A New Book!

August 4, 2014 — Leave a comment

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I am very excited to announce the release of my newest book, New Testament Snapshots. It has been almost two years since the release of Leading into the 21st Century…and Beyond and with the move to Brazil last year, I got a little behind in my writing. New Testament Snapshots is only going to be released as an ebook and I know that you are going to love it!

The book focuses on ten people in the New Testament that we all have heard of if we have spent any time at all reading the Bible. At the same time, we know very little about these ten people and it seems that they are often shrouded in mystery. I believe that these ten people still have something very important to say to us. This book explores what their messages are.

New Testament Snapshots is a fantastic way to stimulate your own personal study of the Bible. I provide some discussion questions at the end of each chapter to help you dig a little deeper. This book is also an excellent study guide for small group study. Most of these stories were discussed in our own small group. Annie and I lead an incredible Connect Group here at C3 Church Curitiba, and we all learned so much as we looked at these New Testament Snapshots.

I have kept the book short and very readable. It is only about 75 pages long. So many people get intimidated trying to read a 200+ page manuscript. We all know that “leaders are readers,” and it is easy to feel guilty if we are not cultivating the reading habit. New Testament Snapshots is a great way to pick back up on that New Year’s Resolution that you made in January to read some good books this year.

This is the first book that I have published myself and it is only going to be available here. I would so appreciate it if you would forward this post to anyone that you think might be interested in reading a great book. We are keeping the price low so that everyone can afford it.

So, how can you get your copy? This link will take you to PayPal. Just drop the small sum of $3.97 in the account of ntsnapshotsbook@gmail.com and I will send a copy your way. Thanks so much for your support!

As always, if you want to support our missionary work in Brazil, just click here. Obrigado!

 

ChristianSymbols

Since the early days of the Church, Christianity has had certain symbols that have been used to identify other Christians and help represent the movement. One of the earliest of these symbols was the sign of the fish. Because of sporadic persecution, Christians had to be very cautious in how they connected with other believers.

The early Christians formed an acrostic based on the Greek letters of the word “fish.” The acrostic spelled out “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.” The fish had other symbolic meaning as well. On two occasions, Jesus fed large groups of people by multiplying small amounts of fish and bread. Jesus also called some of His disciples from the ranks of those who fished for a living. He told Peter, “Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men.”

The fish symbol was used by Christians to identify a fellow believer. If a believer met someone who he was not sure about, the Christian could draw half of the fish symbol in the sand or on a parchment. If the stranger drew the other half, it was understood that they were a believer also. During times of persecution, the fish symbol could also be used to mark meeting places for the church.

Another key symbol for Christianity is the cross. From the very beginning of the Church, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the message of the cross and what it symbolized was very important for Christ’s followers. The symbol of the cross, however, did not gain lasting and widespread popularity in Christianity until around 400 years after the birth of the church. Of course, today, most church buildings have a cross on them somewhere and many people wear cross jewelry.

For the first several hundred years after Christ’s crucifixion, the cross was understood as being the instrument that He was sacrificed on for the sins of mankind. The good news, though, was the fact that Christ was raised from the dead. For the early Christians, and for Christians of every generation, the resurrection of Jesus is the central tenant of the Christian faith.

While the early Christians embraced the message of the cross, it was not until much later that it came to be used as a symbol. It is easy to forget that the cross was one of the main methods that the Romans used to keep the conquered peoples of the Empire under control. When people attempted to rebel or refused to pay taxes, the Roman military would violently put down the revolt and then crucify any prisoners taken alive. The victims would be executed in a public place and their bodies were often left on the cross for the vultures to prey on.

The brutality of crucifixion and the terrible images associated with a cross were the main reasons that it took the church so long before its use as a symbol became widespread. Methods of execution are not normally used as religious symbols. The Apostle Paul, however, understood the importance of what Jesus had accomplished by dying on the cross. “As for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world died long ago, and the world’s interest in me is also long dead.” (Galatians 6:14)

While there are other lesser know symbols of Christianity, the fish and the cross are the two that have endured through the centuries. The two primary ceremonies that Christians still celebrate on a regular basis are also full of symbolism. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, have been passed down since the time of Christ. While not symbols themselves, they both carry tremendous significance and meaning for Christians today.

