Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 20 February 2018

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well because you had become so dear to us1 Thessalonians 2:8 (NIV).

Can you really share the gospel of Jesus Christ without sharing yourself?  If that kind of question makes you uncomfortable, I’ll ask it a different way.   If you don’t really share yourself, can you ever really love?

When Paul and his friends stayed with the Thessalonians, they became true friends.  They talked; they listened; they helped out in things that needed to be done; they laughed and cried; they debated and argued; they forgave; they worked to earn their keep.   In doing so, they did what you and I would do in a similar situation:   they shared themselves.   They shared themselves in genuinely caring ways, looking out for their new friends and sharing their own love like trusting children would.  Not so long before those new friends had been strangers, then they weren’t.   The difference was in sharing Christ’s love.

Is there any other way to really share your love?

We’re so fond of talking about how we love, demonstrating we’re in love, falling in love, being in love, that we miss the point of love:   love is Christ.   Real love is a gift of and a quality of and the essence of the Creator of all things.   He loves us enough to breathe life into us, provide for us, abide with us, chastise yet forgive us, hold our hands as we do the dumbest things, and be with us in the toughest times.  If we really, truly do love someone, we love with the devotion of Jesus, sharing Him in that love.

We each know few people who are going through divorce.   Just today I learned of a friend who lost their job, no notice.  There are people who are struggling through dying, through letting go of hurt, through watching kids grow up, go away, and become distant.   There are desperately lonely people all around us, desperate for someone to share with them.  In a world where there is so much hurt, how can we not love, not share ourselves?

Paul and his companions didn’t stay in Thessalonica.   They moved on; they kept going where the gospel message led them.   They loved their new friends for a short while, then they moved on and made new friends, shared their lives again, with new people.   It’s how they shared the gospel that Christ Himself had entrusted to Paul.   Two millenia later, we are to do the same thing.   You can’t love without sharing yourself, without letting down your guard.   You can’t share the gospel unless you do the same.  Is that so tough?

For further reading: Romans 1:1, 2 Corinthians 12:15, 1 John 3:16, 1 Thessalonians 2:9.

Lord, teach me more to share You by loving other people.

Advertisements

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 19 February 2018

…but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children1 Thessalonians 2:7 (NIV).

You and I know many, many people who are going through tough times.  Divorce, death, unemployment, drugs, alcoholism, bankruptcy, starvation and hunger, grudges, societal collapse, school murders, loss of homes, loss of friends, loss of self, loss of faith:   need I go on?   You and I both know people, perhaps ourselves, who are enduring these real hardships in this fallen world.   Living through them can really make you wonder where God is in all of this and how it can be that He is actually with us when we’re going through them.

Might I suggest that we should live life like children.   For the good of our faith in God, for the good of those around us, and for our own good, we should out our faith like young children.

This isn’t to say we should be immature.   This doesn’t say we should give up wisdom, lessons-learned, knowledge or experience.   That isn’t what the Bible says; it certainly isn’t what Paul is saying.   Remember that the previous verse reminded the Thessalonians how they, like Paul, had the authority of Christ Himself as the basis for their personal authority.  This one reminds them (and us) to exercise that authority like moms and kids would.

Go into today with the child-like innocence to accept things at face value.   Later there will be time to analyze, to think it over, to be wise and wary, but accept ‘yes’ as ‘yes’ and ‘no’ as ‘no.’  Trust.   Simply trust people.   That doesn’t mean we should be foolish or unwise in granting our trust, but when given the opportunity to trust God and trust others (or even to trust our abilities), then go for it and trust.  Smile.   Love.   Accept happiness.   Be forthright and generous.   Play, look for fun, and jump in the mud puddle already.   Be childlike and accepting in how we look at the world today.  When it hurts, too, go ahead and cry.  All of it is ok and Godly.

Through it all, don’t forget to also act like a mother, a parent, watching over someone’s childlike innocence.   Protect the people you love and guard their hearts.   Give your own and give of yourself so that others might prosper.  If you don’t know what to do in this tough old world, ask yourself what a good mom would do.

Better yet, ask that kitschy question “what would Jesus do?”  You know that the cure for the common tough times is a whole lot of Jesus.   And Jesus abides with us this way.

Here there will always be tough times.   As long as day turns to night, we’ll have those.   Jesus doesn’t promise we won’t go through them:   He promises He’ll be there with us when we do.   When that happens, let’s accept it like kids.

For further reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:11, 1 Thessalonians 2:8.

Lord, bless me with child-like faith in You.

 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 15 February 2018

You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 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 2:5-6

Let’s talk about your authority as a follower of Jesus.   You do realize you have a LOT of authority because you follow Jesus, right?

But before talking about that, a few caveats.   First of all, let’s not be jerks about it.   Following Jesus is a privilege, a good thing, not a reason to be unkind.  Christianity isn’t a game of “I’m better than you” or “I’ve got a secret.”  It’s about giving glory to Christ by living in ways that make people want to know about Him.  That’s hard to do if we’re being jerks.   How about we try to listen, stay quiet, and be still instead?

