Tag Archives: Sabbath School Lessons

“Occupy Till I Come”

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I was running my shift at UPS early one morning, trying to beat the clock, as we loaded the package cars, and prepared them for their busy day. In the midst of our hustle and bustle an alarm sounded. A sorter spotted flames on a conveyor belt. We safely evacuated the building and made sure everyone was okay. The fire was actually extinguished before the distant sirens arrived. Later, I recollected how we were focused on getting our job done, in time for all the brown package cars to deliver their thousands of packages, all over a waking city, preparing itself for business. In a split second, our important task meant nothing and we were all prepared to quickly walk away and let the building, and all of our business burn to the ground if need be.

We were dedicated to our jobs at UPS but we still had enough sense to know when to walk away. I think this is the kind of balance we need when we hear the words,

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.Matthew 24:42

and,

Occupy till I come. Luke 19:13

Some people complain that our church is not preaching enough about the second coming. They complain we just preach about day to day living. Yet these sermons are still very Biblical as Jesus taught us about day to day living. He did not teach us to sit around waiting for Him to come. He also taught us how to live in the here and now. The Bible says, “occupy” (do business in the NKJV) until He comes.

While our church is focused on the prophecies of the second coming, and rightfully so, we must also remember those words in Luke, “Occupy till I come.” Remember the purpose of the gospel is to make people whole. This means more than just telling people what the mark of the beast is, when we can’t buy and sell. It also means teaching people Biblical stewardship and money management, while we occupy and can buy and sell. Making people whole means more than just telling them dead people are dead. It means helping them to become whole again as they deal with grief day to day until the resurrection.

Making people whole involves more than just telling people adultery is wrong. It also means ministering to and healing those scarred by divorce. A friend who had just joined the Adventist church, had emotional scars from divorce. He told me he was glad he had found the Adventist doctrines, but complained that there was nothing in our church to help with the daily pain of divorce. He went to a divorce recovery workshop the local Methodist church shared with the community. He asked me why we had nothing like that in our church.

Is it the job of other churches to help with day to day life while the Adventist church just tells people about the mark of the beast and second coming? No! The first angel in Revelation 14 carries the everlasting gospel to the entire world. The everlasting gospel is a holistic gospel designed to make the entire person whole, body, mind and soul. I am very proud that today I work with the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church, which like many other Adventist churches today, is ministering to the entire person. Like many other Adventist churches, my local church has “Life groups” on Wednesday nights. On Wednesday nights people come to our church and can join a prophecy seminar I am leading out in, or they can choose between a griefshare group, parenting group, divorce recovery group and spiritual gifts workshop. We have had many workshops ranging from finances to sexual purity.

The Adventist Church proclaims a holistic gospel which brings healing in our every day lives while preparing for the second coming.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Jesus Won’t Forget to Pick You up

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A family I had studied with called me late one afternoon, asking me to meet them ASAP at the hospital. Their mother was dying, and they wanted prayer. Now I believe that God can hear your prayers for your sick loved one, just as easily as He can hear an elder’s prayer. Nevertheless, I met the family in ICU. They told me they were praying for a miracle. One son told me they knew God was going to work a miracle for his mother. He explained that God was going to raise her up right now, or He would heal her, like He did Lazarus, by letting her sleep and then waking her up at the resurrection. Either way it would be a miracle.

We admire people who have the faith to heal a loved one, but what about having enough faith to just let them go to sleep? The son had faith in the miracle of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves.  Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.

A few days later his mother fell asleep in Jesus, and his family is encouraging each other with the promises of the greatest miracle yet to come.

There are more Bible prophecies about the Second Coming than any other event. While many prophecies have already been fulfilled, we are certain the prophecies pertaining to the second coming are just as sure.

I understand that while we sleep, when we enter the REM (rapid eye movement) stage, we are actually very close to death. Yet each morning when we wake up, we don’t realize the miracle that has just taken place. I understand there are many mysteries about sleep that medical science is still researching. Could it be that sleep is just our “rehearsal” for the resurrection? That God is just getting us used to falling asleep and trusting Him to wake us up when it is time?

