Saturday, July 31, 2010

Though written many years ago, 1 Thessalonians is for times like ours. This letter speaks to a culture filled with seductive images and sexual pressures. Thessalonians brings eternal point of view to debates of material things and interest. Thessalonians questions the secular values that undermine and weaken God’s Law and purpose. If you’ve ever struggled to maintain a pure life in a freewheeling society, 1 Thessalonians provides some encouraging words for us: The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it (5:24).

Overview: What are we known for? (I Thess 1:1~10)
To whom was it written and why?
Paul wrote to the believers in the church at Thessalonica, founded during his second missionary journey. Riots and opposition had forced him to leave them sooner than he desired. But later, news of their progress encouraged Paul to write to commend them for growing in the Lord and urge them to correct some major misunderstandings.

When was it written?
Possibly as early as A.D. 50 or shortly thereafter.

What to look for in 1 Thessalonians:
As you read, watch for practical ways that Christians can live holy lives in a culture hostile to Christian values. You’ll find guidelines on relationships and boundaries for living in an immoral culture. Overshadowing all this is a perspective on life that is shaped by eternity. You’ll also find exciting clues about the end times and Jesus’ second coming.

It seems that the people of this church of the Thessalonians have a great view of who they were in Christ. Their faith was seen and understood very well by all who knew of them. All over the area-yes, even in other countries, their Faith was one of high acclaim.

As with Paul, he very often used two or three parallel words or phrases to cover a point. He does it very well here in this letter. You need to know that he will be correcting their false belief systems in a while, but he really is well pleased of how far and how deep they had come since he was kicked out of their city a few years before. What kept them doing well? The Holy Spirit’s Power in their lives keep them spiritual healthy. It is really up to each believer to be sure of his/her own spiritual health. You do not want to put the fire out. You do not want to get too comfortable and too at ease with life that you stop growing. We all need growth. We all need to be pressed in our Spirit. We all need His correction from time to time. Some more than others. We are all in the same boat. We need Him!

Even before we start, please note that Paul is writing to the Church in this city. The Church is IN God and IN the Lord Jesus. The Church is not a building but a body of believers. We meet here in Enoki-Cho. I like what we have here. We have been here almost 20 years now. It has become a comfortable place to worship. Don’t take it for granted.

Also, please note that Paul is thankful to God for the members of this church.

He prays for them continually. Always bringing them before the Father. This does not mean all is well with the Body.

Remember the story of Jesus on the boat with His fishermen during the storm that almost sunk them. He was sleeping while the 12 were bailing. They cried out: “Don’t You care that we are about to die!? Do something!” He stood up and spoke words to the wind and the waves and all was silent. Just because Jesus is with us, that does not mean the boat ride will be without incident. Hard things happen to the good as well as the bad. The difference is the Believer has Him with them during the storms of life. Big difference, believe me! How could we survive without Him with us? God with us! Emmanuel.

We need to move on. The things that Paul remembers before the Father in Prayer are three-fold. First has to do with their FAITH.

1. Work Produced by Faith.
A work, or labor of love or even a job they had that resulted in producing FAITH in the members of this church. The words tend to suggest that it was not something that was easy. Not automatic. They HAD to work at it! It was hard. It was not natural. It was a work from the Heart of God. And they were open enough to His heart that they followed that hearing with action. They PRODUCED or fashioned or formed, shaped or even created something of worth that developed into Faith in their walk of Faith. Again, working hard at it! If you do not work, don’t expect to eat. There are no free lunches. Life cost. We can’t get by with the attitude of entitlement. That is what is wrong with our society today. Everyone wants a piece of the pie but few want to work for it. They want it free! Life cost. And Faith cost something as well. It is a work of the Spirit in all who believe. And it is central to the Believer to participate in all areas of the Christian experience. It is not the role of only the pastor. Lay workers are key to evangelism. You and the person next to you are responsible for the salvation of your loved ones. THAT is Biblical Faith!

2. Labor Prompted by Love.
Paul also noted in prayer that these people were moved to do things. Not just for the sake of doing something for nothing. They were provoked with an effort to action because of LOVE. Love drove them. Not the sissy kind of puppy love but deep concern love from the heart! These people cared about life. They cared about people. They cared about the Gospel. The whole area knew of this concern. We will hear more of that later this month, but they were models of what a Believer should be. They were living lives worthy of God. And they were laboring for the Gospel in such a way that suggests toil, sweat of the brow, being industrious in their approach to life.

