Sunday, 31 August 2014

One mediator

One God and one mediator

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, - 1 Timothy 2.5-6

The gulf between God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness is massive. Our sin separates us totally and absolutely from our God.

Man has always sensed that gap and has wanted to do something about it. Man has tried all kinds of philosophies and ideas and religions.

But those who do turn to Him find that we do have an advocate – we do have a mediator.  Our mediation is not found in religion or practice or ritual or routine or even dead saints or a holy man. We are equal in God's sight to we all have the same mediator.

Apart from Christ no one and no thing can mediate the difference. Mediators try to reconcile the differences between two sides, but the sin gap is so great that it no one can fill it except the God who is offended by our sin.

Praise God that our Mediator is there and willing to mediate when we place our faith in Him. 

Saturday, 30 August 2014

That all men would be saved

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. - 1 Timothy 2.3-4

To me it seems like things would be a whole lot simpler if God had just created us as some type of flesh and blood robots that would do what He wanted and love and honour and praise Him and treat each other right. That way there would be no sin, no trouble, no problems, and no need for salvation.

But can you imagine a life like that? Can you imagine a life with no freedom and no choice? Can you imagine a bunch of automotons going through life all the same and all repeating ‘I love God – I love God – I love God’ without any emotion or feeling or choice?

For there to be real love and a real relationship there had to be a choice. The relationship between my wife and me is only special because we choose to love each other.

And man had and has a choice.  Our choice is to follow God or reject Him. Those who reject God and His way have no access. Their sin separated them from God. That separation is not God's plan and it is not His desire. God wants that relationship restored - with everyone.

God's desire is that all men everywhere would come the knowledge of the truth of salvation in Christ alone - but He is not going to make anyone do it.

That is why it is imperative on us to share our faith. In the same context of praying for our leaders are the words that God desires all to be saved. That means that God wants us neighbours to be saved. He wants our co-workers to be saved. He wants that 'strange' town character to be saved. He wants that homeless person we step over to be saved. He wants that ISIS terrorist to be saved. He wants that man or women in a prison cell to be saved. He wants our political leaders to be saved.

It’s time we learn to see people the way God sees them. They are not objects of hatred or scorn or contempt. They are all people that Jesus was to see saved. 

Friday, 29 August 2014

Pray for them

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. - 1 Timothy 2.1-2

I love politics. I love a good political squabble. I love a good debate. I like the intrigue and the the bantering. I even like to criticise those whose politics aren't the same as mine - especially when they are in power.

I love it, and used to do it all the time - but something has changed in my heart over the last several years. For the last few years I have become concerned that we as Christians can really miss the boat when it comes to how to deal with those who run things, for all men - but also for kings and all those who are in authority.

I don’t know how bad it actually is, but from what I see on Facebook and  Christian forums it seems that American Christians are more focused on attacking and mocking and deriding the president and even calling him childish names.

Try as I might, and as much as I would like to excuse myself when I do it, that kind of action and that kind of speaking simply can’t be justified. Sure, leaders are open to polite and decent and respectful criticism; that is our right as citizens of our countries.

But there does not appear to be any excuse for being ugly or disrespectful or childish. We ought to replace that with supplications and prayers and intercessions and giving of thanks.

Our leaders are worthy of our respect and our prayers, even when we disagree with them and even when they do things we don’t like. When we give in to that kind of stuff we are taking our model from the world – not from Christ.

I wonder which is more powerful, our prayers or our attacks? 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Wage the good warfare

This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, - 1 Timothy 1.18-19

There are a lot of different descriptions of the Christian life and a lot of real life situations to illustrate that life. Paul talks about farming and sports and other clear pictures.

But here he talks about warfare. He talks about 'waging the good warfare' or 'fighting the good fight.'

As much as we'd like to soften it sometimes our Christian life is a real battle. It is a battle for the souls of others, and battle with the evil in this world, and a battle with our own flesh. It is a fight against 'powers of darkness in high places.' It is a fight against a roaring lion who stalks about seeking anyone to devour.

There are those who try to tell us that the 'victorious Christian life' is simply a matter of praying a prayer of faith. Then, just like what happened at salvation, we immediately have victory and live holy lives. From that point on all we have to do is get out of the way and let Christ work.

In some regards it can be a matter of semantics, but to say that we never have to do anything ourselves is a bit bothersome. We are told to endurance hardness as good soldiers, run races, box with our flesh, etc. Here Timothy is told that he needs to wage the good warfare with faith and a good conscience.

