5x5x5 Reading Plan – 2 Timothy

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Dear 5x5x5 Readers,

I have just a few words as we started reading 2 Timothy today.  You already know the relationship between Paul and the young pastor Timothy who was laboring in Ephesus.  This letter is Paul’s farewell address, his last known correspondence.  Paul is “passing on the torch” to the next generation as he knows his death is near.  As a result, Paul writes on themes of staying strong, holding fast to the truth, preaching the Word in and out of season, training others who will carry on the kingdom work, and finishing the race well.  He gives warnings regarding quarreling and the dangers of self-seeking godlessness.  Paul finished well, but he certainly felt rather alone and abandoned – he had perhaps no idea that his labor would still be bearing fruit two thousand years later.  Praise God for a life lived in surrender to Christ!

5x5x5 Reading Plan – Ephesians

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Dear 5x5x5 Readers,  We finish Romans this week and begin reading Ephesians, a letter from the apostle Paul (who is in prison) to the church at Ephesus.  The city of Ephesus, in modern day Turkey, was a leading center of the Roman Empire and hosted the 3rd largest library in the known world!  Paul spent nearly three years in Ephesus (Acts 18-20) teaching and building up the church.  Many unusual miracles occurred, sorcerers were converted, and people rioted.  I’d definitely recommend having a look at these chapters in Acts again before you read Ephesians.

The book of Ephesians is short, and neatly divided between doctrine (chapters 1-3) and practical advice (chapters 4-6).  The second part details how we should live in light of the great truths outlined in the first part, and includes the famous armor of God section (chapter 6).

Several years ago I visited Ephesus and I wanted to share a few photos with you!

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365 Challenge – Epistles

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Dear 365 Readers,

As you have finished the book of Acts, you now have a historical framework for the spread of the gospel and the birth of churches throughout the Roman empire.  The remaining books of the New Testament are letters from various apostles and church leaders to these young, growing churches who needed encouragement and guidance on theology, congregation management, social issues, and a variety of other topics.  We start reading in Romans on Thanksgiving day (11/24).

Many of these letters to the churches, also called epistles, were written by Paul (Romans through Philemon).  Paul’s letters are typically split into two halves: the first is primarily doctrinal and often clarifies a theological misunderstanding a congregation was struggling with, the second half is usually very practical guidance on how to live like a Jesus follower in the first century environment.

Other epistles were written by James, Peter, and John and they each have their own writing style and favorite topics.  I will not be writing an introduction for you to each epistle… Instead, I would encourage you to pause for a moment at each new letter and figure out who is writing, who is the audience, and what is the historical context of this church (you can always check back in Acts for background information).

I will write again as we start Revelation on Christmas Eve!  Stay strong and in the Word, the end is in sight!

365 Challenge – Acts

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Dear 365 Readers,

The New Testament divides neatly into two nearly equal sections.  The first consists of four gospels that tell about Jesus’ life on earth.  The second, beginning with Romans, concerns the churches that sprang up after Jesus left.  In between stands the book of Acts. If you are reading the 365 Bible challenge with us, you started Acts this past weekend.

Acts gives us the transition from the life of Christ to the new church.  It introduces Paul and explains how a minority religion crossed the sea to Rome, the capital of the ruling empire.  The reader of Acts will visit key cities sprinkled throughout the Mediterranean, meet the principle leaders of a new movement, and get a taste of the types of problems the will preoccupy early churches.

The book opens in Jerusalem, during the Pentecost holiday.  Jesus’ last recorded words on earth are in Acts 1:8 “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts faithfully follows this outline:  The first seven chapters show the church in Jerusalem, the next five chapters are in Judea and Samaria, and the remainder of the book follows the spread of the gospel to the outposts of the Roman empire.  mapcitiesinacts

In Acts you will meet Peter and Paul, read a series of 18 speeches, and encounter all kinds of exciting events like riots, prison breaks, and shipwrecks.  It reads like a novel, wherever the disciples went the action swirled.  If you can, try to link visits to each city with later letters written to the church in that city.  It’s interesting!