Category Archives: Archived

Verses To Struggle Over

Often, as I read the Bible, I come to passages that cause me problems.  Statements made that challenge me, make me struggle.  Here is one that has haunted me for decades,

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Phil. 1:21

As I read Paul’s words it’s clear he has a level of understanding, a relationship with God that I have yet to achieve.  Yes, like Paul, I want my life to be all about Christ, but it’s not.  I get busy and forget about him.  Sorry, but I really do.  Here I am, doing “God’s work” and so busy about it that I forget about him.  I’m not sure how in the world I can do that, but I must be honest….it happens often.

What does it look like to say and live out, “For me to live is Christ”?  This is what has bothered me, challenges me and caused struggles for me for decades.  I want to walk with him, and for a few minutes at a time I find I can, but then the world attacks and I forget, I get busy and off I go…”serving God”.

For a long time I told people this was my life verse, but as I grew in faith it soon became clear I had no idea what it meant. For me to live is Christ….those words challenge me, convict me and leave me without words.

I hope, one day before I’m done with this life, I will understand just a bit of what Paul means when he says, “For me to live is Christ.”  I long for that, want that, desire that to be true in me, but I know that I don’t even understand what that means yet.

And never mind the rest of the verse….to die is gain!  That will be another visit.

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom is a riveting story of faith, hope and complete trust in the Lord during a time that is nothing short of horrific.

This true account of a family that helped Jews without regards to their own well being, will have you on the edge as you listen to Corrie’s recollection of the events that led up to her family’s imprisonment in a Nazi Concentration camp. Their home was the hub for the underground activities that was responsible for saving the lives of hundreds of Jews.

The grace through the episodes of testing and the miracle of 100 ration cards for food, all under the cover of a small watch shop will remind you that as long as you are willing, God is able.

The Sisters faith and trust as they were “thankful in all things”, including a flea infestation, will walk you through the dark days of World War II. Thinking of others, before, during and after the Concentration Camp imprisonment. Corrie’s detailed memories will have you searching your own heart, looking for all the wonderful blessings that are bestowed upon you each day.

The Narrator, Bernadette Dunne is exceptional! I listened with ease and excitement as I imagined it was Corrie, herself recounting the events over a warm cup of coffee.

I strongly urge you to get this book, listen and let your heart be blessed as you are reminded how living unselfishly, giving what you can, making a difference for others regardless of your circumstances is truly the greatest life of all.

I’d like to thank Christian Audio for the complimentary copy of this book through your Reviewers’ program. Follow Christian Audio on Twitter here.

Other Books from Corrie Ten Boom

Whales, Worthless Idols and Grace (Revised)

I wrote these words a few years ago.  Today they ring even clearer as our world chases worthless idols.  All around us is the quest for the idols of the world…fame, success, money…and yet in the quest for those things we forfeit the most important thing. Your choice (and mine) is simple…worthless idols or grace.  You can’t have both.

I came to Jonah chapter two this morning and as I read I stopped at verse 8. Rather, verse 8 stopped me! I read it over at least 10 times as I thought about Jonah’s words,

Jonah 2:8- “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”
These words were part of Jonah’s prayer when he finally gave in to God’s will as he sat in the belly of the big fish. At the end of this prayer God instructs the fish to spit him out and Jonah finally obeys God’s commands to him.
But let me camp for a minute on this verse…”Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”
I honestly had never seen this verse before. It had to be there for the first time today. I know I have read this passage hundreds of times before, but I never saw this. It’s profound! It’s life changing to me. When we cling to the worthless idols of our lives we forfeit (miss, give up) the grace that COULD BE OURS. You can’t hold onto your idols and grasp grace as well. You have to let go of one to find the other.
I looked up the definition of forfeit for this discussion and here’s what it means: “something to which the right is lost, as for commission of a crime or misdeed, neglect of duty, or violation of a contract.” Another way of saying this is, “Those who cling to worthless idols lose the right to the grace that could be theirs.”
What idols are you clinging to that make you forfeit the grace that could be yours?
What benefits of grace have we given up to have something worthless instead?
Let me invite you to meditate on this verse for a bit and share your thoughts…in the belly of the big fish Jonah has shared with us an amazing truth to help us contrast the grace of God and any other option. It is, ultimately, the choice between the Christian faith and any other- grace or worthless idols. Cling to one and you will forfeit the other.
Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

Still He Speaks

Ps 46:10 BE STILL…and know that I AM God

Romans 10:17 – Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God

Sometimes when everything is going great – we forget to listen to the Lord – Still HE speaks

Sometimes the tears flow daily – we forget to listen to the Lord – Still He Speaks

Sometimes the laughter fills our hearts – we forget to listen to the Lord – Still He speaks

Sometimes discouragement steals our joy – we forget to listen to the Lord – Still He speaks

Sometimes anger robs us of our compassion – we forget to listen to the Lord – Still HE speaks

Sometimes hatred blinds our way – we forget to listen to the Lord – Still HE speaks

Sometimes daily activities keeps us busy and we forget to listen to the Lord – Still HE speaks

Sometimes weariness causes us pull away and we forget to listen to the Lord – Still He speaks

Sometimes…..we forget to listen to the Lord – STILL HE Speaks

Will you hear?

Will you trust?

Will you listen?

Still… He speaks

 

Visit Marie at SpreadingJoy for more and support her as she spreads JOY!

Barren

God does his best work with barren things.Barren Blog

He built nations from barren wombs.
Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was barren and yet from her God built a nation of millions!
Elizabeth was barren and from her came John the Baptist.
In Exodus 17 God led his people into a barren desert and in a place where there was no water he made a river for them to drink.
God does his best work with barren things.
He works with barren lives, lives ravaged by failure, sin, loss, and wasted years.
He works with barren things so the world will see his glory and greatness.
Have you felt like a failure?  Have you wasted your years?  Do you think you’re not good enough, not smart enough, have nothing to offer?  Then you are just the person God can use.  He loves working with barren things, broken lives,  and failures, because through what the world considers “barren” God works miracles!
“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.””
Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

Forgiveness

What should we do when people to whom we have given our trust betray that trust?

Should we be angry and refuse to trust those people again?

What if our car breaks down, causing us great frustration and inconvenience? Do we not take the proper steps to fix it so we can drive it again? If we can’t get it fixed…..do we never drive a car again because it might break down? Will our anger from that instance of failure  continue to cause us frustration by keeping us from wanting to have another car? Will that anger make us feel any better as we walk everywhere?

We may be justified in not trusting a car again, but does that really solve the issue at hand or just make us feel more justified in our anger?

Could it be possible that the person who let us down is really a good person, but made a mistake unintentionally? If so, wouldn’t we be hurting ourselves if we refused to trust that someone again? After all, we must have thought they were good people before they made a mistake, so isn’t there a chance that they are still a good person?

It would seem that the best way to solve an issue, would be to first let the anger and disappointment of that situation go….

We need to ask ourselves.……is the reason we are having a difficult time forgiving someone the result of not being able to come to terms with the issue at hand? It seems that if we are able to free ourselves of these negative emotions and first solve the situation, then it really wouldn’t be that hard to forgive the person or persons involved….

If we refuse to forgive and never trust a person again, are we possibly robbing ourselves of real growth? Could it be that the solution to solving a particular issue lies with the very person we refuse to forgive?

If you made a mistake, would you want your friends to give up on you?

Seems that is what forgiveness is all about….

God forgave you didn’t he?

 

God’s Plans…

In the last week our family has been praying for something very specific….sunset_sailing….it didn’t happen.Now comes the normal responses of all of us as we seek to know what God is doing…

I prayed, why didn’t he answer?

This was really important to me, how could he not do it?

Is there really a God at all if he doesn’t answer prayers like this?

How can I trust him when he knew how important this was?

Why pray at all if he doesn’t answer anyway?

I’m sure you could add a dozen other questions to this list that you have asked as the plans and prayers you hoped for didn’t come true, didn’t materialize.

