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Israel 2014 IFL 335There is a narrow road that swing uphill from the Kidron Valley.  The descent from the Walls of Jerusalem are not far behind.  It is natural to look up when the road starts to climb.

The road is narrow and winding.  Modern designers never would have planned the route like this.  It is another indication that today’s roads have simply followed the old roads of the past.

Lining each side of the now paved route are tall stone walls.  You feel penned in.  Yet, the sense of being on the right road is assured by our guide.

Israel 2014 IFL 336Not far along this journey is a gate off to the right.  Many pilgrims are filing in.  The sense of this being a very special place is in the air.

Once inside the gate, our guide gives us quiet instructions to follow the pathway and to speak softly.  People are meditating and this is a sacred site. Those words are just a vanguard of what our spirits have already sensed.

Israel 2014 IFL 338Inside the walls a security fence surrounded the grove of olive trees.  Down the middle gravel pathway stood the largest and apparently the oldest olive tree in the garden.  Its trunk was massive.

Scarred and twisted this old tree was still sprouting shoots into the sky that were dressed in new leaves.  Botanists tell us that this tree could very well be two thousand years old.  It stood tall, solid and unmovable before us.

Israel 2014 IFL 339Maybe it was a mere sapling when Jesus came here at night and wept tears of blood. The agony of the Savior may have soaked the ground with His ignominious perspiration.  Here He accepted the Father’s will to take on the sin of the whole world.

This task meant that He must die.  It is the penalty of sin.  Death is the only option available to bring sin to justice.

Our only redeeming option is to have a substitute that will die in our place. Jesus agreed to take our place.  He died on our behalf.

Israel 2014 IFL 342It meant that He would be separated from the Father.  That reality was what weighed on  Jesus’ heart that night.  Yet, out of love for us, He agreed willingly to do it.

No wonder a church stands next to this garden in commemoration of this great sacrifice.  Nations from around the world contributed to its construction.  Enter this garden, His garden and sense the forgiveness given through the great gift of love.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Israel 2014 IFL 295Well into our tour of the Holy Land, the temptation is to say, “Once you have seen some ancient ruins, you have seen enough ancient ruins.” never seemed to bother very many at all.  Here in the Land what occurred at these sites was far more important than the site itself.

History was the feature of these gathering points.  The events of yesteryear gave great meaning to our lives today.  Few sites were as meaningful as the walk through the Via Dolorosa.

Here the possibility of following the last steps of Christ when He was brought to His place of Israel 2014 IFL 301crucifixion was sobering.  We looked on the old stone road that still had the old Roman games etched in the rock.  Perhaps the very soldiers who escorted Jesus from His flogging to the place of the skull gambled on this very site.

Today the stones shine like polished furniture from the millions of shoes that have walked over them.  But, in His day, Jesus stumbled on these rocks, dripped His sweat and blood from His brutal beating.  While we trudged among fast-moving shop keepers selling their wares, we thought deeply as the images of our suffering Savior filled our minds.

Israel 2014 IFL 302There are traditional stops along the way that commemorate some Biblical events and some extra Biblical stories.  Sorting out the real from the legends is not as important as concentrating on the real events that all agree are part of the events of the most important historic event in human history.  This pathway was the route that made it all happen.

The sellers of trinkets were trying to make money off of the scores of pilgrims.  To these merchants, it was common to come here each day and make a living.  But, for us pilgrims it was a sacred journey.

Israel 2014 IFL 303Our fine pilgrims were gracious and polite.  There was no ugly American among our group.  They kept the balance, worshiped quietly and took in the tourist options as well.

Our small group of 40 turned the corner of a narrow street and a courtyard broadened out to welcome us.  It was a very holy site.  Inside this door was the traditional site where the cross was placed on a rock.  Below is the site of the burial of Jesus.

Pilgrims from all around the world came here and crowded in to climax their journey.  It was loud.  This was a very crowded place.

Seekers and worshipers alike milled about.  Truth and legend were separate yet together. Sincere lives were wanting a moment for their souls.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Israel 2014 IFL 079Weaving through the Golan Heights, modern reminders of the ravages of war were common along the side of the road.  Blown out buildings, wreckage of lost armored vehicles and warnings of live mine fields give a sobering reminder that people in this region are at odds with each other.  Cattle seem to oblivious to the barriers that divide fields filled with delicious grazing and others with explosives buried just below the surface of the ground.

