Category: 1 Thessalonians (page 2 of 7)

Preaching with Tucker

A text this morning from a friend wondered if I had developed some carpel tunnel issues. Yes, it’s been a while since I wrote in this space. No, it has nothing to do with the health of my fingers. I have been out of town three of the past four weeks — in Malibu for the Pepperdine Lectures, on a sabbatical in a nice apartment near the bottom of Ceta Canyon, and in Austin for the annual Sermon Seminar at Austin Grad. I even mixed in a weekend trip to Edmond for my nephew Asa’s high school graduation. So, I appreciate the concern for my physical well-being. Thank you. Consider me back in the groove.

Yesterday marked our summer kickoff here at Central when all our 5th graders are officially promoted into the student ministry. The day is highlighted by the gifting of Bibles and blessings, lunch and a slide show, swimming and bowling, and an all-in youth meeting. But, for me, the best part of my Sunday was preaching with Tucker Haynes.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re a multi-generational church at Central and we are continuously on the lookout for creative ways to experience intergenerational relationships. We want to model and practice church as family. Christian community. Doing life together in Christ. So Sunday we had all of our incoming 6th graders participating in the leading of our worship assembly. Noah Hartman helped Kevin lead our singing. Several of the students read Scripture. And Tucker helped me preach.

The text was 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12: “Now about brotherly love…” Tucker worked especially hard the past two weeks on the Greek word for brotherly love, philadelphia, and what exactly Paul means when he tells the Christians in Thessalonica that God has already taught them how to love. And he nailed it! He and I went back and forth — me, trying to remember my memorized manuscript while Tucker read his expertly crafted lines. Tucker had the whole congregation eating out of his hand when he confessed frankly that “brothers and sisters can be annoying.” Then he pulled the rug out from under us with his observation that “We don’t get to pick our brothers and sisters; they are a gift from God.”

Oh, yeah. Central ate him up with a spoon. He was excellent!

I really enjoyed my time with Tucker on Friday, finalizing together everything we were going to do.  I asked him questions about the text and about his relationships with his older brother and sisters.  I listened while he wrestled with using a personal illustration to both connect with the listeners and explain the text. We did a mic check together in the worship center early Sunday morning and prayed together in my office fifteen minutes before the assembly began — he was distracted by the 2011 World Series program on my table and couldn’t hardly pray for lamenting the Cardinals and Nelson Cruz.

Tucker, you were terrific, brother. I’m so blessed by God that you and I are adelphus. And I’d be honored to preach with you any day.

Peace,

Allan

 

Leadership: Love

“We were gentle among you , like a mother caring for her little children.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:7

Is it weird that Paul describes himself as a mother? What does a mother know about leadership? Well, dads, have you ever watched your wife with your kids? Generally speaking, they’ve got a gentleness and a sensitivity that we just don’t. I think children find the most comfort and security with their moms. I remember with our girls — I could play with them for hours, do fun things for them and with them all day long. But when they got hurt, where did they run? Straight to mom. Every time.

Actually, that word “caring” is more correctly translated “nursing.” “Nursing her children” gives us an image of Christian leaders actually feeding and giving nourishment to the congregation.

“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” ~1 Thessalonians 2:8

A mother teaches her children how to cross the street, how to eat at the table, and how to match pony tail holders with shirts. But she also pours her heart and her soul into her kids. Because she loves them so much. To lead with love is a lot more than just teaching. It means being intimately involved in people’s lives. And it takes time and effort and it leads to disappointment. But, like Paul, our love compels us to do it.

We’re in each other’s homes, we’re praying together, rejoicing and mourning together, genuinely and actively interested and involved in each other’s lives. That kind of love is sacrificial.

Bill Hybels says, “Tell me how to show love without spending time, money, or energy, and I’ll gladly sign up. Tell me that love means sacrifice, however, and I’m reluctant to commit.”

It’s basically following the model of Jesus who did it first and best. Christ’s priority was in giving, not getting; on serving, not being served; on loving, not necessarily being loved.

Peace,

Allan

Leadership: Integrity

“…does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you… We never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed.” ~1 Thess. 2:3-5

With Paul, Silas, and Timothy, what you see is what you get. Nobody had to try to figure them out. They hid nothing. They held nothing back. You always knew where Paul stood and you always knew where you stood with Paul (just ask Barnabas).

Integrity. Character. Living right. Doing right. Even when you know nobody’s watching. It’s what’s inside a person that causes her to act the way she does, and the things she does reveal what’s inside.

