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Daily Distinctives, April 19, 2015 (Encouragement)

April 19, 2015

Daily Reading:

[1Th 5:12 NKJV]
And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,

[1Th 5:13 NKJV]
and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.

[1Th 5:14 NKJV]
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.

[1Th 5:15 NKJV]
See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

[1Th 5:16 NKJV]
Rejoice always,

[1Th 5:17 NKJV]
pray without ceasing,

[1Th 5:18 NKJV]
in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

[1Th 5:19 NKJV]
Do not quench the Spirit.

[1Th 5:20 NKJV]
Do not despise prophecies.

[1Th 5:21 NKJV]
Test all things; hold fast what is good.

[1Th 5:22 NKJV]
Abstain from every form of evil.

[1Th 5:23 NKJV]
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[1Th 5:24 NKJV]
He who calls you [is] faithful, who also will do [it].

Daily Distinctive:

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where people were just open and honest. Where there was no beating around the bush. Where there were no clever subtleties disguised as general admonishments, but that if there were genuine concerns people would feel free to obey the Scriptures which tell us “Open rebuke is better than love cleverly concealed (Proverbs 27:5). A world where if your fly was down people would just tell you, “hey man, your fly is down,” rather than saying “the barn door is open” or something in code like that. I am thinking of a world where if there is a booger in your nose, those who love you would simply tell you, “hey man, you have a whopping booger in your nose,” or even better, hand you a tissue and then tell you that.

Instead what we do is drop subtle hints, talk about people behind their backs and withhold kind words and affirmations. And so as I read these verses for today I had to ask myself, “Am I guilty of doing these things to other people?” So what I thought I would do is explore these verses as I probe the depths of my own heart in my devotional for today. If you are reading this, then please understand that this is for my personal edification and growth in the WORD, but if you might by chance benefit from this then praise the LORD all the more!

[1Th 5:12 NKJV]
And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,

You know, I don’t do this as often as I should. I sit in church week in and week out and I see those who labor behind the scenes and from the stage ministering to the fellowship and all too often I let another service go by without recognizing these faithful servants, affirming them and encouraging them. I think about Mark and John, two of our greeters and ushers at the church I attend. I think about King and Roy who work the sound booth and Cindy who sets up and works the refreshments between services. I think about the servants who work in the children’s ministry and how they care for our children so that we can get a healthy dose of the WORD of God. Which leads me to think about my pastor, Mark, who studies diligently to deliver the WORD, while managing a family, and a business. I think about people like Eric, Audry, Roy, Jason, and Arnold who lead us each week in worship. I think about Doug and Pastor Mike, Jessie, and Sarah who are all working so fervently behind the scenes to support the work of the ministry that takes place at the church I attend. And the list goes on and on and on of people who tirelessly give of themselves to make church distraction free and focused on our walks with Jesus. But how often do I tell them how much I appreciate them? How often do I recognize those who labor among me.

And my leadership, how often to I recognize those who are over me in the LORD, those who admonish me? LORD knows I am thankful for them, but instead of recognizing them and encouraging them, I take for granted the hard work that they put into making church for my family possible. To my shame, I sometimes even have the audacity to complain about them. LORD forgive me. But I know in my heart that I am proud of each and every one of the servants in our church. I love them all and long to support them even in the simple things.

[1Th 5:13 NKJV]
and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.

When I think about all of the things that it takes to make sure that even one service can take place I have to hold those who serve in the church with deep and sincere gratitude. I have served in just about every capacity you can imagine in the church and I know what it involves to prepare for what the average lay person might view as a simple service. The truth is that there is no such thing as simple service. There is so much more that goes on behind the scenes that few people really see and appreciate. It is not as simple as turning on the lights and having church. There is so much preparation that goes into every single service that we should esteem the servants of our church very highly in love for their work’s sake. When you consider the countless hours of practice, study, and preparation for one service and add to that the administrative work, paying the bills, and managing the operations of the church, cleaning the church and all that goes into it, we should be very thankful for the work that these faithful servants perform.

There is no reason then why we should not be at peace amongst one another. It is not like one servants job is more important than another’s. We should not be bickering and talking about people who are using their gifts to the profit of the body of Christ. We should be at peace among ourselves.

