by pastor david
(1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV) “Pray without ceasing.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT) “Never stop praying.”
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians, from the pen of the Apostle Paul, is all about “Living in the Light of His Coming”. The emphasis throughout is the fact of Christ’s return to the earth for His church and our faith in that immutable fact. Paul is encouraging his readers to live in such a way as to welcome the return of the King; to walk in a manner pleasing to Him and to have a conscience that is not fearful at the thought of standing before our Lord.
As Paul made his closing remarks in Chapter Five, he tells those believers that they already know that “the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (5:2). In light of the imminent return of Christ, Paul then gives a number of practical instructions to guarantee their readiness for His return.
One of the most important directives given is found in (5:17 NKJV), where Paul simply and succinctly instructs his readers to “Pray without ceasing” or “Never stop praying”, as the New Living Translation reads. Obviously, that does not mean for us to go about our daily routine with our head down, our eyes closed, muttering a constant prayer under our breath. Nor does it mean that we are to cloister ourselves away in some monastery, secluded from the world, engaging in non-stop supplication.
What then does “Pray without ceasing” actually mean? To answer that question we must understand the prayer is both an act and an attitude. Not only are we to engage in prayer at specific times and places each day but also, we are to be in a constant attitude of prayer throughout the day.
There must be nothing in our lives about which we cannot pray.
When I think about praying, “without ceasing”, I picture myself walking through my day with Christ walking right by my side, step by step. There are times when we talk. There are times when we are silent. There are times when we laugh and at other times, we cry.
However, no matter where I am or what I am facing, whether comical or catastrophic, Christ is right there beside me, step by step. At times I call out to Him for help. At other times, I seek His advice. Much of the time is spent praising Him for who He is and thanking Him for what He has done in my life and family.
Even when there is no dialogue between us, I have His promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
(Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Have you ever heard of the Second Law of Thermodynamics? It is really quite simple and something we can observe all around us.
According to Christiananswers.net, the Second Law of Thermodynamics can be described like this: “The Second Law of Thermodynamics describes basic principles familiar in everyday life. It is partially a universal law of decay; the ultimate cause of why everything ultimately falls apart and disintegrates over time. Material things are not eternal. Everything appears to change eventually, and chaos increases. Nothing stays as fresh as the day one buys it; clothing becomes faded, threadbare, and ultimately returns to dust. Everything ages and wears out. Even death is a manifestation of this law. The effects of the Second Law are all around, touching everything in the universe”.
You might be wondering why I would bring up such an obscure subject and you have every reason to do so. Well, I was thinking about this fixed law of science because God is not subject to this law. He does not fall apart, disintegrate over time, change, or fade.
As a matter of fact, several Bible passages validate the fact that God is immutable – He does not and cannot change. Malachi 3:6 is just one of many examples. “For I am the Lord, I do not change”. What a comfort this is for us today. The fact that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” brings immense peace in this changing, fluctuating, decaying world in which we live.
Everything we see and touch changes. Everything tangible demands constant maintenance and repair. This is true of our homes, our cars, our clothes, and even our bodies. Left to themselves, all of these and more will decay – but not God, not our Lord Jesus Christ!
As you think about these facts in greater detail, you also realize that God’s Word will never change. Psalm 89:34 “My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.” This means that…
Our God will not change. You may change. I may change. Society may change. The weather will change. But, God will not change! Right here would be a good place to praise the Lord! Amen?!
It is my prayer that these truths will encourage your heart and mind today, as they have mine.
“For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”
Far too often, we look at life from only a momentary and transitory perspective. We look at life now and fail to see life with the long view. We look only at the present and neglect to see the future.
In the Scriptures, we discover that God always takes the long view. For instance, the first prophecy of the coming Messiah was recorded all the way back in the Book of Genesis. The promise that the Messiah would be born of a virgin was given through the pen of Isaiah, hundreds of years before its fulfillment. These are just two of the many examples of God taking the long view.
If we follow the wisdom of The Architect of the Universe, we will do our best to always see our life with the long view. Life is short but the decisions we make each day will have long-lasting consequences, sometimes eternal consequences.
James asked, “What is your life?” Well, it certainly is brief but when you live with the “long view” in mind, the result of your short life will be eternal glory.
