Quote for 07/22/2019

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.   Galatians 5:1

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Liberty. Freedom. These are concepts that are too often warped to justify bad behavior. Years ago someone around me was telling Jesus jokes. I asked him to please stop. His response?

“Freedom of Speech, man!!”

I replied that I didn’t think Washington and the Founding Fathers intended that to mean freedom to by offensive. He shut up.

By the same token, the church in Galatia went on a “liberty” binge; if we’re forgiven, we can do anything we want! It’ll all be forgiven!

Paul was warning them to take full advantage of the liberty Christ had bought for us all at so dear a price instead of being caught up in a false liberty which was just a trap.

If we can all see each sin as a hammer blow nailing Jesus to the cross, as a stroke of the whip on His back, we might not be so quick to call sin liberty.

Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians

St PaulNow, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of [a]Christ had come.   2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

The church in Thessalonica is something we can recognize today; they heard the Gospel and look for the return of Jesus with impatience and fear. A few words are misapprehended, and insecurities run riot over faith.

Less than a year passed between the first and second letters, because Paul apparently received a report that things were good but deteriorating in some regards. We don’t know if someone travelled to him, wrote a letter, or what. The people were pursuing their new faith but had become misguided in certain areas.

Tin Foil Hat

Not actually St. Paul

Part of this reads like a cult who abandon responsibility, because the “Mother Ship” is due any day. Why work? Why do anything when Jesus’ arrival could come at any second? If there had been tin foil back then, I could envision some of the more hysterical folks wearing cone-shaped tin hats! Work was abandoned. People allowed their lives to descend into chaos in expectation of Jesus’ imminent arrival.

Those people were becoming a burden to the saner members of that church, eating without working and the like. Able-bodied people sought the charity of others instead of tending to the truly needy themselves.

Some became very despondent over Paul’s high demand that they be found “blameless at the coming of the Lord. Instead of realizing that this meant he wanted to them to be found blameless in faith, they took it as being blameless…period! This turned the hope of salvation into the fear of judgment.

Paul brings two messages to rebalance their perspectives. First is that the anti-Christ must appear before Jesus’ return:

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits [c]as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.   2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

AntiChrist 2We might ask how Paul might know of this “man of sin” before John wrote Revelation. It’s because Daniel recorded his vision of the end in his book and described just how things would end. Paul reminded them of this teaching he had apparently given them but was forgotten. “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?”

Paul reassures them that he and his fellows continue to give thanks to God for them who are beloved by the Lord!

Paul goes on to have a harsh word for the idle. Faithful members of the church should shun everyone who will not work, who live irresponsible and disordered lives. He reminds them that he worked for his bread while there I order to set the example of industry and Christian responsibility. Recall that Paul was a tent-maker by trade. He apparently set up shop in Thessalonica to earn his keep instead of relying on the members’ charity…as he could have. Jesus taught that the worker is worthy of his wages when he sent disciples out to preach the Kingdom of God.

Paul, fearing indolence, did not claim that right, but provided for himself. With that authority of example Paul wrote starkly that “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”

In the end, while we keep watch as Jesus commanded we are not to become preoccupied to the point of sinful sloth or anxious anticipation. We are to manage the lives that are God’s gift. We are to practice charity toward those who cannot provide for themselves. We are to live sober lives, carefully watching for the signs Jesus described for us (Matthew 24) and yet not become fixated on the future to the detriment of the present.

Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. 17 The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle; so I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.   2 Thessalonians 3:16-18

Quote for 07/21/2019

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.   Proverbs 17:17

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Let trouble hit and find out who your friends are. We all know it. Some of us have experienced it. I have few friends, but they are people I know I can count on when things go south.

We can know who our friends are, but what sort of friends are we? Have we turned this passage into a mirror to see what sort of friends we are? As Christians, we need to be especially sure we are never just fair-weather friends

Let’s make sure we love at all times. Let’s make sure we are the brother or sister who is born for adversity!

Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians

St PaulAnd may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, 13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.   1 Thessalonians 3:12

Both Paul’s letter to Thessalonica are part of what we call Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, in which he was accompanied by Silas and Timothy. He went to over eight churches on that trip, including revisits to churches he planted in Galatia the first time around.

Both letters document how the Gospel sped through Europe, although not without opposition, suffering, and even internal conflicts. Paul personally bore the marks of such suffering as a result of his beating in the jail in Corinth prior to reaching Thessalonica. Neither Paul nor his companions tried to conceal the trials that would surely accompany becoming followers of Christ. No small part of that suffering came from Jews who did not recognize the Christ who stood, and then hung before them!