[1Th 5:14 NKJV]
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.

Now as I alluded to in the intro to this devotional, I wish that we would be more direct with one another regarding warning those who are unruly. Notice here that this exhortation is for the brethren. If we are brethren in Christ than we should be warning those who are unruly with open rebuke rather than subtle jabs that may or may not be grasped in order that they might be received and dealt with. We should be open to comfort the fainthearted, those amongst us that need encouragement. We should uphold the weak and support them with loving arms so that they will feel loved and cared for. And definitely, we should be patient with everyone. All too often we simply blow people off who are seemingly not conforming to the program. We don’t know their circumstances, we don’t know their hearts, we don’t know what their motivations are. And so rather than make assumptions we should get to know those in our fellowship in an intimate way so that we can minister to their needs. Jesus meets us at the point of our needs, why should we do anything less?

[1Th 5:15 NKJV]
See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

This is a sad thing, but even in the church we see the game of tit for tat playing out in many cases. We see a perceived transgression and rather than dealing with it up front and going to the person that has offended, we are passive aggressive in our behavior towards them and preclude the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work towards bringing resolution and restoration. It should not be this way amongst the brethren of the church. We should always pursue the best interest of all. This is what discipleship is all about. Pouring into the lives of others so that we can all be fellow partakers of the Gospel together in harmony and unity as one body and one fellowship. My old pastor used to say, “Making converts is easy, the hard part is making disciples.” But if we were to pour into those in our fellowship we would find immediately that we are doing what is good for ourselves and for the body corporately. By discipling those in our fellowship we are helping them to understand their giftedness in the Spirit and encouraging them to use these gifts for the profit of the corporate body.

[1Th 5:16 NKJV]
Rejoice always,

We have so much to rejoice in. I just covered this in a previous devotional, but it bears repeating. By virtue of the fact that I have the strength in my fingers to type this sentence I should be rejoicing in the LORD who has allowed the breath in my lungs to supply oxygen to the rest of my body, the nourishment to my brain, and the ability to reason the Scriptures! There is so much that I have to rejoice in that I should scarcely have time to do anything else but praise God for all that He has done, is doing and will do in my life.

[1Th 5:17 NKJV]
pray without ceasing,

And as we rejoice in the things that the LORD has done, is doing and will do, we can pray to that end. There are so many prayers that are prayed corporately that are so generic and our prayer meetings are often the shortest part of our services. It is an indictment to the body that more people will come to church for a regular service than for a prayer service. I used to love the “All Night Prayer” services that we had in the church I came from. Each ministry leader would meet with their team prior to the night and put together a list of things that needed to be bathed in prayer. Then all of the prayer requests from all of the ministries would be collected and put on a PowerPoint slideshow and we would go through them all praying for each request. It was awesome! But our prayer is not limited to the church building. We are to be praying always. This means that we are to be in an attitude of prayer consistently throughout the day, every day. I catch myself praying as I am riding down the road, when I am in the shower, and even now as I am typing this. The point is simply we should always be honing ¬†the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of the believer : prayer.

[1Th 5:18 NKJV]
in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

If you want to know what the will of God is for you in your life, here is one thing you can bank on. He wants us to give thanks for everything! The good things and the bad things alike. They all work together for good by the way. This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for each of us. We have so much to be thankful for, beginning with our salvation! But in everything we are to give thanks. Now if we are rejoicing always and always in an attitude of prayer, then we are covering this command by virtue of doing the others. How cool is that? My wife always razzes me about how I am always trying to “kill two birds with one stone.” What can I say, I like efficiency! But if I am rejoicing in the LORD and praying, then my prayers and rejoicing should be saturated with thanksgiving!

[1Th 5:19 NKJV]
Do not quench the Spirit.

