You’re Doing It Wrong

1 Thessalonians 2:13
“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

A few days ago I was working at my computer using a program that had been updated with new features. While I had used the program before, these new features added elements with which I was unfamiliar. I was having trouble with what should have been a pretty simple task. Each time I tried to make it do what I wanted, the program would override my action, doing something else to the document. In frustration, I called out for help from one of the other pastors, who is quite computer savvy. When he came to my aid I said, “This stupid thing is not working.” To which he replied. “That’s because you are doing it wrong.” After a moment of being offended, I realized he was right and I humbled myself allowing him to show me the correct way to work the program. I was delighted to find it was not the program that was being stupid, and the upgrades were actually quite helpful. But what does that have to do with our text?

“The word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

I have heard people say something to the effect of, “I tried reading the Bible, but it did not work for me.” Others, might even goes so far as to say, “I tried Jesus, it did not work.” To which I think the proper response would be, “you are doing it wrong.” Notice that Paul speaks of the effectiveness of the Word of God to work in the life of the believer. He actually lists three necessities if we want the Word of God to work effectively in us.

You received the word of God which you heard from us”

First, they took the time to hear the Word of God. We read in Romans that “faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). The first step to being transformed by God’s Word is to receive the Word. We must put ourselves in a place where we are ingesting the Word of God on a regular basis. This includes the need for daily Bible reading, as well as church attendance, where we are being taught through the Word of God. Sadly, not all churches teach the Word. Find one that emphasizes the Bible and teaches through it.

“. . .you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, . . .”

Second, as they read through the Word, or heard Paul teach, they recognized these were not the opinions of man to be argued with, updated or discarded. Instead, they realized the Bible is in fact, the Word of God given to man. Writing to Timothy, Paul declared the Word of God is inspired and profitable. We all like that word profit, it means we gain from it. When we understand the Bible is of great value, take the time to listen to it, not to argue with God, or try to conform its teaching to fit our lifestyles, we will find that it effectively works in us.

“. . . the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

Finally, Paul declares when they heard the Word, it was coupled with faith. They believed God wanted to do exactly what He said and they expected to see those things worked out in their lives. I recently read a tweet that said, “If you are not praying for a miracle you probably won’t get one.” The same idea is true when reading the Word. If you do not believe what God is saying, you are not going to be willing to put it into practice, and you will find yourselves accusing the Word of God of being impotent, instead of effectual.

Allow me to encourage you to approach your Bible as the Word of God, receiving it daily, trusting in its warnings and promises, so you, like the Thessalonians, may find that it has effectively worked in you.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Isaiah 25- Storms
Isaiah 26- War And Peace

Companions

I Thessalonians 1:1
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy . . .”

Serving Jesus is a team sport. If we are going to be effective, we must establish godly relationships with others who want to follow and serve Christ. Their lives, and commitment to Christ, will serve to propel us forward, just as ours does the same for them. In my earliest years of following Christ, a particular song was sung for almost every altar call, or response time, after a message. One line went, “I have decided to follow Jesus, though none go with me still I will follow, no turning back.” I remember clearly, grappling with the idea that if everyone of my friends walked away from the Lord, I would remain following Him. I believe we all must come to the point where we decide we will live for Christ, regardless of what others do. At the same time, I also realized, I needed help if I would succeed in this venture. I began to look for others who were committed to Christ, others whose example I could follow, and whose life would propel me to serve Christ more. Even the Apostle Paul understood this. We find when he ventured out to serve the Lord, he did not do it alone.

“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy . . .”

We know a lot about Paul and Timothy. Much of the Book of Acts tells Paul’s story, and many of the New Testament books were written by him. Timothy was an early traveling companion of Paul, who later became a pastor, and was the recipient of two of Paul’s letters. Silvanus (also called Silas) is a little more obscure character in Scripture; although with a little digging, we can learn much from his life. We are first introduced to him in Acts 15, where he accompanies Paul and others, delivering a letter written by the Apostles to the gentile believers, outside the borders of Israel. He is called a prophet, and described as a man who, “risked his life for the name of Christ” (Acts 15:26). After delivering the letter, Silas joined Paul and Barnabas in the ministry at the church in Antioch. It was there Silas saw a remarkable difference in the atmosphere of the church. While Jerusalem was constantly doing battle with legalists who wanted to add regulations to relationship with Christ, Antioch was marked by the grace of God. The atmosphere of the ministry was one that allowed Jesus to get a hold of people’s lives and transform them, by the Spirit, and through the Word. Having seen this, Silvanus decided not to return to Jerusalem, but to join Paul in his ministry endeavors.

