Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Introduction to the Pastoral Epistles

Saint Paul Writing His Epistle by Valentin de Boulogne or Nicolas Tournier
About 16th Cenutry, Blaffer Foundation Collection, Houston, TX
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ec/File%22-Saint_Paul_Writing_His_Epistles%22_by_Valentin_de_Boulogne.jpg
The Pastoral Epistles are a little different from the other Pauline epistles we have been reading. They are personal letters written to pastors rather than churches. Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus to encourage these younger men as they shepherded the churches of Ephesus and Crete.  The letters focus more on the challenges of church life.


Here is a brief overview:

1 Timothy: Protecting the Faith
Written in Macedonia
A.D. 62-63

Outline:
The Pastor and Church Government (1 Timothy 1-3)
The Pastor and Personal Progress (1 Timothy 4-6)

2 Timothy: Proclaiming the Faith
Written from Rome
A.D 67

The Pastor and Coming Apostasy 

Titus: Practicing the Faith
Written from Corinth
A.D. 63

The Pastor and Church Problems 

(Adapted from The Daily Walk, December 2008, p. 8)

While these are written to pastors, they are personally applicable for everyone!



Enjoy!

Put 2 Thessalonians Back on the New Testament Shelf

Congratulations! You are 95% of the way through this journey. I know that it is probably hard to fathom, but we will be done with the entire Bible three months from today! 

Tomorrow we start Paul's Pastoral Epistles!!

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2 Thessalonians 3 - Living in Light of Christ's Return

LINK: 2 Thessalonians 3

BACKGROUND


In this closing chapter, Paul asked for their prayers in the spread of the gospel and for protection from evil men. He expressed confidence that our faithful Lord would protect them from the evil one, Satan. We are in a battle with an unseen enemy. Have you been "armoring up" since you read Ephesians 6?


Paul's last condemnation was for lazy saints who thought the day of the Lord was coming. Because of this, they did not work or plan for the future. This idleness led them to sin. Paul and his associates had already been a great example to them. He exhorted the lazy saints to get to work! If they didn't work, they should not eat and be associated with. Hunger and loneliness would probably drive them to get to work! Tough love is sometimes the best kind of love!


REFLECTION

How does the promise of Christ's return affect your daily life? Would a casual observer attest that something is different about you because of Jesus' words: "I will come back" (John 14:3)? 
Jesus' return is a balancing doctrine. It gives both the present and the future a sense of perspective and helps us establish priorities that honor God. Some members of the Thessalonian church viewed His return as a reason to relax -- withdraw from society, close down their businesses, and settle back to wait. But Paul responded sternly to such misguided laziness (3:10-15). And, in our society, busyness can cause us to neglect or even forget to be about heaven's business. 
Have you slipped into the same error through neglect of your family, business, or spiritual duties? Today is a great time to get back on target. Call a family council this evening to discuss any neglected tasks God wants you to perform until His Son returns. 
(Daily Walk, December 2008, p. 7)
Note: If you are single, this can be done with a group of like-hearted brothers and sisters too!

Having read this in the Daily Walk today, it makes me happy I had a great and productive day writing for the Bible Book Club after a few days of real aimlessness and lack of focus! 


I am on the homestretch of an eight year project writing and editing these posts. I feel like this is what God has called me to do, and I am passionate about people knowing Jesus through reading the Bible and applying what they learn. 


APPLICATION

What is God calling you to do that will last into eternity? 



PRAYER


Lord, help us to work heartily for YOU! Amen. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

2 Thessalonians 2 - Man of Lawlessness and Standing Firm

LINK: 2 Thessalonians 2


BACKGROUND


In this chapter, Paul described the end of the world and Christ's second coming (parousias, "presence") because some thought it had already come, but it had not. He said two things had to happen first:
1) Apostasy - a distinguishable falling away from and rebellion against the Lord 
2) Appearance of the man of lawlessness, doomed to destruction
The man of lawlessness is recognized by commentators as the Antichrist (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). This will be the last great world dictator. God declared war on Satan and his family in Genesis 3:15 and promised that the descendant of Eve (Jesus) would be the one who would bruise him on the head. This is Satan's last stand, and the Antichrist is his production. Those who are perishing and who do not believe the truth will worship Satan and believe his lies (Revelation 6:1-2; Daniel 9:24-27; Revelation 13:15-17; 19:11-21).


