul sent Philemon a letter, along with the former slave, Onesimus, himself. Paul was asking Philemon to extend the kind of forgiveness to Onesimus that Jesus Christ himself had extended to Philemon (are you still following?). And on top of all this, Paul himself is the one who brought Philemon to faith in God, and brought Omesimus to faith in God also. So Paul is asking Philemon to forgive Onesimus based on the debt he owes back to Paul, “his very life”. I don’t know if we know how to forgive in our western culture, like Paul is asking Philemon to forgive. And even beyond this little book, Paul is asking you and I to learn to forgive like this, so that our witness to the world is like that of Jesus Christ. (click here for video).
Nearing the end of his life, the Apostle Paul is thanking friends for walking with him in faith while in prison for sharing the gospel. The gospel is many things. It is sharing the love of Jesus with the world. The word evangelism is getting a bad rap these days. Maybe it’s the word evangelical, which is diving the country, depending on which way you’re looking at it. But the Apostle Paul still wants you to share your faith in Jesus with others. So, the gospel is relational, the gospel is tenacious, and the gospel includes suffering. We don’t like to embrace suffering, as much as we can help it, but even Jesus himself suffered for representing God. How are you representing God through your life today? Does it align with how people in the Bible shared the gospel? If so, good. If not, why not? (click here to view the video)
The Apostle Paul is now thanking the people who helped him get these letters out to churches, while he sits in prison in Rome. What would be your goal, when sitting in prison? Would you want to reach out to people you don’t know, and share the gospel like Paul did? Paul thanks those around him for their part in his ministry with local churches. I spent the week at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey learning about the Art of Transitional Ministry, and in this video teaching I share with the church the teaching I learned. There are many things a church can do, and many things a transitional pastor can do when leading a church.
Paul is in prison, and writes about how we can encourage one another in the faith. He gives us admonition to be ready to answer anyone for the faith you believe. He recommends that our speech always be seasoned with salt, rather than vinegar. He asks the faith community to pray that God would open doors for the gospel to be shared. I think this “praying for open doors” is a ways of saying we all can look for opportunities to share our faith in God. The clear vision of Paul was that the gospel is relationships and that gospel is life saving in relationships, and that in relationships God is opening doors for His Kingdom to grow and flourish. How are you praying for open doors and open hearts in the lives of your friends? Keep the main thing the main thing, and keep sharing your love for Jesus in this dark world. You never know what God can do.
Pastor Reid Olson of Crossroads Church of Greeley teaches on Colossians 3:1-17, where we look at what it means to live a life holy to God. Have you ever wondered if the Bible is too full of rules and regulations? And, have you ever wondered if anyone can even keep all those rules in the first place? We obviously cannot keep all the rules to make God happy with us, but since God is already pleased with us, we have been given a set of life regulations, so that we can live a life fully unto God.
We have to make sure we keep the right perspective in order. We don’t live by rules to make God happy, or try to find salvation. It is when we receive salvation through Jesus’ work for us, then we can live unto a new “full life” standard that makes us fulfilled under God’s authority. Top shelf thinking is when we place our mindset on the things of God for our lives, rather than a bottom shelf mindset that lives for oneself and loses their purpose in life. You get to choose.
Pastor Reid Olson of Crossroads Church of Greeley teaches on Colossians 2:16-23, where the Apostle Paul warns the small home church on Colossae to walk by faith in Jesus, rather than be bound by all the Jewish laws and regulations of faith.
Rules and regulations don’t save you from your sin. Rules don’t have the power to save or to heal. Only a life found in Christ can bring healing and restoration from a broken life of sin. Do you find yourself bound by rules in religion, and restricted by the attempt to “keep all the rules” for God? If so, you can find more freedom in letting Jesus have influence in your life and submit to his leading. You can receive this power of God today by letting Jesus enter your life and surrendering to Him alone.