Godly Living, Thessalonians

Week 3: 1 Thessalonians 3:7

Welcome, my friends, to week 3 of our study! I am so glad you are here. Thank you for taking a few moments out of your day to read today’s blog entry in your email or possibly on the website. You will not regret taking this time to invest in your relationship with God through Jesus Christ. He is the source of all hope and comfort.

The Scripture –

While I am limited in sharing at this moment due to circumstances, I want to be able to share with you our new weekly memory verse.

In the middle of our trouble and hard times here, just knowing how you’re doing keeps us going. Knowing that your faith is alive keeps us alive (1 Thess. 3:7, MSG).

The Truth Revealed –

As I face my own troubles, I can relate a bit with Paul. Honestly, the great “longing exchange” (where the longing for a close friend is mutual) is a tremendous comfort in hard times. When you are in desperate need and alone, quality companionship is one of the top desires one troubled friend could have.

When we are going through hard times, we just need someone to be there for us. . . someone who will lead us straight to Jesus Christ. It’s the exact medicine we need.

We learn a few things about Paul and the Thessalonians –

  • Paul’s Heart: Longed for the Thessalonians, and bombarded with troubles.
  • The Thessalonians’ Heart: Longed for Paul, and continually sought Christ. . . resulting in much spiritual growth even during persecution.
  • Resulting in much comfort, especially for Paul in his time of need.

Hearing others’ stories of faith in Christ makes everything much better. While the circumstances may not change, our heart are uplifted versus drowning. Our perspective changes – because we receive comfort from friends. . . friends who treat our friendship in a godly way. Encouraging us to keep pressing into Jesus, praying over our circumstances, and helping us to hold onto our faith in Jesus and His Good News.

Biblical Friendship

While we may not choose our times of suffering, God can use this time to be encouraged (or encourage others) by others’ faith and show us the kind of friends we have (or are).

The Thessalonians and Paul had biblical friendships. They sought the Lord Jesus to be honored in their lives. They wanted to help encourage one another, pray together, and continue to live out their faith in Christ.

Biblical friendships are hard to find, but are what makes the lasting change in our spiritual lives.

Jonathan and David are a classic example of biblical friendship (see 1 Samuel 23:15-18). They loved each other in a godly friendship; Jonathan made sure to be there when David needed him the most (click here to listen to a sermon on the topic). Likewise, the Thessalonians would have send word back conveying how much they care for Paul and miss him.

Biblical friendships make the difference in our Christian walk, and an important tool in our transformation.

“[Thessalonians’] steadfastness was a great source of comfort to [Paul] in his trials. . . In the inevitable trials of the ministerial office there is no source of comfort more rich and pure than this (Albert Barnes Commentary).”

Gleaning from the Heart of Jesus

Social Media Society {{Week 6}}

Welcome to today’s blog and our Gleaning From the Heart of Jesus study! Today, we will be discussing a very important topic. One we all will encounter, as we live in our Christian life! Are you ready? Break out those journals and your Bible. If you don’t have either nearby, join us anyway!

The Scriptures – Matthew 6:1-4 and Jeremiah 17:10

Jesus said, “Be careful not to do good deeds in front of other people. Don’t do those deeds to be seen by others. If you do, your Father in heaven will not reward you. When you give to needy people, do not announce it by having trumpets blown. Do not be like those who only pretend to be holy. They announce what they do in the synagogues and on the streets. They want to be honored by other people. What I’m about to tell you is true. They have received their complete reward. When you give to needy people, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Then your giving will be done secretly. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly (Matthew 6:1-4, NIrV).”

The Lord says, “I look deep down inside human hearts. I see what is in people’s minds. I reward each person in keeping with their conduct. I bless them based on what they have done (Jeremiah 17:10).”

Devotion

Unfortunately, we live in a social network culture where it’s common practice and expected to proclaim every single act and good work that we have offered up to our gracious Creator and Redeemer! While it is still just as wrong as Scripture tells us, we have somehow made it seem okay. So, we “check in” when we get to church or the latest worship event we have been to. We post a picture, when we crack open our dusty Bible for the first time in a week.

