For Now We Live

For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:8).

When you read 1 Thessalonians 3, you can see the heart of Paul was anxious as he thought about the brethren in Thessalonica. He was really concerned about them and how they were doing spiritually, now that he was gone.

Two times in chapter 3 the phrase, “When we could bear it no longer” is used. They couldn’t take it anymore. Paul sent Timothy over to Thessalonica to see how they were doing and bring back a report.

You can read chapter 3 to see a noticeable change in tone. Once Timothy came back with good news, Paul’s whole demeanor changed.

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
(1 Thessalonians 3:6-10)

Paul was in the middle of being persecuted for preaching the gospel, but now he could endure the trials and afflictions? Why? Because he heard good news about how his brethren the Thessalonians were doing. It gave him some more gas in his tank. His statement says it all, “for now we live if you are standing fast in the Lord.”

Grown kids need to remember this. Your stand for faith will give life to your parents. College students, remember this. When you stand for Jesus, even when your parents are not there, you cause your parents to live! You put gas in their tank. It’s amazing what we can endure when we know that others we love dearly are living strong for Jesus.

The Person, the Word and the Holy Spirit

Take a minute to read 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10. The text is at the end of this post.

What I saw here is that when Paul preached, three things were effective in helping the hearts of the Thessalonians to turn from idols to serve God.

  • The Word (verse 5).
  • The Powerful working of the Holy Spirit (verse 5).
  • Paul and the other preachers’ examples (verse 5).

Also take notice that the Thessalonians became “imitators” of Paul and the other ministers (verse 6). Look at what happened.

  • They received the Word (verse 6) and they themselves sounded out the word (verse 8).
  • The Holy Spirit created His fruit within them…Joy (verse 6).
  • They in turn became examples to people everywhere (verse 7-10).

So remember, our example matters when it comes to preaching the word to others. Read 1 Thessalonians 2 to see the kind of example and character Paul demonstrated toward them. It also is very important to remember that the Holy Spirit is at work, too. As we are preaching the word, our example and the working of the Holy Spirit also has a tremendous impact on the conversion of souls!

1 Thessalonians 1:4-10 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

 

But As For You

In Paul’s letters to Timothy, the apostle warns and instructs the young evangelist about many things regarding the church, including those in the church who are behaving badly. As he teaches Timothy about those things, he repeatedly turned to Timothy, and said something like, “But as for you…”

Timothy, people around you who claim to be followers of Jesus are going to behave in ungodly ways, but as for you, this is how you are to speak, think and act. Below are just a few examples of how Paul turns the attention to encourage Timothy to watch his own behavior.

Timothy people are going to love money and it is going to destroy them. But you flee these things and follow righteousness and other godly qualities!

1 Timothy 6:10-11
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

Timothy, some will bring great trouble upon the church, and eventually their folly will be known to all. But you keep following my teaching and my conduct.

2 Timothy 3:9-10
But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,

Timothy, you will be persecuted because you want to live for God in Christ. Others around you will go from bad to worse. But as for you…keep doing what you have learned.

2 Timothy 3:12-14
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it

Timothy, times are coming when it will be hard to find folks who want to listen to the truth. But as for you, be clear-minded and do your job, even if you have to suffer.

2 Timothy 4:3-5
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Let’s ask ourselves…how many times have we allowed the bad behavior of others to influence how we think, speak and behave? Be honest.

How often do we excuse our own poor behavior on how others are acting? It happens all the time, doesn’t it. We say things like, “Well, if they wouldn’t have done this, then I wouldn’t have said what I did.” As if God is going to give us a grace pass for behaving sinfully just because others are being sinful. Cussing out someone because they treated you badly is not how it works – at least that’s what Paul is telling Timothy.

If Paul were talking to us today, I believe he would be saying the same things to us. But as for you…this is how you behave. It doesn’t matter how others are talking…this is how you talk. If others are treating you in a sinful way…this is how you behave. When others go down the wide path of loose living…you have your own path to follow. If others are being a bad example, you be a good example.

But as for you…

Daniel – Stand Firm and Take Action

He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.
(Daniel 11:32)

Daniel chapter 11 can get pretty confusing for me, but when I come to this verse I get the main point. Whatever is going on here in chapter 11, there are people who are seduced and break God’s covenant. That is sad, and that is the way of the world. However we also see that there are those who know God, stand firm and take action.

I’m seeing so many connections between Daniel’s theme and the book of Revelation. In both books, God’s people are being oppressed by a beast, and in both books the Son of Man, Jesus overcomes that beast. Also in both books, those who are with the Son of Man, Jesus, can and will overcome and conquer the beast.