What is God doing? What’s his plans for us?  How do we navigate this topic of prayer when often the things we ask for are very important to us?  Now what?  Can we trust him?  Should I even pray for things again since he didn’t answer this prayer?  Doesn’t he know how important this was to me?

The emotions of unanswered prayer are intense.  The hoped for expectations that are crushed by a prayer unanswered are confusing.  Now what? Where do we go from here?

There are often no words for the emotions that follow an unanswered prayer.  For me, after many years of knowing God, I realized that often my dreams and visions are not the best thing for me…and so I trust God for his plans, his directions….but it’s hard, isn’t it?  It’s hard when we asked, we wanted, we hoped…and he replies with silence.  Is he there at all?  Is he, as many say, the God of the deist…making it all and then walking away?  Unanswered prayers make us ask those questions…especially when he has invited us to ask!

The bottom line for all of this is simply this-  God loves us. God is sovereign and his love, his plans, and his wisdom direct our lives for his glory and our good.  It doesn’t mean we always get what we want…and that confuses us because we “know” that what we want is the very best thing….if only God would give us what we prayed for.

But often he doesn’t.  Now what?

Solomon wrote these words,

“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
 
When God says “no” I come back to this…God loves me,He has my best in mind,

He has a plan for my life,

and he’s sovereign.

I can trust him to accomplish the best for me…..even when he says “no”.

In moments like this, when I don’t understand his “no” I go back to the verses that direct me when I don’t have answers…the verses that calm my confused and disheartened mind,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
  and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.”

Have You Achieved Enlightenment?

Not me!
But it’s not like I haven’t been looking for it……enligtenment
No, I am not a Buddhist (and I mean no disrespect towards Buddhists) but I have nonetheless been searching for “comprehension” most of my life.
I have spent this life running aimlessly from one thing to another searching for something that I could use to say to God, “I found it, can I come up now?”  I know now it’s been right in front of me all along….but I was so busy searching for it that I couldn’t see it!  Like when I can’t find a tool in the toolbox, totally convinced it is just not there….until my wife points to it. 
Here’s my main thought on enlightenment folks…..
I think about someone dying and appearing at the gates of heaven only to be told….
“Sorry, but you haven’t achieved the proper quota of humming exercises.” (again…no disrespect towards Buddhists intended!)
The world will tell you….  “If you would just work harder and be willing to put everything else aside, sacrificing everything, you might attain true happiness.….”
What kind of promise is that? Work hard for the future, do your best…and you might achieve the promise of happiness?  Be very careful, because if you do achieve happiness in this world...it can be taken away at any moment…..Some of you most likely have already learned that painful lesson…I know I have!
God has promised us paradise…and we have to do nothing for it except believe in him and accept the sacrifice he made of Jesus Christ to atone for our sins….that’s it…no catch, no fine print. And the awesome news is…..it cannot be taken away from us…!
Self-help gurus all have their own special formulas for attaining true happiness and self enlightenment – but if you listen closely….they don’t really promise anything! But of course, they can sell you lots of books……
God has already provided a book for us to follow…and it’s free!
Am I the only one who has figured out that although we are all created in God’s image, we all have very unique reasons we are here…united in the one great reason…which is that we have been sent into the world to glorify him? So what good would it do me to read a book by a celebrity about their life to find secrets about achieving enlightenment for my own?
That’s like a mechanic reading a truck manual to learn how to fix my car.
I think it’s good to read about other people’s journey in life….and they may very well have achieved what God wanted THEM to achieve…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that is what he wants me to achieve…..
I think the main reason we all struggle in this world…is that no matter how hard we try……we cannot enlighten ourselves!
Do you have a favorite plant in the house….? Do you think that it can water itself or maneuver itself to get the best light…? Can your plant fertilize itself?
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?”  
True enlightenment is already available to us….we just need to accept it!
“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12 

 

Seeking God

mountains

“Seek the Lord while you can find him.

Call on him now while he is near.”

-Isaiah 55

This morning, just after sunrise, I went for a long walk in the woods. If you are ever in a place like this you have to walk out into the woods and be still, listen, pray and praise.  That was my goal this morning…and I hoped to see a bear…but back to my topic.  I walked about a mile back into the forest and just stood still…waiting…waiting for God.  I prayed, I sang (badly), I quieted my mind and listened….
….I listened for God, but at times he feels as elusive as that bear I never saw today.  At times I wait, I listen and I hear nothing…..I want to hear from him, I want to follow him, I want to be aware of his presence, but often…..silence.
I know many struggle when this happens.  I have.  Is this a game of “hide-and-seek”?  Why is this so hard?  But there is much more going on than you know when you sense God is not there.  He’s teaching us to be still.  God said to David, “Be still (shut up) and know that I am God.”  God is there and he is not silent, but often I’m deaf to his voice.  How do I fix that?  What do I do?
I have to be still….be quiet, quiet my mind, my heart, my voice and wait on him.  This morning I stood in the deep forest for more than 30 minutes.  I know, that’s not very long, but as I stood there praying, listening, silent before God, I waited for his voice.  He knows I want to follow, he knows I desire his will, he knows me better than I know me….and yet he makes me wait.  He says nothing.
What is going on?  What’s wrong?  Nothing at all….God is working on things I’m completely unaware of.  He’s dealing with things in my life I have never dealt with.  For me the first task is stillness….God has the response…I will know that HE is God.
I’m seeking God.  He’s not like that old bear who avoided me this morning…he’s always with me, working in my life…even when I don’t see him, even when I don’t hear him.  In these times I wait.  He always works in my life in ways that surprise me.  I look forward to his surprise today.

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

A Promise Kept

Because of this single promise found in Luke 18:33 “And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again” we can stand strong in His strength.Picture-001

Because Jesus rose again….

We don’t have to fear tomorrow or face it alone

We have peace that surpasses all understanding

We are sons and daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords

We can sing praises of your matchless love, grace and mercy

We can sleep knowing that should we never wake, the splendors of Heaven await us

We have hope that never ends, regardless of the darkness chasing us

We can take our greatest treasures with us to Heaven…our family and friends

We enjoy the majesty of this gift of life and the beauty you’ve filled it with

We can live an abundant life experiencing joy as only you can give

We can smile through tears, knowing that all things work together for good

We can stand strong in His strength and work though His power, not our own

We are refreshed by the daily renewing of His mercies

We are encouraged by His faithfulness

We know that every tear will be wiped away

We know that His love reaches us…..regardless

We know true, honest and pure love

We know that our God is greater

 

AND because a single promise was kept….

We are looking for the promised return, knowing it could be any moment… a twinkling of an eye

 

Marie Wikle

@spreadingJOY

 

This article was first published in Tell It on the Mountain eMagazine by DeAnne McBurnie. Thank you DeAnne for how you are spreading JOY!

Marie is the founder/President of Spreading Joy Corporation, a Non Profit that is dedicated to reminding others of the simple joy of giving. To find out more about making a difference for others without breaking the bank, more encouraging articles and more about her book Spreading Joy Daily please visit her site at http://www.spreading-joy.org

First Thessalonians: The ABCs

Authorship, Background, and Contents

  

Authorship

 

The letter begins with “Paul, Silas and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you(1:1). Paul occasionally associates others’ names with his own in addressing his letters (2 Thessalonians, Philippians), but the true author is Paul.

 First Thessalonians has been universally accepted as Pauline from the beginning. It is cited by Ignatius between A. D. 109-114. It was included in the earliest canonical lists (lists of inspired New Testament Scriptures), and was quoted and mentioned by name by prominent 2nd and 3rd century Christian writers, such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria. Other than the radical German critics of the 19th century, its authenticity has been assumed by all.

First Thessalonians stands out also among New Testament writings in that it can be precisely dated. There are two extra-biblical historical markers that provide brackets for located it. Paul write from Corinth shortly after arriving there (see Background), giving us the first date. We are told in Acts 18:1-2:

 

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome.

 

This same event was recorded by the Roman historian Suetonius in his lives of the 12 Caesars (about A.D. 121):

 

Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigations of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city.

