Bravery in the Midst of Things That Have Happened

Philippians 1:12-14
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(Imagine Paul is speaking to you from a Roman Prison)

Oh, hi, I, I wasn’t expecting any guests, sorry about that, this is, this is weird, but weird is just kind of how my life is. Hi, I’m Paul

I hope you don’t mind me eating, I’m just so hungry. I don’t have much, but, wouldn’t you like anything?

It’s great to have a guest again, you just missed my Philippian friend. They traveled, I don’t know, hundreds, maybe even thousands of miles to bring me a gift and thanks to them, I get to eat again. I should really write them a letter and make sure they know how grateful I am…

I’ve just got a few bites with you and then we can talk, I’m just, I’ve been so hungry. You know how it is in prison right, Rome will lock you up and then wait for you starve. I’ve had quite a tour of your prison system, very impressive, other than the over crowding, starvation, and lack of justice, but, you know, when it Rome.

Every time I get thrown in jail I keep thinking they’ll at least provide some breadcrumbs for us on the inside. I don’t know why I keep giving them recommendations every time I leave because every time I come back in things are just as bad as they were before. Not like I’ll be getting out this time, but that’s, that’s ok, Rome can try to stop me but they can’t stop Jesus. Whatever happens, I’ll be fine, don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it in here, there are thousands of places I’d rather be, but in a weird way, instead of stopping my work, by throwing me in jail, Rome hasn’t stoped me, they’ve helped to spread word about this movement I’m in.

Just a couple more bites and I will be right with you. This food, it’s just so good, because we eat, every day. I hear some people are so wealthy they eat three times a day or more, can you believe it? I mean, we eat, every day, but if we miss a day, and then miss another, and another, you start to realize how holy and amazing a meal can be.

When I’m not locked up like this, sharing a meal with my friends is one of my favorite things to do, it’s just, it’s sacred, it’s beautiful, it’s also what keeps getting me thrown in jail, but that’s ok, they’re having meals right now and thanks to them I am too.

What my friends and I do is we take bread, and we break it, we remember when our Rabbi, Jesus, took bread, broke it, and shared it with all of his friends, even the ones that were going to betray him and deny him. It didn’t matter what they were going to do to him because Jesus made up his mind about how he was going to love them. So we take bread and we break it, and then we take a cup and share it, because there are times when we feel broken, there are times when we feel poured out, but together we know the good news, God’s love is still with us, and nothing can stop that.

These meals are just so beautiful, because when my friends have these meals, all sorts of different people that you never see come together anywhere else actually come together. I told you I’m thinking about writing a letter to the Philippians to thank them for their gift because I wouldn’t have ate today without it. Writing letters is pretty much what I’m known for these days.

The first letter I wrote was to some friends in Galatia. The Galatians and I had a lot of great meals together. At these meals, we don’t just eat, we take care of each other, we pay bills for anyone that can’t, we make sure everyone has enough to eat, it’s beautiful, it’s going to change the world, you’ll see.

You know how everyone throughout the Roman Empire says Caesar is Lord? There’s so much fake news and propaganda going on about how Caesar is bringing about a universal reign of peace and prosperity, but it’s only peace because Caesar keeps killing people. I guess if you force everyone that disagrees with you to be silent you have a kind of peace, but that’s not real peace and we all know it.

A few Caesars ago, Horace, the poet that pretended to not write propaganda, said, “if something I sing deserves hearing, my best voice will join in, and ‘O glorious sun, worthy of praise,’ I will gladly chant for Caesar’s homecoming. As you lead the way, ‘Hail, God of Triumph, we shall sing more than once, ‘Hail, God of Triumph,’ all the citizens, and to the kind gods shall offer our incense” (Horace, Carmen 4.2)”

Caesar is Lord gets to the point for Rome a lot faster, I get why the went from military propaganda on poems to on coins and quick sentences.

Rome keeps saying Caesar is Lord, so my friends and I have started to say to one another Jesus is Lord, I think it’s going to stick, it’s probably the thing that’s going to get me killed, but the truth will set us all free in the end, even if I have to find my freedom in this cell.

Anyway, my friends in Galatia, we’ve started these new kinds of community, we’d eat together, we’d take care of one another, not because we thought we had to prove or achieve anything, but because God’s grace and peace changed us, this love we know in Christ made us see the world differently. I help them start this movement in Galatia and then I went on to the next city to start the next community, and before I knew it those Galatians seemed to forget what I had taught them. I had to write to them and say, “Their is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28).

