The Thessalonian Ten Commandments

Number One – Avoid sexual immorality. Number Two – Love one another.  Number Three – Lead a quiet life.  Number 4 – Honor your ministers.

Paul commands the church, “Now we ask you to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.  Live in peace with each other” (1 Thess. 5:12-13).  This is an instruction to honor your ministers.

I say being a pastor is the greatest job in the world. It is a job with eternal significance and an opportunity to invest my life in others and to give guidance in the most important area of people’s lives, their spiritual growth.  It can be challenging because sometimes you have to tell people what they don’t want to hear.  It can be frustrating when I see people making mistakes that could have been avoided by following the advice of God’s Word that I have shown them.  It is very rewarding when I see a life that is improved because of something that I’ve taught them.

In most churches it seems, there are those that love their pastor and others that don’t care for him (none in our church, of course!). For those that don’t like their pastor, here are some instructions I found to help get rid of him.

  1. Look the pastor straight in the eye while he’s preaching and say “Amen” once in a while and he will preach himself to death.
  2. Pat him on the back and brag on his good points and he will probably work himself to death.
  3. Rededicate your life to Christ and ask the preacher for some job to do, preferably some lost person you could win to Christ, and he will die of heart failure.
  4. Get the church to unite in prayer for the pastor and he will soon become so effective that some larger church will take him off your hands. (1)

Now I know none of my congregation are looking to use this advice for yourselves since I have the greatest congregation in the world, but feel free to pass this along to others who do not care for their pastor. Better yet, teach them this command to “honor their ministers.”

(1)  Quoted in You and Your Pastor, Radio Bible Class, J. Reed, The Pastor as a Theologian,  in Walvoord: A Tribute, Donald Campbell, ed., Moody, 1982, p. 273.

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Our Hope, Joy and Crown

crown-iwMatthew 6:19-2019 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Paul took this verse seriously and the Thessalonian church was his treasure that he was storing up.

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

Our hope, our joy, our crown of glory – that is the way to describe the object of your ministry. That is how you describe your labor of love.  That is how you describe those you minister to when you are able to say as Paul did, “We were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”

First, who is the object of your ministry? Who are you helping to grow spiritually?  Who are you investing in, spiritually?  Is it children, grandchildren, a Sunday School class, people you work with?  There should be someone.  There should be a spiritual labor of love for you.  Everyone should have a disciple, because that is what Jesus called us to be, disciple-makers.  “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19)

Ok, yes, there is someone you want to invest in, someone you are investing in. How do you view them?  Are they a friend?  Are they a frustration?  Paul called them a hope, a joy and a crown.  I love that.  I dare say that if we considered those that we minister to as a hope, a joy and a crown that we might have a different attitude about serving.  We might take it a little more seriously.  Our commitment level might change.

For Paul it was the Thessalonian church. For us it ought to be our children, grandchildren, our Sunday School class, a coworker, a friend in need.  We must consider these people as our hope, our joy, our crown.  When customers come in the thrift store, they must become our hope, our joy and our crown.  When people walk in our church, they must become our hope, our joy and our crown.

The body of David Livingstone was buried in England where he was born, but his heart was buried in the Africa he loved. At the foot of a tall tree in a small African village the natives dug a hole and placed in it the heart of this man who they loved and respected. If your heart were to be buried in the place you loved most during life, where would it be? In your pocketbook? In an appropriate space down at the office? Where is your heart?

Motivation

Why do you do the things you do? There are lots of answers.  “I work to support my family.”  “I play golf because it’s relaxing.”  “I cook because it brings happiness to my family.”  Most of what we do is for some reason, even if it is wasting time just to relax a little.  Much of what we do is to be productive, hoping that our effort will produce good results, making a positive difference in some way.

Many things we do are out of selfish motivations, doing things for our own interests, for what we can get out of it. Other things we do out of love, a response to what we have received.  Paul describes the actions of the Thessalonian church in this way, “We remember your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).  Faith, love and hope where sources of motivation for this young church.

Faith produces work. When we believe in Jesus Christ, that He willingly died for our sins so that we may be forgiven and blessed with eternal life, we will live a godly life, which can be summed up in a single word, “work.”  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey me.”  If we truly believe, our actions will be more godly every day.  The more we believe that Jesus is true and right, the more we will learn from Him and imitate him.

