Can’t God Just Wrap Us All Up In “Bubble Wrap”?

Scripture:  2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

When was the last time someone prayed a prayer over you? What kind of things do you like to hear prayed for you? Blessing? Prosperity? Good health?

Sometimes I find myself praying for my kids and grandkids and asking God to keep them safe and healthy and happy in the Lord. I definitely want those things for them, but they aren’t the greatest needs in their lives. Some needs can only be met by going through those “hard times.” It’s through struggles in life we learn to TRUST God and develop the unshakable faith that the Bible speaks about.

You Can’t Go Through Life in “Bubble Wrap”!

 

So, instead of praying that God would just wrap us all up in bubble wrap so that we never feel any pain or have any problems, it might help for us to look at the PRAYERS that are prayed in the Bible. When I’ve been asked to pray for certain people and don’t specifically know how to pray for them, I often open my Bible and pray Scripture that pertains to their needs and requests. After all, it’s God’s WILL, His words that I’m praying for and not my own.

 

So as we look together at these 2 verses, 11-12, Paul writes, “With this in mind…”

 

What is Keeping this in “MIND”, mean? (Vv. 1-10)

 

The fact that your faith is growing, your love is increasing, you are hanging in there during the hard times, justice and judgment is coming to those who reject God and abuse and mistreat you, and final and ultimate salvation is coming for those of you who trust in Jesus!

 

“With this in mind,” Paul says, “WE ARE CONSTANTLY PRAYING FOR YOU”

What does Paul pray, and what can we learn from it?

“That God would consider you WORTHY of His calling.” 

What does that mean?  How can we be considered WORTHY of God’s calling?  Is this then like being a paying customer, not just taking up space and using up oxygen in the room?  Does it mean to make yourself useful?

“GOD’S CALLING” –

Here, it’s likely a reference to the ultimate and final salvation of God’s people.

In another of Paul’s letters to the churches (Philippians), he talks about the upward call of God.  To be considered WORTHY of His call and to be with Him forever means they will keep trusting God to the very end. 

His CALLING ISN’T TO JUDGMENT, but to life and joy with Him forever!

There are some requirements needed, according to Paul in his letter:

In the context of both letters to the church in Thessalonia, and in this chapter, ENDURANCE and KEEPING THE FAITH are necessary for one to be considered WORTHY of God’s calling into His awesome presence, especially in the face of persecution.

WORTHY doesn’t mean that we can earn our way into heaven.  Eternal life with God is the FREE GIFT of God.  We can’t earn it or do we deserve it!

That God would fulfill every good purpose (“all the good things”) of yours (by His POWER).

God does have a PURPOSE for our lives!

There may be a number of purposes for your life; God’s, Satan’s, yours, and other people’s.  This is all about bringing your purposes or intentions, your views, into alignment with God’s!  It has to do with moral conduct.

I know, good moral conduct can’t SAVE us and make us right with God, BUT…it’s part of God’s purpose for us!

“For this is the WILL of God, your sanctification (separated and set apart for pure and holy living)” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:3 AMP.

So the Thessalonian believers had shown perseverance (a never give up mentality) in the face of their persecution for their faith having demonstrated their faith, love and Godly living in the midst of it.  What Paul seems to be praying here is that God would help them followthrough with these things of being faithful to Him to that very day! 

WHAT “DAY”?

2 Thessalonians 2:3  “…for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first”

NOTE: Apostasy comes from the Greek word, Apostasia – The falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come.

That God would fulfill every faith-prompted act (by His POWER).

“…and [His] every gracious purpose of goodness, and with power may complete in [your] every particular work of faith (a faith which is that leaning of the whole human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness).”  (Amplified Bible)

I really like this phrase.  You’ve no doubt heard of acts of random kindness.  Well, these Christians had begun doing continual acts of faith!

Faith-prompted actions are things we do because of our trust in God. 

We learn to be generous with those in need because God is like that, and we want to be like Him!

Acts of obedience are considered faith-prompted acts.  We obey God because we love, honor, and trust Him in His promises! 

But it wasn’t enough!

These Christ-followers didn’t simply begin these faith acts and then let them taper off.  No.  Paul knew they would need God’s help to keep them obeying Him, in loving others, being generous, and serving those around them.