This event has been reliably dated around the year A.D. 49. Most historians accept that the comment on some agitator named “Chrestus” actually refers to Christ, which Suetonius had misunderstood. The “disturbances” were really probably disputes between Jewish Christians and non-Christian Jews in Rome about Jesus that were heated enough to draw the attention of the emperor. At any rate, that gives us A.D. 49 as the first bracket to locate the date of this letter.

The second date marker occurs also in Acts 18:

 

So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.” (Acts 18:11-13)

A stone inscription found by archaeologists confirms that Gallio was appointed proconsul of Achaia in the summer of A.D. 51. That gives us the outer marker. Since Paul probably wrote 1 Thessalonians early in his ministry at Corinth, the time of writing was probably the Spring of A.D. 50, though a year plus or minus is possible.

First Thessalonians is therefore at least the second-earliest letter of Paul in the New Testament; the earliest, if Galatians is dated in the 50s as some scholars believe. This letter gives us convincing historical evidence of what Paul taught and Christians believed only two decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection (usually dated either A.D. 30 or 33). Contrary to skeptical theories about “the long, gradual development of Christian beliefs,” this short letter shows the presence of every significant New Testament doctrine, demonstrating that the gospel has been preached in its fullness from the very beginning.

 

BackgroundThessalonians Art

 

There is remarkable harmony between 1 Thessalonians and the description of Paul’s ministry and movements in Acts 17-18. The founding of the church in Thessalonica is described in Acts 17:1-4:

 

When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.

 

Some Bible students have take the statement “on three Sabbath days” to indicate that Paul had stayed in Thessalonica only three to four weeks. This is probably a misunderstanding, however. It is more likely that he then left his attempts in the synagogue and moved out to do work significantly with the Gentiles for many more weeks. More time would probably have been needed to win “a large number of God-fearing Greeks.”

First Thessalonians contains indications that Paul did indeed stay longer than 3-4 weeks. For example, in 2:9 he speaks of his personal example, demonstrating his willingness to work for his own support rather than receiving from them — an example that would have taken longer to demonstrate. Second, in Philippians 4:15-16 Paul reminds the Philippians that they had sent financial support to help him in Thessalonica at least twice, if not more, indicating a longer stay to allow for several 100 mile journeys between the cities. Paul’s stay in Thessalonica was a relatively short, but probably a few months rather than weeks.

Acts 17:5-9 describes the events that precipitated Paul’s departure:

 

But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.

 

Knowing that Roman authorities had no interest in intervening in what they saw as internal Jewish divisions (see Acts 18:12-16 for a failed attempt by Jewish leaders to do so), Paul’s opponents aimed their attack where Rome was sensitive. The basic “loyalty oath” of the Roman Empire was contained in the assertion, “Caesar is lord.” Christians were seen as insurrectionists because of their counter-assertion, “Jesus is Lord.” There was a great deal of religious tolerance in the Roman Empire, but there was absolutely no tolerance regarding who was lord. The charge that Christians were proclaiming “another king” was certain to get the authorities’ attention. In this case, they demanded a sort of “peace bond” from Jason, to be forfeited if there were more trouble. This led Paul to leave town.

The circumstances of his departure naturally caused Paul to have anxious concerns about the church he left behind. Acts says he sent Timothy back to check on the condition of the church while he continued to Athens and Corinth.

Acts 18:5 then picks up the story:

 

When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.

 

These same movements are mentioned in 1 Thes. 3:1-7

 

So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith … But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. (3:1-2, 6-7)

 

So, having heard good news about the persevering faith of the Thessalonians, Paul rejoices. But Timothy has also brought news that they need answers to questions and confusion, so Paul addresses them in this letter of encouragement.

 

Contents1-thessalonians-59_2159_1600x1200

 

Though brief, 1 Thessalonians is full of profound teaching from the apostle. As said above, every major New Testament doctrine is mentioned in this letter. Along with doctrinal teaching, there are also strong exhortations for believers to live according to God’s will.

 

Watch for some of the following themes:

 

  • The converting power of the gospel.

 

The apostle Paul was surely one of the most active preachers of all time, but he never accepted credit for the conversion of his listeners. He always preached Christ in complete dependency on the Lord, and always attributed the “success” of his preaching to the converting work of the Holy Spirit. See 1:5

 

  • A clear description of what conversion entails.

 

In the first chapter, Paul describes the publicly obvious conversion of the Thessalonians, and the description is striking:

 

… you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1:9-10)

 

Notice the elements: 1) they turned both “to God” and “from idols”; 2) that turning involved worshipping/serving “the true and living God” in contrast to their former idolatry; 3) their faith centers on God’s “Son,” who both died and rose from the dead; 4) and this same Jesus will return, an event for which they “wait”; 5) and that Christ provides salvation from the final judgment, which will be “wrath” for those who face it apart from him.

Notice how much Christian doctrine is included in this partial sentence. All this in a verse-and-a-half!

 

  • Paul’s example: Embodying as well as preaching the gospel.

 

For the apostle, the gospel was not just information to be shared; it was a life to be embodied, following Christ himself. Paul demonstrated sincere faith that seeks to please God rather than men, selfless service for others, and gentle leadership. See 2:5-12.

 

  • Exhortation to live sexually pure.

 

Sexual license was rampant in Greco-Roman society. Though there was some lip-service to “traditional family values” among conservative Romans, it was by and large just that: lip-service. Mistresses for married men and regular participation with prostitutes were basically assumed. Homosexuality was common, especially among the Greeks, and often included pederasty. Further, many of the religious cults included sexual acts as part of their “worship.” Sexual purity was an unknown concept.

In such a world, the new Christian movement was genuinely counter-cultural, truly revolutionary. The biblical values regarding sex and marriage from both the Old Testament and the teaching of Jesus would have been brand new to Gentile converts. But the standards are firm, and are clearly the will of God. See 4:1-8

 

  • Eager expectation for the return of Christ.

 

One of the observations quickly made by students of 1 Thessalonians is the many references to the second coming of the Lord. Keep in mind that the chapter and verse divisions so familiar to us were not in the original text. Nevertheless, the fact that Christ’s return is mentioned in every one of the five chapters as we know them shows that this is a major theme of the letter. The return of Christ has been the fervent hope of believers from the first century to today. See 1:10, 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23

 

  • What happens to believers who die.

 

Evidently, some members of the Thessalonian church had died since Paul’s departure, and they were unclear how deceased members of the church figured in the events of Christ’s return. Their questions gave Paul the opportunity to write a key passage to clarify for them, and us, what we hope to experience through rapture or resurrection. See 4:13-18

 

  • Focus on Christian community

 

Even though this gathering of believers had existed only for a matter of months, they had already become a community. Paul calls them to exercise their mutual responsibilities to care for each other, encourage one another, admonish one another, and seek for one another’s good. See 5:11-15

 

Conclusion           

For those who wonder what it would have been like to be a member of one of the earliest Christian congregations, 1 Thessalonians provides a glimpse. There was nothing more important than Jesus Christ: Who he is, what he did, and what he will do. In the meantime, as we wait for his return, what does God want from us? What will happen when he does return?

The first hearers of Paul’s letter wanted to know the same things we do today. This letter of Paul provides valuable perspectives from his early ministry.

 

T.L.S.

Alone

AloneOne of the grim realities of life is that we are alone. In the middle of a busy city with others all around we are alone.
This “aloneness” is one of the results of the fall, but is mostly ignored by writers. We simply don’t talk about it. Man, designed to be in constant relationship with God who made him is now thrust into the world empty, alone, isolated. Even with thousands around us we all have sensed this truth…we are alone.
In God’s amazing plan of redemption his intentions were to deal with more than one problem in the cross. Clearly the Christian world knows about his resolution of the sin issue. Without a doubt we all know about God’s redemption accomplished by Christ, the forgiveness of sin, the restored relationship, the promise of eternity, but what we don’t talk about is the resolution of man’s isolation problem.
Part of God’s plan in redemption was to bring us back into a relationship with him. We use those words so easily, but don’t realize what they mean. One of our major problems caused by sin is our isolation. We are alone! God’s plans included the restoration of how he designed us to be. His plans included the repair of this breach. Here is what Jesus says about this plan,
John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.’ 22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ 23 Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
“We will come to him and make our home with him.” Did you see that? In God’s amazing plan of salvation he also plans to resolve our aloneness. He resolves it by coming to us and living with us. Suddenly, we are no longer alone. In a moment of time the great ache of the heart is resolved. Human beings, designed to be in constant fellowship with God, through Christ, are restored to that relationship. God with us, living in us, our hope of glory. This truth is profound and immensely important. If we miss this we miss all that God has done. No longer alone….what an amazing and wonderful part of God’s redemptive work.