There is a battle here – it is a warfare that must be waged to the very end. Like Timothy we are called to wage that warfare by faith and with a clear conscience. Our cause is right. The battle is worth it. Our minds must be clear and we must trust God to lead us and give us the ultimate victory. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Now to the King…

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Timothy 1.17

Our King:

Our God who alone is wise

When Paul writes these words we get the sense that he can’t quite capture all that he is trying to say.  He was stressing to his young son in the faith the importance of having a right view of God because if we don't have a right view of God it is impossible to bring Him the honour and glory He is due.

Our God is eternal. He always has been and always will be.
He is immortal. No one can kill Him off or get rid of Him no matter how hard the try. The best efforts of man to ignore Him or wipe Him out are futile.
He is invisible. We are told to stop focusing on the visible stuff because it is all going to fade away. Only the invisible endures forever.
He is the All-Wise God. As smart or wise or intellectual or learned as man becomes he will never match up to the All-Wise God.

And because of all that He alone is due our honour, and He is due it forever and ever and ever.

I simply don't have the words, but I think Walter Charles Smith comes close to capturing the spirit of this wonderful verse in his 19th  century hymn.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
thy justice like mountains high soaring above
thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all, life thou givest, to both great and small;
in all life thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
and wither and perish, but naught changeth thee.

Thou reignest in glory; thou dwellest in light;
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all laud we would render:  O help us to see

'tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Chiefest of sinners

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. - 1 Timothy 1.15-16

It’s hard to know where to start here. It is kind of like the whole gospel and the impact the gospel should have is all wrapped up in two little verses. It always helps me to break things down into a list of thoughts and then try to tie them together.

This is important
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners
I am the worst of sinners
God showed me mercy for a reason
God used me to show the long-suffering of Christ with sinners
My life should be a pattern for others who are going to be saved

I think the thing that really sticks out to me (this time around) is the idea that Jesus Christ is long-suffering in dealing with man. Paul was a horrible persecutor of the church. Please don't misunderstand me, but when he says that he was the 'chiefest of sinners' we had a pretty good reason to say. It was just the kind of person that Jesus could use to prove His long-suffering nature. Paul hated the church. He hated the believers. He saw Christ as a false messiah and His servants as heretics. He was on a mission to wipe out these 'heretics.' 

And yet Christ came to die for Him - the most unlikely person of his day to be saved.

Paul prayed that it would be a pattern for all who would believe. What that tells me is that there is no one too bad to be saved. When we think of the ‘chiefest sinners’ of our day we need to remember Paul. Instead of showing hatred and contempt and saying ugly things and calling them names maybe we ought to see them as potential Pauls. Maybe instead of putting mean sayings on Facebook we ought to begin to pray for these people who threaten the rest of the world. Maybe we ought to pray for the leaders of ISIS and Boko Haram.

Who knows where a man like Paul might be today? 

Monday, 25 August 2014


And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, - 1 Timothy 1.12

Paul is a great example to us all. He loved the ministry God gave him and he knew that he was powerless to do it on his own. I think we get a misconception with our modern ear when we read the words 'putting me into the ministry' because we still can hold to the old concept of clergy and laity. We can think the 'ministry' only applies to those who are in the vocational ministry, but that is not what Paul says here. What he literally says is that God has put Paul in His service. 

And the truth is that God has called all of us into His service. He has called us to love and share and to love and serve and to love and do good works and to love and feed the poor and to love and share the gospel and to love and be meek and to love and be patient and to love be pure and to love and be holy and to love and to...

Somwhow God as considered his chidlren, all of us, to serve Him. 

I am glad that is not where it stops - He has also enabled us to do it. 

It can be a bit intimidating to think that every one of us are called to minister for our Saviour. It is an awesome task and the responsibilty is more than we can really comprehend. In our own flesh there is no way we could do it. 

But thank God He counts us worthy of serving him. Thank God for enabling us to do it. 

Let's not let Him down. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Why the Law?

But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, - 1 Timothy 1.8-10 

The Christian is confronted with the reality of the Old Testament law. It takes up a big part of our Bible. If we are honest we ask ourselves why we have it. What is it all about? Some Christians feel bound by the Law as though it still had some kind of power over us. 

The law had a purpose. It’s was our teacher to show us our need of a Saviour. It was to show us that we could not keep it. 

I thank God for the law. It is a good thing, as long as we use it properly. The law is not our guide. It is not our rule or our standard. When I read the law I am amazed at the wonderful grace of our God because I see what a miserable failure I am. It makes me rejoice when I realise what I deserve and what I have in Christ. 

