Monday, August 15, 2016

A Challenge for "That" Day


So as I walk through the two letters from Paul to the Church in Thessalonica, I thought I'd pause and share some of my thoughts in writing. I often wander away from any series I tend to start on my blog/journal as I don't like to keep God in a box, but I think sometimes it's also important to finish an idea that I start. So in an attempt to finish said idea, I had a few things that I thought I'd share this week from his letters ...

This is Day 5: Click for day(s): 123, 4

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might

2 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV

God's judgment is not something many people like to discuss. I'm not naive in understanding the general reason why people don't like to discuss it as it may feel uncomfortable and judgmental to a humanistic worldview.  Though just because something makes us/some feel uncomfortable we choose not to discuss it?  To some it's the ignorant understanding that because I believe God judges others that it must mean that I dislike, hate, condemn, or judge them myself.

Today however I'm not going to defend that. Today I'm not going to go down a path of what Hell is, looks like, or who I think is going. I just want to talk to my Christian family today and simply ask two questions:
  1. Have [I / you] thought about eternal separation from God?
  2. What [am I / are you] doing about it?
I don't think there is a greater fear of mine than to be in need and know that God is no longer with me. That I am separated from Him - forever. Game over, pieces put back in the box, victory/defeat declared - done.

There are two days in my calendar: This day and that Day.

- Martin Luther
Can you ponder that for a moment?

I light of that - if we believe what we profess to believe - what are you doing about That day, today?

Matt, what do you mean?

Well, we plan diets, exercise routines, vacations, career paths, errands, educational pursuits, purchases, etc. Some of us even plan our day around movies or television shows. The list could go on and on for what we actually take time out of our day for to make tangible plans.

Well ... a much more important Day is coming. Any plans?

I seem to defend this each time and I suppose I can again. I know we can't earn our salvation, and it's free by Grace, but if we really understood what we earned - eternal salvation - wouldn't a natural knee jerk reaction be to show our thanks? When we meet Him face to Face I don't think our reaction will be to respond in pride that we didn't do much and spent more time focusing on our own life because we knew that He saved us by Grace. Just a guess ... I don't think it's going to go like that ... much more likely like Isaiah.

So anyway ... what are you and I doing to prepare? What required work cool thing have you done for God today? What required work blessing have you been to someone in need today? How have you been the required works hands and feet of Christ today?

Anything on your agenda?

It's just a question.

While they are great things, and foundational things, I would challenge you if your answer to me is that you go to church, study, and read your devotional. Great ways to grow and know God for sure, but we are His Hands and Feet, not just a reflective mind.

My loving and supportive wife would likely tell me that I am doing a lot ... I would disagree, but even if I didn't, most of my serving and giving is routine now. I think the more we are churched the more we need to stretch - else we don't grow. I want to do something more - not out of guilt, but out of love and even nervous excitement because I know how exciting it can be to see Him work through me!

Some people wait until that doctors visit to get serious about their health. Some people wait until they are behind on bills before they realize their financial plan isn't working. Some people wait to take their car in until that little noise turns into being broken down on the road. Some people wait ... until it's too late ...

In some of those things we may not have a choice (or know) ... but we do with this.

So my challenge to you (and myself) is to put something on the agenda for today (or tomorrow depending on when you ready this) but it should be tangible ... and let it be a stretch too! Let Him stretch you! It builds our faith ...

Then come back and share how God used you ... I'd love to hear as it would be a blessing and encouragement!

His,
~Matthew

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Measuring Sticks


So as I walk through the two letters from Paul to the Church in Thessalonica, I thought I'd pause and share some of my thoughts in writing. I often wander away from any series I tend to start on my blog/journal as I don't like to keep God in a box, but I think sometimes it's also important to finish an idea that I start. So in an attempt to finish said idea, I had a few things that I thought I'd share this week from his letters ...

This is Day 4: Click for day(s): 123

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





1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 ESV
This list of final instructions from Paul is a great measuring stick for us today. I sometimes lay my head down on my pillow and think over my day (a period of time that I used in exchange for this gift of life I've been granted). Some people consider the worth of their time when pondering various activities.


I know how to change the brakes on my car, but with the heat, my schedule, having to run to the store, is it really worth the savings I would gain or should I just take my car in for service somewhere? What is my time worth?