QUESTION:  HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR LOVE AND FAITH HAVE COOLED OFF?

When it becomes more about you and less about those around you.  We need God’s help in carrying out our good intentions and obey and please Him fully.

So Paul’s words here in his letter required them to realize that they aren’t alone!  God is at work in their lives, and when He works in us, it’s powerful!

That the NAME OF JESUS Be Glorified In You – (2 Thessalonians 1:12)

The RESULT of following through with our good intentions to remain FAITHFUL to God–even in the midst of persecution–is that people will see Jesus in us!  Instead of doing good things so we can receive attention and praise from others, we must live so that others will notice Jesus at work in us!

People need to see Jesus being GLORIFIED or spotlighted in your life–in your words, and your actions.

Matthew 5:16 (AMP)

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.”

That you would be glorified in Christ Jesus.

Finally, Paul shows that Jesus also helps accomplish OUR GLORIFICATION (present/future).  It all begins when we call on the Lord and the Holy Spirit that it all begins to work in our lives.

2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us,

 

Our glorification comes to fruition when Jesus comes back for us, as He promised!

He will give us new bodies, transforming us into His likeness!

 

God has called us to a higher place.  Are you trusting and growing in Him?  Is Jesus being glorified in your intentions and your actions?

PRAY FOR YOUR CHURCH AS PAUL PRAYED FOR THE CHURCHES.

__________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Images/Photos:  Google image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New Living Testament (NLT); Interlinear Bible.

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words.

It All Begins With A Thought

A Bible Study in Philippians 4:4-9

I’m going to wrap up a four-part walk-through in Philippians in this final study and we’ll look together at replacing ANXIETY with PEACE.

We are an anxious nation.

Alarmingly, I found out that 1 in 6 Americans takes a psychiatric drug [Scientific American magazine article].  Anxiety meds are second only to depression meds.  That said, I do believe meds that are used carefully are a gift of God.

But what if we turn too quickly to the pill bottle and too slowly to the Lord?

Mark Twain joked, “I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life.  Most of them never happened.”

In this presented scripture for this study, I want to point out some suggestions that the apostle Paul gives us to advance through our ANXIETIES.  And if you are thinking, “I’m not anxious about anything,” perhaps a bible study on self-denial might be appropriate later.

FIRST, we need to have right thinking.

Paul says in VERSE 4 to REJOICE.  And to make sure we don’t miss it, he says it twice:  “Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!”  (AMP)

Philippians is all about JOY; Paul uses the word some 16 times!

When he says here to rejoice “always,” he suggests JOY is more than an emotion, since you can’t command an emotion.  You can’t force someone to be happy; they either are or they aren’t.  But Paul tells us to rejoice always.

JOY, then, must be a decision, a choice.

I once heard someone say, “Happiness comes from happenings, but joy comes from Jesus.”

Actually, JOY is an act of faith.  It supposes that regardless of how things look at the time, God is still on the throne; God loves me, God is for me, even though my circumstances seem bleak, God will see me through.

That’s why James could write, “Reckon it nothing but JOY, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials”  (James 1:2 ~ Weymouth New Testament).

James knew that God can use our TRIALS for good and to build our CHARACTER.

And that’s why Daniel’s three friends could defy King Nebuchadnezzar with confident JOY: (See Dan. 3:17-18)  

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.”

RIGHT THINKING begins with choosing JOY!

The church at Philippi knew Paul lived this out.  When he visited their city, he had cast out a demon and inadvertently thwarted a money-making scheme, disgruntled businessmen falsely charged, beaten and thrown into prison, along with his buddy Silas.  You can read the whole story in Acts 16.

Sitting in their jail cell that night, they could have had a grand pity party.  Instead. they chose a worship service!

  • Wounded and behind bars, they sang hymns!
  • And God sent an earthquake unlocking every cell door without hurting anyone.

That same night the jailer and his family were all SAVED and the next day Paul and Silas were released.

All because they CHOSE JOY…despite of their circumstance.  They CHOSE to think right!

I don’t know about you, but when listening to the teaching from “experts” or pastors/teachers. scholars. I like to hear their examples to help enlighten the message.  I believe Paul felt the same way.

