Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Did You Know?

I have two "did you know" statements to make today.

Did you know that Paul may not have stopped traveling after he arrived in Rome for the two years of his house arrest? The possibility of this is new to me. I have always thought that once Paul arrived in Rome he never left the place, that his days of traveling were over. But, in reading Chronological Study Bible I learned that there are ancient sources that report that Paul was released from the Roman imprisonment after his two years.

There is a church historian, named Eusebius, that dates Paul's death in A.D. 67. That places his passing four years after he was released from house arrest. This information explains how he traveled to Macedonia as mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:3 and Spain as mentioned in Romans 15:28. Interesting, don't you think?

The second "did you know" has to do with slavery in Biblical days, at least in the times of Rome. While the book Philemon has a lesson is forgiving those who deserve full punishment, it brought the subject of slaves to my attention. When I think of slavery I think of the cruel manner in which many of the slaves were treated in our country. They worked the land but owned nothing, and ate only what was portioned out to them. They could be beaten at will, whether deserved or not.

Looking further into ancient slavery I discovered a few things. If a Roman slave misbehaved, or escaped and then was returned, the slave could be beaten and tortured. Similar to what I mentioned above.  But on the upside, they could own property, including their own slaves. They could even buy their freedom from their master. If positioned in a house of wealth they could save money, buy their freedom and then with the help of their former master find a place in society. (This is according to Chronological Study Bible)

God did not condemn slave owners. He, however, addresses slaves as to their behaviors, see Paul's writing in Colossians 3:22-25. You see, slaves were a part of how life functioned in those days. Matthew 18:23-35 and 25:14-28 give us a glimpse into some of the freedoms and responsibilities that slaves, servants in the KJV versions, had in the days of the Bible. 

Those are my little tidbits for the day.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Olympic Conflicts

There are so many things I love about the Olympics. It probably starts with the number of competitions I would otherwise not view on the TV. And, every four years I'm introduced to a new sporting event. Then there's the tear-jerking back stories on athletes from around the world that help us to cheer on many competitors in their final drive for the finish line.

With a few exceptions the athletes appear to have respect for the skill of those they compete against. What does break the "spirit of the games" is when an athlete or coach must file a complaint with the judges or referees. Unfortunately, over the years a sense of bias has played into some of the decisions made. But, this isn't the conflict I want to mention. 

The conflict rolling around in my mind started at the end of the Opening Ceremony. I didn't get to see it from the beginning but I did get to see the lighting of the torch. The magnificent sculpture has to be the most beautiful display of the Olympic fire that I have ever seen. And as the fire works went off around and above the top of the stadium the screen shot switched to the birds' eye view of the statue of Jesus in the foreground with the stadium down below.

The commentators on many occasions have mentioned that the people can look up from any location and see the statue of Jesus with His arms spread out ready to receive the people. The camera often ends a segment by showing the Olympic stadium from the birds' eye view with the statue in the foreground. It's a great picture.

As I looked at the screen shot I got to thinking. Isn't that how our lives should be? Shouldn't we be able to look up and see Jesus ready to spend time with us. And, also serving as a reminder to us to mind our manners.

Ironically, the people of Rio De Janeiro are known for their partying lifestyle. Did you see some of the outfits the women were wearing as they danced in front of the opening ceremony crowd? I'd say they have little inhibitions when it comes to their celebrations. Sadly, there's also the city's high crime rate to be considered.

How interesting. Here they have the ever visible statue of Jesus that they are so proud of, and yet down below in the city, the party lifestyle allows for actions that might not equal the call Jesus places on any of his believers. So I ask myself, do I do this?

Do I allow myself to be a part of actions or activities that celebrate or embrace something Jesus doesn't call me to do? Do you? How easy is it to have Jesus in our sights and still do the wrong thing? We know He's there calling to us, beckoning us to Him. And yet we continue in our desires, not acknowledging that what we are doing brings Him sadness rather than joy. It's definitely a conflict I think we can all relate to in some aspect because none of us is perfect. But He is. And He continues, just like the statue, to hold His hands out ready to receive and forgive each of us.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Strength in a Time of Trouble

It's amazing how things have changed over the past year, not just in my life but in the lives of most people on the planet. I can't get over the number of reports of mass killings. It's as though one gunman incident is setting off another and another. Unfortunately, it's becoming a weekly event. While some are terrorist related, others may only be a madman wanting his time of fame. And to make matters worse, these horrific incidents are instantly recorded on a phone and sent out on the worldwide web. It's craziness. Who would have ever thought it possible? Not me.

What do we do with this knowledge of attacks? Do we run and hide, or stay put at home? Do we pretend it didn't happen because it wasn't in our neck of the woods? Do we allow ourselves to become hardened so that the pain of others doesn't tear us apart inwardly?

If I were to sit and try to contemplate all of the craziness in the world I think I would be quickly overwhelmed. If I focus on the happenings instead of asking how is God going to use this, I would be rendered useless. The Bible tells us we will have troubles, that's a given. Some troubles we can see coming and some we cannot.

I certainly didn't see the troubles coming that I have endured over the last year. Where did my help come from in this time of upheaval? I tried to keep my focus on God. He cared for my physical needs through the kindness and companionship of friends and family. I received encouragement, prayers, direction and re-direction from them. But, enough about me.

One thing I've learned is that what I practiced and experienced on a small scale in my life can be an example for all of us in the grander scale of these attacks. I feel I witnessed an example of this in the aftermath of the senseless killing of the police officers in Dallas last month. While the incident made the national news, I'm not sure the "rest of the story" was covered in other locations. In the days that followed, police officers were stopped by the public and given words of appreciation; hundreds of various church people met down the street from the site of the shootings to pray; people representing the two sides of the protest demonstration returned to the site and ended up hugging one another.

God used this tragic event to show His grace in motion. The love of God's people bridged a gap and brought encouragement and re-direction. Nothing can take away the sorrow the family and friends of the victims are now dealing with. But from what I see, there is no mounting tension or threat of repeated occurrences in the days to come.

If we bring God into our mayhem, he will be there. He is our strength in times of trouble, especially when man's will tries to override God's plan. Remember, when circumstances look like evil will result God can turn it for His good. (Romans 8:26-30; 12:14-21)

We can't always see trouble coming, nor be able to stop what we do see headed our way. But we can look heavenward and call out for help and direction. God can send comfort to those who suffer harm as a result of a tragedy. And, He can show us how to make a victory out of a loss.