“But Paul chose Silas . . .” Acts 15:40

Not long after joining the ministry team in Antioch, Silas was asked to join Paul, as he ventured out on his second missionary journey. They would visit the churches he had started on his first trip, and take the Gospel to farther unreached areas. From this point, Silas became a vital part of the mission work of the early church. While their travel was filled with wild experiences and great adventure, Silas is perhaps most well know for what happened in Philippi. It was there, he and Paul were arrested and imprisoned. Rather than complaining about the trial and how unfair it was for a child of God to suffer, they took the solitude as an opportunity to worship. Acts 16 records how, in the middle of the night, bearing the wounds of being beaten, and wearing the chains of incarceration, Paul and Silas began to worship. Of all the musicians who have ever been recorded, I wish we had a CD of those songs. Two men, facing great suffering, and perhaps even execution, lifting up their voices and celebrating the Lord.

It is exciting to read the stories of men who risked their lives for Christ. Their time has passed, and the mantle must be passed on to another generation. Will you pick it up? Will you be willing to commit yourself to Christ, and surround yourself with others who will propel you forward, as you follow and serve Jesus?

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Isaiah 23- Don’t Go Back
Isaiah 24- Priority Seating

Get To Work

Colossians 4:17
“And say to Archippus, ‘Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.’”

Paul closes out his letter to the Colossians by referring to the ministries of a number of believers. Luke, Mark and Barnabas are very well-known, while others, like Tychicus and Epaphras, are a little less familiar to some of us. In each case, Paul is referring to them in a positive light, and speaking of the effectiveness of their ministries. Tychicus was the faithful traveler who delivered this letter, and others, to its recipients. Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus are mentioned as fellow prisoners and fellow workers for the Kingdom, while Epaphras is called a bondservant, and described as one who labors fervently for the salvation of others. Tucked away in this list of giants, men who had a significant impact upon this world for God’s Kingdom, is reference to a man named Archippus. While we know very little about him, (he is mentioned only here and in Philemon), we do find him the subject of an important exhortation.

“And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

While we are not given great detail, we can surmise from what Paul writes, that Archippus had been called and equipped by God for a certain ministry and he was neglecting to fulfill it. It may have been during a Bible study, that Archippus was first stirred with the sense that God might want to use him. He may have contacted the leadership of his church and received prayer and instruction on the matter. However he received the call of God, it is quite apparent he was not doing that which God had called him. Paul’s exhortation might be paraphrased as “Archippus, get busy.”

I think his story is an all too common one. I believe, many of us have sensed the call of God on our lives as it relates to serving the Lord in our homes, churches and community, only to be discouraged by our own weaknesses or by the greatness of the task. Some have taken the initial steps to fulfill the call of God, only to be disheartened, and find themselves on the sidelines, watching. Paul’s exhortation to us is “take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” Get busy and get to work! While there may be a long list of excuses justifying why we are not currently serving the Lord, these are all trumped by the fact that God has called you, and He will always equip those whom He calls. If you do not sense that you are equipped, it may be because you are not doing what He asks. There was no reason for Peter to be buoyant until his feet touched the water. (Matthew 14:25-30)

It is encouraging to note, there is one further reference to Archippus in Scripture. He is mentioned in Paul’s letter to Philemon, where he is called a fellow soldier. It seems he took the exhortation seriously. He got busy doing what God had called him to do, the kingdom was furthered, and he was honored. If you are not sure what God has called you to do, simply sit before Him and make yourself available. Jesus said we should pray for more laborers for the harvest is awaiting.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Isaiah 21- Good New From The Bad News
Isaiah 22- One Nation Under God

I Haven’t Been This Way

Colossians 3:1
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.”

Sin is a killer. It is guilty of taking the spiritual life from all of us. God warned Adam that if he disobeyed the command of God and partook of what was forbidden, he would die. While many years transpired before his physical death, the moment Adam sinned, he experienced spiritual death, or separation from God. Since we are sons and daughters of Adam, we have all joined him in his sin and its consequences. The remedy for that condition is faith in Christ. The moment we put our trust in the work of Christ on the cross, our sins are forgiven, and we who were dead in sin, come alive to God. Jesus called that being “born again.” Paul calls it being raised with Christ. Since this is such a miraculous event, it should have tremendous impact on the way we live our lives. Paul goes on to give a series of exhortations, all predicated on the fact that, we who were dead have been made alive.

