What Would Our Lives Be

Background Passage: I Samuel 16:7

Dallan Forgaill, a sixth century Christian poet from Ireland, penned the words to Rob Tú Mo Baile in Old Irish. The poem proclaims a message that has endured for more than a millennium. Legend says that Dallan, a nickname which literally means “little blind one,” lost his sight as a young man because he studied so long and so intensely.

Through the years, monks used his poem as part of the liturgy of the church, it’s words deeply meaningful. More than 1,100 years later in 1905, the poem was finally translated for the first time into English by noted linguist Mary Elizabeth Byrne and adapted as a hymn seven years later by Eleanor Hull. We know the song as Be Thou My Vision.

I came across this version of a song I’ve heard all my life and was reminded again of how often deep spiritual truth is conveyed through words and melody. Too often we see those around us…value them…based upon how they live and what they look like. The lyrics of this song speak to the way Christ sees past the outward circumstances and external appearance straight into the heart. I Samuel 16:7 spells it out with supreme clarity.

Samuel stood confused as God rejected all the brothers of David as king and instructed the priest to anoint David instead, the youngest and smallest among them. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

This rendition of Be Thou My Vision, performed by Eden’s Bridge, a Christian band whose harmonies align well with elements of Celtic music, expresses the profound faith of one whose heart’s desire longs to life unfold through the eyes of Christ. As you listen to the melody, take note also of the lyrics:

“Be thou my vision.” What would it mean to our lives if we looked at the world around us with the eyes of Christ? How would it change the way we treat each other? The love of Christ is unconditional. Love that looks beneath a sometimes ugly surface and sees the heart’s deepest need. A love that sees the deepest need of our fellow man and acts redemptively in that person’s life. The song reminds us when the Lord of our hearts opens our eyes and becomes our best thought of the day his presence can light up the dark places that hide the inner hearts of those around us. Imagine how differently we might think and act.

“Be thou my wisdom.” What would it mean to our lives if we let our thoughts be God’s thoughts? His wisdom our wisdom? How would it change our actions and deeds if we allowed the Holy Spirit to dwell with us every hour of every day? Imagine the struggle we could avoid and the hurt we might no longer cause ourselves and others if we relied on his wisdom instead of our own.

“Be thou my armor.” Amid the onslaught of the world’s temptations, what would it mean to our lives if we stood in the strength of God, allowing his presence in our lives to shield us from the traps into which we stumble and fall? To protect us from the evil we too readily accept in our lives? Imagine what it would mean to us and those we love if we rested daily in the power of Christ?

“Be thou my treasure.” What would it mean to our lives if we spent less time worried about gathering the riches of the world or the praise of others and banked instead on the heavenly inheritance of grace that comes when we accepted Christ as savior? How different would our lives be if we stored up the treasures of heaven rather than the riches of the world? Imagine the freedom that comes from the absence of worry about material things that really don’t matter.

“Be thou my victory.” If we saw the world through the eyes of Christ, victory in life is ours. The joy and contentment only he provides is ours. The eternity he promises is ours. And, nothing that happens in this world, nothing anyone does to you, changes any of that.

“Be thou my vision.” I know. Allowing Christ the kind of access into our hearts to enable us to see the world through his eyes is easier said than done. We fight it so. But, what would our lives be and how would our lives change if we made this song our prayer as we wake each morning?

“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.”

Through God’s Eyes

Background Passage: Ephesians 1:18-19

As the story goes, Cambridge University hosted a debate between a learned science professor, a self-declared atheist, and a Christian pastor. The professor offered his reasoning for asserting God “existed” only as a figment of human imagination. Grounded in rationale thought and scientific understanding, the professor offered that no rationale human being could look at the universe and believe in a Creator God, much less one active in the world.

The Christian pastor countered with a quick argument. Getting the professor to acknowledge that there is still much in the world that science and rationale thought cannot explain, the pastor suggested that it might be possible that God exists within that body of knowledge yet unknown. That someday man might discover through rationale thought and scientific understanding that God does indeed exist. The Christian pastor claimed victory when the scientist agreed to that possibility.