God in the Furnace

It’s often hard to see God, to see his hand, his work in our lives. It’s often hard to sense his presence, but for the believer he’s ever present. In fact, he says he will never leave us, but most of the time we don’t sense his presence, we aren’t aware of his care.For me it’s the busy life I live that makes his voice hard to hear, his face hard to see. I don’t take the time to quiet my mind and heart to listen, to see him ever with me.The times when God is most visible, the times when we see him the most clearly are times of test, times of trial. It’s in those refining moments the ever present one is most clearly seen….with us even in the heat of the trial.As I read Daniel 3 this morning, the story of Daniel’s friends and their trial by fire, the ever present one is unseen until Daniel’s friends are in the midst of the flames. In those refining moments, in the furnaces of our lives, God’s presence is most clearly seen. It’s in those moments when we desperately need to see him. In the midst of the trial our questions abound, in the midst of the heat we need him most. Has he brought us to this trial to destroy us? Is he punishing us for our sins? Why is this happening to us?

And in the midst of the furnace God is with us. He never leaves us. Last night I was with a family in the furnace of a lifetime. It’s a trial by fire to be sure. This is when they most need God’s presence, his care, his love. It’s in their furnace that they will see him. He is always with us, always caring for us….even in the furnace of trials.

But why trials? Why use the furnace to make himself known and seen? It’s because in the furnace no one can help us but God. As the king said to Daniel’s friends, “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” The king has defined the test- Is there a God who can deliver from the furnace? Is there someone to help when the trials of life overwhelm? The answer from the furnace is “YES! I’m here with you. Don’t worry, I will take care of you.”

The God of glory is always with us working for our good and his glory. In the midst of your furnace God is with you making himself known to you and seen by the world. In the midst of the furnace all other distractions are burned away and we see the ever present God who is always with us.

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

In A Valley

I love catching shapes in clouds & the mountains are always beautiful

I’m in a valley. It’s true. Have been for about a month now AND I love it! I do! I’m working in beautiful Salem Virginia. Mountains are everywhere I look. The ride to and from each week has been gorgeous with the color of the leaves changing to burnt orange and bright reds. Megan even asked me when I started working there, what it was like. My reply was, “I’m in a valley,” to which she responded ohhhhhh, niiiiice! I had to smile because I knew that I’ve been wondering about life’s valleys.

Being in this majestic valley has got me thinking lately about “life’s valleys.”

We all go through the valley in life, there is no escaping it. It’s a matter of when. My question to myself has been why don’t I “look up” at the wonderful surroundings when I’m in life’s valley, just as I’m doing while working here in the valley of Virginia? I know that I’m surrounded by a million little things that make life glorious and I also know the valleys are going to happen. So what is the disconnect?

Could it be that I’m so focused on the issues that I forget to look up and enjoy what is around me? Or maybe the discouragement during that time has put a huge cloud over me and I can’t see the beauty that is all about me? Could it be that discontentment wastes my energy and I have no strength to focus on making it through the valley? Why have I never thought of looking up before?

We all have so many blessings in our life that should carry us from one valley to the next but when we are in those valleys – we tend to forget them, so our stay there seems much longer than necessary.

The valleys of life are hard. I’ve been in many of them and do not enjoy them during that time. I’m always thankful for friends I can come to for help, but like many – I sometimes choose not to ask, for fear of being a “burden”.

I faced another closed door a few weeks back. My heart ached with great pain, discouragement and no music was there. Until I poured out my heart in the following words that day, I sat in silence. No singing, no happiness and fighting back the tears from yet one more closed door.

The Closed Door

Sometimes the hurt is too much to bare
Even though you say I can, I feel I can’t share

The Load is heavy, the road is long
The heart is weary and has lost its song

I know there’s hope that never ends
But for now it seems my life won’t mend

I just want to be held, I’m tired and weak
I’ll simply rest in silence, as I can’t even speak

You are strong, I’m not. I can’t even try
I can’t stop the tears from falling from my eyes

This is me, this is all – there is nothing more
Such is my life – as I stand, facing the closed door.

Will I remember this in my next valley? Yes. Will it make a difference? I honestly don’t know. Will I struggle along alone? I hope not. I hope that I will have the courage to ask for help that day, but it takes courage for that, and I’m far from courageous.

What do you think? Why do we not look up when we are in life’s valley? Why do we struggle alone – without asking for help? We have great friendships and tons of resources, yet we choose to limp along through the valley – alone.

Tell me, what is the disconnect?

{{HUGS}} yall


Marie is the founder/President of Spreading Joy Corporation, a Non Profit that is dedicated to reminding others of the simple joy of giving. To find out more about making a difference for others without breaking the bank, more encouraging articles and more about her book Spreading Joy Daily please visit her site at http://www.spreading-joy.org

How Love & Respect Impact our Marriage

Love & RespectThe tears slid silently down her cheeks, dampening the pillow.  Anger covering deep hurt dispersed sleep. The twenty-one years of her life dedicated to marriage and family seemed empty and wasted.  After all, what did she have to show for any of it?  Sure, her children loved her, but they were nearly on their own, and the dream of modeling a marriage that worked, was almost over.  Criticism met many of her comments and opinions. Gone were the days of open discussion, as arguments found their voice instigated by his harsh disagreement. She kept her thoughts more and more to herself. She had read all the books, gone to all the workshops, seen a therapist, done couples counseling, and her husband still remained distant.

Meanwhile, her husband sat at the computer in his home office. He noticed tonight when she went up to bed without saying a word to him again.  He noticed when she ignored his return from work.  He wondered about their upcoming anniversary date.  What was there to celebrate?  Sure, the marriage had survived, but their friendship was gone.  It had been months since they’d had sex.  He had tried, but she put him off. She seemed disinterested in the events he still loved and she used to enjoy.  His companions to art galleries and plays had become his children – who would go with him when they left the nest?  Weary of asking her to accompany him and face an eye roll and rejection again, he wondered about the anniversary date.  Feeling helpless, he sent her an email, suggesting she pick a restaurant.

Many relationships trudging down the path to divorce court and the others that somehow cling together still suffer a myriad of problems.  The marriages that do not terminate seem destined to trudge along with both people existing as roommates with separate lives, the hope of a deeply intimate relationship with their life partner all but gone.  Unfortunately, the downward spiral is inevitable to most couples.  Most relationships suffer conflict and stress, but with both spouses lacking in conflict-resolution skills, unresolved hurts are often left to fester, eventually erupting into damaging arguments, leaving scars upon both people.  Our culture handles conflict poorly, either by avoiding it, or engaging in it in unhealthy ways.  In our mission of helping wives facilitate relationship changes, we help couples reconnect and create healthier habits of interacting and working through conflict.  We also see women as uniquely gifted at relationships due to their biological composition. Brain research has long indicated that women are more wired for relationship creation and maintenance than men are (at least in general, due to the bonding hormone, oxytocin), so we help wives learn how to positively impact their marriages by tapping into these strengths.

