Coincidences or divine intervention

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Philemon

This is a letter Paul wrote to his friend, Philemon. He was asking for a favor. Philemon had a slave whose name was Onesimus. It seems that Onesimus had run away and done his master wrong and somehow ended up in Rome, met Paul and became a Christian. This was not a coincidence since it just so happened that Paul knew Philemon as a close friend. Paul writes this letter to encourage Philemon to forgive his slave and receive him back as a brother. How did this happen that a slave runs away and goes to another country and just so happens to run into a friend of his master? This is no coincidence. This was divine intervention. There are no coincidences in life. God is active in each of our lives, whether we recognize it or not. He is always working on our behalf trying to help us and bring us into a place of recognizing His love for us.

The Bible is full of stories that seem like coincidences but are really the guiding hand of God. When the Pharaoh’s daughter just happened to find baby Moses in the river. When Ruth just happened to go into Boaz field to glean the crops and Boaz just happened to see her that day. When Philip ran to meet the caravan and just as he got there the Ethiopian eunuch just happened to be reading the Scriptures about the Messiah. My life is full of instances that were way more than coincidences! As I look back on these events my faith in God is always strengthened. Someone recently gave me a book, “When God winks at you.” It is a great read, all about how God can speak to us through the power of coincidences. These extraordinary events happen to us for a reason. They can change the course of our life or just reinforce the reality that God is working in our lives. They can strengthen our faith, be an opportunity to bless someone else, reassure us of His love and even be the answer to something we have been praying about. May God open our eyes to these ever frequent experiences when God is reaching out to us. They are not coincidences, they are divine intervention.

Good works, good works, good works.

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Titus Chapters 1 through 3

I became a born again Christian August 5, 1973. I joined a Jesus people commune. I went out witnessing the very next day, telling people that God had saved me! We lived together, worked together and studied the Bible together every night. By September I was told that I was ready to give my first Bible study. That’s how we did it back then! I chose Titus Chapter 3. It was a personal revelation that I had received about the importance of doing good works. There seems to be a lot of confusion about good works among Christians. This is not new. It has been around since the writing of the New Testament. There are some who think they will be saved by their good works. There are others who know they are not saved by their good works, yet they do nothing to help others. There are those who think that their good works make God love them more. Paul in this letter to Titus, chapter 3, mentions good works three times. In verse 1 he says, “Be ready for every good work.” Christians should be living a life that keeps them available to help others when there is a need. We should not be living a life that is so busy that there is no room to give our time or money to help others in need. Then in verse 5, Paul says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Here Paul is making it clear that even though good works are important, no matter how many good deeds we do, we can never save ourselves by our good works. Anyone who thinks that when they get to heaven God is going to let them in because they have done a lot of good deeds is in for a big surprise! No one is good enough to undo the death sentence that is in each of us because of our sins. It is only, “By the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit,” (vs 5) that anyone will ever be saved. Then in verse 14, Paul mentions good works again, “Learn to maintain good works to meet urgent needs that they may not be unfruitful.” Here Paul is making sure that we understand even though we are not saved by our good works we should be doing good works. Paul is teaching that good works should be a regular part of every Christian not because we are trying to earn our salvation but as a fruit, as a by-product, as evidence of having God’s Holy Spirit living inside us. May good works, especially those that meet urgent needs, be the testimony of each of our lives.

All Scripture is inspired!

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II Timothy Chapters 1 through 3

This week’s reading is found in 2 Timothy 3:16. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This is an all-inclusive statement. It means there is no exception. When Paul said “all” he meant all of the Bible. Every passage, every chapter, every book is inspired by God. There are no mistakes, there are no exaggerations. From Genesis chapter 1 verse 1 to the very end of the Book of Revelations we can trust the Bible to be God’s Word. It is inspired or God breathed. Reading it, becoming familiar with it, trusting it to guide us is the best way that I know to be complete and equipped for every good work. Too many Christians today are Bible illiterate. They don’t know what God’s Word has to say about the issues of the day and as a result, we have much confusion and ill-equipped churches. To deny any portion of God’s Word opens the door to a total breakdown of your faith. If you can’t believe one section of the Bible, or if one section is ‘outdated’ today, what is to stop you from declaring that about other sections of the Bible? This is what is at the root of much of the debate in churches today when it comes to the teaching of evolution, the leadership roles of women, spanking children, homosexuality, divorce, poverty, criminal justice, transgenders, and many other politically hot issues. Even though God’s Word speaks directly to these situations, many people feel that God’s Word is outdated, not culturally relevant anymore, full of mistakes, and as a result, Christians begin to make up their own rules. Maybe we should revise this passage to read, “Most of Scripture is inspired and some of it is profitable for teaching, except where it might be considered offensive. It really should never be used to rebuke someone, or correcting anyone, since everyone has a right to their own opinion. Some of it could be used for training in righteousness unless it concerns ethics which are now considered culturally prejudiced so that the man of God might be equipped to be a nice person who gets along with everyone.” Bible inerrancy is not an option if you intend to live a full and abundant Christian life. But you must be prepared to be mocked, looked at as uneducated, ignorant, and just foolish. But if that is all the persecution I have to endure for following Christ, bring it on!