Then, our bus catches up with several other modern comfort liners.  We wait our turn to enter into another important Biblical site.  The rain is coming stronger, the wind is blowing a bit stiffer and pilgrims never complain but cinch up their parkas and huddle out to the site right behind our tour guide.

Our Caramel Bus 11 group huddles off the beaten track in a designated seating area.  The head waters of the Jordan River bubble up from a spring and head south to feed into the Sea of Galilee.  Mt. Hermon looms behind us.

Israel 2014 IFL 082This is a sacred site for Christians.  Jesus was here in His day.  He gathered His disciples and asked them a telling question, “Who do people say that I am?”

His disciples give a cross section of popular opinion.  Some believe Jesus is a prophet.  Others think that He is John the Baptist.  Yet, others believe that He is Elijah.

Most important to Jesus is who His disciples believe that He is.  This is when Peter offers his own opinion.  Peter confesses that he believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Jesus commends Peter, assuring him that His confession was a revelation to him from God the Father.  It was a truth that Peter believed.  This declaration shaped Peter’s life and the lives of believers who came after him.

Knowing that this watershed moment occurred in this place called Caesarea Philippi, gave us all pause.  It is right to wonder if we are living our lives of faith based on convictions of our beliefs.  Too often Christians misunderstand that it is more important to believe than it is to know.

A confession is about what we truly accept as truth.   We understand it and embrace it as conviction.  It shapes our values because it is what we believe.

What do you know about your faith?  Can you distinguish that from what you sincerely believe?  It is not about what you know but far more about what you believe.

photo credit: brucefong photography.

IMG_3097Some people make a living by studying Jesus.  Over 2,000 of them gathered in the Hilton of Baltimore this past week.  I was privileged to be among them.

For days we gather in multiple locations to hear our colleagues read papers of their latest research.  It is stimulating, challenging, provocative and encouraging.  We hear about the latest in debates over theological issues.

The brain power that occurs at this convention is mind-blowing.  Publishers come and set up their booths.  Sure, they want us to buy their latest books but just as importantly they are seeking acquisitions.

Plenary sessions gather the thousands in a huge hall.  One presenter captures our attention.  While we are all from different parts of the world, we share in common a huge passion for the Bible.

Some look at the Bible as a mystery or the “Good Book” or a lucky charm to keep in the house.  None of those views are held by my fellows at the Evangelical Theological Society.  These conferees are all serious scholars and academics who treasure the Scriptures.

With learned skills and endless peer reviews on millions of words both written and spoken, these colleagues have served as the guardians of truth.  They are driven by conviction and commitment.  Among them they share a devotion to their craft and do not allow room for sloppy research.

IMG_3098Besides the intellectual stimulation there is amazing fellowship here.  Several times I heard my named called out.  I stopped walking and turned to see an old friend from many years in the past.

Sporting huge smiles we clasp hands, hug tightly and laugh uncontrollably.  Quickly we exchange a thumbnail sketch describing years of God’s faithfulness in our lives.  We exchange our latest contact information, wave farewell and head to our next chosen meeting.

For breakfast I awoke early.  Once I had washed up, planned my day and headed out, breakfast with our seminary alumni association was waiting.  Graduates from DTS gathered.

The room was packed.  Breakfast was good.  Reunion celebration was unparalleled.

We heard about God’s favor on our ala mater.  It was marvelous to see the numbers, hear the reports and see pictures of the past and the future.  Excitement has a way of stirring the spirit and show our connection with this massive historical privilege.

I have come home smarter just by hanging out with very smart Jesus followers.  They sharpened me.  Iron does that in the honing process with other iron.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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We are in the class of people who still finds it difficult to hand our car keys over to a total stranger, a valet.  Ingrained in us is the value of our vehicles and the undercurrent of fear of ever losing one of these special parts of our existence.  Yet, tonight would be a gathering at a special place with very special people making it possible to let someone drive off with our chariot.

The short walk to a special elevator put us in an intersection with people heading in toward the same destination as us.  We smiled, joked together and bid each other a pleasant evening.  Texas hospitality and culture is delightful.

