The apostle Paul indirectly mentions the expression “no matter what” in his letter to the Church at Rome, Romans 5:8. While human beings were still sinning based upon the harsh reality of Romans 3:23, God sent Jesus to be a perfect lamb to die to pay the penalty for our sins. This is the topic which inspired Kerrie Robert’s song No Matther What. Like the words of Jesus to a sarcastic first century Pharisee, God sent His one and only Son to save the world, not condemn it.
The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance, 2 Peter 3:9.
One of Jesus’ disciples writes a similar message to Christians scattered throughout the world following Nero’s persecution. The earthly brother of Jesus agrees with this, suggesting that it’s never too late to confess your sins, James 5:16-20. I was taught in college to hate the sin but love the sinner. Peter experienced this compassion following his public denial of Jesus after his arrest. While no one is worthy of God’s forgiveness and grace, the Lord is faithful to those who humbly confess their shortcomings.
Tasha Layton first emerged on the Christian music scene in 2019 with her hit song Love Lifting Me. Yet, it wasn’t until 2022 when I first discovered Tasha. One of my best friends had a daughter who was going through a difficult period in life. Since I’m on You Tube daily, he asked me if I could pass along as many encouraging songs as I could find. This search led me to uncover Look What You’ve Done.
I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who [g]infuses inner strength into me; I am [h]self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency], Philippians 4:13.
If there is one individual who was truly transformed in the Bible, its Saul from Tarsus. Saul’s background as a Pharisee led him to persecute the church and oversee the death of Stephen in Acts 7:59-60. On the Road to Damascus, Saul has an encounter with Jesus and is temporary blinded. However, by Acts 9 God does a miracle in Saul who changed his name to Paul to highlight what Christ has done in his life.
Joe Mantegna is best known for his role as David Rossi in Criminal Minds. While not part of the current cast, Mantegna first came to the forefront as detective Will Girardi in the series Joan of Arcadia. In the opening scene, Girardi is the new chief of police, taking over in Arcadia, a city full of corruption. As Mantegna confronts law breakers each episode, political pushback eventually results in losing his position. Despite being cast as a former altar boy in the Catholic Church, Mantegna’s character is an atheist who believes God is punishing him as he and his family face a series of ongoing trials.
But if, in our desire and endeavor to be justified in Christ [to be declared righteous and put in right standing with God wholly and solely through Christ], we have shown ourselves sinners also and convicted of sin, does that make Christ a minister (a party and contributor) to our sin? Banish the thought! [Of course not!] 18 For if I [or any others who have taught that the observance of the Law of Moses is not essential to being justified by God should now by word or practice teach or intimate that it is essential to] build up again what I tore down, I prove myself a transgressor, Galatians 2:17-18.
In the passage above, the apostle Paul references his previous life as a Pharisee, eager to adhere to a rigid and strict adherence to the Law of Moses. As the Church in Galatia is infiltrated by a religious sect known as the Judaizers, Paul warns these new Christians not to force Gentile converts to conform to Jewish traditions. Paul clarifies how to placed in right standing with God. This isn’t accomplished through following a set of rules in the Old Testament. Rather, the only way to be set free from being convicted as a sinner on Judgement Day is by placing your faith and sole trust in Christ, Ephesians 2:8-9.
I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants. 20 So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [fervently]. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son [I no longer deserve to be recognized as a son of yours]! 22 But the father said to his bond servants, Bring quickly the best robe (the festive robe of honor) and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet, Luke 15:19-22.
The best example of being placed in right standing with God is a first century story shared by Jesus. This parable involves two sons, the younger who was tired of living at home. Bored and eager to get out on his own, this immature teenager wore down his father, giving into his demands. Like a freshman college student during their first semester, Luke’s word describe someone who wanted to be the life of the party. However, not long afterward this individual flunked out and became homeless, desperation sets in. Morally and spiritually bankrupt, this prodigal came to his senses. The prayer above is an outline for being placed in right standing with God.
Former boxer Evander Holyfield earned the nickname the Real Deal. Part of the promotion and success of boxing involved putting on a good show. Pre-fight press conferences gave opponents the opportunity to talk smack, trash talking to encourage more viewers to tune into the actual fight. Former promoter Don King was infamous for staging brawls, emotional outbursts and scuffles to make headlines in the sports worlds. When it was time to fight, Holyfield is the only four-time world heavyweight champion. Thus, Holyfield’s words matched his talent.
But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I protested and opposed him to his face [concerning his conduct there], for he was blameable and stood condemned. 12 For up to the time that certain persons came from James, he ate his meals with the Gentile [converts]; but when the men [from Jerusalem] arrived, he withdrew and held himself aloof from the Gentiles and [ate] separately for fear of those of thecircumcision [party], Galatians 2:11-12.
