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!

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!