I Thessalonians 4 Part 1–Living Holy Lives

As Paul saw things, the chosen of the Lord should live lives that honored God. Paul reminded the Thessalonians that the salvation process was a process of sanctification. Simply put, sanctification is the transformation that happens as Christians trust God and follow his daily lead. The areas that Paul discussed included sexual impurity, attitudes toward others and their treatment, and the thoughts we have about life, love, and God.  Paul reinforced the idea that Christians should live quiet lives, not looking to satisfy sexual cravings, not hurting or stealing from others, and not seeking instant gratification or attention.
 
In our lives, we are to do the same. We need to live quiet lives that seek God and not our own whims and desires.  We need to treat others with respect, kindness, and selflessness.  We need to live a life that reviews our actions and deeds and continually lays them on the altar.  The sanctification process prepares Christians for eternity.  This world is not our home, and as we pass through, we need to exhaust the effort to be like Christ.  While it is not a performance-based faith, we have to allow God to change our hearts and lives to be like Him.  When we do, we will experience peace and purpose that will help us to complete the Amazing Journey and to follow God with confidence.
 
God Bless You

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact, you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.[b] The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Colossians 1 Part 1–“Christ Plus” Theology

The Church at Colossae was unique in Paul’s writings.  Paul had never visited the city or the church.  The church at Colossae was started by Epaphras, one of Paul’s disciples. The great story of Colossae was that even without Paul’s direct involvement in its growth, the Church was having an impact. Epaphras had been a great friend to Paul and served him while he was in prison. In addition, he was an evangelist and pastor starting this church.   Paul had received the word, however, that the Colossians had been infiltrated by teachers that pushed the Christ plus heresy. Whether it was Christ Plus Judaism, Christ plus ceremonialism or Christ plus other knowledge–Paul was writing to tell the church that Christ was sufficient–no other thing, tradition or knowledge was necessary!
 
It has been and is still hard to accept that when we come to follow Christ, His salvation is a gift and requires nothing more than our acceptance. If there was a plus to Christ’s gift, in short, it would no longer be a gift. Interestingly, that is what makes men chase these false doctrines. Then and now, we simply cannot stand the idea that we cannot achieve salvation on our own.  We want to help. We want to be able to point to what we have done. God says no. To receive salvation, we simply have to trust God and accept the plan that He has offered.  The great news is that Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection opened the door for us to have fellowship with God if we will simply believe.  That does not seem like a bad thing at all!!!
 
God Bless You
 

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant,[c] who is a faithful minister of Christ on our[d] behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[e] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[f] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

I Corinthians 12 Part 1–The Distribution of Spiritual Gifts

Next, Paul addressed the issue of spiritual gifts.  The first thing that Paul wanted the people to understand was that the Holy Spirit distributed the gifts, and, as he did, it was never done to become an issue for the church.  The Spirit of God did not operate as a tool for division, nor did the Spirit ever do things that would take glory from God or tear God’s family apart.  So, Paul wanted the people to understand that the distribution of spiritual gifts was never done to divide the church or to make one person a spiritual superstar.  The gifts of encouragement, teaching, prophecy, speaking in tongues, discerning spirits were all distributed to the people for the purpose of making the church stronger.  They were not given out to divide the church or highlight any one person.  So, Paul wanted the people to stop acting as if one gift was more spiritual than another. What Paul hoped to see was that the group used their unique gifts and talents to honor and glorify God!
 
God still distributes the spiritual gifts to his people. The gifts each possess are given to support and build the entire body of Christ. Christians cannot begin to wear their spiritual gifting as some sort of badge or trophy to glorify themselves.  The church should remain submitted to God and humble.  They should use their gifts to help glorify God and build up the entire church. One’s gifts should never point to themselves, but, should always point back to God. As that remains the case, the Church becomes strong and makes an impact on lives and communities. There is no place for division among the Church, and the Spirit would never do anything that would cause such division. Simply put, God gladly distributes the gifts for the edification of all of us in God’s family. If the use of our gifts does anything else–we need to take a look at our hearts and motives.
 
God Bless You

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers, and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

I Corinthians 11 Part 2–Church is More Than Simply Gathering

The Corinthians never had a problem getting together, in fact, that was one of Paul’s major concerns.  The people were coming to argue and to party.  The regular meeting to take communion had become a combination tailgate party and runway to show the haves vs have nots.  Some people would come to the fellowship and not have anything while others would come and get drunk and eat bread until they were sick. Paul was furious.
First, communion is for remembering the sacrifice Christ, it was not about us. So, when folks came in and used it as a buffet and bar, clearly Christ was neither the focus nor purpose for the communion. 
In addition, If folks were coming to communion underfed and hungry, the church should have been meeting those needs in another forum–not communion.  The church body should not have had a “have’s” and “have not’s” division. It is unthinkable to have such issues in a prosperous and growing church.
 
As believers, we need to keep our focus on Christ, His sacrifice and His leadership.  Communion is an opportunity to stop, take stock and refocus upon Him.  When we come together as believers, we are blessed to share that experience of remembering His sacrifice and love for us. We must never use that time to focus on our needs or our accomplishments.
As a body, Christians must focus on how to serve Christ and the others in His church. We must be proactive in our service and humble in our demeanor–if we will, then the Church will be a family, not a meeting place. Our gathering will be a joyful time and not a time of jealousy, pride, and infighting. Help us, Lord, to gather with the desire of honoring you and not focusing on ourselves.
 
