Thursday, 31 July 2014

Recognise them

And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labour among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves. – 1 Thessalonians 5.12-13

From the very start of the church God has put spiritual leaders in place to pastor us and teach us and guide us and protect us and equip us for the ministry. It is easy to take them for granted. It is even easy to be overly critical and not to appreciate them. Paul says however that we are to recognise them and highly esteem them in love.

I have been a few churches, but two men stick out as having a special pastoral role in my life.

My first real close spiritual mentor was ‘Preacher’ Haynes Watson. His wife was ‘Granny’ Martha Watson. They were from the Bristol, TN area and we worked with them at the East Chattanooga Baptist Tabernacle in Chattanooga. TN. Mary and I were there as students and we were able to be involved in all kinds of ministries.

They did so much for us. We cut our ministry teeth under their tutelage. Here we are about 35 years on and I still remember so much that they taught us. They were not afraid to be human and not afraid to let us see their flaws. There was no measure of pride in them. Preacher was a tough southern good ole boy, but he was full of love and tenderness. Preacher and Granny taught me the valuable lesson that pastor does not equal perfect and so many other lessons.

My pastor for the last thirty years or so has been Greg McLaughlin. What first impressed me about Pastor was his exposition of scripture. When we were in involved in an unfortunate situation at the church were attending we joined our current church. Pastor allowed us to get involved in all sorts of ministries. Believe it or not he is not perfect either, but he is faithful and loving and a great teacher. When the Lord directed our hearts to Ireland he was full of support and presided over my ordination and our commissioning. He has faithfully stood with and behind us over the last twenty years as we have served here in Ireland. We don’t always agree about everything, but he is my pastor and I praise God for his role in our lives.

Our pastors are to be recognised and highly esteemed in love. They are human, but they are the men God put in place to help and guide and shepherd and feed us. Praise God for them and for these two men and others who have played a part in making me the man I am. 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Living together with Him

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. – 1 Thessalonians 5.9-10

Praise God that he did not appoint us to wrath. He could have. We are all sinners deserving of destruction. At every turn we oppose God and His ways. One day the wrath of God will be poured out on this sin cursed world. I believe that will begin with the Great Tribulation when, quite literally, all hell is going to break loose here in earth. I think Paul is indicating here that believers won't be here for the great pouring out of God's wrath. But, as I said before, eschatology is not my strong point.

Anyway, Paul uses this idea that Christians are not appointed to wrath to teach us an important lesson. Wrath is not our future, but something else is for us now and in the future. We have eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, so that, no matter what or where, we live together with Him.

‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’
‘And lo, I am with you always’
‘The Lord your God is with you, wherever you go.’
‘It is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me.’

We don’t have to go this alone. It is a big bad world out there and it is not always going to understand us. That can be a daunting thought. But I am not alone.

As I typed this I get the words to a great old gospel song by Ludie Pickett out of my mind. It really sums up this idea of living together with Christ.

I’ve seen the lightning flashing,
And heard the thunder roll,
I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing,
Trying to conquer my soul;
I’ve heard the voice of my Saviour,
Telling me still to fight on,
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.

No, never alone,
No, never alone,
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.

The world’s fierce winds are blowing,
Temptation’s sharp and keen,
I have a peace in knowing
My Saviour stands between—
He stands to shield me from danger,
When earthly friends are gone,
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.

When in affliction’s valley
I’m treading the road of care,
My Saviour helps me to carry
My cross when heavy to bear,
Though all around me is darkness,
Earthly joys all flown;
My Saviour whispers His promise,
“I never will leave thee alone.”

He died for me on the mountain,
For me they pierced His side,
For me He opened the fountain,
The crimson, cleansing tide;
For me He’s waiting in glory,
Seated upon His throne,
He promised never to leave me,

Never to leave me alone.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Let us be sober

But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. – I Thessalonians 5.8

I remember the days, many years ago, when alcohol was a big part of my life. I had my last alcoholic drink in June of 1976, a little over 38 years ago. For a couple of years before that drink, in a very real sense, controlled my life. I did what drink told me to do. I had weekends where I could not remember hours or even days.

I wish I could say that I stopped drinking because of conviction. That was part of it, but my motivation came from the fact that I didn't like anything else in charge of my life. I didn't like being out of control.

While I may have stopped drinking I still have situations where all kinds of other junk takes control of my life. Instead of drink I allow worries and fears and anger and desires and such control my days. 