We see marriages start to turn around when wives learn to speak love to their husband via the language of respect.  We see focusing on his very specific wants and needs through the vehicle of healthy communication begins positive change within marriage because one woman’s husband may be different from another’s.  After a wife worked to lay the ground work, we have found that most husbands are then in a place where they can more easily hear their own particular wife’s wants and needs for love and respect the way that she best experiences them and at the frequency she needs to hear them.  One of the major differences between the genders seems to be the frequency of reinforcement of the relationship – most women respond more positively to daily or near daily small demonstration of love from their husband, but many men seem to need reinforcement very infrequently. It appears that the old joke where the husband tells the wife, “I told you I loved you on our wedding day and if anything changes, I’ll let you know!” is based on truth – at least for a majority of men.  Unfortunately, that level of frequency often does not bode well from the wife’s perspective. But when a wife communicates love and respect in a way her husband can more readily experience it, he is also typically more motivated to be a better husband.  Many times, both spouses actually feel love and respect toward the other, but lack in their ability to communicate it the way their particular spouse hears it.  In a 2012 study, the University of Texas at Austin researched whether men and women show love differently in marriage.  What was interesting about their findings, is that in an effort to change the marriage, women reacted in a way consistent with how they typically like to receive affection.   The wives expressed love by communicating with fewer negative or antagonistic behaviors, and the husbands showed love by initiating sex, sharing leisure activities, and doing household work together with their wives.[1]

The simplest and most effective advice with regard to changing one’s own marriage is to once again, start doing the things you did early in your marriage with your husband.  The activities you did together at the beginning of the relationship do much in bringing couples back together.  Maybe you took a dance or dog-training class, or built a closet or a room addition, or put in a garden. The same principle applies to men, who need to refrain from negative and antagonistic behaviors, but if he does not naturally, which he probably won’t, a wife should ask for what she wants by specifically telling her husband what makes her feel loved.  Give him some time to figure things out while you keep speaking to him in the language he hears.  There’s also research by analyst Shaunti Feldhahn that points out that most men would rather feel unloved than disrespected. Know too, that when he is feeling disrespected, he is not going to naturally want to move towards you relationally.  In other words, get the respect piece right, then ask for what you want. It is a simple method that surprisingly enough, works for many marriages in turning things around to a more loving and respectful relationship.

older coupleWe encourage a few simple behaviors for wives who want to take their marriage up a notch or two, or want to turn their marriage around. These small behavior changes, when done in order, can dramatically impact the relationship:

  1. Remind yourself why you married him in the first place, creating a positive place in your own heart from which to start.
  2. Ask him what his favorite things are (that you did together) from the early days of your marriage – then set up a time to do those (or similar) things again, if he is interested in doing them.  If his interests have changed, do something new at his suggestion.
  3. Initiate sex every couple of days – and if he responds to you by saying or doing something loving, put your hand on his shoulder and tell him how much you appreciate what he said/did and then initiate sex or flirt for later if the kids are around.
  4. Ditch the negative behaviors that communicate disrespect like the eye roll, exasperated sigh, etc. An entire list is available here on The Respect Dare blog.
  5. Ask him specifically what makes him feel loved – then do that.
  6. Ask him for what you want (affection, dates, physical touch outside of sex, cleaning up after dinner, etc.), if he hasn’t started these things already.  When he does what speaks to you, initiate sex again. Most men will respond positively to the above six steps.  Just keep repeating through them.
  7. If your husband is extremely analytical, he may struggle more than most men in showing affection.  You may perceive this as his refusal to do things that you want, but understand that he might not know how and gently let him know it hurts you.  If your tears have an effect on him, cry.  If he cannot hear that, send him a brief text message. Do not initiate sex, and when he pursues you, say something like, “I’m really struggling with sharing this part of me with you when you hurt me like you did.  I just can’t get my head or heart into this until you treat me better.” Know that if you start here, however, without learning to lovingly communicate when you are confronting, and when he doesn’t feel respected by you in the first place, you’ll just add difficulty and potentially more damage to your relationship.
  8. If he still refuses to change, stop scheduling time with him to do leisure activities for a while, and make an appointment with an older couple he deeply respects who has a good marriage.  Share your frustrations with this man and his wife, and ask them to be part of a confrontation with your husband about his behavior.  If you attend church or his parents or your parents do, they or a counselor may be good choices for this discussion.  This should also be done with your heart in a place of love towards him, otherwise, he will view it as a personal attack and become defensive.  Often, if #7 has done in a truly loving way, this step will be unnecessary.  Prior to doing this, you should also let him know that this is what you are considering.  There is a difference between manipulation and a loving confrontation about someone else’s damaging behavior.  You can’t treat him like a child, either, or this will not have positive results.
  9. Be on the lookout for loving behavior by him – and initiate sex or physical contact when you see it.  Men often experience connection through physical intimacy, so positively reinforcing what you want more of in this way is not manipulative, but rather encouraging, unless your heart is in a place of trying to control him, instead of trying to improve both of your experiences of your marriage.

This is a long and difficult process and many books have been written on the subject.  Know that your husband is not your enemy, and that both of you can benefit from learning how to work through these difficulties.  Concerted effort is not enough to turn a marriage around, however, effort on the most impactful activities makes all the difference in the world.

 

 

Nina R

Nina Roesner is the author of The Respect Dare, recently released by Thomas Nelson. It is a book that is best described as an experience that connects women deeply to God and their husband through the application of respect.  She is the executive director of Greater Impact, a training organization which equips men and women of faith in relationship skills and public speaking abilities.

 

 



[1] Elizabeth Schoenfeld’s work, “Do Men and Women Show Love Differently in Marriage?” appeared in the November 2012 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: The ABCs

Authorship, Background, and Contents of Galatians

  

Authorship

 

Paul’s authorship of Galatians has never seriously been questioned. It is quoted or alluded to in 1 Peter. References occur in many of the earliest Christian texts, including the Epistle of Barnabas, 1 Clement, and the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians; also in the writings of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, along with the earliest lists of New Testament books. The evidence of authenticity is overwhelming.

 

The Impact of Galatians

 

According to any standard, Paul’s letter to the Galatians has changed world history. It powerfully shaped the Christian faith from the beginning, as Paul combatted opponents who would have defined the church as a mere subset of Judaism. It has been a fortress of the faith against those who wished Christianity to meld into the rest of the world’s religions.

During the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, Galatians again was a sharp sword in the hands of the Reformers. Martin Luther wrote two commentaries on the letter, which influenced people from his day till ours. He was so wedded in heart to the power of the letter that he jokingly named it after his wife, calling it “my Katy von Bora.”

During the revival of evangelical faith in the 19th and 20th centuries, once again it was Galatians that was heavily relied upon to fight against liberalism and legalism in the church, and it will continue to be so until the Lord returns. No wonder Galatians has often been called “the Magna Carta of Christian Liberty.”

 

Recipients and Date

 

One of the strangest things about Galatians is that no one knows for sure who Paul was writing to. How can that be, in light of the fact that it opens with “Paul … to the churches of Galatia”?

The problem is created because “Galatia” has two possible meanings. Three centuries before Paul, Celts (also called Gauls) from the west had migrated to what is now north-central Turkey. The area became known as Galatia after the ethnic Gauls who settled there. But later, the Roman government created a province called Galatia, which included ethnic Galatia in the north, but also an area in the south. The question is whether Paul is using the ethnic or provincial meaning of the word.

On Paul’s first missionary journey (the account begins in Acts 13), he passed through southern Galatia, and founded churches in the cities of Pysidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. He revisited these churches on his second missionary journey as well. Paul did not pass through the northern Galatian region until his third missionary journey, and few details are shared about it.

Therefore the controversy among scholars is whether Paul is writing to churches in southern or northern Galatia, and the date of the writing would be determined thereby. In brief, if Paul is writing to southern Galatia, it would have been written in the A.D. 40s, making it his earliest letter. If he is writing to ethnic Galatia in the north, then it was written in the mid-50s.

Scholars are divided over the issue, but students need worry little about it. It is relevant for identifying some historical questions, such as which visits to Jerusalem Paul refers to in Galatians 1-2, but it does not affect any of the doctrinal teaching of the letter. The powerful message of Galatians continues to do its work, even though we are uncertain of the historical details.