The day of the Lord is described as a time of suffering and trouble. The man of lawlessness may be coming, but evil will not have the upper hand because Christ will come to judge the world. 


Paul talks about a few of the signs involved (as Jesus did in Mark 13), but his major emphasis is on how each person can prepare for His coming. He makes this transition in 2:13-17 by exhorting the Thessalonians to "stand firm" in the teachings that they had already been taught.  They would not suffer the same fate as those who are perishing (2:10) because they had been chosen by God for salvation. Neither will we! This chapter concludes with Paul's prayer for encouragement and strength. 

APPLICATION

Are you standing firm? This is the best way to prepare for His coming. 

PRAYER


Lord, thank You for choosing us for salvation, not because of anything that we have done on our own. Thank You for Your grace. Help us to stand firm in the midst of trouble and suffering and to hope for the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

2 Thessalonians 1 - Thanksgiving for Faith and Perseverance

LINK: 2 Thessalonians 1


BACKGROUND


2 Thessalonians 


Paul's second letter to the church in Thessalonica was written about A.D. 52-53 from Corinth a few months after the first letter. It was written between the events of Acts 18:22 and 23. This would be the third of Paul's epistles with Galatians being the first. 


He wrote this letter to clear up the confusion concerning the second coming of Christ.  


In this letter, he commended them for their growth in spite of persecution, corrected their misunderstandings about the day of the Lord, and exhorted them about living in light of the coming of Christ.


1 Thessalonians 1


In this chapter, Paul thanked God for their faith, love, and perseverance in the midst of persecution and affliction. He tells them that those who persecuted them for their faith and who do not obey God will face everlasting destruction when Christ returns. This everlasting destruction is the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14) - the place of eternal separation from God. Even though this is their end, we do not want that for anyone. That is why Christ told us to pray for those who persecute us and love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). The Thessalonians were being persecuted by both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 17:5-9).


REFLECTION


"If you haven't crossed the devil at least once a day, maybe you're walking in the same direction." 
Anonymous

I have this quote written in my 2 Thessalonians Precept Upon Precept Study from 2004. (I have no idea where I ran across it.)  After studying this chapter, and learning about the persecution of believers, I wrote this:
5-24-04: I am not in a season of suffering right now, but my friend, D, is in a season of suffering. I pray that I can be an encouragement and support to her in her time of need. I am holding up OK right now, but I am sure I will need to rely on Your strength and comfort as the days go by. Lord, thank You for the timing of all of this, and I pray I might honor and glorify You in this.
I had flown to be with my friend in her distress over a shocking dismissal from her work. She had stood up and spoken truth where there were many lies and deceptions, and she paid a big price. She was so distraught. She would cry with me for hours. Then, she would be so overwhelmed she would have to go into her bedroom and pray and cry out to the Lord. Each time she did that, I came in and studied 2 Thessalonians and prayed. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect chapter to be studying at that time.

Later that day I wrote:
5-24-04: Oh Lord, the timing of this could not be more perfectly timed. I love how You do this. I marvel at Your great goodness. I have been able to share these key verse with D and write them on note cards. I've been able to pray for her and comfort her. I know I can do better, but I will let You lead me through this.
Anytime we go forward in truth, there will be persecution. We learned from previous books in the Bible Book Club that we need to be gracious with outsiders (Colossians 4:5) and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We will learn in the future about giving an account to others for the hope that is in us with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Yet sometimes, no matter how gentle, loving, gracious, and respectful we are, people will be offended by truth. With that offense, persecution often follows. There is such a fine balance between the two. I pray we can find it!


APPLICATION


It is really good to develop a "theology of suffering" that will help you through tough times. Here are some verses to get you started:
Matthew 5:10-12; 10:16-25, 34-40 
Luke 12:51-53 
John 15:16-25; 16:33; 17:14-18 
Philippians 1:29-30 
2 Timothy 3:10-13 
Hebrew 5:7-9 
James 1:2-4 
1 Peter 1:6-9; 4:12-19; 5:8-10 
Psalm 73; 119:67-71


PRAYER


Lord, we know we have an enemy who does not want us to go forward in faith. We come against him in the name and blood of Jesus Christ. Teach us to boldly go forward and have the hope that You have things all in control. Lord, we pray for the salvation of those who persecute us for their faith. We do not want them to suffer an eternity without You. Draw them to Yourself. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Put 1 Thessalonians Back on the New Testament Shelf

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You're are done!