It makes a good story, I suppose, but a God that can be explained by some unknown data set, seems somehow less…Almighty or Sovereign. To prove God’s existence using some aspect of human understanding seems to me to thwart the purpose and power of faith.

Noted theologian C. S. Lewis, sadly no relation, offered a statement in his work entitled, Is Theology Poetry? that hit the nail on the head. He wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Lewis embraced faith over fact because his belief transformed the way he saw the world. Faith internalized and deeply held allows us to see the world around us, and the people within it, through God’s eyes. And that, I feel, is a significantly different world view that seen by those who live without a personal faith in Christ.

Given the chaotic and confused condition of life in the 21st century, we need our faith, our Christianity, our ability to see the world through the eyes of God, to make sense of things. How is a child of God to react when the world around us chooses to confront rather than console? To argue rather than understand? To divide rather than embrace? To hate rather than love?

If we see the world and all within it are, through the lens of the true faith, we accept that we carry an incredible responsibility to live as Christ lived. Instead of taking part in the divisive dialogue, we should encourage one, through our witness and walk, to console. To understand. To embrace. To love as Christ loved us.

The sun’s light illuminates all that we see. Because it does, we know it is real. The Son’s light reveals the world to us in its splendor and its ugliness. We can share its splendor, unleashing its beauty so it can shine in the face of ugliness. If we choose to live in him, we can see the world as he does—using the extraordinary vision with which he blessed us to bridge the distance between the Lord who loves and lost and lonely among us.

I have to admit the world I see today is a shadowy place, filled with uncertainty and chaos. Though I try to see through my Father’s eyes, I have a hard time wrapping my head around hatefulness. Lewis said it is his faith in Christ that opens his eyes. Paul took it a step further when he prayed for the believers in Ephesus.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19.

Without God’s corrective vision, I look at the world and feel…hopeless. Paul tells me it can be different if I let God adjust or enlighten the eyes of my heart. When I can see the world through his eyes, I find hope and purpose.

Scotty Smith, pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN, writes a blog for The Gospel Coalition. He summed it up better than I ever could in this prayer to God.

“…this text makes a ton of sense to me. Apart from the work of your Spirit and the corrective lens of the gospel, it will be impossible for me to see what you intend for me to see with awe-producing clarity. So, indeed, Lord, open the eyes of my heart. Heal my shortsightedness, my far sightedness and the astigmatism of my soul. I want to see all things from your perspective, including the hope to which you have called us. To see with the eyes of hope means that I will be able to discern your heart and hand at work everywhere.”

I particularly like that last sentence. When we see through the eyes of our Christian faith, the eyes of hope, we can see God at work in all things. We see with awe-producing clarity our place in his redemptive work. Understanding that, I no longer see this world as an ugly place. It is a field ripe for the harvest.

Let Your Light Shine

Background Passages: Matthew 5:14-16, Proverbs 16:7, and John 16:33

As a child, my parents took us to Carlsbad Caverns. The natural formation descending into the New Mexico prairie was an impressive sight to an eight-year-old. Walking into the cave and among the stalactites and stalagmites, it felt as though I walked in an alien world.

A one point in the guided tour, the park ranger gathered everyone around and turned out the lights. I don’t remember seeing anything so dark as that moment. It was pitch black painted on ebony. I will admit now what I never admitted then. It was frightening. After about 30 seconds of absolute darkness that seemed far longer, he lit a candle. One single candle penetrated the darkness that surrounded us, casting a welcoming glow across the cavern. He then lit the candle held by another ranger and they, in turn, lit candles held by the adults on the tour. By the time all the candles were burning, it was as bright as day…at least to this frightened eight-year-old.

What a metaphor for the power of God’s light in a world smothered in darkness!

