Posted in 1Thessalonians, Colossians, James, Jeremiah, Psalms, Romans

Give Thanks

“In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1Thessalonians 5:18

Many times we aren’t sure what God’s perfect will is for a situation, so we waver between one direction and another. “God, couldn’t you speak more clearly so that I would know for sure?” Well, this passage is crystal clear and it’s right in the word of God; “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will…” The interesting thing about God’s will is that it is not as much about what we do, as it is about how we do what we do. Listen to this verse: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:23) Whatever you do! Praying, eating, playing, watching football, shopping…. whatever.

Our text doesn’t say “for everything,” evil does happen, but rather, “in everything.” How can we thank God in every single circumstance we are in?

We can always thank Him for His love which endures forever. God loves you and me right now no matter what we’re going through! How wonderful is that?

We can thank Him that He is in control. However bad things may seem, everything that is happening has at least been allowed by God and has not surprised Him. We can thank Him for always having a plan for good no matter how badly we have messed things up. (Jeremiah 29:11) We can thank Him for His wisdom which is able to work “all” things for our good. (Romans 8:28) He will use our trials (self inflicted or God ordained) to make us complete and content in Christ alone. (James 1:2-4)

No matter what is going on we can thank Him that our real life is, “hidden with Christ in God,” (Colossians 3:1) and that our real home is in heaven. We can thank Him for the forgiveness of our sins and for His guiding presence in our future. We can thank Him for the cross, and that whatever hardship we are going through is nothing compared to what He went through for us. We can thank Him for being good, for being our Father, for being our Savior – for being our everything. As the Psalmist has said, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His loving-kindness is everlasting.” (Psalm 107:1)

Posted in 1Thessalonians, Colossians, Romans

The Power of Your Calling

“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” 1Thessalonians 5:24

The power to fulfill your calling lies in the One who called you. We can either live before God out of our calling, or live before men out of guilt, man-pleasing, or fear of rejection. Because we all naturally tend toward the latter, we need to remind ourselves to come back continually to the One who calls us.

Even though I have been given responsibility to provide accountability for our pastoral staff, I don’t want them working for me. If they do their work for a man then they will probably only do the minimum he requires, and the quality of their work will probably fluctuate proportionate to whether “the boss” is watching or not. It is too low a calling to work for any person.

Colossians 3:23 reads: “Whatever you do, do your work wholeheartedly for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward.” Everything you and I do can be holy if we do it for the right Person. It doesn’t matter whether we’re at church, school, work, or even at play – if we’re living for God we will find His energy, pleasure and reward. Paul tells us that it even applies to eating meals! “He who eats does so for the Lord for he gives thanks to God…” (Romans 14:6)

What has God called you to do? Not, “what do you want to do,” or “what do your parents want you to do,” but what has God called you to do? If you’re not sure, I think you should review your history and see if He hasn’t given some hints. Come back to that calling and to the One who gave it, and watch Him bring it to pass. There is power in our calling!

Posted in 1Corinthians, 1Thessalonians, 2Peter, John, Revelation

Two Very Different Judgments

“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did good to a resurrection of life, those who committed evil to a resurrection of judgment.” John 5:28-29

Our souls go to heaven or hades when we die but our bodies are held by death until the second coming of Christ. Every human being that ever lived will receive a new body, of which their body on earth was a seed (it doesn’t matter if people were cremated or buried); and then will be judged by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The judgment of those who trusted Him as their Savior will be very different from those who rejected Him in three ways.

  1. The timing of the judgment. Those who trusted Christ will be raised first and that will begin at what is commonly known as the rapture of the church. Paul tells us that “..the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1Thessalonians 4:16-17) The second resurrection doesn’t happen until after the millennium: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. (Revelation 20:13)
  2. In what is being judged. Those who trusted Christ will not be judged for their sins – that judgment happened already on the cross. Jesus, in the text above, says their resurrection is to life, not judgment. However, believers will be judged for their works and 1Corinthians 3 says that some will have all their works burned up in the fire of God’s judgment, even though their souls will still be saved. The righteous are only judged to determine their rewards, not their salvation. Those who reject Christ will be judged for all their sins. They chose to pay their own penalty, so they will. 
  3. The kind of body received. The righteous are raised immortal and their new bodies are imperishable. (1Corinthians 15:42) Those who reject Christ are given a new body but it is perishable like the one they had on earth. Jesus says they will perish – John 3:16; Paul says they will perish – 1Corinthians 1:18; and Peter says they will “perish like the beasts.” (2Peter 2:12)
Posted in 1Corinthians, 1Thessalonians, Ephesians

Concerning Spiritual Gifts 

“Pursue love and earnestly desire spiritual gifts.” 1Corinthians 14:1

The world needs more than what you’re good at; it needs what only God is good at. God has placed each of us in His body (1Corinthians 12:18) just as He pleased. We don’t choose our part; we can only, at best, discover and embrace it. This is called our ministry. Paul said there were a variety of ministries (1Corinthians 12:5) and a variety of expressions of similar ministries. (1Corinthians 12:6)  God loves to reveal Himself through our differing, unique contributions to His body, so we must accept our part and learn to honor everyone else’s part.