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:21 - The Day of the Lord

LINK: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:21


BACKGROUND

The Thessalonians were wondering what would happen to the fellow believers who had already fallen asleep (died, Mark 5:39; John 11:11-13) when the Lord returned. First of all, their souls did not go to sleep. Paul had already stated in previous letters that to be absent in the body was to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; James 2:26), but their physical bodies that were once asleep would be raised. We do not know when this will be.

Here is a progression of the events when Christ returns:

1) Christ will come down from heaven (Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3).  
2) There will be a loud command, the voice of the archangel, and a trumpet call. Whether all separate or all together, this is the announcement of Christ's return (1 Corinthians 15:52). 
3) The bodies of believers in Christ will rise from their graves (1 Corinthians 15:35ff, 51-54. John 5:24-29; 11:21-27. These bodies will be glorified like the glorified body of Christ (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:47-58). 
Paul was mocked by the Athenian philosophers when he talked about the resurrection of the dead (Acts 17:32). Their philosophy taught that getting rid of the physical body was a good thing. They also did not think a decomposed body could be resurrected. 

4) Believers who are alive will be caught up in the clouds with Christ. The Latin word is rapto, meaning "to seize, to carry off" and is where we get our word "rapture." The Greek word is harpázō and means "to steal, to capture, to snatch, to seize, to take by force." 

1 Thessalonians 5 begins with the timing of the day of the Lord. This is a future time when God will intervene in human affairs. As you recall, we discussed it numerous times during our study of the Old Testament prophets (See link for the posts that contain THE DAY OF THE LORD). This day will be one of judgment and punishment, but we do not know when it will come because it will be like a "thief in the night" (Matthew 24:42-43; Luke 12:35-40; Revelation 3:3; 16:15). Paul goes into more detail about the day of the Lord in his second letter to the Thessalonians.


Since believers are not people of the night, they have nothing to fear. We are not destined for God's wrath because the blood of Christ has averted His wrath once and for all. Although we have no fear, Paul exhorted us to be alert and self-controlled, put on the armor of faith and love, build each other up, respect leaders, live in peace, warn the idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient, resist revenge, pray continually, give thanks, not quench the Spirit, not despise prophecies, examine everything carefully, cling to what is good, and avoid every form of evil. Whew!


The letter concludes with Paul's benediction of grace, peace, and sanctification on the believer in Thessalonica and an exhortation to have the letter read to all. 


REFLECTION


We are stuck between the "now and the not yet":


See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, 
that we would be called children of God; 
and such we are. 


For this reason the world does not know us, 


because it did not know Him.

Beloved, now we are children of God, 

and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. 

We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, 
because we will see Him just as He is.
And everyone who has this hope fixed 
on Him purifies himself,
just as He is pure.
1 John 3:1-3 



In the meantime we are to live godly lives of worship to God until He comes again.


“For to worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, 
to feed the mind with the truth of God, 
to purge the imagination by the beauty of God,
 to open up the heart to the love of God, 
to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
William Temple, a late Archbishop of Canterbury

APPLICATION


I remember once, while listening to this song many years ago, I caught a glimpse of the return of Christ and my place in all of it. Hope this ministers to you like it did to me this morning.

Here is the song on YouTube: http://youtu.be/tYTw6HGWANM


Amy Grant singing "The Now and the Not Yet"

(Lyrics by Pam Mark Hall)

No longer what we were before, but not all that we will be  
Tomorrow when we lock the door on all our compromising  
When He appears, He'll draw us near  
And we'll be changed by His glory  
Wrapped up in His glory  
  
We will be like Him  
For we shall see Him as He is  
No longer what we saw before, but not all that we will see  
Tomorrow when we lock the door on all our disbelieving  
When He appears, our view will clear  
And we'll be changed by His glory  
Wrapped up in His glory  
  
But I'm caught in between the now and the not yet  
Sometimes it feels like forever and ever  
That I've been reaching to be all that I am  
But I'm only a few steps nearer  
Yet I'm nearer  
  
No longer what we were before, but not all that we will be  
Tomorrow when we lock the door on all our compromising  
And He appears, He'll draw us near  
And we'll be changed by His glory  
Wrapped up in His glory  
  
When He appears, He'll draw us near  
And we'll be changed by His glory  
Wrapped up in His glory


PRAYER

I pray that we can live lives of alertness and self-control, looking for the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Help us to be holy in our actions until You come again. Amen. 