We live in an angry and bitter world filled with voices attempting to draw us into a personal and political conflict, baiting us with hateful words saturated with images of a dark world no one wishes to see. Neither side of the issues we face are innocent of the confrontational atmosphere that pervades our conversations and our messages in social or mainstream media. Spiteful words sow the field of discontent. As a result, personal relationships, many of which had lasted a lifetime, litter the trash heap.

Sadly, many in the Christian community get sucked into the vortex and react in ways that surely make our Father wince in pain. How are we to respond when our beliefs, whether religious, personal or political, fall under attack? What is the Christian response to the darkness that surrounds us? I came across three verses this week that seemed to answer those questions for me.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden, nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

We are called to be a light to the world. It is an expectation…a given. When we accept Christ as our savior, he expects us to live by his standards, obedient to his teaching. He expects us to be stand out from the crowd as a living example of godliness and goodness. We are light to the world when our good works, the things we think, say and do, reflect the glory of the Father… candle that sheds its light and offers its hope. When all Christians behave in that manner, darkness doesn’t stand a chance.

Then in Proverbs 16:7, the wisdom writer says, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

Hateful speech drives a wedge between us. Kindness binds the wound. A man’s ways can only please the Lord when he is living a Christ-centered life–faithful, just and charitable. If that is the life one lives, the world is captivated by the visible testimony of gentleness, empathy and understanding. It is hard to remain angry with someone who listens, who goes the extra mile to serve, who treats others with sincere respect and who loves unconditionally as Christ loved the world. The proverb speaks to the far-ranging influence of goodness—how it inspires friendship and love, offers no grounds for argument, disarms even the most vocal opponent and spreads an atmosphere of peace and understanding. These are reconciling actions we should bring to the world

We are reconciled with those who stand against us only when we are first reconciled to God. When we live the life he requires of us, we cannot remain angry and bitter. When we live the life he requires, even those who believe and behave differently than us, find common ground and find it difficult to stay angry and bitter.

Dealing with a world that is often at odds with Christian beliefs is an important part of life; an important part of our witness. When we treat others right, peace among us is usually the natural response. But, there is more power behind our actions than our own ability to bring about understanding. God blesses our most challenging relationships if we live within his will. Our behavior can certainly mitigate the anger of others, but God can also be at work in the lives of those we encounter to calm the anger within their own hearts.

Peace in our relationship with others sprouts from our own righteousness–not in our hostility, nor our acts of reprisal. Godly living pleases both God and men, but hatefulness fosters more anger, more bitterness. To be that light in the darkness we must live and act in ways that please God.

The final verse I read stands as a promise to all believers weary of the discord that surrounds us. To those of us struggling to find hope in an environment of increasing hopelessness. Jesus shared a needed message with his disciples at a time when they were filled with despair and he shares the same message with us.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

If the world falls deeper into despair this week, burn as a light amid the darkness. Make your life a reflection of Christ. If your light doesn’t seem bright enough, rest in the peace that God offers his children, secure in the promise that whatever hold the darkness has upon us today is temporary. He has overcome and, in his arms, so will we.

Keep your candle burning.

The Gilded Cathedral

Background Passages: Matthew 23:25-28; James 2:14-18

My wife and spent the last two weeks celebrating our 40th anniversary on a Baltic Sea cruise. We started with a side trip to Spain before boarding a ship in London for Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Russia, Finland and Belgium. As with most of these European vacations, every stop featured palaces, castles and cathedrals.

I stood before each church and cathedral awestruck by the size and scope of the construction, thinking about how the architects of old created inspiring buildings worthy of God’s presence. Today, these massive facades still rise high above the surrounding neighborhoods, dominating city skylines with ornate spires and mammoth domes that reach toward heaven. Intricate carvings covering the face of each cathedral serve as silent and lasting testimony to the skill of the collection of artisans who spent centuries, in some cases, creating these magnificent houses of worship.