In this passage Paul challenges us to be sober. This soberness is not just freedom from alcohol's control, but all the rest of these things. God's plan is that we not be controlled by any of those things. The great thing is that He tells us how to do it. 

Put on the breastplate of faith
Put on the breastplate of love
Put on the the helmet of the hope of salvation

Faith, love, and hope. Doesn't that sound familiar?

Faith, hope, and love remain at the end. It is the focus on those things instead of all the transitory things we face that are going to keep us sober-minded. If we focus on these things we won’t have time to be controlled by the other stuff. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Let us not sleep

Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. – 1 Thessalonians 5.6-7

We are entering into what can easily be the lazy season here. Folks are away on holidays and other trips and things are getting ready to slow down for the month of August. It is easy, very easy, to let that holiday spirit take control. I can imagine those lazy afternoons when things are just a little on the warm side and sitting back, just going to relax for a few minutes, closing my eyes, and…

I guess that is not too bad. I suppose we all can take a little break and the chance to grab a nap here and there.

But it is a ‘whole nuther story’ when we let that kind of spirit affect our spiritual lives and our service for the Lord.

It is too easy for the church to get fooled into a false sense of lethargy. This is especially true where the church has it easy. A lot of the west has enjoyed many years of freedom and even support from society and from governments. Freedom of religion is great, but it can also be dangerous. When we don’t face opposition we can let down our defences and get the idea that everything is okay. Any time we feel that false sense of peace and security it is easy to fall asleep.

I think it is pretty obvious that the time of our government safety and legal protection are slowly but surely coming to an end. We can no longer afford to sit back and let Big Brother take care of us. We need to wake up and stay on guard in these perilous days.

Now it is high time to wake up out of our sleep! 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Of the light

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. – 1 Thessalonians 5.1-5

The Thessalonians seemingly were really concerned about the coming of Christ. If we could put it modern terms they were really hung up with it and seemingly spent a lot of time focusing on it.

A lot of folks are still looking at all of those things today. People check websites and scan the headlines and guess the signs of Jesus’ coming. Every earthquake, every war, and every bit of new technology can be interpreted as a sign that Jesus’ return must be soon.

But Paul addresses it a little bit differently. ‘You don’t need to know any signs’ he says, ‘you know Jesus is going to come like a thief in the night when He is least expected.’

Jesus is coming when we least expect it. He is going to show up like a robber in the night. While we must be ready we cannot know when it is going to happen.

So instead of spending all of our time trying to figure out who the Beast is and what is mark is going to be I think there are better things we can do.

We are not trapped in darkness. We are sons of light and sons of the day. And while it is still day and we await Jesus return there are a whole load of things we need to be doing.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Comfort each other

Therefore comfort one another with these words… Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.  – 1 Thessalonians 4.18; 5.11

If there is any area – no let me restate that – among the many areas of theology where I am weak, I think my greatest weakness is eschatology. There are so many notions and ideas and theories, and there have been since the John penned those words – ‘even so, come Lord Jesus.’ When I was much younger I had it all figured out. Now I have to admit that know far less than I thought I did.

I do know this – Jesus is coming back again.

There is a lot of debate about the details and timing and such. These folks in Thessalonica were confused. Someone had told them that Jesus had already returned and they had missed him. Paul wrote to assure them that they had not missed the second coming of Christ.

But, for me today, that is not the issue.  For me the point today is the purpose of Paul’s words because they are words that he repeats later in the book.

Comfort one another with these words.
Comfort each other and edify one another.

It seems to me that the church and its members can be much quicker to confront than to comfort. Where we are called to be comforters and edifiers we can be so set on having our way or proving our point that we are better and conflict and tearing down.

We all need comfort. The world is not going to provide it. No matter what is going on or how long it is before He comes back we need to comforting each other in the meantime. 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Walk properly

that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing. – 1 Thessalonians 4.12

So why do we live this quiet life? Why do we keep our noses out of other people’s affairs? Why do we simply do our jobs as we have been instructed?

This verse answers the why - we do all these things so that we may 'walk properly toward those who are on the outside.'

This fast paced world is looking for a break in the action. Nobody seems to know how to slow things down.

But we have the answer to getting out of the rat race. As we walk properly in the world they can see that we have something they don't have. We have peace down inside us that the world can't give us and a peace that it can't take away. We should have a quiet, unriled, calm assurance of the future that draws people to our God.

We should have a different walk. We should have a proper walk. We should have a walk that gives others hope in this every maddening world.  