The law does set a standard. It sets an impossible standard. And if that weren't enough the scripture says that if we could keep the whole law and only broke one point of it we would still be guilty of breaking the entire body of law.  Only One, Jesus, could keep that standard. 

The law is good. It showed me I was a sinner. It shows the world around us that they cannot possibly match up with God's standard. 

The law is good because it shows us the greatness of God and the weakness of man. It shows us our need of the gospel. 

Thank God the law and praise Him for the gospel 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Idle talk

from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. – 1 Timothy 1.6-7

This whole idea of wasted talk and arguing and fighting and disputing and such goes way back. I have a feeling that if internet forums and Facebook and Twitter had existed in Timothy’s time he would have been a part of it. For the second time in just a few verses Paul addresses the danger of being drawn away into useless conversations. I may be wrong, but I get the feeling Timothy had a problem with this temptation. 

There are times in Paul’s letters when you can almost sense a little bit of a fun nature. When he mentions those who are turned away by idle talk he says that they ‘don’t even understand the things they say or the things they approve.’

I guess part of the reason I notice this so much is that I am one of those who is drawn to idle talk, even if I don’t really know what I am talking about. I like to talk and I like to debate and, yes, I even like to argue.

But I know myself how dangerous that can be. I know how easy it is to get caught up in the silly stuff and get distracted from the important stuff.

It’s not like every conversation has to be about spiritual things or ‘Bible talk.’ God doesn’t care if we talk about the weather or the news to sports or politics or whatever. It is when that kind of stuff takes over and gets us off track. It is when that kind of stuff turns us against each other and wrecks our attitudes and spirits.

These folks got distracted by the Law. We get distracted by all kinds of nonsense. Let’s avoid the idle talk and stick the important stuff. We have more important things to do than idle talk.

Lord help us, well, let me, stay focused and avoid the nonsense. 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Love from a pure heart

Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,  - 1 Timothy 1.5

The song says 'love changes everything.' I am not sure how the song goes, but those words are true when we are talking about real love. Paul defines real love for us here as he does in other places. Here is definition is short and to the point. This definition deals not so much with the outplaying of love, but with its source. Love must be:

From a pure heart
From a good conscience
From sincere faith

Love from a pure heart means that it is pure and selfless. It is not mixed with any wrong motives. It is not mixed with anything else. Love from a pure heart is the kind of love that Paul wrote about the Corinthians with words like patient and kind and long-suffering and belief and hope and endurance. Love from a pure heart loves no matter what.

Love from a good conscience reflects that purity of heart. It is a guiltless love. That means that it is love without hypocrisy. Love never does anything that makes us feel guilty. It means our conscience is always clear because we do nothing that gives us that guilty feeling.

Love requires sincere faith. To love with the love of God requires faith because love requires an opening up of self to the possibility of hurt. Love believes all things because a key part of loving is trust.

How does our love measure up? True love does indeed change everything. The question is whether our love proceeds from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and with sincere faith. 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Stop the silly fighting

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.  – 1 Timothy 1.3-4 

I like a good dicsussion or debate as much as the next guy. I like the back forth and I like the banter. For years I posted on a Christian discussion forum. It was a fine place in many ways, but it also could be a place where debates got out of hand and anger and disputing took over. Mean things were said it was hard to tell it was a Christian place. It was not good for my spirit. I found myself angry with Christians I didn’t even know. 

That's just an example of what Paul is writing about here. 'Don't pay any attention to silly stories and endless discussions that cause disputes. Don't fight about the things we can't be dogmatic about. Don't fight over politics. Don't fight over sports. Don't fight over skin colour or national origins.'

Jesus said 'blessed are the peacemakers.' When we get involved in silly squabbles we are doing the opposite of peacemaking. 

Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus to help the church. Paul told him to stay true to doctrine - on that we can't compromise. But he also was to teach the Ephesians to avoid the silliness that would cause divisions. The nonsense that can occupy us divides instead of edifies. 

So let's stop the stupid fighting over silliness. It might make us feel good to 'win' an arguement or a verbal spar - but our desire alwasy ought to be to win our brother. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Lord of peace

Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. - 2 Thessalonians 3:16

If there was ever any doubt about whether or not God was for or against peace this one verse would settle it - 'may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace alwasy in every way.'

Christ is the Lord of peace. 
He Himself gives peace
He gives peace always
He gives peace in every way
He is there to protect the peace

Peace has alwasy been associated with Christ. It was prophecied that He would be the Prince of Peace. When He came the angels announced 'peace on earth good will to men.' When Jesus was preparing to leave He said that He was leaving His peace - not the world's peace but His peace.

