Christian Stamina: A Life Worthy of God

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

I am not sure which is better, going on a trip or returning home from a trip. When preparing for a trip, there is much work to be done. The reservations have to be secured. The clothes have to be packed. The vehicle needs to be ready for the whole journey. There is the expectation of great memories to be made.

When returning from a trip, there is much work to be done. The bill has to be paid. The clothes have to be washed. The vehicle needs to be ready for the return to normal life. Then there is the reminiscing about all the great times while on the trip.

It turns out that the trip was a time of different work! We just can’t get away from work! Maybe we can’t get away from work because life is full of work! The work of our life is not about just the day-to-day chores. The work of our life is not about the work of a trip. The work of our life is to have a life worthy of God.

Our vacations are about refreshing us for normal life. Yet, our normal life is more than about planning for the next vacation! Our lives have to mean more than rest and work. Our lives can be an example of a life worthy of God. That is what Paul was demonstrating to the Thessalonians!

A. Paul worked among the Thessalonians
+++1. The ancient world was heavily into patron and client
+++2. What the patron wanted, the client gave, for the patron was paying the client
+++3. Paul kept the patron/client from being part of the Thessalonian church
+++4. Paul worked – most likely as a tent maker (Acts 18)
+++5. He did not want to burden the newly established church with the patron/client setup
+++6. How were Paul, Silas, and Timothy with the Thessalonians?
+++===a. Pure/holy – “in the things of God”
+===++b. Upright/righteous – “with regard to men”
+++===c. Blameless – “in respect of ourselves”1
+++7. Paul didn’t do all the work of the church. But he did show the church how to be the church. By working independent of the church’s finances, Paul was able to help the young church to grow. It was not only in finances that they grew. The Thessalonians were able to live a life worthy of God. They did not only do this with the conduct of Paul, Silas, and Timothy.

B. God was and is working among the Thessalonians
+++1. God calls us into his kingdom
+++2. The word of God is given so we may be in God’s kingdom and glory
+++3. So, Paul gives thanks for the Thessalonians
+++4. The Thessalonians accepted the word of God
+++5. It is the good news of Jesus Christ which is the word of God. For it is this word which is working among the believers in Thessalonica. With the word of God working, with God working, the Thessalonians are able to learn to live a life worthy of God. God is working to help them be holy. God is working so the believers can be righteous. God is working so the household of God can be blameless. Even in this letter we realize God doesn’t do all of the work. He starts the process, moves it along, and completes the good work he has begun in us. Who works alongside God?

C. We and the Thessalonians work alongside God!
+++1. Paul, Silas, and Timothy were like a father to his children
+++2. They did three things for the Thessalonians
++===+a. Urging
++===+b. Encouraging
++===+c. Pleading
+++3. God was persistent with the Thessalonians, is persistent with us
+++4. When the Thessalonians received the word of God, their work had just begun! They couldn’t give up. We can’t give up after we have received the word of God. We got to keep on going until we are leading a life worthy of God. That is God works in those who believe. Then the believers work as God is working in them.

Since we are not leaving this world without working, let’s understand the work God has for us. We get to be holy as God is holy. We get to be righteous with those around us. We get to learn to live blameless lives.

We are not alone in this work. When the word of God comes to us, we receive it. The word of God then works in us so that we may be holy, righteous, and blameless. As God is calling us into his own kingdom, we learn to live holy, righteous, and blameless lives. The commitment God has for us, because of the word of God, is the commitment God knows we can have.

What is keeping us from leading a life worthy of God? The word of God will work on what is keeping us from being holy. The word of God will work on what is making us be unrighteous. The word of God will work on what is stopping us from being blameless.

Will you receive the word of God today? Then you can do the work you have been called to do – be holy, righteous, and blameless – so you can answer the call into God’s own kingdom and glory.

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Christian Stamina: Sharing who we are

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

As a youth pastor, I remember watching that one couple in the church. Every week that we had guests, they would take the guests out to lunch. After I noticed the practice of this one couple, I realized the people who were repeat guests and becoming part of the church were the guests who went out to eat with that one couple. It was a ministry for that couple to show the guests that they cared for them.

At Charge Conference last week, Tom Ballard, our District Superintendent, said a couple different times: “The people can smell us out.” Tom was referring to were churches who do everything they can to get people in the church by doing a “bait and switch.” We know the practice. We go to a store because they are offering a great deal on furniture we want. The price is fairly competitive with other furniture stores. Then as you are checking out, you see on the receipt the fee for the furniture protection system, non-refundable re-stocking fee, the delivery fee, and the fee for the extra guy on the delivery truck. Fairly soon you realize the great deal on the furniture is not that great of a deal!

I have heard about clergy adding numbers to church rolls. The idea was they would show growth in the church. But there was no actual growth! The preacher would meet someone, somewhere and then add them to the church membership roll.