In the Bible, the apostle Paul took his zealous past as a Pharisee and applied this toward his Christian faith. Paul didn’t make any exceptions, calling out disciples of Jesus when their actions didn’t reflect their faith. During a visit to Galatia, Paul noticed that Peter began to backslide, altering his belief about Gentile Christians. A religious sect known as the Judaizers attempted to add Jewish practices to salvation. Afraid of their influence within Galatia, Peter withdrew from his Gentile friends, succumbing to peer pressure.
And the rest of the Jews along with him also concealed their true convictions and acted insincerely, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy (their example of insincerity and pretense). 14 But as soon as I saw that they were not straightforward and were not living up to the truth of the Gospel, I said to Cephas (Peter) before everybody present, If you, though born a Jew, can live [as you have been living] like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how do you dare now to urge and practically force the Gentiles to [comply with the ritual of Judaism and] live like Jews? – Galatians 2:13-14
When I read the Bible, there is a tendency to elevate first century Christians to elite status. Yet, as the apostle Paul writes in the passage above, human nature influences everyone. Saints are not immune to temptation as the man nicknamed the rock wasn’t strong enough to stand up to the pressure to conform. This chapter of Galatians serves as a spiritual survey to see if you are the Real Deal or if you still have a long way to go? May you take any current failure, imperfection or mistake as an opportunity to improve by growing closer to Jesus.
It doesn’t take much for a coach, parent or teacher to get under a teenager’s skin. Sometimes the tone chosen is demeaning. Others come across as pompous or smug, alienating the individual they are talking to. Meanwhile, impatient adults have a tendency to take out their frustrations upon young people, creating an even greater generational gap. This disconnect proves that it’s not always what you say, but how you say it.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear, Ephesians 4:29.
When you are reading a book, sometimes the context of previous events isn’t a hundred percent clear. Thus, you are forced to go back to make sure you haven’t missed anything important. In the passage above, you have to understand who Saul was before he changed his name to Paul. This former Pharisee was a perfectionist, critical by nature, eager to point out flaws. Therefore, the words Paul choses serves as a reminder to himself and his leaders within the church at Ephesus to focus on the positive, not the negative.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:7.
While writing a letter to a teenager, Paul reveals an important truth about the Holy Spirit. Although the world tends to emphasize imperfections, staying optimistic isn’t impossible. Rather, one of the fruits of God’s spirit is self-control, the discipline to control your own tongue. The language you choose to express daily is a conscious decision. Unfortunately, many don’t realize the power of words. Every coarse joke, put down and sarcastic remark influences others in a negative manner. Therefore, make sure the next time you open your mouth, you think before speaking for it’s not what you say, but how you say it.
Ancient Greece memorialized their heroes by erecting statues of gods and goddesses throughout cities like Athens. When visitors passed through the streets, these monuments served as a reminder of their importance within the Greek culture. During a first century mission trip to this region, the apostle Paul took some time to explore before Silas and Timothy arrived. While waiting for his friends, Paul became overwhelmed by the images he observed. Despite being offended, Paul desperately sought to engage the citizens of Greece, searching for something, anything they shared in common.
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols, Acts 17:16.
Although Paul does not give an actual number of statues that he witnessed, it appears to be in the hundreds. As a former Pharisee, the zealot within him immediately thinks of these statues as idols, breaking the second commandment within the Torah, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them,” Exodus 20:4. However, the teaching of Jesus moved Paul to put a positive spin on what he saw, calling a crowd of Greeks religious. This compliment opens the door to allow Paul to introduce philosophers to the unknown God based upon an altar erected by a former citizen.
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you,” Acts 17:22-23.
Sure, every culture possesses something that is offensive. Whether this is a document, religious background or statue, history is meant to educate individuals, not divide citizens. The United States of America was founded on the principle of free speech earning the nickname back in the 1970’s as the great American melting pot. The first amendment of the Bill of Rights declares Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. This is what makes America great. However, if the citizens of this country allow government officials to destroy or remove historic statues of the past, there were will nothing to warn us from making the same mistakes. May the events of Charlottesville in August of 2017 help people see the real value of a statue.
There are a couple of ways to view the term unconscious. The most obvious refers to those who are knocked out, in a comatose state. Another relates to those who appear to be senseless without a conscience. The latter can seem to be heartless, unmoved by life altering events.
And Saul approved of their killing Stephen. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria, Acts 8:1.
A well known Pharisee of the first century could be described as unconscious. After overseeing the execution of the apostle Stephen, Saul goes on a mission to snuff out Christianity within the Jewish community. During this pursuit, Saul doesn’t seem phased by the death of Christians, like he get’s his jollies out of persecuting the faith community.
But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison, Acts 8:3.
Sometimes the events of every day life can harden hearts. While some may turn to depression, others can be filled by hatred. In fact, this may explain Saul’s words in his letter to the church of Ephesus. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold, Ephesians 4:26-27. If you want to avoid causing anger to poison your heart, soul and mind, take Saul’s advice. Just let it go or you too may become unconscious.