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
What a great time of year this is! Christmas is a favorite time of year for many of us. However, for some, it is the most difficult and unpleasant time of the year. This is often true of those who have had some tragedy or traumatic experience close to or connected with the Christmas season.
For instance, I talked with a friend of mine some time ago whose young son died in 2013 on December 23, leaving a wife and three small children. My friend said he was getting more and more despondent as the anniversary date approached.
My own mother passed away on December 23, 1993. Our families had to have our Christmas dinner and gift exchange before we even had her funeral or buried my mother. Naturally, this time of the year can be difficult, as we think of the void left in our lives.
For some, the Christmas holiday is challenging, not because of the death of a loved one, but because of the death of a relationship – a spouse, a child, or a friend. That person who was such an integral part of your life is now absent for reasons beyond your control. This too makes “celebrating” quite arduous.
Having experienced this kind of despondency myself, may I suggest some strategies that have been helpful to me? When you think about your loved one or the loss…
1. Think about what you had, not what you lost.
2. Think of the good, not the bad.
3. Think of what that person was, not what you wish they were now.
4. Think of what they contributed to your life, not the void they left behind.
5. Think about what God gave, not what you have lost.
6. Think about the fact that you are here, with much to accomplish, not the fact that they are not here.
7. If the person was a Christian, think about meeting them again, not about how badly you miss them now.
8. Let Christ be the Lord of your emotions and, therefore, control the way you feel.
9. Give God the glory, no matter the situation.
“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)
Please do not misunderstand me! I am not saying you should try to push your loved one out of your thoughts and memory – just the opposite. Think about them. Talk about them. Share your memories, but just do so from a positive platform and not from the mud of self-pity.
Perhaps you know someone who is experiencing this kind of grief right now. Whether you realize it or not, you can help him or her in tremendous ways. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Spend time with them. Don’t let them seclude themselves in self-pity.
2. Ask them about the person they lost or the situation that is causing the grief. They need to talk about it, even though, initially, they may be reluctant.
3. Don’t panic if they cry. Don’t say, “Please don’t cry”. This is their way of dealing with their grief and is very beneficial.
4. Listen intently. Don’t say, “I know how you feel” if you have never had the same experience.
5. As a matter of fact, don’t try to relate similar experiences in your own life. You are there to talk about them and not you. If you have had similar experiences, listening to them will be therapeutic for you as well. You can talk with someone about your situation at another time.
6. Be cautious about giving advice. They need a listening ear more than a therapist at this point. If you sense God does want you to give advice, make sure it is advice that aligns itself with Scripture.
7. Realize that all of these things are simply part of our responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ and members of the family of God.
(Hebrews 10:25 - New Living Translation)
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourageone another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.”
Yes, Christmas time can be quite challenging for many people. I’ve heard people say, “I hate the Christmas season. I can’t wait till it’s over”. Well, it is really good to know that God understands and is ready and anxious to fill any voids that life may have created in your heart. Additionally, God can use you to help fill those voids in some brother or sister in Christ.
Let’s make Christmas an occasion for true giving - giving our time, giving a listening ear, giving a sympathetic heart.
(Matthew 5:11-12) “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Just imagine that you were taking a walk around your neighborhood and as you passed the fenced-in yard of a neighbor, his dog came running out, barking at you. How would you respond?
Would you say, “How dare that dog bark at me?” Or, “I’m offended that the dog barked at me!” Or, “Dogs should not bark at people.” Would you say, “Let’s get a campaign started to put an end to all dog barking”? Would you be tempted to send out a prayer request asking people to pray for you because you became the object of an animal’s growl?
You certainly would not. Why? Because barking is what dogs do. It is a part of their innate makeup – something they received from birth, over which they have little control. Dogs bark! Live with it!
That being true, then why are we so surprised and appalled when those who do not know Christ as personal Savior and Sovereign bark at us who are followers of Jesus? Why are we so caught off guard and offended when they rush up to our proverbial protective fence and growl at us? Why would we think that the person who does not know God through Jesus Christ would, in any way, agree with our belief system?