I was watching the news last night and three stories dominated the news. The cease fire broke down in Gaza. ISIS continue on the move in Iraq. Another man was killed in Missouri. This world is not at peace. There is not much hope for peace in the world or its ways and practices. 

Living in a troublesome world with all of its troubles can also lead to troubled lives. 

Its tough to have peace within. Its tough to have peace without. Its tough to have peace.

But we have the God of peace who gives peace and He was us to have is always in every way. And He offers us that peace. He left it with us. 

One day the Prince of Peace is going to return and there is going to be peace. Swords will be turned into ploughshares. Wars will be over. The world will have peace. 

But we can have peace in our hearts and lives today. We can cast all our cares on Christ because He cares about us. When we learn to take our problems to Him in prayer with thanksgiving we allow the peace of God rule in our hearts. 

The peace is there. All we have to do is rest in the God of peace instead of our own devices. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Admonish him as a brother

And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. – 2 Thessalonians 3.14-15

One of the toughest things about dealing with other Christians is what to do when they fall into sin. It is easy to get scared off by Jesus' words when He tells us not to judge another about the speck in their eye until will deal with the weaver's beam in our own eye. And yet here we are told if a brother is ignoring the word of God we are to 'mark him and not keep company with him. Paul told the church in Corinth how to do that when one of their members was is sin.

I think we are seeing the importance of an attitude here. We have to deal with sin, but we don’t have to be ugly in the way we do it. We don’t treat our own like enemies even when they are in the wrong. We always remember that this is our brother and our goal is to restore him to fellowship. The word ‘admonish’ means that we lovingly warn and instruct him. We don’t kick him to the kerb.

We have no right to be proud or arrogant or ‘holier than thou’ when a brother stumbles. When we think we stand tall we need to take heed lest we fall.

True brothers stick together – even when one of them struggles. 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Keep on doing good

But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. – 2 Thessalonians 3.13

It sounds like such a simple instruction and so logical and so encouraging - 'don't grow weary in doing good.' It reminds me of another verse that says 'don't get weary in well doing for in due season you will reap if you don't lose heart'

Great, but sometimes it can be hard to not get tired of doing good. When we do good for years or decades and don't see much result it can get wearisome. I know myself that we might even be tempted to ask ourselves 'what's the use?'

But these words are still here - don't grow weary in doing good.

It's one of those teachinsg that is a faith tester. Do we or do we not have the faith the keep doing good when we can't see that results of doing good?

I was encouraged yesterday. Way back in about 1996-97 I had the opportunity to a chap named Alan. He had gone through a rough spell and had even stayed with us for a while. One night I sat as his kitchen table and he prayed and asked the Lord to save him. Of course I rejoiced, but we sort of lost contact and have not been in touch.

I figured 'oh well, that's pretty much the norm.'

But yesterday I met a friend who lives in the same town as Alan. He goes by AJ now and is my friend's barber. This friend tells me that every time he goes into the see Alan he talks about 'Pastor Parrow' and the night he asked Christ to save him. That touched my heart and and was a reminder about why we just keep doing good. We never know what impact our good is going to have.

So we just keep doing good and we learn to trust God with the results. One day we are going to see what all our doing good has had. Until then we just need to trust God and get to work.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Love and patience

Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 3.4

The love of God and the faith of Christ is such a blessing. We read quite often about the importance of us being loving and us being patient, but here we see the wonderful truth of the love of God and the patience of Christ.

A lot of folks, I think all of us at times, live with troubled hearts. There is a lot out there to cause us concern. The future is so uncertain. None of us really can do ‘what a day may bring forth’ and that can be a scary thought.

In addition our hearts can be anywhere. Our hearts can be on our own lustful desires. Our hearts can be consumed with pride and pleasure and possessions. All of these things are going to leave us empty. If our hearts are focused there we are always going to be empty hearted.

But Paul has a great place for our hearts to dwell. Instead of setting our hearts on all the troubling things around us we ought to direct them to the love of God. We ought to let them rest in the patience of Christ.

And another thing: if my heart is resting in the love of God I am going to show that love to others. If my heart is resting in the patience of Christ (and, as we’d say in the American south ‘that takes a whole heap of patience) am I not going to be patient with others? How would Christ deal with me if He chose to treat me with the same love and patience I show to others?

I am glad He doesn’t work that way, but I am also challenged to follow His pattern with me as I deal with others. May I simply be a channel of His love and patience. 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Go to work

For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. – 2 Thessalonians 3.10-12

It is God’s plan that people work. It is not a necessary evil. It is something that God wants us to do, and He feels pretty strongly about it. Paul doesn’t mince words here – ‘if a man doesn’t work, neither shall he eat.’