As I stepped inside and allowed my eyes to adjust to the dim lighting within, I marveled at the invaluable artwork that filled each sanctuary, drawing my attention always forward toward the marbled and gilded altars. I find it difficult to wrap my arms around the wealth represented in the gold-plated structures filling these halls.

A thought dawned on me as I stood in the back of the nave of St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia, staring at the gilded altar rising to the ceiling. Inching my way through the milling throng of tourists snapping pictures, jabbering nosily, jockeying for position to catch a glimpse of whatever the tour guide highlighted, I felt a profound sense of loss. I stood in a magnificent house of worship, yet nothing about the chaotic atmosphere within resembled worship.

I sincerely appreciate the beauty and boldness of these magnificent churches, even though the opulent style challenges my simpler tastes. The beauty is wasted when you realize that few of the cathedrals offered more than the occasional worship service. Most served only a secular function, reflecting the history of time gone by. Museums to extravagance. Mausoleums for a faith dying of apathy.

Statistics tell us that the Christian faith in Europe has been on a steady decline for decades. Fewer than 10 percent of the populations in Norway, Denmark and Finland attend church regularly. Those who profess a faith in Christ stand in absolute minority among the citizens of Scandinavia and northern Europe. Did the extravagance of the buildings contribute in any way to the decline in faith, or was it something more personal?

As I sorted through my distress over the decline of faith and the emptiness of these sanctuaries of worship, I recalled an encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees late in his ministry. The conversation was one of Jesus’ most direct and confrontational messages to the religious leaders of his day.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence…You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” –Matthew 23:25-28

With those words Jesus reminds me that the decline of faith evident in Europe and in our own country has far less to do with the physical appearance of our buildings than it does the spiritual application of my heart. Jesus reminds me that I can play the part, speak the words, construct a beautiful façade as I proclaim myself a Christian, and still my heart beats as empty and devoid of worship as those amazing cathedrals. I can gild myself in gold, putting up a grand façade, but never demonstrate God’s love to a lost and dying world.

Cathedrals and churches echo with emptiness across the world because our deeds do not match our faith. James spoke to this.

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But some will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” –James 2:14-18

Sadly, I’m sure there are times when those men and women searching for answers to faith’s questions see me as a gilded cathedral. An empty shell hiding behind a gilded face. Christ-like in outside appearance, but without the deeds to back it up. Such is the height of hypocrisy.

A cathedral without worship is a museum. Faith without works a mausoleum. How much better would it be for us to be plain an unattractive to the world, but open to God’s presence as we serve and minister to his people?

At the end of the day, these beautiful cathedrals sit idle because the people forgot what it meant to serve. Forgot what it meant to invest themselves in the lives of those they encountered. Our modern churches run the risk of becoming silent witnesses to our dying faith unless those of us who profess Christ act faithfully on his behalf in service and ministry to those we encounter today and tomorrow.

For the sake of our country and our faith, I pray we’re up to the task.

When Christmas Is Over

The Christmas story of the Bible remains one of the world’s most cherished stories for more than one-third of the world’s population. Those of us who celebrate the birth of Jesus reflect upon its meaning, using the day as a reminder of God’s plan and purpose to bring the world back into relationship with him by sending is Son.  It is far too easy for many of us to revel in the birth of the child and forget that God expects more from us.

What do we do after we read that beautiful story for the last time this year? After we snuff out the Advent candles? After we sing the last carol? After we dismantle the Nativity scenes? What change does it bring to our lives? What do we do after we celebrate the birth of the Christ child?

The Christmas story does not end with the birth of Jesus. Once the baby is born, the story and its impact should serve as a catalyst for God’s power in our lives. What should we do when Christmas is over? We need look no farther than the scripture recorded in Luke 2.

Consider the Parents. The baby promised by the angel was born under those most unusual circumstances , but afterwards,  the new family settled into a routine in Bethlehem, awed daily by the presence of the baby Mary and Joseph held in her arms. Six weeks after baby is born the parents take Jesus five miles to Jerusalem at the required time of purification, commending their first born son to the service of God.

