Thursday, October 27, 2011

1 Thessalonians 2

You ever had things not turn out like you thought they would? Like you prayed they would? Like you were sure they would? Ever begin a new endeavor with full confidence and faith in what God was going to accomplish through you only to experience hardship and frustration?

Read 2 Thessalonians 2

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain." (1 Thessalonians 2:1, ESV)

Sometimes you need a little distance to gain perspective on events in your life. If you go back and read Acts 17:1-9 you will read the story of what happened when Paul, Silas and Timothy came to the city of Thessalonica. After some initial fruitfulness, the city turned against them and the people who had responded to the Gospel and Paul and the boys were shipped off to another city.

I know that I would have felt some discouragement after that. You? Maybe reeling from dashed hopes and expectations of what was to come. Crashing after an initial excitement over what God seemed to be starting there. Not only that but Paul says in verse 2:

But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. " (1 Thessalonians 2:2, ESV)

They had just come from another place where things seemed to have gone "badly." But the perspective often comes in our lives when we gain some distance from the events. Yesterday we read in 1 Thess 1:9 that:

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, " (1 Thessalonians 1:9, ESV)

Even though they were forced to leave in a hurry, the seed of the Kingdom of God had been firmly planted in the lives of the people who had called on the Name of Jesus.

If we pray, commit our ways to Him and live boldly we will always be used in ways that we do not know. The power at work within you will go far beyond what you can see or think or imagine.

In verses 3-12, we see how the integrity of the messenger impacts the message. You cannot separate the message from the messenger. The man behind the message matters. Not only that but in verse 8 we read this:

So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us." (1 Thessalonians 2:8, ESV)

The Gospel was never meant to be just preached to someone, but rather shared through the giving of our lives. And if that life is different from the words, then the message is polluted and Jesus is obscured.

Sometimes things don't work out the way we thought. But sometimes we just can't see in the moment what God is accomplishing on a much grander scale. And often are most precious moments, our most valuable Kingdom moments happen when through adversity.

In verses 17-20 we see Paul's great affection for the people. We see his pride (good kind!) in what has been accomplished there. We see his confidence that what the Lord established will be carried to completion until the Day of Christ Jesus is revealed.

But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. " (1 Thessalonians 2:17–20, ESV)

I know that I resonate with certain elements of this as I transition in ministry. A little distance from it has given me better perspective. I did not see everything happen that I was hoping before God to see happen. And yet...what an incredible (most said impossible!) thing happened. I leave behind a precious community of people determined to to see God glorified in their community though it be with opposition, hindrances from Satan, and many more challenges ahead. I am confident that God has been at work and will continue to work in ways that are unseen to accomplish His purposes for the surrounding community.

He's cool like that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

1 Thessalonians 1

I'm going to try something out for the next few days. I want to go through sections of Scripture and provide commentary/thoughts/questions on what I read. Perhaps it will be useful to more than just me? If so, holla at me and let me know.

First read this: (1 Thessalonians chapter 1)

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, " (1 Thessalonians 1:2, ESV)

How often do we simply think about people rather than including them in our prayers and petitions to the Lord? (See Romans 1:9)

remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. " (1 Thessalonians 1:3, ESV)

Three marks of true believers:

  1. Works of faith- Their faith produced action in their lives. They did not simply have a belief but rather actions that flowed from their relationship with the Living God. They had not merely adopted a belief system, but a way of life
  2. Labors of Love- These actions produced by faith were prompted by love. They did not serve people out of obligation or because it was what they were supposed to do. They had fallen in love. What kinds of crazy things have you done because you were in love with someone? The motives behind those actions matter! It makes all the difference!
  3. Steadfastness (Enduring) Hope- Believers endure hardship because they have a hope deep down in their gut that won't go away. A trust born of experiencing Jesus firsthand, of experiencing His love and feeling His embrace through the Spirit of God coming to live inside them, that just won't quit. Verse 6 mentions that they experienced great persecution because of their decision to turn away from their former religion (idols) and follow Jesus. That just doesn't happen because of a switch in doctrine.

because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. " (1 Thessalonians 1:5, ESV)

Not just words... So many people want to engage in religious debate. They want to understand God intellectually before ever considering giving Him their heart. I don't mean to downplay intellect. I am not advocating a stupid Christianity. Some of the most brilliant minds in history have devoted followers of Jesus Christ. However, in 21st century America we have attempted to divorce head and heart. Paul used words and power. They experienced the Gospel through their thoughts and through feelings. I long for the days of another Great Awakening where God sovereignly, by His grace, pours out His Spirit again through men and women hungry to see others know the fullness of God in both mind and spirit. This is my prayer and passion.

