“Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.” 2 Thessalonians 1:3
True story: A few minutes ago I sat down at my writing desk to look up the scripture my Sunday-morning adult discipleship class talked about yesterday (1 Thessalonians chapter 5 – I’ll quote from that text little later).
While waiting for my computer to power up, I counted on my fingers and realized this week marks 18-months in our new home. How cool, I thought to myself, I wonder what I could say to describe what’s been going on at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church?
GOD HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD! At the exact moment I was wondering about our church, I clicked on the Bible Gateway site (my “go-to” online Bible source). And – I kid you not – this is what appeared on their home page under “verse of the day” – Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
Yesterday, my post discussed the dangers of “proof-texting.” Believe me, this wasn’t that. Plus, I think we all know I’m not the kind of Bible student who closes my eyes, opens the Bible, and randomly pokes my finger, hoping to find my fortune through some obscure, isolated verse.
But then, sometimes, The Word simply reveals itself, as if God has left a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow. Or seven-foot tall neon lights flashing, “Here it is!”
GOD’S WORD TO ME: Today I’m not trying to prove my own point, nor am I attempting to win an argument; it’s more like God is proving… demonstrating… illustrating something to me:
“Look, Derek,” God is saying to me; “this disciple-making business you’re invested in isn’t that much different from what we witnessed in the early church. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians may be the oldest extant document in the New Testament – but what’s going on here in Wake Forest just happens to be the newest, contemporary letter I’m writing, right in front of your eyes…”
Or, as Paul wrote to his friends in Corinth:
“The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This ‘letter’ is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 3:2-4
BACK TO CLASS: My discipleship group, called “Practical Christianity,” is one of three new adult-ed classes added back in September. Our real interest is talking about, understanding, and living faith out loud; it’s about what it means to move beyond the “church member” designation and live as disciples of Jesus.
Our conversation this Sunday morning centered around the idea – in 1 Thessalonians 5 – of “staying awake” as followers of Jesus. People shared from their hearts about what it means to live in the light, and to be, as Paul puts it, “alert and clear-headed.”
Here are two passages from the text. It’s Monday morning, we’re already well north of 500-words into this post; so I’ll sign off, and let the scripture speak directly into your lives.
Always thankful – DEREK
“For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.” (v 5-6)
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (v 16-18)
I believe I am guilty of this. Especially when it comes to Facebook stories that our president is in support of being nice to Muslims and tolerant of their religion, saying Christianity does not have a monopoly on the Truth? What now? So off I go, trouncing on Islam as a false religion and pumping up Christ as the only “religious figure” who ever willingly laid down his own life for the eternal life of others. I back up my position with appropriate Scripture. I wonder if stating that Islam is not a religion, but rather is a systematic justification for rape, torture, pedophilia, terror, destruction, and murder. They set soldiers on fire and cut the heads of journalists and target Christians, Jews and “infidels” for death. Their intent is the global spread of Islam at any cost. This contrasts so greatly with Christianity it’s almost not worth mentioning. Of course, I believe we need to pray for the Islamic extremists and their millions of victims. But I hope I am not a Christian behaving badly when I take to Facebook bashing this evil scourge of the earth.
Hmmm. The post was about Christians bashing one-another over variances in doctrine etc.
You do bring up an interesting subject. However, I honestly don’t feel that the way you characterize Islam is going to do anything to advance the Gospel. Unfortunately, Islamic extremists didn’t invent the atrocities you mention; they have been practiced by “Christians” too. Of course, no-one who actually follows Jesus would behave in that way, but the political iterations of Christianity certainly have… and do. So I’ll still recommend the approach pioneered by Jesus: non-violence, radical love, self-giving, do nothing but good to your enemy etc.
Peace – in every way – DEREK