In this we learn our first lesson of Christmas. Joseph and Mary ensured that Jesus started out on the right foot by dedicating him to God from the beginning, the start of a process of “training him up in the way he should go.” So, after we celebrate the birth of Christ, it is a time of recommitting ourselves to God’s service, repaying him for the greatest gift we will ever receive by dedicating ourselves to his will and way. Rededicating ourselves to the worship of our Father.

Consider Simeon.  This “devout and righteous” man of God had been told by the Holy Spirit that the Messiah would come during his lifetime. As he entered the Temple and stumbled upon the purification ceremony for this little baby boy, he knew in his heart that he was looking at the one God had sent to bring salvation to the world. His response was simple (Luke 2:28)…

“Simeon took him in his arms and praised God.”

As Simeon holds on the God’s Son, we experience our second lesson of the season. The days after Christmas ought to be a time when we embrace God’s Son and declare our praise to God for the salvation he offers, not just on that day, but every day. Give him the proper place of prominence in our lives. Hold on to him during the good and difficult times as the sources of our strength.

Consider Anna. This elderly widow worshiped at the Temple day and night, devoting her life to God. Her love for God evident to those who entered the Temple court. Heard her prayers. Listened to her proclaim truth she had been taught. On the day of purification, she was drawn to the young couple holding a little boy. As she heard their story and listened to Simeon’s pronouncement, she believed with all her heart that the child before her was the Messiah. Luke 2:36-36 tells us what she did…

“She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Anna’s lesson is a reminder that we are to be so thankful for the presence of Jesus that we bear witness to those around us of his saving grace, giving testimony to the difference he has made in our lives. Serving him with faithfulness no matter where we live. No matter what we do. To be God’s voice. God’s hands. God’s heart in a troubled world.

Consider Jesus. Born to human parents, but also divine. God’s Son. It’s a hard concept to grasp. So much of it we accept by faith. Jesus may have been born with God’s DNA, but understand the full measure of what it meant to be Savior did not come instinctively. He learned. When he turned 12-years-old, Jesus journeyed to the Temple with his parents. Look at Luke 2:41-52, where we find Jesus…

“spending his time sitting among the teachers,  studying scripture and asking questions…” Learning more about “his Father’s business.” Eventually, he returned with his parents to Nazareth where…“Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.”

Understanding our relationship to God and his will for our lives is not implanted naturally into our DNA just because we are born to Christian parents or attend church regularly. Our understanding of what God requires of us comes from following Jesus’ lead. We learn. We grow. We “spend time sitting among the teachers, studying scripture and asking questions.” In the end, our desire is to grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.

*

Christmas ends. When that last Nativity gets put in its box and stacked in the closet, we can forget its meaning and live our lives ignoring the demands of discipleship,  or we can…

Consider the Parents. Commit ourselves and our lives to God.  Every hour. Each day.

Consider Simeon. Embrace the Son, not just for the holidays, but each and every day. Praise God for sending his Son as our Savior.

Consider Anna. Give thanks for God’s goodness and bearing witness to all we encounter about everything he has given to us.

Consider Jesus. Live as he lived, growing in our understanding of God’s will for our lives and putting into practice all God reveals to us each day.

There is life after Christmas. As we approach the New Year and its resolutions, let’s recognize that Christmas never ends. Rather, it stands as a time of recommitment and rededication as we pursue life worth living.

May you and your family enjoy all of God’s grace and wisdom in the year to come.

The Good Fight

Background Verses: Ephesians 6:12-18, 2 Timothy 4:7, 2 Timothy 2:2-3;

There is no question that the Christian faith is under attack across the world. Brutal persecution of Christians exists in regions of the world dominated by militant Islamic bullies. Often it feels as if too little is being done to protect those helpless, in a physical and political sense, to defend themselves.

