Wednesday, January 30, 2019

I Thessalonians Four Part Two

I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Revelation 7:9-17

"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:17b

What a wonderful day it will be for the child of God when the Lord Jesus Christ returns! I Thessalonians 4:16-17 tells us about that awesome day, "For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." What an exciting and awesome promise! We will be with the Lord forever! The promise of an eternity with the Lord is what gives our lives meaning, purpose, joy, and hope!

We do not know exactly what heaven will be like, but the book of Revelation gives us some clues. Revelation 7 tells us that there will be believers from every nationality and race with us in heaven. We will together be standing before the throne of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. We will be clothed in the Lord's righteousness. We already have been saved from the penalty or punishment of our sins by Christ's sacrifice on the cross. In Christ's atoning blood we already have the power to say no to Satan and sin. Because of our still remaining sinful natures we do not always choose God's way, but we do have the power of Christ at our disposable to choose God's will. We are not yet, however, free from the presence of sin in our lives. When Christ returns and we are with the Lord for eternity we will even be free from the presence of sin in our lives! When we go to be with the Lord we will no longer commit any sins! What a blessed thought!

When we are with the Lord forever in eternity we will joyfully and eternally be praising the Lord for our salvation. We will be worshiping the Lord saying, "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!" (Revelation 7:12) We will also continually be serving the Lord with joy, "and He who sits on the throne will spread His tent" of eternal protection and love over us (Revelation 7:15b)!

When we are with the Lord forever in eternity never again will we hunger or thirst. Never again will we suffer physical or emotional pain of any kind. Revelation 7:17b says, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." The Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, will be our eternal shepherd and will lead us to "springs of living water" and to inexpressible joys!

Our lives on this earth are transitory and very brief compared to an eternity with the Lord. We must hang very loosely to the things of this world. This world is only a preparation for the glories of heaven. Our eternal home is our real home. Our homes on this earth are merely temporal. Let us live our lives on earth in the light and promise of an eternity with the Lord!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

I Thessalonians 4 Part One

I Thessalonians 4:1-12

As children of God we need to stand firm in our faith. We also need to walk in faith. We must live our lives in a manner that is pleasing and honoring to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our relationship with Jesus Christ and our love for Him must be most important in our lives. Hence, we must seek to please and glorify the Lord in all things. We must desire to be obedient to our Lord's every wish. Our motives, attitudes, and actions need to demonstrate the presence of the Lord in our lives.

We need to walk in holiness in our lives of faith. We must not be in control of our own lives. God must be in control of our lives. Our whole purpose for being on this earth is to please God and to bring glory and honor to His name. Our passion must be to increasingly grow in our desire to please the Lord. I Thessalonians 4:1 tells us, "Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more."

God wants us to become increasingly sanctified or set apart for the Lord. He says to us in I Corinthians 6:19b-20, "You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."  We must excel in holiness and passionately desire the Lord's presence in our lives. We need to desire the Lord more and more and desire the world less and less. We need to be striving for holiness in our lives because of our love for the Lord and because of our passionate desire to serve Him in all things.

Immorality was rampant in the Roman empire at the time the letter of I Thessalonians was written. The Apostle Paul was very concerned that the Thessalonian church would remain faithful and holy in this kind of environment. We also live in a very immoral society and world today. We need to be outraged by the temptations and lack of morality all around us. We must be very careful that we are not carried along by the immorality and philosophies of the world around us. Our lives as children of the Lord must be different than the lives of the worldly people around us. We must be carried along by the Lord and His wisdom and standards as revealed to us in His Holy Word.

If we do not walk in the Lord's ways, there are always adverse consequences. Walking in the Lord's ways, however, always brings blessings. Paul said in I Thessalonians 4:6b-7, "The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." The Lord calls His children to holiness. We are being disobedient to His will, if we are not striving to increasingly live in holiness.

In our walk of faith we must walk in holiness. We must also walk in harmony with our fellow believers. We must love our fellow believers in Christ, because we "have been taught by God to love each other" (I Thessalonians 4:9b).  God instructs us to love our fellow believers and to live in harmony with them, and the Lord instructs us "to do so more and more" (I Thessalonians 4:10b). We must not let petty arguments or selfish motives interfere with our love for our fellow believers in Christ.

Finally, in our walk of faith we must also walk in honesty.  I Thessalonians 4:11-12 says, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."  We must be minding our own business and not deliberately stirring up trouble. We must be busy in the things of the Lord. The Lord will return someday. We want to be found busy in the things of the Lord and striving to live holy lives for Him.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

I Thessalonians 3

I Thessalonians 3
"For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord." I Thessalonians 3:8

Many times there are people in our lives who are very special and dear to us, but they live far away from us. Sometimes this causes a longing in our hearts to see them. Often we have a deep concern for their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being; but we feel limited in what we can do to better interact with them.