We arrived at the destination floor.  The Express elevator speedily brought us to the gathering that had us eager with anticipation.  Our hosts welcomed us with greetings, photographs and cheerful words.

This was an evening about Missions.  We were capturing God’s heart for the lost. IMG_2999Together we prayed, were inspired and deepened our commitment to be a part of what God was doing with His Gospel in the world, our nation and in our city.

Perhaps the most moving part of our evening was turning around, away from the stage and joining hands.  The house lights were dimmed and we gazed at the city lights that fought off the night.  We prayed for our city.

The prayer that night was more than a religious rite.  It was a genuine expression to the Father to impact the city for eternity, for Jesus’ sake.  We asked God to save many, make Houston known for where Jesus was doing a special work and to show each of us how to be a part of His great love for the millions who called this place their home.

IMG_2997In the panoramic view of Houston, skyscrapers were lit up like tall Christmas trees.  Sprawling sites of historic relevance were spread out as far as the eye could see.  The curvature of the earth showed the limitations of our view.

Dark spots of the poorer and more desperate areas of the city were easily set apart in the vista.  We prayed especially for those areas.  The vision of the city has carved a unique spot in all of hearts.  It is a city that we loved on that night because we all love our city in Jesus’ name.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

2 Thessalonians 1.1-4

Harvest is special.  There is nothing else like it.  After a season of hard work and caring for crops, this is time when the fruit gets picked or the plants get collected.  It is a grower’s delight.

There is a river of sweat and toil to get to this point.  When the Good LORD then gives great weather to bring in the harvest, farmers can celebrate with this special work.  Plants have grown tall, strong and healthy for months since planting.  Now, it is autumn and the crops can be brought in to market.

The first fruits are part of the evening meal.  Freshness is central on everyone’s palate.  Smiles and humor mark the meal.  Conversation, memories, retelling of key moments for this particular season meld everyone’s minds on the greatest part of this first meal of the harvest.  Everyone is grateful, thankful and satisfied with God’s bountiful harvest.

Three godly men penned the second letter to the Thessalonians.  They had every intention of encouraging the believers there in light of the coming prophetic hope centering on Christ’s return.  Authority for this anticipation was based upon uncompromised certainty in God’s relationship with all those who are His.  The Godhead here is acknowledged as the Father and the Son equally each divine.

Grace is worth a long and deep pause.  It is God’s incredibly generous favor given to all in the church and the resulting peace from the reception of that grace.  While the terms share so much in common, grace describes God’s favor and mercy is His application of grace into our lives

Once God gives us His amazing gift, we spend the rest of our lives not trying to re-experience that historic moment. Rather, we enjoy the satisfaction that comes from the result of grace applied into our lives.  That is the peace that these emissaries of God have delivered.

The spiritual growth of Christians elicits a very similar reaction.  Maturity is something to celebrate.  It is not only good for those who are growing but also fantastic for those who helped others nurture their spiritual development.

Thanksgiving is an integral part of being a follower of Christ.  This spiritual journey with Christ begins with celebration and continues with many other landmark moments of elation as well.  Gratitude is constant as God nurtures, protects and provides the energy and circumstances to advance our faith.

Testifying over the spiritual advancement of others is a part of our own Christian journey.  Selflessness is what spirituality is.  We serve others, help others and rejoice in the growth and advancement of others.

Faith and love are both dynamic realities.  Neither stays static.  They are not real if they do not change.  Both fuel our interest in others.  When they each continue to increase and grow, then there is good reason for gratitude to be energetically expressed.

There is a special feature among gathered Christians.  It is all about story.  Together we share what God is doing in the lives of other believers.  We detail the story of the growth and expression of their faith.  When God blesses their acts of trust and belief and favors their lives we find massive encouragement from testifying to His goodness to others in the body of Christ.  Functionally, when God blesses one part of the gathering of believers, we all are benefitting.

The local church is the central gathering of these followers of Jesus.  It is not exclusive, but it certainly central.  The heartbeat of the Lord Jesus Christ is personified in the local church.

Here is where Christians can experience a righteous pride.  It is not selfish.  There is nothing in it for personal gain.  Instead, it is totally directed toward God and for the benefit of others.  There is a special beauty in this feature of humanity, redeemed humanity.