While it in no way compares to the persecution Christians face from these extremists, it seems the Christian faith is being pushed into a corner by an American public policy that places parameters on personal and corporate worship, by the nation’s legal system that has broadened the court’s reach into matters of faith and heart and media’s penchant for encouraging controversy for controversy sake.

Yet, I wonder at times if the real and perceived erosion of religious liberty is not also an outgrowth to our strident and un-Christlike reaction to the current political and social climate. Extremist reactions from both sides of the debate drive a wedge between us, forcing us to choose sides in a battle that no one wins.

Scripture tells us in Ephesians 6: 12-18 we will face a battle against all things that run counter to the teachings of Christ. Paul encourages us to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.” In the battle we must wrap ourselves in truth, righteousness, readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace, shielded by faith, equipped with the Spirit and Word of God.

If we face a continual battle, then it is not a question of whether we fight, but how we fight. Do we fight fire with fire and retaliate with the same negative name-calling directed against us, or do we, as Paul decalred in 2 Timothy 4:7, “fight the good fight” by keeping the faith and “enduring the hardship as a good soldier of Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).

The battle we wage as Christians must look different that the war waged by the world. Look at Ephesians 4:31-5:2.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God…and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…”

A recent Facebook recently shared a video produced by The Piano Guys. It was a beautiful instrumental mix of Fight Song by Dave Bassett and Rachel Platten and Amazing Grace.

I doubt the lyrics of Fight Song were never intended to teach spiritual truth. Yet, the context of the song teaches that a small action on our part can create a great movement. That a single word can change a heart. That one spark can cause an explosion. The power we hold in our hands and hearts is not in the strident screaming of outrage at a world that pushes against what we believe and hold dear. The power comes when we let go of the rage and live a life of love.

A life of love is not a passive acceptance of the world’s antipathy, but an active fight…a good fight. As such, the chorus to Platten’s song speaks to the depth of commitment to engage in that good fight.

My power’s turned on.
Starting right now I’ll be strong.
I’ll play my fight song.
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes,
I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.

Therein is where the musical mix created by The Piano Guys resonates. The power turned on within us derives from the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives. Amazing Grace is our fight song. We win this battle, not with aggressive animosity toward those who do not understand, but by proclaiming the amazing grace of God that is the world’s unclaimed gift.

Listen to the music. I hope it rekindles the fight within you.

It is a good fight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOO5qRjVFLw 

Source: The Searcher

A Unsung Prayer Warrior

Background Verses: Colossians 1:7-8 and 4:12-13

All of us struggle with weighty decisions from time to time. Those issues that tend to keep you awake at night. Whether matters of the heart, matters of health or matters of the soul, we find comfort when we know there are friends and family praying for us. I cannot tell you how many times in my life I have found an element of peace after being told by a friend that they have lifted me up in prayer.

Last night I found myself reading through Colossians within that frame of reference. Here is a first-century church, a group of people from diverse backgrounds, Greek and Jew, master and slave, rich and poor, gathering regularly in someone’s home to hear the gospel proclaimed and to be taught how they should live as followers of Christ in a world that follows a very different moral compass…a church struggling to stay on the right path when those among them are preaching and teaching a tarnished truth blending convenient portions of pagan, Jewish and Christian teaching into a hybrid belief system lacking substance.

Yet, there are good people in the church, trying desperately to hang on to what they have been taught and what they believe. They’re hanging on while their faithful pastor Epaphras serves in Rome offering love and support to an imprisoned Paul, Christianity’s foremost missionary.

Imagine the Christians in Colossae, gathering quickly at a friend’s home. They’ve just been told that Tychius and Mark, two men well-known in the region for their association with Paul and their pastor, have arrived in town bearing a letter from Paul. Men and women of faith gathering in anticipation.

Erastus ducked his head through the door,

out of breath from his dash across town.

Eyes darted from face to face,

Slapping a back in greeting.

Clasping hands with those

not seen since they last gathered for worship.

Many others already sat in boisterous conversation

around the walls of the tidy villa.