 

Background

 

Something clearly is very wrong in Galatia. Unlike most of his letters, Paul does not begin with offering praise and thanks for his recipients’ faith. In this case he comes straight out the chute battling:

 

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. (1:6)

 

There could hardly be a more serious charge than desertion of God and of Christian faith, but that is what Paul implies. He doesn’t stop there. Paul pronounces a curse on whoever is influencing them away from the gospel:

 

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned. (1:8)

 

Paul doesn’t exhaust his vehemence in the opening. He continues to speak as strongly against his opponents until the end of the letter. Right away, we can see not only that the apostle is very upset, but what the core issue is: It’s no less than the content of the gospel itself.

Sometime after Paul founded these churches, other teachers had visited and contradicted his teachings. From Paul’s comments and counterarguments, we can learn some of their position. They taught that Gentiles could not simply trust in Christ for salvation. They must accept the yoke of the Law, including circumcision, dietary regulations, and calendar observances. In essence, they must become Jews in order to become Christians. These teachers therefore have been traditionally labeled “Judaizers.” The truth of the gospel was at stake.

There is a common tactic in debate that the Judaizers also employed, called an ad hominem attack. Ad hominem means “to the man.” In practice it refers to undermining an opponent’s argument through attacking the credibility of the person. Along with the gospel message itself being attacked in Galatians, these teachers also attacked Paul’s credentials as a genuine apostle.

In Galatians, therefore, Paul is forced to argue on two fronts: He must defend his credentials as an apostle, and defend the true gospel that gives eternal life and liberty.

 

Contents

 

Paul spends the first two chapters answering accusations about himself, then turns to the gospel message, which he emphasizes in chapters 3-6.

 

Paul’s Defense of His Apostleship

 

In their attack on Paul himself, the Judaizers had apparently made three charges, each one of which Paul addresses:

 

  • That Paul was not a genuine apostle. Paul’s apostleship was questioned because he had not been an original follower of Jesus during his earthly ministry. The Judaizers probably claimed that Paul only knew what he had been taught by others, and then misunderstood or twisted the message. In answer, he shares some of his conversion testimony, along with this bold assertion:

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (1:11)

 

  • That Paul shaped his message simply to more easily win followers. To any of us today who know Paul’s letters and history, the charge that he was a “people-pleaser” seems comically off base. But that’s what these false teachers were saying. After pronouncing God’s curse on those opposing him, Paul answers:

 

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. (1:10)

 

  • That Paul was estranged from the other apostles. The Judaizers claimed that Paul’s message was not only different from the apostles in Jerusalem, but also probably shared some gossip that Paul and Peter had had a falling-out. To answer the first claim, Paul tells about his original reception from the lead apostles:

 

Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem … and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. . . . This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. (2:1-5)

 

At this meeting there was total unity among the apostles:

 

On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews … James, Peter, and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. (2:7-9)

 

Thus Paul clarifies that while there was an agreed-upon division of labor (Paul primarily to the Gentiles, Peter primarily to the Jews), there was no division of message. All the apostles taught the same gospel.

As to the other charge (the “rumor”), Paul tells the true account of what happened in Antioch in 2:11-21. Paul had indeed publically rebuked Peter, but it was because Peter had been wrong in a very critical matter: Whether or not the Gentiles were fully acceptable as fellow members of the church. Peter had been (temporarily) wrong; Paul had been right. The same issue was now being reproduced in the churches of Galatia, and Paul once again confronts this matter of critical importance.

 

Paul’s Defense of the Gospel

 

The message Paul taught was the main issue. He argues for the truth of his gospel from a number of angles:

 

  • Paul reminds the Galatians of their own experience — particularly, their reception of the Holy Spirit. In 3:1-4 Paul calls the Galatians “foolish” because they had forgotten their own experience. They had already received the Spirit of God when they believed the gospel. How could they now revert to attempting to earn God’s acceptance through human effort?

 

  • Paul argues from God’s historical plan. Through the remainder of chapter 3 and first part of chapter 4, the apostle reviews the big picture of God’s salvation plan, beginning with Abraham. First, in 3:6-8 Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 as proving that only by faith is one made right with God:

 

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.

 

It is not by Law that anyone, in the Old or New Testament periods, is justified. Only by faith in any age has anyone been accepted by God. Therefore the argument of the Judaizers is flawed from the start.

Second, God intended all along to provide salvation for the whole world, and it was announced at Abraham’s call. Then why was the Law of Moses given to Israel, if salvation by faith was the plan from the start? Paul answers that it was a temporary educational and disciplinary vehicle for Israel until the Messiah would come and accomplish redemption from sin. Now that he has done so, the Law’s purpose is over. In 4:1-7, Paul compares the Law to a guardian over a small child that imposes discipline until he matures. But when the boy becomes a man, the guardian’s role is over. Therefore, for Israel or the Gentiles to return to living by Law would be a like a grown man returning and submitting to the management of a nanny.

 

  • Paul argues by allegory. In 4:21-31 Paul uses the historical Old Testament record as an allegory of spiritual truth. He reminds the Galatians that Abraham had two sons: Ishmael, born of the slave woman Hagar through natural generation; and Isaac, the son born of miraculous generation by Sarah. Paul compares the child of Hagar to those who try to attain salvation through human effort, an exercise in futility that can only lead to slavery; while the son of Sarah represents those who are born of the Spirit of God, a new birth that comes as a result of believing the gospel and leads to freedom.

 

On the basis of these arguments, Paul vigorously exhorts the Galatians to stand firm in their liberty in Christ, a freedom that can only be based on grace.

 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (5:1)

 

To return to Law is to fall from the freedom of grace to slavery through trying to live by Law — the meaning of the warning against “falling from grace” in 5:4.

 

The Holy Spirit: Why Legalism Is Unnecessary

One of the most important lines of argument presented by legalists through history is the charge of antinomianism (literally, “against law”) — the charge that if the Law is not imposed on Christians, they will live lawless, godless lives.

Paul’s response is to assert that this is a complete misunderstanding. In removing the Law as his people’s taskmaster, God has not left us without guidance. In fact, God has given us far more than anything law could give: He has given us his very own Spirit, the Spirit of God indwelling us. In saving us, the Lord did not leave us as we were. He has called us to entirely new plane of living:

 

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (2:19-20)

 

The usual order that “religion” or legalism teaches can be summarized, “Clean up your flesh and you will be spiritual.” According to Paul, the truth is the other way around:

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature [or “flesh”]. (5:16)

 

Those who walk according to the Spirit will be directed and empowered to concentrate on the spirit of what the Law was always aiming at, which is love. Therefore, Christians are urged to not only defend their liberty in Christ, but to use it properly according to the power of the Holy Spirit:

 

You, my brothers were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (5:13-14)

 

Conclusion

 

The study of Galatians is one of the must liberating, empowering, enlightening, and nutritious pursuits a believer can choose. There is a reason this book, again and again, has been at the forefront of revivals and reformations through Christian history.

One of the great teachers of a century ago was C. I. Scofield. In a series of lectures on Galatians at a Bible conference in 1903, he said:

 

The course of this demonstration is like the resistless march of an armed host. Nothing can stand before it. The flimsy quibblings of ancient and modern legalists are scattered like the chaff of the summer threshing floor. But this march is, like that of a well-ordered army, by definite stages. It is an invasion in which every vantage point is fortified and made a solid base for the next advance.

 

While the experiences that stimulated this letter were no doubt painful and stressful for Paul, we can give thanks forever that they resulted in Galatians. Study it for yourself and discover what so many believers have found before — Liberty in Christ.

 

T.L.S.

The Gospel of John: The ABCs

Authorship, Background, and Contents of Johns Gospel

 

Authorship

 

Though the names traditionally assigned to the four gospels go back to earliest Christian times — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — it is true that none of the four actually names its author. We have accepted the identities of the authors on other grounds, chiefly consistent early tradition along with internal evidence. Probably the last gospel written, the authorship of John can be established with confidence.