Yet each day when you get up, you make a decision on a much more important reality ... what will you choose to give up in exchange for one more day of your life? How much is one day of living on earth worth to you? If your view of life is temporal, this may make you squeamish to even think about. My anxiety can make it difficult too, but I choose to ask the question nonetheless. It's a great measuring stick.

We are saved by Grace, but that doesn't mean we should not set goals - eternal goals - for our day.

Paul's exhortation leaves us with questions. Today, did I:

  • Admonish the Idle?
  • Encourage the Fainthearted?
  • Help the Weak?
  • Be Patient with All of the Above?
  • Seek to do Good (both with the body of Christ and outside)?
  • Rejoice?
  • Pray?
  • Give Thanks?
  • Quench the Spirit (or did I fan it into Flame)?
  • Hold Fast to Good?
  • Abstain from Evil?
If you are a Christian you have undoubtedly had days where you laid your head to rest, and in peace and joy (not pride) were pleased with how you let God work through you that day. You were pleased with what your life transaction that day returned. Don't you want to feel like that more often? Don't you want to feel like that every day?!

Perhaps this simple list (Hey, I didn't make it up) is here for a reason *gasp* ... maybe it applies to us even today!? *gasp* ... so perhaps you ... and I ... can sit alone with God tomorrow morning (or right now) and simply ask where He wants you to go. Let us stop trembling in fear of where He will take us when we know He is a trustworthy Leader.

One more note. This is not a measuring stick to be held against others or used to compare yourself to them. We all know some amazing Christians that have it all together. However I got a little secret ... They don't - they're messed up too!

So let's just look to God ... stare at Him ... not others ... and see where He calls us.

And then ... move!

Blessings,
~Matt

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Let it Twirl!


So as I walk through the two letters from Paul to the Church in Thessalonica, I thought I'd pause and share some of my thoughts in writing. I often wander away from any series I tend to start on my blog/journal as I don't like to keep God in a box, but I think sometimes it's also important to finish an idea that I start. So in an attempt to finish said idea, I had a few things that I thought I'd share this week from his letters ...

This is Day 3: Click for day(s): 123

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.






1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 ESV
If someone came up to you and said one of these two things, which would be more encouraging? Engaging? Acceptable? Well received? ... even if your name isn't Matt!

  1. Matt, you need to do more!
  2. Matt, you're doing ____ so well! You are shining in this area! I love it! Let me see more of it!

It's how Paul encourages here. He doesn't focus on what they are not doing well, he focuses on what they are doing well. He plays up on their strengths. and encourages them to grow in that area even more!

There are ways to encourage one another that are pleasant ... and then there are ways to encourage others that will make them glow!

My 5 year old daughter can walk up to me in a new dress and I could make her smile by simply stating that I like her new dress. That would be encouraging. That would be pleasant. However I could also pause, (really pause to take a moment out of my day) ... and then ask her to spin around so I can get a good look at that beautiful dress! When she does so, and the dress twirls around her, I could answer her in excitement and exclaim "That is such a pretty dress, and you make it look even more beautiful! Look how it twirls!" ... and she would go from feeling pleasant to absolutely glowing!

Odd comparison? Perhaps ... but maybe not. I could walk up to another brother in Christ and encourage them with a pat on the back, help them as their accountability partner, or some other typical way. Or ... or I could decide to listen. Really listen, you know? Not like waiting until they are done speaking to say the thing you wanted to say while they were talking. Not that any of us do that of course ... and instead simply point out their strengths, elevate them to highlight how I see God working in them, and encourage them to focus on the great strengths they have and keep pushing forward ... all while showing my honest excitement for them!

If we listen to somebody long enough we will see where God has gifted them and where His Light shines. Point that out, and celebrate it!

But what about accountability? What about pointing out our weak areas where sin resides?

I'm all for accountability and bringing sin to light ... but I'll tell ya what. When I'm on fire for Christ, sin has no hold on me. I could walk through a valley of temptations and not even look to the left or right. So let's encourage and fan into flame the beautiful gifts and strengths we see in our brothers and sisters in Christ around us; focus on that. Let them twirl around showing off His beautiful spiritual gifts He has given them and watch them walk away glowing in the Fire of His Holiness!