No one is going to stop the world so we can get off – but we can offer hope on how to survive on it.

Walk properly. Give hope. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A quiet life

that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,- 1 Thessalonians 4.11

Did you ever notice how loud life tends to be these days? It seems that loud is good and louder is better. I am not talking about volume or loud music or anything like that. I am talking about life simply being loud. A loud life is just want it sounds like. It is busy and hectic.

I like the old Andy Griffeth Show. I like a song Rascal Flatts sings about it and I think it captures what this 'loud life' is all about.

Sometimes it feels like this world
Is spinning faster
Than it did in the old days
So naturally, we have more
Natural disasters
From the strain of a fast pace

Sunday was a day of rest
Now it's one more day for progress
And we can't slow down 'cause
More is best
It's all an endless process

The church is not immune to this loud, active, past paced life. Christians are not immune either. We don’t have time for a ‘day of rest.’ We think ‘more is best’ like the rest of the world does.

Paul says here that we are to live a quiet life. Barnes puts it this way – ‘Orderly, peaceful; living in the practice of the calm virtues of life. The duty to which he would exhort them was that of being subordinate to the laws; of avoiding all tumult and disorder; of calmly pursuing their regular avocations, and of keeping themselves from all the assemblages of the idle, the restless, and the dissatisfied. No Christian should be engaged in a mob; none should be identified with the popular excitements which lead to disorder and to the disregard of the laws’

Quietness is scary. If we stay busy we don’t have to deal with the really important things like God dealing with us.

‘Mind your own business’ goes along with that. We have enough to deal with in our own relationship with God that we don’t have to ‘stick our noses’ in everyone else’s affairs. Remember the proverb that says that when we get involved in affairs that our not our own it is like grabbing a dog by the ears?

And finally ‘work with your own hands.’

So to summarise the Christian is to be marked by a quiet life, staying out of the limelight and staying out of things which are not his concern while he works away to provide for his family. Our homes should be safe and quiet places where people can find rest and the love of God. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Love more and more

But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;  - 1 Thessalonians 4.9-10

The Thessalonians were doing pretty well. They loved each other and they loved the brethren all though out the region. They had a really good reputation.

There is a danger in doing well though. There is also a danger in praising each other.

The danger is that we might very well become content and satisfied in what we are doing. We may think we are doing pretty well, so now we can focus on something else.

But when it comes to love at least there is no room for complacency. There is no room for slacking. There is no room for satisfaction.

'You are doing well,' Paul said, 'but keep getting better and better.'

There is no room for complacency. We never ‘arrive’ in our Christian lives especially when it comes to love. It is impossible to overemphasis love.

Don’t quit. Don’t rest. Never stop loving. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Called in holiness

For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit. – 1 Thessalonians 4.7-8

Paul wants to make a couple of things very clear. One of those is the importance of love. Another is the importance of holiness.

We are all called to holiness. It is not man’s idea but God’s idea.

It can be hard to preach or teach on holy living. It can sound so out of date and so picky and even so legalistic when we preach that men ought to live holy lives. When we talk about holy living people may think that we are being harsh or judgemental or unloving.

We God called us and sanctified us and set us apart for His use He did not call us to continue a life of unclean living. There is no room for uncleanness in the life of the believer. When we are truly in Christ 'old things are passed away and all things have been made new.'

Holiness is not something the preacher came up with.  To reject the teaching and application of holiness is not to reject man – it is rejecting God.

J.C. Ryle wrote a marvellous book on holiness about 150 years ago. He clearly addresses how impossible it is for holiness to exist with worldly living -

‘it is sickening and disgusting to hear the cool and flippant language which many pour out about "conversion--the Saviour--the Gospel--finding peace--free grace," and the like, while they are notoriously serving sin or living for the world. Can we doubt that such talk is abominable in God's sight, and is little better than cursing, swearing, and taking God's name in vain? The tongue is not the only member that Christ bids us give to His service. God does not want His people to be mere empty tubs, sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. We must be sanctified, not only "in word and in tongue, but in deed and truth." (1 John iii. 18.)’

Monday, 21 July 2014

Take care of each other

that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. – I Thessalonians 4.6

There is more to this matter of sexual immorality than just keeping pure ourselves. Like in so many other areas we have a responsibility to watch out for each other.  

We are sexual beings. That is how we are made. Without that truth the human race would not get very far. We are all aware of our own struggles.

