Joy, Prayer, Thankfulness

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.— 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

These could be verses that you are very familiar with, you may have even grown up in a house that had these verses hanging somewhere in your home. Paul throughout the this first letter to the Thessalonians is writing words of encouragement. Timothy had given Paul a very encouraging report and the growth seen in the church. Paul thanks God for them, and even says their church is serving as an example to others. After all this Paul closes with three words of instruction: (1) be joyful always, (2) pray continually, and (3) give thanks in all circumstances. As we approach the busy holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I believe these small words of instruction can make this season more enjoyable and uplifting.

The Bible mentions that the joy we seek and desire is found in Christ. This world can throw a lot at us, but if we root ourselves in Christ all the struggles and pain in life fail to match up to the greatness of Christ.

Second, are you praying continuously? Are you making prayer a  daily priority? I do not just mean praying for peoples heath, that’s of course great, but prayer is so much more then that. Prayer opens us up to God and allows Him to guide and lead us. This holiday season make prayer a part of your everyday life, see what can God do when we align ourselves with Him.

Lastly Paul says, give thanks in the good times! No, of course that’s not what he says. Instead Paul says in ALL circumstances. If we are giving thanks to God, that rids ourselves of the complaining attitude that can only cause damage. If we all practice this, think about how different our lives could be!

Take these three instructions to heart, and consider the difference they can all make in your life.

Love God, Love Others

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” — Matthew 22:37-38

During this political season and even within this past week, we have certainly seen how awful people can be towards each other. I’ve seen stories online of families that have stopped talking and friends who are no longer friends, all because of politics. But what is worse is the way I’ve seen and heard believers in Christ speak to each other. I understand the importance of politics, but I don’t think the teachings of Christ take a back seat to politics.

Jesus sums up the law into one phrase: love God and love others. First and most important Jesus says love God. God sent His Son to die for us, and not when we were good people, but while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). God loves everyone (John 3:16).

The last half of the phrase can be the hardest. Jesus does not say love only your Republican friends, or love only your Democrat friends, He says love others. Anybody can love those that are similar to them and have the same interests; the hard part is loving those we disagree with. How different could the world be if believers in Christ were setting this example? This is when we would see real change in this world and country.

This week I was broken over the passion I saw for politics when compared to the passion I see for Christ and the Gospel. The command of Jesus is to love others, Jesus showed this love by serving others. His life wasn’t about Him, it was about those He came for (Matt 20:28). We show love by following the example of Christ, being humble and serving others. There are broken and hurting people that need to hear about the great love that God has for them. God’s love crosses all barriers, ours should as well.

Life Change

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself. Luke 24:27

This Sunday we have the joy of hearing from Dr. Witter, one of my professors from Emmaus Bible College. As I think about Dr. Witter speaking it reminds me of the time God gave me at Emmaus. Four years of training in the Word of God in preparation for ministry. Often in our lives there is a changing point that we can look back on and say that’s where everything changed. For me it is Emmaus, I can certainly organize my life as B.E (Before Emmaus), and A.E (After Emmaus). The B.E. life was unclear, uncertain, and no purpose. But, God used Emmaus and its teachings to open up His purpose and direction in my life. While attending Emmaus God opened my mind to serving Him in ministry full time. My desire became to not only grow closer to God, but to also teach His Word into the lives of the people God brings into my life.

The verse above from Luke 24 is where Emmaus gets its name and purpose, to teach the things concerning Christ. Two disciples were on their way to the village called Emmaus, while they are walking the resurrected Jesus appears and walks next to them. After some brief conversation Jesus reveals Himself to them, and then He teaches them all that was said in the Scriptures about Him. These disciples now, kind of like me, have their own Before Emmaus and After Emmaus event. I’m sure their lives weren’t the same after this event.

What is your moment? Have you had a moment yet where you realized living and serving Christ is all that matters in life?