Indeed, Paul had to leave Thessalonica before doing everything he planned. Paul had desired to return, but he never did, citing how Satan hindered him. He does not elaborate on just how, but it happened none the less.

RomaPaul’s Roman citizenship was critical in his ministry. As such, he had inherent protections that kept him from complete failure. If he had been just another Jew, he would have simply rotted in a jail somewhere or been executed by the Jews.

Capitalizing on being Roman, he would take his message to places like Thessalonica; a Roman capitol of the province, the residence of the Roman proconsul, a busy harbor town, and communication center.

Luke records in Acts 17:2 that Paul’s preaching there lasted only “three Sabbaths.” The Jews undoubtedly threw him out, and he moved on to spend most of his time preaching to the Gentiles, a pattern he often repeated and even proclaimed. He’d give the Jews a chance but would go to the Gentiles when rejected.

He was in Thessalonica for an extended time as evidenced by two gifts of money from Philippi. The Gentile church there had a joyous, active faith and even began far-reaching missionary work of its own! Paul held them up as “an example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia,” essentially all of Greece.

While joyful and earnest, their faith was not mature by the time Paul was forced to leave.

Although Paul had moved on physically, his heart remained in Thessalonica. In his first letter to them he wrote that he was “bereft (of them) in person…not in heart” (1 Th 2:17). Paul was concerned for his young children of the Gospel. He knew well that philosophers, cultists, and quacks roamed from town to town in search of audiences, fame, money…maybe all that and more. He was concerned that his friends there would fall prey to these charlatans.

Paul sent Timothy to check on them. This was a great sacrifice for Paul, who depended on him greatly! Timothy returned with the good news that the Thessalonians remained strong, freeing his mind to concentrate on his work in Corinth, where he spent two years.

So 1 Thessalonians is a long thanksgiving for the news Timothy brought back to him. This was followed by admonitions suggested by Timothy.

First was the matter of sexual purity. Thessalonica was a Greek harbor town and a center for commerce. It was a happening place! Such purity was a novelty in this environment and difficult to maintain.

“Normal and prudent” business practices were actually dishonest and hard to overcome. The Thessalonians has some bad habits to break.

These challenges gave Paul concern that their initial, fervent faith and work would degenerate into irresponsible enthusiasm. Care for the afterlife does not relieve one of earthly responsibilities. Their hope was not to be used to simply leave fulfillment in God’s hands. Part of that issue also became a preoccupation with calculating Jesus’ return.

Paul also had to address the normal frictions any community endures, even those of faith!  Still, 1 Thessalonians is one of only a few letters that offers food for the hope of God’s people!

The value of this book to us today is its message of patience on God and the comfort of knowing the fate of those who die in the faith. Like those Thessalonians, we are besieged with concerns over when Jesus will return. Our faith can sometimes have its basis in predicting Jesus’ return instead of His saving sacrifice. We have the same distractions as the churches of 2000 years ago! Like all of Paul’s letters, we can read 1 Thessalonians to reinforce the assurance of our eternity with Christ!

Quote for 07/20/19

Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.   Luke 6:36

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We’ve been forgiven of countless damning sins. God sent His Son to earth, who gave up His divinity to be a man and pay the ghastly price to redeem a rebellious creation.

Given that, who are we that we should ever withhold mercy from those who need it from us? What does harshness do for a fellow wounded soul? What does refusing mercy say about our own faith? Can it even call our God into question for them?

We have been shown incredible mercy. Let’s pass that along to those who need it every bit as much as we do!

Quote for 07/19/2019

Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.   Jeremiah 32:17 NKJV

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The universe is so huge that we cannot see the end of it. Even so, we have not yet discovered the smallest particle of Creation. Look at a medical drawing of a single cell, and you’ll be amazed at the complexity of God’s design on a microscopic level!

He did all of that. Should we have any doubts that all things work together for good for them that love God?

Matthew 6 reminds us that God feeds the birds and clothes the grass. Surely, He will take at least as good care of us! There truly is nothing too hard for God!

Quote for 07/18/2019

Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.   Romans 8:26

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What a fantastic image this is – the very Spirit of God groans for us in prayer, pleading to God on our behalf for what we are not able to even recognize as a need!

He doesn’t just fold His hands, get on His knees, and say some formula prayer. He doesn’t add us on as a “by-the-way” mention. There is passion in His groanings for us. There is pain in what He sees us as and what He earnestly desires us to be.