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 
(Revelation 12:11)
This is our encouragement for today. We are in a war against Satan and any “beast” he sends our way to torture us. The Devil is, with all his might, seeking to destroy God’s work. But Jesus is on the throne, He has already conquered and He reigns supreme. Death, sin and the Devil have no power over Him. In Christ, the Devil has been disarmed and made powerless.
So stand firm today, men. Stand firm today in Christ. Fight the beast. Do not love your lives even unto death. You have a covenant with Christ to keep. You have His blood covering you. His word is always there to guide you. But standing firm means more than standing still. It means taking action.
Take action to say kind words and to forgive others. Take action to reach out to encourage someone else. Take action to say no to the Devil’s temptations. Take action to be honest when the pressure is extreme to be dishonest. Take action to speak up for God to your boss, your neighbor, your friends, etc.
Stand firm and take action.

 

Daniel – The Way of Exile

Today’s post is a link to a video by the Bible Project on the Way of Exile. In this video is a fantastic point about the decision Daniel and his 3 friends made while living in a Babylonian culture. We today are still living in a Babylonian culture.

The Bible Project – The Way of the Exile


“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 5:13-16)

Daniel – No ground for complaint

Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”
(Daniel 6:3-5)

Isn’t this just like today? Somebody gets a promotion and everybody else wants to knock the guy off the ladder! The king of Babylon wanted to set Daniel over the whole kingdom…it doesn’t seem like there could be a higher position except for the king himself. Daniel was increasing in favor with the king, and the other officials were envious, to the point that they wanted to destroy him. You know if they put half as much effort into their jobs as they did trying to destroy Daniel, they might have been promoted, too!

In their attempt to bring Daniel down, they looked into everything to see where they could find a fault with him. He has to be doing wrong somewhere, and we are going to find it. But what happened? They couldn’t find anything!

The Bible tells us that Daniel had “an excellent spirit.” It also says in this passage that he was “faithful, and that no error or fault was found in him.” This does not mean that Daniel never sinned, but we can see that the life of Daniel properly defines the word “blameless.”

Men, we are living in a culture much like that of Daniel’s day, and those around us are always watching us. This is nothing new. When good people are seeking to follow God, and they are moving up in the world, you can count on others seeking to find some dirt on you.

They open wide their mouths against me; they say, “Aha, Aha! Our eyes have seen it!”
(Psalm 35:21)

For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!”
(Psalm 38:16)

Have you ever been in a situation at work, where maybe the wrong word slipped out of your mouth or you displayed a poor attitude? Sometimes those in the world will pounce on that momentary weakness to show how you are just as bad as everyone else, or that you are a hypocrite. Not everyone is that way, thankfully. Even heathens can show grace at times! But again, you will experience many times where the people around you are just waiting for you to mess up so they can say, “Aha, got you!” Daniel lived in that world, just like we do.

That is what makes it all the more important that we seek to live a blameless life, a life above reproach. We know how others are going to respond, so we should be even more careful to watch what we say and do in the midst of non-believers.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Philippians 2:14-16)

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
(1 Peter 2:12)

The First 60 for 30 Challenge

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

How do you start your day? The alarm goes off, maybe you hit snooze or maybe you get right up. You head to the bathroom, taking your phone with you. Perhaps you head to the kitchen for the first cup of coffee and you sit down with your phone to get caught up on social media or email, and review your schedule for the day.

I don’t know what your mornings typically look like but I’ll bet the first hour includes your phone or tablet in some way. Jim Kwik is a leading expert on speed learning, memory retention, and how the brain works. He emphasizes the need to protect the sovereignty of the first hour of our day.   We need to develop habits and routines that allow us to frame our mindset and set the course of our day. One thing he stresses is to avoid the phone for the first hour. When we immediately grab our phones and start looking at social media and email, we surrender our thought process to the demands of others.

So I have a 30 day challenge for all of us. Let’s call it The First 60 for 30 Challenge. For the next 30 days, start off your day like this:

  • Get out of bed and stretch for 5 to 10 minutes, concentrating on taking deep breaths
  • Head to the kitchen and drink a big glass of water
  • Put on some comfortable shoes and take a 10 to 15 minute walk. Don’t put in the headphones, just listen to the sounds around you
  • Upon returning to your house, get another big glass of water and sit down at the kitchen table
  • Make a list of 5 to 10 things you are thankful for. Things that money can’t buy
  • Say a prayer, focusing on thanking God for the things on your list
  • As you get your third glass of water, read for 20 minutes
  • Do all of this before you touch your phone

Our brains need certain things every morning to help us be at our best all day. We need to hydrate and we need to increase blood flow. Drinking water, deep breathing, and movement will help jump start our brains and remove the morning “fog”. We also need to train our minds towards gratitude.

Do this for 30 days. You’ll find that your attitude is improved, interactions with others is improved, and you have less stress throughout the day.

“We form our habits and then our habits form us.” – Jim Kwik

Perspective. Present. Participate.

1 Let brotherly love continue… 5…For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:1, 5-6).

 

1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved….13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:1, 13).

Our children need us. God has provide us His instruction so that we can lead them and be for them what they need. Still, we need our Heavenly Father and Savior. In them, we are going to be the best influence in our kids’ lives. In them, we are free to love, forgive, and risk having our hearts broken time and again. They will not forsake us and are for us even when it seems like nothing is going right in our relationships with our kids or we are frustrated with the choices they are making or are questioning what we might have done wrong to get to this point. There is going to be a lot of joy with our kids…but there is a lot of sorrow and frustration. How do we deal with those hardships?

