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. 

Glimpses of Grace; Grace and Providence

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In my work as a Bible Instructor, I find many people who have a chip on their shoulder, and harbor a grudge. They blame others for their own unhappiness. I do not see that with Joseph. Joseph takes control of his own happiness.  Once reunited with his brothers who sold him into Egypt he tells them, “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years [hath] the famine [been] in the land: and yet [there are] five years, in the which [there shall] neither [be] earing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. “Genesis 45:5-7

Did you catch that? God sent me here not you! Seriously, we give people too much credit sometimes. People cannot control our lives and emotions. God can!

While writing to the Ephesians from a Roman prison, Paul calls himself “the prisoner of the Lord.” Ephesians 4:1 Paul would not call himself a prisoner of Rome.  Paul was not about to give mere mortal man the credit for a master plan that only a God of infinite wisdom could come up with. Neither Joseph or Paul, would credit mere mortals with the power to control their lives. Both Joseph and Paul were exactly where they needed to be when God needed them to be there. What more could you ask for?

Even in prison Joseph and Paul both knew God had a wonderful plan for them that man could not detour.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God had a purpose for Joseph. Everything worked out for him to deliver many from the famine. For Paul, he was able to write much of the New Testament while in prison. If he had been free to speak face to face back then, he would not have needed to write the letters that have been preserved to inspire us today.

You too are destined for God’s grace! “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. “ Ephesians 1:5-6

If you are in the Tampa Bay area, I would like to invite you to experience this grace at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. If you are not in the area, you can find a grace filled church in your corner of the world by clicking here.

Garments of Grace; The Coat of Different Colors

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Download the SS quarterly to your cell phone here.

But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. Genesis 45:7 NIV-UK

As we take a look in this week’s SS lesson, on the life of Joseph, I would like to share something that I find very encouraging. While Joseph’s brothers treated him very badly, we see them make a complete change. They are repentant and converted. Joseph even refers to them in Genesis 45 as preserving a remnant? A remnant of what? Well in Revelation 7, Joseph’s family has characteristics that reflect God’s remnant church. Sure they had issues. In Revelation 3, God’s last day remnant church has issues as well. It is the only church of the seven churches that the True Witness has nothing good to say about! Yet Jesus calls this church to repent, and since there is no 8th church I have to believe that it does repent. Since Joseph’s family represents the remnant church, I believe they illustrate how God’s remnant people repent, and show us today what true repentance is.

Earlier, Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery in Egypt. They told their father he must have been attacked by a wild beast. This of course broke their father’s heart. Years later, when Joseph has made it to the throne of Egypt, his brothers come to buy food. Joseph tests them before revealing himself to them. His final test proves their repentance. Accusing Benjamin of being a spy and a thief, he attempts to lock him in prison. Benjamin is Joseph’s full brother, and son of the mother that Jacob truly loved and wanted to marry in the first place. The father did not want Benjamin to go on the trip after losing Joseph. Now, Joseph is threatening to put Benjamin in prison for spying and stealing. Read how Judah pleads to be thrown in prison instead. “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father.” Genesis 44:33-34 NIV-UK. Judah is showing true repentance. Earlier in Genesis 44 Judah explains how they broke their father’s heart when he lost his first son. Judah is saying that he has broken his father’s heart before, and he will not break his father’s heart again. In fact he would choose to die and rot in a prison cell before he would let his Father’s heart be broken again. So will God’s last day Laodicean people repent as well, when they say with all their heart, “We have broken our Father’s heart before, and we will not break His heart again!”

Acts of the Apostles-Paul a Prisoner

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 38.

This chapter is based on Acts 21:17 to 23:35.

The title of this chapter reminds me of a very simple lesson. In Ephesians 3:1 Paul writes;
 "I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus.." and in Ephesians 4:1 Paul Writes; "I therefore, 
the prisoner of the Lord.." Thus Paul did not recognize himself as a prisoner of the
Romans, or any man. Even though he was in prison he continued to serve the Lord, and 
understood that even in his chains he could do "all things through Christ." So today, 
I often visit with those who are in less than ideal family or career situations, or 
actually in prison. I remind them of what Paul wrote about being a prisoner of Christ
 and not of man. Just like Paul, regardless of whatever situation we are in, we can
 serve Christ and do all things through Him. If we have truly given our lives to Jesus,
 we will not see ourselves as "prisoners" of any man, but rather as prisoners of Jesus
 Christ. Like Paul, our lives are not in the hands of men, but in the hands that were
 nailed to the cross for our good. 
 
Imagine all the letters Paul wrote while in prison, that make up the New Testament.
 If he had been “free” he could have seen those people face to face instead of 
having to write letters. If that had been so though, we would be missing valuable 
instruction in the New Testament.
 
You can allow yourself to be a prisoner of circumstances or you too can be a
 prisoner of the Lord, and be free to be all He wants you to be.
You may find more devotionals and studies at In Light of The Cross.

Acts of The Apostles-In the Regions Beyond

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of The Apostles Chapter 21.

This chapter is based on Acts 16:7-40.

But while men were cruel and vindictive, or criminally negligent of the solemn responsibilities devolving upon them, God had not forgotten to be gracious to His servants. All heaven was interested in the men who were suffering for Christ’s sake, and angels were sent to visit the prison. At their tread the earth trembled. The heavily bolted prison doors were thrown open; the chains and fetters fell from the hands and feet of the prisoners; and a bright light flooded the prison.  {AA 215.1} 

This reminds me of a very simple lesson. In Ephesians 3:1 Paul writes; "I, Paul, 
the prisoner of Christ
Jesus.." and in Ephesians 4:1 Paul Writes; "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord.."
 Thus Paul did not 
recognize himself as a prisoner of the Romans or any man. Even though he was
 in prison he continued to serve the Lord, and understood that even in his 
chains he could do "all things
through Christ." So today, I often visit with those who are in less than 
ideal family or career situations or actually in prison, and I remind
them of what Paul wrote about being a prisoner of Christ and not of man. 
Just like Paul, regardless of whatever situation we are in, we can serve
Christ and do all things through Him. If we have truly given our lives to 
Jesus, we will not see ourselves as "prisoners" of any man, but rather as
prisoners of Jesus Christ. Like Paul, our lives are not in the hands of men,
 but in the hands that were nailed to the cross for our good.
 You may find for studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.