In one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, the decisive clue leading the detective to the solution of the mystery is “the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.” When a puzzled character says, “But the dog did nothing in the nighttime,” Holmes replies, “That is the curious incident.” The dog did not bark because he knew the person who came to the stable, guiding Holmes to the culprit. The mystery hinges on what did not happen.

Similarly, the Fourth Gospel is striking because of the central character who is never named — the apostle John. This John was the brother of James and the son of Zebedee, nicknamed with his brother “the Sons of Thunder.” These brothers along with Peter figure prominently in the other three gospels as Jesus’ inner circle. In this gospel Peter appears often, as do many lesser-known disciples, such as Nathaniel, Philip, and Thomas. It is therefore surprising that John, who is mentioned so often in all of the other gospels, is never named in this one.

There is a person referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and this person is identified as the author in 21:20-24. James was martyred too early to have written this gospel (about A.D. 44), so that leaves John. Many scholars have pointed out that the author of this gospel was a Jew who lived in Palestine before the destruction of Jerusalem. He is accurate on many details that someone would not know otherwise, such as geography, culture, religious practices, and architecture — much of which did not exist after A.D. 70. Some of the architectural features he mentions were not verified until they were discovered by archaeologists in the 20th century. John’s descriptions are true.

All early Christian writers identify John as the author. Irenaeus, writing about A.D. 180 wrote that:

 

John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon his breast, had himself published a gospel during his residence in Ephesus in Asia.

 

Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John himself in his youth, giving a strong link back to the first generation of Christians. Irenaeus writes:

 

I remember the events of those days more clearly than those which have happened recently … I can speak even of the place in which the blessed Polycarp sat and disputed … how he reported his converse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord, how he remembered their words, and what were the things concerning the Lord which he had heard from them, including his miracles and his teaching, and how Polycarp had received them from the eyewitnesses of the word of life, and reported all things in agreement with the Scriptures.

 

The early Christian historian Eusebius, writing about A.D. 325, says that the first three gospels having already been written (Matthew, Mark, and Luke, known as the “Synoptic” gospels), they were presented to John for his comments:

 

He admitted them, giving his testimony to their truth; but that there was only wanting in the narrative the account of the things done by Christ among the first of his deeds, and at the commencement of the gospel.…For these reasons the apostle John, it is said, being entreated to undertake it, wrote the account of the time not recorded by the former evangelists.

 

John reflects this, seeming deliberately to avoid retelling many of the teachings and events already presented in the Synoptics, and filling in many of the blanks they do not cover (see Contents).

 

Despite the unanimous early testimony of believers and the absence of contrary evidence, radical scholars have attacked the authenticity of John for 150 years. The main reasons given are 1) the supposed 2nd century philosophy represented in it, especially John’s use of Logos, “the Word,” for Christ; and 2) the supposed “advanced Christology.” However, recent scholarship has skewered the first view, finding that the concept of logos was already known and used in the first century. The second charge of “advanced Christology” is based on the faulty assumption that the first followers of Christ considered him only a man (though highly revered) and subsequent decades showed a gradual growth into belief in his deity. A study of the New Testament epistles shows the foolishness of this view — John says nothing about Christ that was not taught about him from the beginning. Particularly Paul’s letters and the book of Hebrews, written in the 50s and 60s, prove that Christians believed all along that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God and Creator of all things who has now become man to redeem us and reconcile all things to himself.

Two important archaeological discoveries also have confirmed the traditional date of John. One of these, the John Rylands papyrus, is the oldest extent portion of New Testament Scripture: a fragment of the Gospel of John dated about A.D. 130. This proves that, allowing time for copying and transmission, this gospel could have been written no later than the time always assigned to it — sometime between A.D. 70-90.

There have always been, and always will be, committed skeptics. However, believers today can be confident that this gospel was written by “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” the faithful disciple John.

 

Background

 

As seen in the Irenaeus quote above, John appears to consciously supplement the three gospels that had already been written. Early traditions are consistent in placing John in and around Ephesus during the last decades of his life.

The first three gospels in the New Testament are known as the “Synoptic” gospels, meaning “seen together” or giving a “common view.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke share a common outline, probably because Matthew and Luke used Mark as the structure upon which they built additional records about Jesus’ life and teachings. John stands apart as a strikingly different viewpoint of Christ, emphasizing different teachings and events than the others.

In the first decades after Christ’s resurrection, the Church was primarily Jewish. Jewish Christians coexisted within the community of the Jews, and there was alternately uneasy tolerance and rejection (the Epistle of James was probably written during this period). But after the destruction of Jerusalem, relations between Christians and non-Christian Jews widened, and there was much animosity. The Jewish Christians among them would have been special targets of scorn. John’s writings — the Gospel, his three letters, and especially the Revelation — reflect that hostility, and give encouragement to keep believing.

We can know, however, that his listeners were primarily Gentiles. As such, they would have had a weaker foundation of Old Testament understanding. They would have been quite familiar with the religious currents of the day, and more susceptible to the errors of the cultures from which they came. The religious atmosphere of the time was a swirling mix of pagan mythologies, philosophical speculations, and mystery cults. Believers needed clear truth to keep their focus on Christ and the gospel.

Many early traditions say that John contended with a false teacher named Cerinthus, who taught an early version of Gnosticism. In brief, Gnosticism was a religious and philosophical movement based on the understanding that the material universe is an illusion and evil. Only “spirit” is good. Therefore, pure “spirit” could not be united with matter. The word Gnostic comes from the Greek gnosis, knowledge. “Salvation” for a Gnostic meant coming to this “spiritual knowledge” and escaping the illusion of this world.

Cerinthus taught that Jesus, being pure Spirit, could not have joined himself to matter. He only seemed to have a human body. From this view, the error of Cerinthus has been called “Docetism” — from the Greek word dokeo, “to seem.” The First Letter of John directly attacks this false teaching.

Whether or not this controversy had arisen by the time this gospel was written, John could hardly have chosen language better designed to attack Docetism than these words:

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … and the Word became flesh.

John 1:1,14

Jesus was not partly God. He was not God pretending to be a man. He was not God who only seemed to be a man. Jesus Christ was truly God-become-Man.

The profound claims of Christ and the profound teaching of the apostle John have given us incredibly strong assurance of who Jesus was and is.

 

Contents

A major contribution of John is his narrative of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, a period passed over by the other gospel writers. For example, Mark summarizes in a single chapter the inaugural preaching of John the Baptist, the baptism of Jesus, and the temptations. Then he goes straight to this comment:

 

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. (Mark 1:14)

 

Matthew and Luke follow this pattern, giving the impression that Jesus’ move to Galilee was immediate. It is John who explains more fully, telling us that Jesus spent several months working in Judea under the umbrella of the Baptist’s ministry. The first four chapters of John describe Jesus’ activities during this period. From the viewpoint of the public at the time, John the Baptist was seen as the leader of the movement, with Jesus subordinate. But Jesus quickly took over the dominant role. That’s why we have this exchange:

 

They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ . . . He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:26-30)

 

During this period the disciple John became acquainted with Jesus and began to follow him. John also tells of how Peter met Jesus in 1:40-42. Thus we know that when Jesus calls Peter and Andrew to full-time discipleship in Matthew 4:18-20 (“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”) it is not the first time they had ever met him. Peter and Andrew had known Jesus for several months, as John makes clear. The same was true for John and his brother James.

 

I.            The Theme of John: Eternal life comes through faith in Jesus Christ

 

According to Stephen S. Kim, “The literary structure of the Fourth Gospel makes it one of the most carefully crafted pieces of literature in the Bible.” But what was it crafted to accomplish? Merrill C. Tenney has written, “One of the peculiarities of the Fourth Gospel is the fact that its author chose to hang its key by the back door.”

He is speaking of John 20:30-31, where the apostle reveals his purpose:

 

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 

Just as in his letters, John wanted believers to have a clear understanding of who Christ is and what He has accomplished, and thus have assurance of salvation through faith in Him. John identified his aim in his first letter, which could also serve as the purpose statement of his gospel:

 

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)

 

Scholar N. T. Wright points out that the Greek “verb ‘believe’ (pisteuein) occurs more in this gospel than in Matthew, Mark and Luke put together; and, perhaps even more surprising, more than in all of Paul’s letters put together.” It is used 99 times in John’s gospel.