Labor is prompted by love. Labor goes beyond work to mean intense work with trouble and toil.  Love will drive us to give all the effort we have to help someone in a time of need.  We willingly sacrifice greatly for those we love.  What will a husband do for his wife?  What will a mother do for a child?  They will willingly give all they have for them.  We should love Jesus so much that we are willingly labor for His cause, giving our all for the salvation of the world,

Endurance is inspired by hope. We continue to live for God because we have the hope of eternal life.  We know that what lies ahead is worth enduring the challenges of living for God today.  There will be those who ridicule us, there will be times when it would be easier to forsake God, but we walk faithfully because we know how wonderful eternity will be.

Let your faith produce a godly life. Let the love of God prompt you to give your all for Him.  Let the hope of eternity encourage you to endure every trouble.

Observing His Commands Helps Us Avoid Sin

Salvation and Obedience are husband and wife. They travel together.  The Bible says, “What good is it if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such a faith save them?  Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14, 17).

When we accept Jesus as Savior, that is the beginning of a journey, not the end. The beauty of salvation is a changed life.  I am not who I once was.

The book of Galatians spends a lot of time discussion salvation by faith, and then it tells us the results and how to attain it. The result is a spirit filled life.

What am I going to look like after I accept Christ? My life will be filled with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  I will fulfill the Law by “loving my neighbor as myself.”  I will put to death the sin in my life.

If I want to be this kind of person, how do I do it? How do I get past the sin in my life?  The Bible tells us how.

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” We should put to death the sin in our lives.  That means that we do everything we can to avoid sin.

Some of us have tried that many times and failed. We know what that struggle is.  That is why there are such programs as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Galatians sums up the 12 steps in a single verse, “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16).  Live by the Spirit. Get really close to God.  Abide in Him.  Know Him.  Spend time with Him.  Serve Him.  Keep your focus on God’s desires.  God’s ways are completely opposite from sinful ways. The closer you get to God, the more obvious sin is and the more you will despise it.

Seek to live God’s way. Let the fruit of the Spirit come out in you, “Love, joy, peace, etc.” (Gal. 5:23)

Be humble.   Remember it is through God that we overcome sin in our lives.  We can’t do this on our own. (Gal 5:26)

Confess your sin to others. Get an accountability partner, someone who is going to ask you tough questions about how you have been doing. (Gal.6:2)

Remember, you can’t fool God. You reap what you sow.  So do good things.  Serve the Lord.  Keep your focus on Him and His work and you will be less tempted to sin. (Gal. 6:7-10)

I love how the Bible teaches us clearly and practically on how to OBSERVE HIS COMMANDS and avoid sin. With all the need around us, now is an important time to serve God.

One Life Matters

Our nation has experienced tragedy, most recently expressed in Baton Rouge with the killing of three police officers: Montrell Jackson, Matthew Gerald and Brad Garafola.

Black Lives Matters has become the rally cry against unnecessary brutality by police against black people.

A response has risen that All Lives Matter, encouraging us to remember as a nation that we should be unified together, setting aside race and issues that divide us.

We must take it a step further to realize that One Life Matters. The one life that matters most is the life of Jesus Christ.  Without Jesus Christ, we have no moral compass, no standard of right and wrong.  Without Jesus Christ, we cannot see past ourselves to realize the value of others.

Jesus sets the standard for us as He says, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) This is the foundation of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

How did Jesus love us? He saw us as we are, as sinners, and he loved us enough to die for us so that we may be forgiven and restored to God.

One Life Matters by showing us that we do not have to stay sinners, but that we can become righteous. We no longer have to do what is wrong, but we can do what is right.  We do not have to return violence for violence, but we can respond with love.

One Life Matters, Jesus’ life matters because He opens the door for us to become the people that we ought to be.

One Life Matters, Jesus’ life matters because He helps us be the people that recognize that all lives matter, regardless of race, religion, age or any other socio-economic status.

It seems our world has gone crazy. We see the shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge.  We see the attack in Nice, France perpetrated with a truck.  We see all the rage, the violence, and even the fear with the upcoming election.  We wonder what the answer is.

The answer is that One Life Matters. If we will all find salvation in Jesus Christ, we will be changed.  When we believe in Jesus, the hate goes away, the violence goes away, and the fear goes away.

Now is the time to come together. Now is the time for God’s people to be a faithful witness.  Now is the time for our nation to repent and to come back to God.