This is a hard one for me to address. Mainly because I feel like I am doing this right now to a large degree. I feel like I should be going out and planting a church, but then I hear messages like the one I heard today about waiting until your leadership calls you to go out. So to prevent myself from quenching the Spirit I am pouring out my spiritual gifts here in this venue. I know the LORD is calling me. My pastor said [paraphrased], “Make sure that the burning in your heart is not indigestion.” Ha! I love my pastor. But I will say this, if the burning is indigestion then I have had serious spiritual acid reflux for the past 20 years and it has gotten much worse in the past five, growing increasingly stronger as the months progress. And so it is my prayer that if I am to wait on my leadership to send me out that they would be careful to heed the warning in this verse as well. All in God’s timing though. My old pastor talked about how many people desire the calling of being a pastor but will not do the hard things, turning their noses up to service that is beneath them. I can say without a doubt that I do not personally fall under this charge. Not that I am boasting or anything like that, but I will do anything that needs to be done because I know that it pleases the LORD. Many times I will do stuff that others don’t or won’t, and without the thought of recognition. In fact, I like to be a Christian Ninja about some of the things I do, then God and I get to smile and have communion together. I make a little game out of doing stuff covertly so that I can enjoy serving in a way that I know will please the LORD. I would encourage you to do the same. Next time you are walking through the parking lot or in your church and you see a piece of trash on the ground, look around and make sure no one is watching, and then pick it up and discretely throw it away. It may not seem like much, but then you get to thank God that you were able to do something simple and serve without anyone knowing. It is addictive, trust me on this.

Another thing that I want to point out here is that I have to be careful not to quench the Spirit by seeking to draw attention to myself. This is one of the reasons that I have not optimized this website. I am a web developer and search engine marketing guy. My job is to make sure that websites like these get to the top of the search engines so that they can profit the owners of the respective sites. If I wanted to I could have this website at the top of the search engines and draw all kinds of attention to myself. I could probably even expedite things in my own flesh by doing so. But I don’t want that. I want what God wants and if He wants me to wait, then I wait. So I am just faithfully serving Him by doing these devotions and preparing for the day when He does call me out through my leadership. I hope you understand that you guys and gals that happen upon this are just along for the ride. If you are edified and encouraged then it is a bonus as far as I am concerned. I want the Holy Spirit to have free reign in my life, I don’t want to muddle up His work by getting in the way. In short, I don’t want to quench the Spirit.

[1Th 5:20 NKJV]
Do not despise prophecies.

Now, we don’t have a bunch of Prophets running around to despise, but that is not what this verse is talking about. We recognize that God can and does speak through His people today. Sure there are those who will say, “I feel the LORD telling me such and such, or this and that,” that have no business speaking as an oracle of God because what they are saying has not come from God. But when a person who is filled with the Spirit shares a word of knowledge, or offers godly wisdom as it pertains to a circumstance, using Scripture as a support for their argument, we should be willing to accept such without despising. Part of the reason that I am certain of my own calling is because of godly men and women who have told me that they sense this calling on my life. When I am ready to throw in the towel, it never fails, someone will come up to me and tell me that they remember a time when I taught a class or a service, or they overheard my conversation with someone, and how they sense a calling on my life to be a pastor. It makes my heart smile. Truly it does. Still, we have an obligation to be Berean’s with regard to anything that is not directly from the Scriptures (the absolute authority on all matters). And so we see in the next verse…

[1Th 5:21 NKJV]
Test all things; hold fast what is good.

Test all things. That pretty much sums up, well….everything. We are to be discerning about what we hear if it does not come directly from the Bible. We should test things to see if they produce the fruit of the Spirit. Those things which prove righteous we should hold fast to, encourage and even promote. But those things that do not stand up to the test of Scripture we should shun. Look at the next verse…

[1Th 5:22 NKJV]
Abstain from every form of evil.

In our culture today this is pretty hard to do. You can’t turn around without being confronted with just about every imaginable form of evil. But just because we are confronted by it does not mean that we should embrace it. The Scriptures are clear on the matter. We are to abstain, or refuse every form of evil. And I might add evil comes in a wide variety of forms. Usually the most wicked forms of evil are subtle in their trappings. This is not by accident. The adversary sugarcoats evil so that it appears innocuous and even worthy. But if we are focused on the Scripture when the counterfeits come along, and they will, we are more readily able to identify them and abstain from them. This is why being in the WORD is so critical for the believer.

[1Th 5:23 NKJV]
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is perhaps the most comforting and encouraging passage in all of Scripture for me. Paul says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely…” I love this. I understand that God uses our circumstances, our trials, and other people in our lives as implements of our sanctification process, but Paul says here, “…the God of peace Himself…” Ultimately it is God who is sanctifying us, but I love the fact that Paul is asking that God Himself put His hand upon us and bring us to completion! I get chills when I read this.