The manager of a Target store would never shop at Wal-Mart. No way. He doesn’t step inside a Wal-Mart no matter who’s watching — not if he believes in his company and he’s committed to doing everything in his power to help his company and grow his company and make his company better.

When we go to a restaurant, I’ll order a Dr Pepper. If they don’t carry Dr Pepper, I’ll ask for water. I want that waitress to know that if they carried Dr Pepper, I’d pay the $2.89 for it and probably pay more for refills. But since they don’t carry Dr Pepper, she can bring me water. For free. See, I think that’s going to make a difference. I figure if I consistently do that in every restaurant for twenty or thirty years, the restaurants will eventually see the light and change their purchasing strategies. Carrie-Anne will sometimes settle for a Mr. Pibb in those situations. I tell her that’s a lack of integrity.

We all know there’s an integrity void in our society. A character crisis. A lack of integrity causes people to tell lies, to say one thing and mean another, to break commitments to a spouse. Without integrity, you can’t believe what a person’s saying or if they’ll do what they say. Their word begins to mean nothing.

Jesus taught the law that our “yes” should be “yes” and our “no” should be “no.” We tell the truth even when it’ll cost us. We do the right thing even when it’s not the easy thing.

“You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous, and blameless we were.” ~1 Thess. 2:10

Blameless has to do with their public reputation. Righteous is about their relationship with the people. Holy refers to their relationship with God. Paul, Silas, and Timothy deliberately avoided behavior and actions that might lead people to doubt the integrity of the message or to suspect the sincerity of their preaching. Their own personal integrity is so important because you can’t separate the message from the messenger. In many ways, the medium is the message.

You’ve heard this before: What you’re doing is so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying.

You can’t raise money to stamp out the exploitation of women by hosting a car wash at Hooter’s. A dentist can’t publish a brochure about dental health and hygiene with a Snicker’s ad in the back. And we can’t spread the good news of the Kingdom of God if we’re not living lives of integrity.

Peace,

Allan

Leadership: Pleasing God First

“We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” ~1 Thessalonians 2:4

“We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else.” ~1 Thess. 2:6

Paul and Silas and Timothy tell the church in Thessalonica that they all ought to follow their model of Christian leadership: We “make ourselves a model for you to follow (2 Thess. 3:7, 9). A critical component of their leadership style is their commitment to pleasing God instead of people. Paul’s ministry — his whole life! — is characterized by this attitude.

“Am I trying to win the approval of people, or of God? Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” ~Galatians 1:10

Paul is not one to take a vote or check the opinion polls before doing what he knows needs to be done in his capacity as a Christian leader. President Harry Truman had a similar disdain toward catering to the whims of the people:

“I wonder how far Moses would have gone if he’d taken a poll in Egypt? What would Jesus Christ have preached if he’d taken a poll in Israel? Where would the Reformation have gone if Martin Luther had taken a poll? It isn’t the polls or public opinion of the moment that counts. It’s right and wrong and leadership, men and women with fortitude, honesty, and a belief in what’s right that makes epochs in the history of the world.”

We’ve been entrusted with the Gospel (1 Thess. 2:4) as stewards of God’s Good News. So we are responsible to God, not people. We seek to please God first, not people. This was Peter’s leadership style, too. In Acts 5, Peter tells the Sanhedrin in the face of Jewish persecution, “We must obey God rather than people!”

But there’s such a strong temptation to please people. It’s human nature. We want to please people, not just to be popular, but because we don’t want to make anybody mad. We don’t want to make enemies. We don’t want to come across as mean. We want to keep the peace. Elders want to keep their members. Preachers want to keep their jobs.

Well, hold on. We don’t want to offend or upset our weaker brother. We’re responsible for our weaker brother.

You know, that passage in 1 Corinthians 8 is one of the most grossly misapplied passages in all of Scripture. The weaker brother Paul’s talking about is a brand new Christian. He’s just been baptized. He’s still wet behind the ears, figuratively and literally. He’s from a pagan, idol-worshiping, bacon-loving background. He doesn’t know anything. He hasn’t had time. He’s just a baby. That’s the weaker brother of the Bible. But I’m afraid sometimes it’s the men and women who were born and raised in the faith, baptized 20, 30, or 40 years ago, who are using weaker brother arguments to thwart Christian leadership.