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2

While it is necessary to be earthly minded in the sense of meeting our responsibilities, caring for the needs of others, and impacting our world for the kingdom of heaven, it is completely unnecessary for us to be carnally minded. No more, should our thoughts be filled with the pursuits of the flesh. Instead, we should set our minds to think of ways to live righteously and love others.

“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth . . . ” Colossians 3:5

Paul is echoing the words of Jesus when He said, “if your eye causes you to sin pluck it out” Sometimes, we must take radical action against those traits that lead us to sin. If we are having a problem with one particular sin, we must take radical action to ensure we make it more and more difficult to fail.

“But now you yourselves are to put off all these . . .” Colossians 3:8

Paul lists the things that were part of our lives before coming to Christ; things we must eradicate from our lives now. While those things might have been acceptable before you came to Christ, they have no part in your life now.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on…” Colossians 3:12

Paul never reduced Christianity to what we don’t do. To him, meeting Christ meant a total transformation of our life. Old habits and actions would be replaced with new ones. After all, we are new creations in Christ, the old has passed away and all things have become new. The way I look at God, and the way I treat others, should be transformed since coming to Christ.

“Wives… Husbands… Children… Bondservants…”

A transformed life results in transformed relationships. Many of us grew up with poor relationship examples. Perhaps your parents divorced, or you had a particularly cruel father or distant mother. Often, those examples impact the way we treat our spouse and children. Without even knowing it, we are following the patterns set for us. The remedy for that is to look at each relationship in light of Christ. Paul gives us fresh insight into how a husband and wife are to relate to one another, how parents and children should treat each other, and what we should be doing at work. Our Christianity should radically affect the life we live.

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, . . ” Colossians 3:23

Before coming to Christ, my life was consumed with pleasing me. Now that I have been born again, my desires should be to please God, above all things. Paul exhorts us to look at life through the lens of pleasing God. Whatever we are doing, we should do it as unto the Lord.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Isaiah 19- The Whole World
Isaiah 20- Giving It Your All

Treasure

Colossians 2:3
“. . . in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Knowledge is a word which speaks of information. We increase in our knowledge of God as we read the Word of God and walk with Him daily. However, wisdom is another thing all together. We might define it as “the proper application of knowledge,” or more simply as, “knowing what to do.” How many times have you faced decisions in life where you were not sure what to do, because you have not been that way before? Wisdom is acquired by experience, by careful observation of the experience of others, or by receiving it from heaven.

Notice, Paul writes “All wisdom is hidden in Christ.” We can find great comfort in knowing, while we might not know what we are doing, Christ has been that way before and can provide direction through the fog of life. Notice also, Paul says this wisdom is hidden in Christ. It is not something hidden from us, so we cannot have it, but something hidden so we will seek after it. The primary purpose of salvation is to know God, and wisdom is hidden in Him so we will seek Christ more. The question is, how do we access the wisdom that is hidden in Christ?

James 1:5
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

The first step is to pray. We are exhorted to understand, that through prayer, we can cast all burdens at the feet of Jesus. Sometimes, the greatest burden can be facing situations for which we have no answers. Parenting can certainly be like that. As the children grow, we are constantly walking down roads we have never traveled before. We want desperately to make decisions that will positively impact our children for the kingdom of heaven, and ensure they have a bright and successful future. The problem is, we often do not have a clue as to what we are doing. It is encouraging to know, “in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom”. The secret to receiving His wisdom through prayer, is to be willing to do things His way. Sometimes, we do not seek the mind of God, because we have already determined we do not want to do what He says.

Deuteronomy 4:6
“Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”

Prayer is where we ask questions, and the Word of God is where we find answers. Sometimes, we will pray for things, then spend our time thinking up a solution, without considering what God has written to us in His Word. Israel was told, if they followed the teaching of the Word of God, it would lead to wisdom, and the people around them would be shocked at how smart they were. You see, doing what God says, even when it might not make sense, will always lead to the wisest roads. Other people, when the fruit of those decisions come to light, will be shocked at how smart you seem, all because you chose to do things God’s way.