Turn to 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (NIV) 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. Not all of life is to be easy nor is it to be hard. It is all to bring Glory to Him. Can you live with that? It is not about you!

And this Labor that was prompted by Love was central to the Christian Faith. The Love of the Father motivates us to love one another. If we say we love God yet have hatred for a brother or sister, or parent, than we make God to be a liar. Go to 1 John 2: 3-6, 9-11.

Paul also observes that these people were going for the long haul in life. They were survivors. They had an endurance that was inspired by Hope.

3. Endurance Inspired by Hope.
Endurance is that quality few really have. Here in Japan, over 40,000 people are over 100 years of age. That is endurance. Some of them have THIS kind of endurance. Not the headstrong kind of attitude but this patience that comes from God’s Hope. This kind of life-style is one who survives, a tough stamina. Fortitude of an inner quality that continues to move on. His Power was made whole in them. (Even that being true, they had room for improvement.) It is the Power of the Gospel unto Salvation. Paul wrote about that in Romans and you can read that this week.

This endurance was stimulated by something outside us. Found in the Hope of God. That is a hope we can believe in! Something of a ROCK. A firm foundation that was set by God Himself. They were moved or encouraged by that Hope. More than a hope of passing a test. It was a hope of things not yet seen. The Hope of a sure thing. That sure thing is the very Word of God. That Word can be trusted. It is true. It can change the evil sinner. It can change the most confident unbeliever. It can change our hearts because it is Truth.

Once more, this Hope MUST be shared with family members. You are the key to their salvation. You love them. You will show them what you believe. It is not the task of the ‘professional’ clergy. You must tell your loved ones that Jesus loves them. Show them the way to the Cross. If not, all will be lost. They will not know of God’s Love and they will not even know of your love for them. Share the Hope that is in you.

Then maybe the Hope is not really in you. If that is the case, ask God to forgive you and ask Him to fill your hearts with His Love. And live it out!

These Followers of Jesus had the staying Power to keep at it. These followers of Jesus were showing us how to live that special life of a disciple of Jesus.

How? As a point of application today, let’s spend the remaining time talking about HOW to apply what we have heard.

First, we are to live this Gospel out before our families. No one else can do that for you. They know you better than anyone in the world. They may not like hearing about the Gospel but you can still love them. Kindness, Compassion, Caring, Holiness, Stick-to-a-tive-ness. Love them. That will show them your Love.

Second, pray for them. This will show them your Faith. Spend time before Father God, holding them up in prayer. What do you pray? For them to do well in school, be safe at work and in travel, for their salvation, that they would remain faithful to you as you WILL remain faithful to them. That will show them, and God, your Faith.

Thirdly, live out your life of Faith with unwavering HOPE in the Things of God. Just as those fishermen were concerned about their life when Jesus was right there with them in the Storm, He will calm the storm when it is time to. We have a Hope that you can really believe in and live with.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Series

Greetings! It is great to return to ICCS!
We had a great time last Sunday and am looking for more of the same in the weeks to come.
There will be a new series starting this next week from the First Book of Thessalonians.

What to look for in 1 Thessalonians:
As you read, watch for practical ways that Christians can live holy lives in a culture hostile to Christian values. You’ll find guidelines on relationships and boundaries for living in an immoral culture. Overshadowing all this is a perspective on life that is shaped by eternity. You’ll also find exciting clues about the end times and Jesus’ second coming.

2000年近い古い時代に書かれていたのにもかかわらず、テサロニケ人への手紙第一は今日の我々の時代に対する内容で す。この手紙は挑発的な彫像や性的な誘惑に満ちた文化に対して語られています。テサロニケ人は物自体や物質的な興味に対して議論を醸しだし、永遠に至るも のの見方を抱きます。テサロニ ケ人は、神の律法や目的を弱める世俗的な価値感に疑問を持ちます。もしあなたが惰性的な社会の中で清い生活を送ろうと苦しみもがいているならば、テサロニ ケ人第一の手紙は私たちに勇気づける言葉をもたらすでしょう。あなたをお招きになった方は真実で、必ずそのとおりにしてくださいます(5:24)。

Come this Sunday and worship the Living King of the Universe. He will be there looking for some one on one time with you! We will also celebrate the Lord's Table together!