I really hope that’s the last time I ever have to tell a church that they have to treat everyone with dignity and respect because everyone is a beloved child of God.

I know God created us to be good, but in my travels, I’ve seen all kinds of ways that we let other things get in the way of that goodness.

I’m sorry I haven’t given you much a chance to talk, if you haven’t caught on yet, I’m a bit of a talker. I just can’t help myself, I need to tell everyone in every way that I can about the grace and peace of Jesus because Jesus is Lord, and the Empire can keep trying to shut me up, but it hasn’t worked yet.

A friend of mine is writing a book, they want to call it Acts, I’m not sold on the title, but they didn’t ask me. In the book they’re thinking about telling the story of a time where I talked so long and late into the night that someone fell asleep, and if that didn’t make me feel bad enough, when they fell asleep they were sitting in the window, and they fell backwards out of the window.

It was such a mood killer.

The kids fine, we dusted him off and he’s doing great these days (Acts 20:7-12).

I told my friend they could include that story in the book but only if they give me a cut of the profits. I know the gift that the Philippians gave me is going to help me to eat for awhile, but I have no idea how long I’m going to be in here and I want to be able to eat again…if I get out, I want to be able to travel again.

I’ve been traveling all over the place. I’ve been to Damascus, Jerusalem, Arabia, Antioch, Cyprus, we spent some time in Salamis, and if you’ve never been, Salamis is great, they make amazing deli meat there. Sorry, my head is still a bit in my stomach, I was so hungry.

I’ve traveled to Antioch, Tarsus, Ephesus, Corinth. Corinth, those folks, I just don’t get them sometimes. The Philippians, they caught on right away, the first time I was there I met a woman named Lydia, she gets stuff done and they have been living with grace and peace ever since, but those people in Corinth, just a bunch of nutters. I told you that I had to write a letter to my friends in Galatia, I’ve had to write a couple of letters to my friends in Corinth.

I’m actually working on a letter to the people in Corinth right now, but I’m stuck. I know I’ll get there eventually…can I run a couple lines past you? I’m trying to get them to remember that love wins. That’s what everything comes down to for me and my fiends, for all of us Jesus people, in the end it’s about love or it’s not about Jesus. And not romance, I am single and as you can tell, I am not ready to mingle, I haven’t been able to take a bath in a long time and you still haven’t been able to get a word in edge wise. Can you ever imagine people in love wanting to quote me to one another? How absurd would that be! Thinking that anything I have to say as a single, celibate, stinky and imprisoned person are romantic, that’s a farce.

But I can’t stop talking about love, grace and peace. My singular focus is this love of God that accepts and welcomes and changes us and everything else.

So here’s what I’m working on right now for the Corinthians…

Love is patient, love is kind, so stop being jerks (1 Corinthians 13)

It’s to the point, I think that’s good, but it just feels like it’s missing something so I’ll keep working on it.

I’m starting to feel a lot of pressure when I write letters. If you can believe it, people have started to share my letters with other people, that’s a little weird, isn’t it? I mean, who wants to read someone else’s mail?

I’ve even heard that people are starting to make copies of my letters and they are sending them on to their friends, which I guess is an honor but, come on, I’m writing letters from prison, it’s not like people are going to be reading them forever.

Some people are even starting to quote what I’ve written in letters to try to win arguments. First, how could anyone turn this Jesus movement into an argument. Grace and peace isn’t a mental exercise, it’s a way of life, it’s, like I’m going to write the Corinthians, all about love, not in what we think but in how we talk to one another, hold each other accountable, and take care of one another. And second, I never thought people would pay so much attention to me because this was never about me, I’m just trying to be like Jesus and if people are trying to be like Jesus by trying to be like me, that’s great, but let’s keep the focus on Jesus and show others how this grace and peace and justice and joy is in them too. (1 Corinthians 3:4-9)

I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently, and I’m in jail so I have tons of time to think, and the more I think about it the more I realize that me being here is a blessing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of being in jail. Some of the people that read my letters want to spiritualize everything that I write. A friend sent me a letter recently that and wrote, “God works all things together for good” (Romans 8:28). Can you believe that? Who would write a thing like that?