Permeating the room was an air of

Energy.

Excitement.

Expectation.

Across the crowded room,

quietly visiting with the man of the house…

Two men he had never met.

Known only by reputation.

Associates of

The Missionary.

Though they looked tired from their journey,

they laughed easily.

Comfortable in their companionship .

Bound together

with those in the room by the

fellowship of faith.

Introductions are made.

Greetings exchanged.

Tychicus,

the elder of the two men took a step back,

yielding to Mark,

 the younger of the two messengers.

Erastus liked him immediately.

No haughtiness.

No pretense.

A calm tone and quiet voice.

A warm smile that spoke volumes

and revealed his heart.

“I have a letter from Paul,” he said,

“and a word from your pastor.”

Mark began to read.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

when we pray for you because

we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus…

the love you have for all God’s people–

the faith and love that springs from the hope stored up for you in heaven…

The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world–

just as it has been doing among you

since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.

You learned it from Epaphras,

our dear fellow servant,

who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf,

and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.”

Erastus felt…

Edification.

Encouragement.

Erastus heard…

Warnings about the false doctrines that

wage war against their souls.

Words that inspired him to stand fast.

Hold true to what he had been taught.

 I have to believe Paul’s message met its intended purpose. False teachers had peppered them for months with a new doctrine that sounded right, but felt terribly wrong. Yet, the boldness of their arguments tempted them to abandon what they had been taught by their beloved pastor.

Those individuals who listened to the words read to them by Mark had to find reinforcement and reassurance in their fledgling faith.

Yet, as powerful as Paul’s words might have been, I can’t help but feel there was an unsung hero buried in the text of Paul’s letter. A name that captured their attention and strengthened their resolve by the simply sound of his name and the reminder of his love for them.

 The tone of Mark’s voice changed.

Clearly, the letter was drawing to a close.

Erastus had been lost in thought,

Staring at the floor.

His mind hearing,

but not locking on to the closing words

until the sound of a familiar name

jolted him from this thoughts.

“Epaphras, who is one of you and

a servant of Christ Jesus,

sends greetings.”

The men seated around him,

looked at each other and grinned.

The salutation was like balm on a sunburned back.

“Epahpras is always wrestling in prayer…

for you…

praying that you will stand firm in all the will of God,

mature and fully assured.

He is working hard for you.”

Erastus squared his shoulders.

Leaned back against the wall.

Closed his eyes.

Prayed for the kind of strength for which his pastor prayed.

Faith’s great turning point in his life.

Epaphras was a man of faith who loved his congregation. He saw them not simply as sheep to feed, but friends to love. A man who felt the burden of responsibility to develop their immature belief into a deep abiding faith that sustains. So, every day…every day…he lifted them up to the Father. Notice the words Paul used. “Always wrestling in prayer.” He never failed to remember his people in Colossae. The prayer was never casual, but deep and heartfelt.  Praying as if God might not hear unless his prayer sprung from his gut…fearful that if he did not intercede, God would not know how desperate their situation might be. Incessant. Insistent. Impassioned.

Not only did he pray frequently and deeply, but his prayer was specific. Not given to pious platitudes. The prayers were pointed…that they might “stand firm in all the will of God.” Continuing in their belief, finding in Him righteousness as a model for life; finding in Him strength as a mechanism to cope with any disinformation they might hear. Asking that they be…unwavering in their faith and their understanding of God’s grace and what he desires of them. That their faith might discern his perfect wisdom and desire for their lives. Instilling in them…the truth of what they believe and how that belief is translated into practice. Inspiring them to…demonstrate the courage of their conviction even in the midst of abuse and persecution.

I find value in the life of Epaphras, this unsung bible hero, who cared so deeply for the spiritual security of his friends and neighbors that his spirit groaned in passionate petition for his people. May I be blessed with that kind of prayer warrior lifting me up as I deal with life that God has laid before me. May I be that kind of prayer warrior for those I love and those I serve.

Source: The Searcher