Challenging the truth of God’s word is not a new thing. It started back in the garden with Eve and the serpent. Wrestling in doubt over what the Bible teaches is an unnecessary anguish and, in all likelihood, the voice of the enemy of God who inspired the first doubt in God’s Word with, “Did God really say…?” in Genesis 3:1. Make it a high priority to read the Bible regularly. Read it from cover to cover, then read it again. Meditate on it, memorize passages, and pray over what you read. If you want to hear God’s voice, reading His Word is the best way to recognize it. The Bible is still God’s voice to us today.

Did you say grace?

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II Timothy Chapters 1 through 3

Today’s reading in 2 Timothy 2:1 says, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” I was challenged, “How can I ‘be strong’ in grace?” I think the reality for most Christians is that we don’t even know what grace actually is. Often we get it confused with mercy. Here is a simple way to remember the difference between justice, mercy and grace. If I do something wrong, God will send me to my room. That is justice. He may come to my room and say, “Well I am going to let you off the hook this time. You don’t have to stay in your room.” That is mercy. Or, He may come to my room and say, “Hey, let’s go get some ice cream and talk about what you did wrong.” Now that is grace! If I am going to be ‘strong in grace’ that is going to require at least knowing what it is and then when God shows me grace, to accept it and rejoice in it. For some that may be difficult, because they may feel like they don’t deserve it. We don’t, that is the point! Here is another way to distinguish between mercy and grace. Mercy is not getting what I deserve and grace is getting what I don’t deserve. Grace, grace, grace, oh thank you for grace. It makes life so rich and exciting!

I am looking for a fight!

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I Timothy Chapters 4 through 6

This week’s reading is found in 1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of faith.” For some reason this stirs me up! Paul is telling Timothy to get ready to fight for his faith. It seems today that too many people who call themselves Christians are doing everything they can to avoid this fight. Rather than uphold what is true we are being encouraged to make peace with all the other false religions, like Islam or Hinduism or Judaism. Tolerance, compromise, acceptance is the call from too many pulpits. But Paul told Timothy to FIGHT the good fight of faith. There is only one true faith and that is belief in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of all mankind. There is no other way to eternal life. I ready to fight for this, are you?

Contentment

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I Timothy Chapters 4 through 6

This week’s reading is found in I Timothy 6:6, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” It happens every year around November. I find myself asking my children and my wife and even myself, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ Now, while I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with wanting to buy things for people you love, sometimes that question seems to awaken an incredible desire for ‘things.’ I want some new clothes, I want a new BBQ smoker grill, I want a new large screen TV, or I want a cooler faster more powerful computer and so on. I do know that God is a father and He likes to give His children things and He is happy when we are enjoying the things He provides for us. My challenge, though, is how to keep that balance between being happy with everything that God has given to me and yet still wanting to get some new things. I believe this verse holds the key. Contentment means to be emotionally satisfied with the things we have. Yet the word comes from the Latin word ‘continere’ which means restrained. A content person still has desires but those desires are kept in restraint. They don’t consume our thoughts, nor can those desires steal our current state of being emotionally satisfied. Being truly content, I believe, can only happen when a person has experienced the powerful presence of God’s Holy Spirit in their lives. Until that happens, a person will be driven to find that something that is missing in their lives and will never know contentment. But once a person has opened their hearts to God, we need to learn how to keep our desires in check. May God give us the strength, wisdom, and ability to be content with what we have and to be able to keep our desires for new things in check.