Paul was a prisoner, yet despite his circumstances, he was overflowing with joy because he knew his suffering in house arrest was serving to "advance the gospel" (Philippians 1:12). Although Paul was allowed to live in a house, a member of the Praetorian guard watched him continually and he was actually handcuffed to that guard.
The Praetorian guards were palace guards hand-picked by August to protect the emperor. Due to their closeness to the Roman leadership, they exerted tremendous influence among people of all social groups. Imagine the influence Paul had on the Praetorian guard as day after day, for about two years, friends visited him at his home and Paul preached about the kingdom of God. Now imagine the influence the guard had on even the emperor himself.  I believe we can be confident that many of the guards became believers because of Paul's mention in chapter 4:22,
All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household.
God obviously knew the most effective strategy for advancing the gospel was Paul's imprisonment under house arrest. And then someone shares a revelation: Aren't we all metaphorically chained to someone?
This application changes everything for me. We've all heard the cliche: You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. It seems to me that we are metaphorically chained to our family. It may also be true of your spouse, co-workers, teachers, neighbors...But how do we use that influence? Or do we let it influence us?
I have to admit that I have not used my influence on family members that are difficult for me. I tend to use more of an approach of avoidance to make it through encounters. But that is far from what Paul did.
And what of the engineer? There is no greater metaphorical chain than marriage. Mostly that is good, but I seldom consider the influence I have on him. I mostly let him influence me. This has serious ramifications if he is having a bad week (as we all have). I often let his bad attitude infiltrate my demeanor and then I am not obeying the Word: "Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice," (Philippians 4:4). I must be careful in all relationships to build myself on the Rock foundation of the Word and then use my Holy Spirit filled life to influence those I am metaphorically chained to.
I know this is not easy. However, recall Isaiah 55:8,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
We may not want to be "chained" to certain people in our lives, but God will always use our circumstances (who we are chained to) to do His will and bring himself glory. We can't often control who we are chained to but we can change our actions and attitudes to make them obedient to Christ. All God requires is that we be faithful and available to Him to use us where He's placed us. And no matter where that is, we are to be His ambassadors
Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trepasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
We represent God. He sometimes pursues others through us, by using us in the lives of the people to whom we are "chained."


Memorizing the beatitudes, something has struck me that I've gnawed on for weeks:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Matthew 5:6
There is something in this teaching of Jesus' that I believe sets what should be a daily aim for believers. I think on these words individually, collectively. Blessed: possessing the favor of God, being marked by fullness from God, said of one who becomes a partaker of God's nature through faith in Christ (2 Peter 1:4). The believer now has the Holy Spirit within them and as a result should be fully satisfied no mater the circumstances.
Blessed = having God's kingdom within one's heart
Blessed is the one who is in the world yet independent of the world. His satisfaction comes from God and not from favorable circumstances. And notice that this blessed is already, past tense. If you hunger and thirst for righteousness right now, you're already blessed. (But hold on because there's something even greater coming.)
But what does it really mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness? I really want to be that woman. But how? What does that look like? First, hunger and thirst: I can't fully grasp what it is to be truly hungry.  But a craving for thirst is something I recall. I was driving home late one night so incredibly thirsty and no water in the car. I was thirsty when I began the trip and the three hour journey was as long as ever without water to quench my thirst. The engineer called to check on me a half hour from home, "I am so thirsty, all I can think about it getting home and drinking huge glasses of water." I had to admit that I was too stubborn to stop and buy some at a gas station (I really just wanted to get home to water and sleep). I recall that water was truly the only thing I could think about. And is that how I approach the righteousness of God? Is He the only thing I can think about?
I love David's song in Psalm 42:1-2,
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
If you go on to read the rest of Psalm 42, you'll see David crying out to God, admitting a downcast heart, a life in turmoil. But his resolve is to hope in God, to praise Him. David can do that because He has a insatiable thirst for God. He wants God more than a fix to his problems.
Now, contrast hunger and thirst with satisfaction: Longing and craving or complete contentment. On the day of perfection, my longing and craving for God's righteous claim on my life will be complete and I will be content, full if you will.
And what about the word righteousness? There is much to study and learn of this Greek word: dikaisune. I can not contain it all. But in brief understanding, I learn that the righteousness of God is the claim God has on man's life. This is a gift (Romans 3:24) and man must accept this gift of righteousness by having faith in Christ. God then simultaneously performs the miracle of making us new (2 Corinthians 5:17) and is constantly changing our character to make us like Christ.
Romans 2:13 declares that there is a set time in the future when the doers of the law will be declared righteous. I connect these passages and see that when that time comes (when I stand before God) I will be fully righteous (perfect) and completely satisfied.
So to be craving righteousness right now is to look ahead to the future on the day when perfection comes, to strive to become conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), to walk justly (Micah 6:8), to make God's priorities my priorities (Matthew 6:33), to meditate on & wrestle with understanding His Word (Psalm 119, Joshua 1:8) just to name a few.
So I see that this is now (blessed) but also future (for we will be satisfied). What a gracious (gift-giving) God we have who loves us so much that He would bless us now and completely satisfy us when we meet Him face to face.

