The province of British Columbia has been trying to implement the “Idle free B.C” program for a number of years now. The message they are sending declares that unnecessary idling of vehicles wastes fuel and results in emissions that degrade the local air quality and contribute to climate change. They are taking proactive measures now to ensure that the health of the environment is sustainable for the generations to come.
Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians gives us a descriptive warning against idleness of a different sort, a behaviour that falls within our human nature that can have an effect on the “local air quality”. “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” (3:11). The idle and disruptive nature that Paul describes here can also be seen as disorderly and irresponsible. There were those among the Thessalonians who felt that with the day of the Lord coming near they didn’t have to work or make any contribution to society, often adding a burden to others. These “busybodies” as Paul calls them work their way into the business of others as they work to live according to the model set before them by the Apostles (a model of self-sacrifice and commitment to doing their best in their service for God). Paul’s instruction to the believers is direct and to the point when it comes to these idle and disruptive people, “Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed.” (3:14).
Even as Paul’s command to the people might seem cold and hard he continues in verse 15 with further instructions, “Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer”. We are not to hate these people, God calls us to show them love through instruction and teaching so that they can be set free from the grip of evil and destruction. As we work diligently to be faithful and loving in our relationships with God and others we are called to be an example to others. As hard as it seems at times let us heed the words of the Apostle Paul when he says, “brothers and sisters, never tire (become discouraged or disheartened) of doing what is good”. (3:13)
The most impersonated person in the world is, of course, Elvis Presley. There are currently more than 400,000 professional Elvis impersonators in the world. Interestingly, at the time of his death in 1977 there were only 170. As of 2010, Christianity was by far the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31 percent) of all 6.9 billion people on Earth,”*
The Apostle Paul wrote two short letters to the Church of the Thessalonians. In his first letter he writes to all believers in the Church, his brothers and sisters in Christ, to remind them of their purpose as part of God’s family. “You became imitators of us and of the Lord” (1:6), “And you became a model to all the believers…” (1:7), “For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches…” (2:14). The question that needs be asked is this, what were they to be imitators of? What were they as believers called to model? Paul, in this letter and others provides the answers to these questions. We are to be imitators of the Lord, living a life that is upright and holy, filled with integrity, faith and love so that others will be built up in the promises of the Lord. We are called to care for each other thorough toils and hardships – to be encouragers, comforters and leaders who live lives worthy of God. “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.” (4:7-8)
Imagine for a minute that the 2.2 billion adherents of the Christian faith lived their lives according to the prescribed model that Paul describes. Imagine the impact that we could have in the world today if all of us (you and I are included in that 2.2 billion) lived a life that imitated that of Christ. A life filled with an unbridled passion for God that sparks a fire of compassion for His people in all walks of life. Paul concludes his letter with these powerful words, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify (purify, cleanse) you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (5:23-24). As believers in Christ, I pray that this is who God has called you to be.
*(stats have not been fully verified, they are based on a basic internet search and are for illustrative purposes).
One of the first words that comes from the mouths of babes can be singled out as one of the most powerful two letter words in the English language. It translates easily from one language to another, it is a word that is recognized across most every culture and anyone can use a simple hand gesture to get its message across. Printed on a ballot, this word has the ability change the most powerful leadership regime, this seemingly small word has the potential to change the direction of one’s life.
The word is NO.
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:12). When we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit into our lives, as we say “yes” to living a life in Jesus name we say no in a big way to the passions of the world. Titus was left in a bit of a pickle as he worked to build a church in a place where it was not easy to break ground and grow followers of Christ. Paul gives Titus practical advice on how to appoint elders who love what is good, men who love the lord and do good (say no) for the sake of the Gospel. Paul then takes it a few steps further, he instructs Titus to teach every generation (older men, older women, young men, young women) to live in unity with each other, to live lives of integrity. When we say no to the sinful acts that separate us from God and give over the passions of the world to Him we live according to His will, we bring honour and glory to him.
As a believer called by God we have a responsibility as Paul says, to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, reverent, to teach what is good, to be kind and to be an example to each other. For lack of a better word, our “function” as a called people is to resist temptation and say no to the evil and darkness of the world. It is through the kindness and love of God that we are saved, not because of what we have done, but because of his loving grace and mercy. The power of the word NO in this context is saying yes to being upright and godly, it is saying yes to living a life that is self-controlled and honouring to God. The present time that we live in offers so many “evils”, our culture almost demands compliance and can be difficult to navigate. Through our faith in Jesus, we can put our trust in Him to see us through these present times.
Hunters use a variety of different calls to attract animals and each one has a very unique quality of sound to it. The manufactures of duck calls do a huge amount of research and field testing before producing what might be a profitable product. According to my quick search online, there are at least 28 different species of ducks in North America , each with their own unique call. I have never blown a duck call before and I hear it take some practice to get it right. Why I am writing about duck calls? Read on to find out why.
