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Terror Attack Prayer Guide

Terror Attack Prayer Guide Yesterday – exactly one year after the deadly terror attack in Brussels – terror struck in London.  Although the details are still unfolding, British officials have officially called the attack in and around the Parliament building an act of terror.

Hours after the Brussels attack last year, I wanted to spend some intensive time in prayer, but wasn’t sure exactly how to pray. As I sat with my Bible and journal, God brought very specific prayers to mind. Afterward I shared those prayers here in a guide.

Although the situation in London is not active, many of these requests would still be appropriate. And although I pray we won’t need it again, this guide can be printed and put into your Bible for later use. (Link to PDF printable.)

Terror Attack Prayer Guide

“Lord, hear our prayers!”

Pray for Law enforcement:

  • Good, solid intelligence and information
  • Plenty of manpower and resources
  • Good coordination between agencies, including international
  • Physical stamina

Pray for Medical Personnel:

  • Physical and emotional strength
  • All the human resources, equipment and supplies needed
  • Wisdom to quickly assess individual situations
  • Steady hands and calming presence

Pray for the Injured:

  • Provide the help they need quickly
  • Surround them with believers who will pray and encourage them
  • Overwhelm them with Your peace and ease their fear

Pray for the Families:

  • Comfort for the families of those killed
  • Support for the families of those injured
  • Peace for the families of those waiting to hear
  • Good communication about the situation to all families

Pray for World Leaders:

  • Leaders around the world would rise up against this evil
  • Ability to set politics aside
  • Receive wise counsel from wise people
  • Leaders around the world would unite in a global effort against terrorism

Pray for Rescue workers and First Responders:

  • Protection from further violence as they work
  • Physical strength, emotional stamina
  • Good coordination and communication in the efforts
  • They would provide a strong, calming presence to those they encounter
  • Sustenance, like food and water, they need to keep going

Pray for the Terrorists:

  • Any left alive involved in this attack would be caught
  • Those on the fringe would give information to authorities
  • Any other related plots would be exposed
  • For God to convict them and bring them to repentance
  • For God to draw them to Jesus

Please feel free to add your prayers in the comments below.

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3 Reasons I Plan to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick's DayI have a fresh interest in St. Patrick’s Day this year. Since last March 17th I discovered that I’m sort of Irish!

For Christmas, Wayne gave me a DNA kit from Ancestry.com. It was something I’d been wanting to do. Basically, the test confirmed what I suspected – I’m basically a mutt, a pound puppy. But I was surprised by the top percentage. Thirty-one percent of me is Irish!

Perhaps, like me, you’ve considered St Patrick’s Day a fun, but frivolous observance – a day to wear green clothes, eat green food, and listen to Celtic music. However, there’s actually good reason to stop and consider St. Patrick.

A Really Brief History of St. Patrick

Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was born about 387 AD in Scotland. Although his grandfather was a priest and his father was a deacon, young Patrick did not embrace the family faith. Then at the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland and forced into servitude.

During his years as a slave, Patrick spent large amounts of time alone caring for the herds of his master. This life of slavery and solitude fostered a deep prayer life and Patrick came to true faith in Christ. In “The Confession of St. Patrick,” Patrick acknowledges that God used his time of trial to turn heart toward Him.

After six years of slavery in Ireland, Patrick escaped and returned to Britain where he continued his religious study. But it wasn’t long before a vision of a lost Ireland burdened him with the need to return with the Gospel. God was sending Patrick to a people that the church had decided was too lost to be reached – the pagans of Ireland were just too different.

In his mid-40’s – after becoming a bishop of the church – Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary. He spent 30 years converting thousands of Irish “pagans” to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Patrick died on March 17th, 461 AD at the first church he built in Ireland.

Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and although never officially canonized, early Christians consider him a “saint in heaven.”