Saturday, July 27, 2013

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 -- Exhortations to Excel

LINK: 1 Thessalonians 4 


BACKGROUND


Chapters 4 and 5 contain practical instructions and exhortations for the Thessalonians. I will only discuss 4:1-12 today because the topic of the Day of the Lord goes from 4:13-5:11. So I will post about that tomorrow. 


They were living well, but Paul exhorted them to "excel still more" and complete what was lacking in their faith (3:10) in two areas: sexual purity and love for their brothers.

Sexual purity was a big issue. The Roman Empire and Gentile population of the day had very low sexual standards. Believers were to go against the morals of the society and walk in holiness. That could not be more true today where people who do not have sex out of marriage are looked on with astonishment and scorn. People cannot believe anyone could not have sex (Once, I had a friend say it is a necessary thing, like food and water.), but we are empowered to live a holy life by the indwelling Holy Spirit. 



He also exhorts them to love their brothers still more and more. He exhorted them to strive to be at peace with God and others by leading a quiet life, minding their own business, and working with their hands. The Greek word for "quiet" does not mean less noisy but less frantic. Some in Thessalonica had become idle because they thought the day of the Lord was coming at anytime and they saw no need to work. This obviously led to some strife among brothers. 

No REFLECTION or APPLICATION today, but remember to keep adding to your topical study on follow up. 



PRAYER


Lord, empower us by Your Holy Spirit to live holy lives and protect us and those we love from sexual temptation. Help us to excel in loving others from the heart. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 



Friday, July 26, 2013

1 Thessalonians 3 - Praying Them Toward Maturity

LINK: 1 Thessalonians 3

BACKGROUND 


Paul continued to express his concern that he started in 2:17. Paul could not return to them, but he could send Timothy to strengthen them and encourage them in the midst of their trials. After Timothy visited, he rejoined Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1-5). 


He reminded them that persecution was "par for the course" if they wanted to follow God in a pagan culture. He was also concerned about them being tempted to return to paganism, but Timothy brought good news of them standing firm in their faith! 


He closes the chapter by stating that he prayed for them night and day (3:10. Are you putting that on your topical list about follow-up?). He prayed that he would see their faces, complete his follow-up of them so that they would be mature in Christ (Colossians 1:27-28), that they would grow in love for each other and all people, and their hearts would be established blameless in holiness before God. 


REFLECTION 

Paul added his own stabilizing reminder that trials are not necessarily a sign of God’s disfavor, but are part of every Christian’s legacy. When trouble comes, Christians often react by doubting that they are where God wants them to be; they often think that they have done something wrong and that God must be displeased with them. Even some mature Christians react this way, as evidenced by Paul’s words of reassurance to Timothy many years later. “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Yet storms often come to believers to make them able to stand firm, rather than to blow them away (cf. 2 Cor. 4:15-16).
(The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Volume 2, p. 698)
I can attest that "even mature Christians react this way." I am such a WIMP when it comes to persecution. The worst I have ever experienced was when I was in a sorority in college. There were girls who HATED me, and I didn't even know them. I kept on wondering what I had done wrong, but I think it was just because of what I represented to them. The one who persecuted me the most was at a reunion tea this last year, and I swallowed hard when she walked in the room after not seeing her for 32 years, but I quickly recovered. It was a gentle reminder to continue to pray for her and others from that era of my life. 

APPLICATION 

Continue to do your topical study on follow-up. 

Is there a spiritual child you can pray for? 

PRAYER


Lord, give us a heart like Paul who loved those he led and invested deeply in them. Amen. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

1 Thessalonians 2 - Spiritual Parenting

LINK: 1 Thessalonians 2

BACKGROUND


Paul reveals his pastoral heart in this chapter. He knew it was not just about sharing the gospel as an evangelist. It was also about caring for young believers. He was more concerned about this than all of his suffering (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Paul knew that nurturing babes in Christ and helping them toward maturity was a top priority. 


Paul revealed his . . . 


Pure motives (2:1-6) 


Paul suffered persecution in Philippi for preaching the gospel (Acts 16:22-24), but that did not keep him from preaching the gospel in Thessalonica and experiencing more persecution. His motives in preaching to them were to please God alone and not man. 


Parental heart (2:7-12) 


He showed gentle loving care like a mother. "Paul did not turn his converts over to baby-sitters" (The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, 1 Thess. 2:7-8, p. 165). He made sacrifices in order to care for them personally. He sacrificed to the point of imparting his very life! 


