Sudden destruction!

Sudden destruction is a possibility in everyone’s life. Sudden destruction isn’t necessarily a punishment for disobeying an abusive leader or being’ bad.’  King Solomon said; “. . . for time and chance overtake them all. Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11,12) Sudden destruction is this broken world’s terrible lottery.

maxresdefaultWhat does the Bible say about ‘sudden destruction’?  Paul tells the Thessalonians; “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3) This is a dire prediction but Paul being a true preacher isn’t saying do what I say or you’ll be destroyed. Paul is talking about the return of Jesus – ‘the day of the Lord’.

As any good preacher would, Paul teaches his people how to prepare for this ‘unexpected’ event by staying faithful to Jesus; “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6) Paul isn’t calling for blind obedience to him rather he exhorts his flock to be watchful and sober. Paul draws his flock together; “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. . . . Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” (v. 8,11) Like the true shepherd Paul was he encouraged rather than harassed his people. He built up rather than tore apart his church.towersiloam

Jesus exhorted people to not blame the victim of sudden destruction rather be ready by being right with God. He used a well-known tragedy of the time as a case in point; “No, I tell you. But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam collapsed on them: Do you think that they were more sinful than all the others living in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:3,4)

Paul knew and accepted the ‘bottom line’ as far as God was concerned; “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9,10) It wasn’t about Paul. It isn’t about any preacher. It isn’t about ‘sudden destruction’. It’s all about God and Jesus and living His Way!

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Paddle your own canoe!

An old saying goes; “Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe.”  This saying speaks to being self-reliant and not selfish.  People who are good friends and trustworthy don’t drain the life out of you by being overly dependent and needy.  Rather they go about their lives quietly.  They are always ready to help others  not to make themselves feel better about themselves but  when helping is appropriate.paddle-your-own-canoe

The Bible calls this a ‘brotherly’ love for others.  Paul commended the Thessalonians for this love; “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9,10) James explains the principle; “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, ‘Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,’ but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that?” (James 2:15,16) Meeting  the immediate need without enabling dependency requires discernment.

How do you help others in a loving way without becoming drained and exhausted yourself? We can see an answer in Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians; “But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.” (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12)  Don’t live for the problems and needs of others.  Tend to your own business and work for your living.  Help others as your resources allow and work within your church community.

Working diligently while avoiding wasteful living provides a stable life; “He who tills his land will have plenty of food, But he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty.” (Proverb 28:19)  Many don’t live on the land anymore but the general principle applies.  Find a job, keep it, earn your own way and help others as you can.

 

 

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Self-control

What’s the difference between a good life and a wasted life?  Control! Notably self-control.  Sadly people are often driven and controlled by their passions and appetites.  Addiction is rampant in our society.  People can’t stop drinking, drugging, over-eating, spending, gambling or partying or various combinations of the same.  Pornography, marital unfaithfulness and family breakdown is now epidemic.  As a society we can’t seem to get control of the very things that tear our communities apart.party-time

The apostle Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to prosper by behaving in a way that would please God;  “.. . we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1,2) What a novel idea! Read your Bible, see what Jesus says and then follow His teachings. No need for social controls, laws and regulations. Everybody becomes a self-regulator and prospers because of it.

Where do we start applying the teachings of Jesus in our lives? Paul says to start in a core identity issue – sexuality; “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5) Jesus was very clear about how we were to interact with women; “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-29) Adultery starts in your head and you have to stop it before it takes action. That’s self-control.

just-stopSelf control is hard, especially for those who have no idea how or inclination to please God. The Bible tells us that self-control is from the Holy Spirit; “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22,23) God supplies the very means to achieve His requirements of us. Paul tells the Thessalonians; “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

The problem with the breakdown of society isn’t a mystery. People who reject God, reject His Holy Spirit and are out of control!

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One ‘little’ prayer

A lot can be said in a few words.    The fewer the words the more powerful the message provided the words are picked very carefully and are heartfelt.  The most powerful mode of speaking is through prayer.  Jesus taught that prayer should be simple and direct; ” But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Matthew 6:7)prayer-purpose

The apostle Paul closed the third chapter of his letter to the Thessalonians with this prayer; “Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, 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 3:11-13)  This is a short prayer all about God working in the people of a church.