I know you have some gifts! Let it Twirl!
~Matt

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Thinking Eternal


So as I walk through the two letters from Paul to the Church in Thessalonica, I thought I'd pause and share some of my thoughts in writing. I often wander away from any series I tend to start on my blog/journal as I don't like to keep God in a box, but I think sometimes it's also important to finish an idea that I start. So in an attempt to finish said idea, I had a few things that I thought I'd share this week from his letters ...

This is Day 2: Click for day(s): 123

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 God1 Thessalonians 3:6-9 ESV

Paul, in distress and affliction, was comforted. Yet he was not comforted by worldly relief in gaining freedom, mercy from Rome, or even accolades and friendship. He was comforted in simply knowing others were strong in their faith. Knowing and seeing God in them brought comfort to Him. Knowing they had a relationship with God was immeasurably more important than their relationship with him. He could not care much less about what they thought of him, but if they held their faith in God, this is what brought him deep comfort.

What about us? Do we reflect this attitude? Are we so shaped by Christ that we draw comfort by simply seeing Him working in others around us?

It reminded me of a recent and very simple example.

A few days ago I visited a new (to me), trendy, young and lively coffee house. The friendly barista behind the counter that made my drink wore a beautiful symbol of our faith around his neck that displayed his identity in Christ. Amidst the busy day, and things that perhaps didn't go exactly as planned the hours before, this simply display should bring me comfort. Perhaps leave me with a sigh as I remember where and Who I stand on to refocus my day.

Matt, it's some dude wearing a cross, stop getting too dramatic.

No, it's not just some dude wearing a cross, it's a reminder for when we feel like Elijah in 1 Kings 19, feeling so alone, that there are a host of others that stand firm to Him and follow the promise declared on Calvary.

It was finished ... and yet It also just began.

May we draw comfort, even in our trials, from others around us that cleave to Him as a sign of His promise. Not every day will be a mountaintop experience, and frankly, so few days if any will be. But let us draw our comfort from the right sources and not from things that ... well ... don't last.

Thinking eternal,
~Matt

Monday, August 8, 2016

Confidence not Arrogance


So as I walk through the two letters from Paul to the Church in Thessalonica, I thought I'd pause and share some of my thoughts in writing. I often wander away from any series I tend to start on my blog/journal as I don't like to keep God in a box, but I think sometimes it's also important to finish an idea that I start. So in an attempt to finish said idea, I had a few things that I thought I'd share this week from his letters ...

This is Day 1: Click for day(s): 12, 3
For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others.

1 Thessalonians 2:3-6a ESV
We see here Paul defending his motives. He's stating that he's not making things up, he's not being impure or attempting to deceive them, not intended to please man but rather God, and certainly not trying to flatter them, be greedy, or even seek glory for himself.

We (as Christians) have always come under attack (and we always will). Despite the changes in culture since the foundation of our country, Christians have seen times of peace and turmoil throughout history alike. This is not new. Today, while the pendulum has begun to swing away from God (at least in this country) it's no wonder we are having to defend ourselves more. However I'm willing to bet that when you or I defend our faith against someone who is attacking it directly or just unaware and attacking us based on views that society has misunderstood ... we begin to get ... offensive.

I believe the root of that feeling of offensiveness is called by another biblical name ... pride.

You see, Paul would not put these words into writing for no reason. Somewhere there was someone likely accusing him of doing the things he countered above. However when I read his words (and by all means read the letter in context yourself) I do not get any feeling of pride at all. He's not defending because he has arrogance ... he's defending because he has confidence.

I'm sorry to burst your bubble but your amazing words and dialog are not going to convince anyone of the Gospel, and certainly your hammer of justice won't do it either. That's God's task ... let us stop trying to play God. Does this mean we don't respond? That apologetics are not necessary? Certainly not! It just means that our response should be in confidence in Him and not arrogant pride in us. His light will shine through if we let it, but anger, bitterness, and malice will eclipse all that light He wants to shine through.

Stop.

Rest ... rest in Him.

... and let us defend in confidence when needed. If you're blood pressure is rising, I bet your pride is too ...

~Matthew
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