The Book of Jude talks of a different kind of call, if you take a few minutes to read this short letter you will glean from it a sense of direction (calling) for living a life in Christ. Jude writes “To those who have been called, [those in the church who believed in God and had a personal relationship with him] who are loved in God the Father who are kept for Jesus Christ”. This brief yet powerful letter reminds the people of that time and us now what God has delivered us from. Through this reminder we are called to persevere (knowing that God is with us) through the difficulties of life. We are called to build each other up in the faith, called to pray in the name of the Holy Spirit, called to be show mercy to others and called to share the good news of Jesus Christ so that others might be saved. Much like the unique call that beckons a duck to follow a certain direction each one of us has a unique call from God on our lives.
Through His word, God speaks to us, calling us into his service. I have been called to lead in full time ministry using the gifts and abilities that God has given to me, you most likely have a different calling. As unique as we all are, when God calls us out of the “pond” he has a purpose that is common to all of us, to glorify Him. We are all called to bring honour and glory to His name through the lives that we live. As a called people, the living church of today, our role in His kingdom is to live in unity, to love one another and build each other up in the faith so that we exemplify Christ’s life. As Jude reminds us, there will be times of trouble in life, moments when our faith will be tested and stretched. The call to persevere comes through putting or hope and trust in the Lord. “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” (1:21)
In life there are times that we use some pretty strong words (phrases) to convey a message. They can come from a place of anger or frustration, “I hate…” is commonly used and can conjure up hurt feelings or convey a dislike of particular foods like, “I hate peanut butter”. The contrasting phrase would be “I love”, which is also strong and holds some powerful and beautiful nuances (except when it comes to peanut butter of course).
I was feeling a little discouraged this past week as I read through the book of Job. I was looking for patterns of biblical community and how they might help me understand and better live in community with others. Forty-two chapters later I didn’t have much to go on. Then, as I re-read through different passages, I stumbled on chapter 16 and found a powerful example of what community is not. Job uses some strong words in response to his friend’s attempts to comfort him, “You miserable comforters, all of you… Will your long-winded speeches never end?” (Job 16:2&3) Earlier in chapter 13:4 he calls them “worthless physicians”. I believe that Job’s friends came with good intentions, they left from their homes to “go and sympathize with him and comfort him” (2:11). So what happened? Jobs friends seemed to only bring more pain to the situation, they thought they had all the answers. Rather than brining comfort, they openly criticized him, assuming they knew why he was suffering.
What lessons can we learn about living in community from this exchange? Comfort (love, encouragement, sympathy, support, reassurance) is the cornerstone of community. Job clearly explains that what he was getting from his friends was far from comfort. Living in community we must have the presence of mind to stop and listen, encourage, listen, pray, listen (I think you get the point). The function of community is to build each other up not tear each other down, to live in unity. Job’s story, his life, helps us to see that our faith must stay true to our heavenly father no matter the circumstances. Easy to say, hard to comprehend and seemingly impossible to live in hard times. True community with others and God is born out of love for one another.
This week I will be having an oil change done on one of my vehicles, it is something that we all know has to be done on a regular basis. But why? Well, I am no mechanic but I know that oil provides cooling, cleaning and has a bunch of other jobs to keep our engines working smoothly. When our oil is low, it becomes hotter and hotter and begins to break down, leaving our engine susceptible to internal damaged that can be very costly to fix.
In some ways I see the Apostle Paul as a bit of a mechanic. When we read his letter to the Corinthian church we can see that there is some friction among the community of believers that has the potential to harm the advancement of the Gospel message. There are divisions and quarrels over which leader to follow, some followed Paul, others Apollos, Cephas and others Jesus. Paul sets out to help the leaders understand where they have fallen short, why there is friction and why the community seems to be breaking down. We are reminded in the introduction to chapter 3 of 1 Corinthians that the influence of the world is wearing the people thin, “Are you acting like mere humans?” say Paul. The message of 1 Corinthians is kind of like that of an oil change, it is delivered to refresh the minds of the leaders and people whose tempers may be getting hot or whose relationships are being broken down by false teachings and human desires. It takes the people back to the foundations of their relationship with Jesus Christ whom everything is to be built on.
Psalm 133:1 says “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” When we lose sight of keeping God the center of our community there is a breakdown in our relationships because our focus changes, (we begin to wear thin and get a little hot under the collar). We lose sight of the unity that is critical to function as a community so that we can fulfill the mission God has set before us. As believers we need a “spiritual oil change” at times. The best part is that our “oil change” is free, it has already been paid for through Christ. All we need to do is make an “appointment” and exchange the bad for the good (confession and forgiveness). I often miss the mark on getting my oil changed done on time despite the sticker on my window, What about you? When was the last time you had a “spiritual oil change?”