We don’t want to be a church that just adds numbers to our membership roll. We don’t want people to smell us out because we just want them in church. I think we want to be more like the couple that shared themselves over a meal. For we want to keep our own faith going and the faith of the congregation going. We want to be known as faithful stewards.

A. How can we tell if we are faithful stewards? (2:1-6)
+++1. Paul, Silas, & Timothy had been abused while preaching in Philippi
+++2. Yet, they shared the same gospel with the Thessalonians!
+++3. What they are not doing
+++===a. Being deceitful
++===+b. Having impure motives (which lady did the traveling preacher get?)
++===+c. Trickery
++===+d. Pleasing mortals
++===+e. Using words of flattery
++===+f. Greedy
++===+g. Seeking human praise
+++4. When we avoid these trappings, then we will be seen as faithful stewards, just like Paul. I could imagine a preacher today saying what they are not doing. Yet, this letter is not only about the preacher or missionary. Paul had already written that the Thessalonians were imitating himself and Jesus. Noticing how Paul presents himself, we actually see Jesus in the same way! Since we are in Christ, then just like Paul, we can be free from deceit, impure motives, trickery, pleasing mortals, flattery, greed, and human praise. Even when we are being accused of these traits, we keep on preaching the gospel. God then can be pleased by our work with the Gospel. Paul was representing Jesus to the world. We also represent Jesus to the world. In a sense as we are sharing who we are, we are sharing Jesus. How does this work out for us?

B. Our character shows compassion (2:7-8)
+++1. Paul, Silas, and Timothy did not demand the Thessalonians provide for their every need – as apostles could do
+++2. However, they did care for the Thessalonians
+++3. This church has enjoyed care from many preachers
+++4. This church can also care for people – inside and outside the churches
+++5. Paul, Silas, and Timothy share the gospel and themselves
+++6. We can share the gospel and ourselves
+++7. Why? Because we care about people
+++8. When a neighbor has trouble, we help out. When a church member has trouble, we help out. This helping out is not just money. This helping is our time, our energy, and our faith. Our helping is not glibly saying, “Come to church.” Our helping is sharing Jesus right then and there. For when we are having compassion for people, we are sharing all we have, including Jesus.

Over the three years that the disciples were following Jesus, they discovered the character of Jesus. The disciples discovered Jesus had compassion on the crowds. The disciples had the same compassion upon them as the Holy Spirit filled them on Pentecost. The apostle Paul gained the same compassion as he followed Christ.

As we are following Jesus, we gain the compassion Jesus had for the crowds. We are able to share the gospel and ourselves because we care for people. When we realize that God cares for people, we are able to share who we are.

Last week we realized we are in Christ. This week we realize we have compassion, just like Jesus does. When people know we care for them, then they will also know Jesus.

My list of thanksgivings

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I thank God for you. By your persistence in attending weekly worship, we all get to be a light that does not get hid under a wicker basket! Keep being persistent in finding where and to whom God is leading you to serve! We still have breathe in our lungs, so we are here to praise God and to let Jesus Christ be known by all who know us!

In our persistence to know and serve God, let us remember all for which we are thankful! Here are some of my thanksgivings:

– God the Father – He created me and I am still discovering what this means!
– God the Son – He is recreating me into the image of God
– God the Spirit – He is energizing me to live and preach

– Maria, my wife – She is my best three quarters – I’m woefully incomplete without her (you’ll figure it out in a bit!)
– Benjamin, our son – His sense of humor is growing, and I hope we are the best example for his faith in Jesus
– Gracie, C.J., and Simba – our pets – what a joy it is to care for God’s creation!

– Pine Grove and Hartman’s Chapel – examples of God’s work in this world
– Morristown District – part of East Tennessee that is growing in God’s grace
– Holston Conference – United Methodists who are attempting to follow Jesus!

– God’s Greene County – a good place to work and recreate
– Mosheim and Orebank – where the people aren’t half bad, but still need all of God
– Greeneville – where the people aren’t half bad, but still need all of God

Continue to be in prayer for the children. Let us encourage the children to know God through Jesus Christ. The children learn to give thanks by our example. May they hear us thank God for all that God has given us!

In Christ’s Service,
John

Winning & Losing with Harvey Weinstein

These are good words to ponder and to help our society.

Brave & Free with Blossom Matthews

Harvey Weinstein’s fall from power serves as a sign-post of things to come. Ongoing revelations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood and beyond will shed light into the dark recesses of institutional abuse, empowering women to speak out in the face of sexual harassment and assault. This is most definitely a win for women and society as a whole. However, in order to protect all parties, the unintended effect may actually serve to limit women in the name of protecting them. More on that in a moment.

