2448.) Psalm 139

September 19, 2018

P139 cover

Psalm 139    (NIV)

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

God is so great!
There is nothing He does not know.
There is nowhere He is not present.
There is nothing He cannot do.

.

P139 sitting down

David begins by talking about the omniscience of God:

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Such a personal God we have! It’s not just that God knows everything, He knows me. It’s not just that God is everywhere, He is everywhere with me. It’s not just that God created everything, He created me. Such knowledge is too amazing, too wonderful!

God is omnipresent as well, which is a great comfort to those who are mourning or considering their own end:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

P139 baby foot

Now David turns to consider God’s power and skill, his omnipotence:

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

“Woven together” or “skillfully wrought” or “curiously formed” — these different translations all come from a Hebrew word meaning embroidered.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

When I awake may therefore have its strongest sense, a glimpse of resurrection.”

–Derek Kidner

Who are those who would stand against such a God?

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.

P139 search me

David took his theological understanding of God’s nature and attributes and applied it to his own personal discipleship. The nature and attributes of God were not mere theories; they were guides to David’s spiritual growth.

–David Guzik

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Let us not be counted among the wicked! Make this prayer of David’s our own daily prayer.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “Search me, O God!”  by Christ Our Life.

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New International Version (NIV)   Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Images courtesy of:
Search me, O God – with rose.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2018/09/4813d-searchme_psalm139_23-24.jpg
O Lord, you have searched me.    http://media.salemwebnetwork.com/ecards/scripture-cards/psalm-139-1-3-nkjv-550×320.jpg
If I ascend.   https://www.healyoufirst.com/if-i-ascend-into-heaven-god-is-there/
baby foot.    https://static1.squarespace.com/static/564e2a34e4b0ad118963f571/564e2aa4e4b058efffcc120c/564e2abbe4b058efffcc1f75/1447963323505/images-41.jpeg?format=original
Search me, God.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/p139-search-me.jpg

2447.) 1 Thessalonians 4

September 18, 2018

“And the dead in Christ (including my parents) will rise first.” v. 16

1 Thessalonians 4 (ESV)

A Life Pleasing to God

1Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3For this is the will of God, your sanctification:

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

1 Thessalonians 4:3  For this is the will of God, even your sanctification (Greek hagiasmos, holiness)

Way’s translation:  God’s purpose, in fact, is this, that yours be a consecrated life.

It is the common things in life — not, as we sometimes think, the exceptional things — that offer us greatest opportunity to live a consecrated life. Zechariah foresaw the day when our dear Lord is satisfied in His people and rejoices over them, and he said:  In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of Hosts (Zechariah 14:20-21).

The great thing is to live in the spirit of “holiness unto the Lord” in all our common things. Is all holy in my heart? Is all that issues forth in words and deeds stamped with the hallmark of holiness?

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts. Lead me, even me, in the way of holiness, that my life today may truly be a consecrated life.

that you abstain from sexual immorality;

We live differently than the world when we abstain from sexual immorality. The ancient Greek word translated sexual immorality (porneia) is a broad word, referring to any sexual relationship outside of the marriage covenant.

The older King James Version translates sexual immorality as fornication. “Fornication is used here in its comprehensive meaning to denote every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse.” (Hiebert)

The broad nature of the word porneia shows that it isn’t enough to just say that you have not had sexual intercourse with someone who is not your spouse. All sexual behavior outside of the marriage covenant is sin.

God grants great sexual liberty in the marriage relationship (Hebrews 13:4). But Satan’s not-very-subtle strategy is often to do all he can to encourage sex outside of marriage and to discourage sex in marriage.

–David Guzik

4that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

A marked feature of life in the first century Roman Empire, and more particularly in Greece, was the tendency to sexual license. The ancient writer Demosthenes expressed the generally amoral view of sex in the ancient Roman Empire: “We keep prostitutes for pleasure; we keep mistresses for the day to day needs of the body; we keep wives for the faithful guardianship of our homes.”

6that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Romans 14:17 (Good News Translation)

For God’s Kingdom is . . . the righteousness, peace, and joy which the Holy Spirit gives.

9Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia.  But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,

“To dwell above with saints I love,
To me that will be glory.
To dwell below with saints I know . . .
Well, that’s another story!”