In the scenario above, the dog barked because, in his mind, you posed a threat to him. You were invading his territory and he was afraid. The reasons the unbelieving world barks and growls at the Christian are the same. They think you pose a threat to them (their lifestyle might have to change), you are invading their territory (your beliefs and worldview have no place in their culture), and they are afraid (they fear you might indeed be correct).
I have found that the best way to stop a strange dog from barking at me is to try to warm up to the animal. Let him know that you pose no threat and that you want to be his friend. Strangely enough, I think the same approach may work with barking, growling unbelievers.
How will we ever have the opportunity to share the Gospel with them if they fear us or if they perceive that we are a threat to them. How can we witness to them about the love of Jesus if we can’t even get close to them? They must get quiet enough to hear the Gospel for “it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 NKJV).
Our task is difficult but simple. We must engage unbelievers in a conversation about Jesus and that cannot be accomplished from a distance. We must get close to them, without compromising our Biblical convictions, so they will listen to what Christ has done for us. At that point, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to “convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8 NKJV). As I like to remind folk, “The Power is in the Proclamation”!
As we consider those barking antagonists, let me make a few suggestions.
1. Find some common ground with the individual, something non-threatening about which both of you can
2. Listen carefully to his or her story. Ask questions about him. People love to talk about themselves.
3. Share some of your story; your life before and after coming to know Christ.
4. Share as much of His (Christ’s) story as possible. This may not happen in a single discussion. You will probably have to invest time in that person in order to give the whole story of the Gospel.
5. Invite them to church or Bible study or even a casual gathering with some of your Christian friends.
6. Continue to be their friend, regardless of their response to the Gospel. This is a processing generation. It may take time for them to grapple with the truth.
7. Be available to listen and discuss any questions they may have in the future.
8. Pray fervently for their salvation and let them know you are doing so.
Sometimes dogs bark. Live with it. Sometimes unbelievers growl and make a lot of noise. Live with it! Warm up to them. Get close enough to share the good news of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Are you aware that the human mind was never created nor intended to deal with guilt? Yet, guilt is a fundamental problem of mankind and, without a remedy, guilt will ultimately destroy one’s mental and moral wellbeing. This is true of the non-Christian and the Christian alike.
The central message of the Bible concerns God’s Grace for our Guilt. This is the reason God sent His Son into the world to die on Calvary’s Cross. This is why our Church is busy preaching the gospel and witnessing to the lost.
Yes, God provides His amazing grace for our guilt. The classic definition of “grace” is “God’s unmerited favor”. Through God’s marvelous grace, sinners are delivered from their sins and brought into a saving relationship with a holy God by the work of Christ on their behalf - completely free of charge.
However, God is not just the “author”, but also the “finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He not only saves us, He also sustains us. Based on Philippians 2:13, someone has defined grace as, “the desire and the power to do God’s will”. (Philippians 2:13 NLT) “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him”.
Perhaps one of the most succinct statements concerning the remedy for guilt can be found in our text. Here is a crucial factor we must discover about God’s Grace for our Guilt.
The Divine Provision Has Been Made.
(1:7) “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us…”
Such is the radical problem of guilt that it necessitated the sacrifice of God’s only Son, in order to provide an adequate antidote.
(Heb. 9:22b) “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission (no forgiveness or cleansing for sin).
The shedding of Christ’s precious blood means that…
The word “vicarious” simply means “representative”. Paul tells us that the essential message of the Gospel is that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures”. (1 Corinthians 15:3)
Provision was made for a divine exchange.
•My unrighteousness for His righteousness
•My rags for His robe
•My sinfulness for His holiness
•My guilt for His grace
This is the wonder and the mystery of the Gospel. As the hymn says,
“Because my sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
And God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me”[i]
Although the death of Christ on the Cross was a single event in history, its effect is eternal. It “cleanses” – “goes on cleansing”. Now, in the power of that endless life, the Lord Jesus goes on cleansing all who have received Him by simple faith! In every true believer, Jesus Christ lives in all His sanctifying grace and glory. As a result, there is a constant cleansing – not only from the guilt of sin but also from the grip of sin.
The Psalmist, David wrote, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Psalm 32:1)
How wonderful to know that “the blood of Jesus Christ (God’s) Son cleanses us from ALL sin.” (1:7) It does not matter what your sin is or how many, God’s grace can deal both with the guilt of sin and with the grip of sin in your life.