In this saintly prayer it is acknowledged that God directs our paths (v. 11).  Jesus causes the increase of a church, spiritually and materially  (v. 12).  The love and fellowship of those in a church is all due to Jesus (v. 12) And finally any righteousness we have before our Father in Heaven is based on Jesus Christ.  Jesus and only Jesus makes us holy and ready as a church fellowship for His return (v. 13).

big-bold-prayerSome teach we should dream big and pray big; “Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.” (Mark Batterson)  This is a soulish and egotistical approach to prayer.  This is not what Jesus taught by Word or example. This is not the example of Paul’s little prayer for the Thessalonians.  This ‘new’ teaching isn’t biblical.

Jesus taught that it’s not about us –  it’s about God!  Our prayers should seek Him; “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)  He taught us to pray God’s will not our dreams; “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) The bottom line of His prayer in the garden was; “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Let God rule in our prayers not our dreams and desires.

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The welcomed Word

We hear a lot of messages today.  Advertising blares away at us from radio, television, computers and iPhones.  Everybody has an opinion and many  share them  with  snappy memes.  The news is so prevalent that few watch it, preferring to ‘google’ their way to being informed.  Who cares about truth?  What do we do with the truth if we hear it?  Do we recognize it for what it is or is it just another message in a world of messages?  Does the truth change us?  If so how?opinion-vs-truth

The apostle Paul describes the effect the truth had on the Thessalonians; “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”(1 Thessalonians 2:13)   When a person hears the truth, believes it and accepts it, real change begins.  A  lot of people can hear the truth and receive it as mere opinion so it has no effect upon them individually or corporately.  This was not the case for the Thessalonians.

influence-the-worldWhat corporate effect did this reception of the truth have in the Thessalonian church?  Paul said that they became authentic in their outreach even in the face of extreme opposition; “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, . . . ” (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). Real churches preach Jesus and only Jesus!

Authentic churches that believe and accept the truth follow the same pattern even in hostile situations. Real churches won’t shut up about Jesus being the only way to salvation and peace with God. And why would they, that’s what Jesus said about Himself; “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

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A checklist for authenticity

There are a lot of fakes in the world today.  So many that knock off brands are common, cheap and sought after.  They give the appearance of the real thing but don’t cost as much. That’s why they’re popular.   There are those that desire the ‘real deal’ not fakes.  But when it comes to people rather than products how do you tell the difference?

your-youtube-video-marketing-checklist-1-300x206The apostle Paul contrasted his behavior with the fakes of his day.  We can examine this scripture to develop a checklist of authenticity.  Paul rightly used behavior not words to prove his purity; “For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness.” (1 Thessalonians 2:5)  Words  can hide a lot but actions reveal.  Paul didn’t demand to be first among those he claimed to serve; “Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.” (v. 6) He was gentle, affectionate and eager to teach; “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” (v. 7,8) Paul and those with him, weren’t a burden on the community as they shared the Gospel; “For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.” (v. 9) They contributed to the community.

The apostle Paul’s ministry reflected  the character of Jesus.  An authentic ministry conforms a person to His image; “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

All those who accept Jesus’ call conform to His yoke; “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28,29)

The real deal always conforms to Jesus.

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What makes a good example?

This is an important question for anyone who wishes to have a positive effect on their community.  Unfortunately in our culture of celebrity we confuse the attributes of a good example with the affectations of those who enjoy unbridled success.  Egotism, tunnel vision, driving ambition and inflated pride are some of the hallmarks of those we esteem as being successful.  Are such really good examples?feature_s22

The  Bible gives us a totally different picture of a ‘good example’.  The apostle Paul describes them to us; “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4) Good examples are people of faith who patiently live their lives for God sustained by their hope in Jesus. Nobody will ever put their faces on sports trading cards.  The world doesn’t really care for faith.  The world just doesn’t collect and share any statistics about the disciples of Jesus.

image-04-john-13-35-editJesus tells us the value and purpose of a truly good example and He made it a command; “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34,35) Good examples spread the faith more than large churches, powerful preachers and glittery programs. Paul recognized this; “And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-8)  No need for fancy preachers,  talk or shows,  the Gospel is spread by faithful mature people walking out their hope  in tough times as well as good times.

God’s Word tells us what a good example really is and why it is so important that we be one. Paul exhorts us; “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

When we Christians keep the peace of the Holy Spirit the world notices.

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