11and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

The Coming of the Lord

President Eisenhower was asked, “How do you like growing old?” He replied, “I prefer it to the alternative.” But the alternative did catch up with him. And it is going to catch up with each of us unless the Lord returns first. Both the Scripture and the experience of man document the fact that “it is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Since this is true, every intelligent person should be vitally interested in the question, “What about the future of the dead?” In 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:11 Paul addresses himself to answering this for us.

–Harold L. Fickett, Jr.

 13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
Dr. Alexander MacLaren, the famous Bible expositor, points out that sleep has two connotations in the Scripture. First, it has the connotation of rest, and second, the connotation of a glorious awakening. Early Christians began to call their burial places “cemeteries,” which means, “dormitories” or “sleeping places.” Significantly, while Paul describes the Christian dead as sleeping, he nowhere uses that expression of Christ. On the contrary, Jesus is always said to have died. The stark truth of that statement puts the miracle of the resurrection into perspective:  only because Christ has died can we “sleep.”
 15For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.

I love how J.B. Phillips translates this verse:

One word of command, one shout from the archangel, one blast from the trumpet of God and the Lord himself will come down from Heaven!

And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Queen Victoria’s chaplain preached a moving sermon about Jesus’ second coming. He noticed tears in her eyes. She said to him, “I was thrilled by your message. But I was weeping because I feared I might not live until my Lord comes.”

The chaplain comforted her with the promise of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. When he finished, she explained, “I want to live until He comes in order that I may take the crown of England from my head and place it at his feet, for He is the King of kings and Lord of Lords.”

–quoted in Growing Into your Crown, by Randall Earl Denny

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Music:

HERE  is “One day He’s coming — O Glorious Day!”  Updated by Casting Crowns.  I learned the chorus to this hymn when I was a child and I cannot tell you how many times I have sung it to myself, with much joy and thanksgiving, through the years!

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English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
consecration.   https://revonwheels.wordpress.com/category/consecration/
Why bother with sexual purity.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/sexual-purity.jpg
righteousness, peace, joy.   http://www.12accede.org/accede_right-peace-joy_2.gif
1 Thessalonians 4:16.    http://www.gracemedia.co.za/downloads/back011.jpg
Queen Victoria.  http://blog.londonconnection.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/425px-Queen_Victoria_by_Bassano.jpg

2446.) 1 Thessalonians 3

September 17, 2018

I never promised you a rose garden.

1 Thessalonians 3 (ESV)

Paul loved the Thessalonian Christians. After all, he had been instrumental in leading most of them to Christ. He and Silas and Timothy had organized them into a church. They were Paul’s spiritual children. Naturally he was concerned about their well-being.

While he was away from them he began to think about them. He decided that he just had to know their true condition, so he deputized Timothy to visit Thessalonica and learn firsthand what their situation was. He also wanted him to encourage the Thessalonian Christians to remain faithful in serving the Master.

When Timothy returned with the word that they were remaining firm, that they were faithful, and that they wanted a reunion with him, Paul was filled with happiness. He realized that his labor among them had not been in vain, that it had paid dividends the value of which only eternity would reveal.

–Harold L. Fickett, Jr.

1Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

1 Thessalonians 3:3 — That none of you might be unnerved by your present trials: for you yourselves knows that they are our appointed lot.

Have you difficulties? They are our appointed lot. Have you trials? They are our appointed lot.

These five words were written to people who might any day find themselves in prison, tortured, lonely, oppressed. Here if we have to have a tooth out, we have an injection. There was no injection for the Christians of Thessalonica. Let us not forget that when we are tempted to fuss over trifles, and call things trials which are mere nothings.

Still, there are trials sometimes, and they may look very big. But they are our appointed lot — we were never promised ease. The early Christians were not taught to expect it. Don’t let us slip into the expectation of the easy. It isn’t our appointed lot.

But for us there is always another word (2 Corinthians 12:9):  My grace is sufficient for thee.

4For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Timothy’s Encouraging Report

6But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?

11Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

A little boy was once asked what a saint was. Thinking about the stained glass windows in his church, he replied, “A saint is someone the light shines through.”

Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

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Music:

HERE  is “Hear the Call of the Kingdom” by Keith and Kristyn Getty.  I do like this song!