Remarkably, this celebration is not playing out just in good times.  Rather, it is especially highlighted during difficult times.  The Thessalonian believers were suffering during times of persecution.  Trials were replete and painful.  Nevertheless, they endured not just with gritted teeth but with a faith that was growing and a love for each other that was increasing.

Essential to Christian living is our vested involvement in the lives of others.  This is far more than being friends with those whom we find are just like us.  Rather, it is all about helping others grow in their faith.

This relationship of discipleship is not difficult at least it does not have to be.  When we help another Christian grow in their faith and love during difficult times, we are immersed into the heart of discipleship.  Then, when we are intentional about it, we obeying the Lord’s Great Commission.

Church should be a place where this kind of thanksgiving celebration is common.  Believers gather for mutual encouragement.  This fellowship breeds perseverance.  Christians with a strong connection to other believers who encourage them this way can look back and see that they have endured well

LAPP (Life Application): Choose three lives and build a discipleship relationship with them.  Commit to them and invest into their spiritual growth in love, faith and perseverance.  When the tough times come and they will, stick with them and cheer on their spiritual vitality and you will both grow stronger.

Thanks for joining me on this journey through the Scriptures.

1 Thessalonians 5.23-28

The “For Sale” sign was on the lawn.  That was my first experience on this end of the real estate experience.  I gazed from my living room window as if hordes of people would stop by and make an offer on our home.

Reality set in soon after.  It was a buyer’s market. Those few who were looking to purchase a home had plenty to choose.  They could take their time and select from all the for sale signs in our city.

Our realtor was clear.  During the listing of our home, we had to de-clutter our home and keep it in show-ready condition.  They would have their office call when a prospective buyer was interested in a showing.  Then, we would have about a 30 minute window to spiff up the home and vacate for Realtors to show.

Those were tough months.  It was incredibly inconvenient to our busy family to keep the house de-cluttered when we were busy living active lives.  At first we made a game of it.  Then, we just got annoyed.

The idea that the next people might buy the house kept us motivated.  Just when we were about to give up, we received the phone call that buyers had made an offer.  It was a great relief.

Christian living is all about living out the redeemed life made possible by Jesus Christ.  It is not a life that is now “safe” therefore lived the way we would want to now that we are in control.  Rather, it is a life lived consistently with the holiness of the God who saved us in the first place.

God is now personally involved with the routine of our days.  He wants to be at the center of our lives.  Furthermore, He makes it attractive with the resulting peace that we experience in our new life in Christ.

He gives us purpose for our lives.  It is a deeply meaningful satisfaction for our hunger for significance.  This is constructed for the ultimate end that when our Lord Jesus Christ comes, we will be blameless when we meet Him.

All of us are too well aware of our human shortcomings.  We like the idea of God being personally involved with our daily sanctification.  It has many features about it that are very attractive.  But, quite frankly, we do not believe it is true.

Maybe we know the frequent disappointments of other people.  So we are dubious, we are suspicious, we are jaded.  Yet, without hesitation the Scriptures assure us that God puts the character of His own faithfulness behind this promise.  In no uncertain terms the

Scripture aligns God’s calling of our salvation with the certainty of His fulfillment to do what He has said He will do for us.

My success as a Christian is no longer dependent on my ability.  Nor is it based upon the circumstances in which I might find myself.  Instead, it is the character of God and His consistent faithfulness that each of us believers will receive all that is necessary for successfully living a spiritual life.

Christianity is not about only receiving.  It is about giving.  It is also about serving.

As the Thessalonian believers are recipients of the Apostles’ teaching and encouragement, they too should join in the community and serve others.  They can begin by reciprocating for the Apostles from whom they have received so much.  To start they can pray for the Paul and his colleagues.  Bringing up the Apostles to the Lord for petition and requests are greatly appreciated.  It is the least that the Thessalonian believers can do.

To show that their sanctification is in full swing, these believers can also greet one another with affection.  More than a courtesy or words, this embrace can express love and acceptance.  It can demonstrate fellowship, commitment and devotion.  The kiss is custom-culturalized.  Above all it is not lustful nor romantic but holy, that is, sanctified.