 

II.            Knowing Whom to Believe: Emphasizing the claims of Christ.

 

Biblical faith requires content; that is, it is not a feeling, nor is it “putting your brain on the shelf.” Exercising faith according to the Scriptures means you know the person who is the object of your faith.

John establishes the identity of Jesus immediately:

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)

 

In this profound opening, John refers to Christ as “the Word” — Greek, Logos. Logos means not only “word” but “communication,” “speech,” “reason,” and “logic.” Thinking of the Word as Creator, it is striking to recall the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1, where God creates all things merely by speaking.

Notice that not only was the Word “with God” in the beginning, but also that “the Word was God.” How can a Person both be “with” God and “be” God at the same time? It boggles the imagination, but from passages like this we see a glimpse of the eternal three-fold nature of God, who is a Trinity: three Persons in one Divine Nature. Then in verse 2 it is made clear that the Word is not some impersonal quality of God, but a Person: “He was with God in the beginning.”

This same Word “became flesh” (v. 14) — a real human being in whom we see the glory of the invisible God. Therefore, as Jesus says later,

 

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9)

 

Jesus’ direct claims to deity can be seen throughout this gospel. Some examples:

 

  • Jesus’ claim of the Divine Name. In the midst of a hot controversy with his opponents (chapter 8), Jesus did not shy away from the confrontation. On the contrary, he inflamed it. He tells them that because of their unbelief, “You will die in your sins” (v. 23); “You belong to your father, the devil” (v. 44); and “You do not belong to God” (v. 47). Finally he pushes them over the edge by claiming, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad”

(v. 56). They protest that it’s impossible; Abraham lived 2000 years before!

 

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” (v. 58)

 

At this point they picked up stones to stone Jesus. Why? Because they heard loud and clear that Jesus was claiming to be God. “I AM” is the name by which God introduced himself to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3), and is the inner meaning of God’s personal name in Hebrew, Yahweh, which means “I AM THAT I AM” or “He Who Is.” In English Bibles, Yahweh is usually rendered “the LORD” in all caps. By this statement, Jesus was straightforwardly claiming to be the Creator God revealed in the Old Testament.

 

  • Jesus’ claim to be One with the Father. In the midst of another controversy Jesus made a claim no one could miss. We are told that his opponents demanded answers: The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (10:24). Jesus goes on to say,

 

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (10:27-30)

 

At this statement, they again picked up stones. When Jesus asks them why, they reply that it is not for any good work, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

 

  • The “Seven Great ‘I am’s’.” In the progress of his ministry, the Lord made seven striking claims, all beginning with “I am.” Despite the common view in our culture that Jesus was an ordinary man, imagine “an ordinary man” saying things like these:

 

I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (6:35)

 

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (8:12)

 

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. (10:9)

 

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (10:11)

 

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (11:25-26)

 

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (14:6)

 

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (15:5)

Put these claims together, and you’ll see that Jesus is claiming to be the answer to every one of the deepest needs of the human heart. No mere man could fulfill them.

 

Conclusion

 

In this introduction we can only briefly mention a few of the other important themes in John. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is spelled out in great detail by the Lord in chapters 14-16. The narratives of Jesus’ encounters with individuals, such as the Samaritan woman in chapter 4, are profound and fascinating. You’ll also find strong emphasis on the humanity of Christ, where he declares his dependency upon the Father for all he said and did:

 

I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. . . . By myself I can do nothing. (5:19, 30)

 

Finally, the Lord calls his people to live in the same way he did:

 

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (15:5)

 

Just as Jesus in his humanity could “do nothing” apart from the Father, he tells us that apart from him we can do nothing. Only through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Christ himself in us) are we able to live the genuine Christian life. Our manner of living is the same as his: Total dependency upon the Lord who supplies the ability to do his will. He produces the fruit; we bear fruit through relying on him.

 

The Gospel of John is a lifetime study, and at the end of it you’ll feel your studies are only beginning!

 

T.L.S.

Hell’s Best Kept Secret

Hells Best Kept Secret by Ray Comfort This message was first preached in August 1982.

Use this for inspiration and equipping you to be a Christian who is fulfilling the Great Commission!

Matt 28:16-20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

New Year New Beginnings

It’s a new year.  A chance for new choices, a fresh start.  A time to look ahead and change what was wrong, to plant a new crop for the new year.

It’s a chance for new beginnings.  What will you do with the next year?  It’s all in your hands to live each day with the excitement of a child as they open each Christmas gift.  What will you find in the days ahead?NewBeginning

We always begin a new year with hopes and dreams of better things, but soon find that the same problems, same choices, and same people are still the same!  But don’t let the sameness around you keep you from planting new crops in your life, from doing something different, from new adventures.  Make the choice to do one new thing this year that you have always wanted to do.

Plant a new kind of seed in your life.  Become a student of a new interest, learn something new that has always interested you, go somewhere you have always wanted to go.  God is a God of adventure in our lives with him and in his desires for us personally.  He smiles when we thrive.  So, this year, with a new year beginning what new things will you do?   What adventures will you go on in your walk with God?

We are in the last days.  The Lord is coming soon.  There has never been a time like this when God’s people can be part of such an amazing time.  Love people.  Get to know God more deeply.  And consider the new year ahead the greatest adventure you will ever embark upon.  It will be exciting!

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

Do Not Fear

do not fearDo you know how many times in God tells us to ‘fear not’, ‘do not fear’ or ‘do not be afraid’? I don’t either.

It has been said that there are 365 ‘fear not’s in the Bible, one for everyday of the year. Others have searched and found only 100. Whatever, the number, it is a powerful promise from God…even if it appeared only once, it still stands as an AWESOME comfort for us.

Here are some of my favorite ‘do not fear’ and ‘do not be afraid’ verses from Genesis to Revelation:

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. ” – Genesis 15:1

And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.” – Genesis 26:24

So He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. – Genesis 46:3

And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” – Exodus 20:20

Look, the LORD your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the LORD God of your fathers has spoken to you; do not fear or be discouraged.’ – Deuteronomy 1:21

And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8

Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.” – Joshua 10:25

Then the LORD said to him, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” – Judges 6:23

And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman. – Ruth 3:11

Then Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. – 1 Samuel 12:20

So David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually.” – 2 Samuel 9:7

So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” – 2 Kings 6:16

And David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD. – 1 Chronicles 28:20

In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? – Psalm 56:4

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? – Psalm 118:6

Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” – Isaiah 35:4

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. – Isaiah 41:13

Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.’” – Isaiah 44:8

Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. – Isaiah 54:4

“But do not fear, O My servant Jacob, And do not be dismayed, O Israel! For behold, I will save you from afar, And your offspring from the land of their captivity; Jacob shall return, have rest and be at ease; No one shall make him afraid. – Jeremiah 46:27

Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. – Daniel 10:12

Do not lose heart or be afraid when rumors are heard in the land; one rumor comes this year, another the next, rumors of violence in the land and of ruler against ruler. – Jeremiah 51:46

‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’ – Haggai 2:5

So again in these days I am determined to do good To Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear. – Zechariah 8:15

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. – Matthew 1:20

Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. – Matthew 10:26

Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:31

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. – Matthew 28:5

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. – Luke 12:7

But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. – Luke 1:13

But the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. – Luke 1:3

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. – Luke 2:10

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. – Luke 12:4

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. – Luke 12:32

Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” – John 12:15

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear ; do not be frightened.” – 1 Peter 3:14

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. – Revelation 1:17

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. – Revelation 2:10

What Charlie Brown Knew About Christmas

Even Charlie Brown and his pals understood the reason for the season and just what Christmas was all about. Enjoy one of my favorite clips from a Charlie Brown Christmas where Linus explains it all from Luke 2:8-14

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

 JESUS is the reason for the season!!