VERY Highly

Standard

Continuing on in our study of Thessalonians 5, this week we are looking at Paul’s 3rd, 4th and 5th guideline/commandment (out of 22) for all Christians.

We ask you, brothers, to (3) respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and (4) to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. (5) Be at peace among yourselves 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13

The Senior Pastor at our church has been on sabbatical to prepare for the year and take a break to reconnect and recharge with God.  It’s a time much-needed rest for him and gives other campus pastors time to preach. They each have amazing skills, gifts and passions. I never leave before telling them how much a message or worship time moved me. Whether you are in ministry, a mom, wife, leader or mentor, we all need to feel respected, loved and esteemed. It isn’t about pride, but encouragement and love. We should ask ourselves, “How can I not encourage and love those who bring me closer to Christ?”

When Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, he was writing to a group of people who all became believers at the same time and with great passion. It was the first church. I can imagine that when their different gifts began to surface (some teaching, some prophesying, etc.) it would have been easy to begin to have feelings of jealousy or insecurity. I can hear it now, “Tom was just a goat herder like me and now he is teaching everyone about the Lord. I became a believer the same time he did. Why am I not having the same impact? Who does he think he is?” Honestly, I can relate. Can anyone else? I can easily fall prey to those same feelings of insecurity and jealousy myself sometimes. I  wonder:  is anyone listening, are these messages bringing others close to Christ, who am I do have this role after all I’ve done?

Paul knew these new believers would need to be reminded to respect those who labor to teach and lead their hearts to Christ. It can be challenging to rise above personal issues, but we are called to “esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” I love how Paul says to esteem them not just highly, but “very highly”. Can you imagine the peace this would bring to those we know and who serve us? This week, let’s consider how we can respect and love on those who encourage us and teach us through the word of God. I have a list of people who have helped me grow in Christ. How about you?

Therefore (1) encourage one another and (2) build one another up, just as you are doing. We ask you, brothers, to (3) respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and (4) to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. (5) Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, (6) admonish the idle, (7) encourage the fainthearted, (8) help the weak, (9) be patient with them all. (10) See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but (11) always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (12) Rejoice always, (13) pray without ceasing, (14) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (15) Do not quench the Spirit. (16) Do not despise prophecies, (17) but test everything; (18) hold fast what is good. (19) Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Brothers, (20) pray for us. (21) Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I put you under oath before the Lord to (22) have this letter read to all the brothers. 1 Thessalonians 5:11-25

Advertisements

Be the Sunshine

Standard

God answered a prayer for me last week and revealed some new commandments (guidelines for Christians) that Paul penned so very long ago (see last week’s blog if you missed it).  He had me live out the first two out this past week.  He often does this when I’m teaching or studying His word.  It isn’t always easy, but certainly gives me a deeper understanding and stronger faith that I’m so very grateful for. As I typed this out last week, my stomach was turning and in knots, my head swimming and my heart a bit heavy. No, not from a stomach bug, but from a very important family decision that had been boiling  up for a month.

Therefore (1) encourage one another and (2) build one another up, just as you are doing. We ask you, brothers, to (3) respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and (4) to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. (5) Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, (6) admonish the idle, (7) encourage the fainthearted, (8) help the weak, (9) be patient with them all. (10) See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but (11) always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (12) Rejoice always, (13) pray without ceasing, (14) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (15) Do not quench the Spirit. (16) Do not despise prophecies, (17) but test everything; (18) hold fast what is good. (19) Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Brothers, (20) pray for us. (21) Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I put you under oath before the Lord to (22) have this letter read to all the brothers. 1 Thessalonians 5:11-25

This week I was looking at Paul’s first and second commandment 1 – encourage one another and 2 – build each other up. I always have the opportunity to encourage and build others up. Some may say it’s because of my role as Christian author/speaker, but I have been this way since birth. It’s is truly how God made me. Long before God placed any of this ministry in my lap, my husband would say to me, after a complete stranger would tell me their deepest secrets or struggle in the check-out line of Food Lion, that I must have an invisible sign around my neck everyone else could see saying, “Please tell me your story, I’ll listen”. That said, it’s very natural for me listen, encourage and build others up, but very difficult for me to reach out sometimes and be the vulnerable one who lets her guard down and shares my struggle.

This week God allowed me to live out the experience of RECEIVING encouragement and being built up. I’m still a little shell-shocked as it all happened so fast. As God would have it, as this critical moment came to a head in our family, I had dinner scheduled with a dear Christian friend, breakfast with two people who have adopted me as family and who love my children like nieces and nephews, an afternoon play date with a fellow mom with a Christian heart the size of Texas and dinner with another friend who always offers kind and wise advice (don’t let her cute blond hair fool you). As I shared with them, took EVERY opportunity to love, listen, encourage and remind me of who I am. I’m not kidding. There is no question that God had that 24 hours of my life scheduled with all those people back to back for a reason. First, He knew I would need to live out what I am studying in His word to make it real and known to me, but mostly, He knew that I would need to be surrounded by those who love me so they could remind me who was in charge, all would work out, who I am in Him and that His hand was in every detail. Simply put God knew I would need a little encouragement and building up! Boy, was He right!

And what a difference it made in my heart, my mind and my soul. We are never alone and as my wise friend Kim said, “We were never made to carry all this alone.” Christ is always with us and He sends other believers alongside us to put His feelings and love into words. God made sure my schedule was full of amazing, loving, Christian friends for an entire 24 hour period at the peak of this situation with our daughter*, but what if those believers didn’t take the time to encourage and build up while I was with them. I can imagine God would have been disappointed and worked it out another way, but it would have taken me longer to see the positives and to get out of the pit. We have to act! As Christians, we can’t stop at “do not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20). We have to take it past that, and take every opportunity to encourage others in their walk, faith and lives. We have to build them up, not with pride, but with confidence in who they are and who God says they are.

