As far as Paul was concerned, the Thessalonians would completely understand what he meant byt “choosing.” It wasn’t controversial for them. Our problem is that we can’t agree on what it really means, who it applies to, how it works. So we argue. For Paul and the early church, it was a source of comfort and encouragement, knowing that God would protect His children’s eternity. That’s why there is less debate now about perseverance of the saints…although there are still plenty who don’t hold to that view. It isn’t our own strength that will keep us from following evil, but His, as He strengthns us. It’s spiritual growth & reliance on the Spirit. Paul wasn’t worried about the Thessalonians having faith and obeying. While they had been led astray in their understanding of where they were on the timeline, they were still living out their faith, and Paul commended them for that. My tendency in preaching and leading the church is to focus on life change and action. This passage reminds me that I also need to encourage my flock. It isn’t that hard here. It is a very active church and I hear great stories of people reaching out to their friends, neighbors, family, and others. They serve within the church in a multitude of ways and are very involved in several local service organizations. This congregation is committed to missions like few others. We aren’t perfect, but it’s a pretty great gathering of people. When I think about being at the helm and caring for, leading this congregation, I am overwhelmed with the responsibility as well as the incredible blessing. I don’t know why they picked me and can only say the Lord had to bring it all toghether. Perhaps more than anytime before, I think we’ve found home.
A little while back, Bro. Craig said in his sermon that he truly misses this church whenever he is gone. While Judith and I thoroughly enjoyed our 10th anniversary trip, we missed being with our church family. We truly enjoy opportunities to spend time with all of you. Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to give up the habit of meeting together with other believers. We felt that need in just one Sunday away. The past few months have been really fun here. The Lord moved through our Crazy Love study and we’ve seen many people finding new ways to love others in the church and around the community, including international students and teens from 13th Place. Who knows how those caring acts might spread the gospel around the world? Taste of Hope continues to draw us together in service and provide for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of many right here in our own community. It is a blessing to be a part of what God is doing in and through TSBC. It’s also been fun working on plans to move the offices to the main church building. That is partly because I enjoy logistical things like that, but mainly because of the benefit to the church. The savings will allow us to accomplish more ministry. The location is more pleasant for office visitors. What I am most excited about, though, is the added creativity, drive, and unity that comes from the staff team being closer together physically. It’ll be fun. The Lord is moving in and through TSBC. I pray that He will continue to transform each of us that we may be the church. Everyone. Everywhere. Every day.
Paul was talking about his more pioneering missions, but now talks about going to Jerusalem where Christianity began (I realize Jesus was born in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth, but the resurrection happened in Jerusalem). I was praying on my ride into work this morning about a man in our church I wanted to see involved in more missional activity. While we should all be involved missionally, I was reminded during that prayer time that this man is already serving as a Sunday school teacher and is a leader in other areas of the church where he is gifted and passionate. All of us have different gifts. Of course he, and all, should live missionally wherever they go, but I shouldn’t expect people to be involved in every project the church does. We are not all the same. Paul was sent to the Gentiles but had a passion for Israel. He was a pioneer but served at times in Jerusalem. He served where sent. As I consider what the Lord might have for me throughout my life, I must remember that it will not always look the same. I have already seen the Lord change my passions and ministry trajectory and He might do it again. Sometimes I may serve in places that I never would have considered or might not be as excited about. Only God knows the plan. Mine is to follow. Paul also expected the Gentiles to give to the poor believers in Jerusalem, partly out of gratitude for taking the gospel to them in the first place. The community is expanded beyond a local church to the universal Church. All are to have all in common. That is part of what I like about how TSBC is serving Mt. Olive and the Christ Church. That is living out this passage by helping believers who are presently more needy for the sake of the Kingdom instead of just focusing on building our own congregation. We got a taste of that with our Passion Week events as well when several churches in the area came together. Finally, Paul shows his dedication to the Romans and his love for them, letting them know that he does intend to visit them. He has talked about how he longs to see them, but he also has a lot of churches to visit and new ones to establish. Given that he couldn’t just hop on a flight, his missionary journeys took a lot of time. I am sure that was a comfort and excitement to the Roman readers.