Simple Directions Produce Great Results

My friend and fellow servant Wayne has chosen as his favorite verses ones from 1Thessalonians 5:16-18. These verses are placed in a paragraph in which Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians to be diligent in practicing their faith. Let’s look at the passage as whole and then Wayne’s verses in particular,

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

Paul wanted the Thessalonian church to thrive. He wanted them to be working together in faith, encouraging and uplifting one another. He warned against putting the work of others down by asking them to esteem highly those that are working for the Lord and appreciate their efforts for the kingdom. Paul encouraged them to live in peace, working, helping those that are struggling and to be advocates of patience. He wanted them to not try and seek revenge when wronged but seek to do good. Paul does not want them to stop the flow of power from the Holy Spirit into their lives, but to be open to His leading. He also wants them to not believe everything they hear but to test it against scripture and pray for guidance. I particularly love his advice- ‘hold fast what is good’. Rather than focusing on the negative, hold fast, cling, proclaim in your life that which is good and from God. Lastly, he just says stay away from evil. Don’t even let it be in your heart and mind, keeping clear of it.

In the midst of this instructive paragraph come Wayne’s verses. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  These verses give practical actions that will lead to being able to carry out the instructions in the passage. Rejoice always speaks to the heart attitude that God desires. When working for the Lord, do you have an attitude of rejoicing? Are you doing things at church more as an obligation rather than joyfully for the Lord? You will know the difference because joyful service makes for an uplifted countenance and hope in Christ. We are not be be joyful in our service just when we feel good but always. Rejoicing in the Lord brings joy and encouragement to the saddest of hearts. Verse 17 tells us to pray without ceasing. I take that to mean proceed through your day and pray as you go. When you need to make a decision, speak to someone, tackle a hard or boring task… in all things pray! If we can do this, we will see God in all things and know His presence continually!! Verse 18 tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. This one is really hard to do at times in our lives. This is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit and true believe in Romans 8:28. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”. As believers we need to cling and proclaim the sovereignty of God over all things in heaven and on earth. We know that God’s will is perfect and that He will see to all the details. What might be hard or devastating can and will be used for our good and His glory. How is your faith in this area? Can you trust God for the hard things in your life and know He will bring good out of them? The last part of verse 18 tells us why we need to do these things- rejoice, pray and give thanks because for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  All of these actions are part of God’s will for our lives. He desires these things for us so that we may glorify Him with our lives. What do you consider your purpose in life? In the Old Testament passage from Deuteronomy 10:12-13 God lays His purpose for our lives:  “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?  All these things- loving the Lord with our heart, mind and soul and seeking to follow His ways, are for our good and His glory. This is God’s will for our lives. He knows we need to rejoice, pray continually and give thanks in all things to keep ourselves in His will and our attitudes aligned with His purpose.

Thank you Wayne for pointing me to this powerful paragraph filled with encouragement and direction. As I serve with you in the cause of Christ, I see your heart attitude of joy and thanksgiving and your desire for prayer. May we all seek to live with these in mind so as to glorify God and walk in His will.

Linda

Anger Issues? Beware and Alert

It is convicting that many of the verses that are near and dear to the heart of my friends are about how best to live out the Christian life. My friend, Vivian, has chosen Ephesians 4:26-27 as verses that speak to her heart and remind her how best to live for Jesus. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.” These verses are situated in a paragraph that follows Paul’s command in verses 23-24 “ to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,”. He concludes that accepting Christ’s transforming, redeeming power in ones life will cause you to live a different type of life. Ephesians 4:25 then starts with Therefore. In scripture this means everything I’ve said before about living a transformed life is true and will lead to the following actions. Paul goes on to list what a redeemed life will look like.

Paul describes the transformed person as one who speaks the truth with his neighbor, may be angry but does not let it lead to sinful actions, does honest work,  speaks good positive words, is honoring to the Holy Spirit with their hearts and actions, endeavors to avoid bitterness and evil thoughts and is kind and forgiving of one another. (See complete text below.)