663px-Harvey_Weinstein_2010_Time_100_Shankbone Photo credit: David Shankbone

It’s a good day for women and men alike when victims of sexual assault begin to come forward to share their stories. The powers-that-be in Hollywood should be shaking in their boots – whether due to their own misuse of power or their willingness to conveniently look the other way. The most surprising aspect of recent news is not that…

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Christian Stamina: Where are we?

 

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

I started to ride a bicycle as an adult because I didn’t want to be like the typical United Methodist pastor. I didn’t want to be overweight and have many health complications because of my lifestyle. So, I got on the bicycle. It started out with rides of 6 or 8 miles. Then there came rides of 10 miles. Now I can ride 20 miles or more and still have energy for the day’s activities.

Maria has picked up riding with me. Ben even gets on his bicycle and rides with me. Our health as a family has improved. We are building up our stamina and having fun in the process. Plus, we get to see God’s creation from a different perspective than a ride in a car.

Who knows how far I will be able to ride. If I want to be around to enjoy Maria in the decades to come, I see this as a work of being faithful to her. I sweat now so that Maria can know my love years down the road. I ride my bicycle now to have a hope of a good, long life.

Where are we now as a church? What sort of stamina do we have to live in this world? I think this oldest New Testament letter helps us see how we build up our stamina as the church. Today, we see where we are. In order to do that, we see what causes thanksgiving to be made on our behalf. Then we will see how we can be like the Thessalonians.

A. For what do we give thanks? (1:1-5)
+++1. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy are sending grace and peace to the Thessalonians
+++2. They are a church
+++3. In God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
+++4. They give thanks for the Thessalonians in their prayers
+++5. The Thessalonians have been working in faith, hope, and love
+++6. The Thessalonians are beloved by God – God chose them (and us as well!)
+++7. This choosing is evident because these items:
++===+a. In word
++===+b. In Power
++===+c. In the Holy Spirit
+===++d. Full conviction
+++8. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy were this way with the Thessalonians
+++9. Yes, it is good as a leader of the church to give thanks for the living of the gospel. There are few things as good for a leader to see than the living of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are few things as a good for a church to see than the living of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we live in God and Jesus, we show evidence of faith, hope, and love. Our work of love can match that of the Thessalonians. Our labor of love can equal that of the Thessalonians. Our steadfastness of hope can be just like that of the Thessalonians.

B. How can we be like the Thessalonians? (1:6-10)
+++1. The Thessalonians imitated Paul, Silvanus, Timothy, and the Lord Jesus
+++2. Harassment from others didn’t prevent them from receiving, living the gospel
+++3. The Thessalonians became examples for the believers in Greece!
+++4. Their faith has become an example for others
+++5. The Thessalonians welcomed Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy
+++6. They turned from serving idols to serving the living God & to wait for Jesus
+++7. This Jesus is the one who rescues them & us from the wrath to come
+++8. It is a goal of my own to hear about the faith, love, and hope of the churches I lead as pastor. There is nothing quite like hearing how a church’s life has guided a community to God. There is nothing like listening to people who have come to know Jesus because of a church for which I was a part. For the church, there is something about having our neighbors know God because of us. For the church, there is something about having our neighbors know Jesus because of the gospel we live.

We get to be like Jesus when we receive the message of the gospel. The words change our direction from heading to wrath to living. The power of the gospel helps us to live as Christians. Being in the Holy Spirit shows the community around us the good God has for us. Our conviction of the truth of the gospel shows others how and what to believe about God.

Every once in a while Maria has to remind me that I am a Christian. Whether it is how I treat a salesperson or talk on the phone, Maria reminds me who I am. For us our example as Christians lets others know how good God is. This letter to the Thessalonians reminds us as a church about our example as Christians. In order for this church to have a long life in Christ, then we live our faith as we serve the living God.

Paul’s letter encouraged the Thessalonians. It has encouraged us in our work of faith, our labor of love, and our steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. May everyone around us see us serving God.

It was dark outside.

While we were stopped for gas, I told Ben to stay in the vehicle.

I had not liked the noise I was hearing.

Oh, it wasn’t the seat belt hanging out the car door, dragging on the ground noise that I didn’t like.

It was the sound of the man in the white Taurus. It was the racial slur I heard.

We were traveling on vacation. It was time to stop to fill the gas tank and our stomachs. It was dark outside. We were able to get gas and some food on this stop. It was dark outside.

On the opposite side of the gas pump we were using was a Ford Expedition. The man was traveling with his wife. He was minding his own business.

While we both were filling our gas tanks, it seems the couple in the white Taurus were making there presence known in the convenience store. The lady had stood in line at the counter for 15 minutes asking a bunch of random questions. Meanwhile behind her the line was getting long in number and short on patience. Finally she finished her business and went outside.

