Who Doesn’t Want Joy? (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7)

The world thinks the believer is nuts. Our faith does not make sense to them and our standard of living makes even less sense. Why we cannot engage in some of their most desirable activities is beyond their understanding. So then, why do we try to win or convince them for Christ with our holiness. They don’t want holiness and never will. Holy living to them is a prison without bars. I have yet to meet a person who wanted to come to Christ because they saw how consistently and holy a believer lived.

What brings people to Christ is when they recognize that he can meet their deepest needs. Jesus offered the woman at the well a spring of living water flowing from within her soul. Sounds pretty good to me. The Philippian jailor saw the joy of Paul and Silas and most likely wanted the same. I came to Christ partly due to the testimony of guy with whom I smoked cigarettes in the men’s room in high school. I was so stunned by him coming to Christ and thought that maybe he found what I was so desperately looking for.

So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. (1 Thessalonians 1:7)

Paul writes to the Philippian believers and praises them for their testimony for Christ and their effectiveness at influencing those around them and regions beyond. How did they affect them? It was by their joy. The Bible tells us that the Philippians received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost (1 Thessalonians 1:6). The believers had joy and the rest of the world wanted it.

Should we live holy? Of course we should, The Lord commanded us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). But we must recognize that in order for us to be an effective light in the world, we must shine of the goodness that God is doing in our lives. Anything less will be a failure.

Affliction and Joy Are Neighbors (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

20140626-205032.jpgIn the mid 1800’s, gold was found in California. Thousands of fortune seekers flooded the state with hopes of finding the precious metal for themselves. For those who found their fortune, it was a difficult task. Only after a long period of digging through worthless rock was the gold discovered. There, side by side, was rock and gold. The only way to get to the gold was by digging through the rock. Digging through rock was tiring, wearisome and injurious, but the gold made all the difference.

And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

All of mankind experiences difficulties in life. For the lost, there is no hope, strength or consolation. But for the believer, there is always joy to be found. Many fail to recognize this because they focus so much on the affliction that they are experiencing. What they must recognize is that next to the hurt, there is joy to be found.

It isn’t joy for the affliction, but joy in the affliction. At each low point in our lives, God is there waiting to reveal himself to us. When you experience his presence, you will also experience the joy that comes from knowing him. Paul along with Silas and in the darkness of prison, sang praises to The Lord. While in prison at Rome, Paul again experienced joy as he penned the Epistle to the Philippians. John, on the isle of Patmos, endured persecution and then experienced a great revelation. Let’s not forget you. In your deepest of moments when you were lost, you found Jesus, the gem. The history of mankind is filled with people, who is great distress, experienced the joy of what Christ brought to them.

In your trial today, Jesus wants to give you joy. You may find it in a passage of Scripture or it may come to you as you are reminded of God’s greatness as you focus of one of the many splendors of creation. Joy is there. Don’t step over it or be blinded to its presence. If you can’t find it, pray for God to reveal it to you.

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When Faith Is Not Enough (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

Have you been in a trial and found it difficult to remain faithful to God and keep moving on? Have you been to the point where you cannot take another step and want to just crumble in your path? Many have been there and yet still moved on. How did they do it? What was their secret?

Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

Works start out motivated by faith. The worker many be doing the work because God has led them or he has pointed out a need that he wants him to fulfill and the believer responds by faith and does the work. A person can continue in the work motivated by faith, but the work needs more than what the faith worker can provide. Mere obedience to do a work will not bring about the purpose that God has.

While in the work, The Lord does a work also in the believer’s heart. This work occurs when love develops in the heart of the laborer. His work is no longer motivated by the obedience of faith, but by love for those for which he works. Love will take you further than faith. If asked, faith will sacrifice. However, love will sacrifice on its own. Faith obeys, but love sees the need and willfully volunteers for the task. It also sees the need and will carry the burden of the work and accomplish it. Faith only obeys and endures.

Faith and love are essential ingredients for living a life for God, but another motivation is still needed. Faith obeys, love sees the need and is motivated, but hope sees the potential that can occur. Hope has spiritual eyes that see the situation from God’s perspective. Reaching the mark envisioned by hope isn’t easy. There are still obstacles to overcome, but hope gives vision to the laborer’s work and at the same time gives patience to the laborer. Patience is the believer’s ability to stay under the load of the work and at the same time be cheerful. Personal strength may keep people under the load of a work, but it cannot bring cheerfulness. Talents and abilities may make a work somewhat easier to bear, but they will not bring cheerfulness. Love in itself will struggle in the face of adversity and endure, but be lacking in cheerfulness.

However, it is love for God that brings the spiritual perspective of hope. It is this love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love for a person can wax thin, but love for God will cause the believer to continue to press on. It wasn’t Paul’s love for the church that moved him on through suffering and persecution. It was his love for God. It wasn’t love for the ministry that strengthened the Apostles to face being martyred. It was hope that came from their love for God.

Where are you? What motivates you in your service for God? What motivates you as a parent, spouse, or employee? Hopefully it is something greater than just your faith.

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Daily Blessings, Really? (Psalm 68:19)

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Back in the 70’s when I was a kid, a trio that I belonged to was booked at a vacation resort for the summer. In order to play the gig, we needed to be in the musicians’ union. It was not long until I found myself in Chester, PA watching a film strip about the union and all the benefits that I would get from joining it. I was guaranteed certain wages, royalty protection on recordings and a host of other propaganda material. In the end, I felt that with being in the union, I couldn’t lose.