God Bless You

 In the following directives, I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent, I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

I Corinthians 8–Preferences and Selflessness

Paul was dealing with an issue that really had little bearing on salvation. Dietary laws.  Many Corinthians were purchasing and eating meat after it had been sacrificed to an idol. It was kind of the Aldi’s of Corinth.  For Paul, it was no big deal, but to some it was idolatry.  They brought their concern to Paul and h made it clear–Meat is meat and idols mean nothing…EXCEPT, if ones partaking of such meat causes another to fall away from the Lord.  That was significant–that changed the conversation from the meat to an attitude of selflessness.  If they participated in the practice knowing it was hurting others, then they were not honoring God and His grace; they were simply being selfish.  Paul drew the line at that point.
 
In our culture, we face these type questions daily. What movies are acceptable, what music is acceptable, how do couples behave during courtship. Smoking, drinking, gambling, dancing, and fashion all have their places in church discourse and division. Like the meat, Most of these issues are issues of preference.  Christians should not judge. When, however, the preference causes another to stumble or reject the gospel; then it is no longer about the preference, it is about the attitude of selflessness. There is no meal or movie that is more important than the eternal destiny of a friend.  We need to have Christ’s attitude of selflessness and sacrifice as it relates to our treatment of preference. If we will, God will honor it and bless us for following his lead. Help me, Lord to seek you first and foremost and allow my preferences to honor you.
 
God Bless You

 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.[a]

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

I Corinthians 1 Part 3–Men Simply Do Not Get IT!

Throughout the generations, men have attempted time and again to show how foolish it is to trust the Lord and honor Him with our lives. Men have tried to prove that God does not exist and that God should have no part in the daily affairs of men’s lives. They have persecuted, martyred and attempted to wipe God’s name from any and everything the public may see.  Still, thousands of years and dozens of fallen kingdoms and empires later–God is still standing.  His word is still the basis of the legal system we enjoy. He is still named on every coin, and history is divided by the coming of the Savior. 
 
The reality is that men will always try to replace God with their own version of supremacy. Science, art, philosophy, wealth, entertainment or just plain old chaos–men always think that their ways are better than God’s. They see spiritual truth as foolishness. They see followers of our Lord as simpletons and crazy people. Still, God remains large and in charge. His ways are still the best and walking with Him still is the only true source of peace and purpose.  The world unnerved by our confidence and faith–because they simply can’t understand.  Truth is, that is not our problem.  We speak the truth and hope that they come to know Christ.  We are selfless and God-seekers! We know the truth and as the verse plainly states, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32
 
God Bless You

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord

2 Samuel 20–Will the Unrest Ever End?

David had been through unbelievable pain. He knew that his acts destroyed many lives. Now, the land had seemed to settle down and people were once again accepting David as king–But, then Sheba appeared.  Sheba was from Benjamin’s tribe, the tribe of Saul.  He declared to the people of Israel that He wanted nothing to do with David–and several followed him.  Ultimately, David’s Army sought him out and the people of the city where he was hiding killed, Sheba.  The unrest was over.  David’s troops returned and no further rebellion happened during David’s reign. 
 
Life is a series of battles and trials.  We face them as they come.  Some come as a result of our sin and mistakes, others happen because that is a part of life.  As one looks at David’s life, it becomes apparent that while God truly loved and blessed David, there was plenty that happened that was not a fairy tale. David had to endure the trials and remain committed to the Lord in good and bad times.  Through that, he was able to leave a legacy that truly changed the world. I am sure if you asked David on a day to day basis, many of his days were not the best. We must cling to the hope of our eternal perspective and know that no matter how difficult life can become, God is with us, loves us and has an amazing plan for us!
 
God Bless You

Now a troublemaker named Sheba son of Bikri, a Benjamite happened to be there. He sounded the trumpet and shouted,

“We have no share in David,
no part in Jesse’s son!
Every man to his tent, Israel!”

So all the men of Israel deserted David to follow Sheba son of Bikri. But the men of Judah stayed by their king all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem.

When David returned to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to take care of the palace and put them in a house under guard. He provided for them but had no sexual relations with them. They were kept in confinement till the day of their death, living as widows.

Then the king said to Amasa, “Summon the men of Judah to come to me within three days, and be here yourself.” But when Amasa went to summon Judah, he took longer than the time the king had set for him.

David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba son of Bikri will do us more harm than Absalom did. Take your master’s men and pursue him, or he will find fortified cities and escape from us.”[a] So Joab’s men and the Kerethites and Pelethites and all the mighty warriors went out under the command of Abishai. They marched out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.

While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was wearing his military tunic, and strapped over it at his waist was a belt with a dagger in its sheath. As he stepped forward, it dropped out of its sheath.

Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bikri.

11 One of Joab’s men stood beside Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab!” 12 Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the middle of the road, and the man saw that all the troops came to a halt there. When he realized that everyone who came up to Amasa stopped, he dragged him from the road into a field and threw a garment over him. 13 After Amasa had been removed from the road, everyone went on with Joab to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.