I know what they were trying to say, but I hope people never try to take a saying like that and use it to say that life will never be difficult or challenging or hard. Jesus, the Jesus that I know is Lord, was crucified and if you’ve been anywhere around the Empire you’ve seen people on the cross. There is no more painful way to slowly die. And that’s happened to Jesus, but I’ll let you in on a little secret, crucifixion isn’t the end of the story.

God took that pain, that hurt, that shame, and used it for glory because Jesus, Jesus was resurrected, Jesus is on the loose. The Romans don’t realize it yet, but they gave our movement a symbol. Rome wants us to see the cross and be intimated and afraid, but we see God. We see the God that is will to suffer with us, and we see the God resurrecting within us. Saying that God works all things together for good doesn’t mean that bad things never happen, but it does give me the strength to find a way forward through the bad things that keep happening. Resurrection is all around us, grace and peace is all around us, the hope and promise of Jesus is Lord is everywhere, and at this point in my life all I do is try to keep showing people grace and peace.

I didn’t always live like this. There was a time when I thought the resurrection was a myth that needed to be snuffed out of existence. I’ll be honest, for a long time I didn’t believe in grace and peace, I couldn’t believe in it, I hated it and hoped it was a fad that would fade away. The person I used to be, if the person I used to be met the person I am now, that old me would throw this new me in jail.

I didn’t grow up thinking that God’s love was for everyone, I grew up thinking that you had to prove to God how faithful you were, and if you got that right, then, and only then, God would care for you. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my roots, my family is a part of the tribe of Benjamin I know my family tree well. My family always told me the story of how God chose our people, how we were oppressed in Egypt but God liberated us and brought us into freedom, made us a holy people and told us to live a holy life. That’s why I have always been kosher and still am today, in my head I might think about things a little differently but with respect to observing the Law, I’m a Pharisee. I just happen to be a Pharisee that follows the teachings of Jesus. There are so many things in my heritage that have blessed and enriched my life, but there were some things that got in the way too.

Take eating kosher for instance – I’m willing to bet that when you eat there are times when you just eat and don’t think anything about it, but when I eat, I think about this gift of life that is mine, I think about the relationship that this meal means for my relationship with the rest of the world. For me, every meal, every snack, is thoughtful and meaningful, it brings purpose to my life, but for you, it’s just lunch.

Back in the day I had a lot of very strong opinions about clean and unclean, right and wrong, good and evil, and this kind of discernment and distinctive way of living was really helpful, until it started to hurt people.

I believed everything was black and white, God said don’t eat this, so we didn’t eat it, but then we turned it into don’t even touch that, or if someone touches it they’re unclean and unworthy of life in the community until they can be purified, and God holiness can have nothing to do with anyone that accidentally or purposefully eats what they weren’t supposed to eat. There was a time where I believed that if anyone, anywhere would be like, ‘why are you so upset, it’s only bacon’, I could have nothing to do with them, other than yell at them for being a sinner living against God’s will for being filthier than the pig they were eating.

It’s a bit more complicated than that, but you get the idea, right? And like I said, I’m still kosher to this day and will be for the rest of my life, but I’m starting to see that when it comes to living a holy life, rituals, rules and laws and regulations might change our behaviors, but they can’t do anything to our hearts. Laws are great, but love is greater.

Old me would have thrown me in jail for saying that.

This is probably the lowest point in my life, but I once stood by while a kid named Stephen was stoned to death. Stephen was arrested and at trial he started to tell us how he saw Jesus in our covenant, he tried to tell us about grace and peace, but we didn’t want to listen, so we stoned him to death and his last words were, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them!” Then he died.” (Acts 7:60)

That kind of forgiveness stays with you, it bothers you like a rock in your sandal, but I tried to tell myself that Stephen was a sinner that was trying to say his life instead of accept his punishment.

Not too long after that I was on my way to Damascus and if this isn’t irony I don’t know what is, you want to know why I was heading to Damascus? I was going there so I could throw some of the followers of Jesus in jail. Anyway, a long the road there was this moment when everything changed, there was this bright light from heaven that was all around me and I feel to the ground because I was blinded by the light. I was feeling pretty revved up, being blinded by the light will do that to you, and while I was on the ground a voice called out to me and said, “Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?” [I] asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are harassing’ came the reply” (Acts 9:4-5).

Some people want to call that my conversion story. I’m not sure if it really was my conversion moment, it was barely a conversation, just a couple of questions back and for, but that’s when everything started to change for me. I was lost, I was disoriented, I was still blinded by the light, and do you know who stopped to take care of me, Ananias, one of the followers of Jesus that I was going to throw in jail. I don’t know where I’d be without Ananias, after Stephen forgave me, Ananias gave me grace and peace, and that’s when I knew Jesus is Lord.