In what ways do you think we should we should be hungering and thirsting for righteousness?

More than enough grace

I'm fatigued. Long week. Sleepover. Dirty house. Tired. Crabby. I hope someone can relate to this position in motherhood. "Mom....Mom...Mom...can I? I'm hungry. Where's the..." "I'm in the bathroom. Can I have some peace and quiet in the bathroom, please?" I yell from a closed door. Returning to lunch duty in attempt to fill hungry bellies, the compassionate one says, "We should make a rule, you can't bug someone when they're in the bathroom." And then God gets my hold of my crabby attitude and says to my heart "Stop it!" as she continues on, "This is really weird. But at the bathroom. That's where I feel closest to God. It's really weird, but I talk to Him there." And I see it for what it is instantly: a gift! The gift of an eight-year old opening her heart to a mother.
"Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?"( The crabby, tired, snappy mother.) "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ..." Romans 7:24-25.
I wish I could claim that I immediately snapped out of my crabby attitude. I didn't, but a nap helped. But if God gives me such beautiful gifts even though I am a wretched soul...what great gifts await me in Heaven, when I am made completely perfect, able to worship Him without hinderance? Praise be to God for the gifts given me...His over and beyond anything grace! (2 Corinthians 9:14-15)
In Chapter of 9 of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he's giving the Corinthians a heads up on a giving opportunity and teaching them about giving. In my times studying this prior, I have thought about the giving of financial gifts, but now reflecting on this incident, I see it in light of a mother giving gifts of time, compassion, comfort and training to her children. In verse 5, Paul wants them to be ready to give "a willing gift, not as an exaction," (expecting something in return). Fatigued as a mother, I sometimes selfishly think, "When is it my time? When do I get?" But as Paul says, we are to give our time and efforts as a parent expecting nothing in return. We are urged to not be people of give and then take.
"Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly," (verse 6) reminds me that I need to heavily invest in my goldenheads. My heart must be in the right place, as verse 5 teaches, willingly, but in addition to this, I will get my reward--in God's time, for "God loves a cheerful giver," (verse 7). And during this time of giving to my family, "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things in all times, you may abound in every good work," (verse 8.) He will generously provide all I need for my physical strength, sanity, emotionally, in all things at all times. Paul repeats all four times in that verse. He is sufficient in all!
And again in verse 11, I am reassured that I will be "enriched in every way to be generous in every way." I can be sure that God does not call me to a task which is too big, great or difficult for me to handle. And even this comes with a promise that His enriching me will make the goldenheads thankful, someday, if not today.
By persevering in motherhood and investing in the girls I am supplying the needs of  the saints (verse 12)...the needs of the goldenheads. And in their eventual thanksgiving, that will bring glory to God.
And finally in verse 14, Paul talks about the "surpasssing grace of God" upon the Corinthians. I note that surpassing is a verb and means

1) to surpass in throwing, to throw over or beyond any thing
2) to transcend, surpass, exceed, excel
3) excelling, exceeding.

God's grace is a gift that causes joy, given freely, without reason or cause for it. I don't deserve His work and enriching power in my life but He gives it because He chooses to and in addition, He gives it actively, continually over and beyond what I could muster up in my own energy and effort.
I am not perfect, but I am continually empowered by the perfect Creator, the giver of life. I concur with the apostle Paul in verse 15, "Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!"