And it’s not about memorizing a ton of Bible verses, being able to sing every hymn in the hymnal, or showing up to every service because you think it’s expected of you.  Being a follower of Jesus also doesn’t mean not enjoying yourself.   Do you think Jesus liked to laugh, preferred smiling to frowning, thought it was better to go through life with a positive outlook than a negative one?

All that being said, you have authority because you are a person who is personally forgiven of the eternal consequences of your sins by the very creator of the universe Himself.   You are an immortal being – yes, I mean that – whose life here is only a precursor of an eternal life that comes after.   You have been given the privilege of sharing personal news from the Savior of all mankind, namely that He wants everyone to know Him the way you do.   You have a one-on-one relationship with the only person in human history who foretold His own resurrection, who fulfilled over 300 ancient prophecies, and who took on the sins of all mankind so mankind wouldn’t suffer for them.

Brother (or sister), if that doesn’t give you authority to speak as Jesus’ representative, nothing does.

There are formal officers and leaders in the church, men and women who are ecclesiastically trained for their jobs.   They have formal Christian authority, but don’t forget they’re just men and women, sinners like you and me; some of them even read this blog.  And there are many Christians who walk their walk better than you or I do; that’s true.   But don’t ever forget that you have authority, given to you by God the minute you said “I believe”, to proclaim Him as Lord in your own special way.   Don’t get cocky about it, but don’t ever forget that nobody can take it away from you either.

For further reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:7.

Lord, thank You for giving me authority in my life to witness for You.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 14 February 2018

You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 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 2:5-6

Today is Valentine’s Day.   Today is a day to celebrate being in love, being loved by someone, and loving someone.   If you think about it, it’s actually the most Christian of holidays.   No, I’m not going into the history because some of it is morbid and, quite frankly, much of it is sordid.   Instead, I say what I said based on Paul’s comments above.

When you love someone, you don’t flatter them with useless words.   You love them by the things that you do backing up those words.   When you do that, it isn’t false flattery:  it’s a compliment.

Love isn’t greedy either.  It doesn’t want something for nothing; it doesn’t want excess from avarice.  Instead, love wants to give, wants to share of itself just because it’s love.

And love doesn’t seek praise.   Love give’s praise.   When you love someone, you see their good and bad sides, yet you accept both and love them because of them.

Now is a good day, too, to read Paul’s comments to the Corinthians in “the love chapter” of 1 Corinthians (chapter 13).  No better explanation of the character of love can be found in any language.  Read that chapter and you see how, as Paul describes the thing we call love, he’s actually describing Jesus.   All those desirable qualities of love describe Jesus because, when you boil it down, Jesus is true love.

What’s the point?  Simple:  any day set aside to glorify love is actually glorifying God.   God is love and is the ordainer of love.   God commands us to do many things, but He asks us to do them in love.   We don’t have to, but we get to:   out of love.  He gave us His revelation to demonstrate to us His character, His heart, and His ways.  Yes, there are people who lord the Lord over others, but they aren’t demonstrating the love that is of God.  Today isn’t to celebrate them:   today is to remember love, and to remember that the originator of love is only Jesus Christ, the son of God.

So today, when you give a sweet candy to your sweetie, remember you’re sharing a little bit of Jesus.   When you give a card or hand out those little cards and favors in school, you’re giving away some Jesus.   When you say “I love you” and when you do things, buy gifts to give to someone special, you’re giving away some Jesus.   Love goes like that because that’s how Jesus goes.   Happy Valentine’s Day.

For further reading: 1 Corinthians 13, 1 Thessalonians 2:7.

Lord, I love You.   Thank You for being my Savior, my love, all love, and my friend.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 13 February 2018

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 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.  1 Thessalonians 2:3-4

What good does it do to try to please God?   I mean, if I live a good life, do the best I can, am kind to people (even love people), and do what I can to hurt as few people as possible on my journey through life, doesn’t that please God?

Oh, my friend, that thought is flirting with damnation.   Me, I’ll pass on that option.  I’m not one like Paul, entrusted with the Gospel, approved by God to preach the good news…or am I?   Or are you?

Fact is, if you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, or if you say “yes, I believe” when someone asks if you believe in Him, then you ARE being entrusted with the gospel.   God has given to you the privilege of sharing the news about Him that says, “I want all people to know about me.”  He wants to use you to tell people that anything other than Him is the way to ruin, and that the way to Him is through following His son, Jesus.

God tests us like this every single day.   Sometimes it’s testing by virtue of trusting Him to put the words in your mouth when opportunities present themselves.   Sometimes it’s by resisting temptations.   Sometimes it’s knowing when to NOT say something, when to listen and be a friend.   God tests us by giving us a gut check, not to accuse us, but to purify us, to clarify us.

Our reaction?  We make that exasperating.   God doesn’t do it to us:   we do it to ourselves.  God’s motives are pure and they’re up-front, not deceitful.  He wants us to love Him from the heart, without reservation or evasion.  It’s exasperating when we complicate it, when we add to it.   When we do that, we seem to act like we need to try to please God.  Nothing could be further from the truth.   God is pleased with us because of His grace, not because of what we do.   Because of this, we get to do the things we do to line up with who He already is instead of trying to do for ourselves something we can’t do.   There is no limit to God’s grace.