This Scripture and its instruction are important.  The public reading of Scripture is the practice of the day.  Reading it to one another in the Body of Christ is part of spiritual fellowship.

Grace marks the Apostle’s final words.  The theme of unmerited favor is foundational to Christian living and community.  Jesus Christ to be central in all matters of faith and worship.  As He began a good work in us so He will continue to do so by being personally involved with each of our lives.

Staying clean is never easy.  After every meal we clean of the dishes and put everything away.  It happens each and every time we eat.  Sometimes it seems like a nuisance but consider the alternative.  Our neighbors or our family would have us committed!

In the same way our spiritual lives need to be cleansed just because living on this earth calls for us getting dirty.  We still have a sin nature.  It is active.  Enemies tempt us for the sheer purpose of tripping us up.  Consciences are seared.  Yet, if we know that His love is greater and His grace is always sufficient, then, we will keep on going.  We confess our sin and He cleans us up.

We set it as our goal to be blameless.  If it does not go perfectly, He makes it possible to correct matters.  Do not fret.  This will not go on forever.  Someday Jesus will come and we will be with Him in eternity.  That is when we can rest because sin will finally be done.  How cool is that?

Thanks for joining me on this journey to live the Scriptures.

 

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

My wife and I are celebrating with our daughter and son-in-law and our whole family.  Our first grandchild has been born.  This means of course that the new mother needs to have the company of the new grandmother.

We had been planning on this trip for a long time; around nine months.  To work it all out my bride needed to fly to the distant city to enjoy a bonding time with her grandson.  I will have to be patient and travel when my schedule allows.

Getting grandmother to the Pacific Northwest, however, was a priority.  She spent a lot of time busily packing, sorting out her wardrobe and most importantly, organizing presents for the new, first grandchild.  It was fun and exciting for her to get ready.

But, then, there was concern for me “batching it” for two weeks.  I would be all alone and no one would be here to take care of me.  She gave me a list of things to do, instructions on how to do them and priorities on when to do them.  It is those last minute instructions that fall into the “be sure and” category.

This final collection of “too-important-to-leave-out” is a demonstration of love.  It all means how important I am to her.  Selfless love cares for others in detail.

The Apostle Paul has some last minute charges to give to the Thessalonians.  They are too important to leave out.  These values are given in rapid fire succession.

One is the shortest verse in the Greek New Testament.  However, it has nothing to do with weeping.  There is no sorrow in the picture. In fact it is just the opposite.

Joy is the theme of the shortest verse.  It is not occasional joy either.  This is a verse about an exhortation, a command at the very least a directive that will trump circumstances, feelings or even people.

The Apostle Paul advocates that believers choose to let joy always be a part of their day.  This is not happiness which is circumstantial but an inner delight because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.  It is all about what the Gospel has done in our lives and how amazing it will be when it is completed in heaven.

It is also important that Christians remember to pray.  Frequency is the Apostles focus here.  It is not about praying by following a posture or appointment or method.  Rather, it is about an attitude of dependence, communication and sensitivity to the Father in the routine of our lives.

Furthermore, Christians are to be thankful people.  As recipients of God’s grace they are not to be complainers, critics or whiners.  Christians who are ardent followers of Jesus Christ know that these values are God’s will for our lives.

The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is real.  He is active in the world and especially in the lives of Christians and Christian groups.  There is a powerful promise in the Bible, which declares that this Holy Spirit will come upon all Christians with power, energy and vitality to be witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world.

How this Spirit will manifest Himself is as varied as God’s creative design.  When Christians recognize His activity they are not to resist it, hinder it or stifle it.  While no human has the ability to overcome God, it is possible to diminish His work.

If a Christian opposes the work of the Spirit, then that is an attitude or action that directly opposes the will of God.  Man cannot do the work of God.  However, he is full capable of diverting His supernatural work elsewhere.  Disobedience is a powerfully negative choice that Christians can make.

One scenario that Christians should be alert to is disrespecting prophecy.  If the Spirit makes a revelation known whether it is a current issue of right and wrong or a description of an event that is coming in the future, then to have an unbelieving, unaccepting attitude toward it is wrong.