He gives us examples of what to think about in VERSE 8:

Paul says to turn our mind toward the POSITIVE, to FOCUS on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy.

WE ARE WHAT WE THINK!

While every SIN begins with a thought, so does every act of obedience!

Various people have been attributed to writing this poem:

Sow a thought, reap a word.

Sow a word, reap an action.

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

And sow a character, reap a destiny.

It all begins with a thought.

What if, when you wake up in the morning, instead of turning on the news, you read a short devotion out of “Our Daily Bread”?  I have it sent to me every morning to my Email address to read.  When you do this first thing in your day, you’re training your mind to think more positively.

Secondly, we need to PRAY right!

Verses 6 and 7 in the New Living Translation (NLT) sums this up with,

[6] Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done!

[7] Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

We are all good at worrying, but sometimes we feel ill-prepared to PRAY.

Yet, if you know how to WORRY, you should know how to pray!

  • Worrying is talking to yourself about things outside of your control.
  • Praying is talking to God about the things outside of your control.

When the ANXIETY level starts rising in your daily activities, talk to God about it.  Paul gives some hints as to how to pray right.

The word “pray” here, denotes a worshipful approach.

You come to God humbly, submitting your will to His.  You shouldn’t approach God like some heavenly slot machine hoping to hit the jackpot. You approach God with awe and respect by asking Him for what you need–and that’s called petition or supplication: the process of shifting your burden from you to God!

IT’S OKAY TO ASK.

Do you notice that in our asking, Paul says to do so “with thanksgiving”?  There’s nothing worse than a spoiled child who always says, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

We need to be grateful for what we already have, and we also need to be grateful for, however, God may choose to respond.

GRATEFULNESS in advance is another sign of FAITH.

We can be grateful because God cares for us.  Whether God says, “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait,” God is still a good God–all the time!

God wants us to PRAY with THANKSGIVING, regardless of the circumstances.

When you find yourself growing anxious, give it to God, and don’t take it back!  Follow the advice of 1 Peter 5:7.

Trust that God cares for you and is at work in your situation.  And begin to act on FAITH that God will direct your steps moving forward.

Someone once said, “If your knees are buckling, kneel on them.”

Instead of worrying, why not try praying.

The “START” Bible says, “If you have a BIG God, then you have a relatively small problem.  But if you have a BIG problem, then maybe you have a small god.”  (see footnote [i].)

The giant Goliath looked at the shepherd boy David and saw a small problem.  But David looked at Goliath and saw a large God along with a target too big to miss!

Look what God promises when we give our ANXIETY over to Him:  Verse 7 says “And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Have you ever taken your family to an unfamiliar beach or a community swimming pool and see the signs posted, “Life Guard On Duty?  And when you see the posted signs, how much confidence and security that comes to mind when entering the water.

A God who is on GUARD DUTY over your hearts and minds.

God’s Word found in your bibles says God never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4).  He’s always on guard duty, 24/7.  God will bring HIS PEACE to our entire being: body, soul, and spirit in a way beyond our understanding.

THINK RIGHT, PRAY RIGHT, and lastly,

LIVE RIGHT!

This is like the Nike principle: “JUST DO IT!”  Put your THOUGHTS and PRAYERS into ACTION.

Verse 5 gives us a description of how we should live as Christian believers–with “gentleness” (NIV), or “unselfishness” in the Amplified Bible.  The idea is to LIVE with graciousness out of a humble spirit.  You don’t always have to get your way!  That means you become willing to yield your rights to another.  And that’s especially good marital advice!!

That’s a hard principle to act on for some of us.  Why would anyone want to yield their rights to another?  The rest of verse 5 tells us why:

The LORD is near.

The Christian believer has the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, within them always.  Wherever we go, Jesus goes with us.

You are never alone, the Lord is near!!

But there is also an end-times application here:  Jesus is coming soon!  His return draws nearer every day.  So, LIVE the way He wants you to live now.

In Verse 9, Paul urges the Church to follow his example, not only what he says, but what he does.  Now there’s something that most of us wouldn’t advertise in our Christian community.  “Follow my example”.  