I walked into the church lobby after worship service to find a very distraught elderly lady. She has Alzheimer’s disease, and had forgotten who had driven her to church. She was afraid she was going to be left. I put my arm around her and assured her that even though she may have forgotten who had taken her to church, whoever they were, they had not forgotten her. I told her we all loved her and would not leave her alone. She began to cry like a little girl, as she told me “Thank you very much!” Sure enough her ride found her. She had forgotten them, but they remembered her.

This elderly lady felt like a little child left all alone. When we face the grave of a loved one, or even our own, do we feel like a little child left all alone? We needn’t be afraid. Our Ride to heaven will remember us even if in death we forget Him as we sleep. The same God who wakes you up every morning, the same God who remembered to create you and remembered to redeem you on the cross, is the same God responsible for waking you up when He comes again. Don’t worry, even when in death you forget Him, He won’t forget you!

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

What is the Gospel

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A couple of years ago I had the privilege of conducting my “In Light of the Cross” gospel seminar in New England. While there, a kind and gracious member of the Adventist Church I was speaking in, gave me a tour of the region and several old New England churches. Being a history buff, and realizing that the religious awakening, which spawned the Advent movement began in New England, created in my heart a deep appreciation for these old churches, some built in the early 1700′s or before.

New England Churches 100

I walked into one sanctuary, built in 1732,and sat on a pew deep in thought, contemplating the hundreds of people who had sat in that sanctuary over the last 280 years! I admired the pulpit from where the gospel was preached to weary sinners for centuries. Yes, I realize these churches were not Adventist churches, but they still preached the cross to sinners, and I imagine over the centuries many a sin weary pilgrim has laid his burden down on the altar and taken up the cross of Jesus. For that I am very thankful for these churches of various denominations. Each of these churches of various denominations were fulfilling the prophecy of Jesus that,

  ..this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, in [into] witnessing to all folks; and then the end shall come.Matthew 24:14 WYC (In my previous posts I often used the NLT Bible translation. However, writing about old churches and the religious awakening has me in a Wycliffe version frame of mind.)

When we think of the gospel we think of “good news.” Paul defines the gospel more specifically as the good news of the cross. The gospel is the cross.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel; not in wisdom of word, that the cross of Christ be not voided away. 1 Corinthians 1:17 WYC

Protestant churches rose out of the dark ages with the light of the gospel. John Wycliffe is remembered as “the morning star of the reformation.” If the sun rose up all at once it would blind us. God first sends the morning star to pierce the darkness so we become accustomed to a little light, and the sun gradually rises until noonday when the  darkness is gone and

the earth was lightened of his glory. Revelation 18:1 WYC

So while many think there are many different church denominations because everyone interprets the Bible differently, truth is, each Protestant church has discovered different points of light about the gospel, leading us gradually out of the Dark Ages. It is not so much about interpreting things differently as  it is about progressing as we have more light, with each ray of light leading us farther and farther out of darkness into the full light of the cross.

God has always had a people in every church, and the Protestant reformers were a light in the their time, leading to the Protestant Reformation, which brought us to the religious awakening and Advent Movement.

So the question is, what new light has the Advent Movement shined on the gospel of the cross?

1. The Gospel saves us from death instead of eternal torment.

 For the wages of sin is death.. Romans 6:23 WYC

The wages of sin is death and not eternal torment. As we study the doctrine ofthe punishment of the wicked, in the light of the cross, we get new light not only on doctrine but more importantly on the character of God. God is not a psychopath wanting to torture people because they did not love Him, and make them wish they had. He is a God of love. The purpose of hell is not to torment sinners (Though there will be torment and weeping and gnashing of teeth for a time) but rather to put sinners out of their misery.

For God loved so the world [Forsooth God so loved the world], that he gave his one begotten Son, that each man that believeth in him perish not, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 WYC

The most popular verse of the Gospel tells us Jesus saves us from perishing and not eternal torment in hell.

2. Jesus really died for us.

The Biblical teaching of the state of the dead changes how we view the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. If we believe in the immortality of the soul, and that one does not really die, then Jesus never died and we are still without a Savior. However, the Bible teaches us that Jesus did not only truly die, but He died the second death for us. He faced not only death but the death of the wicked, which meant He loved us so much He was willing to go into total oblivion and be totally separated from God. He did not save us from the death of the righteous. He experienced and saved us from the death of the wicked – being totally separated from God, which has the effect of eternal oblivion.