Accepting the Spirit’s ministry is not tantamount to accepting anyone and anything that is purporting as being from God.  The Bible is not suggesting that a fear of stifling any work of the Spirit should then result in any wonton acceptance of any claim by people that they have a prophetic word from God.  In fact the opposite is true.

To heed this warning of accepting the ministry of the Spirit, believers are admonished to practice good discernment.  They are to test anything that is brought to them with claims that it is of the Spirit.  It is not easy to validate the Spirit’s work but it is possible by those who are spiritual mature.

When they discover what is consistent with God, His Word and the Spirit and attest to the good, then they are to hold on to it.  They must embrace it, protect it and let that Spirit work burn brightly.  Expectation of discovering good is to be anticipated.

Evil has no place in discernment.  Some people judge with the disposition that they are out to only pinpoint what is bad, make an example of it and destroy something.  Evil has not place in discernment.

Whether the Christian is expressing spiritual values in his life or engaging other believers in relationship, Paul is urging spiritually-minded people to be positive.  They must have the intention to do something good.  Any kind of evil is out of place.

Value is a good way to observe this passage of Scripture.  The admonition by the apostle is about something constant in our lives.  Whether it is joy or prayer or thanksgiving, these qualities should characterize what is most important to us.  Therefore, they are a part of our daily and moment by moment routine.

Recognize God in your life too.  Discern when He is making His presence and message known to you.  Resist judging with evil intent.  Do not bring hurt into the lives of others to satisfy any cravings by the sin nature to express self-righteousness.  Instead, spiritual seek the Spirit’s manifestation and rejoice in it.  When you find it and find it often, then hold on to it, share it and draw attention to it.

Be eager to show God off with your life.  Promote Him not personal human opinion.  His ways are way beyond our own.  Whatever God is revealing will last forever.  We will thoroughly enjoy being a part of His revelation.

Thanks for joining me on this journey to live the Scriptures.

1 Thessalonians 4.1-8

These are frustrating days.  On the national scene three women, who have been kidnapped and held in bondage by a reprobate man have escaped, been discovered and set free.  Their captor has been locked up with charges pending once an investigation has constructed a case.

The stories that have emerged are heartbreaking.  Sexual abuse, torture and untold events of disgusting behavior are being carefully reconstructed.  As a father and husband, I have a mental disgust for such sinister animal like this beast.

If that were not enough, I live in a city where a major convention is flooding our city with people from all over the world.  Each year when this gathering convenes, human trafficking spikes.  People buying sex is rampant in our Global city.  It is exhaustingly sad.

Immorality is not a victimless crime.  It hurts people, destroys lives and enslaves others.  However, sex when expressed in the bounds of morality and marriage is marvelous.

The Apostle Paul reminds the Christians at Thessalonica of the past lessons that he has brought to them.  Those lessons had a primary objective.  They taught Christians how to please God with the lives that they lived.  Encouraging words followed because Paul commends them that they are living what he has taught them.

Paul catches them in action and motivates them to keep on going with greater momentum and determination.  They cannot do too little in this direction.  It is not a time to teach more.  Rather it is time to remind them of what they already know.

Jesus is their reminder.  His name is their personal reason for walking in righteousness.  The authority from the Savior validates the lessons that these believers have received and use to govern the practices of their lives.  Urgency marks the exhortation in this passage of Scripture.  This symptom of purity is a product of living the truth that they know and have embraced as truth.

If you have ever been “stuck” in your Christian growth wondering what God’s will is for your life, then you may have overlooked a passage like this.   Paul makes it clear that God’s will for every believer is to be sanctified.  This specialized term means to be set apart for a special purpose or holy.

Holy living is not perfect living.  Instead, the focus is on purpose.  That is not a reference to my own desires but rather living out God’s purpose in my life.

Essential to holy living is choosing to avoid sexual immorality.  Self-control is a lesson for each Christian to learn who is seeking to live according to God’s will.  In the mind and spirit of every Christian is a sense of honor.  That honor is a warning to hear if sexual immorality is ever a danger.

Here the example of wrong living is a part of discerning right living.  Those who do not know God live recklessly, unleashing their passionate lusts to express themselves without consideration of the control of righteousness.  Furthermore, those fellow humans, not Christians, with whom these lusts are shared together, become victims of the wrong.  Immorality does hurt others.