There is an old saying, ‘idle hands are the devil’s playground.' A lot of folks even think this is a Bible quote. It isn't but it certainly is an important truth. Idleness is destructive. When we have nothing to do we tend to get ourselves in trouble.

Obviously there are those who want to work, but can’t find work for the moment. That is not what Paul writes about here. He is speaking to those who can work and just choose not to. We can’t just dismiss this with a trite saying like ‘there is always work if you are not picky.’ Sometimes there is really is no work.

Anyway, back to the point. Those who don’t work will find something to do they end up being ‘busybodies.’ They walk disorderly. This usually results in causing trouble. Idleness is never a good thing.

Paul puts it clearly. Excuse the parrowphrase here – ‘Go to work. Eat your food. Quietly get on with your life.’

God never intended for His people to lie about and do nothing. We need to find something profitable to so with our time. Go to work. Volunteer. Do something. 

Friday, 15 August 2014

The Lord is faithful

But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.  – 2 Thessalonians 3.3

‘Some men have not faith’ is true – but one thing is certain – the Lord is faithful.

The faithfulness of the Lord is such a blessing and such a comfort. As much as I might like to be and as much as I might try to be there are times when I am not going to be faithful. I am going to fail. My faith is going to be weak and my faithful service may suffer. But my Saviour will always be proven faithful.

He is the one who establishes us for the faith and He is the one who guards us in struggles. The evil one will never win. His defeat is assured. That doesn't mean that he is never going to have temporary or minor victories, but our Guard and Protector will assure that Satan will not come out on top. His defeat has been assured since 'He will bruise your heel, but you will crush his head.'

He keeps us. He assures our inheritance. He establishes us. He guards us.

If He didn’t establish my faith and He didn’t guard my faith I wouldn’t have much hope. I would always fail. Praise the Lord that He is faithful – even when I fail. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Not all have faith

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. – 2 Thessalonians 3.1-2

Those words ‘not all have faith’ are some of the most tragic words we can read. As part of Paul’s prayer requests he asked the believers to pray that

The word of God would run swiftly
The word of God would be glorified
That they might be delivered from ‘unreasonable and wicked men’

And the reason was simple – there are people who don’t yet have faith.  At best those faith are not going to understand. Some who don't have faith are going to oppose us. And some who don't have faith may even attack us. These 'unreasonable and wicked men' can pose a threat and we need prayer because of them.

Because 'not all have faith' there are two major things to pray for. We need to pray that God's word go forth and we need to pray for protection from opposition.

Paul write to the Corinthians - 'Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.'

Sure, we have opponents out there. There are unreasonable men. Our desire should not be to get back at them or hurt them – our desire should be to bring them to faith in Christ. And that should be our prayer. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Stand fast and hold on

 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. - 2 Thessalonians 2.13-15

God has done so much for us. He chose to offer salvation and sanctification through His spirit. He called us by the gospel so that we could obtain His precious gift of the glory of Christ in our lives. These folks in Thessalonica were still worried about missing the return of Christ so Paul spent a good amount of time explaining the return. I don’t understand it all and I certainly don’t know when Jesus is going to come back. But I do know He saved me and set me apart. I do know the glorious gospel is what my faith depends on.

And I do know Paul’s next words – ‘stand fast and hold to the traditions you have been taught.’ This word ‘traditions’ may be a little confusing for us. It needn’t be because the word literally means the doctrines or the teachings. Paul specifies that the Thessalonians are to not let go of these teachings whether the came through his letters or through His preaching. Today we have those same teachings and doctrines preserved for us in the written word of God.

The importance of holding on and standing fast in these teachings have never been more important. As we continue to wait for the return of Christ. We all need something to stand on and hold on to. What better than those Bible doctrines we have been taught? 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Worthy of His calling

Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 1.11-12

I am always challenged by the sound of the words ‘worthy of His calling’ but I never can really ‘get’ what it means. I know in another place we are called to walk worthy of His calling, but here Paul prays that God would count us worthy of His calling.

But then he goes to explain the meaning of what this worthiness involves.

Fulfil the good pleasure of His goodness
Fulfil the work of faith with power
Let Christ be glorified on our lives
Depend on His grace to do the work

The point is, I think, that our lives ought to reflect the worth of Christ's work in us. We ought to live lives that are worthy of the price He paid on the cross.

Paul’s prayer is that God would be able to consider us worthy of His calling. He wants our lives to match up to the value He saw in us when He saved us. We can do that by, as Paul puts it elsewhere, by walking worthy of His calling.