But we need to remember that our brothers and sisters in Christ have the same struggles. We need to be careful that we don't, as Paul put it, take advantage of and defraud one another in these matters.

How do we do that? How do we take advantage of or defraud each other in these matters?

I think we do that when we take these matters lightly. Sexual attraction is strong. Men and women both can cause problems for our brothers and sisters in Christ by the way we dress, the way we act, the things we say and the way we say then, the way we touch, and even by the way we look at each other.

We a have huge responsibility to make sure that we don’t cause these kinds of problems for each other. Sure, we are all responsible for our own hearts and for avoiding sexual immorality in our actions and in our hearts. In a perfect world with perfect Christians we would not have to worry about these things because we would all have perfect minds.

But we don’t. Our dear brothers and sisters are sinners like us. Let’s be sure that we don’t do anything to make anyone’s purity any more difficult.

Our love requires no less. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

This is the will of God

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honour, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; - 1 Thessalonians 4.3-5

We hear it all the time – and it is true. Sex is everywhere. Unless we turned off every electronic device and ignored the internet and cut off all newspapers and magazines and don’t ever go outside or look outside we can’t avoid encountering sex.

But not as God meant it.

Sex is a wonderful gift from God. It is part of God's plan. When sex is in its biblical perspective of a man and woman, joined together in a love filled marriage, it is indeed a wonderful gift.

But the world has corrupted sex. It has made it simply a matter of gratifying the flesh. In a sex crazed and sex driven society it is easy even for God’s people to get caught up in the ways of the world. The rules for sexual behaviour seem to be changing and flexible.

But God’s standards don’t change. No matter how liberal sexual behaviour has become in the world God still says ‘abstain from sexual immorality.’ It is important that we note God doesn’t say ‘abstain from sex.’ God has a place for sex – and there it a wonderful blessing.

Despite all we see around us we can’t use our bodies in the pursuit and passion of our fleshly lusts. It will destroy us. If he doesn’t destroy us it will distract us.

Instead, we are to use our bodies as vessels of sanctification and honour.  Our bodies are for God’s use. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost and therefore there is no room for sexual immorality.

There are only a few places where we read the words ‘this is the will of God.’ This one of those places.

This is God’s will. Abstain from sexual immorality. Flee youthful lusts. Like Joseph when tempted by Potiphar’s wife we need to run when sexual immorality presents itself.

This is God’s will. 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Blameless in holiness

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. – 1 Thessalonians 3.12-13

Love may be even more important than we normally think. In the context of abounding love Paul adds ‘that He may establish your heart blameless in holiness.' That looks like we we can’t be established in holiness unless we are abounding in love. 

I am not really sure how abounding in love ties in to holiness but there it is. 

I think it may be that love is the basis of all the rest. It is love that establishes us in the faith and when we are established in love, not because we have a list of rules and expectations that we have to fulfill, because love for God and love for others is what will bring us to the point where we are blameless in holiness. 

God is love. As we learn to love we become more like God. And as we become more like God we are established in love and holiness.  There can be no holiness if there is not love. We cannot be blameless without love. If our hearts are not established in love we can't progress any further.

There is at least some truth the the little phrase from a popular song. Love, Christ-centred love, does indeed change everything. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Abound in love

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, - 1 Thessalonians 3.12

The older I get and the more I look at the scriptures the more I see how much God wants us to be people of love. Love permeates the word of God and it is what defines the church. In every one of Paul's letter he writes about the importance of love.

Here Paul is praying and encouraging the Thessalonian believers to 'increase and abound in love.' They were already known as people of love and Paul reminds them that it should keep increasing and keep abounding.

He tells them that they should increase and abound in love for each other. That's understandable, we are known by the love that we have for reach other.

But that's not all. He wants them to increase and abound in love to all - to everyone.

The kind of love Paul writes about is a superabounding love. It is love with love left over. It is over the top love. It is love that is full to the brim and then keeps on filling so that is is overflowing. It is love that dominates our words and thoughts an actions. 

How is our love for the brethren and our love for everyone compared to that standard? Is it just ‘there’ or is it overflowing in our lives? 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Our glory and joy

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.  – 1 Thessalonians 2.19-20

The 'ministry' is not always easy. I say 'ministry' that way because in reality every believer is in the ministry. The context here is speaking to those in a vocational ministry, but the lessons contained are for everyone who is serving the Lord in any way.

The ministry is often not going to lead to fame and fortune or glory. There is not normally a lot to rejoice in when it comes to earthly gains or fame. Most of us will never write a book or make much of a real visible impact on the world. Most of us will never be known much outside our immediate circle. We are not going to find any glory in those things.