If you are in need of wisdom because you are on a road you have never traveled before, or perhaps you went the wrong way in the past, the key is to lay your life out before the Lord in prayer. Then sit before His Word, and allow Him to write your road map for you. Using a concordance can be helpful to look up the subjects you are facing, and is a great way to learn to think and act Biblically.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Isaiah 17- Syria
Isaiah 18- Unstable

Seeing The Invisible

Colossians 1:15
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”

The heart of man cries out for God. From the small child, to the individual who has faced a devastating loss, or grueling pain, their hearts cry out to know God. In an attempt to answer the heart’s cry, men create God in their own image. Some have invented a vast, complicated religious system, while others have checked out. They have decided, with all the different religions, no one can know for sure. To this Paul has a simple answer,

“He is the image of the invisible God, . . .”

While we cannot see God with the natural eye, we do not have to live our lives as though He is hidden from us. In order to answer the cry of the heart, God sent His Son, so we would forever know who God is, and what He is like. There is no need to use our imaginations or experiences in an attempt to create a God who fits our liking. We just need to open the pages of the Bible and see for ourselves who God is. As we watch Jesus walk the streets of Israel, encountering people in their real life situations, we learn how God feels about us, and what He desires to do in our lives. We see Him reaching out to the hurting, with a hand of compassion, and we learn that He cares about our needs, concerns and pain. We watch as He interacts with sinners, and we find, in all our sin, He still loves us. He desires to forgive our sins and bring us to Himself. We know He spent time, daily, with those who chose to follow Him, revealing the secrets of eternity to them. We learn, as we walk with Him daily, He will speak to us. He even takes common men, whose lives would have gone unnoticed by the world, and uses them to make a mark on the world. Their service will outlast their lives, and they will store up treasures in heaven that will last forever.

Jesus is the image of the invisible God. We no longer have to guess who God is, or what He is like. We just need to know Jesus. Instead of listening to all the voices screaming out of confusion, attempting to explain a God they have never seen, let’s go to the pages of the Bible and meet Jesus face-to-face. What an amazing God we have, that He would take on the form of man to reveal Himself to us.

Why not pray right now and ask God to reveal Himself to you?

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Isaiah 15- Wrong Number
Isaiah 16- Count Down

 

Your Account

Philippians 4:17
“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.”

As this letter comes to a close, Paul is careful to thank the Philippian church for their generosity. On numerous occasions they had sent aid to Paul, enabling him to continue in the ministry. Although he was not their pastor, they placed a high value on the activities he was undertaking for the kingdom, and sent financial support, as he took the Gospel around the world. Because of the sensitivity of the subject of giving, Paul is careful to sandwich it between two very important ministry principles.

 Philippians 4:11
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content . . .”

Paul was not looking at ministry as a way to make a living, or live a comfortable life. He saw the ministry for what it actually was, the call of God to bring the message of salvation to a dying world. As a result, he learned to be content in whatever condition he found himself. At times, Paul saw large numbers come to Christ and was able to focus his time and energies exclusively on ministry, since the church provided for his physical needs. Other times, whether by need or principle, Paul chose to work with his hands to provide for his needs, so as not to be a burden to others. In doing this, he learned he could be content with the call of God when things were comfortable, or when they were difficult.

Philippians 4:19
“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Often, when we hear preachers talk about giving, they make it sound as though the driving force behind ministry is money. They seem to imply, if you don’t give, the work of God will not continue. In a subtle way, they are saying God needs your cash because He cannot finance His own endeavors. Paul did not see it that way. He believed God would always supply what was needed for what He calls us to do.

Philippians 4:17
“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.”

Paul’s reason for discussing giving was not to manipulate the people into giving more, or to help finance a vision that he was developing. Instead, he was actually concerned for their personal growth. Knowing God would always provide for His own needs, Paul saw giving for what it truly is, an opportunity to trust the Lord, and grow in Christ. The same is true whether we are giving of our time, talents, or treasure. When we come to the place where we are willing to say “I am going to take however little or much I have, and give it to the Lord” It is then, that we are investing in things that are eternal. As a result, we begin to experience growth that we have never had before. Whether it is money, or serving in one capacity or another, do not look at giving to your local church as a burden, but as an opportunity to grow. As you step forward in faith, trusting yourself and all you have into the hands of Jesus, you will find that you begin to bear fruit in your life like never before. Serving Jesus with all you are, and all you have, is the fast track to growing in Christ and storing treasures in the life to come.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Isaiah 13- Shaky
Isaiah 14- Pride Before A Fall