I learned early on that my kids would follow my ACTIONS a lot faster than they would my words as they grew older.  Despite what I said, it was what I did that counted.  WORDS are cheap.  ACTION matters!

So, put it into practice!  PRAY RIGHT.  And LIVE RIGHT.

And Paul promises us, “With the peace of God to guard us and the God of peace to guide us–Why worry?”

____________________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i] :  NKJV, Start: The Bible for New Believers, Thomas Nelson, 1227

Video:  YouTube – Mix Give Thanks, Don Moen

Images:  Google Image Search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Exceptions noted in the text.

 

 

 

HELP WANTED! “Farm-Hands for The Harvest”

It’s Pickin Ready

NOW AFTER this the Lord chose and appointed seventy others and sent them out ahead of Him, two by two into every town and place…”

“And He said to them, The harvest indeed is abundant [there is much ripe grain], but the farm hands are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest”  (Luke 10:1, 2–Amplified Bible).

I was but a new Christian in 1974; 32 years old and on fire about sharing my faith with the lost.  One day after church, I approached the Associate Pastor, who was the pastor of Evangelism and Visitation.  I wanted him to know that I felt a calling to spread the Gospel, door to door, in the neighborhood surrounding the church.  I even quoted from my Bible the passage in Luke 10:2.

Pastor Sid thought it was a good idea and he would help in any way that I needed his help.  He would also place the notice in the church bulletin and announce the timing for the event from the pulpit.

I thought a Saturday morning at 10:30 would be a good time to knock on doors, with a strategy and prayer before we would leave the church.  No one but Pastor Sid showed up that morning.  We both tried again the following Saturday with the same results!  I was so discouraged.  Was I the only one in the entire church who had “the calling”? Was this whole idea just one that I made up in my mind or was it really from God?

THE HARVEST IS PLENTIFUL

In the agrarian or farming economy of Palestine, the harvest was an ever-present reality.  The idea of the harvest was used not only for bringing men and women to faith in Christ but also for a final gathering of God’s people at the end of the age (Matt. 13:19 and Rev. 14:15).  But here in Luke 10, Jesus has in mind an immediate harvest; a right now kind of harvest!

So often, we look at people with natural eyes, where Jesus looks at their spiritual readiness.  He sees the people of Judea as if they are a huge harvest, nearly ripe, ready for the pickin’.

Fields are typically planted so the whole field becomes ripe about the same time.  Seldom would you go into a field or orchard for selective picking.  Rather, when the whole field is ripe, you bring in the harvesters and reap the whole field at one time.

A HARVEST EVEN IN SAMARIA

While the disciples might hate the Samaritans, Jesus sees a harvest among them:

“Do you not say, It is still four months until harvest time comes?  Look! I tell you raise your eyes and observe the fields and see how they are already white for harvesting.    Already the reaper is getting his wages [he who does the cutting now has his reward], for he is gathering fruit (crop) unto life eternal, so that he who does the planting and he who does the reaping may rejoice together.    For in this the saying holds true,  One sows and another reaps.    I sent you to reap a crop for which you have not toiled.  Other men have labored and you have stepped in to reap the results of their work”  (John 4:35-38–Amplified Bible translation).

How do you view the harvest in your community?  Perhaps all you see is the immorality, the apostasy, as represented by the Woman at the Well. 

But a word from Jesus can turn resistance to openness; unbelief to enthusiastic faith.  The answer is found in His word and His power!

THE WORKERS ARE FEW

“And He said to them, The harvest indeed is abundant [there is much ripe grain], but the farm-hands are few”  (10:2b).

HELP WANTED!

Needed is an unlimited number

of hard-working and committed “farm-hands” with a willingness

and readiness to harvest the fields before they

become ROTTEN!

Plenty of kingdom “fringe benefits” for those who aren’t quitters. 

I am a city boy! Now like a lot of you, I’ve had vegetable gardens, and fruit trees to harvest from but I never required any “farm-hands” to help in the gathering.

Dr. Ralph Wilson is living at the edge of the California Central Valley.  He remarks, “Too few workers at harvest time can be a disaster!  The entire crop can spoil and rot in the fields UNLESS workers are available at the right time.  Workers who are willing to work very hard at the concentrated harvest season.”