Earlier Paul wrote about pouring his life for the believers in Thessalonica. They were his focus, not fame or fortune or popularity or anything else.

Our hope is not in things, but in loving people.
Our joy does not come in earthly pursuits, but in loving people.
Our glory is not in fame and fortune, but in loving people.

Our lives should be all about loving others. They are our hope. They are our joy. They are our glory.

Others Lord, yes others, let this our motto. Help me to live for others that I live like thee. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The word that works in you

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.  - 1 Thessalonians 2.13

Paul and his team thanked God for the way they applied the word of God to their lives. They didn't just hear the words as the words of the great missionaries, but they received them as the word of God.

That is how the word of God must be received, because while man's words may or may not work, God's words will always work.

When we truly believe God's work has the freedom to work in our lives. When we truly believe it in its effectiveness to work then we quit trying to work things out our own way, but we step aside and let him work.

But God's word can't work in me unless I am letting it into my heart. With God's word working in my heart I can effectively battle sin and temptation. When God's word is working in my life I have a light for my path. When God’s word is working I have an answer to the problems that come my way.

My problem though is that I too often let too many other things get in my way and guide me instead of letting the word of God dwell in me.

The word of God that dwells in me, if it truly dwells there, will also work in me for His glory and my betterment. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Like a father

For you remember, brethren, our labour and toil; for labouring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.  – 1 Thessalonians 2.9-12

The other day we looked at Paul’s care for the church being like a nursing mother. Here we see another illustration – that of a father caring for his children.

I like the way Paul describes their behaviour. He said that the readers would have seen:

How devoutly they behaved
How blamelessly they behaved
How they exhorted
How they comforted
How they instructed

And they did all this like a good father teaches his children.

Like a proper the missionary team set an example by their godly. Like fathers they sought to bring these new believers up in the ‘nurture and admonition of the Lord as they exhorted and comforted and instructed their spiritual children.

He says one more thing. He reminds them that they did not want to be a burden. I certainly understand that. As a dad and now a grampy the last thing I ever want to do is to be a burden to my children. 

Those of us who are little older in the faith have some responsibilities. They are illustrated by the roles of parents. Are we fulfilling our responsibilities? 

Monday, 14 July 2014

Pouring out our lives

So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. – 1 Thessalonians 2.8

Paul’s concern moved beyond the compassion he spoke of. He saw their responsibility to do more than just preach the gospel (though the word ‘just’ hardly seems right when it comes to sharing the gospel).

Paul speaks of how his team was well pleased to impart their very lives.

What does it mean to impart our lives?

Paul knew what it meant. When he gave his farewell address to the elders of the Ephesian church he spoke with great feeling about his ministry among them. He says that they he had poured out his life for them.

When we minister to people it is not just a matter of pouring out facts and knowledge. It is not just a matter of discipling through a bunch of lessons. It is not just teaching Bible facts and doctrines. All that is involved and all that is good – but it is much, much deeper than that.

Our ministry means that we are willing to impart our very lives to those whom God allows us to work with. It means that we sacrifice ourselves for others. It means that we our lives are not shut off from people, but that we open our hearts and minds and emotions and spirits and our weaknesses and frailties for others to see.

It is a scary thought to open our hearts and pour our lives into another.

But then I think of what Jesus poured out for me – and suddenly it doesn’t seem like such a big deal in comparison. 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Like a nursing mother

But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. – 1 Thessalonians 2.7

I know that Paul and his team were ‘real men.’ No one could ever call them soft or sissy or anything like that. They were tough and they had often had their toughness tested by their opposition.

But these tough guys knew the importance of love and meekness and gentleness. He here uses the most gentle picture of gentleness possible.

Mary and I have six children. Through the years I was blessed to see the tenderness and sweetness of Mary feeding our children. I love the picture of mother and baby cuddled together while Mary provided all the nourishment our children needed.

But she provided more than just nourishment. Those sweet tender moments provided comfort and inexplicable love. It was gentleness beyond description.

And that is how Paul describes his care for the Thessalonians.

I wonder how many of us have that kind of gentleness in dealing with others. I mean this is a special kind of gentleness and I think it is one that most of us, especially men, are not too familiar with. It is easy enough to be a tough guy when dealing with spiritual matters. But to be charged with being as gentle as a nursing mother? That is quite a different matter.