3 Reasons I Care About St Patrick’s Day

  1. I’m Irish – Well, at least I’m more Irish than anything else and it’s the closest I will ever get to an ethnic holiday. So humor me.
  2. Patrick faithfully followed Christ no matter the cost – Loyalty to Christ and concern for the eternal state of his enemies led Patrick back to Ireland. He willingly and obediently faced danger to take the Gospel to Ireland. He constantly fought the temptation to leave the mission field and return home. Patrick even shared the Gospel with his old master. That’s bold faith!
  3. Patrick sets the example for evangelism – Patrick wisely separated the Gospel from the Roman culture, something the Catholic Church could not or would not do. Just as many Jewish Christians in the first century wrongly believed Gentiles had to first become Jews before they could become Christians, the church of the 5th century thought the “pagans” had to first become “civilized” before they could come to Jesus. But, Patrick shared the Gospel within the Celtic culture. He did not try to change their culture before he offered the Gospel. His method of evangelism freed him to embrace the areas of their culture that did not break God’s laws of righteousness. Like the apostle Paul, Patrick became “all things to all people so that by all possible means” he might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22). In this way, Patrick showed respect for the Irish and was able to build bridges and relationships that fostered opportunities to share the Gospel. By the way, Patrick used the 3-leaved shamrock to help explain the concept of the Trinity!

St. Patrick’s Day is not just a fun day of all things Irish. For those “in the know,” remembering St. Patrick encourages us to faithfully follow Christ no matter where He leads and to boldly share the Gospel of life with those in our path, no matter how different from us they may be.

How do you plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Some helpful articles for more information on St. Patrick:

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A Century Old Bible and a Legacy of Faith

BibleFor the last few months, my brother and I have been working to move my parents from Louisiana to Tennessee. Mom and Dad’s health took a nosedive last summer and they need to be closer to one of their children. I’ve been making regular trips from Houston to Shreveport to check on them on begin to go through the family home in preparation for the move.

Since our parents have been in the same house for almost 50 years, there is quite a bit of “accumulation.” Though much of it is regular household stuff like gift-wrapping supplies, long-lost Tupperware lids, and manuals for appliances they no longer have, we have also discovered a few treasures that reveal a family legacy of faith.

For instance, back in September, I shared a letter I found from my great-great grandmother to my great-grandfather. She wrote how she prayed daily for him and his family.

BibleI discovered another treasure this past weekend – a crumbling Bible given to that same great-grandfather, Howell Adam Shouse from that same great-great-grandmother Mary Dozier Cash. The inscription is dated March 7, 1910, more than 100 years ago.

Over the last few months, I have discovered several letters, Bibles, and other items that reveal the consistent and persistent faith of Mary Dozier. I’m not sure what Howell Adam did with her legacy, but I know that her name sake and my maternal grandmother, Mary Dozier Shouse Addington, shared her love for Christ.

My grandmother, Mary Addington, shared her grandmother’s name and her faith. And like her grandmother, she constantly talked about Jesus with her grandchildren. That legacy of faith continues with me – Mary Kathryn. I share my grandmother’s name and her faith. I pray I will continue that legacy of faith with my grandchildren.

How can we be purposeful in passing our faith to the generations that follow?

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4 Parenting Don’ts from the Life of Herodias

Herodias parentingA couple of years ago I was part of a team of writers for a Bible study parenting blog series on biblical mothers. I got Herodias. Seriously?! Scripture doesn’t show us anything positive about Herodias – especially her parenting! (See below for a synopsis of Herodias’ story.)

Then I realized God had something to teach me in this story of a self-absorbed mother who used her child as a means to an end. While none of us likely come close to rivaling this totally self-centered user, we can study Herodias as an example of what NOT to do.

Herodias probably used all the people in her life to get what she wanted. She used men to get power. And she used her daughter to get revenge on her enemy. Unfortunately, even the best and most godly mothers can fall into the role of “self-centered user” from time to time.