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English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
Rose garden.  http://tolunnet.blogspot.com/
big girl panties.   http://www.roseblossomlegacies.com/2010/02/
roaring lion.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/roaring-lion1.jpg
stained glass window.    http://www.religiousintelligence.org/churchnewspaper/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/stained_glass_window470_470x353.jpg

2445.) 1 Thessalonians 2

September 14, 2018

1 Thessalonians 2 (ESV)

Criticism is a fact of life with which every Christian has to contend. We are never far from it. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the only perfect person who ever lived, continually faced verbal barrages which ultimately led to his crucifixion. God’s choicest servants have through the years been objects of ridicule and slander. The apostle Paul was no exception. In chapter 2 he answers several implied criticisms leveled at him by the enemies of Christ.

–Harold L. Fickett, Jr.

Paul’s Ministry to the Thessalonians

1For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain.

Our message and our time among you was not worthless or irrelevant.

2But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive,

We were not trying to spread crazy talk, corrupt you, lie to you, or lead you astray.

4but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

We were not trying to get ahead in this world.

5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.

We were not trying to be the big cheese and lord it over you.

8So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

9For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

We were not trying to get rich at your expense.

10You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11For you know how, like a father with his children, 12we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

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Music:

“how like a father with his children . . “

HERE  is “I want to be just like you”  by Phillips, Craig and Dean.

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13And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

We did encourage you to be transformed by Christ!

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NIV)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

14For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind

We did warn you that you would face opposition as you follow the Lord Jesus!

John 16:33 (NLT)

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!

Paul’s Longing to See Them Again

17But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20For you are our glory and joy.

We did invest our lives in you, for the sake of God’s eternal kingdom!

Proverbs 11:30 (KJV)

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life;
and he that winneth souls is wise.

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English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
Actions speak louder . . .    http://zachkvet.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/actions-words-1.png
verses 11-12.   https://calvarydayton.com/sermons/1-thessalonians-02_01-12/

2444.) 1 Thessalonians 1

September 13, 2018

Ruins of the ancient marketplace (agora) of Thessalonica.

1 Thessalonians 1 (ESV)

The story of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica is recorded in Acts 17:1-10. Even though his stay there was probably no more than three to four weeks (see Acts 17:2), his efforts were crowned with success. Many people turned to Christ as Saviour and Lord; the Thessalonican Church was organized and despite the opposition from the pagan culture around them, the members of this church continued the ministry for the Saviour in the city. Both 1 and 2 Thessalonians were addressed to them.

Naturally Paul was concerned about the well-being of this infant church. After leaving the area, he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to investigate what was taking place there. The news that Timothy brought back was most encouraging and heart warming. Paul’s response was to write the church a letter of encouragement and praise.

But along with the encouraging news there were some disturbing facts brought to light. So along with Paul’s praise he answered questions which were disturbing them and admonished them to correct the evil trends which were apparently developing.

–Harold L. Fickett, Jr.

Greeting

1Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

The Thessalonians’ Faith and Example

2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

They were a faithful and loving and hopeful church!

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Genuine love is so contrary to human nature that its presence bears witness to an extraordinary power.

–John Piper

4For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,

They were an imitating church!

1 Peter 2:21 (NIV)

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Martin Luther asked:  “If Christ wore a crown of thorns, why should His followers expect only a crown of roses?”

for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

They were a joyful church!

Romans 14:17 (Good News Translation)

For God’s Kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of the righteousness, peace, and joy which the Holy Spirit gives.

A poster that was popular during my college days:  Let nothing so fill you with sorrow that you forget the joy of Christ risen!

7so that you became an example to all the believers

They were an exemplary church!

Titus 2:7 (NIV)

In everything set them an example by doing what is good.

A little boy’s over-protective mother went with him on the first day of school, and she insisted that she speak with her little boy’s teacher before she left. His mother told the teacher that if her son misbehaved, the teacher should punish the boy next to him. The teacher asked why. And the mother replied, “My little boy learns by example.

in Macedonia and in Achaia.

Thessalonica (modern Thessaloniki, also called Salonika) is located about 190 mi. north of Athens. In the days of the apostle Paul it was the capital of the province of Macedonia and was a “free city.” Today Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece (750,000). Most of the remains from the New Testament era are either destroyed or covered over by the modern city. However, recent excavations in the center of the city have revealed the remains of an ancient forum (agora).

8For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.

They were an evangelizing church!

Acts 1:8 (NLT)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I have but one passion: It is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ.

— Count Nicolaus Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf (founder of Daily Texts in 1731)

9For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you,

They were a welcoming church!

Romans 12:13 (NIV)

Practice hospitality.