Paul had a great love and concern for the Thessalonian church. Paul was longing to see if they still were standing firm in their faith. Paul was hindered from going to them, however, by distance and circumstances. Finally, Paul could stand it no longer; and he sent Timothy to check on the believers in the Thessalonian church. Paul was concerned that the persecution and trials they were suffering would make them discouraged and give up on their faith. Paul was concerned that they would be lured away by the devil, because they were going through these difficult times in their lives. Timothy came back with a good report about the Thessalonian church, however. Timothy reported to Paul about this church's "faith and love" (I Thessalonians 3:6). Timothy also told Paul that this church was "standing firm in the Lord" (I Thessalonians 3:8b).

We too must find ourselves "standing firm in the Lord" even in times of great difficulty. Trials and tests are not accidents. Rather they are divine appointments given to us from the Lord. Often trials and tests in our lives help us to grow spiritually, and they help us to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ. Trials and tests help us to depend on the Lord instead of ourselves and other people. If we stand firm in our faith in the midst of trials and tests, our lives will be wonderful testimonies of God's grace to others. To be able to stand firm in our faith we need to be deeply immersed in God's Word and prayer, and we need to grow and develop in our love relationship with our Lord.

We also need to be concerned about our fellow believer's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Paul was unable to come to his fellow believers in the Thessalonian church, so he sent Timothy to them. Then he sent the letter of I Thessalonians to them. We must demonstrate this same kind of love to others, as Paul demonstrated to the Thessalonian church. We can even show this same kind of love to those who are living far away from us by sending letters, e-mails, and cards and by visiting them when we can. When Paul heard that the Thessalonian church was persevering in their faith he said in I Thessalonians 3:8, "For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord."  We need to have that same kind of concern for the spiritual welfare of others.

Finally, Paul prayed for the Thessalonian church. Paul's prayer for the Thessalonian church is found in I Thessalonians 3:12-13. Paul prayed, "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones." 

We also must pray for others even those who live great distances away from us. Our prayer for ourselves and others should be that our love for each other will increase and be overflowing. We also need to pray that we will grow in holiness, and that our heartfelt passion will be to serve and love the Lord. Our prayer for ourselves and others must be that we will always be found, "standing firm in the Lord," (I Thessalonians 3:8b) and that Jesus Christ will remain our only hope and purpose for time and eternity.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

I Thessalonians 2

I Thessalonians 2:1-12

"We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts." I Thessalonians 2:4

Paul's desire and prayer for the Thessalonian church was that they would receive the Lord Jesus as their Savior and Lord and that they would grow in spiritual maturity. Paul's passion and desire was that his life, testimony, and preaching would influence others for Christ. Our desire also must be that our actions, words, and attitudes will draw others to Christ.

As we seek to live our lives for Christ, we must be very certain that we are speaking and acting as men and women "approved by God."  I Thessalonians 2:4 tells us that our motives must not be to please people "but God, who tests our hearts." In all our motives, actions, and attitudes we must be seeking to bring glory to the Lord. We must be also seeking to draw others to the Lord by our actions and words. Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ should be evident to all those around us. We must not seek to win a popularity contest according to the world's standards. Our passion should be to being glory to the Lord and to reflect the Lord Jesus in all areas of our lives. Our love relationship with the Lord should be so obvious in our lives that others will also be drawn to our Savior and Lord.

If we desire to live lives "approved by God" we must make certain that our lives are not motivated by greed or selfishness. We must demonstrate gentleness, kindness, and compassion towards others.  I Thessalonians 2:7 says we must be gentle and loving towards others and "like a mother caring for her little children." We must be willing to share our very lives with others, and we must strive to demonstrate a servant attitude towards others. By the example and words of our lives we must be "encouraging, comforting and urging" others "to live lives worthy of God." (I Thessalonians 2:12) By our examples and words we must be drawing others to the Savior and towards spiritual maturity.

Finally, if we are going to live our lives "approved by God" our lives must be governed by a desire for purity and holiness. According to I Thessalonians 2:10 our lives must be "holy, righteous, and blameless," and our lives must be based on the truth of the Word of God. We must be striving to eradicate sin and behavior unbecoming to a child of God from our lives. We can and must do this through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We must be passionately seeking to make our lives "living sacrifices" for the Lord. (Romans 12:1) We must be living our lives in such a way that others will be attracted to Christ's kingdom and will grow in spiritual maturity. Romans 12:11 says, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."

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!