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Archive for January, 2011

Thessaloniki

January 31st, 2011

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 1:3

 

The work at Thessalonica did not appear to be so great at first glance. Luke hardly gives it much coverage at all, consigning only a few verses to the story of Paul and Silas coming, preaching, and a little about the response by a few people – notably Jason who faced the persecution of the unbelievers. The only other comment was that the Bereans, to whom Paul went next, were of more noble character than the Thessalonians.

 

But this does not tell the whole story, for Paul wrote twice to this little Christian fellowship meeting at the northwest end of the Aegean Sea. A tough place to live and worship did not prevent the Lord from moving powerfully in the hearts of those who believed. Great conviction was present (1 Thes. 1:5) as the Lord moved and those who reacted to the message of Christ in repentance and faith received more and more joy from God (1 Thes. 1:6). One of the ways that God proves His movement among people is to bring great conviction of sin and leads to repentance and cleansing, and ultimately to great joy and effective witnessing for Christ. People who must bear witness in a tough, resistant place need this deeper work of conviction and cleansing and empowering.

 

I am writing these words from Thessaloniki, Greece, just a few hundred meters from where these events took place almost two thousand years ago. It remains a tough resistant place to give a Christian witness. We are here looking into a partnership with a group of international believers seeking to establish a Christian witness in this city. If a witness will grow here or anywhere on earth, it must be because the people have gone deep with the Holy Spirit in conviction and joy and service.

 

Three traits of the commitment of these original Thessalonican believers were immortalized in Paul’s letter. The first was faithful work or service, indicating due to their faith in Christ their lives were channeled toward Christian duties. They served faithfully, reliably, dependably as believers should.

 

The second, however, went deeper: their labor prompted by love. They went beyond what Christian duty demanded – they labored and toiled. Part of this labor, no doubt, was the exercise of patience with one another. Since love of God and for God had prompted their labor – we love because he first loved us – love would have its way in their hearts and actions toward one another. We read in 1 Corinthians 13 that love is the greatest of this triad of faith, hope, and love. He listed it second in this list of 1 Thessalonians to emphasize its effect in terms of human commitment and actions. If the love of God will touch us as it should, we would love one another more purely, would be more willing to labor and toil for the sake of Christ. The burden of service is lifted by the burden of love, as Jacob served for seven years for Rachel and it seemed like only a few days (Gen. 29:20).

 

When we are weary of service, it is God’s way of telling us to go deeper into the knowledge of His love, in the transformation of our hearts.

 

The third trait was perseverance or patience prompted by the hope of God. Not only did they attend to what was Christian duty, not only did they toil and labor for Christ, but they also persevered in the face of rejection and difficulty, out of the hope that the gospel brought to them.

 

As we let God deal with the innermost attitudes of our hearts, our love and hope in Him will grow, and our service will expand.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, touch our hearts with Your love that we might know You more fully. Do Your entire work within our lives. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Evening Devotionals

Avoid the Detour

January 29th, 2011

Blessed is the man who walks not according to the scheming of wicked men…

Psalm 1:1

 

“Is there hope for me?”

 

This is one of the great questions of people today. Can we expect God to bless us, to reward us for our faith in Him, to renew us and accept us? Not only can we expect it, we must expect it! If we meet God’s conditions of repentance and faith, we must also as an expression of our faith expect God to bless us. Hebrews 11:6 states that we must believe in God but also believe that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

 

In the opening line of this magnificent psalm a blessing is promised for the person who turns his back on the world and comes to God. In the first verse the journey down – walk, stand, sit – shows us what we are to avoid, but then in the remainder of the psalm the journey up shows us what we receive in Christ. The first thing to avoid is the walking in the ways of evil schemers. It calls us to control our traffic patterns in life.

 

Temptation starts here, with a casual detour to pass by something we know we should not be involved in. We think we will just drive down a different street, or surf a few websites, or just walk in a certain store, or just stroll down the aisle where pornographic movies are found in a video store. When we walk in the ways of wicked men we will find ourselves being drawn into the powerful lure of temptation. I won’t do anything, we protest, I am just looking, but no good can come out of walking the pathways of evil men.

 

Satan does not ordinarily start with convincing us that we will do some repulsive act, rather he simply suggests that we follow him down a certain path, just to see, just to explore, just to learn. Then, step by step, we continue down that path to our destruction. Our hearts get hard, our minds seek some justification for participating in that which we know is inexcusable, and we begin to consume little sips of spiritual poison. Like the boy who was warned not to go swimming after school, but took his swimming trunks along just incase he was tempted, we set ourselves up for failure. “Make no provision for the flesh” Paul warned (Rom. 13:14).

 

Solomon warned,

 

My son, if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them…My son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths… These men lie in wait for their own blood; they ambush only themselves!

Proverbs 1:10-18


The Bible says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7), meaning to stand firm, unflinching, determined not to give in to the temptation, not to go along for even a few steps with the deceiver. Do not be deceived. There is a much greater blessing in store for those who do not go down the path of evil than for those who do.

 

Is there hope for you and me? Are there blessings God desires to give us? Yes. The first thing to do is to stop detouring down the wrong paths in life.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, teach us to depend on You exclusively, and to be wise in our moments of temptation. Show us where the path of evil leads and how we can avoid taking the first step down it. Amen.

 

 

Evening Devotionals ,