I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my circumstances have actually come to the progress of the gospel, so that my visible chains for the sake of Christ have become known to the whole imperial guard and everyone else, and most of the brothers in the Lord have become confident on account of my imprisonment daring to speak more bodily the Word of God without fear.
Sitting in jail, it takes a lot to search for the bright side. Paul is imprisoned and these chains would be the first matter you would expect him to be concerned. Strangely, he does not pray to God to have his chains removed. However he spent some time considering the impact of his current situation. Paul could have looked at his situation from human eyes. His life had come to a grinding halt and his future was very grim. But instead he chose to look at his situation from God’s perspective.
Paul had joy, and the reason he had joy was that he knew a secret that his fellow brothers and sisters did not know. He wanted to share a new insight, and a new understanding of his circumstances that he had, that they could not see from their vantage. He did not want them to be ignorant. He wanted them to know what he knew.
God put Paul in the midst of the imperial guard. These are the guards of the emperor including up to 9,000 soldiers.
God found a back door into the most influential place possible for Paul. Paul literally had a captive audience being surrounded by men who had to watch over him. If Paul was concerned about his comfort, personal livelihood and situation, things looked pretty grim, but since he was concerned about his purpose and mission–even the bad can work for good. Not only did Paul’s imprisonment give him access to powerful places, he never would attained on his own, but also his circumstance encouraged others to be braver. Bad situations, if dealt with well, can give us all hope. When someone can suffer with a sense of grace, hope, and optimism it gives us encouragement. When we hear of stories of men, women and especially little children who are shackled by cancer or other diseases, but somehow they produce a mysterious bravery, it gives us all a greater sense of hope. Even though that person may be looking at a grim situation, their bravery brings them a strange peace and sometimes joy. Maybe this joy is because they know something that we do not know.
Father God, the God of peace and hope, we thank you for being gracious to us even in the midst of bad circumstances. Forgive us of complaining and grumbling when we find our selves in situations and places we do not want to be in. Give us hope and a new discernment to see your plan in our situations. Let us see the impact that you have given us and allow our attitudes of joy to communicate to others around the hope that we have in you. Lord, let our bad situations become backdoors into greater places we never could have made on our own. Lord we will use our opportunity and influence for your purpose and your glory. We ask this by the access that Christ Jesus has given us to come boldly to you.
More Puppy Lessons A few weeks have gone by and sure enough our little puppy, Joey, is still teaching us some profound truths. Who knew that something weighing just 25 pounds could have such big impact?
Greet each new day with fanfare!
All you "Bah-hum-bugs" out there need to listen up! There have only been a handful of days Joey was not excited about...he was sick. Even then he wanted to be excited about the day. He tried, but his body just wouldn't cooperate. He just wasn’t his normal self. Most mornings when he wakes up he takes one or two good stretches mixed with a few good shakes and then he is ready to face his day...with gusto! A little breakfast here, a few good scratches there, a sniff or two under the table and well...life is just grand!
I know! You're not a morning person. But is that really an excuse to not grab hold of every single day with all you've got. It may take you a cup or two of caffeine, that's okay. The point is to be excited, intentional and thankful about the day God has given. Easy to say and do when you're on a cruise ship eating eight meals a day. Not so easy to do when you're burying someone you love or watching your child walk out of your life or seeing your dream go up in smoke, maybe literally. But, even those days are from God's hand and for His purposes. Is our faith entrenched enough to be intentional for those days, to thank God for those days? Can we agree with Job?
"He said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.'" Job 1:21
Always Kiss and Make Up!
If you really want to make friends and influence people it is important to remember this lesson. You know life is going to happen. You're going to be in conflict with other human beings. So plan now to be the mature one to seek forgiveness and restoration and if appropriate...kiss and make up. Joey has taught us to keep a short list of wrongs with a sturdy eraser. He and I have had our differences, but he doesn't hold grudges and doesn't let me either.
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:23-24
Soak Up Plenty of Vitamin D!
Here is a healthy tip from our Joey. Joey loves to soak in the sun! In fact when it's time to be outside for bathroom purposes he forgets why he is outside and quickly plops down in the warm sunlight. And when inside, he looks for any strip of sunlight for his afternoon nap. The sun is our best source of Vitamin D which is a vital element for our bones and cellular development and to maintain strong bones and cells. It may surprise you that very few foods naturally contain Vitamin D. Most of our intake is from fortified sources in milk, cereal, and some yogurts and juices. Supplements are also a major source of Vitamin D. But the best source remains our star...the sun.
Of course we have to be careful about the harmful ultra-violet rays, but it is good and healthy for us to spend a few minutes every day in the sun. Not hours and hours...just twenty minutes or so. This is just enough time to enjoy some Scripture reading, or intellectual reading or meditation or listening to music or just sitting quietly and rest. The sun also helps our disposition. I need an abundance of sunny days. When I live in gray/dark regions I get depressed and grouchy. Even my home reflects my need for sunshine. I like lots of windows with magnificent views. The sun seems to help Joey too. He is a calmer happier little guy after his sunlight naps.
I need to have the same shot of Son shine in me every day because when I don't I wither inside and harbor a gray attitude. And just like the Vitamin D from the solar sun, the Son, Jesus, develops and grows my very soul! Just a little time each day soaking up the Son goes a long way in keeping me healthy and strong for eternity's kingdom work.
"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." I John 1:5-7
At First Free we have a number of ministries beyond small groups.
If you need a support group, a recovery group, mens or womens' group you can find more online at Efree.org.
Jean Schaffer Adult Connections, First Free Church636firstname.lastname@example.org
A Ministry of First Evangelical Free Church of Manchester
1375 Carman Road
Manchester MO, 63021