When I was interviewing here at Central almost six years ago, the leadership told me, “We’re a Church of Christ. We’re always going to be a Church of Christ. We’re proud of our Church of Christ heritage and we uphold our Church of Christ traditions. But when those traditions come into conflict with the Gospel, we’re going to go with the Gospel every time.”

Sold! I love that!

Strong Christian leaders keep their eyes on the goal, they’re focused on the big picture. They lead with courage in the will of God, to please him. What’s going to challenge us and mature us? What’s going to lead to Christ-likeness? What’s going to move us toward more sacrifice and service? What’s going to make us more accountable to God and one another?

Well, that makes me uncomfortable. I’m not comfortable with that.

Who said anything about comfortable? That’s why they put crosses up in church buildings, to give you a clue that this is not about being comfortable!

Leaders worth following don’t pay much attention to the polls or public opinion. Pleasing God, not people. Remember, Jesus was OK with letting the rich young ruler walk away.

Peace,

Allan

Chosen and Convicted by God

“Our Gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction.” ~1 Thessalonians 1:5

A group of disciples, a church, is called out by God, chosen, separated from the world by God for God’s purposes. But how did Paul know these Thessalonians were chosen (1:4)? Because he saw a great change in their lives. He witnessed their work produced by faith, their labor prompted by love, and their endurance inspired by hope. Those whom God chooses, he changes.

Scripture tells us we must not be conformed to the pattern of the world; we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We’re changed by the way we see things and process things, by the way we think. And that’s difficult because we are all drinking the same water. We’re all breathing the same polluted air of our Western culture.

Society says we have to assert our independence. We have to emphasize individuality. We have to worry about safety and security. We have to fight for our rights. As Christians, though, we know that living that way leads to broken relationships. It values ideas and positions over people. It forces us to label and exclude those who are different. And it makes me more important than you and our needs more important than theirs. We become increasingly inward-focused. We’re certainly not acting out of faith, love, and hope.

But we’re all called out of the world! Set apart. Chosen and changed by God. If anyone is in Christ — new creation! The old has gone! The new has come! Everything’s brand new! Everything’s changed! The Thessalonians turn away from the idols of the age to serve the true and living God (1:9). Their faith, hope, and love — these three Christian virtues wrapped up in a package that comes only from the Creator — are the evidence of their divine chosenness.

Peace,

Allan

In Spite of Severe Suffering

The early church in Thessalonica is described as a “model” church by the apostle Paul. In the opening lines of 1 Thessalonians, the author says they have become a “model to all the believers,” while explaining why he finds them to be so ideal and receives from them so much joy. There are many reasons listed in the first ten verses of this letter. Among them is this line about their commitment to Christ in spite of the hardships it brings:

“You became imitators of us and of the Lord in spite of severe suffering.” ~1 Thessalonians 1:6

This Thessalonian church was persecuted early and often. Luke tells us in Acts 17 that Paul was run out of town right after he established this church, maybe within just a few weeks. The church was meeting in Jason’s house in Thessalonica. He was arrested along with several other believers. And persecuted. It was serious. And real.

A lot of it had to do with economics. If I’m running a burger joint or a chicken shack here in town, I don’t need you and some group stirring up a bunch of low-fat, vegetarian fanatics. That affects my business, my bottom line. It impacts my way of life. So the makers of idols and religious trinkets rose up and opposed Christianity.

The other part of it was the polytheistic culture of the day. It was dangerous to ignore or offend the gods. If there was a fire in town or a flood or drought or plague or some other disaster, the thinking was, “Our gods have always protected us from these things! These Christians must be ticking off the gods!” So they would torture and kill the Christians.

Now, trust me, I’m aware, there’s nothing easy about this. There are no simple answers. It’s complicated because we’re so compromised.

I wonder sometimes. I just wonder…

I wonder how we can proclaim the sanctity of all life and be opposed to the killing of men and women created in the image of God when our economy and our standard of living is so dependent on wars and rumors of wars. I wonder about the criticism we’ll receive from other Christians when we love and serve members of the LGBT community and the condemnation we’ll receive from the culture when we say pursuing the gay lifestyle is a sin. I wonder about the public rebuke we’re in for when we love and serve immigrants and refugees in the name and manner of Jesus. I wonder about the trouble we’re already in from other Christians for tearing down denominational walls in God’s Kingdom.

Imitating Christ requires hard choices and it results in suffering. Always.

A model church embraces Jesus and his ways, all the way, in spite of that certain suffering.

Peace,

Allan

« Older posts Newer posts »