R-E-S-P-E-C-T, A Little Respect Is What We Need

even-smaller-bug-light112 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. — 1 Thess. 5:12​, 13​ NIV

​We are instructed to pray for and respect those that are in leadership positions and have authority over us.​ This is true in the natural and spiritual areas of our lives. It is God that has lifted them up or has allowed them to be lifted up to those positions. God can use these people, be they good or evil, to accomplish His plans and purposes. As long as their instructions to us do not violate man’s law or the Word of God, we should follow their directives.  So, it is imperative for us to pray for and support our pastoral staffs as long as they hold to Biblical principles. Our support should not only be financial, but we should support them with our time and our presence at the activities they have planned for the church.  Love them, pray for them and  be there for them when they need someone. The leaders of the church are worthy of double honor.

17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” — 1 Timothy 5:17, 18

God has raised them up and if they are no longer worthy of that position, He is their judge and He will bring them down.
​We should live in peace, not only with the leaders of our congregation, but also with our brothers and sisters in our church, our community and throughout the world. . 
Post 10-31-2015

Words and Works

even-smaller-bug-light18 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.– 1 Thess.5:8-11 NIV

​We are saved by grace through faith​, nothing else is required for salvation. That faith produces love and hope. Love because Jesus loved us enough to die for each one of us and His love shines through us to draw others to Himself.  It produces hope in a world where there is no other hope. The death and resurrection of Jesus assures us that we will not have to go through the wrath that is coming. We are saved from an eternity of punishment and  saved to an eternity of living together with Jesus. When we repented, we received Jesus as our Savior.  He not only wants to be our Savior but, He wants to be Lord of our lives as well.  This is necessary so that we allow Him to change us into His image. While salvation is instant, being changed is a life long process called sanctification. We are “set apart” to become holy. A part of this process is words and works that are worthy of the calling to be holy.  So, as Paul says here, we should encourage and build each other up.  We should also be doing the same things that Jesus did while He was here.  This shows others that we believe in Jesus Christ and are committed to following His example.
12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. — John 14:12-14 NIV
Post 10-30-2015

Blessings Now, Treasures Later

even-smaller-bug-light19 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. — 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 NIV

​God hates sin, all sins, but He loved sinners enough to send His Son to die for us. And not just die, but to be crucified cruelly and mocked publicly.  This is His example to us of how much we should love others, not just family and friends, but also strangers and enemies. The people that Paul was writing to at this time were those who gave of their resources to others who had needs and also gave to support Paul in his missionary work so that he could meet the spiritual needs of others and spread the gospel.   How do we show our love for Jesus? By being obedient and helping those in need.  Not just physical needs by giving of our resources, which we should do, but also giving of our time in caring for those with spiritual and emotional needs. A smile, a handshake, a hug, a word in season, a minute listening are all gifts that we can give each other and they are often much more appreciated than any monetary gift that we could give. These gifts we can give over and over since they don’t affect our budgets. So, we can do more and more.  We need to be very careful of how we spend the time God has given us. The majority of our time should be spent in doing those things that will win the respect of outsiders and build up the Kingdom of God. By making it a habit to do these things, we will soon find that it is our heart’s desire to do them more and more. Not only will we receive a great blessing here and now, but we will also be laying up treasures in heaven.
 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. — Matt. 6:19-21 NIV
Post 10-28-2015

Run, Don’t Walk

even-smaller-bug-light11 Brothers and sisters, we taught you how to live in a way that will please God, and you are living that way. Now we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus to live that way even more. 2 You know what we told you to do by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 God wants you to be holy and to stay away from sexual sins. 4 He wants each of you to learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable. 5 Don’t use your body for sexual sin like the people who do not know God. — 1 Thess. 4:1-5 NCV

​Paul, in his letters, to the churches reminds them of the things he has taught them about how to live a Christian lifestyle. He continually encourages them to study, to pray for and encourage each other.  These letters were written to churches whose members understood persecution.  They lived with it every day. He was a great example to them because of all the beatings and persecutions that he endured on an almost daily basis.  We don’t have to face those types of offenses every day like they did. But, the temptations of the flesh that Paul warns them against are just as real today as they were then.  As long as we are on this earth, we will be tempted to sin. But, we are also told that we will never be tempted above that which we can bear and there is always a way out, if we want to avoid the sin badly enough. Our flesh tempts in some many areas, we can sin when we gossip, when we hate others, when we withhold our abundance of worldly goods from those around us, when we see others hurting and don’t take the time to comfort them. When we think unkind thoughts about others, even though we don’t say the words, the harm is done to us and our relationship with God. The world is a cesspool of temptations for the flesh.  All of these sins are outside the body, except for sexual sin, which defiles the temple of the living God, Our bodies were created by God to glorify God.  When we participate in illicit sexual activity, whether in thought or action, our bodies and souls are bound with those bodies and desecrate the Temple.