Stephen showed me forgiveness, Ananias don’t hold my past against me and went out of his way to give me grace and peace when I had nothing to offer in return, I was starving in this cell before my Philippian fiends visited me. All these people did this because they live like Jesus is Lord.

I don’t like it here, I can’t imagine anyone enjoying their time in a Roman prison, but at the very same time, when I’m locked up I have time to think, and I have time to write, so I’m going to keep writing. That’s the thing about suffering, it’s real, and it hurts, but somehow reveals grace and peace. I would never say that God wanted or caused this pain, but I can see how God has used even this to further reveal love and hope for us and for everyone else.

Rome thinks they can send me to jail and I’ll stop talking but I haven’t stopped yet. Clearly, I haven’t even stopped talking to you and we just met.

The weirdest thing is that every time Rome thinks they’re going to step this message, it spreads even further. I know this is going to sound crazy to you, it sounded crazy to me for a long time, but all I’ve had is time to think about it, and it’s true, everything that has happened to, all those moments I’ve been thrown in jail, it’s actually advanced the gospel.

One of the first times I got thrown in jail, I got under the skin of the empire a little bit. You would think that the greatest military superpower in the world would have thick skin, but the smallest things get under their nerves, it’s weird, not any weirder than wearing a broom on a helmets, but still, they want to act tough, so you’d think they’d pretend to be tough and wouldn’t let a word play bother them so much.

Remember the friends that I told you about, how we would share a meal together with bread and wine, we’d remember Jesus’ presence with us and we’d take care of one another, we’d become a new kind of community. Some of my friends are saying that we’re entering into a new humanity, because it feels like we’ve been born into a whole new way of life, it’s almost like we’ve been born again. As our Jesus moment got started, we had some fun, because we took that word gospel, you know, as the Romans say, εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion) and we’ve started to use it to talk about Jesus.

Rome really hates that.

For Rome, for Caesar, you know, they think it’s good news, they think it’s a εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion) to kill more people, to conquer more land, to force even more people to bend their knees and say Caesar is Lord.

Have you heard Caesar’s newest propaganda line – this is what Caesar is trying to get all his talking heads to say, it’s awful and doesn’t make any sense, but, what do you expect from Caesar? Caesar is trying to say that this is εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion) that this is good new, Caesar is saying “peace through military might”

If you think more weapons, more violence, more crucifixions, more people like me being thrown in jail for challenging and exposing the sins if the empire is what brings about peace, you need to have a meal with me and my friends.

Look at a battlefield, look at the blood that is on the hands of our empire, and then look at the meal that my friends share with strangers, with enemies, with slaves, with Roman soldiers, with peasants, with lepers, with eunuchs with all sorts of people that never come together anywhere else, and then watch as my friends make sure everyone has enough to eat, everyone has a place to stay, everyone has a seat at the table.

What sounds more like peace to you?

I told you, it sounds crazy but it’s still true, the things that have happened to me have actually advanced the gospel. Every time Rome throws me in prison, every time they starve me it’s like they spread the seeds of Jesus’ teaching for me, and those seeds are taking root.

It’s amazing, but it worries me a little too. Being in jail all I have is time to think, and while I am continually amazed by how many people have started to say Jesus is Lord, it’s a catchy phrase and I’ll admit that I’m proud of it, but I’m a little worried that the crowds are saying it, and not always living it. The thing that scares me the most, is that some folks saying Jesus is Lord might try to turn Jesus into Caesar. We don’t think Jesus is like Caesar, Jesus is better than that, because Jesus is grace and peace.

I can’t imagine anything worse than an empire trying to call itself Christian. Does anything make less sense than that? Jesus said put down the sword, Jesus said feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger wherever they come from, care for the widow and the orphan and the oppressed and that’s not what Rome does, that’s not what any military superpower does. Followers of Jesus aren’t conquerers, we’re servants, and if we ever loose that we’ll have to be born again, again.

Right now the whole Praetorian Guard and everyone else knows that I’m in prison for Christ. The Praetorian Guard, the imperial army, Caesar’s secret service knows me by name because I keep saying grace and peace, because every where I go I try to show people that Jesus is Lord.

