Under the Radar

Case Study: Eunice and Lois | 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-17

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” II Timothy 1:5-7 NIV

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it,” Proverbs 22:6. This applies to Timothy, a man Paul called, “my true son in the faith”, I Timothy 1:2a. Timothy was from Lystra – the son of a Jewish Christian mother Eunice and an unbelieving Greek father. His grandmother Lois was a believer as well.

Paul charges Timothy to, “continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know of those from whom you learned it, and from infancy you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus,” II Timothy 3:14-15. I believe Paul was charging Timothy to remember all he had learned from Paul himself, but also the truth taught him as a child. I am convinced Timothy’s mother and grandmother taught him the scriptures, that they trained him in God’s ways, and that they taught him about God’s love.

Paul called Timothy his “fellow worker,” Romans 16:21, as he indeed was. He had accompanied Paul on his 2nd Missionary Journey and had been with him in his extended time in Ephesus. In I Timothy 4:12 Paul tells him to not let anyone look down on him because of his youth. Timothy, even though young, had grown up under the teaching of his godly and sincere mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois and this contributed to his ability to be an effective leader in the church.

Who does God use to advance his kingdom? This week we have examined the life and ministry of Junia and other women mentioned in the new testament. Junia is described as being an apostle – one who is set apart and sent to proclaim the gospel. Lois and Eunice were women who were faithful in teaching and training their son and grandson in the truth of the scriptures. This week, pray to God, ask him “how do you want to use me to advance the kingdom of the gospel?” We are not all called to be missionaries in foreign countries, but we can all be a part of sending them, supporting them, praying for them and enabling them to do their work. Some of us are called to the mission field in our own households, like Lois and Eunice. Ask God to show you your mission field.

By Donna Burns

Case Study: Eunice and Lois | 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-172020-08-13T12:47:34-06:00

A Posture of Interpretation | Romans 16:7

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among] the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Romans 16:7

Human communication is a miraculous thing. Think about it. Words can transfer ideas and emotions from one person to another. Communicating is often a gift that we take for granted but it’s also more complicated than we often like as well. Many a fight, war, crusade, and abuse has grown from the soil of words, sometimes intentionally and sometimes through miscommunication. See, words are coupled with context, body language, idioms, and figures of speech to form a cohesive yet complex whole that we call, communication.

So what does this have to do with the scriptures? Just like any body of words, the scriptures too can be misinterpreted, and often have been. So the question is, what steps can we take as followers of Jesus to avoid injecting our own biases and contexts into the text?

When we open up a bible and read, we must do so with a sense of humility and reverence for the kind of reading we are doing. We are doing spiritual reading. It’s humbling to think that we can know the mind of God through the words open before us in a bible. That humility is key to avoiding error. The scriptures are full of ideas that go against everything in cultures and brokenness. When we read something unexpected, it should be expected. Romans 16:7 simply gives us an illustration of a text that may have been modified because of a reader’s (translator’s) context and assumptions. Junia’s name was changed in some translations to being a masculine name (Junias) and the sole reason for that change is the fact that the translator couldn’t imagine an apostle being a woman.

One practice that can help us learn to approach the scripture with the humility necessary to truly hear from the text is the practice of Lectio Divina. This simply means spiritual reading. Select a passage of scripture (maybe a few paragraphs) and read it slowly. As you read it pay attention to words or phrases that stand out to you or bother you. Read the same text a second time and focus in on those phrases that first stood out. Read the text again and then journal or write out what you are noticing and any questions you have. Finally, read the text a fourth time and just sit in silence to allow the ideas that God has brought to you to blossom.

By Aaron Bjorklund

A Posture of Interpretation | Romans 16:72020-08-13T12:42:55-06:00

Outstanding Among the Apostles | Romans 16:7

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Romans 16:7

I’m certain there are times we all feel as if we’re just not contributing to much of anything. For example, new jobs where you’re the new employee and they haven’t quite figured out how to inject you into the workflow. In a broader sense, we see all the swirl going on around our culture and can’t figure out how to contribute and make a difference. Perhaps even in Kingdom work, we feel rather puny in our contribution.

Nothing could be further from the truth! There’s no way we can fully understand the influence we have on those around us. Recently, we had my dad’s funeral, who died on June 26th of this year. I’m sure he felt the same way, not having any influence on people, places, or things. What an amazing outpouring of love and affection we witnessed for dad! Men and women he worked with in the US Navy; Teachers and administrators from the small Christian school where he was the principal; and many folks from his church. Despite his feelings of inadequacy and lack of contribution, those around him spoke quite the opposite.