4 Parenting Don’ts

Herodias’ parenting certainly did more harm than good. But at least she can serve as a warning for all of us. Things like fleshly desires, ambition, and even old hurts rise up and before we know it, we find ourselves selfishly using our children. Here are four possible scenarios we must guard ourselves against:

  1. Using our kids as a trophy – We encourage, push, and maybe even scold our children in hopes they’ll be the star football player or class valedictorian. And why? Is it for their good? Maybe partly. But often it’s to feed our own egos. So we can say, “Well, my son did this… or my daughter succeeded at that…”
  2. Using our kids as a substitute – We all have unfulfilled ambitions from our childhood. That’s not a failing, that’s just life. However, sometimes we parents think we can live out that dream through our children. So we push them to achieve what we didn’t.
  3. Using our kids as a tool – Sometimes parents use their kids to do their “dirty work.” For instance, if I don’t want to talk to the person on the phone I may get my son to tell them I’m not home. Whether out of laziness, guilt, or avoidance, we’ve all been guilty of using our kids to do something we don’t want to do – or even shouldn’t do – ourselves.
  4. Using our kids as a weapon – Have you ever used your child as a “go between” when you were angry at your spouse? Some divorces get so difficult that one spouse will even withhold the children from the other as a way to cause pain. From little hurts to big, any of us could fall to the temptation to use our children as a weapon.

Today’s matriarch, Herodias, was the ultimate self-centered user. She used her daughter as both a tool and a weapon to further her own agenda. Herodias’ story in the Bible is brief, but it packs a killer punch.

Herodias’ Story

Although pieces of Herodias’ story is found in several Gospel accounts Mark 6:14-29, Matthew 14:1-12, Luke 9:7-9), here’s the synopsis:

The trouble began when John the Baptist rebuked Herod Antipas, the Roman-appointed rule of Galilee, for stealing away and marrying his brother’s wife Herodias. John boldly and repeatedly pointed out Herod’s sin with Herodias. Herodias wanted John silenced – permanently. Herod imprisoned John trying to pacify her, but knowing John was a righteous man of God, Herod refused to have him executed.

So Herodias watched and waited. She knew her opportunity would come and when it did she would get what she wanted. Herodias was a master manipulator and she would use whatever means necessary. Including her daughter.

Soon the “opportune time” arrived. Herod threw himself a big birthday party. This shindig was guys only, more like a rowdy stag party than a simple birthday dinner. Young Salome, Herodias’ daughter by Herod’s brother, danced for Herod and his party guests. When Salome’s dancing pleased Herod, he boastfully promised something he didn’t even have the power to give – “up to half my kingdom!”

This was the moment Herodias had been waiting for and she pounced on it. She used her daughter and even her husband Herod to accomplish what Herod had prevented – the death of John the Baptist.

Salome knew to take Herod’s offer straight to her mother. With her desire finally realized, she sent Salome back, prompted by her mother’s selfish wishes. “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

Sadly, Herod saw no way of escape. He had made a reckless promise in front of important people. To withdraw his offer would mean personal humiliation. And Herodias knew that too. That was part of her plan. The self-centered user got exactly what she wanted.

What can we learn from Herodias?

 I’m sure none of us have used our child as a murder weapon. But we have all used our children to one degree or another. Maybe we pushed them in the direction we wanted them to go. Maybe we asked them to stretch the truth for our convenience. But we all sometimes act selfishly and our children get caught up in the consequences. Our actions, attitudes, and motives will affect our kids. Our character and behavior will at least partly shape their character and behavior. The results of what we do will also land on them.

3 Proactive Parenting Steps

  1. Remember that your child is individually valued by God. God has specific plans and purposes for your child that are different from the ones He has for you. Help your child discover his unique purpose!
  2. Ask God to make you sensitive to any behavior that is selfishly motivated. Then repent immediately!
  3. Purposefully model Christ-like character and godly behavior for your children.

What actions, words, or attitudes in your life negatively affects your children? What can you do now to help shape your children to be more like Jesus?

Note: This post originally appeared on TheMomInitiative.com

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Work is Not a Four-Letter Word

workMy Dad instilled a strong work ethic in me and my brother when we were growing up. First, he led by example and second, he made sure we got plenty of practice by giving us chores around the house.