We have lost the sacred art along with the way God has trained us up, where we are careful to not tell others about our “good deeds”.

According to this set of Scriptures, we are reminded of the danger that our sharing or oversharing can cause. We can, in fact, miss (completely) the blessings and rewards of our great God. All because, we weren’t careful to live our acts within the walls of our spiritual marriage.

Like an earthly marriage, there is much of ourselves and actions that are far too personal for the outside world – to have access to.
Our relationship with Jesus is a treasure that this world shouldn’t have full access to.

While we share a great deal about our relationship, we need to be careful.

Our spiritual marriage is a sacred thing. While we are proclaiming and sharing, let’s resolve to stay humble and allow God to be our motivation for every single thing we do. Let’s listen to God, take Him at His Word, and remember why Jesus tells us to not share the knowledge of our “good deeds” with others. Let’s remember the gift of discretion, and obeying God. We need to allow discretion and godly obedience to invade our hearts and minds, so we don’t proclaim our good works and lose our heavenly rewards.

See Romans 12:2; Luke 12:1-3

Lord God, Keep my focus on You. Help me to not share my “good deeds” with the world, but leave them for You alone. Thank You for all You are and the relationship I can have with You. Help me not to follow the patterns of this world, but to be transformed by You alone! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Godly Living, Single Living

Where are the Singles Ministering?

I have been thinking about 1 Corinthians 7, lately. In this particular portion of Scripture, we are reminded that it is better to be single. When we are single, we are in the absolute best position to serve God in His Church.

“I want all of you to be free from worry. An unmarried man worries about how to please the Lord. But a married man has more worries. He must worry about the things of this world, because he wants to please his wife. So he is pulled in two directions. Unmarried women and women who have never been married worry only about pleasing the Lord, and they keep their bodies and minds pure. But a married woman worries about the things of this world, because she wants to please her husband. What I am saying is for your own good—it isn’t to limit your freedom. I want to help you to live right and to love the Lord above all else (vv. 32-35).”

I don’t write this to condemn single Christ-followers, but to encourage them. To encourage you. On the basis of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ. I know there are many single Christ-followers. I just wonder where they are. Not in a “on-the-lookout-for-a-Christian-man” kind of way. But, I want to see the single folks serving alongside me, in every ministry in our global Church. I want to see us, as God’s dearly beloved, utilizing every single gift we are given. Let’s not misuse any of our God-given gifts!

I want to know…

  1. Where are they serving?
  2. How are they allowing God to use their season of singleness to impact the Kingdom of God?
  3. What kind of example are they setting?

Singleness and the Ministry Given

We Notice Them

As singles, we become abundantly aware of every married couple in our home church. We notice when new people visit our church. We notice who the single people of the Church are. So, the singles are out there – despite how rare their appearances seem to be.

Yet, many are single…
They just aren’t seen serving in His Church.

Singles: Godly Examples on Ministering

I am speaking of His Church on a global level. It is not solely my Church that I speak of, but His Church. I am one who craves mentorship. I am greatly impacted by others’ lives, as I observe their words and actions. I treasure seeing others’ faith at work through their serving within the Church. To see others who take God at His Word when He teaches us to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, live in harmony with one another, and associate with the lowly (Rom. 12:15-16).

So, this is a question that can obviously plague my spirit.

Where are all the single Christ – followers who can be leadingserving, and impacting others for the Kingdom of God?

Where are they?

I just want to know where they are.

I just want to find them and witness their God-centered passion.

Surely, they are out there. Right?

I mean, they have to be out there somewhere.

But, what are they doing if they aren’t ministering within the Church? And yes, I wonder if they allow their singleness to hold them back in their serving.

Or, perhaps, are they busy following other things?

  • Careers?
  • Friends?
  • Traveling?
  • Catching up on TV shows?
  • Self-isolating?
  • Busy buffing up at the gym?