He goes on to add that our whole spirit, soul and body be preserved. Now when I think of preservation I think of a jar of jelly. It is cooked and prepared and then placed in a jar which is vacuum sealed. This prevents the outside air from contaminating it. And so Paul is saying that we should be kept preserved, untampered with, not contaminated so that we will be found blameless, or above reproach when the LORD Jesus Christ returns in glory! Oh LORD let it be so!

[1Th 5:24 NKJV]
He who calls you [is] faithful, who also will do [it].

But even more encouraging is this thought. I know with all certainty that the calling on my life will come to fruition. It is not a matter of “if” for me, but when. His WORD promises me that the One who calls me is faithful. This means that He is true to His WORD. If He is calling me then He will also make it happen. This makes the waiting bearable in my mind. I am often encouraged by this Scripture verse as I prepare for the calling that the LORD has placed on my life. But while I am waiting I will keep on being faithful to mind the little things, things like this daily devotional, things like caring for my family, things like serving where I am needed, things like picking up trash without anyone looking. ;o)

And so I want to encourage you too. There is not one believer who has eternal salvation that has not been called to some form of ministry. My encouragement is that He would reveal your spiritual giftedness to you. I would encourage you to begin by getting plugged in at your local fellowship. A great place to start is your church’s cleaning ministry. Nothing says, “I Love You Jesus” more than cleaning up after His kids! But what you will find in the rigors of service is that God will begin to reveal to you your own calling. When you recognize this calling, test it. Find out places where you can put your calling to the test and serve with all of your heart. You will be glad that you did.

Daily Muse:

I wish I could share this blog with everyone. Not just todays, but the entire corpus of work that I have prepared here. I think it gives a good glimpse into my heart and reveals something about me personally that is not on the surface. I don’t do a good enough job of being open and allowing myself to be subject to criticism. Probably because I recognize how flawed and messed up I am. The only confidence that I truly have is that Jesus is the One who began the good work in me and will be faithful to complete it. I often think, if I were to die tomorrow, would my life have satisfied the calling the LORD has placed on me. Have I been faithful teaching my own family, pastoring my own little fellowship of six children and a lovely wife? Could I stand before my Maker and say, “LORD, I did what You called me to do.”? I have always viewed my calling as a going out. But even if I never go out, I can still do what the LORD has called me to do right here in the comfort of my own home. And what about those in my own little sphere of influence, have I been faithful to minister to them? These are the thoughts that consume me on a regular basis. Since going out is not dependent upon me, I have no other recourse but to be faithful here where I am planted. I can’t simply sit idly by, the Spirit governs me and bids me to press on. And so I just do what I do. I can say that my life is full. It is not without trial and tribulation (you would be amazed at the havoc six kids and a wife can wreak upon you…lol), but there is fruit in the simple things and so I am sure that my faithfulness here will play out in other areas as time progresses. I feel the LORD telling me over and over again, “Just watch and see what I am going to do.” The neat thing is that I don’t have to wait. I am watching it now!

Daily Prayer:

LORD, thank You for encouraging me in Your WORD. It is like a refreshing drink of water on a hot day. I am surrounded by so much that I have to be thankful for and I rejoice in You and all that You are doing in my life. While I am content with where You have me, I still desire to go out and start a ministry with my own family. I want to help people know You, and to discover their gifts and talents. I want to teach them how to use these gifts to minister to others. I want to show people what You have shown me, to encourage them and bless them so that they can, in turn, show others and bless them. You have given me this desire and You won’t let my mind push down and subdue the thought of planting a church, and so I ask that the same Holy Spirit in me, which is the same Holy Spirit that indwells my leaders, would speak on my behalf. Not that I am ready, I doubt I will ever be, but that I could use the rest of my life on this earth doing what I know would satiate this hunger that I have and bring You the glory that You have created me for. I trust and wait in You LORD. Praise be to Your name, the name that I rejoice in with all of my being. I love You Jesus. You have taken a man like me and made me the person that I am today. The best thing is that I know You are not finished with me yet. I look forward with faith and hope for what You are about to do. It is in Your name that I pray.¬† -Amen

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