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IMG_3445The modern Israeli freeway signs pointed to Caesarea Martima, a national park just north of Tel Aviv.  It was our destination on our tour of the Holy Land.  Geographically and historically, it was a good place to begin our exploration of the Land.

This city by the sea was built by Herod the Great in honor of Caesar Augustus.  The archaeologically rich site is the only place where Pontius Pilate is given a place in history outside of the Bible.  He is the one, as governor, sentenced Jesus Christ to death by crucifixion.  His name is written in stone as one of the governors of this amazing city.

Our intimate tour group of 800 strong, transported by 18 buses, piled into the ancient amphitheater.  We experienced our first of several phenomenal worship services.  Powerful songs knitted our hearts together.

Israel 2014 IFL 020A gifted thespian donned ancient garb and delivered a rendition from King Herod.  We reflected over the visits to this regal city by Peter and Paul during the church’s early beginnings and initial missionary journeys.

When the morning message started, so did the weather.  The wind kicked into high gear.  Umbrellas went up to shield us against the rain.

Israel 2014 IFL 028The swirling gusts upturned many umbrellas.  We huddled together and survived the distraction.  All of the lead worshipers were spared electrocution.

Then, we walked.  Our guides called their groups of 40.  Through the world of personal electronics and varying frequencies, we each tuned into our assigned guides and walked through the ruins of this ancient city.

Peter once was here.  Perhaps it was here that he baptized Cornelius.  Maybe here the Apostle Paul boarded a ship that launched the missionary journey that forever marked how Christianity was constantly broadcasting the good news of Jesus to the entire world.

Israel 2014 IFL 041Long ago thousands lived in luxury and were introduced to God’s plan to bring salvation and joy to a world that needed hope for the eternity that awaited each one once their days on earth were done.  Paul may have suffered the humiliation of imprisonment here.  A ship may have picked him up in this very port city and brought him to his final days in Rome.

While lives of the first church were once active here and her enemies may have tried to resist this new faith born out of the Resurrected Jesus, the Gospel began and would explode around the world at this very port.  This is very well where the church ignited a worldwide lifesaving movement.  It is still growing today.

photo credit: brucefong photography and cellphone photography

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1 Thessalonians 3.11-13

My bride and I poured a healthy chunk of our lives into Michigan.  We loved our days with amazing people.  Memories fill our hearts from events, victories, relationships and growth while in the Mitten State.

Time marches on and our Sovereign God moved us to serve in another part of the vineyard.  Yet, we both kept in touch with special people whose friendship proved itself over time.  We wondered if we would ever get a chance to enjoy them face to face again.

There were unexpected times when we would stumble across a picture, a memento or a souvenir from our days in the Great Lakes.  We would reminisce.  Often we would say to each other, “Remember when” and then we would finish the thought or even add to the others rendition.

God has a way of putting a longing in our hearts.  Then, in His mysterious ways He makes circumstances align so that we can fulfill that longing.  He is very good to us that way.

The Apostle Paul had this depth of longing to be with the Christians at Thessalonica.  He even prayed that God would make it possible for him to make that journey safely, removing any obstacle that would impede that reunion.  In his prayer he automatically identified that the Father and Jesus are both God.

The grammar and vocabulary support this as a theological reality for him.  Furthermore, this prayer is not relegated to secondary staff to carry it out but the Father himself is featured at the priority position of the request.  Jesus is included with the title of Master, which is consistent with the acknowledging of His deity.

In his petition he asked God to “clear the way” for this venture.  Literally, this means to “make straight” a path.  It is a metaphorical term that gives the picture of taking a winding road and figuratively pulling it at both ends so that it is now straight.  Paul wants to enjoy their fellowship as soon as possible and not have any delays or obstacles spoil their meeting up again.

The prayer of Paul is captivating. He is asking that God increase their love.  This is one of those Kingdom values that can never be done in excess.

Those who follow Christ should not just see their love grow and increase but it should overflow.  An abundance of anything that is overflowing paints a rich picture of bounty.  It fits what love, Christian love is.

Nothing about this description is comfortable in solitary.  Relationships make the difference.  The application of love is all about being a blessing to others.

No one is left out in the application of enjoying the abundance of love.  Paul not only includes each believer but he gives a catch-all phrase just in case any else thought that they were uniquely left out.  This may mean that even non-believers are to benefit from Christian love.  Certainly, Paul interjects that he along with his fellow servants are loving them too.

While these very special people were all about exercising selfless love toward each other and those who were not in the church, they still could improve.  They needed strengthening in their spirits.  Faith, one of the parts of that famous trio of love and hope, is a perpetual focus of development.  It is a dynamic that keeps increasing until eternity is reached.

There is nothing in this instruction about perfection.  No one can reach that state because we are all human.  Nor is it a process that has flawlessness as our goal.   This term, “blameless” means that in an objective arena accusations that are thrown at us do not stick.

The term “holy” does not mean perfect either.  Rather, it means “called to a special purpose” that is, God has given us a divine directive to do His will.  To be holy in His presence is to have been faithful in doing His will in our lives.

All Christians look forward to seeing Jesus return in their lifetime.  That eagerness is an expression of the love that dominates their lives.  Someday all who belong to the family of God will see Him.  Some will receive the privilege to be on the earth when Jesus returns, just as He promised that He would.

When Jesus comes again, He will be accompanied by Christians who have already died and been in heaven.  They will join Jesus for the great gathering with believers who will be taken directly to heaven.  It is a mysterious and wonderful prophetic event to anticipate.

LAPP (Life Application): Let love be a primary driver in your life.  Be a responsible Christian at work and with all of your responsibilities.  Yet, also look for the opportunities to love on the people that your routine brings your way.  When you pray and request that God bless those who have blessed you, then, seek the opportunity to be with them in fellowship.  Then, cheer each other on in anticipation of Jesus’ eventual coming again.

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