They’re scared of me, because no matter how many times they throw me in jail, no matter how difficult they make it for me to send or receive mail, no matter how many meals I miss, they can’t stop my hope. What Rome doesn’t understand is that most of my brothers and sisters, not my ‘family’ but my family, my siblings in Christ, they have had more confidence through the Lord to speak the word boldly and bravely because of my jail time.

Rome can keep me in a cage like this, they can exile me, they can starve me, they can kill me, but they can never kill grace and peace. This love has been unleashed in the world and there is no slowing it down. Rome can keep making their good news announcements, but we know where real good news if found. Rome can keep trying to insist that Caesar is Lord, but we know who’s really leading us to peace.

Thank you for stopping by today, it has been really good to spend time with you. I don’t know how the last few months have been for you, but I’ve been lonely, for awhile I was really wondering if anyone remembered me. For all my travels, for every letter I’ve sent, there have been a few times in the last couple months where I wondered if anyone that I wrote to would write back. But those Philippians, I am so thankful for them, they just, they get it. The Philippians didn’t just remember me, they didn’t just pray for me, they let me know that they cared about me in the very moment I couldn’t care for myself. That’s grace and peace. The way they treat one another, the love they share with one another, how they went out of their way to make sure that I could have something to eat at the other side of the empire, those are some amazing friends, imagine if we were all friends like that.

That reminds me of one more thing that I’ve been thinking and writing about recently. Jesus was resurrected, the cross, that pain and loss, as real and as tragic as it was, it wasn’t the end of the story, and now, those Philippians, these followers of Jesus, they’re living with the same energy, the Spirit, I might even tell the Philippians that they are living with the the guts and the σπλάγχνα (splagchnon) of Christ. They just get to the heart of it, they know grace and peace because they share grace and peace. If the Philippians are the σπλάγχνα (splagchnon) of Christ, maybe the Corinthians are the pinky toe of Jesus- they help us to find some balance but they really need step up, get it.

When we’re in this together, we really are the body of Christ.

And since we’re together, since we’re the body of Christ, let’s share some grace and peace. I told you about the meals I’ve shared with my friends, and even though I’ve been dominating this conversation, I hope you’ll call me a friend.

No matter how lonely you might feel in this moment, you are not alone and you are not forgotten. If the last few months being locked up like this have taught me anything, it’s that love really does win because Jesus really is Lord.

When my friends and I could gather in person, we’d take bread, we’d break it, share it with one another, and we’d remember that Jesus’ body was broken on the cross, we’d remember that our God isn’t distant or indifferent from our suffering because our God, because Jesus, is right here with us, saying I’m with you no matter what. And then we’d take a cup and pass it around, remembering as the wine poured out that Jesus’ poured into us and all creation a new covenant, and so we’d drink from the cup and remember the life of Christ and the life that we are seeking to live into with the same great love.

Whatever food you might bring to the table today, may it be for you the body and blood of Christ so that you might be for the world the body of Christ redeemed by his blood. In this moment, may God’s Spirit, may grace and peace break open your heart so that love might pour out all around you. Be filled with the Spirit’s power, now, and always.

I know we just met but can I pray for you? Can we enter into the space between us where the Spirit moves and remember and celebrate and grieve and love everything that we need to right now. There are probably some things that we need to get out of our hearts and minds and maybe there are some other things that we need to have our hearts and lives opened to, so let’s pray…

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and insight in your growing knowledge of Jesus–since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened–may know what is the hope of God’s calling, our inheritance as the saints, found in our friendship, in our community, this wealth that is the incomparable greatness of God’s grace and peace. I pray that according to the riches of God’s glory you will be be strengthened with power of the Spirit, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ that is the fullness of God.

I pray that God to fill with the grace and peace that inspires you to live a life bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with the power of God, found in patience and steadfastness, joy, generosity, and gratitude.

And I pray that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God.”

Prayer modified from Ephesians 1:17-19a, Ephesians 3:16-19, Colossians 1:9b-12, Philippians 1:9-11

Philippians 1:12-14

Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that the things that have happened to me have actually advanced the gospel. The whole Praetorian Guard and everyone else knows that I’m in prison for Christ. Most of the brothers and sisters have had more confidence through the Lord to speak the word boldly and bravely because of my jail time.

