God does not always get His way

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I Timothy Chapters 1 through 3 

This week’s reading is from 1 Timothy 2:4 “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God’s will is that every man is saved and spend eternity in heaven, but because God has given man a free will He has forfeited His own right to always have His way! Now that is a bit shocking but that is the truth. Not every man is going to be saved. Some are going to resist His Holy Spirit and spend their entire lives in rebellion against Him and His ways. As a result, many will NOT be saved and will end up in Hell.

As a parent, we can kind of understand this truth. We want our children to be blessed and to prosper. We do everything we can to instruct them and encourage them to make good choices but at some point, we have to let them go and make their own choices for which they will be accountable. As parents, we don’t always get our way either! So what about this whole idea of free will? Would we be better off not having any free will? Would our children be better off if we always made all their decisions for them? Would God be happier if we did not have any choice and we were forced to do His will? I don’t think so. I think the beauty of free will is that it truly allows a person to experience real love. We get to choose. I am thankful to God for giving me the ability to choose and I choose to love and serve Him. How about you, is God going to have His way with your life?

God Had Bad Breath!

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II Thessalonians Chapters 1-3

This week’s reading is from II Thessalonians 2:8 “Whom the Lord will consume the breath of his mouth…” Now I don’t know about you but I have smelled some bad breath in my lifetime but this would be some really, really bad breath! Chapter 1 and 2 are a strong warning about the coming judgment of God when Jesus returns to this earth. For some reason, the church has strayed away from this in much of today’s preaching. I admit I don’t like telling people that “God will repay with tribulation those who trouble His people.” (1:6) Or that “Jesus will return with flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God.” (1:8) Or that people “Will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord…” (1:9)

Whether I like it or not the teaching about eternal punishment, outer darkness, gnashing of teeth, where the worm does not die, wailing, and everlasting fire was a constant topic of Jesus preaching, sixteen times in the gospel of Matthew. We often think of Jesus as being so kind and gentle and merciful. He was, but He nevertheless spoke often about the terrible place called Hell. It almost seems like He was always talking about it. If He were here today, I think we would take Him aside and tell Him it probably isn’t such a good idea to talk so much about Hell, and that it would probably scare people away! He obviously felt it was very important to teach about the horrors of Hell. Several times in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said it would be better to have your hand cut off or your eye plucked out rather than be sent to Hell. He believed that whatever it took to avoid Hell, it was worth it! Every time Jesus spoke about Hell, He did it as a warning to us, that we would fear God and seek to avoid this dreadful place. To reject the gospel is to place yourself in a precarious position. Paul continues this teaching here in II Thessalonians.

Hell is a real place and people will be sent there for eternity. There are no second chances after death. In Hebrews 9:27 we are told that it is appointed unto men once to die and then comes the judgment. But no one has to go to Hell. In Revelations 20:15 we are told that only those whose names are not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire. Jesus came to deliver mankind from this eternal separation. His death on the cross paid the penalty for our sins. If we repent of our sins and ask God to forgive us, our names will be written in the Book of Life. We won’t ever have to smell that bad breath of God’s divine judgment!

How to be a voice in someone’s head

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I Thessalonians Chapters 1 through 5

This week’s reading is found in 1:1-10. A while back I had the opportunity to talk with several people that I had not seen in many years. It was great seeing them and talking. One of them said something to me that just kept ringing over and over in my head. They said, “Pastor Dave, even though we have not been at the church for many years, I still hear your voice in my head!” What an incredible thing. Whether we realize it or not we are the voice in some people’s head. Thessalonica was a church that was a voice in the head of many churches. Since we are going to be the voice in someone’s head, here a few things that can help that voice be one that encourages people in their faith.

The people in Thessalonica had what is called the ‘holy trinity” of the Christian walk. They had the “work of faith, labor of love and patience of hope” active in their lives. This means that their faith was alive and active. This is talking about doing something with their faith, like what James says in his letter, “Faith without any outward works is dead.” These people understood that their service to God included more than just going to church and believing in Jesus. Their faith produced action in serving people. This is the “work of faith.” They did it because they loved the people they were serving. This is the “Labor of love.” Love needs to be at the core of serving if we want our voice to be heard in someone else’s head. They were patient with people, especially in difficult times. This is the “patience of hope.” When our Christian faith includes this “holy trinity” not only will we be a voice in someone’s head but that voice will be one that encourages them in their faith in God. What voice are people hearing in their head when they think about you?

Are you doing what you are supposed to be doing?

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Colossians Chapters 1 through 4

Every Christian wants to know that they are doing what they should be doing. Every Christian wants to know that they are “walking worthy of the Lord.” In this week’s reading, 1:10-12 Paul prays for the Christians in Colossae that they would be doing what they are supposed to be doing and walking worthy of the Lord. He then mentions a few things that can be looked at as indicators that we are on the right track.

First, he prays that they would “be fruitful in every good work.” One sign that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing is the fruit that it is bearing. This could be referring to fruit in our own lives, like love, joy, peace, longsuffering and so on. Or it could be referring to fruit in other people’s lives. When we are doing what we are supposed to be doing there should always be some good fruit.

Next, Paul prays that they would be “increasing in their knowledge of God.” When we are doing what we are supposed to be doing our relationship with God should be growing. Our understanding and knowledge of God and His character should be always be growing. I believe that is going to be an eternal quest. Forever getting to know God better and in a deeper way. But if we are finding our spiritual life waning, then it might be a good idea to take a look at what we are doing and see what needs to change.

Next, Paul prays that they would be “strengthened with all might … for patience and longsuffering.” Now, this is a great indicator to see if we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. How are we handling opposition and difficulties? How are we dealing with situations that are not working out the way they should? If we are getting all upset, yelling at people or stressing out, something is not right. It is possible that we are not doing what we are supposed to be doing and therefore we are not being strengthened with God’s strength or else we just need to repent!

Lastly, Paul prays that they would be “giving thanks to the Father…” One of the best ways to determine if we are doing what we are supposed to be doing is to check our attitudes. Are we thankful and grateful to God for our jobs? Are we giving thanks to the Father for what He is doing in our lives?

God wants us to live lives that are blessed. The best way to live a blessed life is to make sure we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. Every now and then it is good to stop and make an assessment and see if these four things are present in our lives. They can help keep us on track and “walking worthy of the Lord.”