Andronicus and Junia are mentioned only here. I like the ESV rendering of the word συγγενεῖς as kinsmen, which are understood as blood relatives. Other renderings are ‘fellow Jews,’ but while Jews are considerably tighter than most as a culture, being considered related by blood more aptly describes (for me) his feelings towards these two people.

Paul adds more weight to their import in the next sentence where he declares their relationship with the Apostles (‘well known’) and their early acceptance into God’s Kingdom before Paul!

We have absolutely no way of knowing in this life whether these two members of the faith felt as we do sometimes. We just can’t. And keep in mind that for every mentioned name, there are ‘scads’ (as my dad used to say) of people unmentioned. The only One who really matters knows all who are called by his name and he misses no detail (Luke 12:7). Re-read Romans 16 from start to finish. Notice the names, perhaps even trying to pronounce them out loud. Begin to realize that, just as Paul has listed these people, your name is known to Jesus concerning your Kingdom work, and that’s all that really matters!

By Rich Obrecht

Outstanding Among the Apostles | Romans 16:72020-08-13T12:39:29-06:00

Under the Radar | Romans 16:7

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among] the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Romans 16:7

One of the goals of this Under the Radar series has been to highlight some lesser-known characters who appear throughout Scripture and to examine what we can learn from their stories. Some of these characters have had multiple chapters devoted to them, like Gideon, others, like Junia, appear only briefly. Junia is only mentioned in this one verse, Romans 16:7. Yet she, and the others mentioned in Romans 16 are mentioned for a reason!

Behind each name mentioned in this chapter is a story. Phoebe is a deacon of a church and a “benefactor of many people” (vv. 1-2). Priscilla and Aquila are Paul’s co-workers in Christ and risked their lives for him as well as leading a house church (vv. 3-5). Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis have all worked hard in the Lord (v. 12). And Andronicus and Junia are outstanding among the apostles. They may not be the flashiest biblical characters out there, but their faithfulness, dedication, and service to the Kingdom is something we can all learn from.

Today, honor someone you know who is under the radar. Send a note to someone who is doing ministry behind the scenes and maybe doesn’t get recognized or encouraged all that often. Thank them for their ministry and the difference they are making.

By Jessica Rust

Under the Radar | Romans 16:72020-08-13T12:36:57-06:00

God’s Diverse Toolbox | Romans 16

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Please read Romans 16

The glitz, the glitter, the excitement. The red carpet and thematic music that plays while flashbulbs capture our favorite stars. The Oscars: the height of cinema achievement. The stars and movies nominated are done so because of the excellence displayed by them, and by the teams of people it took to create them.

The scene is Rome, the perfect epicenter to the spread of the Gospel. They don’t say “All roads lead to Rome” for nothing! From this vantage point alone lives across the Roman-occupied territories and beyond could be reached. Lights, camera, action; the great work of the Gospel is already rolling. Now, Paul rolls out the credits.

In Romans 16 we have Paul’s equivalent to the Oscars, for the Gospel. His list of people he would like to thank is long and diverse, encompassing men and women who were both Jews and Gentiles. Long before Paul ever set foot on the scene, these fearless men and women were working hard to spread the Gospel. Who knows, maybe some of these names mentioned were people that Paul himself persecuted before his conversion!
Did you notice, most of these names listed are the names of women? In this day and time, women would never have been recognized like this, let alone named as deacons or apostles. Yet, here is another example of Christ’s upside-down Kingdom beginning to take shape. This list of unlikely heroes, of whom most are only named here, seems random and obscure. However, in God’s cinema, there is never an obscure character. Each role is a needed role, no matter how unlikely it may seem.

It takes an army of people to pull off a movie, and the same is true of sending workers into the field to harvest the work of the Lord. God places and uses people in roles both big and small, and ALL the roles are significant. BOTH roles are valuable in God’s eyes, and should be in ours as well.
I’m sure those Paul thanked would have never thought that God would use him. Who in your life seems too far gone to ever be used or even considered by God? Take a moment to pray for that person right now and throughout the coming weeks. Perhaps, God is getting ready to create a modern day Paul in this person, and maybe one day you will be listed in their list of Gospel Oscars.