He cared for them like a father who worked tirelessly to proclaim the gospel to them. He was an example to them of a holy life too. He also exhorted ("to call to one's side, strengthen"), encouraged ("to speak to, whether by way of admonition and incentive, or to calm and console"), and implored ("emphatic demand") them to walk in obedience to the God of glory.


Passionate Joy (2:13-16)


He rejoiced that the Thessalonians welcomed the gospel, showed transformed lives, and suffered for their faith like their fellow believers in Judea. In this they were imitating the Lord and Paul. 


He specifically targets the Jews who hindered the work they had been called to do themselves (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:18). They persecuted the prophets and killed Jesus (not ALL Jews did this, many became believers) because they could not see that He was the Messiah (Matthew 5:10-12). They rejected the truth to protect their traditions (Mark 7:1-8). By doing this, they were "filling up their sins and storing up wrath for the day of judgment" (Matthews 23:32). God is patient, but eventually, when the time comes, His patience will end and judgment will need to fall. 


Prevented Return (2:17-20)


Paul's heart broke to have to be torn away from them when they were babes in Christ. He tried to return but Satan thwarted him. He wanted them to be assured that he had them in his heart. They were his hope; "their development was what he lived for as a parent lives to see his children grow up to maturity, to produce and reproduce" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Volume 2, 1 Thess. 2:19-20, p. 697). They were also his glory, joy and crown. The believers, established in the Lord, were Paul's reward for all his labor. 


REFLECTION/APPLICATION


"It's 11 p.m.; do you know where your children are?" That's a healthy reminder to parents that the duty to discipline and supervise their children is a full-time job. Shirking that responsibility can only lead to heartache in the lives of children. 
If Paul were writing to you today, he might begin this way: "It's December 2; do you know where your spiritual children are?" Though Paul's converts were spread out in more than 20 different cities, he never abandoned them but, rather, carried them in his heart and corresponded regularly with then.   
Check Philippians 1:3-4, Colossians 1:3, and Philemon 4, and you'll find the same kind of statement that begins Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians: "We always thank God for all of you mentioning you in our prayers" (1:2). Do you have any spiritual children? Do you pray daily for them? Do you communicate with them periodically through phone calls, visits, and e-mails? If not, start today. As Paul shows us, spiritual growth is nurtured best in the soil of prayer and encouragement. 
(Daily Walk, December 2008, p. 6)
Reading this today really convicted me. Tomorrow I will talk about a "persecutor" from my sorority days that showed up at a reunion, but one of the other people that showed up was someone I led to the Lord. I am convicted that I have not been praying for her and staying in touch with her all these years! 

On a more wonderful note, I am getting together this morning with two spiritual children who have become spiritual parents themselves. I have not seen for a very long time! I am so looking forward to prayer and encouragement with them.


PRAYER

Lord, would You open doors of communication up with our spiritual children? Amen. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

1 Thessalonians 1 - Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians

http://www.biblevector.com/2010/05/book-of-1-thessalonians.html
LINK: 1 Thessalonians 1

BACKGROUND


Thessalonica was the chief port of the Roman province of Macedonia in what is now modern day Northern Greece. It was located on the east-west Egnatian Highway, which was the main road from Rome to the Orient via Byzantium (now modern Istanbul, Turkey). Most of its nearly 200,000 residents were native Greeks with many Romans, Asians, and Jews also living there. 


Pagan Greek religion produced immorality, but there was a strong Jewish presence that attracted disillusioned Greeks, Romans, and Asians to the synagogue resulting in many proselytes (a Gentile converted to Judaism). They were present when Paul preached there in Acts 17:1-9 during his second missionary journey in A.D. 51. He went to Macedonia because he received a vision of a man from Macedonia calling for help, Acts 16.  As a result of his preaching there, some Jews, several Gentile Greeks, and some wives of prominent citizens of the city came to believe (17:4). Because of persecution, Paul and Silas were sent away to Berea (17:10). 


A short time later, Paul sent Timothy to check on the Thessalonians because he heard of their persecution. Timothy rejoined Paul at Corinth with good news that the Thessalonians were standing strong in their faith (Acts 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:6-7). It is believed that Paul wrote the two letters to the Thessalonians from Corinth in A.D. 52-53 and the events between Acts 18:22 and 23. 