Of all my family responsibilities, the task I disliked the most was sweeping the pine straw off the patio and driveway. The dozens of pine trees in our front and back yards dropped lots and lots of needles. Plus, the concrete of the patio and driveway wasn’t smooth. It had lots of little pebbles in it that caught the needles. It seemed I would never finish.

Although I hated that particular task back then, now I appreciate Dad’s purposeful training. He cultivated the patience required to stick with a tedious task and helped us experience the joy of a job well done. He not only equipped us to work, but he also prepared us to benefit from the God-given sense of fulfillment that comes from work.

Sadly, work is way under-rated today. It seems many in our culture view work as bad. Some try to avoid it as much as possible. Others merely endure it as a “necessary evil.”

God created work to be good

But “work” is not a 4-letter word. Although sin has made work more difficult (Genesis 3:17-19), God created work as good. Before the Fall, He gave work to mankind as a gift (Genesis 2:15). In its right form, work brings fulfillment, a sense of purpose, and joy.

Even this side of the Fall God declares hard work to be wise and laziness to be foolish (Proverbs 6:6-11). Those who work will have abundant food and those who “chase fantasies” will lack (Proverbs 28:19).

I know circumstances prevent some from working who want to. Who long to. But those are the exception. My purpose with this post is merely to get us thinking about God’s good purpose in giving us work and for us to evaluate our attitude toward it.

God wired us to work. He created us with a need to invest ourselves in something. To create. To form. To produce.

And the benefits are boundless. Not only do we reap the fruit of our labor and earn our keep, we also experience a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and joy. Yep. God really knew what He was doing. Work. It’s a good, God thing.

How do you feel about work?

 

 

 

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The Case of Mistaken Location

FamilyI’ve basically been living out of a suitcase for the last year. If I added up the days at home and the days away, the days away would probably win. A death in the family, the arrival of two grand babies, our son’s wedding, and severe health struggles for my parents have kept me on the road.

This last week was no different. I left home last Wednesday and drove to my parents’ home in Shreveport to meet my sister-in-law. We spent several days packing and preparing for my parents upcoming move from Louisiana to Tennessee.

Then Saturday afternoon I made the 4-hour drive from Shreveport to our second daughter’s new home in Denton, Texas. Sarah and her husband moved from a rental to their first home that morning and I went to help with the baby for a few days so she could unpack and settle in.

I had seen the new house once before they moved in, but still needed to use Google Maps to find it again. I drove into the neighborhood and spotted what looked like their home on the next corner. As I turned onto the street in front of the house, Google announced “You have arrived at your destination!” Great!

As I parked on the street in front of the house I took note of the cars in the driveway. I didn’t recognize either of them, but since friends and family had been helping them move earlier in the day, I surmised they belonged to them.

Since I didn’t want to cause more work for them, I got all my stuff out of the car and up to the front porch. Now, you need to understand that when I travel by car, I don’t travel lightly. I had a suitcase, a shoe bag, a snack bag, my rolling briefcase, and two king-sized pillows.

As I got the last of it on the porch, I knocked on the door and looked around. Although it looked just like the house I’d visited before, there were a few things that gave me pause – the potted plants, the door mat, and the multiple dogs that began barking at my knock.

Hmm. Could I possibly be at the wrong house? I texted Sarah. “Am I at the right house?”

I heard a woman’s voice inside talking to the dogs, just inside the door. “Who’s out there guys?” It was not my daughter’s voice.

I envisioned the home owner looking through the peep hole. What did she see? Unknown middle-aged woman with baggage.

What should I do? What would she do?

About that time Sarah texted back. “No.”

My fear was confirmed. I was at the wrong house.

Okay. Well, I decided that when the woman opened the door, I would explain my mistake with a laugh and apologize.

But the woman didn’t open the door. She must have thought I looked too dangerous. Or crazy.

Either way, it was time for me to go. I wanted to run and not look back. But I needed all my baggage. And it took two trips to get it all back to the car. I wondered if the woman watched out the peep hole the whole time.