Sin is never free of punishment.  A day of reckoning will be in all of our futures both believer and non-believer.  God will judge the sins of man.

Christians must see the devastation of sexual immorality among unbelievers as a reminder to live righteously, with purity.  God gave us eternal life, an inheritance in heaven and the dedicated life that we are called to live now is consistent with that practical theology.

Conclusions built upon a strong argument are self-evident.  This challenge by Paul to live pure lives is one of those syllogistic arguments.  To have this instruction but to live contrary to it is tantamount to dangerous living.

God takes it personally when He is ignored by the people that He loved and saved.  He gave us an inheritance that speaks of our heritage in heaven.  Why would anyone who has been guaranteed so much then insult his benefactor with selfish living that hurts others as well?  Or why would any of us ignore the super powers of the Holy Spirit in us and do what will only hurt us in the end?

LAPP: Write down the three main practices of righteous living that you know are clearly laid out in Scripture when it comes to purity.  What can you do to exercise the kind of self-control where you will dominate your routine with these practices?  Live pure lives and that will guarantee to please God.

Thanks for joining me on my journey.

1 Thessalonians 3.6-10

Do you remember being deeply concerned about your children?  They were away for a night out with their friends.  Maybe they were away at camp for a week.  Perhaps they spent their first sleep over with longtime friends.  Fretting was uncomfortable.  It wore on your patience.  Your mind played through several scenarios and you did not like the feelings of insecurity.

You did what every good parent would do.  Your lip bled when you bit it, your spouse returned concerned glances and when they finally opened the front door and came in with smiles and laughter you were delightfully relieved.  Silly worries were for naught.

Love for others drives us to extend the comfort and concern of our spirit to surround those very special lives.  True love wants to protect.  It will and always will be that way.  Yes, it makes us uncomfortable, but that is the nature of love.

Paul felt that way about the Christians in Thessalonica.  They were his spiritual children.  He knew that they were in danger. Persecution against Christians was intensifying in that day.  It was in fact a spiritual battle against the Tempter.

The Apostle was so concerned about the state of the Thessalonians’ faith that he dispatched Timothy to check on them.  He was starving for news of their spiritual well-being.  Yes, the pain of persecution was a concern but he was more concerned over the strength of their spiritual faith.

Timothy had returned with good news.  Paul was elated that their faith remained strong.  His investment in their spiritual lives was intact.  There is no mention of their physical or economic condition.  What was important was their spiritual health during a volatile and dangerous time.  Their faith and love were the highlights of Timothy’s encouraging report on their condition.

A bonus in Timothy’s report must have made the Apostle smile.  This emissary brought up the personal relationship that he had with these people.  They missed him.  Timothy conveyed their strong desire to see him.  It was a longing that was equally shared among them for each other.

The ardent faith of the Thessalonian Christians encouraged the Apostle Paul.  Also note that the intense desire for a face to face fellowship was mutual. Not only did Paul love them, they also loved him.  Even through the hardships of persecution, knowledge of their mutual love gave the apostle strength to persevere through those difficult times.

Paul was not simply stooping to hollow flattery.  He meant it when he confirmed that the faith of these followers of Jesus gave him strength to weather the trials of great suffering.  The joy in times of trouble was virtually indescribable to Paul.

Experiencing God more deeply than ever was a result of his investment into their spiritual lives and witnessing the long lasting stability in their commitment.  The apostle continued to pray for these dear friends.  That spontaneous prayer was an outpouring of his devotion to them.

The Christian life is simple.  Once a person is born again by God’s grace through faith, a journey begins.  It is a spiritual pilgrimage.

This journey is about maturing in faith and bearing good spiritual fruit.  Part of that fruit is impacting the lives of others.  This impact is a mixture of being a witness for Christ and helping others grow in their new found faith.

The lives of others make our life worth living.  When we connect through a spiritual relationship and invest in each other’s lives, we gain something that money can never buy.  It is a fellowship that defines who we are and what gives us the most satisfaction in life.

LAPP (Life Application): Have you invested spiritually in the lives of others?  Take a moment to check into their lives and ask how their walk of faith is going.  Tell them how much they mean to you and that you are deeply encouraged that their faith is growing strong.

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