In the words of the old hymn, “Oh For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”,
“He breaks the power of cancelled sin
And sets the prisoner free”.[ii]
Christ not only died as our Sin-Bearer, He now lives as our Advocate, and as such, He pleads the merits of His own finished work before the Father.
(1 John 2:1-2) “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation (covering) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world”
On the Island of Trinidad, there is a crater in an extinct volcano that is completely filled with pitch. This asphalt is hard enough to walk on, even though, here and there, gas escapes in bubbles from its surface. For over 100 years, men have been digging great chunks from this tar-like lake and loading train cars full of it to pave the roads of the world. It is said, however, that no matter how large a hole is made in this Pitch Lake, no cavity will remain after 72 hours, for it immediately fills up from down below.
Such is the grace of God. No matter how great the sin, it cannot exhaust God’s grace nor extinguish God’s love. His grace is sufficient for all our sin – past sins, present sins, and future sins. Amen!?
[i]Keith Getty | Stuart Townend © 2001 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Used by permission: CCLI #11177648
[ii]Oh For a Thousand Tongues to Sing, John Wesley and James Ward, Public Domain
“And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”
It has been my privilege to be engaged in full-time, vocational ministry since 1975. After I served for eight years in Youth Ministry, my Pastor and mentor sensed the call of God to start a new church in Phoenix, Arizona. So on January 1, 1983, at the age of 31, I began to serve as the Senior Pastor of my home church – the church in which I grew up.
Being new to the role of Senior Pastor, I realized I needed to develop a Biblical Philosophy of Ministry that would stand the test of time and the challenges that a changing culture would most naturally bring. Consequently, I spent a great deal of time searching the Scriptures, discovering exactly what a Church ought to be and what a Pastor ought to be and do.
The result of my studies was a multi-page document, which has served as a guideline for my ministry all these years. It begins as follows:
“The expectations held by a congregation of its Pastor are often rather obscure and vary from member to member and from Church to Church. Therefore, I have undertaken the task of outlining the Scriptural goals and principles upon which I intend to serve this great Church.”
What followed was a list of thirteen principles that serve as a roadmap for ministry. Here is the first.
1. I will seek in my entire ministry to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and to promote loyalty to Him before seeking loyalty for Church, Denomination, or self (Colossians 1:18).
As I read that again, after all these years, I must ask myself, “Is this still true of me? Am I still seeking to exalt Christ in all my ministry and that above everything else? Is Christ still preeminent in ‘all things’?”
I am reminded of Matthew 6:33, where Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”. Am I seeking His kingdom or mine? Am I trying to build His kingdom or my kingdom?
The Greek word translated “preeminence” in Colossians 1:18 is, “prōteuōn”, which means, “holding the first place”.
It was the great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, who said, “Christ is either Lord of all, or is not Lord at all”.
I hope you will do as I have been doing today and search your heart. Is there anything outside of the Lordship of Christ and His Kingdom? Is Christ preeminent in all your life? Do you love Him supremely? Are you loyal to Him and Him alone? If the answer to these questions is yes, then rejoice and give God the glory for the opportunity you have to surrender to Him.
(1 Thessalonians 1:2 NKJV)
“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.”
A gentleman reportedly came to Charles Haddon Spurgeon looking for the perfect church. The famous preacher told him he had many saintly people in his congregation, but a Judas could also be among them. After all, even Jesus had a traitor in the company of His Apostles. He went on to say that some might walk disobediently, as had been the case among the believers at Rome, Corinth, Galatia, and Sardis. “My church is not the one you're looking for," said Spurgeon. “But if you should happen to find such a church, I beg you not to join it, for you would spoil the whole thing."
The church will never be perfect until she gets to Glory.
A man once said to me, " Well, I'm not going to church because there are too many hypocrites in the church.” I wanted to say; “There is always room for one more". Instead, I said, “Well you had better not go to hell then, because hell is full of hypocrites.”
Since local churches are made up of sinners saved by God's grace, no church is perfect but some churches are closer to the New Testament ideal than others. The church at Thessalonica was in that category.