15 Surely you know that your bodies are parts of Christ himself. So I must never take the parts of Christ and join them to a prostitute! 16 It is written in the Scriptures, “The two will become one body.” So you should know that anyone who joins with a prostitute becomes one body with the prostitute. 17 But the one who joins with the Lord is one spirit with the Lord.. — 1 Cor. 6:15-17 NCV

So, we must be careful to avoid all temptations, but, especially sexual temptations.  So, when you feel that nudge to walk away from a situation, don’t just walk away, Run!
 

18 So run away from sexual sin. Every other sin people do is outside their bodies, but those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies. 19 You should know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who is in you. You have received the Holy Spirit from God. So you do not belong to yourselves, 20 because you were bought by God for a price. So honor God with your bodies. — 1 Cor. 6:18-20

Post 10-28-2015

A Call To Service

even-smaller-bug-light110 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. 11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. — 1 Thess. 3:10-13

​Paul’s love and concern for the new converts that he and his companions have led to Christ is a great example for us to follow​.  We may never be missionaries in  a faraway land, but we are missionaries in a land that is not our home. We are aliens and strangers wherever we are on this earth. Therefore, we need to have the same concern for those new converts in our own churches. Every church body needs Barnabases and Timothys to encourage and teach new and older converts. We need Esthers and Priscillas to teach self-sacrifice, humbleness and obedience.
 15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” –Esther 4:15, 16
We need Ezras to teach leadership, fasting, praying and complete reliance on God.
21 There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. 22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer. — Ezra 8;21-23
We need​ workplace ministers like Paul who witnessed while carrying on his occupation as a tentmaker and Lydias to encourage, support and provide for those laboring in God’s fields.
14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. — Acts 16:14, 15
​We are all servants in God’s army and God needs us to serve and stand firm wherever we are and complete the tasks He has called us to do, whatever that may be.​He has a plan and a purpose for everyone He calls.
 
Have you discovered your purpose in the Kingdom?  If not, talk to Him today about it and get started.
Post 10-27-2015

Loss is Gain

even-smaller-bug-light11 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain. — 1 Thess. 3:1-5 NIV

Paul continues to show his love and concern for the new converts in all the places he has been preaching and teaching. He does this not only by sending letters to several of the churches with instructions to share them with others, but also, by sending Timothy and others back to encourage them and check on their welfare.  It seems to have become a tendency for us to only talk about the love of God for us.  Unlike Paul, we do not stress the fact that the road is not always smooth.  In our lives as Christians, we will experience difficulties of various sorts and we will be offended, We need to be sure that new converts understand this while assuring them of the love of Jesus.  We will be tempted over and over but God always provides a way out. Jesus promised us that we would have troubles, but at the same time, He reminded us that He had overcome the world.
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33
Not only did Jesus overcome the world, but he made it possible for us to be conquerors and overcomers as well.  
4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. — 1 John 4:4
After we have taught new converts John 3:16, let us not forget to also teach them another verse, so when duty calls they will be ready to answer.

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. — Luke 9:23, 24 NIV

Post 10-26-2015

Love, Teach, Disciple

even-smaller-bug-light1Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. — 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-12 NIV

​Paul sets a great example for us to follow when we are witnessing to others​. We should be doing this because our hearts’ desire is to show others the love that we have for them. We have this love for them because of the love Jesus has for us. No other motive is needed, not money, not fame, not popularity.  Even while spending his life as a missionary, Paul worked as a tentmaker, so that his presence would not be a financial burden on those to whom he was speaking. He and his companions did their best to mirror the lifestyle of Jesus, their Lord and Savior. Because Jesus cared enough to die for us, Paul spent his life in caring for others, just like a Mother cares for her children.  Not only was he concerned about their physical welfare, but he cared even more about their spiritual welfare. He didn’t just preach the Gospel message and leave them, he spent time in explaining the scriptures to them and living an obedient lifestyle while he was there with them.  He encouraged, comforted and urged them to live lives worthy of God. In other words, he was “making disciples”, teaching them how to grow in the word and not leaving them as babies without food and no one to feed them. He exemplified God’s love even more by writing letters to them after he had left as well as sending some of his companions back to check on them at times. Jesus’ command was not to “love them and leave them” or to “save them and send them’, it was to make disciples. 