..all the heathen shall busily drink, and they shall drink, and they shall swallow it all down; and then they shall be as if they had never been. Obadiah 1:16 WYC

3. Jesus saves us from our sin, not in our sin.

I once heard a Protestant preacher on the radio say, “In order for you to be able to call Jesus your Savior He has to actually save you from something.” The preacher went on to talk about how Jesus saves us from sinful addictions. Seventh-day Adventists understand that on the cross Jesus freed us from both the penalty of sin and the power of sin.

God the Father made him sin for us, which knew not sin, that we should be made [the] rightwiseness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 WYC

And he himself bare our sins in his body on a tree [Which he himself suffered, or bare, our sins in his body on the tree], that we be dead to sins, and live to rightwiseness, by whose wan wound ye be healed. 1 peter 2:24 WYC

Okay I think that last one needs a little help from the NLT!

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NLT

The gospel that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is taking into all the world not only gives us a clearer vision of the cross, but an even clearer vision of the the character of God.

God is a loving God who is not going to torment the wicked for all eternity because they did not love Him. He is a God of love who does not wish for us to perish. By understanding the Bible truth about death we understand the depths of Christ’s sacrifice and what great depths he was willing to go to in order to save us. We understand that He saves us from the penalty of sin, and from the power of sin, so that we don’t have to be slaves to the sinful addictions that hurt us over and over.

This is the gospel that pierced the dark ages until it will one day be preached all over the world and then the world will be lightened with His glory. May we engage in the work of spreading this Good News!

You may study this week’s Sabbath School less here. 

Growing Like Jesus to be Like Jesus

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Students who are loved at home, come to school to learn, and students who aren’t, come to school to be loved. Nicholas A. Ferroni

There is no true education, growth or maturity without love. On my first day of kindergarten, way back in the mid 1900′s I was given a red badge to wear, which meant I belonged to the red group, and would be doing activities with the kids in my group. That red badge did more than tell me where I was suppose to be. It gave me a sense of belonging. That was my first step towards education; a sense of belonging.

Red Tag

 

 

 

 

Folk who visit your Sabbath School class for the first time, may be grown ups telling you they are just “checking this class out” or “wanting to learn more about what the Bible teaches,” but truth is, their learning system is no different than my kindergarten days. They are looking for belonging. Sure they want to learn, but what they want more than anything else is to be loved and belong. Most people will not settle into a learning environment until they are sure they belong.

Universities don’t send out approval letters. They send out “acceptance” letters. The college scholar jumps up and down with delight when they get their “acceptance” letter in the mail, just like I did in kindergarten when I got my red badge. Acceptance is a life long journey. I don’t mean that it should take a lifetime to become accepted. I mean, “Acceptance” is the name of the vehicle that will get you through life.

Jesus in His humanity needed acceptance in order to grow as a child.

 “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49 NLT

Jesus shined in His interview with the religious leaders, because He knew He belonged somewhere, and He knew where it was. Jesus had a sense of belonging. This is what enabled Him to grow and be educated, and that is what enables us to learn and grow as well.

1. Jesus learned the Scriptures as a Child 

Every child may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 70

Children can do likewise today.

You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15 NLT

2. Jesus’ prayer life gave Him acceptance and wisdom.

One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. Luke 6:12 NLT

And so it may be with us.

Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT

3. Jesus elevated His thoughts towards noble themes.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 NLT

Jesus can help us do likewise.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.Philppians 2:5 NLT

4. Jesus kept busy with his vocation and avoided Satan’s idle temptations. 

  Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, Mark 6:3 NLT

We are counselled to do likewise.

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 NLT

5. Jesus spent no aimless hours with corrupting associates, thus closing the door to temptation.

In His industrious life there were no idle moments to invite temptation. No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations. So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

Jesus encouraged us likewise.

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13 NLT

Jesus was able to grow in wisdom and moral stature knowing that He belonged to God and God’s true people.

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. Luke 2:52 NLT

As He grew He never lost his need of knowing He was accepted by the Father.

