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I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. – Ephesians 1:17

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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.

How To Read The Bible For Yourself

The Bible is the best-selling book of all time, and yet it remains unread by many who own it.
Bible big

 

There are people who are intimidated by the Bible, fearing that the Scriptures can only be accurately understood by theologians and religious professionals. Others have tried to read some portions of the Bible, but quickly got lost and discouraged. Some have bought into the common view that the Bible is irrelevant to life in today’s world.

 

The Lord Jesus Christ spoke both to the relevance and value of the Scriptures when He said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

 

If the Scriptures do indeed come “from the mouth of God,” then any thinking person will want to know what our Creator has to say. If the Word of God is indeed like bread for our souls, then we should all recognize our need for the spiritual nourishment God supplies.

 

No, the Bible is for everyone: children to adults, beginners to scholars, lay believers to full-time pastors and missionaries. The early Christian leader Gregory made this comment over 1500 years ago: “Holy Scripture is a stream of running water, where alike the elephant may swim, and the lamb walk.”

 

Seminary professor Dr. John Hannah was speaking at a conference when he made a statement that startled everyone. He said, “God can change your life if you will just read the Bible five minutes every day.” The listeners were quite surprised. Anticipating what people were wondering, Dr. Hannah continued, “You’re probably asking how your life can be changed by reading for just five minutes. The answer is that it isn’t the ‘five minutes’ that does it; it’s the ‘every day.’”

 

Of course, the trick in Dr. Hannah’s advice is that when a person gives God five minutes every day, he or she discovers how enjoyable and exciting the Scriptures are and wants more. Soon they want to read for ten minutes … then twenty. They discover what David meant when he wrote, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

 

The Bible is for everyone. The Bible is for you. Open its pages and see what the Lord will do in your life.

 

Tips for personal Bible study

 

1.  Read to pursue a personal relationship with God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

In one sense, the Bible is just like any other book. We read according to the ordinary rules of grammar and interpretation, just as we learned in school.

 

In another sense, the Bible is different from any other book. It is the one book we read to pursue a personal relationship with the Author. When we read a book on science, we read to learn science. When we read a book of history, we read to learn about history. But when we read the Scriptures we read to get to know God and listen to Him speak to us through His living Word.

 

Jesus defined eternal life this way: “Now this is eternal life: that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3)

 

When you sit down to open your Bible, do so with the attitude that you are meeting with the Person of God. Humbly open your mind and heart to hear what He has to say. As in any other relationship, a conversation goes two ways. God speaks to you through His Word. When we speak back to Him we call it prayer. Practice both listening and praying when you read. Talk to the Lord about your responses to what you see in the Bible.

 

2.  Read normally.

 

While the Bible is uniquely the Word of God, our method of reading should be normal. If you pick up a novel, you start at the beginning, read the first sentence, then the second, and so on. When you get tired of reading, you probably mark your place with a bookmark, and pick up there next time. You read the Bible the same way.

 

It would never occur to you when reading a novel to open it at random, pick a sentence at random, read it and think, “I wonder what that sentence means?” You know that no sentence exists on its own, that it is part of an immediate context and part of the whole story. And yet, picking sentences at random is what many people do with the Bible, and wonder why the verses they read make little sense.

 

In terms of method, read the Bible normally. Open to the book of the moment, and start at Chapter 1, verse 1. Continue reading at your normal pace.

 

3.  When in doubt, keep reading.

 

The Bible is a very large book. It covers thousands of years of history. Its books were written over a span of 1500 years in ancient languages. The events described occurred in cultures far from our own, and there’s a world of history involved in understanding them. The Bible is a lifetime study. Naturally, there will be people, places, events, and background that will be unfamiliar to you.

 

That’s normal. Don’t assume you have to understand every detail to benefit from reading. A helpful practice is to keep a notepad handy where you can write down questions as they arise. If you don’t understand something, write it down:

“What’s a Pharisee?”

            “Who is this Herod guy?”

            “What do they mean by the Passover?”

You can find out the answers to your list of questions quickly by sitting down for lunch or coffee with an experienced Bible teacher. But don’t let your questions shut down your study.

 

One of the best practical rules of Bible study you can apply is, “When in doubt, keep reading.” It has been well said that “the Bible is the greatest interpreter of the Bible.”  If you’ll keep reading, you’ll often discover the answers to your questions a few chapters down the line, or in the next Bible book you read.

 

4.  If you are reading the Bible for the first time, emphasize the New Testament in your reading.

 

The whole Bible is the Word of God, but new students will do better by studying the New Testament for a while. There are a few reasons for this recommendation.

 

We live in the New Testament age since Jesus died on the cross and rose again. The Old Testament is a wonderful study in itself, but it mainly deals with the Old Covenant (the Law of Moses) and God’s relationship with the nation of Israel, a covenant that is no longer in effect. That accounts for the strange feelings and confusion of many new students who dove directly into the Old Testament. The New Testament deals with the fully revealed work and teaching of Jesus Christ which is where we live historically.