Sarah’s house was exactly one block to the south. Same corner. Same layout. But the residents were much more friendly. They even helped me haul in my bags.

I love how God works. In the midst of a chaotic time in my life, he used a case of mistaken location to give me a laugh and to remind me not to take myself too seriously.

I just wanted to share a little bit of what my life has been like recently. God has me in a unique season. But He is growing me and I’m leaning on Him. What has YOUR life been like lately?

 

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14 One Anothers for the Church Today

God does not intend for us to live out our faith on our own. When He saves us, He saves us into His family, the church, so we can live and grow together with other believers. We cannot be everything God desires for us, we cannot fulfill God’s purposes for us, we cannot receive everything God has for us, without a vital connection to a local church.

One another churchGod designed the church to be a unique fellowship. The Bible uses the Greek word koinōnia to describe this spiritual relationship between believers (Acts 2:42). Koinōnia means “having in common, sharing, partnership, fellowship.” Individual believers both receive what they need and give what others need within the context of the church.

 So, what does this giving and receiving – this koinōnia – look like? There is not one single passage in the Bible that gives a detailed, all-encompassing description. However, the New Testament is peppered with examples, principles, and commands about what believers should be for each other. For example, the phrase “one another” is frequently used to point to a specific way believers should relate to other believers. Although the following list is not comprehensive, these 14 “one anothers” are a great start to helping us understand the koinōnia of the church.

14 “One Anothers” for the Church Today

  1. Love one another (John 13:34-35, 1 John 4:7)
  2. Comfort one another (2 Corinthians 13:11)
  3. Serve one another (Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 4:10)
  4. Restore one another (Galatians 6:1)
  5. Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
  6. Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  7. Build up one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  8. Honor one another (Romans 12:10)
  9. Do good to one another (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
  10. Meet one another’s physical needs (James 2:15-17, 1 John 3:17)
  11. Pray for one another to be healed (James 5:16)
  12. Show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
  13. Teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16) – correcting wrong belief and behavior and instilling correct belief and behavior
  14. Spur one another to good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)

These “one anothers” reveal the scope and depth of our koinōnia relationship – from putting the needs of others before our own to allowing another believer to hold us accountable for our behavior. This spiritual relationship is so different than anything we can find in the world. Only in the church can we give and receive everything God intends. He has provided everything we need through “one another.”

In what ways have you experienced the unique koinōnia of the church?

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What should I do with Philippians 3:14?

Recently I joined a First Place 4 Health online small group for prayer, Bible study, and accountability. Our activities include a weekly Scripture memory verse. This week – our first week – we were challenged to memorize Philippians 3:14.

Philippians 3:14I taped the Scripture card to my desk where I can see it all the time and began to work on it. But soon I began to have questions. I needed to know more about the verse. If I’m going to work to “hide God’s Word in my heart” then I need to know its meaning, its truth, so I can understand it and apply its principles to my life.

First, I needed to understand the context. So I backed up and read the entire third chapter of Philippians. Paul began by addressing a false teaching plaguing the Gentile believers in Philippi. Jewish Christians were pressuring them to be circumcised. Paul passionately reminded the Philippians not to place in any value in works or accomplishments. Instead they must focus on Christ and push forward to God’s purpose for them.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14, NIV

Once I had the basic context, the specific verse prompted three questions I wanted to answer. So back to the larger context to find my answers!

  1. What is the “goal” I’m to press toward?

My “goal” is to be all Jesus saved me for and wants me to be (Philippians 3:12) – including experiencing the resurrection of the dead (Philippians 3:11) and receiving my glorified body (Philippians 3:21).

2. What is the “prize” God has called me to?

Our “prize” is glorious! Here are the things I found:

  • To know Christ – and that’s priceless gain! (Philippians 3:8)
  • To have Christ (Philippians 3:8)
  • To become one with Christ (Philippians 3:9)
  • To experience Christ’s mighty power (Philippians 3:10)

3. What does it look like to “press on?”

“Pressing on” requires discipline, diligence, and determination. It’s a lifelong process of following Christ in trust and obedience. Here are a few specifics I found in chapter 3.

