Thursday, November 8, 2018

I Thessalonians 1

I Thessalonians 1

The book of I Thessalonians was written to encourage the believers in Thessalonica to remain steadfast in their faith in spite of the pagan society which was all around them. The First Epistle of Thessalonians is a call for Christ-centered living. I Thessalonians is a call for a radical transformation in our lives, because we belong to the Lord.

Paul saw much evidence of Christ-like living in the hearts and lives of the believers in the Thessalonian church. Paul said in I Thessalonians 1:2-3, "We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul knew that a working and fruit-bearing faith was true faith. Paul saw this in the Thessalonian believers, and he was thankful to God for them. Do others see Christ in our lives? Do others thank and praise the Lord because of the evidence of faith they see in our lives?

One characteristic that Paul mentioned in I Thessalonians 1:3 as a characteristic of true faith is "work produced by faith." True saving faith always results in holy living. We still continue to struggle with sin as believers in the Lord Jesus, but it must be our consuming passion to live lives which are pleasing to the Lord. Our relationship with our Lord must be primary in our life, and our relationship with the Lord must be shown in every area of our lives. We must have a passionate desire and love for the things of the Lord. We must have a passionate desire to bring about the fruit of obedience to our Lord in all areas of our lives.

Yet another characteristic of true faith mentioned in I Thessalonians 1:3 is "labor prompted by love." We must love God and others to the point of exhaustion. This kind of love in not necessarily a sentimental feelings type of love, but it is a love produced by the Holy Spirit. Love sometimes involves hard work and perseverance. I Corinthians 13 reminds us that sacrificial love does not always come naturally. Love is patient and kind. Love is not envious, proud, or self-seeking. Love is not rude or easily angered. It certainly does not keep a checklist of the wrongs committed against us by others. God's sacrificial love requires the Holy Spirit's help and involves perseverance and hard work.

A third characteristic of true faith mentioned in I Thessalonians 1:3 is "endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." True faith proves itself by patience and perseverance. God's children can be patient and persevere in their faith; because they have the certainty that they belong to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for time and for eternity. Because of this blessed certainty they can endure and persevere even in difficult times in their lives. God's children can remain steadfast and patient in their faith even under pressure. This is because they rest their lives in the Lord Jesus Christ, and know they are secure in Him.

We were chosen by the Lord to live for His glory. The Lord has called us to changed lives, and He has called us to be imitators of the Lord Jesus Christ. (I Thessalonians 1:6) We must reflect the Lord and His character in both pleasant and difficult times in our lives.  I Thessalonians 1:7 tells us that Our lives must become "a model" to all our fellow believers and also to those who do not know the Lord. May we be such good examples of perseverance in love, joy, and peace that our faith will be evident to those all around us. May others see the power of the Holy Spirit and Christ-like character in our lives. May others know that our lives have been touched and changed by our Lord and by His presence in our lives!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Psalm 91

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust."  Psalm 91:1-2

"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."  Psalm 91:4

God's children dwell "in the shelter of the Most High."  The Lord is our shelter in the trials and storms of life.  As His children Psalm 91:1 reminds us that we "rest in the shadow of the Almighty."  The Lord is our shadow of protection from the oppression of the heat of life's difficult circumstances.  Psalm 91:2  tells us that the Lord is our "refuge" and our "fortress." He is the God that we can trust and run to for protection and shelter, because He is the "Most High" and the Almighty God who has power to help us.  The Lord also loves and cares for us.  He is our security and place of safety.

Psalm 91:3 also suggests that the Lord protects us from many unforeseen dangers and pitfalls.  He is often protecting us when we don't even see the dangers surrounding us.  Do we ever stop to contemplate how many "accidents" and other unforeseen things the Lord protects us from each and every other day?  Psalm 91:4 tells us that "He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."

The Lord will protect us in His eternal love, faithfulness, and great power!  We need not fear anything whether it be day or night.  The Lord will always protect His own!  Nothing will happen to us that the Lord did not  plan from eternity.  Verses nine and ten of Psalm 91 reminds us that if we make the Lord our dwelling place and our place of refuge no ultimate harm will ever come to us!  Psalm 91:11 tells us that the Lord commands "His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways."  The Lord will even use His angels to help protect us against many dangers and frightening situations!  What an awesome and exciting thought!