Gentleness is tied in with Biblical meekness. May God give us the strength is temper our spirits and make us gentlemen and gentlewomen. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Not as pleasing men

But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 2.4-6

The temptation to please men can be a huge problem. It is tempting to please men because we like to be liked. No one likes to incur man’s displeasure. To some extent all of us are people pleasers. It is nice to be popular. I don't think anyone really likes to be alone or totally unpopular.

In our Christian circles we can be especially fearful of being out of favour. I hate to admit it, but there have been times in my life when I was so fearful of the opinions of men that I have made decisions more influenced by them than what God would have had me do.

Paul would not be pressured by men and their opinions. He was not pressured by their expectations. He wouldn’t say the right things or do the right things in order to get men to support him or get on his side.

But he was concerned with what God wanted from him. He knew that while men might test his actions God tested his heart.

While I don’t want to offend anyone and must be sensitive to others, my only really motive is to do what God wants me to do. He is the only one I need to please.

Who am I going to try and make happy? Will it be God or will it be man?

Paul had his priorities right. Do we? 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Not in vain

For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.  – 1 Thessalonians 2.1-2

Some of us have ministries that make us wonder sometimes if it is even worth it. Paul and his team had faced all kinds of conflict and opposition. Their ministry was not easy. Apparently they too wondered whether or not their work was in vain.

It can be easy to think that when we don’t get to see much happening. We pray and work and do all we can and yet it can seem that nothing lasting or important happens.

Isaiah tells us that God’s work will never return void. God’s word will always do what He intended for it to do. He may not do what we think, but it won’t come back empty. Our work as we proclaim the word of God is never worthless.

So we have to stay at it. We can’t give up no matter how vain our work seems to our own eyes. Paul knew about what it meant to struggle – but he also knew the truth of what he wrote to the Corinthian believers.

Be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord because we know that our labour for the Lord is not in vain.

Despite the opposition they kept going – and it was surely not in vain.

So by God's grace may I remain steadfast and  unmoveable and always abounding in His great work. 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

To wait

For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. – 1 Thessalonians 1.9-10

I have said it before. Anybody who knows me knows it. Waiting is anathema to me. It is not my cuppa tea.

But even I know that there is something worth waiting for.

We are waiting for our King to come back.

Despite how I feel about it waiting is a good.

‘It is good that a man would learn to patiently wait on the Lord’
‘He that waits on the Lord will renew his strength’
‘Wait on the Lord and He will strengthen your heart’

But there is something to do while we wait. We aren’t just sitting around like we are waiting for a bus. We don’ t sit here with our bags packed and looking at the clock. We are to be serving while we wait.

Those of us who are saved have hopefully turned from our old idols. We are waiting for Jesus to come back. It is vital that we keep serving till the day He does return.

Even so, come Lord Jesus. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The word sounded forth

For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,  - 1 Thessalonians 1.8-9

The previous verse spoke about the importance of being an example. Here Paul goes on to describe exactly how much that example matters and what being an example can accomplish.

As a result of their example the Thessalonians accomplished much. Through them the word of God sounded forth. Their faith was seen by everyone around them. People saw the impact of them turning from idols to serve the living and true God.

Let’s go back a couple of days. We saw a couple of days ago that the gospel cannot just be a bunch of words that we speak. While our verbal witness is important it needs something to back it up. It is being an example that makes that difference. Here is how the Thessalonians made a difference.

Their faith went out to people around them. It was so obvious that Paul didn’t even need to talk about it.
The Macedonians and Achaians were so impressed by the lives of the Thessalonians that they told Paul about it.

The proof in the pudding was that they ‘turned from idols to serve the living and true God.’ The testimony of these Christians was such that Paul didn’t even need to talk about it.

Our lives should shout out our faith. Our faith must be real and visible.

And our changed lives must back it up. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014


And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. – 1 Thessalonians 1.6-7

When Paul wrote to Timothy about how to deal with the problem that he was young Paul said ‘be an example of the believers in word, in conduct, love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity.

Like Timothy, our example to others is important. Paul and his missionary team had set an example for the believers in Thessalonica. They in turn became examples to the Macedonian and Achaian believers. And, by implication, each succeeding spiritual generation is an example to the next.

There are three ways, I think, that being an example is important.

Our example is important to non-believers. Non-believers are only going to see Christ as we are examples to them of how His love and care for them.

Our example is important to other believers. Other believers need to see the reality in of our faith in Christ to encourage them to walk in Him.

