Monthly Archives: November 2015

Keeping Focused in a blurry world

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

2 Thess, the sequel to Paul’s first letter continues to praise the Thessalonians church for its testimony.  While they are still being tested and persecuted by the culture and the Judaizers, their faith has remained steadfast. In Church history, when then Church experienced troubles [outside, not conflict within] it grew, the book of Acts is a wonderful example of how the Church comes together in unity and strength when adversity abound. The Corinthian Church is a prime example of what internal conflict looks like, but that’s another blog. Twice in this book Paul commends the Church for its faith and resolve to live godly before the world. This is most interesting, because they were not content to just make it through whatever ordeal was at hand, but their perseverance was causing the Gospel to be spread to other regions.  This is significant because mankind is prone to focus on themselves and their problems rather than take the high road. Paul assures the Church that while they have been faithful; God will repay those who have dealt with them in a persecuted way. This leads to the 2nd chapter where Paul discusses the Return of Christ. This is a hot topic in our American Churches today. Everyone is talking about how bad it is everywhere; yet the facts are the Gospel is spreading into regions of the Lost world it has never been able to do before. For example; the ISIS and the Syrian conflict right now is doing great testimony for the Gospel; most people don’t look at it that way – but the fact that in Muslim countries, believers are willing to die for their faith rather than recant to Muslim speaks volumes to those that are looking for HOPE in this chaotic, apostatized world. We Americans should take notice of what REAL persecution looks like, instead of complaining about our inconveniences of comfort!

In America right now from pulpits and book publishers there is a myriad of sermons and books about the impending disaster of the End of the World. I believe American Churches are so focused about the possible end times and return of Jesus, that they have forgotten that millions are still waiting to hear that Jesus came the first time. This became a hot topic with the Thessalonians church, for some had said that the Return had happened already. There was a group that were so enamored with the Return, they quit their jobs and were waiting for the End to happen. I have read enough prophecy books and scripture to understand that, if “we” the Church are talking about the Return of Jesus and the world is talking about it as well; then it’s not even close. Matt 24 tells us that everything will be “normal” when Jesus comes. People missed Jesus the first time because of ignorance; people will miss Him the second time because of apathy and apostasy. while the Church is in a state of apathy and apostasy [In America] that is not necessarily true everywhere. Thousands are coming to Christ around the world! Not because of the All-gifted American churches; but because of God’s work in the world. [See Nik Ripken’s book Insanity of Obedience] If we are so focused on Christ’s return, we miss the work of being salt and light in the world. Just because the American Church is in apostasy, doesn’t mean God is done!

Paul outlines some specifics with the Return of Jesus; while I believe He, Jesus can come at anytime; I also find the long-suffering and compassion of God greater than we think. The task of proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples is greater today than in times past – yes I believe that things are pretty messed up; really out of control. But even though all looks so bleak – we must focus on the “journey of faith” instead of trying to hurry and escape from all the turmoil. Countless times scripture tells the believer that his life will be difficult and he will be persecuted, even killed for the Faith in Jesus. SO why are we surprised that today we are in difficult times? The Gospel is being preached, thousands are responding in faith at the risk of losing their lives – John 11:25-26; even though we die – we will live! The Resurrection is true! Besides Jim Elliot said “He is no fool who loses what he cannot keep, to gain that which he can never lose!  The End of the World will come; if that is the near future, what manner of disciples should we then be? Oh, that He [Jesus] would find us faithful when He comes!

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Thanks for the Testimony

1 Thess chapters 1-4

Paul is writing to a church that he established in 3 weeks amid much tribulation and conflict. In Acts 17 we find the story of Paul’s missionary work among the Thessalonians, this on the heels of the problems at Philippi. We must remember that Paul wanted to go to some different areas on his 2nd missionary journey, but was prevented by the Holy Spirit. The Macedonian Call compelled him to go to the cities of Philippi, Berea, Athens and Thessalonica.  Even though there was great struggle with the Jewish religious leaders, Paul and the new church were able to get strides to propagating the Gospel to nearby communities. As a side note, I wondered how I would be if I was confronted with so much opposition every time I tried to do the Lord’s work? Would I stay the course or would I say I have had enough of this – I’m tired of the garbage and walk away – I hope I would have the where with all to stay the course.

Even though this young church had hardship at the beginning, their faith and testimony has spread to other regions. Their testimony was well established. There isn’t any greater testimony for a pastor or minister than to know the labor among the people/church wasn’t in vain. The proof of the ministry is the obedient lives of those we have nurtured.

Paul makes his case before the church in how he came to them, not with flattery words and malice for gain but with a sincere heart and love for the lost. Paul continually praises the church for their faithfulness and holy witness. He also tells them to go one to more, even as they have walked, he ask them to walk “straighter” before the lost in conduct [2:12]. Paul wanted them to have holy lives, so that their testimony wouldn’t be stained, nor the Gospel be brought reproach. Now this church was already doing/living a great testimony – Paul challenged them to accomplish more. No because Paul wanted to get the glory, but because the great need for holiness among the Gentiles. The Thessalonians were experiencing trials, persecution from their own countrymen, yet they were found faithful – this is a lesson we in America need to learn. Even though the American society seems to be breaking down in to a great immoral society – we that are believers must still shine and salt the world with our presence.

