Really Living

“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!”

Trust Brings Joy

“Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you” (Psalm 86:4).

The last several months have been a study in putting trust in God as we came to realize God is calling us to LakeView Church in Stoughton, WI.  There have been days when we wondered if we were hearing God’s voice, and other days when God has spoken more clearly to us than ever before.  I have personally experienced the joy that comes when you place your trust in the Lord, and I pray that God will give me the grace to put my trust in him many more times in the future.

My prayer for you this week is that you, too, will find joy through trusting in the God of our salvation.

Stand Firm in the Lord

When I came on staff at Bethel Assembly of God ten years ago I would never have imagined myself preaching.  It simply wasn’t an option on my radar screen.  Now, ten years later, as a seminary student at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago, and as associate pastor at Pontiac Bible Church, I’ve had a number of “reps” in the pulpit.  I especially had opportunities over the year we spent searching for and hiring our new lead pastor.  And, much to my own surprise, I’ve grown to enjoy preaching.  I’ve always loved the in-depth Bible study that goes with sermon prep, and the study skills I’m gaining in seminary have opened an incredible new world of truth and meaning in God’s Word.  But I’ve also come to enjoy imparting some of that truth to a church family that I have the responsibility to love and care for and encourage and lead.

This past Sunday, August 31, I had the honor of preaching from Philippians 4:1-9.  This amazing passage of Scripture filled my life for a couple weeks as I studied, and then I hope came out in a way that was honoring to God and beneficial to the church.  If you take the time to listen, I hope you’ll find it helpful in your journey with our matchless King, Jesus Christ.