Paul wrote them to encourage them to persevere and to correct errors: moral laxity, laziness, and disrespect of spiritual leaders. He also assured them of Christ's return. 

1 Thessalonians 1


This letter is from Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. We will find out more about Timothy next week when we study Paul's letter to him, but Silas accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-17:15), helped Paul establish the church in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9), and is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 1:19; 2 Thessalonians 1:1, and 1 Peter 5:12. 


Paul thanked God because the Thessalonians stood firm in spite of persecution. They were a model to other believers everywhere (1:8). They had turned from the dead idols of the Greek pagan religion to serve the living God and to wait for the return of Jesus. 


REFLECTION 

1 Thessalonians is one of the first books I studied deeply. At the end of the three month verse-by-verse study in 1981, our study went to the Oregon Coast and studied it again, but this time, we did it TOPICALLY. Our Bible study leader made nice little books, and sent us out on a gorgeous June day to ask question about how Paul "followed-up" the new believers of Thessalonica.  (I saved that precious book for years, but I cannot find it now!)  I encourage you to look at Paul's attitude and actions toward these new followers of Jesus.



My Bible Study on that June day in 1981 - I am in the orange jacket.




Like the Thessalonians, I came from a pagan culture and had no background in the Bible. I could count the number of times on one hand I went to a church before age 10, but I was desperate and disillusioned with the "perfect" secular life I had with my family growing up. It lacked meaning and hope. Jesus gave this to me. Sadly, I was NOT followed-up and grounded in the truth from the Word of God at the beginning of my journey of faith that began in the fall of 1969. It took me ten years to really start growing, doing the best I knew how to be as a believer in junior high and high school. I navigated it OK, but I was an orphan with no one to tenderly care for me like Paul cared for the Thessalonians until I met this group of women and our leader, Sheryl Rice Jury (she is not in the picture).


That is why I am passionate about follow up now! 


APPLICATION 


If you need some direction about how to ground new believers, let Paul be your guide and do a topical study on the subject of follow-up as we read 1 Thessalonians. 



Here is a great resource for getting you started helping people grow:


There are four lists in this handout with Bible studies for investing in four different groups:

1) Discovering God (for not yet followers or those who need a foundation)
2) Discovering Obedience (for establishing believers in obedience to Christ)
3) Discovering Reproduction (for equipping believers to reproduce)
4) Discovering Leadership (for developing leaders)

I also have additional resources to help you become grounded or to ground someone else! Just leave a comment, and I can send them to you. 


PRAYER

Lord, thank You for Paul's wonderful model of care and concern for the Thessalonians. May we care for someone else in the same way. Amen. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Put Colossians Back on the New Testament Shelf

BibleBookcase

You are done with the prison epistles of Paul! Now we are taking a two day break before we dive into Paul's letters to the Thessalonians!

Colossians 4 - Spirituality and the Outer Life in Christ

LINK: Colossians 4


BACKGROUND


Paul gives two final exhortations to the Colossians:


1) Devote yourselves to prayer (4:2)

Devote means to "give unremitting care to a thing. Persevere and not faint."


2) Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders (non-believers), making the most of the opportunity (4:5)

How do we walk in wisdom? Display the Christ-like characteristics described in Colossians 3!  It also means talking about our faith with not yet followers of Jesus in a gracious way like Jesus did (Luke 4:22; Psalm 45:2; Ephesians 4:29).

I mentioned this definition for opportunity when we studied Ephesians 5, but it bears repeating:
Our English word opportunity comes from the Latin and means "toward the port." It suggests a ship taking advantage of the wind and tide to arrive safely in the harbor. The brevity of life is a strong argument for making the best use of the opportunities God gives us.  
(The Bible Exposition Commentary, Ephesians 5:16a, p. 47)
And those opportunities with non-believers are rampant if we chose to make the most of them! Are you opening your eyes to see them?