  • I must get my priorities straight – Jesus over earthly things (Philippians 3:8)
  • I must trust in Christ’s ability to save and not my own abilities (Philippians 3:9)
  • I must focus on my sanctification (Philippians 3:12)
  • I must not dwell on past failures – or successes – that would keep me from moving forward (Philippians 3:13)
  • I must “dethrone” my earthly appetites and enthrone Jesus (Philippians 3:19)

Wow! There’s a lot of punch behind that one little verse. These 20 words reflect a lifetime of faith and discipleship. I’d say that’s worth taking to heart.

How do you feel about memorizing Scripture? Do you find it too hard? Are you working on a passage now? If so, I’d love to hear what it is!

Want to memorize Philippians 3:14? Print this Scripture memory card to help! (Click on the photo below to access the printable PDF.

Philippians 3:14

Want some help memorizing God’s Word? Here are some Scripture Memory resources to check out:

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My Top Ten – Plus One – Chocolate Favorites

Chocolate FavoritesChocolate is my love language and I speak it fluently. In honor of the Chocolate Holiday (aka “Valentine’s Day), I’d like to share some of my chocolate favorites with you.

I do have a few “chocolate quirks.” For instance, I LOVE chocolate and I LOVE ice cream, but I don’t particularly care for chocolate ice cream. I like nuts covered in chocolate, but not nuts in my chocolate. And yes, there is a difference. Same goes with chocolate and fruit. Fruit dipped in chocolate is great, but don’t put fruit in my chocolate. In fact, there is something just wrong about chocolate covered cherries.

Top Ten Chocolate Favorites (Plus One)

Without further ado, here are my chocolate go-tos. (In no particular order)

  1. Dairy Milk chocolate bar – quite possible the creamiest chocolate bar ever!
  2. Hershey’s Best Brownies (recipe below!) – I’ve been making these brownies for probably 25 years!
  3. M&Ms – a truly classic fav!
  4. Cadbury Mini-Eggs – only available around Easter. Ya’ll, I can’t stop eating these. So I try NOT to buy them. If you have more discipline than I do, try them out. You can order on Amazon and get them tomorrow with Prime!
  5. Cadbury Mini-Eggs Christmas version! – Oh yes!
  6. Lindt Milk Chocolate Lindor Balls – These may be my #1.
  7. Mocha Truffles – The perfect combination of chocolate, cream cheese, and chocolate. I traditionally make these at Christmas. Here’s the recipe! 
  8. Warm Chocolate Melting Cake – ate it every night on our last Carnival Cruise. They actually gave me the recipe, but when I tried to recreate it, it just wasn’t the same. Maybe it’s because I messed up converting the recipe from 200 servings to 12! I found this recipe online. Not sure if it’s legit, but it’s probably worth trying. And it only makes 6 servings!
  9. Hershey’s Peppermint Bark Bells – If you like mixing peppermint with your chocolate, check these out next Christmas!
  10. Fudge Richey – from “Susie’s South Forty” in Midland, Texas (Ladies, it’s chocolate-covered fudge!) And you can order online. And although their Pecan Toffee doesn’t have chocolate, it is fabulous!
  11. Rolo Pretzel Delights – I was finished with my top ten when I remembered this brand new favorite, so you get a bonus. A friend brought these to a ladies’ lunch in December and I could not get enough. I had to go home and make some. Super easy, but super addictive, so watch out. Here’s the recipe! 

I’d love to hear about your chocolate favorites and any quirky chocolate rules!

Hershey’s Best Brownies

I got this recipe off the back of a canister of Hershey’s cocoa many years ago. However, the chocolate chips are my addition!

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup cocoa
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large bowl. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Add cocoa, beat. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Beat well. Mix half the chocolate chips into the batter and spread into a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top. Bake 30 minutes only!

 

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6 Things You May Not Know about Apostle Paul

Apostle PaulI thought I knew him. I’ve followed his ministry. And over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time reading his writings. But recently, I realized I didn’t know as much about the Apostle Paul as I thought.