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” John 20:17 NLT

Right after the resurrection Jesus needed His Father’s acceptance, just like when He was in the temple as a boy. He accomplished what He did, knowing He belonged to “My God.”  Likewise I needed a sense of acceptance and belonging when I received my red badge in kindergarten and later my acceptance letter to Southern Adventist University. Likewise, those in your Sabbath School class will grow and learn, when they know they are accepted and belong.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Apostasy! What it is and What its Not

 I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One Friday morning, I was helping a friend get their house “presentable” to have a group of Bible study students over for Sabbath afternoon. I was pulling weeds in their flower bed near their front door, when I got a little carried away, and found in my hands, not a clump of ugly weeds like I was suppose to have, but instead, before I could stop my over zealous hands,I realized I had just murdered a totally beautiful and innocent begonia! I snapped it before the root and there was no way now I could save it. In my mind I could hear Jesus telling me,

“See why I don’t let you go pulling weeds in my church? You can’t tell a beautiful begonia from a weed. There is no way I am going to let you destroy a totally innocent member of My church, just because you think they are a heretic. I will do My own weeding thank you. I can tell a weed from a begonia. Obviously you can’t.”

I am going to cut straight to the chase. I have become very concerned lately how easily the word “apostasy” gets thrown around Adventist circles these days. If someone does not agree with us, some of us accuse them of apostasy. That is a strong word! Apostasy simply means a renunciation or abandonment of a belief, but yet it carries with it an even greater connotation within our circles, of abandoning God Himself.  Funny, some people put themselves in God’s place of defining heresy and apostasy, yet I don’t ever find Jesus accusing anyone in the Bible of being an apostate or heretic, so I am confused as to why so many of His professed followers have taken up the practice.

Apostasy does not mean renouncing a doctrine because another church teaches it too. Remember, the Seventh-day Adventist Church grew out of many denominations. The purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not to disagree with everybody else. The purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist church is to

 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21

In the mid 1800′s a group of Advent believers from many denominations sat down together with their Bibles. Rachel Oakes, a Seventh-day Baptist in that group introduced the Sabbath. The group found it to be quite Biblical so it was adopted by the group. The group found that the Baptist church was quite Biblical concerning baptism by immersion so that was adopted as well. However, the group found the immortality of the soul to be found nowhere in the Bible so that was not accepted. You see, this group did not say “Oh we don’t believe that! This is what the Baptists believe or that is what Catholics believe!” If we are going to use that logic we are going to have to give up the Sabbath because that is what Seventh-day Baptists believe! We would also have to give up the Trinity because that is what Catholics believe!

If our goal is to be the exact opposite of Catholics, then we are going to have to stop praying for loved ones in the hospital because that is what Catholics do. Actually we will have to stop running our hospital systems all together, because after all, having hospitals that provide compassionate care is something the Catholics do. And we don’t want to be like them, right? Friends, just because the Catholics do something does not make it wrong, and just because we do something does not make it right! Catholics are very reverent in their worship service. Shall we run and scream in God’s house just to prove we are not Catholics? Of course not! Like Paul said, we want to hold on to what is good instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I have met bitter former Adventists who have made it their religion to bash the Adventist church. Instead of lifting up Jesus they love to go online and bash the Adventist church. I have news for them. Bashing Adventism in not a religion. Now I have some news for some of us Adventists. Bashing Catholicism is not a religion either! Jesus, our example never made a religion out of bashing people for their beliefs.

This message must be given, but while it must be given, we should be careful not to thrust and crowd and condemn those who have not the light that we have. We should not go out of our way to make hard thrusts at the Catholics. Among the Catholics there are many who are most conscientious Christians, and who walk in all the light that shines upon them, and God will work in their behalf.–Ellen White, Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 243.

Right and wrong is determined by the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and not by religious denomination. 

We are not to hold on to our beliefs because they are what our pioneers taught. If we do that then we are making an idol of our pioneers. We also become steeped in tradition if we only believe what our pioneers believe. It was never Martin Luther’s desire to bash Catholicism. It was his desire to take the Bible over tradition and the teachings of man. If we now set up our Adventist pioneers and Adventist traditions as the standard, then we are falling back into Babylon! The only way we can stay out of Babylon is to use the Word of God as our standard, instead of worshiping as idols the pioneers of our church even when they may be wrong, and bashing other churches even when they may be right!