Colossians 4:7-15 contains mention of all of Paul's fellow workers in the Lord. Paul had many friends who helped him. He was a great friend-maker. Here is a list of them with cross-references:
  • Timothy - Acts 16:1; 19:22, 2 Timothy, Philippians 1
  • Epaphras - Colossians 1:7; 4:12-13, Philippians 23 (the man who prayed)
  • Tychicus - Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12
  • Onesimus - Colossians 4:9; Philippians 10-18
  • Aristarchus - Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Colossians 4:10; Philippians 24
  • John Mark - Acts 12:12, 25; 15::37-39; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philippians 24; 1 Peter 5:13
  • Jesus Justus - Colossians 4:11
  • Luke - Wrote Luke and Acts (notice the "we" in Acts 16:10; Acts 20:5ff; Acts 27:1ff); Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philippians 24
  • Demus - Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10; Philippians 24
  • Archippus - Colossians 4:17; Philippians 2

REFLECTION


It has been bittersweet for me to study Colossians this week. I love the book, but it reminds me of a time when I co-led a study in this book with a woman in the summer of 2000. The women's ministry leaders had some concerns about her being "on her own" so I volunteered to come alongside to mentor her in leading studies. It was her first one, and she did an exceptional job. She had an exceptional gift of teaching. Her final application for this book was from Colossians 4. She wanted to become like an Epaphras who prayed.  


Even though she was an exceptional teacher, it was difficult for her to "put off" the old and worn out clothes of Colossians 3. She was often slanderous and angry. She talked about other people behind their back. She even put me down a bit, but I tried to be gracious and loving. She did not get along with the women's ministry leadership team, and she was constantly trying to get me embroiled in the conflicts that she was having with other people. 


She led a study on her own in the fall, and I was there to observe (again, on the request of the women's leadership). She got increasingly more and more hostile as she led the class to the point that sometimes she was even yelling the basic points. I tried to encourage her to be gentler, and she became hostile with me. There was also much drama in her life, and she finally asked me to take over leading the next study in the winter. I was happy to do it. I hoped that just being "in" the study would reduce her hostility because she would not be so stressed. Sadly, once I started leading, she realized that she did not like that she was no longer the center of attention, and she started to exhibit really angry behavior toward me and others in the study. I was so exhausted with all the drama that I spent a whole day in prayer about the situation. God gave me much peace, and a week later, she called to say that she would not be in the study anymore. Quite honestly, I was relieved.

Sadly, it did not stop there. Unbeknownst to me, she was leaving because she was mad at me even though I thought I had been so careful with my words and gentle with her. She went out and spread wild and slanderous rumors about me (much like she did about our women's ministry leader). The whole situation was absolutely heart-breaking. It was so hard to stem the tide of false rumors that she spread about me. One person in the study left, believing everything this woman had said about me. All the others stayed though, and through the process, I made two very dear friends out of it; but I was shaken to the core. 


A few years later, I heard that she had left her husband and two small children for another woman (yes, you heard that right). Her husband has full custody of the children, and she usually does not show up when she has them for visitation. She has also cut off all communication with her parents. It is a very sad situation. 


I pray that someday she becomes an Epaphras though. It is a sad example of someone who knew the Scriptures but did not apply them by putting off the old woman and putting on the new. 


APPLICATION


Are you devoted to prayer? Can you determine to be a prayer warrior like Epaphras?


Do you make the most of every opportunity with non-believers? Are you taking advantage of the “wind and tide” of internationals that have flooded our universities and cities?

What is one thing you have learned from your study of Colossians that you would like to apply to your life? Leave a comment about it. 


PRAYER


Lord, help us to be devoted to prayer. Open a door for the Word to be proclaimed, and help us to be gracious in our speech when You do open it. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Colossians 3 - True Spirituality

LINK: Colossians 3


BACKGROUND


This is the transition chapter from doctrinal to practical. 


Believers (and the old sinful nature) have died with Christ, and have been raised with Christ (giving us a new life) so our hearts and minds should raise toward heavenly things. The New Living Translation says to "Let heaven fill your thoughts." He is not saying this so that we are "so heavenly-minded that we are no earthly good," but so that we can live drawing on the power from above to live in this world below. 

Since "Christ is all, and is in all" (3:11), Paul exhorts us to discard the parts of our former life that are not pleasing to Him and put on behavior that is according to the character of Christ.  The imagery here is like taking off old, worn out clothes and putting on new ones. 

I led a Bible Study on Colossians ten years ago where I had a dirty jacket covered with the things mentioned in 3:5-9, took it off, and put on a new one with all the characteristics mentioned in 3:12-14 written on my sleeves. It is common to have a "vice" and "virtue" list in Paul's letters (Romans 1:29-32; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-23; Philippians 4:8; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). It is also common in Greek literature. I will go into more detail about the Colossians "virtue" list in the Reflection section.