The Gift of Singleness

I wish we recognized the tremendous strength that our singleness could hold. It has taken me nearly 29 years, to reach this blessed point of being content in singleness and having a passion to utilize this season to actively pour myself into ministry as God allows. I don’t want to miss a beat, due to discontentment. I don’t want my Christian brothers and sisters, to neglect their God-given gifts either.

Single or married, we need to concern ourselves with pleasing God and using our gifts in His Church.

Contentment in Singleness

I am growing in this area of being content in singleness. A key aspect of this, for me, is to serve God in the local Church. While I serve, through various functions (this blog, my writing, other social media, etc), serving in the local Church body is a key aspect of growing in godly contentment.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it (1 Tim. 6:6-7).”

 

Serving within the Church has replaced the discontentment. I am choosing to see the gift of singleness and the contentment that God can bring with (and through) it. Instead of being centered on singleness and dreaming up possibilities, I am basking in the opportunity to serve. Using my spiritual gifts, to serve where I can love and grow alongside others. This is where I am finding my joy, sweet fellowship, deeper communion with Jesus Christ, and yes godly contentment – even.

In the Bible, there are countless singles who left their footprint on others’ lives. It is because of their singleness that they could more wholeheartedly follow Jesus Christ – our loving Savior.

This is not to say that married individuals did not (or cannot) wholeheartedly follow Christ. But as we know, single individuals have more to offer. This is due because our lives typically include much less responsibility. A married individual worries about how to please their spouse/family, whereas we can focus on solely pleasing the Lord. All He asks for is our hearts, and singles have plenty to give.

Singleness: An Opportunity to Minister

You know when you read Christian books or articles on singleness, there is something they tend to mention.

Those who are unattached, are in the absolute best place to minister to others.

I am holding onto this truth. Scripture even backs it up. It’s biblical, as we see in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35.

When we are single, we can throw ourselves into whatever area God is calling us. We do not have concern ourselves with wondering if our husbands feel as though we are neglecting our marriage, kids, spending too many hours in Church, etc. Because, we can wholly devote ourselves to Christ, His Bride – the Church, and just focus on how can we minister to others and be ministered to.

As I look to this kind of lifestyle of treating singleness as a ministry opportunity, I want my eyes to be opened to other men and women of God who are of a like-mindset, and learning how to focus on pleasing the Lord. I want to find these individuals who can serve as encouragement and examples of how to lead in the midst of singleness.

Reflection –

If you are single, how are you using your singleness to serve?

If you are married, what examples of single Christians have you observed in your own life?

The Overcomer Life

How Did I Get From There to Here?

I am missing a great group of friends tonight. Friends I had the privilege of serving with. It was only for a year, but seems much longer. That happens when you serve with a  certain group multiple days in a week’s time, and they were part of your core group of Christ-centered friends. For a while anyway. Up to listening to part of my story? Here it goes (now is the time to return to whatever you were doing if you aren’t up to listening):

I was involved in a great Christian Leadership and Ministry program at Fresno Pacific University (God knows how much I cherished my classmates and professors). Part of the program is an internship. I found myself needing to immerse somewhere. I needed a place where I could get more “hours” to pass my class. On my bus route at the time, I had heard about this non-profit. Thought about going to seeing about volunteering. For whatever reason, I didn’t follow that urgency… until I came to a frantic place where I needed to get more hours (God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?). This place of wonderful people, they ministered more to me than I do to others. I got sick. I barely finished my hours, to finish the program.

Toward the end of my final semester, I got really sick. It was by God’s grace I kept volunteering and finished my degree – barely got my hours in. Then after Christmas break, I returned to volunteer and my body couldn’t keep up. People must have wondered if I dropped off the planet. I miss them terribly. I wish my body would let me serve like I used to, in that special place.

There, I was God’s hands and feet (we served the community providing food, clothing, and prayer support). Here, I am mainly God’s hands. I write. This is my most homey place of serving. Some days, it can’t compare to what I did there (or the high-ish feeling it gave)… And this is the only thing I have comparable to there. I wish I could serve there again. I wish my body would just let me. I have to hold onto my faith and trust staying within the lines of my limitations is the best for me and others. After all, I need to be loving.