 

The Old Testament was largely written to prepare for the Person and work of Christ, but it is incomplete in that regard; it is like a mystery story without the last chapter explaining the solution. Knowing Christ is the goal of existence, and the New Testament is where we can learn directly about Him. Then, as you grow in your familiarity with the New Testament, add some Old Testament reading to your habits, and you’ll find it easier to put the whole puzzle together.

 

Try it!

 

Try opening the Bible and let the Lord teach you. Whether you are a complete beginner or a long-time diligent student of the Scriptures, you can be sure the Lord has great things to show you and lead you to experience! And most of, he wants to reveal himself to you. Open your heart to know him.

 

Just Pray – For The Colorado Victims

This wonderful song is now out in tribute to the victims of the Colorado shooting. Please join us in praying for those still healing and the grieving families of those who were taken in this evil crime. 

 

Know that our Great Comforter is always with us!!!

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 23:4


Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10
 
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4
 
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

 

No More Sorrow, No More Pain

I was leading a Tworship Service (Twitter Worship Service) along with my friend Richard Mayhan and one of the tweets I sent out from the song sparked a conversation.  The song was I will Rise from Chris Tomlin and the tweet is below:

After the thank you’s were done, I went back through my feed and found a question from Slavik G. Was that actually possible here on earth….”no more sorrow, no more pain? I sent back a reply that said it was a good question and answered as best as I could in a few tweets.  After giving it more thought, I wanted to go into it a little more here and see what discussion we can drum up for Slavik.

The Bible says we are going to suffer, it’s clearly a matter of when.  We know it’s coming and when we are suffering we are supposed to be giving glory to the Lord Jesus Christ 1 Peter 4:13 & 16.  We are also reminded that even though there will be tribulations in this world, that HE has covercome the world! (John 16:33)

Isaiah 40:31 says But They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles: they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Our sufferings is not a surprise to the Lord.  He tell us over and over to “wait”, to “be still”, to “fear not.”  God tells us over and over again that HE is our strength.  He will carry us.  1 Corinthians 10:13 says that we will not face more than we can handle.  But our hearts get fearful, the load we carry weighs us down and the sorrow and pain become overwhelming and we feel like we can’t take a single step forward.

The JOY of the Lord is our strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

So, the question is – what do you do to move beyond the things that weigh us down, that burden our hearts so deeply.  Is there a fail safe recipe for success, a one size fits all answer?  No. There is not.

You have to dive deep into the Word of God and get your faith sure and steadfast.  Surround yourself with verses like Psalms chapter 46, 91 and even 23.  Look up every verse on strength or fear not and remind yourself that you are not alone and allow your faith to grow during times of hardships and trouble.

Another thing I do is fill my heart with song.  I literally praise the hurt away.  Sometimes when the “hurt” just won’t ease up, I just sing anyway.  What are your favorite songs? What songs remind you to keep going, that God is in control?  Play them.  Wrap your heart in them.

Also, surrounding yourself with people that will encourage you, inspire you and lift you up in prayer is another way to work through the hardships. This is a priceless gift.  Friends that will pray with me at 2am.  Friends that will ask what can I do to help and then be there, be available.  Friends that will just sit and cry with you when the words won’t come to help calm you.  I want to be THAT kind of friend.

Looking at this from another view, my friend flux613 asked – “and if possible here, would we hunger for heaven?”  and the answer is no, we wouldn’t.  Our trials and tribulations help our hearts to hunger for heaven.  We are to thirst for His coming.  Revelation 22:20 – “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

What do you think?  What is your take?  Do you have faith that you’ll rise and soar on wings as eagles?  Are you enjoying a season free of pain and sorrow right now?  If so, are you encouraging those around you?

Are you longing for heaven?  Is your prayer that of  “even so Lord come quickly?”

Tell me – what do you do to make it through the difficulites of pain and sorrow?

As stated earlier I lead an online Music Worship Service on Twitter–  Tworship (Twitter Nightly Worship) along with my partner and Co-Creator Richard Mayhan each week night at 9pm EST. You can follow Richard on Twitter at @mcProdigal and on twitter I am @spreadingJOY.  Hope you’ll join us. (Click the above link for more info on how we started Tworship and what to do to join in!)  Click here for More about Tworship Leader Richard Mayhan and Here for more about Tworship Leader Marie Wikle

About Christian Rep

 

Welcome to the world of a Christian Rep…

We have a deep love for our Lord and Savior, who loved us first and who empowers us to love and serve others, through social media and beyond.

We are passionate about sharing God’s truth and Christian music to encourage others around the world.

We serve the Lord by serving you, praying with and for you, and helping you as you continue to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is our hope and prayer that this ministry will help to increase your faith, aid your spiritual walk, encourage your heart, and inspire your soul.

Psalm 45:15
Led in with joy and gladness, they enter the palace of the king.

So, join us on this journey of faith and start digging in.  Make sure you check out The Good Stuff and all the other pages and posts we have gathered here to uplift and edify.

Peace be with you!!!

 

About us:

Brett is from the Sovern Nation of Texas

Rose is from the ‘Live Free or Die’ state of New Hampshire

We were introduced by God through @ChristianRep in 2010.

We married on Independence Day 2011.

Brett has two sons; Rose has two beautiful daughters and we now share our home with two large dogs who think they are the ‘real’ children.