At least three times in Paul’s letter to them he gave thanks for this church and the way it had responded to his ministry. (Read 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 2:13, 3:9)
They were examples or models of what Christians and church members should be. (1 Thessalonians 1:7) “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place.”
May I ask you a personal question? Are you thankful for your Church? Are you appreciative of your Pastor(s), your fellow members, and your faithful workers who serve your Church?
More importantly, do you pray for your Church, its leaders, and its workers? Are you the kind of member that any Pastor would love to join his Church?
No, our churches are not perfect and never will be until Christ returns but in the mean time, let us say with the Apostle Paul, “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.”
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.”
One of the things we seldom say to each other is, “I’m afraid”! This is especially the case with men. Even when it is true, we are unwilling to let others know what we are feeling. Perhaps it is our pride that keeps us from being honest and seeking help for our anxieties.
Nevertheless, God knows the things about which we are fearful and has provided everything we need to face our fears! The text above is just one of many such exhortations.
Notice that the “peace” God offers is first…
We see this clearly in the personal pronouns used in the text, “You” and “him”. This is a personal peace offered to you from God, Himself. Jesus said, “I am the good Shepherd” (John 10:11), indicating that He loves and cares for us and proved that by giving “his life for the sheep”. He desperately wants to lead you “beside the still waters”. (Psalm 23:2)
Note also that the “peace” God offers is…
The “peace” God gives is “perfect”, not partial. It is constant, not intermittent. It is continual, not occasional. It is a “peace” with which we should and can be living each day.
However, there is a condition attached to this “perfect peace” and the condition lets us know that the “peace” God offers is also…
Two practical conditions are mentioned here.
• One has to do with our Focus: “whose mind is stayed on You”.
• The other has to do with our Faith: “because he trust in You”.
This “perfect peace” is available to those whose focus and faith are upon Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. The writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us that we can “run with endurance the race that is set before us” by “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). The phrase, “looking unto Jesus” is literally, “fixing our eyes upon Jesus”. Therein lies the secret to our “perfect peace” – letting our focus and our faith rest in Christ.
Years ago we used to sing a song called, “Peace in the Midst of the Storm”. The lyrics are applicable to the text we are examining today.
There is peace in the midst of the storm-tossed life
There is an Anchor; there is a Rock to build my faith upon
Jesus Christ is my vessel so I fear no alarm
He gives me peace in the midst of the storm[i]
When you are going through a storm, today or in the future, remember that God wants to give you a “peace…which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:6-7). Ask Him for that today.
[i]Peace in the Midst of the Storm, Stephen R. Adams © 1978, 1981, 1998 Pilot Point Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
Did you ever ask a child why he did something he should not have done? His reply is usually, “I don’t know” or he simply shrugs his shoulders and gives you that bewildered look.
When you ask a believer why he did something he should not have done, he cannot say, “I don’t know”. He knows why or at least he would know why, if he thought about it for a few moments
The reason the believer sins is because he is selfish. He is thinking only about himself and his pleasure. He is giving no thought to the pain his behavior will cause others or how his misdeeds will break the heart of our Savior who died for him and for his sins.
The text above reveals one of the ways God deals with His children. When we think about how good God is to us, it should lead us to abandon our sins and to determine not to return to them. That is true repentance.
Sometimes difficulties cause us to repent of our sins. When we begin to reap the consequences of our wrongdoing, we are prone to turn from our sin.
But would it not be so much easier on our families and us if we responded to the goodness of God, instead of waiting until God had to discipline us?
Too often we force God to work in our lives in drastic ways instead of responding to His goodness and grace in our lives.
This stubborn response reveals the ingratitude of our sin. We sin because we are not appreciative of all God has done and is doing in our lives. If we could only see all He does for us, all the things from which He protects, all the things He provides for us, and all great things He has planned for us, we would, from a heart of true gratitude, live in such a way as to please Him.
It is the epitome of thanklessness to disgrace the Name of our Lord Jesus by our deliberate and disgraceful sin.
I am thankful today for God’s goodness! If we simply keep Christ and His goodness and grace in our minds when we are tempted to sin, we will be much more successful in saying no to temptation and will enjoy sweet fellowship with our Lord.
Pastor David Boggs
I hope these occasional posts will encourage and challenge you as we grow in Christ together.
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