By Sheila Rennau

God’s Diverse Toolbox | Romans 162020-08-13T12:34:49-06:00

Who’s Really Blind Here? | John 9:35-41

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. John 9:35-41

He said, “Go and tell this people:

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;

    be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

Make the heart of this people calloused;

    make their ears dull

    and close their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

    hear with their ears,

    understand with their hearts,

and turn and be healed.” Isaiah 6:9-10

Because I have some pretty poor eyesight, I have a pretty thick prescription—not quite coke bottles, but close. If I take off my glasses for any reason, the running joke is that I am as blind as a bat. I can’t see anything more than blobs of bleary colors. Yet, once I put my glasses on, everything comes into view! I can once again see the details of faces, read words, and distinguish colors, shapes, and pictures.

I wonder if Jesus longed to give the Pharisees spiritual glasses. How sad He must have been to see them majoring on minors, asking wrong questions, and settling for less. I wonder if He is just as sad when we do the same.

This whole narrative is centered around a man born into blindness. He was never able to see a sunrise, the faces of friends and family, a rainbow of colors, or even just be able to read words. Yet, in a moment Jesus healed Him, completely restoring his sight and allowing him to experience what he had never experienced before—connection to the world around him and those he held dear. Can you imagine what that must have been like?

This healing is cause for great celebration, but the Pharisees can only find fault. They wonder who is this Jesus man who heals, under what authority is He healing, and how it is that this bilind man came to be healed on the Sabbath. In doing so, they miss the point—a man was restored and God was glorified!

Jesus mourns their spiritual blindness. These individuals who spent so much time studying the law of God couldn’t seem to see the forest for the trees. These ones who so self-righteously proclaimed their togetherness, couldn’t seem to put 2 and 2 together.

However, this man who is blind from birth, not only receives his physical sight, but also gains great spiritual sight. He doesn’t so much care who or how this miracle was done, but he knows that he is healed in sight, in purpose, in status, and in spirit. He knows that this man, this beautiful Jesus, gave him sight, and furthermore he believes he is from God. How like God’s upside-down Kingdom!

Today, take a moment to listen to your favorite version of “Amazing Grace” and journal the ways God has taken you from lost-ness and blindness in your own journey.

By Sheila Rennau

Who’s Really Blind Here? | John 9:35-412020-08-07T10:25:38-06:00

Is This Worth the Risk? | John 9:18-23

They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

“We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” John 9:18-23

Imagine learning your son who was blind since birth could now see. In our day, I imagine slight shock turning to awe turning to tears of joyful celebration. For these parents, however, it was fear and dismay. We find a mother and father in this scene failing to see their child’s miracle because they were too busy wondering if answering the Jewish leaders’ questions would be worth the risk of being spiritually disowned.

We let fear of what others think cloud our vision of what God is doing too. Although God’s working everyday and doing many miraculous things behind the scenes, we are so caught up thinking about ourselves that we miss the beauty of the big picture.

Today, zoom out from your life for a moment to look at yourself from the outside. Do you find yourself turned inward concentrating on how decisions will affect you? Are you able to see God’s movement around you? Then, imagine yourself living the rest of today looking outward – with nothing to lose, nothing to prove. Journal about how that kind of approach to your day would feel.

By Yvonne Biel

Is This Worth the Risk? | John 9:18-232020-08-07T10:23:18-06:00

Who is Jesus… Sinner or Saint? | John 9:16-17

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided. Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.” John 9:16-17

As we all do, the Pharisees are trying to answer this question out of their known theological framework. They are genuinely trying to answer this question with their understanding and theological frameworks. Look at the text and you’ll see the concepts they are clinging to as they try to hash this out:

  • The Sabbath is holy, and those who obey God keep it by doing no work on the Sabbath (v. 16)
  • “Sinners” cannot perform miracles like restoring someone’s sight (v. 16)
  • God spoke to Moses when He gave him the law, and good Jews obey the Law of Moses.

When life or God don’t seem to make sense, it’s normal for us to turn to our familiar frameworks of experience, theology, or Scripture to attempt to fit everything into the paradigm of what is known. Jesus wasn’t fitting in the Pharisees’ box, and, though some of them in verse 17 understand that their box might need to get a little bigger, they end up rejecting this expansion of their understanding of who God is for an easy answer.