Perspective. Living today in the context of eternity and understanding God is with us and with our kids and He is able to carry our weight, show us the way, and strengthen our spirit. Further, we can consider our own relationship with Him and in it we will see much of the same in the relationship with our children. There is unconditional love. There is clear expectation for behavior. There are times we fall short and God is disappointed. And in these times, when we go to Him, we find grace, mercy, forgiveness, love and encouragement. This process happens over and over…just like with our kids. He is available and able…we just have to go to Him.

Present. God is ever-present in our lives and we need to be present in the lives of our children. Present doesn’t only mean in the same room as them or we make it to every school, athletic, or other activity they are participating in. I have learned the hard way that is not enough. Present means that we have put the other distractions away and give your full attention to what they are doing or what we are doing together. Of course we will not be completely and fully engaged in everything they are doing when we are in the same place…that is especially difficult when we are talking multiple children. What it means is we be there for our kids, make ourselves available and when they come to us or invite us to participate we are all in and give our full attention to them. That is what God does for us…we need to do this for our kids.

Participate. We participate in their lives by example…by providing a consistent example of our love for Jesus and the way He dictates how we live, the choices we make, the things we say, etc. That our love for Him is at the forefront of our lives…that we demonstrate Jesus to them. We then are going to be part of their lives and so we will enjoy their highs and endure along with them their lows. We will teach them in that. We will treat them the way God expects them to treat others. We fulfill the responsibilities God has given us with joy. It matters…more than we might know day to day but as a brother told me yesterday… “they will love you more for it”. He is right and it is that unexpected moment when my son gives me a hug, or says thanks, or my daughter blows me away with her grace or mercy, or love for another. What a beautiful moment.

In Christ Jesus and with our Heavenly Father, be free to love your kids and when you are hurt or frustrated…go to the One who can truly help you and strengthen you. Then get back to work…it’s a work worth doing and in many cases a work only you can do.

The Faithful Remnant

We are studying the Kings and Prophets, and we are going into the period of the Babylonian Captivity. Dark times for Judah, no doubt. It seemed like no one cared about God or followed God. That may have been pretty close to true, but there were still a few strong followers of God. Just like we considered yesterday with Noah, even in the midst of corruption and wickedness, there was a faithful remnant.

Jeremiah preached for decades, but was anyone listening? For the most part, no, but here are a few examples of the people who were faithfully following God.

Baruch, the scribe for Jeremiah. He wrote down the words that Jeremiah received from God. He was a faithful servant and assistant to Jeremiah. Just like Jeremiah, he was taken hostage and carried off to Egypt after the Babylonian captivity.

The descendants of Jonadab faithfully followed their father’s commands even after centuries passed. Their faithfulness was contrasted to Judah’s faithlessness to their Father (Jeremiah 35).

Many people were sealed by God before the destruction of Jerusalem, because as God told Ezekiel during these days, they were “sighing and crying” over the abominations committed there (Ezekiel 9). Even in Jerusalem, the hot bed of sin and rebellion to God, there were folks faithfully following God’s word.

Ebed-melech was an Ethiopian eunuch who helped saved Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 38). For his faithfulness and bravery, he was blessed by God. Take note of this promise of God to Ebed-melech:

“Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. But I will deliver you on that day, declares the LORD, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the LORD.'” (Jeremiah 39:16-18).

Away in captivity, there were also others faithfully serving God during this time. Daniel, Ezekiel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are some examples.

The same can be said today. Scattered throughout the world, and in maybe the most unlikely of places, there are members of the faithful remnant. Most importantly, let’s make sure that you and I are part of that faithful remnant. We can, with God’s grace and help, serve God faithfully in this godless age.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
(Titus 2:11-12)

Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.
(Genesis 6:8-9)

The world was a pretty nasty place in the days of Noah, wasn’t it. The verses in Genesis 6 before and after verses 8-9 tell us of violence, corruption, and continually wicked thoughts in the hearts of all mankind. Noah was surrounded on every side with perversion and wickedness.

Here is the encouragement for me from this text and I hope you will be encouraged as well. Noah was able to live in a way that was pleasing to God even when everyone around him was doing the wrong things.

He was righteous when everyone else was unrighteous. Noah lived as a “blameless” man when all around him was corruption. Noah walked with God when all his friends and neighbors where walking the other direction.

So, can you do the same at work? At school? In your community? Absolutely. We are called by God to live the same way Noah did in his “generation.”

First we must be “saved from this crooked generation”:

And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
(Acts 2:40-41)

We then walk daily with God’s power working in us to transform our minds from worldly thinking to Christ-like thinking.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:2)

As transformed people, we are called to live as blameless and shining lights in this “perverse generation” just like Noah did.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Philippians 2:12-16)

We can live like Noah. With God’s power and help, we can live a righteous life in this wicked world.

Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
(Proverbs 9:6)