Let’s be careful who we call apostates and what we call apostasy. Recently I have heard people saying the trinity is not an Adventist doctrine while it most definitely is! Many people are accusing other people of apostasy while they are in apostasy! So let’s be careful how we use that word, and not use it all if we can avoid it. It is not a word I read Jesus using. Let’s try to be more like Jesus.

Let’s not accuse someone of apostasy because they do something a Catholic or Baptist does. If we do, we will need to stop baptizing by immersion and having compassionate hospitals. Not everything they do is wrong and not everything you do is right. Let’s just go by the Bible.

Let’s not set up our Adventist pioneers as infallible and above the Word of God. If we tell the Catholics not to worship Mary and St.Peter, then its only fair we not worship Uriah Smith and Ellen White. Yes, I know Ellen White wrote under inspiration but so did Peter. Let’s not worship either one of them. Let’s worship Jesus. If we tell Catholics not to put their traditions above the Word of God then lets not put our traditions above the Word of God. Let’s not make a religion out of bashing other people’s beliefs and churches. Let’s make a religion out of lifting up Jesus!

You may study and discuss this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

The Type of Kingdom That Lasts Forever

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Daniel 2:1-48 is a prophecy that assures us God’s Kingdom is coming, and that it is coming soon. But that is not all it teaches. It also shows us the character of the people who make up God’s kingdom.

When the wise men could not tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream, Nebuchadnezzar orders all the wise men to be killed, and that included Daniel. When they went for Daniel this was the first he had heard about it and asked for time to tell the king his dream. When God showed Daniel the same dream the king had, notice Daniel’s response.

Then Daniel went in to see Arioch, whom the king had ordered to execute the wise men of Babylon. Daniel said to him, “Don’t kill the wise men. Take me to the king, and I will tell him the meaning of his dream.” Daniel 2:24 NLT

If I had been Daniel my first reaction would probably be to just get myself down to the king, tell him the dream and save my own neck! Not Daniel. His first reaction was to save the other wise men who were actually phony wise men. And so it is, that the wicked will never know how much they owe to the righteous for all the blessings they receive.

Remember when the disciples were with Jesus on that boat in the storm? They pleaded for Jesus to calm the storm and He did. When Jesus calmed the storm He did not just calm it for the disciples little boat. All the boats on the water in that storm enjoyed the peace and calm that the disciples requested.

It reminds me of a parable Jesus told about someone needing bread.

 “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.” Luke 11:5-8 NLT

The lesson here is not about persistence only. Jesus is telling us that God blesses our prayers when we are seeking to be a blessing to others. The person in the story is not just asking for bread for themselves. They are asking for bread to share with their friend. The disciples’ request on the stormy sea secured safety for everyone. Not just themselves.  Likewise Daniel’s prayer not only saved his life. It saved all the lives of the wicked wise men too. Now I wonder to myself. I realize these are Babylonian wise men, and it was actually the Persian leaders who had Daniel thrown in the Lion’s den, but is it possible that some of those men could possibly be some of the same men Daniel saved in Daniel 2? If so, then it shows us how God cares for us, even when we make ourselves vulnerable in caring for others.

Either way Daniel was being selfless in his prayer life and attitude towards others. His first concern was the wise men and not just saving his own neck. A careful Bible study of the image in Daniel 2, teaches us several things about the kingdom of God. It teaches us that while other nations rise and fall, that the kingdom of God will never fall. It is the only thing that is sure to last for ever. Spain won the world cup in 2010 but this year has already been eliminated. Fame and fortune is fleeting in this world. Even though the men tried to kill Daniel he was the lone survivor. Likewise while people try to destroy God’s kingdom, it is the only kingdom which endures forever.

 Those who are righteous will be long remembered. Psalms 112:6 NLT

Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor. The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away, their hopes thwarted. Psalms 112:9-10 NLT

Daniel 2 also teaches us that we are living in the days of the toes. The next event in this prophecy is the coming of God’s kingdom, and we can be sure, that just as accurately as every other kingdom in this prophecy has come and gone, that God’s kingdom is surely coming and will never end.

