“For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 3:8 NIV).
In this passage of his first letter to the Thessalonians, written from Athens (see Acts 17), Paul has been explaining how he had missed the Thessalonian Christians and had been concerned for them. After waiting as long as he could stand, he sent one of his most trusted friends, Timothy, to check in on them. When Timothy arrived back in Athens, he found that Paul had moved on to Corinth and he went there to give his report. When Paul heard about the Thessalonians’ standing firm in their faith, his heart was greatly encouraged. The church was thriving! Paul was so filled with joy that he told them it felt like now he was really living. It’s almost as if he wrote, “I’ve been worried to death about you, but now that I hear you are well, I feel alive again!”
From the perspective of a pastor, I can relate to Paul’s joy. Few things bring us greater joy than seeing the people in our congregations, whom we love and care for deeply, growing in their faith and being transformed by the Holy Spirit. We know that we can do little to make this happen (see Mark 4:26-29), but when you grow we want to say with Paul, “Now we really live!” Success for a pastor is not measured in dollars, building campaigns, or memorized mission statements. It’s when a church member makes a sacrificial gift for the first time or when someone discovers and pursues their calling with ardor. It’s when a congregant makes a difficult decision out of obedience to God’s Word. It’s when someone visits a hospital to pray for a sick friend or when a congregation goes above and beyond in its generosity toward missions. It could even be something as simple as singing with heartfelt expression in worship (I love when the church sings so loud they drown out the band).
My prayer for you this week is that you, like the Thessalonians, would stand firm in your faith no matter what challenges the week presents, and in so doing, would fill my heart with joy so that I (or whoever your pastor is) can say with Paul, “Now I am really living!”
In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus and the disciples head out across the Sea of Galilee in their boats, only to run into a dangerous storm that threatens their lives. What Jesus does is nothing short of miraculous, and we learn how we can follow Jesus even amidst the storms of life.
Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. Yet…” (John 7:21-22a, NIV).
In the passage I read this morning from John’s Gospel (John 7:14-9:12), the tension between Jesus and the Jewish people is palpable. They simply refused to acknowledge who He was, debating and arguing and reasoning their way out of faith in Jesus–even when He was performing miracles, teaching Scripture, calling them back to God, showing love and compassion without measure, and living without sin in every way. The Jews were amazed by Jesus’s miracles, yet angry with Him for healing a man on the Sabbath, and they were even accusing Him of being demon-possessed.
Jesus was incredulous, and rightly so! In spite of everything He’d done for them, they still refused to believe in Him. He does one miracle and the crowds are amazed by it… yet, not amazed enough to actually follow Jesus and receive Him as Lord.
How many times in my own life have I been amazed by God, but unmoved in my heart? Too many to count! I have often heard others say (and, I’ll confess, sometimes I’ve thought myself) these seven deadly words, “I know what the Bible says, but…” Oh, that those words would never escape our lips! May we never fail to be moved by the wonder, the grace, the Truth, and the beauty of God’s Word and the Savior it reveals to us. Be amazed and be moved this week.
On Sunday, we kicked off a new series through the Gospel of Mark, Who Is This Man? Jesus never wrote a book, but more books have been written about him than anyone else in the world. He never wrote a song, but more songs have been written about him than any other person in human history. He never traveled more than 200 miles outside his hometown, but he left his footprint on the whole earth. Who is this man whose life has changed the course of human history and inspired billions of people over thousands of years to follow him? Your answer to that question will change your life… forever.
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).
Yesterday was my last day at Pontiac Bible Church. Many people shared encouraging words of affirmation with us, and we walked away with a new appreciation for how God works. God chose to include us in his plan to minister to people at PBC—what a privilege! Yes, we endeavored to serve faithfully where he called us for the past six years, but God did all the heavy lifting. It was good timing as I read these words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel this morning. Almost as if God was reminding me, “Don’t start thinking you’re a hot shot because of all that’s happened in recent months. Remember the path to greatness.”
My prayer this week is that we will remember in our leadership roles that we are accompanying God on his ministry. We should be faithful in our service, but it is God who will accomplish the task. It’s kind of like going-to-work-with-Dad-day every day!