When I think about this and look at my life I am ashamed at all the decisions I have made and all the things I have done that are not worthy of His calling and His sacrifice. When I choose to sin I devalue the cross.

Do our lives reflect the worth of the death of Christ? Or do we make light of the worth of His sacrifice by our foolish and selfish choices? 

Monday, 11 August 2014


We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure,  - 2 Thessalonians 1.3,4

 In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians he reminds them of some of the things he said in his first letter. He praised them for their growing faith and their abounding love. We also find out that they were going through persecutions and tribulations.

None of us like the sound of that. Who, after all, likes going through persecutions and tribulations?

But for some folks they do come. When I went to church yesterday the worst thing I had to worry about was how many people were going to be gone because of the holidays. I didn’t have to use a secret password to get into the meeting. Everyone knew where we met. There is a big sign out in front of the community centre where we meet. No one there was going to bother us and the Gardai (police) were not going to come in and arrest us.

But not everyone was so lucky. A lot of folks were like the Thessalonians. Christians in Iraq and Syria and places like that knew that if they tried to meet they would very likely be killed by sword or crucifixion. They knew their children could be beheaded and the women raped. They know the reality of persecutions and tribulations. 

When I talk about what we have to endure in a place like Ireland I really am being self-focused. At our worst we still have it made.

And yet these brothers and sisters in Christ endure and that endurance teaches them lessons in patience and faith that we only get a glimmer of. These folks know what it means to endure. Their endurance ought to be a great encouragement and a blessing to us. They ought to remind us that if they can endure what they do with faith and patience God can surely enable to us to endure through our struggles.

There are times when we just have to endure. Let’s not forget to pray for those who teach us how to do it. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Pray for us

Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. – 1 Thessalonians 5.25-26

Last week I received a Facebook message from a dear friend who asked us to pray for his health as it seems to be deteriorating. I responded that I wish I was closer so that I could do something tangible but that I would be praying.  He responded ‘Thanks, Roger....really can't think of anything more desirable than a brother's earnest prayer.’

Not just praying in general, but praying for others is a vital teaching. It is so vital in fact that Samuel said 'God forbid that I should sin by not praying for you.'

There are other important things to pray about, of course. We need to pray for the salvation of souls. We need to be ready to give thanks. We need to honour God with our prayers. We pray for our provision. We pray that God’s will be done.

But let’s not forget to pray for each other – we certainly need it. And nothing will draw us together like praying for each other.  

Saturday, 9 August 2014

He will do it

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. – 1 Thessalonians 5.23-24

A lot of folks talk about salvation. If they are theologians they discuss soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). The church has been talking about this for almost 2000 years. One of the major topics is whether or not salvation can or cannot be lost once a person is saved. I am sure there are merits to the other argument, but this is one area where I am pretty dead-set on my point of view as the Biblical one. I just can't see, no matter how hard I look, how a person can lose their salvation.

There are a lot of reasons I feel that way. I don't know how eternal life can be temporary. I can't see how if we could do nothing to get saved we can do anything to keep it. I don't know how Jesus could say 'no one can pluck you out of my Father's hand' if we could take ourselves out of His hand.

There are a lot of places we could look, but this is one of those verses that nails it.

May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely
May every part of you be preserved blameless till we see Christ again

And then:

He who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.

The one who called us to salvation is faithful. He will sanctify us completely. He will present our who body and soul and spirit blameless. He is faithful. He will do it.

He will. Not me. 

Friday, 8 August 2014

Abstain from every form of evil

Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. – 1 Thessalonians 5.21-22

We are surrounded by a world of evil. Every time we think things can’t get any worse – things get worse. For all the wonders of modern technology it is also a source of exposing us to more evil. It is everywhere.

Yesterday we saw how to not quench the spirit by testing what we hear and grabbing on to the good. When we do that we see evil for what it is – and we abstain from every form of evil that we encounter.

The King James translation was a excellent one. It had this ‘abstain from all appearance of evil.’ That doesn’t mean, as I have heard preached, that we abstain from anything that anyone anywhere at any time perceives to be evil. That puts the authority for our actions in the hands of other men. All they have to say is ‘that looks evil’ and then we have to stop. I heard the ‘appearance of evil’ applied to facial hair and wire rimmed glasses and types of music and watching television and any number of other things that someone thought of as evil.

The actual meaning is much more serious. We examine the scriptures and when we see what the Bible call evil we abstain from that evil. All of it. Every form of it. Whenever evil appears we keep away from it. Like Job, we are to ‘eschew’ evil.

And yet how often do we cosy up to evil? How often do we get as close as we can without actually embracing it?