Even though their conclusion is disappointing, there is something we can learn from the Pharisees in this story. When God didn’t seem to make sense, they were asking questions. When you have doubts or questions, or what God is doing just isn’t fitting into your expectations, be willing to come back to God humbly and try to see him from a new perspective.

Where is God showing up in a way you didn’t expect? What questions do you have? Feel free to ask them.

By Jessica Rust

Who is Jesus… Sinner or Saint? | John 9:16-172020-08-07T10:20:50-06:00

Who’s To Blame? | John 9:1-5

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:1-5

Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:2. In Israel at this time, the Rabbis taught that suffering was a punishment and was a result of sin. If a person was born with a disability then the Rabbis believed either the unborn baby sinned while in its mother’s womb or that the parents had sinned in some grievous way. Job’s friends had a similar view of his suffering, and tried to persuade Job of their point of view in Job chapters 3-37.

Desiring to cast blame is a common human emotion and reaction to suffering. My experience with this occurred when our son Joshua was brain injured by a cord accident at his birth. Some family and friends urged us to sue the doctor, or the hospital for negligence. My husband and I didn’t believe the medical people had done anything wrong and we chose not to sue. But instead had to deal with our feelings that we were to blame for Joshua’s injury. Joshua was large, and I had had 2 previous C-sections. Our doctor would have preferred that we schedule a C-section again, but agreed to let us do a trail labor. We will never know exactly why he was injured during birth, but in fact no one was to blame.

When someone is injured, or born with a disability, or a young person tragically dies, the feeling of wanting to cast blame on someone or something is a natural human response. But Jesus’ answer to his disciples is the answer we need to seek too. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life,” John 9:3. We should pray for physical healing for people who are hurt, ill or disabled, knowing God doesn’t always heal everyone while they are on this earth. Sometimes we are asking the wrong question. Instead of casting blame, ask – what is God doing? How can God be glorified in this situation or this circumstance in this person’s life? God showed us Joshua had purpose even though he was disabled. He brought joy to many, and our love for our son was a wonderful visual reminder to many of how God loves all of us unconditionally. Enjoy this song about this story.

By Grace Hunter

Who’s To Blame? | John 9:1-52020-08-07T10:17:38-06:00

Is Healing Possible? | John 9:1, 6-7

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth… Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. – John 9:1,6-7

In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. – Isaiah 29:18

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; – Isaiah 35:5

to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. – Isaiah 42:7

I don’t get migraines often, but I know when one’s coming my way. As I’m reading, and can’t ‘see’ what’s on the page, I usually wait a bit. What comes next is a shimmering ‘halo’ slowly growing in my vision. I’ve learned taking 2-3 Tylenol before the halo disappears prevents a whopper of a migraine where simple movement makes my head pound, and my vision is blurred. Unlike the blind man in John 9, my ‘blindness’ is temporary. His blindness was forever, or so he thought.

We’re living right now where spiritual blindness is becoming increasingly evident. Things in this country have been going on ‘right under our noses’ and we seem unaware of it. But many created in the Imago Dei have been dealing with it generationally. Certainly, there are those who’ve been able to excel despite it through their own efforts, or in concert with the backing of family and friends. They’ve skirted the oppression. But, as many haven’t experienced it, many more have. And we’ve not seen it.

This blindness, for many, isn’t intentional. They’ve lived lives where paths haven’t crossed, and they haven’t purposefully suppressed in work or life, persons of color. Many of us are the recipient of ‘invisible’ or ‘unintended’ privilege because of how we appear. Like the blind man in the story and his blindness, there’s nothing we can do about our skin’s appearance. And, just like the blind man in this story, many who suffer this oppression can’t change their own situation. They find ‘lifting themselves up by their own bootstraps’ impossible. The American Dream isn’t theirs.

While turmoil stirs and rumbles around us, with justice being sought, deep search your heart. Grab the horns of God’s altar and pray earnestly to surrender your lack of vision for God’s. Go for God’s Tylenol! Pray with open hands and hearts for God to peel off the scales so you ‘see’ what’s happening around us. And, like the blind man, experience the joy of healing from blindness! Don’t be the one spoken of in James 4:17. See the oppression through God’s vision, and once you begin to ‘see,’ ask God to help motivate you to personal change.

NOTE: If you’re interested in a good book that will begin to help you ‘see,’ read “The Cross and the Lynching Tree”, by John H. Cone.

By Rich Obrecht

Is Healing Possible? | John 9:1, 6-72020-08-07T10:15:13-06:00
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