Please consider contributing to our missionary work here in Brazil. Any gift would be appreciated and helpful as we help expand God’s Kingdom! Just click here. Obrigado. 

 

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The next key event of World War II was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941. This surprise attack on the American fleet inflicted a crippling blow on the United States Navy. It left over 3500 people dead, 350 American planes destroyed, and 8 battleships sunk or severely damaged. Many smaller ships were destroyed as well.

While this was a devastating attack, it did not have the effect that the Japanese High Command had hoped for. Their goal was that with one decisive strike, the US Navy would be destroyed and would cease to be a threat. While the Japanese attack did do tremendous damage, not a single US aircraft carrier was in port at the time. These aircraft carriers would soon be responsible for the American Navy’s offensive thrust. Also, most of the port facilities were undamaged in Pearl Harbor. These would play a large role in the war effort. Due to America’s advanced technological skill, all but three of the sunk or damaged ships were repaired and restored to duty in the fleet. Most importantly, the United States had been brought into the war and, as the Axis Powers would see, a united and determined America would become their toughest enemy.

One of the most decisive battles in World War II was the Battle of Midway. In June of 1942, the United States Navy was able to draw the Japanese Navy into the open. The Japanese hoping that if they could engage the US Navy they could deliver the final, crippling blow that they had not been able to land at Pearl Harbor. Instead, US Rear Admiral Spruance was able to locate the Japanese Navy first and launch the first attacks. This became the first battle in which a naval battle was dominated by air power. When the battle was over, US Naval aircraft had sunk four of the Japanese aircraft carriers. The Japanese also lost a number of planes and experienced pilots. The United States Navy suffered the loss of one aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown. This was an important victory for the US forces. First of all, the Japanese Navy had lost half of their carrier fleet. They would never again be a dominant force in the war. Also, for the US, this victory was important for the home front. Pearl Harbor was still fresh on people’s minds and this defeat of the Japanese at Midway was the first of many victories that would mark the path towards ultimate victory for the United States and their allies.

In the European theater of war, the Battle of the Bulge was another key event. About six months previous to this, the allies had successfully invaded Europe with the goal of liberating it from the Axis powers. In December of 1944, Hitler launched a large counteroffensive over a line of several hundred miles. This was a last ditch effort by the German High Command to gain a victory over the allies or at least be in a position to ask for more favorable surrender At first, the Germans overwhelmed the allied forces. The offensive pushed forward about fifty miles. Rather than panicking, General Eisenhower saw this as an excellent opportunity to counterattack. The Germans had over-extended themselves and as the allies organized for a counteroffensive, the German casualties increased. The Germans ended up suffering over 100,000 casualties and a defeat that they would never recover from.

A last key event of World War II that will be mentioned was the dropping of atomic bombson Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan. As the United States contemplated an attack on the mainland of Japan, predicted casualty rates were as high as one million for the allied forces. When President Truman learned that the atomic bomb was available to be used, he made the difficult decision and ordered that the bombs be dropped. On Aug 6, 1945, a United States B-29, the Enola Gay, dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. 70,000 people were killed from the blast. On Aug 9, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki killing 80,000 people. After the second bomb, the Japanese High Command surrendered on Aug 14, 1945. The morality of Truman’s decision has been questioned for over fifty years. There is no question that the decision to use the atomic bomb hastened the end of the war and save American lives.

This article has only scratched the surface of looking at key events of World War II. There are many other events that could be discussed. These events, however, do provide the reader with an excellent time line of the war, as well as looking at the most significant moments in this terrible conflict.

My wife, Annie, and I are serving the Lord in Brazil. Would you consider becoming a part of our support team? Just click here to get started! Obrigado!

 

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World War Two was the world’s first true global conflict. While much of the fighting took place in Europe, there were also battles in Asia, Africa, the Pacific and even Alaska. More than fifty countries were involved. With a war this vast, there are bound to be many important events that can be discussed.

The first key event that will be mentioned was Germany’s invasion of Poland on Sept 1, 1939, which signaled the start of the war. This unprovoked attack led to Britain and France both declaring war on Germany. Within just a couple of weeks, the major fighting in Poland was over but World War II had begun.