This is the Spirit, one of the Holy Trinity along with Father and Son. He’s a facet of the same God Who created all and was spurned by all. We owe Him nothing, and yet…

He groans to the Father on our behalf!

Being Helpless

Hospital Walk“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”   II Corinthians 12:8

Have you ever been helpless? I’m not talking about getting laid off or anything along those lines, as bad as they might be. No, I’m talking about being in bed and unable get up. A short walk of less than 100 yards wipes you out for the day. Falling over in your church pew, because you’re too weak to stay upright. You can’t even take a shower on your own.

That, my friends, is helpless. Right after I had a double bypass years ago I was that helpless. They got me to walk from ICU to step down (sadists!). Later, I took two laps around the unit, which wasn’t that far, and I slept most of the rest of the day.

I couldn’t even shower myself. That was part physical, part psychological. I made it in to the shower where the nurse washed me down. She asked me the next day if I could do it myself, clearly hoping I would. I started crying; I looked down at that big, long scab in the center of my chest and told her I was too afraid of that incision. That’s something no one even wants to see, let alone have! I promised if she’d do this once more, I’d take it from there. She very kindly agreed. I kept my promise.

I couldn’t get out of bed on my own. In the hospital they used the bed to elevate me to a sitting position so I could get up. Before the chest tubes came out it hurt like hell at around 45 degrees. They made my back muscles spasm, and I screamed every time up and every time down. When I got home, Julie had to help me sit up for a few days.

A couple days after getting home, I told her I could go along with her to the funeral home. Her grandfather had died while I was in the hospital. She helped me dress. Once we got the sweater over my head, she spotted some fuzzies on my chest. Julie hates fuzzies. She always has to get them off. So she started slapping my chest to brush them off. I screamed. She screamed. It was like when Drew Barrymore and ET were screaming at each other in ET the first time they met.

Sorry, Sweetie. You know I love that story!

Even though there was a boatload of pain at the start, I have memories of relief too. My job had me going all…the…time. As a helpless survivor of major surgery, I had nothing to do but walk as much as possible, eat, sleep, and…well, you know. Oddly enough, that was a good time in my life. I was released from the harried pace I’d been keeping. Breathing turned into a great hobby.

It felt good to trust the staff at the hospital. It was a comfort to trust my wife to handle things while I got better. It wasn’t like I had a choice, right?

Do you have any idea how helpless you are? Right now? If Satan comes at you with a temptation – your favorite one – you are helpless before him. We get brainwashed by society into thinking we’re doing well, life’s good, and we have nothing to fear. We are spiritually helpless against the constant and subtle messages that bombard us. This is Satan’s world, his rules, his message. And we are helpless.

Unless, of course, you open your mind to God. Unless you are willing to read the Bible – and I mean really dig through it. Equipped with God’s Word and paying attention to our surroundings we can rely on Jesus to help us sit up, walk around, etc.

People have “foxhole conversions.” Don’t wait for that. It’s much too risky. Recognize that you are helpless NOW! Ask God to open your eyes to His will and Word. There’s comfort there.

I was greatly comforted, even grateful, in being helpless. It felt so good to not have to worry, because I had so many professionals and family looking out for me. Imagine how good it can feel if you prostrate yourself before God, admit you’re helpless, and let Him do the worrying!

Quote for 07/17/2019

I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name For Your loving-kindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.   Psalm 138:2 NKJV

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Psalm 138 is a song of praise for God’s faithfulness, for keeping His word! This is why the Psalmist declares that God has magnified His word, even above His own name!

That is an incredible thing to contemplate! God cares more about keeping his word to his disobedient creation than about His own name. He loves us that much!

What else can we possibly say to that but THANK YOU!!!

Quote for 07/16/2019

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.   Matthew 24:35 NKJV

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This is from the Olivet Discourse in which Jesus answers the disciples’ questions about the end times. He starts out by telling them just how bad things will get, and even then the worst is yet to come.

Jesus then tells them of the Great Tribulation of the Anti-Christ and the false messages that will try to lure even the elect from the Gospel. It then that He will return in glory, sending His angels to collect His elect from around the world.

It is at this point that Jesus’ tells them that all will pass away, but not His words.

He knows they felt fear over this prophecy of the end times, but He also gives them the hope that He will return. He gives them the certainty that what He says shall be.

Just as a summer storm washes away the dirt from our streets, His wrath will wash away the sin and corruption that has littered His Creation. There will be nothing be the streets of His heaven where He prepared mansions for each of us, as He promised.

Rest assured. His Words shall not pass away!