Vivian has chosen verses here that focus on not allowing anger she feels about people, circumstances, etc. to lead her to sin. Harboring resentment, being bitter or letting the anger fester will lead to a break or block in her relationship with the Lord and others. The reminder to not let the sun go down on her anger is so true. If you go to bed angry, you will awaken with that unresolved anger in your heart. It will begin to turn towards bitterness if you are not carefully aware. The wisdom of scripture here is practical and life changing if applied each and every day. Letting resentment and bitterness begin and holding on to unforgiveness gives the devil an opening to tempt us to sin. Sin produces an attitude that holds on to anger and can lead to ruined relationships, resentment and bitterness. Anger is a tricky emotion that can be good if used rightly but harmful if it is used for and towards selfish desires. Thoughts like “they are always against me”, “he really meant to do me harm”, ”look at how he/she made this my fault”…. All of these are thoughts that can easily come out of anger and lead to sin. Sin affects our relationship with God and blocks our full communication with Him and also can turn and undermine any relationship in which we are involved. I think Vivian is wise to remember these verses and strive to live with her anger being both well placed and under control.

I pray these verses will cause you to seek God in prayer and let the Holy Spirit help you examine your ‘anger issues’ before Him.

Linda

Here are a couple of other verses about anger from Psalm 37:8 and Proverbs 16:32 to meditate upon.

Ephesians 4:25-32 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

A ‘How To’ Guiding Verse

Colossians 3:17 is the perfect culmination to verses 12-17. This portion of scripture is filled with admonitions of how to live a ‘good and pleasing’ Christian life. My friend Melrose has chosen verse 17 as her life favorite. Let’s see why this verse gives her such strength and guidance for living.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Paul starts this section with ‘how to’ live for Jesus. He tells us to put on character attributes which I take to mean let these things be infused into your being and part of your character. He lists putting on- compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness and LOVE. He wants us to let peace of Christ reign in our hearts so we will work together in unity. Paul wants us to stay in the word teaching and encouraging one another and be genuine in our worship of God. Paul finishes with the admonition to let Christ be present in all our conversations, thoughts, deeds and interactions. He tells us to live each and every moment with Christ in our minds and with an attitude of gratitude in all things.

My friend who chose this verse endeavors to live this way. She is prayerful about what she says and does and has a heart for the lost. She is always looking for opportunities to witness to the love, forgiveness and salvation of her Savior. She is also a major prayer warrior and will willingly spend time in prayer for your needs. Is she perfect? No. But she presents a heart and attitude of gratitude towards God. She readily thanks Jesus and gives Him praise. To what result? She has the peace of Christ in her mind and heart, she loves others, she is valued by others and she is seen as genuine in her worship and love of God. Isn’t that what we all desire? Don’t we want to please our Savior and live for Him?

How about you and me? Do I live with gratitude in my heart or am I always thinking about what I lack? Do I seek to tell others about my amazing Savior? Do I seek to serve others and speak words that are free from gossip and slander? Living the Christian life is not easy but with verses like Colossians 3:17 as your guide and goal, you can keep your perspective in the right place.

Thanks Melrose for being wonderful a reminder of how Jesus wants us to live. You are an encouragement to me and my walk with Jesus!

Linda

Jesus convinces doubting Thomas, what about you?

The disciples had gathered on the evening of Jesus’ resurrection behind closed doors. John 20:19-22. Thomas had not been with them and refused to believe what they were telling him about the risen Lord. This was his response to their joyful news.  John 20:24-25.  Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”  This is the passage that earned him the nickname of doubting Thomas.  He was emphatic that unless he saw the evidences of Jesus death marks himself he would not believe it to be Jesus. Do you know people that are doubters too?  Do they reject any evidence that Jesus is the Son of God in scripture purely because they can not see Him for themselves?  I’m sure the disciples were totally convinced as to what they had seen, and were saddened that Thomas could not share in the joy of Christ being alive because of his unbelief.

Thomas

A week passed and they were all gathered again in the upper room and Jesus appeared. John 20:26-29 continues the story,  Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus knew what Thomas needed and came right to him.  Thomas was amazed and proclaimed Jesus as his Lord and God.  To him, seeing was believing.  He needed a personal encounter with the living Jesus!   Jesus added this next verse for Thomas, the disciples and all of us.   29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 

Faith is a gift from God and we who believe in Jesus are blessed with the knowledge of Him as our Savior.  However, each one of us who believes encountered the living Christ and came to know Him in a personal, vibrant and  living way.   Even though we do not physically see Him,  we can and do know within our being that Jesus is Alive!  The Holy Spirit indwells us when we believe in Jesus and testifies to us about Him.  Jesus had promised this in John 15:26 ““But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”  Later Paul, explains in Ephesians 1:13-14 how the Holy Spirit works within us, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”  

john 20 29

Praise God we too can know and experience Him in our lives.  We are blessed – Just as Jesus said we would be through our faith in Him!   Have a blessed day as you ponder the wonder of Jesus being alive in your life!

Linda