After Poland’s fall, Britain and France were content to prepare for the war and wait to see what Germany would do next. It was not until the Spring of 1940 that the next key event of the war took place. On May 10, Germany launched an invasion of France. Many considered the French army to be one of the best in Europe. This was shown to not be the case as the Germans overwhelmingly forced France’s surrender after just six weeks of fighting. The main significance of France’s fall was that Britain was now standing alone against the Axis.

It was during the fall of France that one of the most impressive evacuations of all time took place at the French town of Dunkirk. Using Royal Naval vessels and hundreds of civilian boats over 200,000 British troops and 140,000 French troops were evacuated to England across the English Channel. This event was very significant because of the large number of troops that were rescued. These armies would be needed later in the on-going fight on Nazism.

With England standing alone, Germany soon turned its attention on that tiny nation. The eyes of the world were on the island nation as they waited for a German invasion. Before German forces could launch an invasion, however, the Luftwaffe needed to control the skies above Britain, as well as controlling the English Channel. In July of 1940, the Luftwaffe began attacking the Royal Air Forcebases and other strategic targets. The RAF fought tenaciously and bravely. The RAF was vastly outnumbered yet they consistently inflicted heavy losses on the German air force, while suffering severe casualties themselves.

During the Battle of Britain, one of the contributing factors to the British victory was that the air war took place over friendly territory. In many cases, a damaged British plane could be nursed back to an RAF airfield. In cases where a British pilot had to bail out, he did so in friendly territory and was often back in the cockpit of another fighter within a few hours. The Germans did not enjoy this luxury and suffered the loss of many experienced pilots that were either killed trying to nurse a damaged plane home across the English Channel or captured if they bailed out over England. By the middle of September, the Luftwaffe had suffered twice as many losses as the RAF and Hitler postponed his planned invasion of Britain. It was after this battle that Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

To be continued…

My wife, Annie, and I are serving the Lord in Brazil. Would you consider becoming a part of our support team? Just click here to get started! Obrigado!

dove

As Jesus was preparing to leave His disciples behind, He spoke to them about the Holy Spirit. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) In Luke 24:49, Jesus told His disciples that they would be “clothed with power from on high.”

Based on these and other Scriptures, it seems like Jesus was saying that He was sending the Holy Spirit to help His followers continue to do the work that He started. There is no indication that that mandate has changed. Matthew also recorded some of Jesus’ last words to His followers. The followers were to “go and make disciples of all the nations…”

The Gospel of Luke recorded Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus is shown preaching, teaching, and healing the sick. The Acts of the Apostles was the second volume of Luke’s two book set. Acts picks up where the Gospel left off. It shows Jesus’ followers continuing to do the same kinds of things that He had done. They were able to do these things because they had been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.

The work of Jesus’ followers is still to make disciples of all the nations and to do the things that Jesus did. Christians are still supposed to preach, teach, and pray for the sick. Clearly, methods and strategies have evolved. Technology has provided amazing ways to spread the Gospel. Technology also allows the Gospel message to be transmitted and broadcast into areas that are shut off to the rest of the world and opposed to Christianity.

Incredible technology, innovative methods, and superior strategies, however, do not lead to anyone’s conversion or acceptance of Christianity. Conversion only takes place as people turn from their sins, exercise faith in Christ, and begin the process of becoming a disciple. As Jesus said, He was going to give His followers the Holy Spirit so that they would be empowered as they shared His message and made more disciples. Whenever the Church has attempted to spread the message of Christianity apart from the Holy Spirit’s power, the results have been dismal.

The Holy Spirit is actively involved in the world today in the lives of Christ’s followers. The Holy Spirit works through His people as they stretch out their hands to help a hurt and dying world. As Christians love others and represent Christ to the world, the Holy Spirit is there also, drawing people to God.

How do you see the Holy Spirit working in your life?

Would you consider becoming a part of our team as we serve the Lord in Brazil? The Holy Spirit is doing some incredible things and we are honored to be a part of them. Just click here to get signed up. Obrigado!