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, " (1 Thessalonians 1:6, ESV)

Lone Ranger, Rambo, John McClane (Die Hard), Jack Bauer we celebrate the individual. We love the singular hero who saves the day. Many of us try to emulate that by pretending we don't need anyone. We declare we don't need anyone's help. We were not created to go it alone. Here we see how the people of the church in Thessalonica started in their faith by emulating Paul and the other missionaries. They studied them and assimilated practices and behaviors into their own unique lives. But they didn't stop there. As their understanding grew they went on to emulate Jesus ("and of the Lord"). This is the natural growth pattern of Christians. Imitate your spiritual parents and as you grow and understand build on that to emulate Jesus as the Spirit leads and as you see Him revealed in Scripture.

and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. " (1 Thessalonians 1:10, ESV)

Jesus has delivered all Christians from all wrath of God. Not only are we saved/rescued/delivered from the torment and punishment in Hell, but the Lord will rescue us from the Great Tribulation that will soon hit the earth. You think the world is a crazy messed up place now? Wait until the 'salt of the earth,' the Christians, are removed from it. Judgment will be unleashed as we read in the Revelation of John.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Daddy Fail!

Daddy Fail! My son was in the fourth grade dance recital thingy today that all fourth graders do. It was at 2pm,...and I missed it! I totally forgot! I have all kinds of reasons...Since resigning my schedule is erratic. It was in my calendar on my phone but I did not set the alarm with the event. I was filling out a questionnaire for a church interested in me to be their pastor. Roofers were here. I was working on a message that I will be speaking in Copley, OH this Sunday. I went grocery shopping for like an hour!

And somehow none of that makes up for my son coming home and asking me first thing, "Where were you?" I scrambled for half a second trying to figure out what he was referring to before remembering. Ack! Stab in the heart at his little face. I apologized profusely, but still feel horrible.

I guess if I was being rational, I would know that this will not be the only time I fail my son nor was it the first time. Good thing I am trying to teach him about the Lord so that he knows there is a Father in Heaven who will never fail him.

Well, blogging helps me feel better a little. I wonder if he does? If not, looks like it's a McDonald's night!...and ice cream! (That's right. I'm not above buying forgiveness!!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Greatness and Familiarity

Greatness and Familiarity... You know it is a sad truth that greatness in people is often shrouded by our familiarity with them. There is an old saying that says "familiarity breeds contempt." There are people in your life that have greatness upon then or the seeds of it at least. Do you see that? If you can't see it, you can't bless it or benefit from it. Even Jesus who was perfect and truly worthy of respect could not escape this.

53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there,54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?55 Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?"57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household."58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

These people missed a truly great opportunity because they could not get past the veil of what they thought to be the whole truth about someone. Now obviously the people around us are not perfect, but perhaps you are overlooking something in someone you have grown familiar with in your life; particularly if that someone is a Christian. Whether they are weak or strong, they have the Infinite Someone dwelling within them.

*Do you dismiss your children's input because they are small and less "experienced" than you?
*Do you overlook what your grandparents speak to you because they are from a different generation?
*Do you gloss over what a pastor or Christian leader speaks to you because you have grown familiar with them over time?
*Do you dismiss what someone says because they showed their weakness and humanity and disappointed you at some point in the past?
*Do you dismiss the counsel of your parents because you are always seeing ulterior motives in their words?

Ask the Lord to make all things new in your eyes. Ask Him to help you see as He sees. Ask Him to remove the veil so that you might bless and be blessed.

Often with deep regret people wait until funerals to share what was truly in their heart toward a person and how much they meant to them. Why wait?