Verses fourteen through sixteen of Psalm 91 promises us that because we love the Lord and acknowledge Him as Lord, He will come to our aid and rescue us in life's difficult moments.  The Lord is our protection and security in the many uncertainties and dangers of life.  When you and I call on the Lord for help in life's troubles, He will receive us with open arms.  He will then deliver us and rescue us and even honor us!  The Lord will do all this, because He loves His children!  He will also bless us with abundant life and give us His eternal salvation!  What grace!  What love!  Praise His name!  Why would we ever give way to self-pity or worry with such a loving and faithful God always protecting us?  Let us always rest our lives in the Lord! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Lamentations 3:18-33

Lamentations 3:18-33
"His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22b-23

We have the certainty of the Lord's faithfulness and love even in the harshest of circumstances. In the Old Testament book of Lamentations the author is lamenting or mourning the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. He was also mourning the capture and exile of God's people of that day. All this came about because of the sinful choices made by God's people. We also experience adverse consequences for sinful or wrong choices in our lives. Even in these difficult circumstances brought on by our own actions and choices, however, the Lord remains loving and compassionate to us.

The author of Lamentations said in Lamentations 3:18, "My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord." The author of Lamentations went on to say in Lamentations 3:20b, "my soul is downcast within me." Have you ever felt like the author of Lamentations? Have you ever felt completely discouraged and without hope? Have you ever felt like everything was crashing down around you? When we begin to feel like the author of Lamentations felt, we are beginning to focus on ourselves instead of on the Lord. The truth of the matter is that there is always the certainty of the Lord's presence even in the worst of circumstances. It is not necessary for our circumstances to change to experience the Lord's joy and peace in our hearts and lives. We just need to take our focus off ourselves and our problems, and focus on the Lord.

This is exactly what the author of Lamentations began to do in Lamentations 3:21-23. He said, "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." When we are feeling discouraged by a difficult set of circumstances in our lives, we must "call to mind" the Lord's love for us and the Lord's awesome promises in His Holy Word. The Lord's river of mercy and love never runs dry. People, material possessions and our own resources will often fail us. The Lord, however, will never fail us! We can put our trust in the Lord because of His great love and His faithfulness to us. No matter what is going on in our lives, we can trust the Lord!

In fact, the Lord's love and faithfulness is "new every morning." We experience His love and faithfulness moment by moment and day by day. The Lord is loving and compassionate to His children and always walks beside them with His protecting love and faithfulness. How precious it is to awaken each morning knowing that the Lord will be walking beside us each day, as we face the daily stresses and challenges. "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)

We can put our trust in the Lord in the most difficult of circumstances because of His love and faithfulness. We can also put our trust in the Lord, because He is our portion or inheritance. Lamentations 3:24 says, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him." We, as His children, have the promise of His protecting love in our lives. We also have an eternal inheritance and future in the Lord. Thus we can "wait" on the Lord. Waiting on the Lord means we are resting our entire trust in the Lord for time and eternity. We can trust completely in the Lord's "unfailing love." (Lamentations 3:32b) Praise His name!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Colossians 4

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2

Life can become very hectic and busy at times.  Sometimes our schedules can get so packed with activities that we feel as if our heads are spinning.  Spending time with the Lord in His Holy Word and in prayer, however, must be at the top of our list of things that we do each day.  Nothing spiritually worthwhile can be accomplished in our lives without the help of the Lord and without the power of prayer.  In Colossians 4:2 we are told to devote ourselves to prayer.  Not only should we set aside a special time each day for prayer and the reading our Bibles, but we need to have an attitude of prayer throughout the day.  We need to have a constant awareness of the Lord's presence with us each and every moment of the day.

We must never become weary of spending time in prayer in God's Word; but we must be passionate, steadfast, and watchful in our prayer lives.  We must never discontinue our prayer times with the Lord.  We must pray earnestly that we will grow in our personal relationship with the Lord.  We must pray earnestly that we will grow in our ability to reflect Jesus in our lives and that we will grow in practical holiness.

Colossians 4:5 tells us that we must also pray that we will "be wise" in the manner in which we act towards those who are not believers in the Lord Jesus.  We must "make the most of every opportunity" to let our lives shine for the Lord.  The only way we can do that is through the power of prayer.  Nothing worth while can be accomplished in Jesus' name without prayer.  In addition to this we may and must come to the Lord with all of our needs. The Lord welcomes us with His open arms and is willing to meet our every need.  Finally, we must also express our praise and thanks to the Lord through our prayers.

We must not only pray for ourselves, but we must also pray for others.  Little is known of Epaphras spoken of in Colossians 4:12.  He apparently was a servant of the Lord who had completely yielded his life to the Lord.  Epaphras also seemed to have been a man of prayer.  He was "always wrestling in prayer" for the Colossian Christians.  God had laid the Colossian Christians on his heart, and Epaphras considered it his joy and service to pray for them.  Epaphras prayed that they would "stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured."