 

Christ Healing Simon Peter's Mother-in-Law by John Bridges

Christ Healing Simon Peter’s Mother-in-Law by John Bridges

Of all the miracles that Mark records, this one is by far the most “ordinary.” It is not nearly as dramatic as the previous exorcism. The ramifications are not nearly as great as the healing of the leper or the raising of the young girl from the dead. In spite of all that, this healing provides us with some key insights into the personality of Jesus.

The fact that this miracle is not as dramatic as others, does not in any way belittle the importance of this healing. While a fever in our day is often an inconvenience that is treated with bed rest and medicine, in ancient times, a fever could be fatal. This was a very serious condition and Jesus wasted no time in dealing with it.

This healing is also important in a historical sense. This little story gives us some rare insight into the home life of one of Jesus’s disciples. It lets us know that Peter was married and probably had a family. In fact, Peter was the only one of the Twelve to have a family member healed by Jesus. It is reasonable to assume that others among the Twelve were also married and had families. This fact adds weight to Peter’s statement, “We have left everything to follow you!”

The first thing that we should notice about this miracle is the fact that it is performed on a woman. As one of the first miracles that Mark records, Jesus is seen reaching out to a member of an often overlooked group in society, namely women. While this might not seem like much of an issue in our modern society, in first century Palestine, women were little more than property. Jesus’s willingness to heal a woman showed that He was not going to be bound by all the norms of His day. James Brooks writes, “By including accounts of the healing of women as well as men, Mark implied that Jesus was concerned about all people, including those who had a lowly place in society.” Time and again, Jesus was seen reaching out to those on the margins of society and healing them.

Another aspect of this healing that needs to be commented on is the simplicity of it. In Mark’s account, Jesus merely took the sick woman by the hand and helped her up. At this, “The fever left her . . .” This is in contrast to the exorcism that had just taken place. In that situation, Jesus spoke (possibly even yelled) at the demons and cast them out. There is no indication that He touched the demon possessed man. Here, Jesus does not say a word; He just helps the sick woman out of bed. There is no mention of the woman’s faith or of anyone else’s faith for that matter. The touch of Jesus was enough to bring total healing. No theological point is made. We just see Jesus exercising His authority and healing someone who is suffering.

The last aspect of this story that will be mentioned is the aftermath of the healing. After the fever left her, “she began to wait on them.” After being healed, Peter’s mother-in-law immediately began to serve Jesus and those with Him. Alan Richardson sees this as a moral exhortation: “Christians who have been delivered from the power of sin and restored to health should at once begin to use their blessings in the service of the Lord.” Those who have been recipients of God’s love and power have a responsibility to share that same love and power with those around them.

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C3 Curitiba recently had a sermon series called “Next Generation Leadership.” This message is about John Mark and his journey out of the shadows to becoming the leader that God had called him to be. We all go through times where we want to hide from our destiny. He was willing to learn from his mistakes and was willing to be trained by an older, wiser leader.

John Mark was one of the leaders that we discuss in my new book, New Testament Snapshots. Here is how you can get your copy of the book. I know that you will love it!

My translator for the message was my good friend, Norival Trinidade. He is the Vice-President of the International Leadership Institute. Norival travels the globe training Christian leaders. It was an honor for me to work with him for the evening.

Click here to watch the message.

My wife, Annie, and I are helping train and develop leaders in Curitiba, Brazil. Would you consider becoming a part of our support team? Just click here. Obrigado!

Union_-_Confederate_Flag

When the American Civil War started on April 12, 1861, both sides seemed to have the idea that the war would end quickly. Northerners and Southerners alike thought that one definitive battle would put things right. As the war ground on, however, it became clear to both sides that they must develop a long-term strategy to guide them to victory. In the first several years of the Civil War, the South was much more effective at this than the North. The Southern political and military leaders understood what was at stake.

For the Southern forces, defending was much easier than attacking. To win their independence, the South only had to not lose. This was a very similar strategy to that which General George Washington employed against the British.

The South would not be able to maintain a purely defensive posture, however. As the war continued, dwindling resources forced Southern commanders to attempt two significant invasions of the North. The South fought Northern forces to a draw at Antietam, a battle in which they were outnumbered two to one. The second Southern invasion ended in defeat at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The Northern government and its military did not adopt a comprehensive military strategy until the war had already been going on for several years. The main reason for this seems to be poor leadership in both the political and military arenas. General Winfield Scott was the first General-in-Chief of the Union forces. He was one of the few who believed that the war would be long and protracted. He recommended a strategy of using the navy to blockade the southern ports. This would have a three-fold effect. It would begin the process of weakening the southern forces by denying them imported weapons, food, etc, and would prevent the south from exporting cotton to Europe. This blockade would allow the north time to develop their military machine.