From the language of this letter it is easy to sense the heartfelt love Paul has for this church. He longs to be with them, so to fellowship and lift them up. Sometimes the things we desire have to wait until the timing it right. In 1 Tess. 2:19, a great verse reflects a scene in Heaven one day; how that all the lives we have had an influence on will stand in the crowd of believers, and can take great joy in seeing them there before the Father!

In chapter 3 Paul continues his explanation of why He hasn’t been there, the Satanic tactics and the resistance to the Gospel. But even though Paul and his team may be missing, they were there in spirit and prayer. In this letter we capture a premise that seems to be lost in today’s Christian Living – the expectation that people are going to live righteously and godly. Accountability for the way we live the Believers’ life is so important for our witness and testimony to be valid.  In chapter 4, Paul repeats himself in asking the church “to excel more” in what they are doing. In verse 2-7, Paul uses the word sanctification – this denotes a separation, but also a maturation of the believer. Elsewhere Paul says we are to no longer to walk like children tossed to and fro, but to be built up in the faith.

The last part of chapter 4:13-18, is a passage that finds itself quoted during funerals as a means of hope. The Blessed Hope of Christ return is a hope we all need, especially when faced with deathly opposition. This world isn’t all there is; but this world determines all that there is hereafter. We are to be comforted that our labor and suffering are not in vain, keeping a pure uncorrupted testimony of faith for ourselves, and those who have suffered in bringing us to God.

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The End of a Bad Week

John 16-20; if we look at the Gospel of John with all the events that have happened in the last week of Christ’s life, one would think what a tragedy. However, Jesus continued to preach and teach his disciples. There were many things that He wanted to tell them before the events actually happened. Even then there were many things that the disciples just couldn’t comprehend. The 40 days of walking with them after the Resurrection seem to be reserved for those additional teachings. When we look specifically at chapters 16-17 we find a very compassionate Jesus that is trying to convey to His disciples what is coming, yet also try to calm and encourage them. The presence of a Helper in their lives would be the key – It is for your good that I go away, now no one in that room would have thought that to be true. While Jesus was physically with them; there was always a limit,; but in the Holy Spirit being IN them, means that God’s presence is always with us. No separation. Jesus repeatedly tells them, I am going away, but I will return. He speaks that they will have great sorrow and grief, and that the world will rejoice, but the tables will be turned and their sorrow will be replaced with unspeakable, enduring joy.

I found it interesting that the world/religious leaders would attack Christians, then remembered the attacks that are being conducted now by ISIS of Christians in the Middle East. Jesus warns that persecution will come, but we have become victorious in Him. This seems so contrary to what most believers believe; we think that life will be carefree and trouble-free if we have Jesus in our lives – the opposite is true. For before we were in the World and the World didn’t worry about us; but now that we are Light shining in Darkness, they are offended and want to eliminate the Truth and conviction that the Holy Spirit brings through our living for Jesus.

In John 17, two comments seem to dominate

I have glorified you

That they may know you sent Me Jesus reiterates that He has only spoken and done that which the Father asked Him; now he includes the disciples, those that have been given to Him by the Father; these have believed that Jesus came from the Father and have believed in His words. The prayer is for their continued “keeping” as Jesus kept them through His shepherding. I thought about how many times that Jesus says I have kept all that you have given Me – meaning he lost none that the Father gave. Jesus didn’t receive from the Father the multitudes, He received the few – 12 men. It is through these 12 men that the Gospel would find its greatest propagation. Even today we find that the “anointing of God” seems to be on the few, not the many. As the disciples were found faithful, even in persecution and loss of life, even so we must be today!As the Father was in Jesus, Jesus is in us – so we to must be IN the world. It’s about extending the Presence of the Father. Jesus obeyed the Father which resulted in great glory, we being obedient to Jesus brings great glory to both the Father and the Son, specifically our obedience to Jesus reflects that we believe that He came from the Father – so our faith is in both the Father and the Son, which is reaffirmed in our human spirit with the Holy Spirit. From the prayer we quickly are caught up in the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. Just as a note, 600 soldiers came out to get Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane! Talk about over kill. Jesus submits to their authority; yet is resistant. He makes them expose themselves and their obvious demonic plan. I found John 17:4 interesting, for Jesus has not gone to the Cross, I have always felt that was the “glorifying work of Jesus”; so how could Jesus have finished or accomplished the work He was given to do if He hasn’t died yet? While Jesus was to be the Savior; Jesus was sent to reveal the father in the flesh. As Jesus said, He who has seen me has seen the Father. He accomplished that; now it was time; since He is the Son of God – called by man, to die as Savior. The mock trials and all the scheming of the religious leaders is appalling, especially since the great Passover feast is pending. Jesus was surely to die the “lamb of God” death for the sins of mankind, but woe to them who hands are blood stained because of their rejection of The Christ!The Week ends with what seems to be a victory for evil and Satan; oh but just when Satan thinks he has defeated God; God will have the last say – let that be a word for you in your life! It’s not over until God says its over.

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