We too can have a prayer ministry for others.  We like Epaphras can pray that those individuals on our prayer list will grow in spiritual maturity and that they will "stand firm in all the will of God."  We can pray for others when they are going through difficult times that they will be "fully assured" of God's precious promises to always be with them.

We need to pray about everything.  Are we or someone we know in need of healing?  We need to pray!  Are we or someone we know going through a time of physical or emotional pain?  We need to pray!  Are we or someone we know weighed down with past failure?  We need to pray!  Have we or someone we know sinned?  We need to pray! Is there some problem in our lives or in someone else's life that seems beyond human ability to remedy?  Take it to the Lord in prayer!  I Peter 3:12 says, "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their prayer."

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Colossians 3

We as believers  in the Lord Jesus Christ have died to sin through Christ's death on the cross.  We have been transferred from Satan's kingdom to Christ's kingdom.  Our old sinful nature still tempts us to sin, however, and we need to do all we can to rid our lives of sin.  We can begin to do this by setting our "hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God."  Colossians 3:1-2 goes on to tells us that we need to set our hearts and "minds on things above, not on earthly things."  We must remember that our citizenship is in heaven and not on earth.  Our lives on this earth are very brief and transitory in comparison to eternity.

Because we are united to the Lord, the living Christ, we are raised to a new life in Him.  Our new lives in Christ must be lived out in practical righteousness in our daily walk in this world.  We need to reflect Jesus  in our lives and in our actions and speech.  Our affections must be centered on the Lord and not on earthly things or earthly relationships.  We must never forget that our purpose for being on this earth is to bring glory and praise to our Lord.  For we died to sin through His death, and now our new lives in Christ are "hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3b)

When Christ returns someday we will be with the Lord Jesus Christ forever!  Because of this blessed certainty of being with the Lord forever and because we are "hidden with Christ in God," we can and must seek to rid our lives of whatever is sinful.  Colossians 3:5 tells us that we must "put to death" anything in our lives that belongs to our "earthly nature."  We must "put to death" anything that belongs to our unregenerate state before we knew Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Colossians 3:9-10 further reminds us that we must take off the "old self" of sin, evil desires, and self-absorption; and we must "put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."

As God's precious and chosen people Colossians 2:12 tells us we must clothe ourselves with "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."  We must seek to be godly and holy in all areas of our lives.  We must seek to be patient with other people's faults and sins, and we must be forgiving.  The Lord forgives us of all our many sins. Therefore we need to be willing to forgive others for the sins that they commit against us.  The magnitude of our sins forgiven by the Lord far outweighs any wrong things others may commit against us.  Finally, Colossians 3:14 tells us "over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

We also need to allow Christ's peace to rule in our hearts and lives.  We were called to Christ's peace in our lives.  We can have peace with God, peace with each other, and peace in our souls.  We are able to experience peace no matter what is going on in our world around us, because His peace is not dependent on circumstances!  When the Lord rules in our lives and hearts we can have a peace that the world can not understand!  Peace and security is found only in Christ Jesus.  It is His gift to us, His children.

We further must have a thankful heart and a heart that is full of praise for the Lord.  Because of all He has done for us we must live our lives in gratitude to Him.  Colossians 3:17 tells us "whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name if the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."  Whatever we do must be done for the glory of God.  Our love for the Lord must show in our relationships in our family, in our work, and in all areas of our lives.  Our love for the Lord must show in our thoughts, attitudes, and in our actions.

Colossians 3:24b says to us, "It is the Lord Christ you are serving."  We must be putting off our old sin natures and clothing ourselves in our new lives in Christ.  It must become our passion and joy to bring glory and praise to the Lord in all areas of our lives!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Colossians 2

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."
Colossians 2:6-7

It was Paul's heartfelt desire that all the Colossian believers and all believers in Christ Jesus everywhere would reflect Jesus in their lives.  Paul's desire was that they would practice their faith in their attitudes and actions.

According to Colossians 2:2 Paul's first desire was that Christians would "be encouraged in heart."  God does not want us to become discouraged in our walk and life lived for Him.  Life tends to have many obstacles and difficulties at times, but we belong to the Lord for time and for eternity.  Therefore, we need not become discouraged!  If we are daily spending time in God's Word and resting in His promises, we can "be encouraged in heart" no matter what our circumstances.  The secret to a joyful life according to Colossians 2:3 is resting in Christ Jesus "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."  We must get our wisdom from the Lord through His Word.  The world's "wisdom" may often sound logical and good, but it will fail us every time.  The Lord's wisdom may be laughed at by the world, but His wisdom will never fail us!