As these characteristics are more and more evident, peace will be the "umpire or referee" of our heart. We will let Christ's Word dwell in us so that we can have true fellowship that involves teaching and admonishing one another so that God will be glorified. The Holman New Testament Commentary: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians says:
Scripture closely connects the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the function of the Word of God, and the goal of becoming like Christ as can be seen in a comparison list of four passages. (p.339)

The four passages are: Colossians 3:16-17; Ephesians 5:18-20; Galatians 5:16; and Romans 13:14. It might be good to compare them for yourself.   


"Spirituality involves the whole of human life;
nothing is nonspiritual . . . In fact, spirituality
is to be expressed primarily in the ordinary
everyday affairs and relationships of our lives."
Ranald Macaulay and Jerram Barrs


Paul concludes the chapter by giving exhortations in those "everyday relationships" of our lives:


1) Wives and husbands - submit and love (See application section)
2) Children and parents - obey and encourage
3) Slaves and masters - work hard and be fair 


REFLECTION


Greek word definitions for the "Perfect Seven" Virtues:


Compassion - (oiktirmos) to bear or suffer with others. Sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.


Kindness - (chrestotes) moral goodness, sympathetic or helpful nature in action


Humility - (tapeinophrosune) not arrogant or assertive. My friend, Carol Sue, used to define it as "a proper estimation of your strengths, weaknesses, and limitations." 


Gentleness - This characteristic is called meekness in other translations and carries negative connotations, but this definition (with my highlights) clears all of that up:
PRAÜTĒS, or PRAOTES, an earlier form, (πραϋτης, (4240)) denotes meekness. In its use in Scripture, in which it has a fuller, deeper significance than in non–scriptural Greek writings, it consists not in a person’s outward behaviour only; nor yet in his relations to his fellow–men; as little in his mere natural disposition. Rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting; it is closely linked with the word tapeinophrosunē [humility], and follows directly upon it, Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; . . . it is only the humble heart which is also the meek, and which, as such, does not fight against God and more or less struggle and contend with Him. This meekness, however, being first of all a meekness before God, is also such in the face of men, even of evil men, out of a sense that these, with the insults and injuries which they may inflict, are permitted and employed by Him for the chastening and purifying of His elect” (Trench, Syn. § xlii). In Gal. 5:23 it is associated with enkrateia, self–control.
The meaning of praütēs “is not readily expressed in English, for the terms meekness, mildness, commonly used, suggest weakness and pusillanimity to a greater or less extent, whereas praütēs does nothing of the kind. Nevertheless, it is difficult to find a rendering less open to objection than ‘meekness;’ ‘gentleness’ has been suggested, but as praütēs describes a condition of mind and heart, and as ‘gentleness’ is appropriate rather to actions, this word is no better than that used in both English Versions. It must be clearly understood, therefore, that the meekness manifested by the Lord and commended to the believer is the fruit of power  
(Vine's Expository dictionary of Old and New Testament Words2:55-56)


Patience - (makrothumia, [macros, "long," thumos, "temper"]) "Self-restraint before proceeding to action. The quality of a person who is able to avenge himself yet refrains from doing so" (The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, p. 939) and "a steady response in the face of provocation" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Volume 2 , p. 682). 


Forgiveness - (charizomai from charis, "grace") "to give freely," to give up resentment or a claim to retaliation.


Love - (agape) " . . . not an expression of feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, Romans 15:2, and works no ill to any, 13:8-10; love seeks opportunity to do good to 'all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,' Gal. 6:10" (Vines, p. 382).


And why do we do this? So that we have unity in the Body of Christ!


APPLICATION


Is your mind down in the gutter or does heaven fill your thoughts? What habits and practices do you need to put to death? 


I just watched a movie last night called Fireproof that is a great dramatic portrayal of the "putting off" and "putting on" principle we learned about today. I love it when God puts together what I am learning in Scripture with something else!  It deals specifically with the husband/wife relationship and the destructive nature of the old self on a marriage (including a real issue in our time, pornography, but there is nothing graphically portrayed) and the need to put those habits to death!


Most of the actors are amateurs (Kirk Cameron is the only veteran, and he does a great job.), but it is a great movie!  It would be a great discussion tool too. There is also a companion book called The Love Dare that goes along with the movie. It takes many of the virtues mentioned and has practical application steps. Love that! 

PRAYER

Lord, thank You that as believers we can put off the old self that will help us get nowhere very quickly. I pray that we can put on compassion, kindness, humility, patience, gentleness, forgiveness, and love in all our relationships. Amen.