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Thanking God in Hard Times

November 4th, 2016

But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. He called you to this salvation through our gospel, so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thes. 2:13-14 NET)

We are in an incredibly tense American presidential race. Many have commented that it is the worst that we have seen during our lifetimes, and I would echo these thoughts. Also, as America is the most powerful nation on earth the whole populace of the world is caught up in the drama and nastiness of it.

Much of this I believe to be no more than political hype – both sides threatening that if the other candidate is elected the world will [practically, in their words] come to an end. Yet it has upset people around the world.

We can learn something from what Paul wrote in these verses of 2 Thessalonians. After describing the rise and ultimate downfall of the Antichrist, which will happen during the worst days on planet earth, Paul gives reasons why we can be grateful. He began to section with an intent to comfort us, not to upset us (2 Thes. 2:1-2) and he returns in these verses to accomplish that goal.

My friends, do not miss the peace and joy of Christ in dark and tense times. Jesus spoke of peace and joy that no one could take from a Christian (John 16:22) and this is the peace and joy we need to have.

Why can we be grateful in dark times? What does this passage teach us?

We can be grateful because we are assured by the love of God. He called us “brothers and sisters loved by the Lord” (2:13). Let us not despair because God loves us and His faithful love will secure our forgiveness and our salvation. No matter what happens on this earth, we should always remember that the Father affectionately remembers us. Sometimes we can see the trace of prophecy in current historical or political developments, but not always. When we cannot clearly see how God’s program of redemption is working out, we still trust in His love.

We can be grateful because God is at work in our lives. This is another cause of gratitude, that God’s love is experienced through the sanctifying work in our hearts of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit takes the truth of God’s Word and matures us and works in us to make us better people. During tumultuous times we can measure how mature we are by how our hearts are reacting. Are we afraid? Then we need to trust God more. Are we angry and vindictive? Then we need to embrace and share grace more.

We can be grateful because we are promised glory. Our citizenship is not in this world. We are just passing through this life. Our eternal home is with God in heaven where we shall share in His glory through the redemption we have in Christ. We should be responsible to do our duty here on earth, to make this world a better place. But our affections and expectations are ultimately invested in the eternal kingdom of God. “Conducting out lives in holiness and godliness, while waiting for and hastening the day of God,” as Peter wrote:

Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day. The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze, and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare. Since all these things are to melt away in this manner, what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness, while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God? Because of this day, the heavens will be burned up and dissolve, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze! But, according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides. (2 Peter 3:8-13)

Christians do not panic like the rest of the world. We live confidently, boldly, and at peace.

2 Thessalonians, Dealing with Difficulties, Second Coming of Christ , , ,

For This Reason I Have Hope

May 10th, 2016

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:19-24)

I spent an extra few minutes on facebook this morning, no real reason to ever do so, except to see how some of my friends are doing. It has become a place where people post adverts, whatever brief video is funny, motivating, or sentimental. Honestly, in election season it seems to have become a place where those who are uninformed on any issue, or on every issue, have a means to post their thoughts. So, I avoid it most days, except to wish people happy birthday.

I was struck this morning at what motivates people. One of my friends posted an historic video, a brief documentary of the Texas Centennial Celebration of 1936, with its spotlight on Dallas, my home town. It was interesting to see the description of the city, and probably it was touching to my friend who grew up there also. It presented everything as wonderful and exciting, growing and developing – yet all the faces were white, except near the end of the video when a black man dressed as a waiter came out to serve drinks to the white ladies of Dallas Country Club. Other than that, all other minorities – Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American – were omitted. The video spoke of the architecture of Dallas, combining the log-cabin of the Texas frontier with a Swiss villa, but, again, anything ethnic was omitted.

Today, eighty years since that film was made, the City of Dallas is mostly populated by minority groups, with the white population having moved to the suburbs. How should I react to that video, as interesting as it is? I am sure my friend posted it without any animosity. It was pure nostalgia to him – conjuring up some good memories of our past. But filmed by white people in 1936 it said by its silence that ethnic minorities are unimportant, except as they know their place and serve the white population, at appallingly discounted salaries.

But I see that as typical of all of the political, social, and popular movements in history. This election season I believe we are wise to stop for a moment and consider the text above from Jeremiah the prophet who with his own eyes witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem. That city that had begun under Jewish reign with such hope, that had so many days and years of glory in its history, in Jeremiah’s days lay in ruins.

Yet he found hope still! How? Where? He found hope in the abundant mercies of God. He realized that all can be taken from a man except God – “The Lord is my portion!” He is the One for whom we wait, in whom we hope, in whom we trust.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. (Isaiah 40:30-31)

I find no eternal hope in any single politician or political party. I find no eternal hope in the economic structure of the modern world- even if it lasts another millennium, it will do me no good after my death, and the same is true for my children. I see no hope among the prejudices, anger, animosity, suspicion, and political name-calling that is everywhere in today’s world. I do not say that these things do not matter, just that they are unable to truly change the course of history, for our basic human problem is spiritual not political.

The only worldwide movement that gives me hope is the movement of the expansion worldwide of the true church of Jesus Christ, because this is not being done by man, nor did it originate with men, but rather it came from God and is sustained by God.

By the “true church” I am not suggesting cultism, but just plain biblical Christianity that is life-transforming, that helps the common person, male or female, regardless of ethnicity or social standing, receive the message and reality of the love of God for him, the death of Christ for his sins, his resurrection from the grave, and the possibility of the life of Christ living within him. In Christ there is the possibility of forgiveness, grace, and a new community founded upon him. This message gives me hope.

We cannot change the world until there is a change in people’s hearts, and only Christ can do that. But I have this hope because I have Christ – or, more correctly, He has me. If you have Christ then you too can have hope, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for your incredible grace to us, that your mercies are new every morning. We fail and are quick to be drawn away from you. We succumb to pride and hardness of heart, we are blind to the needs of others and our hearts closed up to their suffering, but you are always with us. We thank you that you deal with us graciously. Forgive us our sins, cleanse us from our impure habits – habits of thought and habits of action. Lord come quickly! Establish the eternal justice that cannot be taken away! Call us to your heart, that we may have your joy, your peace, and your burden of love for this fallen world. Pour out your love into our hearts by your Spirit, Amen.

Daily Devotions , , , , ,