Fast forward a few decades and I again find myself as part of another union. I am not united with a collection of people, but instead with just one. I am united with Christ (Ephesians 2:5-6) and because of that union, I have exclusive rights, privileges and benefits.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah. (Psalms 68:19)

I could endlessly go on listing each benefit that I have experienced, but since we will do that together in eternity and praise God for each blessing that we share, I will not take time to discuss it now. What I do want to point out is that there are benefits from God every day. The scriptures tell us that God loads or lays upon us blessings each day. Now I will be the first to say that I have experienced many days without seeing any blessing from God. There were times that I tirelessly plugged on through life waiting for God to bless me and nothing seemed to come my way. Is God’s word untrue? Does God keep from fulfilling his word? Definitely not! On the days that I did not see any blessings, it was just that. They were there and I didn’t see them. I was probably looking for something that I wanted and not for the blessing that I needed.

We would be best to keep a daily journal and record the blessing that we receive from The Lord each day and on days that we appear to not receive a blessing, mark in the journal that we failed to recognize what God provided. With some time this practice will yield a closer walk with The Lord and an appreciation for what he is doing in our lives.

I’ll Choose This Throne (Hebrews 4:16)

Many who struggle in trials feel that they cannot go to God because they feel unworthy. They feel unworthy because of their struggle with sin and the difficulty they experience with exercising faith in the midst of trouble.

However, God views us differently. He knows that we cannot perform as expected unless we have his strength. That is why he gave us the following verse.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

There are several thrones mentioned in the scriptures upon which The Lord will sit. He will sit on the Bema Seat or the Judgment Seat of Christ. Upon this, he will disperse judgment on the faithfulness of believers. Another seat is the White Throne, which also is for judgment. This seat is a throne and upon it God will sit and disperse judgment upon all lost souls for the sins that they committed against him. But then there is the Throne of Grace. God sits upon this throne and disperses something as well. However what he disperses is not judgment. What he disperses upon this throne is grace. All who stand before the aforementioned thrones will receive some type of judgment, but those who stand before the Throne of a Grace will receive just that: grace.

God instructs us to come boldly to this Throne of Grace. He wants us to come to him as he sits upon this throne and to speak frankly before. He wants us to be outspoken about our need for his strength and to ask for it without reservation. Why does God want us to speak so frankly with him? Does he not want us to cloak our short comings?

There is no need to attempt to hide our condition as we stand before him. He understands exactly what we are experiencing. The previous verse states that he was touched with our infirmities and tempted as we are. He wants us to come boldly to his Throne of Grace because he wants us to be victorious. He understands our plight and wants us to come to him with all of our struggles. Because he knows that by that act and his strength by grace, we will be victorious.

So, as you struggle. Go to the Throne of Grace. Cry out to God speak freely about what you need. What he promises to give to those who approach this throne is mercy and grace to help in your time of need.

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The Soul Recall (Luke 12:20)

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Man and his soul was made for fellowship with God. Fellowship with God was possible because man’s soul was sinless. However man fell into sin and because of it fellowship and man’s soul condition had been affected. Through Christ, God has provided a way back to him. Man now has the responsibility to respond back to God’s work and be a proper steward or manager of what God has given to him: that is his soul.

But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: (Luke 12:20)

The term required means “to demand back”. Upon man’s death, his soul will be required or demanded back by God. When the soul returns back to God, if acceptable it will remain with him. However, unacceptable souls will be cast out.

If the soul of man remains the same as it was at his birth, it will be unacceptable to God. The scriptures state that the soul of man that sins shall surely die (Ezekiel 18:20). It dies because the soul had become sinful. Regardless of whatever actions this soul may do throughout life, the soul will still be sinful. Good and mighty works will not change man’s soul nor will they cancel out the effects his sin upon others.

But if this same soul calls out to the savior of the world, his sinful soul will be cleansed: it will be changed from scarlet and crimson to whiteness (Isaiah 1:18). The debt that his soul owes God will be paid. It will be paid with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9; Hebrews 9:12, 10:14). Jesus’s life and the life of his blood were offered as a substitute for all mankind. When man calls upon this savior, he shall be saved (Romans 10:13) and he becomes a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). His condition is changed. When God calls back unto himself the soul of this man, it will be found acceptable and pleasing to God. However if man refuses solely to trust the work of Jesus Christ, his soul will continue to remain unacceptable to God and will be rejected when called back. Refused souls will be rejected and sinful debts will determined by a holy God. The great sinful debt upon these souls will be paid in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15).

Before death, we must be prepared to give an account for the condition of our soul. If it has been redeemed and changed by Christ, our account will be to the praise of Jesus and his wonderful work. But if the soul has not been changed, peril and doom will await souls who stand before God without excuse.

Thanks be to Jesus Christ who has given himself to save us from the wrath to come.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

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Getting Strength From Another (Psalm 73:17)

Life may be confusing, discouraging and appear to be unfair. On our own, we will never be able to figure things out. Our efforts of living for God and abstaining from wickedness may appear to be in vain. However when we enter into God’s presence and fellowship with him, he will perform a work in our hearts to bring things back into perspective. He did this for the Psalmist when he became envious of the wicked and he will do the same for you.

Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. (Psalms 73:17)

How soon we forget the wonders of his working. After being saved for over 30 years, it is difficult to remember exactly what it was like to be lost. The wounds from sins have been healed. All I can do is remember that at one time, I had great wounds in my heart to the point that I saw no significance of living. You would think that I should remember that and always be grateful in my heart. But it is not the case. It seems that the troubles and struggles of the day press more upon my heart than issues that should cause rejoicing. For that reason, I need to sit at the feet of the savior.

Recently, we rescued a dog that had been hit by a car and then abandoned for days. Needless to say, he has phobias. What makes him most able to endure these fear is when he gets close to those who love him. He gains our strength and becomes calm because of the security we provide. Is God any different to us? We have fears and worries, but it is when we draw close to him that we gain his strength and become secure.

When you struggle, draw close to God. He will open your eyes to the truths that you may need so as to gain the strength and comfort that only he can bring.

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