Here are some examples:

  • Take food to someone you don’t know.
  • Invite someone to our home that you don’t know very well — maybe someone who just moved to town, your neighborhood, or who may be new to the church.
  • Visit the hospital or nursing home and talk to patients you don’t know.
  • Pay for a stranger’s meal at a restaurant.
  • Help provide food or clothing for the homeless.

and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

They were a waiting church!

Acts 1:10-11 (NLT)

As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them.  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

The ancient confession of faith:  Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.

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Music:

As I read the compliments Paul bestows on the church at Thessalonica, I wonder how well I am doing in those very departments. How faithful, hopeful, and loving am I — to my family, to strangers, to those who annoy me? How diligently do I imitate Christ — or do I just fall back on the same old tired excuses for my poor witness? How joyful am I — especially when my circumstances are not what I wish they were? Am I asking the Lord to put people in my path so I can tell them about him and his wonderful salvation? Is my house an open house to those who need help or a hot meal? Am I living in expectation that “Christ will come again”?

Help me, Lord, to live for you in every detail of my life!

HERE  is “I Offer My Life” by Don Moen.

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English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
agora of ancient Thessalonica.   http://justinimel.com/1thessalonians/800px-Thessaloniki-Ancient_Agora.jpg
thumbs up.   http://clipartstockphotos.com/free-stock-photo-clip-art/194077/thank-you-smiley-animated-kre3ymd-image-clip-art
map showing Thessalonica.   https://sixteenseasons.wordpress.com/2017/01/03/on-scripture-and-the-bereans/

2443.) Acts 17:1-15

September 12, 2018

Thessaloniki, with its beautiful White Tower, is the second-largest city in Greece.

Acts 17 (NLT)

Paul Preaches in Thessalonica

The Via Egnatia was a road built by the Romans in the second century BCE. It went west from the Bosphorus across Greece (Macedonia, Thrace) to the Adriatic, some 700 miles. Like other major Roman roads, it was nearly 20 feet wide, surfaced with large slabs of carefully fitted stones. It linked Neapolis, Philippi, and Thessalonica.  Paul would have walked this very road.

1 Paul and Silas then traveled through the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.

The first verse of this chapter is an extraordinary example of economy of writing. It sounds like a pleasant stroll; but in point of fact Philippi was 33 Roman miles from Amphipolis; Amphipolis was 30 miles from Apollonia; and Apollonia was 37 miles from Thessalonica. A journey of over 100 miles is dismissed in a sentence.

–William Barclay

2 As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people. 3 He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.” 4 Some of the Jews who listened were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women.

Part of the credit here goes to the believers Paul had left behind in Philipi:

Philippians 4:15-16 (NLT)

As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.  Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once.

5 But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? Paul encountered the same envious reaction to his successful ministry during his first missionary journey in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13: 45 and 50), in Iconium (Acts 14:2 and 5), and in Lystra (Acts 14:19).

They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd. 6 Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted,

The King James Version puts verse 6 as “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.”

The Jews had not the slightest doubt that Christianity was a supremely effective thing. T. R. Glover quoted with delight the saying of the child who remarked that the New Testament ended with Revolutions. When Christianity really goes into action it must cause a revolution both in the life of the individual and in the life of society.

–William Barclay

“and now they are here disturbing our city, too. 7 And Jason has welcomed them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.”

Any talk of a rival to the Emperor was strictly forbidden by Rome.

8 The people of the city, as well as the city council, were thrown into turmoil by these reports. 9 So the officials forced Jason and the other believers to post bond, and then they released them.

Paul and Silas in Berea

Mosaic of “Paul Preaching to the Noble Bereans” from the Altar of St. Paul in Veria (Berea), Greece.

10 That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea.

The believers sent Paul to a safe place. Cicero calls Berea an “out-of-the-way town.” Here Paul and his friends can stay until things settle down in Thessalonica.

When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. 12 As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.

13 But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble. 14 The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. 15 Those escorting Paul went with him all the way to Athens; then they returned to Berea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him.

Note three things:

The diligence of the Bereans, reading the Scriptures with new eyes.

The venom of the Jews from Thessolonica, who are identifying their aims with God, rather than submitting their ideas to God.

And the courage of Paul, who continues living a clearly dangerous life as he tells the story of Jesus.

What can we learn from these few verses?

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Music:

I want to be a Berean! — searching the Scriptures to know what the Lord says is true and right!  HERE  is Henry Purcell’s “Thy Word Is a Lantern,”  sung by the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge.

