Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sunday with Gary Hawes

Dear Kenwood family,

I am so pleased that Gary Hawes from Michigan Christian Campus Ministry will be filling the pulpit while I am in TN with some of our teens.  Gary is a great man of God and a terrific communicator.  I feel good knowing that he will be leading you in the study of the Word Sunday morning.

Pray for myself and the crew (Judy, Thomas, Caleb, Brendan, Casey, Jessica and Kristina) as we are challenged to "Rise Up" to the challenge God has put before each of us.  Pray for Judy and I as we lead the young adults and be with the young adults as they move closer to God.

I will miss our family time together on Sunday morning.  I look forward to August 4th when I can be with my church family once again.  Have a great Sunday.

His servant,


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Next sermon series beginning July 28

On July 28 I will reenter the pulpit and share the first in a series of messages about gratitude.  We will stay with this theme until Labor Day.

In one of those annoying FB posts, the words appropriately said, "God has given you a gift of 86,400 seconds in your day, have you used just one to say thanks?"  I don't think I will quote FB as often as Richard Foster, but the perspective is stunning.

Are you a grateful person?  Do you demonstrate an attitude of gratitude?  Do others around you know that you are grateful? 

Say "thanks" to someone today.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Preparing for CIY

I am fortunate to be taking a group of our teens to CIY in Tennessee.  I am excited to put my youth minister hat back on.  I am also looking forward to spending the week with my son. 

The challenge of CIY is to "rise up."  It is my prayer that we all (6 teens and 2 adults) might rise to the occasion of God's calling.

Gary Hawes, from Michigan Christian Campus Ministries, will be speaking at Kenwood this weekend.  Gary will do a fabulous job.

Off to study more for the trip.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Do Not Associate with . . . 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

Do not associate with people who do not follow Paul's instructions in this letter.  That is a sharp command.  Paul says that this action might make them feel ashamed.  Shunning and shaming as tools of discipleship.  I must admit that I have never thought of those two actions in such a manner. 

Shunning has powerful sociological and psychological effects.  No one wants to be seen as outside of the crowd.  Nobody wants to feel shame.  Pressing individuals toward conformity through social and psychological manipulation sounds scary because of abuses we all know of, but . . . they are powerful tools in the hands of a craftsman.

One of the unfortunate realities of today's church is that we are more a gathering of individuals than a gathering of the family of God.  As individuals we can live lives independent of our church family.  In Paul's mind we are all part of the Body of Christ and members one with another.  Our individuality is real, but just like a newborn in a family is both an individual and a member of the family so are we in Christ.

Verse 15 says that we should not utilize these tools as if the person were an "enemy" but rather as a "brother."  We should warn our brother by our actions. 

So if we do not follow Paul's instruction to shun and shame our brother, should we be shunned?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

NO work No eat - 2 Thessalonians 3:10

There are many verses in the Bible that take a hard line and pack a big punch.  2 Thess. 3:10 is just such a verse.  Paul reminds the church of his rule that "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat."

The Puritans seemed to feel that this rule ought to be obeyed in their contemporary context.  What do you think about that rule in our context?  Should we act the same?  Should we expect people to work in order to share in the bounty?

This is a tough subject for me.  I have been without, and I have been blessed to find help in church and government assistance.  I believe we should feed the hungry.  Jesus gave to those who were hungry.  But what do you do about someone who will not work (not can't work) but won't work?

Paul takes an extreme stand against idleness.  What do you think of Paul's teaching on idleness in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15?  What is God saying to you through His Word?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Message 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Paul seems obsessed with the movement of the gospel.  His prayers are often laced with language calling for the rapid spread of the good news.  For him, the importance of communicating the story of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection cannot be overstated.  The gospel is everything, and the promotion of the message is most important.

As we learn to live as good Christians, how high on our priority list is sharing the good news?  Are our lives representative of people whose greatest value is sharing the gospel? 

We often become tangled up in Paul's moral teaching and miss his real passion-the gospel.  While we cannot remove the need for appropriate Christian living, we must not internalize the good news to such an extent that it has no externality.  The good news is not ours to own.  It's only ours to share.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Next sermon-"Final Thoughts" 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18

It never fails that most of my phone conversations begin with polite dialogue and move into desperately important issues right as we are hanging up.  There is something about the end approaching that makes us ask, "What do I need to say before this conversation is over?"

Paul is concluding his final letter to the Thessalonians.  The phone is almost hung up.  He needs to tell them just a few more things before he goes. 

Can you recall those moments in your life when you were "at the end of a conversation?"  For me, I remember speaking with my wife before her last major surgery 11 years ago just as they took her away.  I recall the conversation I had with Carl "Duke" Ellington before his passing.  I still hear my parents words to my family as we moved away from TN to come to MI twelve years ago.