Just like there’s no limit to sharing His gospel.   Sure, there are places in our society where you formally aren’t allowed to proclaim Christ.   In those places, do so in your actions.   Be a caring friend.   Listen and love.  Share Jesus in words and deeds.  When we do that, God is pleased.

For further reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:5.

Lord, I’m blessed by Your grace.  Thank You for Your Gospel, your tests, and Your Son.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 30 January 2018

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.  1 Thessalonians 2:3.

These messages are delivered to you electronically.   We’re blessed to have an Internet that allows us to easily, quickly, cheaply exchange information.   Yet even though this is true, let’s face it:   there’s a LOT of disinformation and outright lies on the internet.  News, opinion, statistics:  we live in the era of fake news.   Let’s not even get into the mire about how that moniker affects our current politics.   Much of what you see, read, and hear today isn’t real.

And it isn’t anything new.

Within minutes of hearing about the resurrection, the political and religious elites of the Paul’s day were concocting cover stories about Jesus’ body being stolen, about drunken guards, and other angles; initially, Paul was one of those elites.   Everywhere the Apostles went they were confronted by people who didn’t believe it was possible for any man to come back to life.   Even when Paul discussed his own conversion in intimate, one on one settings, he wasn’t believed, wasn’t trusted.

Nothing has changed.  Don’t believe me?   Try arguing an atheist out of his science and his faith in the knowledge he has about the origin of species.   Two thousand years later, people still argue about the reliability of the gospels.   About just what did happen at that garden tomb on that first Easter morning.   As you can read from today’s verse, people argued with Paul about it (and they were centuries closer to the actual event than you or I), even as there were still (at the time) guards and witnesses who had seen Christ alive after the Resurrection.   What would make Paul talk about all this?

You know.

The appeal Paul made to the Thessalonians wasn’t any different from the appeal his words make to us.   They talk to us of things about God, and they are trustworthy and true because God has never been disproven in His words.   God’s words, spoken through men like Paul, speak of truth and love and forgiveness.   Any other quality would have long since been disproven; any other thing would simply have fallen apart.   Not so the witness of the Apostles.   Nothing could contain God’s word, and nothing would stop it from spreading.   When God spoke to Paul, Paul simply HAD TO share it because what was entrusted to him was too good to hoard.

Yet his readers, like us, are just people, and people are skeptical.   So Paul testifies and reminds his reader that his motive is pure, that he’s passing on what was given to Him by the Lord.   You and I can take that to the bank even if you read it on the Internet.

For further reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:4.

Lord, thank You for speaking through Paul, and for touching my heart to hear and grasp Your words.

 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 29 January 2018

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.  1 Thessalonians 2:2.

Something else needs to be said before we move on.  To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, without God, everything is meaningless but nothing can contain Him.

I was reading about how Google Home doesn’t recognize the name of Jesus.   A story online said that the in-home smart speaker recognizes the names of Buddha, Allah, and even Satan and can relay to you a whole encyclopedia of knowledge about those names, but that it says “I’m sorry I don’t understand” (or something like that) when you ask it about Jesus or Jesus Christ.  Newsflash, my friends, God doesn’t need Google Home but He loves the people who make and use it anyway.   Ditto Alexa, Echo, Facebook, Bing, and any other gadget or browser we can think of.   Indeed, God’s word will spread even MORE when people deny it.

Crazy?   Yes, actually it is.   The conventional world can’t see how this makes sense, but the world that believes in Jesus can.   His word is too good to be contained; it’s too good to be bottled up or confined by the smallness of human activity.  People can try, but the good news always comes through.   It did in concentration camps.   It does in prisons, and inner cities, and communist re-education camps, and even in Hollywood.  It even happens in organized churches.

In this verse, Paul describes how people strongly opposed his preaching.  In Philippi Paul had been strongly opposed and it stung him.  He considered it outrageous that God’s word would be opposed, that anyone would try to interfere with or target or stop the preaching of words ordained by the Lord Himself.  Yet despite the opposition, word spread.   People all over Greece and Asia Minor wanted to know more about what these missionaries of “The Way” were saying.  Tyrannical Romans couldn’t stop the message.  Hostile Jews and their synagogues couldn’t stop the message.  Skeptical Greeks and hateful pagans couldn’t stop it.  By the time Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he was used to being opposed, and he began to recognize that it was to God’s glory that all this happened.

That was true 2000 years ago.   It’s still true today.   God doesn’t need us to preach His message.   He can get it out any way He chooses.   Yet He chooses us to do it for Him, to talk about it one on one, to build relationships based on common worship and understanding of Him because without Him everything else means nothing.   God chooses to work through us as we love one person at a time.  Nothing could contain that way back then; nothing can contain it now.

For further reading: Ecclesiastes, Acts 14:19, Acts 16:22, Philippians 1:30, 1 Thessalonians 2:3

Lord, I pray:  work through me today. Love others through me.   Teach me to represent You.