Paul's To-Do List

Second Thessalonians 5 has another list from Paul. This one I call "Paul's To-Do List."

Starting with verse 12, Paul leaps into active voice with a string of action verbs. I don't think his words are limited to the church as Thessalonica. Notice how many commands come in quick succession. We would do well to apply them all.

Paul's To-Do List:
1. Appreciate your ministers
2. Encourage each other
3. Build each other up
4. Esteem your leaders
5. Live in peace
6. Admonish the undisciplined
7. Encourage the fainthearted
8. Help the weak
9. Be patient with everyone
10. Seek whatever is good
11. Pray all the time
12. Rejoice all the time
13. Give thanks
14. Examine everything carefully
15. Hold tight to what is good
16. Stay away from every form of evil

Two don'ts:
1. Don't quench the Holy Spirit
2. Don't despise prophecies

Just imagine what our lives and our churches would be like if we all took this to-do list seriously!

Paul's Recipe for Successful Ministry

Sometimes patterns in the Bible leap off the page. 1 Thessalonians 2 did that this week. In it, Paul lays out an infallible pattern for ministry: pitfalls to avoid and patterns to follow. If you are involved in or aspire to any type of spiritual ministry, here is a simple list of patterns and pitfalls straight from the apostle Paul.

Pitfalls to avoid:
1. Men pleasing
2. Flattery
3. Greed
4. Glory seeking
5. Opportunities to abuse spiritual authority

Patterns to copy: 
A minister must be...
1. Gentle
2. Full of fond affection
3. Devout
4. Upright
5. Blameless
6. An exhorter
7. An encourager
8. ...Imploring those entrusted to him as a father would his children.

The result of such ministry is found in verse 12: "So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."

We can also use this model as a test for those under whose spiritual nurture we place ourselves or our children. Can your spiritual leaders pass this test?

Can We Make a Deal?

One question we hear a lot today is, "Can I be Christian and ________?" Can I be Christian and gay? Can I be Christian and party? Can I be Christian and sleep with whoever I want? The questions go on, filled with most of the items on Paul's "NO" list found in Galatians 5:19-21. 

Unfortunately, many well-meaning Christians don't know how to answer. We try to tip the scales in favor  of Grace and forget that there's another side called Truth--a combination Jesus always held in perfect balance. He already gave us the answer to these questions when He included the account of the rich young ruler in three of the four Gospels.

An all-around decent guy came to Jesus with the same question: "Can I be Christian and keep my old identity?"  This guy was a believer. He had no doubt that Jesus was who He said He was, and he wanted in on it. But He wanted to make a deal. He wanted what Jesus offered without giving up His old life. Jesus said no. And He let the guy walk away. Then He added the chilling clencher, "How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!" 

I don't think Jesus has changed His answer, and we don't have the authority to change it either.

One Vote Away From...

As the news of the Hobby Lobby decision spreads, I am increasingly disturbed at the reactions of those--especially the young--who are hysterically barking at a mirage. It is clear many have been completely duped by the leftist portrayal of the issues at stake. The idea that this is a "blow to women" or a "women's rights" issue is a smokescreen, and it concerns me that so many cannot see it for what it is.

 This decision has nothing to do with women's rights, and those who craftily packaged it as such know that.  Women have the "right" to do anything they wish, including destroying their unborn children, often with government funding and blessing. It has little to do with healthcare, either. At stake is freedom of religion, a guaranteed First Amendment right for every American. The real question, of which Hobby Lobby was only a poster child, was this: Does the U.S. government have the right to force the owners of a privately-owned company to participate in an act that they have consistently demonstrated they believe to be morally wrong? Whether a Catholic school, Muslim deli, or Christian-owned Mardel's, people's devoutly-held religious convictions don't cease simply because they create a profitable business and hire people to help run it.
American's used to know that. We used to defend that. The "greatest generation" championed and died for this freedom along with free press and the right to vote. But not any more. Thankfully, there were more Supreme Court justices who still believe that than those who don't. Thankfully, they voted on the real issue rather than the smokescreen. This time.
But what of future votes. As this deeply-deceived generation of new voters rises to take its place as leaders, we must recognize the foundation from which they are forming decisions. This is the entitlement generation, nurtured on the illusion that "everybody is a winner." They learned that to be offended is the greatest moral evil and someone must pay. Self-esteem was their favorite subject in school and their bookcases are littered with "trophies" for participation. A low grade or police record was a reason to blame someone: the teacher, principal, bus route, parent, inadequate free lunch, or lack of popularity. Blatant disobedience was attributed to ADHD and little league teams were sued for not allowing Janie to bat as often as Johnny. They demanded cell phones at 8, dating at 12, and a car at 16. And many parents scrambled to obey. They saw friends having sex at 13, abortions at 14, or a baby at 15 because it came with a welfare check. And they decided that's how the world works. 

And now when they are told that some Big Bad Christian Company has said "No" to government demands that it pay for someone else's immoral choice, they are indignant. Unaware of the carefully re-packaged deception they are buying, this new generation--and many of its parents-- are proudly redefining what it means to be the "land of the free and the home of the brave." America is becoming "land of the politically correct and home of the entitled masses." And those who are ushering it in couldn't be happier about it. They will shake their fists and champion what they call "equal rights" right up until the moment the iron bars of socialism slam shut behind them. Only then will they understand. And it will be too late.