Our example is important to us. As Paul told Timothy being an example is the only way to silence our critics within the church.

So what kind of example are we setting? Is it as an example of how weak we are, or is it example of what Christ can do with a sanctified life?

Monday, 7 July 2014

Not in word only

For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. - I Thessalonians 1.5

Of course we are to preach the word. Faith comes by hearing, and by hearing the word of God. Every time we preach or share our faith we use words to do it. No one could ever say that words are not important.

But Paul says here that when he shared the gospel it was not just in words alone.

The gospel came with power
The gospel came in the Holy Spirit
The gospel came in much assurance

When we share the gospel we need to be careful about depending too much on our best words or notions or methods. We can take all the courses we want and learn all the ‘A-B-Cs’ and the Romans Road and all the other methods and they are all well and good, but we are just parroting words we are really not doing much good.

If the words are not empowered by the Holy Spirit and done with the assurance of God’s word they are just words. Words, words, words.

Even the best words, presented in the most skilful manner, are powerless without the power and working of the Holy Spirit. 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Faith, love, and hope

Remembering your

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,  - I Thessalonians 1.2-3

I am amazed that as many people as Paul had contact with he had the mental capacity to remember all of these churches and all of these people. Paul told the Thessalonians that he gave thanks for them, that he prayed for them, and that he always remembered three things about them.

I remember without ceasing your

Work of faith
Labour of love
Patience of hope

Notice those words – faith, love, and hope. Do they sound familiar? ‘And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.’

Since these are the enduring traits it is important that we make sure that we prioritise them in our lives. When it is all said and done faith, and hope, and love will continue to endure. And love is the best of all.

I also like the words that go with them.

Faith produces works
Love motivates our labours
Hope gives us the patience to endure

Those are the tests of the reality of faith, love, and hope. When I look at my life do I see the kind of faith that moves me to work? If not I have to question the reality of my faith.  Does the love of Christ constrain me to labour for Him? Am I able to endure the things of this world because of the blessed assurance that gives me a hope that endures?

Could it be said that Roger has a work of faith, a labour of love, and patience of hope? 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Take heed to your ministry

And say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it." – Colossians 4.17

Another ‘minor player’ of the New Testament is Archippus. I think he is only mentioned here and in Philemon where he is called a ‘fellow soldier.’

I have always like Paul’s word to Archippus though. Not only do I like them, but I am often challenged by them.

Take heed, or pay attention to, the ministry that God had given you.
Fulfil that ministry.

I am regularly challenged by those who simply plod on in their ministries. One of the great examples of a plodder is William Carey who struggled in a slow and apparently unsuccessful ministry before he finally saw visible fruit for his ministry.

But all over the world are Christian workers who are never going to have books written about them. They are never going to be famous and are never going to see great visible success. Sometimes people are just going to spend their lives plodding along.

‘Take heed to the ministry you have and fulfil it.’ Paul knew about sticking with a ministry. At a particularly difficult time in his ministry he wrote, in the midst of his struggles, ‘seeing then we have this ministry we do not faint.’

All God requires of His servants is faithfulness. All we need to do is stay at the task until our task is fulfilled. When our task is fulfilled He will let us know. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Labouring fervently in prayer

Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. – Colossians 4.12-14

Who is Epaphras? He was a Colossian believer who, at some point, was a fellow prisoner with Paul. He was a hard worker. He was a fervent pray-er. He had great zeal for the Colossian church, and well as the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis.

There is a phrase that sticks out to me though. It is mentioned that he ‘laboured fervently in prayer.’ He is what we might today call a true prayer warrior. When I think of labouring in prayer I always think about Jacob and his wrestling match with the ‘man of God' because sometimes prayer can be as hard work as Jacob's struggle.

Epaphras had a real zeal for the people of the Colossian church. His heart was heavily burdened. So he took it on himself to struggle in prayer for them.

Every time I read about pray-ers and their prayers in the Bible I am hit by just how weak my prayer life is. I have to admit that there have only been a handful of times in my life when I have had the zeal to ‘labour fervently in prayer.’

What a challenge Epaphras presents. By the grace of God may I (and perhaps more than just me) learn to prioritise my life and have a zeal to labour fervently in prayer for others. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

A comfort to me

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me. – Colossians 4.10-11

I’m not sure whether or not I have mentioned Aristarchus before. He is not a person we hear a lot about in scripture.  He may only be mentioned here and one other time in scripture. Aristarchus was arrested with Paul and was now imprisoned with him.  