The driver of the white Taurus started yelling out his car window as he patrolled the gas station. He told the man who was filling his gas tank opposite of me to “go back where you belong.” There was even the use of the “N” word by the guy in the white Taurus.

Finally, the white Taurus and its occupants left the gas station. I then told Ben he could get out of the vehicle. He did what he needed to do. It was after we were on the road that I told him what had happened.

As I finished filling our vehicle, I spoke to the man at the opposite pump from us. He was a middle-aged man, of dark skin complexion. He told me about the couple in the white Taurus. He said, “I am a Native American.” So, where did he have to go? – these were his words to me! He said he told the man in the white Taurus to just get going.

It was good to chat with the man at the pump. His license plate indicated that he had served in the U.S. Army. We finished our conversation and went on our separate ways. It was dark outside. But two Americans had talked and were better for it.

I told the Army veteran that we Americans needed God. He agreed with me.

It was dark outside. But there is light for America. There will come a time when I won’t have to explain to my son about racial bigotry. Then it won’t be dark outside anymore. God, help us to know you and your ways. I ask for this in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

What are we to do with the Children? Care for them Practically

World Communion Sunday Luke 19:39-44

One of Maria’s favorite movies is “Miss Congeniality.” Sandra Bullock plays Gracie Hart, an undercover FBI agent who is trying to stop a bombing from taking place during a beauty pageant. As the pageant continues, the contestants get to the personal interviews. Lady after lady says she wants to see “world peace.” As Gracie Hart prepared to be a contestant, she despised the ubiquitous answer of “world peace.” When it is her turn, Gracie Hart goes on about anyone wanting to hurt the ladies in the beauty pageant. Then as she is about to finish her answer, she says she wants “world peace.”

Though the movie pokes fun at the idea, peace is concept we all need. It is what we need in our homes. Peace is what we need in our community. Peace is what we need in our country. As we long for children to know Jesus Christ, we have the desire to make sure the children know that on earth we can have peace.

The only way our community can know peace is by knowing the Prince of Peace. The only way our country can know peace is by following Christ Jesus. The only way our children can know peace is by our introducing them to Jesus. A young preacher asked John Wesley about how to continue the great revival that had started in England. John Wesley’s answer was simple: “Take care of the rising generation.”

Is it our responsibility to teach the children about peace? How can the children know the things that make for peace? We know Jesus Christ. We have been following him. But not all of the children know Jesus Christ. But not all of the children have been following Jesus. Will it take the rocks crying out for the children to know Jesus?

A. Some of the Pharisees wanted Jesus’ disciples to stop (19:39-40)
+++1. Jesus was entering Jerusalem
+++2. The disciples praised God by saying:
+===++“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
++===+Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
+++3. Some of the Pharisees wanted Jesus to rebuke his disciples!
+++4. If these were silent, the stones would shout out! (Habakkuk 2:11)
+++5. There is no better sound in a sanctuary than an infant making a fuss. It is a sign on life now. It is a sign of hope for the future. Oh, the peace and quiet may be broken up in the sanctuary, but the child will have a chance to hear about peace. Having children in worship is about the child getting to know Jesus through God’s people. The children get to hear praise about God working in our lives. If the children don’t get to hear our praise to God, then will the stones shout out? Yet, Pharisees want to quiet the disciples! To show how big a deal this situation is, Jesus goes near Jerusalem. Even before he enters the city, Jesus’ emotions are shown.

B. Jesus wept over Jerusalem (19:41-44)
+++1. If Jerusalem had known what made for peace, how would it have been for them?
+++2. Jerusalem would be surrounded and sacked by 70 AD – for refusing God’s offer of peace through Jesus
+++3. The kingdom of God had come close to them, and they refused to see it!
++===+a. Zechariah sang about God “guiding or feet into the way of peace.” (1:79)
++===+b. The angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (2:14)
++===+c. Simeon also sang: “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word.” (2:29)
+++4. What about those children in our community who have not yet heard there is even a kingdom of God?
+++5. Jesus lamented Jerusalem’s situation – they had the chance, but missed it
+++6. We may have missed some children in the past, but now is the time for this generation of children in our community. We get to praise God so the children can get to know God. We care for the children practically. We care for the children of our community now.

World peace is more than a good answer for a beauty pageant. Peace can be known in our church. Peace can be known in our community. Peace can be known by the children.

Timothy Keller said: “When you realize He sacrificed to give us life, you will start to say how can I sacrifice to give other people life?” (@timkellermyc) Jesus came so we may know God. Jesus came so the children may know God.

Our part is that we make every effort now to show the children our God. Our part is that we make a way for the children to worship God. Our part is to show Jesus to the children.

Or our part later will be a lament. We will wail for we missed the chance to show the children God. We will wail for the children did not have a way to worship God. We will wail because we did not show Jesus to the children.