General Scott was roundly criticized for his “Anaconda Plan.” He retired seven months after the war started. History would prove that Scott had the right strategy all along. In the end, it was the one the Union adopted much later in the war.

George McClellan was the next General-in-Chief of Union forces. He held this position for less than six months before being relieved by President Lincoln for his lack of activity. McClellan was an able administrator and organizer and he created a formidable army. His downfall was his unwillingness to take that army into the field and fight. McClellan’s strategy also conflicted with President Lincoln’s. The general was much more interested in capturing Richmond, the Southern capital, than he was in pursuing General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. McClellan was replaced as General-in-Chief by Henry Halleck. Halleck, like McClellan, was not anxious to fight but he fought enough that the President left him in that position for almost two years. Halleck was an excellent administrator but he was not the fighter that President Lincoln was looking for.

It was not until March of 1864 that the President had a General-in-Chief that he could trust. General U. S. Grant understood that the war would not be won by capturing cities or territory. The only way that the conflict would be brought to an end was by the destruction of the Southern armies. Grant directed his friend and subordinate, General William Sherman, to pursue and destroy the Confederate forces in the Western theatre.

Grant would make his office with the Army of the Potomac, led by General Meade. Grant directed Meade to pursue and engage General Lee’s Army of the Northern Virginia. This pursuit resulted in a number of significant battles over the next year. Grant’s army was defeated on several occasions. Instead of retreating, however, he merely continued to pursue Lee. It took Grant and Sherman over a year to defeat both of the Southern armies. The naval blockade had also done its part by denying the South badly needed supplies.

It took the Northern leadership several years to develop and implement a successful military strategy. Once the right general was found, this strategy could finally be executed. General Grant was the man that President Lincoln had needed all along.

Looking for a good place to invest in building God’s Kingdom? My wife, Annie, and I are serving the Lord in Curitiba, Brazil. We are helping developing leaders and working with our church planting efforts here. If you would like to be a part, just click here. Obrigado!

 

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Looking for Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures is an interesting and rewarding study. The saying, “In the Old Testament concealed, in the New Testament revealed,” hints at the fact that a student of the Scriptures is going to have to dig a bit if they want to see Jesus in the Old Testament. This article will focus on a few of the appearances of Jesus found in the Hebrew Scriptures.

One of the first places where the reader can look for a possible sighting of Jesus is in Genesis 14:18: “And Melchizadek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, brought Abraham some bread and wine.” Melchizadek then goes on to speak a blessing over Abraham. For his part, Abraham gave Melchizadek a tenth of the spoil he had recovered in battle.

Melchizadek is a very enigmatic figure. These three verses in Genesis are his only appearance in the Old Testament. It is in the New Testament where the idea of Melchizadek being an appearance of Christ is first mentioned. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews spends over a chapter arguing that Melchizadek was, in fact, Jesus. Of Melchizadek, the writer says, “There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors – no beginning or end to his life. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God.” (Hebrews 7:3) The bread and wine that Melchizadek gives to Abraham have clear New Covenant overtones. The fact that Abraham gave him a tenth, a tithe, of his spoils also seems to indicate that Melchizadek was no ordinary man.

Abraham later had another visitation from God in human form. “He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.” (Genesis 18:2) When this story opens, Abraham is likely just extending hospitality to three strangers. During their interaction, however, it becomes clear that these are not three men. They are two angels and God himself in human form. This is likely another preincarnate appearance of Christ.

As Abraham provides a meal for them, God and Abraham talk about the promises that God had made to Abraham and reiterates the fact that he and Sarah would have a baby, despite their old age. God also discusses with Abraham his intention to destroy the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin. This is a very interesting conversation in which Abraham intercedes for these cities. God concedes not to destroy them if ten righteous people can be found in them. After this conversation, God/Jesus apparently leaves and the two angels go to Sodom to see if the city can be saved.

