More Than Sunday Morning

More Than Sunday Morning

7 Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

For Paul it was important that he share his life with those in Thessalonika. Throughout my years as a believer, and especially as I was young in the faith, others older in the faith befriended me and took me under their love and care. I didn’t know then what I know now, but they were sharing their family and lives with me. After church on Sunday they’d invite me over to their home and they always threw in an extra potato, as they liked to say. Did I learn great theological treatises under them? Probably not, but that wasn’t the point. I saw how they lived, how they welcomed singles into their home.

When I went salmon fishing with them one weekend, and Jean found out I wasn’t tied off to a vehicle and almost drowned because I slipped and my chest high waders started filling up (sneaking off to do early morning dipnetting fishing), she rightly read me the Riot Act, just like a mother would. The more I think about it, the more that family embodied verse seven, caring for me, nurturing me – and yes, rebuking me when I deserved it.

“Living life” with relative strangers was as natural to them as raising their own family.

The Christian Life is more than Sunday morning teachings and worship, that is, when we were all meeting together. It’s making the time to get to know others, yes, sharing our lives with them, crying and laughing with them, giving and taking rebuke when warranted.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

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The Struggle of Pleasing People

The Struggle of Pleasing People

You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-6

in the middle of this passage is the phrase “We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” Pleasing people is so easy until you realize that they will never be satisfied.

I recall actress Patricia Heaton making a statement that rings so true, because in her Hollywood world, image and pleasing others is critical to success: “On a personal level, as a Christian, it will not be Barbra Streisand I’m standing in front of when I have to make an accounting of my life.”

Heaton understands clearly that she will not have to answer to Streisand or any other person in the world when her life is through. The sad truth, though, is that they all will stand and give an account.

I say they, but we should probably bring it closer to home.

While it’s easy to denigrate the selfish and hedonistic ways of the elite, pleasing people is a very natural thing to do. We are easily programmed by the media to want more because we deserve more and “quite frankly, we’re worth it!” We laugh at these words, but they’re truer than we know. When this philosophy is drilled into you daily (in a variety of formats and methods) for years, you begin believing it.

If man were not in the picture, it would be easy to please God. We all have “filters” for what we do or do not say around others (even those who say they don’t have filters still have them – they’re harder to find but they exist). Those filters do come in handy but they also can be a hindrance.

The goal then is to become like the 1960s Klondike Kat “Savoir-Faire is everywhere!” What does that mean exactly? According to Wikipedia: savoir-faire is French noun phrase that means being adaptable and adroit, knowing what to do in any situation.

Fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit to guide, prompt, and filter what we say if we let Him. He’s also there to help us speak out when we need to. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate savoir-faire so it’s always wise to be guided by Him.

Very few of us want to be people pleasers. But as long as we are in this body, we will struggle to one degree or another. Don’t worry though. The Holy Spirit will help us, that is, if we let Him.

We are not in the struggle alone.

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The Vibrancy of New Faith

7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. 1 Thessalonians 1:7-10

Solid faith is infectious and cyclic. It encourages others, which encourages those doing the encouraging. The people in the Thessalonian church were not shy about their faith. They must have taken a bold step in tossing aside their idols, which would’ve opened the eyes of fellow idol-worshipers.

Think about it. If someone who goes to the bar every day and gets drunk but all of a sudden turns his life around, and just goes to the bar to hang out now without drinking a drop of alcohol, a lot of people notice.

News would have spread among the idol worshipers that several of their fellow brethren no longer believe as they do. It would only be natural for those remaining to investigate this new faith.

Couple that with the vibrancy of new faith in a believer and it’s not wonder that word of their conversion spread far and wide.

And we can assume that they were also feeding the poor, caring for the sick, visiting those in prison (among other things) as a display of their new faith.

God is doing something big in 2021 in the church around the world, just as He did something quite interesting in the church in 2020. We of course don’t know what He has up His sleeve, so to speak, but we won’t be disappointed.

May God be praised in 2021.

Blessed be the Lord.

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This Joy He Speaks About

This Joy He Speaks About

You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6

Paul praised the church for their joyful obedience to the word of God even while being persecuted.

It’s one thing to read about this kind of joy when they are words on the page, but to see it lived out is entirely different.

But God gives the persecuted special grace to be able to endure tremendous hardship.

We often ask ourselves if we’d be able to endure under such persecution. The short answer is yes. Right now we don’t need that kind of grace. Certainly we need grace to be faithful when we’re living out daily, non-persecuted lives but it’s very different than going through the fire, as it were.

So, God will give us that grace if and when we need it.

That’s true in every country, every city, every home group that goes through persecution.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Notice, too, that not only does He give us grace but He also gives us joy in midst of the persecution.

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t understand that kind of joy…yet.

I relate to Steven Curtis Chapman’s lyrics to “What Kind of Joy is This?”

What kind of joy is this
That counts it a blessing to suffer
What kind of joy is this
That gives the prisoner his song
What kind of joy could stare death in the face
And see it as sweet victory
This is the joy of a soul that’s forgiven and free

I don’t understand it, but it doesn’t mean I couldn’t. The ending of the chorus sums it up nicely: This is the joy of a soul that’s forgiven and free.

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Convicting Power of the Holy Spirit

4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

The Good News (the Gospel) of Jesus Christ is powerful. We know that for a fact because it changed our lives. No one can deny that. People can and will denounce the Bible and Christianity but they cannot deny the experiences of individual Christians.

Unfortunately, I think we sometimes forget the power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit behind it. We also forget that the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts people of sin. Of course He uses our words to prompt their thoughts but He is the only one who convicts. That’s good news for all of us. We no longer have to figure out how to precisely present the Gospel – or worse – try to guilt people into repenting based on the sin we know about in that person’s life. It should be a huge burden lifted from our shoulders.

so, when we pray for people who are not Believers, we should pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to convict that person through whatever means possible: words, dreams, actions, circumstances. Let God decide when, where, and how to convict.

Thank you, God for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit not only in our lives but in the lives of non-believers.

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