Tag Archives: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Always

25 Jan

note photoBefore cell phones, when one of us was going to be gone for a couple of days, we left little notes around the house to let the other person know we were thinking of him/her. And even though we can text now, we still scatter post-its in places we know the other will find them – in the dog food bin, under the milk in the fridge, on the laptop base. It’s fun to leave them and wonderful to find them – knowing that we are being thought of even though we are apart.

I’ve been sick for about 36 hours courtesy of a tiny virus. Most of that time I was sleeping. But when I’d wake (usually from a coughing fit) I was glad to know that God was with me. Not because I felt like I was going to cash in my chips, but just that He is here with me. That even at 2:38am when everyone else was asleep, I wasn’t alone.

I’m getting better at the “always” portions of Scripture, and what I’m finding is comfort and peace and hope. A casual reading of the verses I’m talking about might make one think they are from a harsh task-master God stuck on himself. In reality these are promises, meant to remind us that even when we aren’t aware God is with us, he is.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:4-5

And he doesn’t ask us to do anything that he hasn’t already done.

Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20

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READY FOR SUNDAY

When I’m worshiping God all week, Sunday worship flows easily.

Replacing the natural with the supernatural. This is where I choose to live.

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Never, Never, Never, Never

14 Sep

 

 

 

 

 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thes. 5:16-18

 

The bit about without ceasing has always bothered me because I flow in and out of prayer.  Without ceasing seems unattainable.

Looking at the English word and it’s root helps a little:

To Cease: to stop; discontinue; come to an end; pass away; die out; terminate.  From the root cede  – which means to give up, relinquish, abandon, surrender; to concede; to yield.

So to pray without ceasing is to pray without stopping, continuously, without end; not giving up, relinquishing abandoning, surrendering or yielding.  These terms suggest a determined attitude.  And while I concede the goal IS to pray all the time, the intentional and determined attitude is where it begins.

The definitions remind me of the famous speech  (audio) by Winston Churchill given to Harrow School, October 29, 1941 in the midst of World War II when Nazi-controlled Germany was bombing England:

[N]ever give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

My deepest, most foundational desire from the core of my being is to be as resolute as that of 1941 England which face an enemy bent on take-over and destruction.  Staying so close to God that I am in constant communication with Him is not a nice idea; it is the only way to survive in the face of a determined and evil enemy.  So, I commit everything to Him, standing firm in the power of His might against the dark forces that seek to defeat me.

Resolute determination is the place to start.

The next step is to pray.  (I heard that facepalm!)  I know it’s obvious and very easy to talk about praying without ceasing.  The hitch comes in the practice.

Mystics such as Brother Lawrence and Henri Nouwen sought to pray without ceasing by praying through mundane daily tasks.  The rhythm of physical tasks such as weeding a garden or folding laundry helps me slow down and pray while working.  While this doesn’t happen without conscious intention, it isn’t difficult.

My challenge is in the more complex parts of life – interpersonal interactions, long-range planning, creativity, brainstorming – all heavy on the brain-engaged scale.  And yet… when I remember to invite the most loving, creative, and wisest One into what I am doing, the fellowship is sweet… energizing… humbling… and ceaseless.  Insight comes and relationship is built.

And this, I believe, is what God is after.

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Ready for Sunday

What can I do to constantly be aware of God’s presence and communicate with Him?

Which activities, or group of activities, are the most difficult for me to remember to pray without ceasing?
Is preparing for leading worship one of those?  (ouch!)

Ya gotta

18 May

“…choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

“Ya gotta eat.”

You don’t have a choice.

But you do get to choose where you eat.  So you may as well eat at Rally’s.

I think Rally’s is onto something more significant than burgers and fries.

God created us with choice built into our being, but we don’t have unlimited choice.  We get to choose which, not whether or not.

Let me explain.  We get to choose which food (or where) we eat, but not whether we eat.  We have to eat to stay alive.  How we respond to our parents (even if they died when we were young) is also our choice, but we don’t get to decide whether we have parents or not.  Most of our choices are like that.  We get to choose what or which, but not whether.

The most basic of issue of our existence is no exception– whom we serve.  It’s a given that we WILL serve someone or something, but we do get to choose what or whom.

Bob Dylan sang it:

You may be famous, popular, powerful, rich, hiding, skilled, sought-after…      But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

He broke it down to the most basic decision like Joshua did above: choose to serve the Lord or evil.

God the Father said it first when He gave the Ten Commandments to Israel, and Jesus repeated the idea of love being the underlying motivation for choosing to serve God.  God gave us the prerogative to choose whom we want to serve.  Knowing it’s best for us to serve Him rather than created things, however, He commands us to serve Him.

Our culture, even well-meaning Christians, would like to soften the extremes, and in so doing, obscure the clarity, of this black and white choice.  Their arguments include we can serve other people (if done with the right motivation, this is serving God), serve ourselves (which degenerates into idolatry rather quickly), or just live life taking what comes.

Putting anything or anyone before God is idolatry– even, and maybe, especially, good things like relationships and providing for one’s family.  In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller asserts that idols like these can be cultural, which makes them almost impossible to identify.  “Any dominant cultural ‘Hope’ that is not God himself is a counterfeit god….  When we are completely immersed in a society of people who consider a particular idolatrous attachment normal, it becomes almost impossible to discern it for what it is.” (Chap 6, p.130)  The American Dream is rife with disguised idolatry. 

The world would say that Christians are in bondage to God.  They are correct.  But they are also bound to the things they serve.

I would rather serve the all-powerful Creator God who loves me so much that He did not withhold His precious Son but gave Him up to pay my penalty, than anything or anyone else.  More than my comfort, and more than my reputation.  More than possessions and riches.  More than my own ideas and everything temporal.

Using Keller’s description of a cultural idol, it’s possible that even the church can serve counterfeit gods.  The church is not exempt!  Individually and collectively, those of us who follow Jesus must serve Him only, or we serve counterfeit gods.

This seems like such an easy choice in the black-and-white of my laptop screen.  In my day-to-day life, however, in the mash-up of confused emotions and hidden selfishness, it’s not so easy for me to tell who I am serving.

That’s no excuse, I know.  And so I pray for spiritual clarity.

God expects total surrender– pray continually, in everything give thanks, make the most of every opportunity, guard your heart and mind, trust in Him at all times…

Only God can give me what I need.  Only He is worthy to be served.

As for me, I will serve the Lord.

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Ready for Sunday

On one hand I am sure there are no idols as I worship God and lead others before His throne; on the other I know there are latent idols hidden inside acceptable church behavior– compliments, reputation, work ethic, and perfectionism, as well as clinging to my preferred worship style and practices.

Keller defines an idol as “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”

God show me every idol I put before you – as I prepare to lead your people, and while leading them.  Strip me of the gross and ugly sins dressed up in cultural finery until all I see is You.  Everything else is chaff.

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