For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. –1 Thessalonians 5:7-11
The Old Testament prophets had three different types of messages. Most people think of prophets as predicting future events but that’s only one thing they did. The prophet was the spokesperson for God when he had a message for Israel. Sometimes the prophet brought a message of warning. Jeremiah and Jonah offer examples. “This is what you are doing, this is what God wants you to do. It’s not too late to repent.” Sometimes Israel heeded those warnings, often they did not. Sometimes the prophet brought a word of encouragement. “You are a doing a good job, keep up the good work.” Some days are harder than others and we need to be reminded that our help comes from the Lord.
Sometimes Paul talks about running the race that is set before us. At other times he speaks of pressing toward the mark. Sometimes the race is hard and we don’t run as much as we lean into it and strain. The path is uphill and into the wind. The world gives us enough to push against we certainly don’t need to make things hard on each other. I’ve been in church my whole life and I’ll be honest with you: sometimes church people are the worst. Paul tells us in 1 Thes. 5 to encourage one another. Build one another up. Sometimes we just need a pat on the back and an “atta boy” or “atta girl” to remind us we are not alone. God is always with us but we as believers need to bear one another’s burdens as well. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Saul of Tarsus developed quite a reputation in the world of the early Christian church, zealously hunting down those who taught and preached in the name of Christ. He was on his way to Damascus, with arrest letters from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin in hand, when he had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul he became one of the most prolific church planters and writers of the first century; 14 of the 26 New Testament books are his letters (epistles) to various individuals and churches.
But here’s the rub: Do we today make too much of Paul? Does our attention become Paul-centered rather than Christ centered? Just because he wrote many epistles that become a major component of the New Testament, is everything Paul wrote the Word of God? Which is why I propose a defense of Paul to consider and respond to these criticisms. Continue reading →
The Bible records several different occasions on which Jesus prayed. He taught the disciples to pray, though the Lord’s Prayer is something of a misnomer; we should rightly call that the Model Prayer or even the Disciples Prayer. Jesus always spent extra time in prayer before a big event, sometimes praying all night. He regularly went out alone very early each morning to pray, and even though he had some harsh words regarding public prayer we have a few of his prayers recorded, including the High Priestly Prayer of John 17. But every year at this time there is always one in particular I come back to. Continue reading →
The goal of Christians is to be conformed to the image of Christ. The reason we ask “What would Jesus do?” is to put ourselves in the right frame of mind to be Christ-like in our decision making (Philippians 2). We know from reading the Gospels and the letters of Paul that we are to think like Christ, to have the heart and mind of a servant, to be humble, to love as Christ loved, and so forth. Like John the Baptist we must make less of ourselves and more of Christ. Realizing that we can never become perfectly like Christ, the goal is to continuously work at it. As we get closer and closer, others should be able to see Christ in us. They were called Christians first at Antioch why? Because the followers of Christ at Antioch sounded and acted like the one they were following.
Ephesians 3 mentions one way to be Christ-like, which I had never noticed before. Read Colossians 1, noting verse 19 that says “For in him [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…” Jesus was incarnate deity, the person of God robed in a body of flesh. One aspect of Jesus Christ is that he was full of God. Now look at Ephesians 3, a short chapter in which Paul reveals the mystery of the Gospel. In particular:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. -Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV
There are many things we can choose to fill ourselves with; Paul says we should be full of God.
Timothy was a young pastor being mentored by the Apostle Paul. Half the books of what we call the New Testament were letters written by Paul, many of them to specific churches (Ephesus, Corinth, Galatia, etc.) but some to individuals, such as Timothy, Titus and Philemon. 1 and 2 Timothy could almost be thought of as early “minister manuals” but there are also instructions for selecting deacons, supporting widows, and to all believers to practice godliness.
1 Timothy is a mere six chapters. Here is a link to 1 Timothy 1 at ESV Bible. If you click “listen” a disembodied voice will even read it to you. At the end of chp 1 simply click “1 Timothy 2” to go on. Bible Gateway has many different English versions. (I would rather folks read any version of the Bible than not read at all.) Below are some of my favorite passages, but I highly recommend the entire book, which can be read in a matter of minutes. *emphasis in bold are my own
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15-17 ESV) Continue reading →