Still Gracefully Overcoming
(Some days just seem easier than others)

Godly Living

True Sacrifice

Click for Scripture passage (Luke 7:36-50)

Jesus went to dinner at one of the Pharisees’ house. While there, a certain woman found out he was eating there. Word probably had spread throughout the city. This woman–she instantly goes with all she has. Everything, down to her expensive, rare perfume. She was probably feeling convicted, and broken. The Scripture states that she was immoral. Everyone probably knew what her sins were. The crowd inside the house exclaimed, “She’s a sinner!” More than likely, they knew what she did. Probably not much different than the women’s stories from John 4 (Woman at the Well) or John 8 (Adulterous Woman). Before going further, let’s note: this woman came running to Him! Of these other two women, one was met with Jesus and the other was dragged to Jesus when she was caught in her sin…Both of these other women (John 4, 8) had their lives’ gossipped  about. If it was today’s world, their lives would of been smeared all over the tabloids. But, it wasn’t. Just because it was a long time ago, it doesn’t mean people didn’t talk. People were big on talk, particularly the Pharisees. The Pharisees liked to talk…and judge. They thought they had everything together, but they didn’t. Jesus called them out in John 8:4-5; 7:

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”…They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

Back to this unique woman who we read about who is running to Jesus. Okay, technically– the Scripture says:

37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. (Luke 7:37-38)

Listen to her story.
It doesn’t matter how she walked, skipped, jumped, ran, crawled to this house.All that matters is her brokenness.
And, she came willingly giving Jesus everything!

The woman came to Jesus broken and weeping. Crying at His feet. She anointed his feet with rare perfume. The word “rare”, it catches me. Our personalities are rare. We are uniquely and divinely made by our Creator as God teaches us in Psalm 139. So, what kind of sacrifce would that mean for us? It was something that was pleasing in His sight. She gave her all. Scripture reminds us that God wants us to come to Him broken; that is the kind of sacrifice that honors Him. When we are broken, where do we turn to? Are we coming to God? Giving God all our broken pieces and allowing Him to mold us and put us back together–better than we were before?

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17)

God created us.
He knows us.
While we shouldn’t withhold material possessions from God, the same applies to our personalities, spirits, and lives. We, ourselves, are rare. God wants us to give Him all of us. If we are encouragers, we should seek to glorify God by encouraging one another. If we can cook and enjoy it, bless others by cooking for them. If we are good with kids and able, serve others by offering to help with childcare at church or for friends. If our passion is to write, let us use that gift to glorify God in how we write.

Jesus is much more than the Pharisees saw him as. They didn’t even realize who Jesus was. They didn’t know He was  the Messiah. They spent time busy judging, when they could of come to know Him greater than anything they could ever imagine.

In Leviticus, the sacrifices are viewed by God as a fraginant offering—a PLEASING aroma to the Lord. God’s perspective is so much different than our own. In my own eyes, I may not see writing or encouraging another soul as a fantastic gesture of sacrifice, but God very well may see my heart in it and that glorifies Him–that pleases my God!

The true sacrifice wasn’t the pharisee opening his home. He may have sought a human reward. Note the woman—we might call her one who lost her mask and let her brokenness pour out onto Jesus’ feet. She hid nothing, and sought nothing but Jesus. She put everything into Jesus’ hands. Her sacrifice was the real deal, and this is how we should be. Willingly coming to Jesus, holding nothing back, and bringing everything as we run into His arms seeking His forgiveness, redemption, compassion, and transformation.

“Show me how to use my heart, my emotions, my gifts, my personality, my afflictions, and all I have to glorify You, God. Remind me that I can please You not because of who I am, but who You are! Thank you for sending Your son Jesus Christ to die on the cross and for raising Him again, so I may come to know You. It is only because of You that I can live the extraordinary life that You have given me! Thank you for loving me, even when I see myself as..just unlovable. Thank you for using me, even when I feel like I have nothing to give!”