But the supernatural gifts are different from our ministries. These work “as the Spirit wills” (1Corinthians 12:11) and are dependent on His moving, not ours. Whereas your ministry has already been set, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are dynamic. Every believer has the potential of being used in any one of the nine supernatural gifts Paul lists. We are to pursue loving people so much that we want more for them than what we can do. While loving them, we are to “earnestly desire spiritual gifts,” those things that require the supernatural.

Paul gives nine gifts and each is powerful when meeting the needs of the person we’re ministering to. The gifts can be divided into three general categories:

The revelation gifts: Word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and discerning of spirits. (1Corinthians 12:8, 10)

The power gifts: the gift of faith, gifts of healings, and the working of miracles. (1Corinthians 12:9-10)

The oral gifts: prophecy, diversity of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. (1Corinthians 12:10)

When we cease to love people, we grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), and when we don’t make a place for the manifestation of God’s power, we quench the Holy Spirit. (1Thessalonians 5:19) God wants both His beauty and His power revealed through the church.

Jesus is so great that He can use flawed, normal people to do His amazing works through. This was His plan! We can’t do His works without Him, and He won’t do them without us. He’s calling us into an adventure of walking with Him. Let’s say “yes” to the beauty of His character and to His desire to use us in power.

Posted in 1Thessalonians

A Prophetic Word

“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good…” 1Thessalonians 5:19-21

I think of the whole area of prophecy as being more like art than science. It is messy and difficult because people are involved that still have a sin nature, past wounds, and opinions of their own. “What is truly a word from God and what is just me?” This can be a difficult question to answer when we feel God might be speaking to us directly, or through others. Paul gives us three truths about prophecy in the text quoted above:

  1. God does still speak today, so be careful not to quench the Spirit when He is speaking.
  2. Just because this is true does not mean that everything said in the name of God is necessarily from God.
  3. Examine every supposed prophecy, not as a cynic, but to find what is good (what God is saying).

Years ago I preached a message on Contending for More of God’s Presence. Afterwards someone anonymously left me a prophetic word they had received and written down before the preaching. The note left with it only said that they thought the word, “might be for the church from our Lord.” I felt a real witness in my heart when reading it, so I submit it to you for consideration and prayer.

“I am looking for a people to pick themselves up, shake themselves, and stir themselves; a people who are passionate, sensitive to My Spirit, and powerful in the realm of My Spirit. I am looking for a generation, a people who will be different, who will be strong, powerful and creative and intense in their knowledge of the Holy and with a genuine persistence for My presence. I want My people to launch out into the deep, into a depth of greater proportion… for I am their portion, and I have much more to impart to My people as they will ready themselves for a greater outpouring of My Spirit. I am calling for the church, My body, to anticipate My agenda and allow My Spirit to do a greater work in and outside any mandated boundaries, and I will show forth the works of My Father as My word promises. So open your hearts and your lives to a freshness of My presence, break down barriers, and expect to be embraced by My presence because as you submit unto Me, I come.”

Posted in 1Thessalonians, Acts

Judging Prophecy 

“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” 1Thessalonians 5:19-21

When we despise prophecy we quench the Holy Spirit. Prophecy is God speaking today directly into our lives and situations, so why would people who love God ever despise Him speaking to them?

Some people despise prophecy because they don’t think God speaks any more in that way. Today, they reason, God only speaks to us through the Bible so anybody who claims to hear God directly comes under suspicion. The problem with this is that the book of Acts is the New Testament church in action and God speaks directly all the time through visions, dreams, impressions, angels, and prophets. There are no Scriptures which indicate this type of prophetic activity would ever be withdrawn from the church except for a few verses that people quote horribly out of context. People that don’t believe God speaks today are arguing from their experience, or rather lack of experience, and not from the Bible.

Others despise prophecy because they have been burned by it. They’ve seen people use the phrase, “God told me,” to enforce their own agenda or to validate their own opinion in such a way that they are deeply suspicious of any prophetic experience. Some have been damaged by following a so-called “prophetic word” when it turned out to only be a person trying to be prophetic, and not God speaking at all. When you’ve been hurt in that way it is easy to harden your heart. 

My opinion is that if you don’t feel free to judge the prophetic you will end up despising it. Paul says to “examine everything carefully…” In the Old Testament prophecy came externally to those God appointed and the penalty for being wrong was death. New Testament prophecy, on the other hand, comes from the inside of a believer (where the Holy Spirit lives) and through our yet imperfect souls. Because of this reality we have to be discerning, but should never allow ourselves to become cynical. After Paul tells us to examine everything carefully, he tells us to “hold fast to that which is good.”

God loves us and He wants to speak to us. I pray we embrace the potential of hearing God today, and the freedom to exercise discernment so we don’t get trapped by anything that is not from the Spirit.