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” — Matt. 28:19, 20 NIV

Post 10-25-2015

Harvest Season

even-smaller-bug-light13 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children among you. — 1 Thessalonians 2:3-7 NIV

Each of us has been approved by God to spread the Gospel. Some of us have large audiences and some of us have small audiences, nevertheless, we are all instructed to “go and make disciples”.  God knows where we can be the most effective. Whether we realize it or not, we are “witnessing” all the time.  The question is this: “For whom are we witnessing and what word are we spreading?”  We​ must always be sure that when we speak or act, that our motives are pure and that we are speaking truthfully.  This is particularly true when we are preaching, teaching or witnessing for God. When we are laboring for God, we should always remember that it is Him we are trying to please. We should never water down the message the Holy Spirit gives us to speak. Our mission is to spread the Word of God, not to get rich or famous, nor are we in a popularity contest. The world hears enough about those kind of things every day, yet they are still unhappy and stressed out, they are looking for some kind of relief from all those daily pressures.  They are looking for something to fill the void that is inside them.  We have the answer and it should be our hearts’ desire to give the answer to others. We must present the message with love and kindness,  We should be as innocent as little children. We are to go out “as lambs among wolves”.

2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. — Luke 10:2, 3 NIV

Post 10-24-2015

Could I? Would I?

even-smaller-bug-light17 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. — 1 Thessalonians 1:7-10 NIV

What words of encouragement Paul gives to the Thessalonians!  They have become models for believers everywhere. They are known throughout all of Greece for their faith in God!  So, when Paul and his companions arrive at a new place, the people there are already aware of who they are because of the good things they are hearing about the church in Thessalonica.  They already know the story of how the people in Thessalonica have turned from serving idols to serving the true and living God.  Because of Paul’s message which is being delivered with the power of the Holy Spirit, they now wait for the return of Jesus, the One God has raised from the dead, the One who would come and rescue them from the coming wrath!  Do the churches that we attend have that kind of reputation in the world today?  Is our local church seen as a place of safety and comfort? Or would people find more fellowship and feel more welcome in a secular setting? Do we do a good job of greeting newcomers and make them fell comfortable in our pews? Are we more like a wide-open hospital tent in a war zone or an emergency room only for believers?  Pick a number, any number.  If that many newcomers came to our church today, would we have enough members willing to pray with each one individually and explain the message of salvation to them?  Or would we need a triage to assign the degree of urgency to each case so the staff could handle it? No, we couldn’t do that since we all have the same disease and we are all affected to the same degree and in the same way.  So, would any of them have to leave without having an opportunity to talk to the Doctor? Am I personally able and willing to introduce them to the great Physician? My prayer for each of us is that we are not only able but that we are willing to do that. The fields are white with harvest.
As long as it is day, we must do the works 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 9:4, 5
Post 10-23-2015

We’re Spreading the News

even-smaller-bug-light13 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power,with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. — 1 Thess. 1:3-6 NIV

​God has chosen each of us and has a plan for each of us​.  We are sanctified, set apart, for a particular purpose.  Our faith produces works that are a part of that process. We show our love for Christ by laboring and helping others. We are able to endure because of the hope we have in us, the hope that we have because God has poured His love into us. When the Gospel is preached, it goes forth with power to accomplish whatever purpose God has intended for it.  The power is the Holy Spirit which can cut us to the bone and convict us of our need for redemption.  This is the message Paul and his companions preached among the Thessalonians and in all the other places they traveled.  They were successful, not because of their powers of persuasion, but because they were completely obedient to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It is the same message that each of us should be preaching every day with our lifestyle and as St Francis of Assisi encouraged us to do: “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.”  We should follow the example of Paul and live lifestyles that are worthy of imitation, just as we have become imitators of Christ.  Then those who are suffering will receive the message with great joy.  Their joy will be observed by others who will want to know the source of such great joy.  The kind of joy that endures in the midst of suffering and persecution, the kind of joy that is caught, not taught.
Post 10-22-2015