Farmers rest in the winter months but during the long summer harvest season, they might be working night and day.  It’s HOT, SWEATY and MUSCLE ACHING work in thee fields and many avoid that kind of intense labor.

Fortunately, Jesus’ workforce is growing; from 12 to now 70!  But it is hard to find committed workers.  Too many people make excuses.  Just prior to the Sending Out of the seventy, Jesus said,

“Become my disciple, side with My party, and accompany Me!  But he replied, Lord, permit me to go and bury (await the death of) my father.  BUT Jesus said to him, Allow the dead to bury their own dead, but as for you, go and publish abroad throughout all regions the kingdom of God”  (Luke 9:59-60–Amplified Bible).

If you were to look at the average Christian congregation in America, how many of the members are actually involved in church “harvesting” activities?  It seems to me that many are involved in what meets their needs and their children’s needs, yet shy away from mission to meet others needs.  “Not in my church!”  Then good for you!

We have an abundance of churches in our community but few workers and perhaps few actual disciples.  Disciples are those who follow Jesus in His work; deny self, take up their cross daily and follow Him.  Their discipleship is not a matter of their own comfort but of Jesus’ mission.  Jesus seeks to recruit us as a worker in His harvest, not just  church attenders.

TOO FEW WORKERS?  THE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM IS?

The answer is PRAYER:

Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest”  (10:2c).

Why does Jesus say this to His disciples that the answer is PRAYER?  After all, it wasn’t their problem, it’s His.  He shares this answer because soon they will be the harvest foremen in need of workers.  They need to know how to deal with this need in some other way than beating up on the believers; by manipulation and guilt trips.

The word translated “send out” in this verse is noteworthy.  The Greek word is ekballo.  At the root level it means “drive out, expel“; literally, “to throw out forcibly”. 

Secondarily the connotation of force recedes with the meaning “send out“.  The root word ballo, “to throw,” is a violent word, the basis of the English word “ballistic“.

PRAYER is our most important recruitment technique, proceeding any other invitation to the work.  It is also Jesus’ pattern too!

Before He appoints the Twelve, He spends the night in prayer (Luke 6:12).  Who is the Lord of the harvest? God.  What does to ask mean in relation to God?  PRAY!  Ultimately, it is the Lord of the harvest who sends men and women out as His workers, not the foreman.  The foreman merely directs the workers that the Master hires and sends.

“A SENSE OF CALLING”; A NECESSITY!

What does a sense of calling look like?  The apostle Paul wrote,

For if I [merely] preach the Gospel, that gives me no reason to boast, for I feel compelled of necessity to do it.  Woe is me if I do not preach the glad tidings (the gospel)!”  (1 Corinthians 9:16–Amplified Bible)

Sometimes we make an arbitrary distinction between the clergy and the laity.  We use words like “vocation” (from the Latin word for “calling“); to describe a career path in the ministry.  I have heard people in the church say, “I thought I was called once into the ministry.  But now I am too old!”.  You are never too old, for “The harvest indeed is abundant” all around you.

Pastors are no more “called” than you and I to ministry.  That is to say, both you and professional ministers are called by God to serve Him in whatever capacity He chooses.  Whether you are a full-time Christian worker or a “tent-maker”; to earn a living like Paul (Acts 18:3).  You are no less called.

Are you a worker or farm- hand in the harvest?  Do you work in Jesus’ mission, out of a sense of personal calling, or out of duty and obligation to a human leader or organization?

By talking to God yourself, ask Him about what He has for you to do.  Get it from God Himself and then EXPECT!  Be confirmed by your Christian brothers and sisters by the fruitfulness in what He is calling you to do.

Evangelism is NOT a professional job for a few trained men, but it is instead the unrelenting of every person who belongs to the company of Jesus.”  by Elton Trueblood.

An Evangelist, according to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary: euangelizo, “to proclaim glad tidings,” “good news, gospel;” “a messenger of good,” denotes a “preacher of the gospel,”  Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11.

THE OUTCOME OF THE CALLING?

“The seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!”  (Luke 10:17).

If that verse doesn’t give you the confidence and faith that you will need a laborers, I don’t know what will!

 

             

.