On the other hand we have ‘Mark, the cousin of Barnabas’ whom we know a lot about.

There really real diversity here. One man worked with Paul and travelled with him and even went to prison with him.

The other man Paul had once said was not fit for the ministry. Somewhere along the way the fellowship is restored between Paul and Mark so that Paul writes of him, 'he is profitable to me for the ministry.'

And we have a man named Justus. 

And now we learn that  these man had done something special for Paul who said 'they have proved to be a comfort to me.'

I find my self challenged by the testimonies of Aristarchus; Justus, and John Mark. I think it interesting that they make a connection here with Barnabas, who was know as the 'son of consolation.' We also know that one of the names of God's Holy Spirit is 'the Comforter.'

My mom died in November of 1992. We had just started raising our support to move to Ireland. One of the couples we had met along the way was Joe and Kathy Valerio. We became good friends with them and their family. I will never forget the simple words Joe spoke when he phoned me after hearing that my mom had died. He is a big, burly, rugged looking Italian. But he phoned me and I could hear the tears in his eyes as he said ‘I wish I was there to give you a hug.’

That is what comfort is all about. That is the kind of things that Aristarchus, John Mark, and Justus would have done for Paul. We all need a comforting team at times. 

I certainly need to be more aware of diligent about the ministry of being a comfort to others. 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Graceful speech

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. – Colossians 4.6

Dealing with people in the world is clearly important. Paul follows up his words about wisely redeeming the time with words about how we are to speak to them. Though the principle of proper speech runs throughout scripture, here it is used in the context of dealing with those beyond the pale of the gospel. The ‘each one’ refers back to those who are ‘outside’ the faith in the previous verse.

As Christians we can expect opposition from the world. We can’t expect them to really ‘get it.’ The question we often hear is ‘Why?’ We must expect the questions because what we believe really can’t make much sense to the world. Everyone is a sinner. Our sin disqualifies us from eternity with God. We can’t do anything to fix it. Our hope is a Saviour who went to the cross to pay the price for our sin.

And He rose again in victory over death.

On top of that we live in a world full of wickedness. So how do we bridge that gap? 

Some folks think that anger and wrath and calling people names and such is the way we respond to that world. It’s pretty popular in Christian culture to hear all kinds of ugliness toward those who are ‘without.’

But Paul says we need make sure that our speech is ‘always with grace and seasoned with salt.’

When we are dealing with people we need to be careful that our talk doesn’t destroy our witness. We can’t answer with anger or hatred or vitriol. Grace is the language of the believer who cares about others. And not only do we employ grace, but with season it with a little salt so that it is flavoursome and savoury. Our answers should make others want what we have, but it is too easy to scare people away.

So when we get frustrated at the world around us. when we get angry at the wickedness around us, and when it seems like society is falling apart as it turns from what have been what we consider to be traditional values let’s examine our response . Let’s make sure that our words are gracious and well seasoned and full of the love of Christ. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Redeeming the time

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. – Colossians 4.5

I have a birthday this week. With it I enter the last year of my 50s. That is still young, well, I like to think that is still young, but it is not as young as I once was. I have been saved for 40 years. There is a pretty good chance that I have lived well over half of my Christian life.

Sometimes I actually reflect on the time I have left and wonder what I have done and what I am doing. I consider how I am using my time. There are a couple of places where the scriptures tell us to redeem the time. In other words we are to be actively and wisely using the time He gives us profitably.

In this regard we are instructed to be wise in the way we are dealing with those who are ‘outside.’ In other words, we need to be sure that we are using our time wisely when it comes to reaching the lost.

There seem to be a lot of folks who think the best way to use our time in dealing with the world is to attack, condemn, and criticise. There seems to be a lot of time spent trying to reform society by using political means and social agendas to change the world around us.

I can get caught in this same trap myself. I can get distracted with all the externals and unimportants of the world. I like discussions and debate. I like politics and history. I like to talk about sports and current events and the weather. And there is nothing wrong with that if our ultimate goal is to use that to glorify God. There is a point that we just need to be good friends and not everything need point to the gospel, sometimes we are just being friends. Sometimes we listen just because we care about our friends. 

But we need to remember that our time is short and the world is lost. Folks need to hear the gospel. We need to be wise enough to use the time we have to share the most important message of all. We need to be aware of the Holy Spirit’s direction when we are dealing with others.

May we use our time wisely when we are dealing with the world. We don’t know how much time we have.