A third appearance of Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures is in the book of Joshua. After the death of Moses, Joshua was appointed the leader of the Hebrew people. As he led them into the Promised Land, they came up against the fortified city of Jericho. While preparing for battle, Joshua saw a man standing in front of him, holding a sword. Joshua asked, “Are you friend or foe?” (Joshua 5:13)

The man’s answer showed him to be more than he appeared at first glance. “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.” (Joshua 5:14) At this, Joshua fell on his face in worship and immediately placed himself at this commander’s disposal. The fact that the commander of the Lord’s army accepts Joshua’s worship indicates that this is much more than an angelic appearance. This is the preincarnate Jesus reminding Joshua Who is actually in charge.

A last mention of Jesus in the Old Testament that will be mentioned is found in Daniel. Three young men who were taken to Babylon from Israel during the exile were given a difficult choice. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar to worship a large idol that he had erected. When they refused, the king had them bound and physically thrown into a blazing furnace. The furnace was so hot that it killed the soldiers who performed this task.

Nebuchadnezzar had been furious at the defiance of these young men, and he watched their execution. After they were thrown into the fire, however, the king jumped to his feet and shouted, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a son of the gods!” (Daniel 3:25) The king then yelled into the furnace for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to come out. When they did, the crowd noticed that the fire had not touched them. Their clothes were not burned and they did not even smell like smoke.

Nebuchadnezzar was suitably impressed and praised the God of the three men. He said, “He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own.” (Daniel 3:28)

Was this Jesus or one of His angels? That is a difficult question to answer. The case could be argued for either one. In one sense, it really does not even matter. Jesus made several appearances in the Old Testament. He also sent his angels to minister on his behalf. The writer to the Hebrews said that “angels are only servants – spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14) Jesus’ angels minister in his name and with his authority.

Can you think of any other appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament?

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Saved by Grace?

August 1, 2014 — 1 Comment

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The entire sentence that this phrase is taken from is “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)

A more modern translation reads, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT)

The Apostle Paul was writing this letter to the churches of Ephesus, one of the great cities of the Roman Empire. It had become a center for early Christianity under Paul’s teaching and preaching. The New Testament book, the Acts of the Apostles, provides some of the highlights of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus in chapter 19. Many people were converted to Christianity, many people were healed and Christianity’s influence was being felt throughout the city and the region.

One of the recurring issues that Paul had to constantly address, however, in every city that he preached in was this idea of law versus grace. In every city that had a Jewish synagogue, Paul would always start there in his evangelism efforts. This provided him with a ready audience of people who were already familiar with the Jewish Scriptures that Paul preached from. The synagogue also provided people who were familiar with the concept of monotheism and were attracted to it.

The drawback to starting in the synagogue was that Paul was constantly running into conflict with the Jewish leaders who disagreed with Paul about what the requirements of salvation were. As Paul began preaching the message of Christianity to more and more non-Jews, the Jewish religious leaders argued with Paul that these Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism if they were truly going to be converted. Judaism was, in essence, the doorway to Christianity.

Paul and other Christian leaders disagreed strongly with this point-of-view. Paul argued over and over again in his sermons, conversations, debates, and letters, that salvation was not connected to the Jewish law. His entire letter to the Galatian churches is an argument against works-based salvation and an argument for salvation by grace through faith.

The church in Ephesus did not appear to be as infected by this debate as were some of Paul’s other churches. For Paul, however, it was important that everyone, whether they came from a Jewish background or not, understood what the basis of their salvation was. Human nature is such that all people tend toward thinking that salvation is something that must be worked for, something that can be earned.

These verses describe salvation as a free gift from God. You cannot earn it, and you cannot take credit for it. It is a gift. The Greek word for “grace” is “charis.” It means, among other things, “a gift.” If it were possible for one to earn their salvation, then they would have something to boast about. As it is, salvation only comes to the person who receives God’s free gift through faith.

Have you ever felt like you were trying to earn God’s approval? Have you ever got caught up in trying to earn your salvation?

My wife, Annie, and I are serving the Lord in Curitiba, Brazil. Would you consider joining our team? Just click here to get involved. Obrigado!