It was also Paul's desire and is God's desire for us that we do not just receive the Lord Jesus as our Savior.  We must also grow in our faith.  We need to practice as well as possess our faith. In order to do this we need to grow in our personal love relationship with the Lord.  Colossians 2:6b-7 tells us that we need to "continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith."

We need to "live in Him."  We need to have an intimate, living, and spiritual relationship with the Lord.  Through this intimate spiritual union with Christ we need to be growing in our faith every day.  We also need to be "rooted" in Him.  Just like a plant can not grow well without deep roots, we too can not grow spiritually without being deeply rooted and foundationed in the Lord.  Just as a plant reaches down through its roots to the source of its needed supply of nutrients, so we need to find our source of strength in the Lord alone.  We need to be deeply "rooted" in the Lord.  One way we do this is by feeding on the Word of God.

We also need to be "built up" in Christ.  We need to be "built up" into Christ-likeness.  We must  increasingly be reflecting Christ-like attitudes and actions in our lives.  To be able to do this we must be "strengthened in the faith."  Jesus Christ must be our source of strength in all things.  We must not depend on human resources for our strength.  We must depend on the Lord alone.  Finally, Colossians 2:7b tells us that we need to be "overflowing with thankfulness" in our lives.

Jesus Christ is God Himself.  Colossians 2:9-10 says, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ."  In Christ you and I have been given everything we need for time and for eternity!  Our sins have been forgiven, and according to Colossians 2:12b we have been "raised with Him" through our faith "in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead."  We are alive in Christ and have a totally new life in Him!  Now we must seek to be truly living in Christ, rooted and foundationed in Him, and built up and strengthened in Him.  Our hearts must be overflowing with thankfulness to Him, and this thankfulness must show in our lives.  We must in thankfulness seek to live our lives for His glory! 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Colossians 1:15-29

"so that in everything He might have the supremacy" Colossians 1:18b

Jesus Christ is supreme in all things.  Jesus is supreme in His revelation of God to us.  Jesus Christ is God Himself.  Colossians 1:15 says,"He is the image of the invisible God."  God is invisible; but Christ, the eternal Son of God, also became man.  Jesus Christ, as God and man reveals God to us.

Jesus Christ, who is God Himself, is also supreme in all creation.  Colossians 1:16-17 says, " For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him, and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."  Everything was created by Jesus Christ and was made for His glory.  The Lord Jesus Christ also continues to sustain all of His creation by His mighty power and control!

Jesus Christ is also supreme in the church.  He is the head of the church.  He is also the beginning and foundation of the church.  By His death and resurrection Colossians 1:18b says He is "the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy."  It was Jesus Christ who saved us from eternal death in hell by His atoning sacrifice on the cross.  He made us to be at peace with God and no longer separated from God by our sins.  Colossians 1:20b says that Jesus Christ did this "through His blood, shed on the cross." Once we were enemies of God.  But now, according to Colossians 1:22b, because of Christ's death we are "holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation."  We now have a righteous and holy standing before God because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross!  When God looks at us He sees Christ's righteousness and not our sins!

Our righteousness standing in Christ, however, must also be increasingly shown in practical holiness in our lives.  We need to increasingly grow in our faith and in our love and obedience to the Lord.  We must increasingly grow in our desire to reflect Jesus in our lives.  We must increasingly grow in our desire to rid our lives of sinful attitudes and actions.  Colossians 1:23 reminds us that we must also persevere in our faith and continue in our faith "firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel."

Christ must become supreme in every area of our lives.  Our lives must be built on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Nothing in our lives should come before the Lord.  In order for this to happen we must spend time each day in prayer and Bible reading.  We also must be submissive to the Lord's working in our lives even in difficult times.

There is no greater joy than having Christ in the center of our lives and living our lives totally devoted to Him.  Nothing on this earth can compare to the joy of belonging to the Lord!  Colossians 1:27 tells us that to us, His children, He has chosen to reveal His "glorious riches" which is Christ living in us, "the hope of glory."  Our salvation in Christ, His presence and protections in our lives, and an eternal future with the Lord are all ours in Christ!  In thankfulness let us truly make Him Lord over over area of our lives!  Jesus Christ already has supremacy and glory in all things.  May our lives reflect His glory!