The church must lead in this effort as we tell the world that All Lives Matter because One Life Matters.

A Hero Is Beyond Ordinary

As I mentioned, I am reading Leviticus, arguably one of the most exciting books of the Bible. Right?  Maybe.

This morning’s reading is chapter 13, a discussion of infectious skin diseases and mildew. What spiritual insight can I gain from such a text?

Lesson One: Don’t spiritualize everything.  There was once a form of biblical interpretation where everything was an allegory of something else.  For example, the two coins the Good Samaritan gave to the innkeeper symbolize “baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”  That is going a little too far.

Lesson Two: Keep an eye on your health.  God is concerned about your health, and other details of your life.  If you see a strange spot on your skin, go to the doctor.

Lesson Three: Clean the shower.  Mildew is dangerous stuff.  With all the flooding of late, we see the danger of mold and mildew.  I have heard of entire houses torn down because of mold problems.

I was servicing my lawn mower last weekend and as I took the blades off to sharpen them, I noticed that the layer of stuff under there had a nice coat of fuzz on it. Mold!  Just like penicillin growing in your bread box or cheese drawer.

Often, being a HERO is taking care of the ordinary stuff. From the spiritual disciplines of reading the Bible and prayer to the regular duties of paying bills and going to work every day, a HERO is a busy person.

In our day, simply being responsible is becoming extraordinary. Following the simple commands of the Bible is a big deal.  “Because God said so” has become crazy talk.

We see so many in society and even in the church who have lost sight of obedience to God. So many are unwilling to do the simple things that God asks.

Working for a living, waiting until marriage, marrying for life, disciplining your children, paying your bills, respecting authority, etc. were at one time ordinary things. Now, they have become extraordinary.

Since we are God’s people, let’s do what God asks us to do, from keeping an eye on our health to keeping the house clean and all of the ordinary things that we are to do as responsible followers of Christ.

Doing all of these ordinary things, we become HEROES in God’s eyes. We will be doing what so many others are unwilling to do.  Even the ordinary things matter.

Your pastor,

Bro. BrianHero pp title bkgd

Commitment to the Truth

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. They you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When we first get saved, there are a lot of changes that have to occur. Just like when a baby is born, there are a lot of changes that are coming.  It would not be very good if a baby stayed a baby forever.  While it is nice to hold and cuddle a baby, we want to see our children grow to maturity, to become the man or woman that God has intended for them to be.

We are not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world. Our world is broken.  Our world is absorbed by self.  All sorts of trouble and evil come simply by putting yourself first.  We neglect others.  We abuse others.  We ignore others.

Romans 1:29-32 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We are to take on the mind of Christ and we are to humble ourselves and we are to love and serve others.  We are to forgive and to open ourselves up to others.  We are to care for the least of these.  Our lives are to be characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

Where does this kind of life come from? It comes from a commitment to the truth and a commitment to learning the truth.  Truth is not going to automatically invade your life when you become a Christian.  You are going to have to study and learn the truth of God that is found in His Word, the Bible.  Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

That is why the church has made such a great commitment to the teaching of the Word of God. We study the Bible constantly: Sunday sermons, Sunday School, discipleship classes, Wednesday nights, all the time.  We must make a priority of learning God’s Word.

Think of the Scriptures as an absolutely accurate map. A map tells you how to get to a certain destination. But just looking at a map won’t automatically transport you to Arizona or England or Peru. Getting to those places means you have to make the effort…pay the cost…take the time for travel…stay at it until you arrive. In a word, persevere. So it is in the Christian life. God’s map is reliable and available. It is also clear and direct.

There is no such “instant maturity” available on this earth. God does not offer a formula that produces fully mature Christians overnight. Christian growth comes through hard-core, gutsy perseverance (a forgotten word!) of applying what you hear and obeying it…and thereby learning how to handle those inevitable problems.

How committed are you to the teaching ministry of the church, both to sitting under it and learning from it and taking part in it, teaching others all that you have learned and that they need to know? Both are essential to the success of the church, learning and teaching.

Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, … 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Building Antioch: What Is the Church?

What a great question! This is where our Building Antioch study begins.  What is the first answer that comes to your mind?

For many, the first answer that comes to mind is the building where we meet every Sunday. For others, they quickly say that it is the people who meet there.  Some might even describe it as what we do on a Sunday morning, we have church.  I have even heard people call the worship service “Big Church.”