Thy word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
I have sworn, and am steadfastly purposed to keep thy righteous judgements.
I am troubled above measure: Quicken me, O Lord, according to thy word.
Let the freewill offerings of my mouth please thee O Lord, and teach me thy judgements.
The ungodly have laid a snare for me, but yet I swerved not from thy commandments.
Thy testimonies have I claimd as mine heritage for ever:
And why? They are the very joy of my heart. Alleluia.

Psalm 119: 105-108 and 110-111

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Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Thessaloniki.     http://apapagianopoulos.blogspot.com/2014/07/blog-post_48.html
Via Egnatia.     https://www.romanoimpero.com/2014/09/salonicco-tessalonica-grecia.html
Thank you note.    http://goodshepherd.com/Portals/4/_Files/Home/Resources/Horn/201807Horn.pdf?ver=2018-06-29-184515-427
Paul preaching in Berea.    http://www.padfield.com/greece/berea/images/berea-greece-03.jpg

2442.) Philippians 4

September 11, 2018

Philippians 4 (NIV)

Prayer

Lord, you are the giver of every good gift. We pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works by joyfully serving others; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Closing Appeal for Steadfastness and Unity

1Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my JOY and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

Paul used the ancient Greek word for crown that described the crown given to an athlete who had won the race. It was a crown of achievement (a stephanos); not the crown that was given to a king (a diadema). The Philippians, as they stand fast in the Lord, were Paul’s trophy.

–David Guzik

2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Final Exhortations

calligraphy by Michael Noyes

4 REJOICE in the Lord always. I will say it again: REJOICE! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Paul stresses that we can take everything to God in prayer.

As it has been beautifully put: “There is nothing too great for God’s power; and nothing too small for his fatherly care.” We can bring our prayers, our supplications and our requests to God; we can pray for ourselves. We can pray for forgiveness for the past, for the things we need in the present, and for help and guidance for the future. We can take our own past and present and future into the presence of God. We can pray for others. We can commend to God’s care those near and far who are within our memories and our hearts. 

And every prayer must surely include thanks for the great privilege of prayer itself. Paul insists that we must give thanks in everything, in sorrows and in joys alike. That implies two things. It implies gratitude and also perfect submission to the will of God. It is only when we are fully convinced that God is working all things together for good that we can really feel to him the perfect gratitude which believing prayer demands.

–William Barclay

7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Romans 12:2 (ESV)

Do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.

9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Thanks for Their Gifts

10 I REJOICED greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Let’s replace all our whining with joy! All our complaining with thanksgiving! All our self-serving discontent with generosity! We can do this through Christ who gives us strength!

14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Paul described the gift of the Philippians in terms that remind us of sacrifices in the Old Testament (Genesis 8:21, Exodus 29:18, 29:25, and 29:41). Our giving to God’s work is similar to Old Testament sacrifices, which also cost the person bringing the sacrifice a lot. Bulls and rams did not come cheaply in that day.

–David Guzik

19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Spurgeon thought that this verse was a great illustration of that wonderful miracle in 2 Kings 4:1-7, where Elisha told the widow to gather empty vessels, set them out and pour forth the oil from the one small vessel of oil she had into the empty vessels. She filled and filled and miraculously filled until every empty vessel was full.

  • All our need is like the empty vessels.
  • God is the one who fills the empty vessels.
  • According to His riches in glory describes the style in which God fills the empty vessels – the oil keeps flowing until every available vessel is filled.
  • By Christ Jesus describes the how God meets our needs – our empty vessels are filled with Jesus in all His glory.

20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Final Greetings

21 Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. 22 All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.  23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

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Music:

Twila Paris says, “I want to encourage people to be faithful in what God has given them to do, however insignificant it might seem, because they have no idea how huge it could be in God’s overall plan.”  HERE she sings “I Can Do All Things” — and notice that her emphasis is on the “through Christ” rather than the “I.”

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New International Version (NIV)   Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
verse and sunflowers.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/1482586028051563516s600x600q85.jpg
Noyes.   http://www.michaelnoyes.com/images/products/product_165_copyright.png
Think on these things.    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/111/290317481_2baba442c0.jpg
No Whining.    https://www.amazon.com/NO-WHINING-Window-Bumper-Sticker/dp/B00434ZXA6
Paul signature.    http://www.rowforhope.com/html/images/Paul%20-%20Signature.GIF