Just as importantly as the accuracy of the prediction about the nearness of the kingdom is the description of those who make up the kingdom. All who make up the kingdom of God will be like Daniel. People whose first thoughts, even in the face of death, is for the welfare of others and not just their own. People who have a prayer life that seeks to bless others and not just themselves. Those are the people who will last forever.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.

Are you a Prisoner of Circumstances or a Prisoner of the Lord?

I am writing today from the beautiful, yet slightly overcast, Tulsa Oklahoma area.
I am writing today from the beautiful, yet slightly overcast, Tulsa Oklahoma area.

Have you ever felt like you were a victim of circumstances? Due to lack of education or money you have missed opportunities? Maybe if you had not married right out of high school you could have explored the world instead of getting tied down. Now you are sacrificing your own dreams in order to create a better life for your family. Meanwhile someone else wishes they had married so they could be experiencing a family. Now those are examples of being a victim of your own choices and not necessarily circumstances beyond your own control. Other people feel like they were born victims.

Some blame the location of where they were born on how their lives turned out. Several years ago a friend came to visit me from South America. We were stopped at an intersection where a man was begging. My friend was amazed that their were poor people in the United States. She thought all Americans were wealthy. No matter where we come from or what our lot is in life, it is sometimes easy to see ourselves as victims of circumstances.

While I enjoy my freedom of being single, there are times I miss having a family. By the way, just because I am happy being single does not mean I have chosen to remain single. I am just happy being single until God brings me the right woman. I am not desperate. I am happily content. Anyway, I was talking to a friend the other day about one of the things I miss about not having my own family.  I miss having someone to share my story with. I don’t have a wife to share my school yearbook with and tell her my high school and college stories. I don’t have any children to tell my, “when I was a kid” stories to. Then again, I know married people who sadly, don’t have anyone in their family who wants to hear their story either.

My friend then made an amazing comparison. She told me while I have no family to share my stories with that I share them with my church family and extended family on my blog. She told me Paul was the same way. Maybe that is why he wrote so much and loved his church so much, because, having no immediate family, the church was his love and passion and he wrote sharing his story and testimony with them. Maybe that is why he wrote so much! Now I have no doubt Paul wrote because God told him to, and I write too (While I do not share Paul’s inspiration or authority) because God places things on my heart. But it got me to thinking about Paul’s circumstances and one thing I have always noticed.

While being persecuted and in prison Paul never thought of himself as a victim of circumstances. He never even though of himself as a victim of the Jews or Romans while in prison. Paul writes,

 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles..Ephesians 3:1

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you… Ephesians 4:1

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner:2 Timothy 1:8

Paul never refers to being a prisoner of the Romans or Jews. He does not talk about being a prisoner of circumstances. Even while in prison Paul saw himself as a prisoner of the Lord! He knew he was right exactly where God wanted him to be. Paul did most of his writing from prison. If he had been free to travel and talk to people in person, he would not have written so much, and we would not have had all of his writings preserved in the New Testament that we have today. Paul was well aware of how an angel freed Peter from prison. Paul was well aware of how Philip just disappeared from one place and appeared in another. Paul knew that the iron bars and soldiers were not really holding him there. He knew he was right where God needed him to be, so he calls himself a prisoner of the Lord instead of a prisoner of man or circumstances.

I have a friend who recently took a job that she was well over qualified for. Based on her education and degree she should be somewhere else making much more money. She may have even faced ridicule from her friends and family for “lowering” herself to take this job, but where she is living, and based on other “circumstances” this was the best she could do for now. However she never complains. Instead she tells me of the people she meets there who need Jesus, that she never would have been able to reach out to if she was not working with them. They never would have come to her church. She never would have met them working anyplace else. She is glad she is where she is because she is being used by God to reach people who need Him! And really isn’t that where we all should be?

No matter where we are born and raised and work, our real home is in heaven and we are just missionaries to this world, sent from God to share the good news with others. Some of us may be missionaries in places of poverty. Some of us may be missionaries in our families, or if we have no immediate family then in our church family and communities. Some of us may be missionaries in difficult work places, and some of us may be missionaries in literal prisons. Either way we are not prisoners of circumstances. If we love God and have chosen to serve Him, we are only prisoners of the Lord.

You can study this week’s SS lesson here.