We can’t pick and choose the evil we abstain from. We are to abstain from every Biblical form or evil. It doesn’t mean that others get to tell us what looks like evil to them. If the Bible says it is evil we avoid it all cost.

We really can’t afford to play games with evil. 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Don't quench the spirit

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. – 1 Thessalonians 5.19-21

When Christ left for heaven He left His Holy Spirit behind for us. At salvation the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in and with us and we become 'the temple of the Holy Ghost. He comes to teach us. He comes to admonish us. He comes to remind us of our sin. He comes to inspire us.

The Holy Spirit is an integral part of our lives, and yet too often He is the One part of the Godhead that seems to be most neglected.

The Holy Spirit inspires us through His word. He can do this when we read His word or when His word is taught or preached. Here the word prophecies probably refers to the preaching of God's word. The apostles still had the authority to proclaim direct revelations. Those revelations became the word of God and that is what is preached.

Paul says that the church was to not quench the Holy Spirit by despising these prophecies. Where God's word should burn like a fire in our souls it is possible to quench that fire by rejecting His word. We must be careful that we don’t ignore the preaching of God’s word and thereby quenching the fire of the Holy Spirit.

At the same time we need to be sure that we test out the things we hear. We need to be Berean like examine the scriptures to make sure those things are true. Then we cling to the things that are true.

Don’t despise prophecies – but do check them out. 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Give thanks

In everything give thanks – 1 Thessalonians 5.18

When our children were young we tried to teach them the importance of being polite and showing gratitude by saying thank you.  That's great and I suppose it does teach them to be polite, but really being thankful is a much more difficult lesson to teach.

Thankfulness is an attitude that we need to develop. It is an attitude based on faith in the One who is due our gratitude attitude.

Thankfulness doesn’t always come easily. It can be hard to be thankful when things don’t seem to be going well. I think part of what we are called to do is to focus on the things we can be thankful for. This is especially important when we are have a hard time being thankful for what we can see.

As we focus on what we see as the good we are reminded that we really do serve a God who loves us and cares for us. We remember how He has carried us through other times as we thank Him for those times. We learn to trust God enough to have a thankful spirit. Because God is a God of love He is a God who is worthy of our thanks.

Do we trust Him enough to be thankful? 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Pray without ceasing

pray without ceasing - 1 Thessalonians 5.17

I wish I understood more about praying. I wish I knew how it ‘works.’ There are volumes written and sermons preaches and seminars and Bible studies and all of that, but I still don’t know how it all works.
I don’t understand how people pray for deliverance from a storm then rejoice when the storm hits someone else. I don’t understand how one can pray for rain and get it, and someone else just a few miles can pray for rain and not get it. I don’t understand how sometimes prayer for healing is met with healing and other time it is met with death. I don’t understand how have thousands of people praying about a matter is any more effective than the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man.

I have a feeling I am never going to get it until we get to heaven.

But for now all I know is that God wants me to talk to Him.

Men ought to always pray and not lose heart
Prayer without ceasing
In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God
Pray for each other
Pray for those in authority
Pray for your daily provision

Pray without ceasing simply means that I need to be in constant communication with my God. Prayer is not intended to conform God to our will, but to draw us close to Him so that we learn to trust Him no matter what the circumstances. When we pray we know we are being obedient and that obedience gives us peace. Philippians 4 challenges us not to be full of cares, but to approach God with a thankful and supplicative spirit. It doesn’t promise us that we will get what we want, but that God will give us the peace that passes all understanding to protect our hearts and minds.

Prayer without ceasing. Leave the results with God. Rest in His peace. 

Monday, 4 August 2014

Rejoice always

Rejoice always, - 1 Thessalonians 5.16

These two words sound so nice, don't they? Just rejoice evermore. Why then it is so hard to put into practice?

It would be nice to sound all spiritual and all, but sometimes we face stuff that makes is hard to rejoice. It is hard to rejoice when someone gets cancer or loses a job or has great financial needs or when someone dies or so many other things.

How do we possibly rejoice in those times? How do we rejoice when everything in us tells us to complain or give up or doubt God?

We can only rejoice always when we have enough faith to trust God in those dark or difficult hours. When we can’t rejoice it is because we don’t really believe that God can sort things out. No, it is not easy to rejoice when the doctor walks out and says that a loved one has life threatening cancer. But I don’t think we have to rejoice in the cancer or other disaster.

I think our joy comes when we remember that we have a God of love to carry us through those times. We rejoice because we have hope despite the circumstances. Our joy comes not from bad news, but from the peace that passes all understanding and we trust God through the circumstances.