I think God is asking us, “What will you do now that you know and believe I sent my son to die for you? What will you do now that you believe my son died to cover every sin in your life?” This list Paul gives the Thessalonians, I believe, is the answer to that. Well, next week we move on to 3 – respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you and 4 – to esteem them very highly in live because of their work. Looking forward with anxious excitement to see how God drives this one home. 😉

*So we don’t seem to mysterious, I’ll tell you. Our daughter was working through the idea of going back into public school and joining her friends in their first year of middle school. This was a very emotional and big decision for our family after a great year of homeschooling, but one we encouraged her to work through and take on. God often answers prayers in ways we never imagined. This has been one of those times and I’m so grateful for those who helped me remain in Him and remember who loves her more than I do!

Overwhelmed and Wondering?

Standard

photo

I have confessed many times before about my OCD/Type A personality style. It certainly has its pros and cons. Yes, my sink is usually dish free, but my heart can struggle without a clear list from God about how to live the life He has called me too. Let me say, I’m grateful He didn’t give us a list and I understand why He didn’t. We would become just like the Pharisees and grow cold and condemning from following a list and crossing things off in our relationship with God instead of seeking Him on a personal level.

That said, the scriptures can be daunting and my desire to live as Christ has called me, strong, so imagine how awesome it was for this Type A girl to find in 1 Thessalonians a set of 22 commandments (laws, edicts, orders, precepts, or rule – whatever you want to call it) for Christians from the apostle Paul. Not commandments from God’s mouth like the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20 because if you are a Christian those are just the beginning. I remember the mindset I had in my prayers as an ill-equipped young Christian. At night when I was supposed to confess my sins, I would think, I didn’t cuss, kill, steal or commit adultery so I think I’m ok in that department. How wrong!! How terribly wrong!!!

I love how Paul takes it one step further, giving some wonderful, clear and intentional instructions on what it should look like after we say, “God, I believe in your son, Jesus. I believe He came, walked this earth, died, was buried and rose again. I understand and praise you that He suffered and died for me on that cross. He has covered all my sins.” Seriously, how do we live after accepting a gift like that? Paul gives us some great insight in his letter to the Thessalonians. I’m so grateful for this answer to prayer I’ve had so long. Let’s take a look. I used the ESV translation and added in numbers in parenthesis for each of Paul’s commandments so you wouldn’t miss them. Please note the numbers are not the verse numbers.

Therefore (1) encourage one another and (2) build one another up, just as you are doing. We ask you, brothers, to (3) respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and (4) to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. (5) Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, (6) admonish the idle, (7) encourage the fainthearted, (8) help the weak, (9) be patient with them all.  (10) See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but (11) always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (12) Rejoice always, (13) pray without ceasing, (14) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (15) Do not quench the Spirit. (16) Do not despise prophecies, (17) but test everything; (18) hold fast what is good. (19) Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Brothers, (20) pray for us.  (21) Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I put you under oath before the Lord to (22) have this letter read to all the brothers. 1 Thessalonians 5:11-25

Are you speechless? This may not be your first time reading these verses (as it wasn’t mine), but maybe like me they fell afresh on your heart. Something struck me as I looked at the verses running together with these loving, direct and clear instructions from Paul. It’s a list! A beautiful list and it’s an answer to prayer for me and for all of us. Clear instructions on how to live like we believe Christ died for us. I’ve been so inspired by these verses, I’m going to sit on them for several weeks, pick them apart and pray God (not matter how difficult) reveals to me how I can live these out in His name. Be on the lookout for the follow-up blogs that relate to these verses. I hope you will join me in this process. It’s so much easier with friends!

The Old Ball & Chain

Standard

 

No, I’m not talking about the traditional ball and chain reference to marriage. Instead, let’s consider the chains of sin, fear, pride, persecution and temptations that seem to grip us at times. These things can take grip and feel as heavy as a literal ball chained or attached to our bodies or hearts. Have you ever felt imprisoned by your circumstances, fears or sins? I have been there and it can seem crippling at times. As I came across Philippians 1 this week, Paul’s words jumped off the page and straight in my heart.

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. Philippians 1:12-14

First, keep in mind this isn’t Paul’s first rodeo with persecution and pain. He endured a lot in Christ’s name. From stoning, beatings, floggings, and many Christ hating unsavory characters criss-crossed in and out of his adventures, Paul was like a Bible time super hero. However, after all that, instead of sitting in his prison cell rolling around in self-pity and despair, Paul picks up his pen and writes down a wonderful revelation. One that struck a deep cord in my heart this week.

I paraphrase  – “It’s become clear I’m in chains for Christ! My pain and imprisonment are advancing the gospel. God is using this evil (these chains) for His glory and His story! My chains are giving others confidence to live out and share the gospel.”

Love that Paul! What an amazing heart for the Lord!!! These verses give me strength, increase my faith and offer me hope. Hope that the chains that bind me from time to time, God will use for His glory and if I’m willing. He can and will use my story and chains to increase the confidence and faith in others to dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. Doesn’t that just give you goose bumps!? God can take those chains and even before He breaks you free of them will use it for His glory and kingdom. With the right heart and God’s powere, we have the ability to ignite a fire in the hearts of others – even when things don’t feel or seem like they are going so well.

It isn’t always easy to remember this in tough, painful, heart wrenching, lost times in my life where I feel like God has left my side, but it’s true! He is ALWAYS there! He is in the chains, the sadness and the pain. He is in the joy, the celebration and the triumphs. He is there! Always there, by your side!