While studying Paul’s life for my latest Bible study, I discovered several “new” things about the apostle of grace. Of course they were there all along; I had simply overlooked them. Maybe some will be new to you too.

6 little-known facts about Paul

  1. Paul didn’t jump right into long-term ministry (Galatians 1:13-18) – In my mind, Paul met Jesus on a dusty road, spent three days fasting in Damascus, regained his eyesight, then jumped right into ministry to the Gentiles and never looked back. But a closer examination of Scripture tells a little different story. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote he “went immediately into Arabia (Galatians 1:17).” In fact, he didn’t return to Jerusalem for three years (Galatians 1:18). What did Paul do during all this time in Arabia? Many scholars feel this may have been a spiritual retreat for Paul, a time to reconcile everything he knew from the Old Testament Scriptures with his new reality in Christ. In Arabia, Paul could immerse himself in the reality of his Savior and focus on learning and growing in preparation for ministry.
  2. Paul’s nephew saved his life (Acts 23:12-35) – After Paul’s arrest by a Roman commander in Jerusalem, 40 Jewish men bound themselves in an oath to not eat or drink anything until they had killed Paul. The Jewish leaders agreed to help them by petitioning the Roman commander to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin for questioning. The assassins planned to attack Paul during the transfer. But the son of Paul’s sister heard of the plot and reported it to Paul at the Roman barracks. When Paul told a centurion, the Roman commander ordered a detachment of almost 500 guards to move him to Caesarea under the cover of night.
  3. Saul’s name was not changed to Paul (Acts 13:6-9)– During the biblical account of Paul’s first missionary journey, Luke writes: “Then Saul, who was also called Paul…” (Acts 13:9). From this point forward, Luke only refers to the apostle as “Paul.” This shift does not reflect a name change, as has often been said, but rather a conscious decision on Paul’s part to use a name he already had. Since Paul was a Roman citizen, he would have been given three names at birth. The third – Paul’s Latin name – was a better fit for the predominately Roman environment. “Saul the Pharisee” chose to be known as “Paul, citizen of Rome.”
  4. God gave Paul more than he could handle (2 Corinthians 1:8-11) – Paul and his companions suffered such extreme pressure during a particular situation in Asia they “despaired even of life.” Scholars aren’t sure what event Paul referred to in these verses, but it was a situation so dire Paul believed he and his companions might die. He saw no way out of the life-threatening situation. And indeed, without God’s miraculous intervention, they would have perished. When all human hope was lost God delivered them by His grace through the prayers of the believers (2 Corinthians 1:11).
  5. Paul visited heaven before his death (2 Corinthians 12:1-10) – God gave Paul a glimpse of heaven during his early years as a believer, perhaps during his time of spiritual retreat in Arabia (Galatians 1:17). Paul didn’t know if he had been physically transported or was there in spirit. But he saw and heard “inexpressible things.” Pride would be the natural sinful response to an experience like this, but pride and conceit have no place in God’s servant. Therefore, God allowed something into Paul’s life to foster humility – a “thorn of the flesh.”
  6. Paul felt deserted by everyone but God (2 Timothy 4:9-18) – Throughout Paul’s ministry he suffered trials and persecution for the sake of Christ. He was stoned, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and betrayed. He often went without food, sleep, and shelter. During his Roman imprisonment, he also felt alone with no other person to support or defend him. Demas left him because he loved the world. Alexander did him “a great deal of harm.” Yet through it all, the Lord stood with him. Paul was comforted and strengthened by God’s powerful presence.

I would love to sit down with Paul and hear all his stories, find out all those things not recorded in Scripture. Perhaps he would recount all the Gospel victories and tell me more about the suffering he endured for the name of Christ. Pain and struggle may have marked his life, but God’s lavish grace sustained him every moment.

Was one of these facts about Paul new to you? If so, which one? Do you know any other little-known facts about Paul?

This article first appeared on www.Crosswalk.com on July 15, 2016.

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