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July 6 – July 11

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Monday

Read – 2 Corinthians 4:7-17

Notice – In verse 15 of our reading today, Paul writes that as grace increases, we experience both gratitude and glory. As you first read verses 7 to 12, did the ideas and feelings of facing all kinds of trouble, confusion, and being knocked down but not knocked out sound like glory? In this passage Paul reminds us that as followers of Jesus we embody the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for one another so that we can be this grace and peace with and for one another. Salvation is never simply for ourselves as individuals. Writer Anne Lamott says that the most powerful sermon in the world is two words: “Me too.” When have you been able to preach that sermon with your life? Have others shared a me too moment with you? How did it change how you felt and reflect what we read from Paul today?

Pray – God, we know that you are present with us and your grace will renew us every day. Give us the strength to persevere and find peace in the glory of your love. Amen.

Friday

Read – Numbers 11:10-17

Notice – Freed from slavery in Egypt by a series of miraculous events, the Israelites still complained about the discomforts of trekking through the desert. They even went so far as to tell Moses they had been better off in Egypt! Moses was continually discouraged and distressed. How does Moses’ complain to God in verses 11-15? Note the words and phrases that indicate the Israelite complaints had pushed Moses past the point of what he could handle—that he was at the end of his rope. Can you remember situations you’ve faced in which you could identify with Moses’ feelings of being desperate and overwhelmed? As Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians from prison, he was grateful for the ways that others had joined with him in sharing grace and peace. In our reading today, Moses gathers leaders to help him lead. How can this remind you that you don’t have to do everything on your own?

Pray – God, when Moses was overwhelmed, you didn’t tell him to handle it, but to enlist others to help him. Give me a willingness to ask for help when I need it, too. Amen.

Saturday

ReadRomans 8:35-39

Notice – Review Paul’s list of life’s obstacles—“trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword.” Which of those most often leave you feeling overwhelmed, not sure you can handle them? When you face something you cannot handle, what difference can it make to your frame of mind to know that God’s steady, unfailing love continues to enfold you at those times? How can you keep building your confidence in that love, a love that never lets you go?

Pray – God, whatever comes my way, hold me close in the shelter of your love. Thank you that even when I’m overwhelmed, you can win a sweeping victory through me in “all these things.” Amen.

Thursday

Read 1 Corinthians 10:13, Psalm 46:1-2

Notice – Sometimes it is said, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” but when it comes to the Bible, that’s a half truth. That exact phrase isn’t found in the scriptures and if we assume that God won’t give us more than we can handle, we assume that every terrible event in our lives comes to us from God. In our reading today, Paul doesn’t write that we aren’t given more than we can handle, instead, Paul reminds us that in every struggle we face, we aren’t alone and others have felt these common temptations too. More than that, the context of 1 Corinthians 10 is will power, discipline, and our ability to make choices. While Paul was in prison, writing to the Philippians, Paul didn’t believe that God sent him to jail, and yet Paul knew that even in jail God’s grace and peace could be trusted, just as it’s written in Psalm 46.

Pray – God, whatever comes my way, hold me close in the shelter of your love. Thank you that even when I’m overwhelmed, you can win a sweeping victory through me in “all these things.” Amen.

Tuesday

Read – 2 Corinthians 6:4-13

Notice – John Wesley wrote of verse 13, “Open your hearts, first to God, and then to us.” What does an open heart look like in context of verses 4-10? Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached that non-violent protests “is a powerful and just weapon which cuts without wounding and ennobles the [person] who wields it.” The early Christians, by proclaiming Jesus is Lord and by seeking to live into the Kingdom of God, cut without wounding as they exposed the ways that Caesar was not Lord and how the Kingdom of Rome perpetuated sin and injustice. How can you, with a heart open to God and to others, see in yourself and our world who needs to be cut and what needs to be strengthened?

Pray – Jesus, when you promised to be with us, you never promised that we wouldn’t face difficulties, trials or pain. Better than that, you promised the presence of your Spirit and God’s grace and peace. Help me to feel that presence today and every day. Amen.

Wednesday

Read Genesis 50:15-20

Notice – After reading this passage from Genesis, take another look at our reading from Sunday, Philippians 1:12-14. What similarities do you see between these passages? When have you, like Joseph or Paul, experienced something that was not part of God’s dream for your life, a time where you struggled, hurt, or were wronged, and God’s grace found a way to take those painful fragments of your life and transform them into something good, for your sake and the sake of others?

Pray – God, even when it feels like everything is falling apart, help me to remember that you promise to put things back together. I offer you all the pieces that I am still clinging to, and trust you to create a beautiful mosaic with my life. Amen.

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