The Bible defines the church as the followers of Jesus. It uses such terms as the body of Christ, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, even a temple not built by human hands.

Building Antioch brings out an interesting point.  Church is a word with baggage.  Some will describe an institution held in high regard.  In others, you will hear loathing, frustration, or a litany of complaints.

“Some Christians believe the church, by nature, is a flawed organization since it’s made up of human beings, and the best option is simply to accept the church’s inherent shortcomings. Others see those shortcomings as a reason to [abandon church all together].”

The Bible says that the church is a vitally important part of the plan of God. It is through the church that the message of God is carried to the mankind.

It is a witness of the purpose and the power of God that there is a church in Claiborne Parish, 6,840 miles from where the church began and nearly 2,000 years after it started.

Ephesians 3:10 says, “This is so God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens.”

This says that we are not only an earthly witness but a heavenly witness. This is an amazing thought.  The church is a testimony of the power of God.  Not only that, but we are the tool in the hand of God.

Think about the difference that the church has made in your life. It is through the church that you have become the believer that you are today.

We must actively engage in the church in an effort to see it become all God meant it to be. We must see the church “with renewed vision, passion, and power to transform the lives of their members and communities, even to the ends of the earth.”

Quotes from Building Antioch: Your Role in a Transformational Church by Jeff Iorge

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Give More Than Ever Before

PrintI hopped on my motorbike and rode across town where I met my fellow missionaries.  We got in their SUV and headed 100 km north and turned down the highway onto a dirt road.  At the end of the dirt road, we got in a wooden boat and headed up the lake.

We tied the boat to the house floating in the lake.  Eight other boats, similar to pirogues pulled up and tied up to the house.  And then we had church.  And people got saved.

This floating house became a church.  The man of the house became the pastor.  The leaders began to think about those in the next village.

This is missions.  This is going on around the world.  This is why we give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Another man accepted Jesus Christ as his savior and was given a Bible.  He read the entire Bible in just three months.  He became the pastor of the church that met in his home, a small house that floated in the river at the edge of town.

He became an amazing preacher.  Without the help of commentaries and Bible reference books that we American pastors enjoy, his sermons were filled with biblical truth throughout the Bible.  You might think he had finished seminary, but there is no seminary in Cambodia.

There are still so many villages to

reach, so many dirt roads to travel, so many rivers to navigate, to reach people who have no access to the gospel of Jesus Christ that is so dear to us.

I encourage you to give generously to support our missionaries and the work of the gospel around the world.  Give generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and our Ingathering this Sunday Morning.

Because of who He is,

Bro. Brian

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret

In chapter one of The Battle Plan for Prayer, we are encouraged to pray by the work that God has done in the past through those who were committed to the Lord and to prayer.

One such example is Hudson Taylor, who had a great impact on China in the late 1800s. He established the China Inland Mission, started 125 schools and let thousands to faith in Jesus Christ. His son and daughter-in-law wrote a book about him entitled Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret which describes how “he obediently walked closely with God in prayer.” The book said of Taylor, “For forty years the sun never rose on China a single day that God didn’t find him on his knees.”

What a picture of devotion to the Lord and to the people that he ministered to!

And then I thought how unusual it is to describe Hudson Taylor’s devotion as a spiritual secret. In fact, it is no secret at all.

The Bible tells us very clearly that the secret of success in the kingdom of God is to remain close to the Lord and to walk in obedience to Him. Jesus tells us in John 15 that we are to remain in Him and if we do, we can ask whatever we wish, and it will be done for us. Of course we know that when we remain close to the Lord, our desires will be in line with His desires.

How often we think that there is a secret to spiritual growth and blessing. We often think that it is difficult or unattainable. The Bible makes it clear that if we will walk with the Lord, we will see amazing things.

God made us for relationship. He wants to know us and for us to know Him. Like a father, He wants His children to spend time with Him. He wants us to enjoy what He enjoys. He wants us to see the world as He sees it. He wants the absolute best for us.

The trouble is that, for one reason or another, we are not as close to God as we ought to be. The Bible makes it clear, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

As one pastor said, “You are as close to God as you want to be.” Another said, “If you are away from God, you moved, not God.”

So now that we know the “secret,” let’s get close to God and watch Him work in our lives. Let’s build our relationship with Him through His Word, through prayer and through obedience. I am excited about what God is going to do.