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IMG_4366Friday night was reserved on our calendar.  When we approached the weekend we talked over our plans, reviewed the events and talked about how meaningful these days would be.  Then the making of a wonderful blessing began.

Friday night was a highlight for us.  We headed out on time to beat the traffic.  Our destination was a simple eatery on the other side of the freeway from our church.

Tonight we were going to the celebration of the ten-year anniversary of our pastor and his family at our church.  It is amazing to consider an entire decade of service for our pastor and his family.  He even stuck around when he succeeded a three decade stint by his predecessor.

Thousands of cheerful supporters filled the church building.  The worship was powerful.  Love was all over the place.

When our pastor was invited up to the platform, the applause was enthusiastic and sustained.  His smile was broad.  His family was basking in a massive display and expression of love.

For a moment I felt for all the pastors who have never experienced that outpouring of devotion.  They have served faithfully only to be beaten down by those who criticize, hold secret gatherings, complain anonymously and mete out miserly compensation.  Do not be one of those.

Nevertheless, these shepherds tirelessly serve, constantly study and face heartbreaking moments where they were the sole source of encouragement.  Their faithfulness slipped by the notice of most and was remembered in detail only by God.  He knows all and never forgets.

There are always those who point to bad ministers.  However, those few are small in number compared to the neglected in ministry.  Encourage your pastor, give your heart to him.  Yes, discern wisely but embrace him with love and encouragement.

We had great conversations with people around us that evening when we honored our pastor.  His personality has been pervasive in our lives.  Warmth, welcome and cheer are ways that he addresses us and so we do the same with each other.

God is blessing our pastor with a powerful ministry in our city and beyond.  His teaching is Biblical, balanced and practical.  People take notes and live what they taught.

Gifts of affection were bestowed.  Flowers filled the arms of his wife.  Each of his children enjoyed holding on to a special memento.

Humility, humor and honesty marked his words.  We love our pastor and his family!  Encourage your pastor and watch what God will do.

photo credit: brucefong photography

1 Thessalonians 3.1-5

When our children went off to college it was a time of celebration.  They had reached a benchmark life stage that would be a memory and strategic time in their lives.  It was a big deal for all three of our children.  Expensive things like that have a way of searing our memories.  Of course their mother’s emotional moments these “Good-byes” into tough episodes that sear in another kind of way.  We fathers react to the economic impact of great life events and realize a few moments too late that we have been calloused and void of appropriate feelings.

At the same time while burying my embarrassment, I also began to ponder the spiritual side of matters as well.  Driving away from those drop-off times afforded me many long moments of wondering.  Had I prepared them spiritually to now face the world on their own?  Did I help them develop enough convictions that most of their choices would be good ones?  When they unpack their bags and sit down in their classes, would the family work ethic kick in?  Finances are a big deal for everyone; would our children handle those issues well?

I tried to relax about these thoughts.  There was no way that I wanted to be helicopter parent, hovering over my children.  It was release time.  I knew that it was coming.  God graciously gave me 18 years to invest in their lives.  Now, it was time to see if they would fly on their own.

Admittedly, I devoured every letter, email and telephone call that came my way.  Any news of their life away from home was fair game.  However, I wanted to know how they were doing in their walk with Jesus.  It was a desire that needed to be satisfied.

Paul felt these pangs of his insatiable appetite.  His investment into the lives of the Christians in Thessalonica was not just a part of his job description.  He loved these Christians like they were his own family.  Their spiritual well-being was very close to his heart.

Not knowing how these Christians were fairing in the faith was intolerable to Paul.  He was not worried just deeply concerned.  In a world that knew very little about speedy communication, he finally decided to be left alone while sending Timothy to go back to Thessalonica and bring back a firsthand report on the spiritual condition of these dearly loved saints.  It was a sacrifice that Paul was willing to make for it meant that he would be left alone.  That is how much he hungered for information about those he loved.

Timothy was introduced by Paul’s writing with noticeable fanfare.  Perhaps Timothy was young for such a responsible task. Paul assured these Christians that Timothy was sent to strengthen their faith. He would minister to them and firm up their commitment to their belief in the Savior.  Also, he would help them find the courage to fight their spiritual challenges well.

Paul also had assigned Timothy to aid these Christians along the path of endurance.  Trials plagued their faith walk.  The apostle did not want the persecutions to “shake” their faith.  This is an old word meaning to wag the tail or beguile.  That is as a dog wags its tail, trouble has a way of making person question their faith, going back and forth, wondering about what is true and what is not.

Instead of doubting where they were in God’s plan or His will, believers can look at trials from a different perspective.  Difficulties usually come into our lives because of a corrective or additive measure.  God may want to correct a sin, disobedience or wayward direction.  If that is the case, then confess your sin, apply 1 John 1.9.  Or if there is no sin or disobedience, then He may want to add something in our lives.  Growing requires strengthening.  That does not always feel good.  In fact like an athlete in training, to get stronger includes pain.

Whatever the case for the trials in their lives, Paul wanted to discover how they were doing.  He did not just wonder or worry.  Instead, he acted to find out and sent help to them through Timothy.

There are several inevitable guarantees in life.  We joke about the two: taxes and death.  However, for Christians it is certain that trials will visit our lives as well.  As one comedian once quipped, “Life is just one darn thing after the next.”  His words were not as polite as my adjustments.  Nevertheless, the point is the same.  We cannot escape trials. Instead, we should persevere, make sure that any sins are confessed and then let the struggles help strengthen our faith.

Knowing that this dynamic happens in all of our lives, we should encourage those people that we disciple.  Check in on their faith.  If they are not in trials now, they will be soon enough. Keep cheering them on and encourage them to trust in the Lord and keep their faith rock solid.  It will be an investment that will return remarkable dividends.  This is how a genuine relationship functions.

LAPP (Life Application):  Think about the lives of people in whom you have considerable spiritual investment.  How are they doing?  Check up on them.  Pray for them and let them know that you are.  Seek out a tangible way to encourage and strengthen their faith.

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