the day

“… since the day you heard and truly understood God’s grace …” (Colossians 1:6 CEB)

That day for me was Tuesday, February 10, 1976.

It was during my senior year in high school. I was sitting at the kitchen table with Don Tugman in his home at 1612 Larch in Duncan, OK. A Bible lay open in my hands and Don was leading me through a series of questions in a little Bible study guide. Truth be told, my mind was there, but it was racing. I was engaged with the Scripture I was reading at the moment, but I was also thinking about what had been steadily growing brighter in my mind all that afternoon. It was like each Scripture I read added watts to the conviction and clarity lighting up my heart.

This God who is, who loves, and who powerfully gives so much is interested in me. In all that is, I matter to him. Christ’s cross? Forgiving me? Shaping me? Empowering me? He did all of that, and wants to do all of this, for me. Me!

I simply had to accept him and obey him that night. I wanted to identify with him and belong to him completely that night. Nothing or no one could have kept me from declaring my faith in him, and being baptized into him, that night.

That was the day I heard and began to understand God’s grace.

Has that day yet dawned in your life? What day will it be? Soon, I pray. Very soon.

Father in heaven, you continue to fill me with the understanding of your will for my life. May I live my life so as to please you in every way, every day. By your glorious might, strengthen me to do good in your Son’s name through all that I do. As you have rescued me from darkness and brought me into the light and rule of your Son, my Savior and Lord, may you ever be my greatest joy. Ever forgive me and set me free to this end, making my life fruitful. And may this be true for more and more who encounter your Son, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Paul & 1st Century Letter Writing (7)

The entire letter-writing process can be considered “inspired.” Inspiration does not require that a single writer produce a single draft of a letter. A team, led by Paul, using a secretary, making multiple drafts can all be part of a divinely supervised process which resulted in an inspired letter. We need only consider 1 Corinthians … which tells us that it was written by Paul and Sosthenes (1 Corinthians 1:1) with the aid of a secretary (1 Corinthians 16:21). …

If 1 Corinthians was prepared with a minimum of editing, it still cost (in today’s dollars) about $2,000 to write. This estimate does not include the expense of sending someone like Titus on an extended journey to deliver it. (pp.229,231)

Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection by E. Randolph Richards (IVP, 2004)

you just never know

All God’s people here, especially those in Caesar’s household, send you their greeting. (Philippians 4:22 CEB)

irony:  incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.

I love irony and that’s one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed this little “kicker” of a statement at the end of Philippians.

  • You just never know in whose heart the seeds of God’s good news might grow. Sow the seed, sharing the good news as you can.
  • You just never know from where the next reminder might come that God is the one truly in charge, not the powers that be. Look below the surface as you can and see where God is working.
  • You just never know who’s life you might touch by sharing an encouraging word about what you see God doing. Openly talk about God and deliberately encourage as you can.
  • You just never know who is struggling to serve God in the most challenging of contexts. Hold up to God for blessing, as you can, all who serve as witnesses of Christ in difficult and dangerous places.
  • You just never know how far the borders of God’s kingdom extend. As you can, recognize God’s people everywhere, warmly welcoming them into your prayers.
  • You just never know how God might be working something surprising. Look for God as you can not only in the “normal” things of life, but in the unexpected situations.
  • You just never know what a single, simple sentence of Scripture can say to you. So as you can, live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, meditating on what he’s revealed to you in his word.

This is some of what this word says to me. What does it say to you?

Paul & 1st Century Letter Writing (6)

Paul retained copies of most of his letters; it was the standard practice for those who regularly write letters because letters were sometimes lost. Also, since letter writers sometimes wanted to reuse parts of a letter in subsequent letters, retaining copies made it possible to refer back to what had been written already.

Letter writers commonly kept their personal set of copies in fashionable ‘notebooks,’ parchment codices. Paul’s personal copies were likely kept in notebooks, which probably explains his request in 2 Timothy 4:13 for one of the ‘parchments’ (or notebooks). These letters, along with his other personal effects, fell into the hands of a disciple when Paul died. At a later point someone desired to publish his letters; that is, the published collection arose from Paul’s personal set of copies. These published editions of Paul’s letters retained the codex format, accounting for the early Christian preference for the codex over the scroll. (p.223)

Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection by E. Randolph Richards (IVP, 2004)

the cost of servant love

Philippians 1-2 is today’s text in the Fresh Bread reading project. Tomorrow morning, God willing, I will preach on God being one who powerfully, sacrifically gives of himself. I love the way those two streams converge in a portion of today’s reading in one of the most graphic and moving descriptions in the Bible of this very quality of God’s character, a “hymn to Christ” (Carmen Christi), Philippians 2:6-11. It’s not something to be read and moved on from quickly. It’s made for us to linger over and to grow our wonder. Do just that, and let it do its work.

Though he was in the form of God,

he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.

But he emptied himself

by taking the form of a slave

and by becoming like human beings.

When he found himself in the form of a human,

he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,

even death on a cross.

Therefore, God highly honored him

and gave him a name above all names,

so that at the name of Jesus everyone

in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow

and every tongue confess that

Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

One question forms in my mind upon reflecting on this word and it will not leave my mind.

Since I’m to become like Christ in my attitude and actions (vs.5), what am I doing to deliberately grow in the grace of great giving of self, the way Christ has shown me here?

Now another song comes to mind, and it is a prayer. Sing/pray it with me, won’t you?

Make me a servant,

Lord make me like you.

For you are a servant,

make me one, too.

Make me a servant.

Do what you must do,

to make me a servant,

make me like you.