We live in a broken world. Bad stuff is going to happen. We need God's peace to deal with that bad stuff. 

Praise God for that peace, and may I learn to rejoice in Him during good times and bad. 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Pursue what is good

See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. – 1 Thessalonians 5.15

It is a mad, mad, mad, mad world. The whole world is in pursuit of something. Sometimes it is fame or fortune. Sometimes is popularity or pleasure. Sometimes it is riches or rewards. Everyone is chasing after something. 

There is a 60s comedy called ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.’ It is old fashioned slapstick comedy. The whole film is based a group of people mad about finding money left in a park in California. At the beginning they are calm, but as the movie goes on they go crazy about the money and everyone they come in contact with is infected. Their mad pursuit eventually leads to a disastrous but hilarious ending. 

For all of the hilarity it is a wonderful picture of a world in pursuit of stuff. People even put themselves at risk in order to have that shot at riches. I have seen glimpses of 'reality TV' and am amazed what people will do just for money. 

But it's not just money. The pursuit of pleasure drives people to do crazy things. The pursuit of fame creates a dog eat dog world. Perhaps we ourselves even get caught up in some of those crazy pursuits. 

Despite all that pursuit can be good - if we pursue the right things. Paul clearly says that we ought to pursue what is good. 

In this case Paul makes the general statement that we are to puruse what is good for ourselves and for all. But the specific here is prefaced with 'see that no one wonders evil for evil to anyone.' It is the same idea that Jesus had in mind when He said 'blessed are the merciful.' It means we pursue peac instead of vengeance and getting even. 

In all our dealings, but especially in our dealing with each other, we need to pursue what is good - forgiveness and peace and mercy. When we are opposed we need to pursue what is good, not to return evil done to us with evil done to them. 

These ought to be the pursuits that guide our lives. These ought to be the pursuits that drive us. Always. 

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Be patient

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. – 1 Thessalonians 5.14

When I read this phrase the first thing that came to mind was a song from many years ago. It goes like this:

There really ought to be a sign upon my heart
Don't judge her yet, there's an unfinished part
But I'll be perfect just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Master's loving hands

He's still working on me, to make me what I ought to be
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be, He's still working on me

In the mirror of His Word reflections that I see
Make me wonder why He never gave up on me
He loves me as I am and helps me when I pray
Remember He's the Potter, I'm the clay

He's still working on me, to make me what I ought to be
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be, He's still working on me

I realise that the song is a reflection on how God works in our hearts, but it is the first part that caught my eye – ‘there really ought to be a sign upon my heart, saying don’t judge me yet.’

Obviously we cannot condone sin or make excuses for it, but there is a basis in truth here. None of us are perfect. We are all growing. God is working in each and every one of our hearts. Not a single one of us has arrived.

None of us like to be judged by others. We want people to understand that God is working and we are striving to become more Christ-like. If we are honest most of us know that we are still weak and flawed. We want others to be patient while we are growing.

Maybe that is why we are told here to warn the unruly, to comfort the faint-hearted, to uphold the weak, and all the while to ‘be patient with all.’ God is working on each of us. Let’s be patient with each other while He works. 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Be at peace

…Be at peace among yourselves.  – 1 Thessalonians 5.13

I have to wonder sometimes about how Robert Stephanus decided to separate verses in the Greek New Testament in 1551. Most of the time it makes real sense, and if I knew Greek I might understand it better. This is an example. The end of this verse, 'be at peace among yourselves,' seems to fit in better with the next verse. If you are not careful, you can miss it here.

Be at peace among yourselves.

Sometimes it is challenging living in a country with to few believers. Our numbers really are quite tiny. That can be discouraging and sometimes there are not good chances for fellowship.  It’s not like that in some places. When we lived in the States there were loads of believers. One could be very picky about their Christian friends. Pragmatically speaking having a falling out was not that big a deal because there are plenty of other Christian friends.

Here I find that ‘being at peace’ is a much bigger deal. I have had to learn not to pick fights over the non-essentials. While it is never right to stand with error and it is never right to tolerate false teaching there are an awful lot of minor issues that cause fights and disagreements. I have found that there are Christians who don’t do things the same way I would do them. I may not even like the way they do some things, but they are my brothers and sisters in Christ.When our numbers are small we learn the importance of being at peace with each other. 

When the whole world is against us, when our brethren are being slaughtered in places like Iraq and Syria, it is vital that we learn how to be at peace with each other.

We can’t afford to sweat the small stuff. If we can’t learn to be at peace with each other how can we preach peace to the world around us?