Do you have some "final thoughts" you need to share with someone before things are final?

Click (that is the sound of the other phone being hung up).

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Are You Ready? 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Of all the questions in the world, there is one that is more important than any other?  It is not "Did the Tigers win last night?"  It is not "What are we having for dinner?"  It is not "When is he going to stop preaching this morning?"  The most important question is "Are you ready for the judgment day?"

Paul is very concerned for the Thessalonian church because they had been duped by a false teaching that Jesus had already returned.  He warns that as they have been fooled there will be much deception near the end.  False gods, counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders will fill the headlines in those days.

As I have contended, the information about the end times in the Bible is more about preparation than prediction.  Many people want to know the day and the hour.  Many others explain when and where.  Others use the end to manipulate people today.  Some talk so much about the end that they forget to live now.

Paul's message to the Thessalonians is simple-"stand firm and hold to the teachings" (v. 15 NIV).  Stand firm in your faith and hold on to what they had learned from Paul.  He gave them insight into the end, but most of all he gave them instructions on how to get through the day.

In light of the earlier question, are you ready?  Paul tells this church to keep holding on.  Are you holding on or have you fallen away?  Either way the solution for end time preparedness is the same.  Jesus is your answer.  Stand firm in your faith and hold onto His word.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Rebellion-the age old problem of humanity

Rebellion may be the common denominator of fallen humanity.  We naturally vie against the powers that be.  Teenagers rebel against parents.  Adam and Eve rebelled against God.  Protestors rebel against the governing authorities (on both sides of the aisle).       

As Paul shares that the Lord's return has not happened, he tells them that Jesus could not have returned because the rebellion has not occurred yet.  This rebellion is connected with the "man of lawlessness" who "opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship" (2 Thess. 2:4).  He even goes so far as to "claiming himself to be God." (v. 4) 

Another term for this rebellion is apostasy (a transliteration from the original Greek word and migrating into Middle English between 1350 and 1400).  Apostasy refers to a military, political, or religious rebellion.  In the church, we speak of people who commit apostasy as those who have rebelled against the true faith.  The word literally means "to stand away" or "withdraw."

While the church deals with apostasy on a general level everyday, this rebellion is a major identifiable event of mass apostasy.  The rebellion seems to demonstrate movement from God as established object of worship to the man of lawlessness as new object of worship.  People are not leaving for a multitude of reasons; they are leaving to follow "the son of destruction."

WARNING: A single act of apostasy may not be a part of the rebellion, but it is still rebellion. 

Father, forgive us when we kick against your will, when we want our own way, when we follow other gods.  Give us strength to hold onto the faith.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The End in the middle-2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

Paul has gone back to the end of it all, again.  His concern over the Thessalonians understanding of the "end of times" has made its way into these two letters for a fifth time now (1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23).  He desperately wants this congregation to understand that the "day of the Lord" has not come yet.

Apparently, someone had tried to convince the church through a "spirit, or a spoken word, or a letter" (2 Thess. 2:2) that Paul claimed the end had already come.  They were left with the notion that they had missed the Lord's appearance and were left confused by His oversight of their faithfulness. 

This is a tremendous reminder of the power of false teaching.  People want to believe.  They want to follow.  They want to be in the right group.  They want to trust.  Unfortunately, there are those who want to deceive.  There are those who want to control.  There are those who want to destroy.

Paul says that they should not be "shaken" or "alarmed" easily.  Shaken refers to an earthquake or a ship losing its moorings, and alarmed means "to cry out."  Paul instructs them further so they might continue to have faith instead of despair.  For the fifth time in these brief letters he speaks about the return of our Lord Jesus.

For the believer today, I believe Paul would tell us to be grounded in the Word of God and moored to that which cannot be moved.  How blessed we are to have God's revelation to us in the Bible.  We should steer clear of strange teachings, complicated answers, secret interpretations.  We should test all the teachings we hear by the teachings we have read in Scripture.

How would you know if my teachings were from the Father?  How do you know if I speak His truth or my truth? 

O, God, I pray that the light of your word might eclipse the dim reality of my teaching. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Second Letter-Paul's latest instructions to the Thessalonians

The first letter Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church read like a love letter.  He happily remembered their faith and wanted to help them maintain that faith.  The report Timothy brought back to Paul about the church was encouraging indeed.

While Paul was pleased with the report, he shared his heartfelt concern with the Thessalonians in his first letter.  This concern centered around two areas of the Christian faith: living to please God and the return of the Lord Jesus.

First, Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to live a sanctified (holy) life, a life of love, and a simple life (quiet, minding your own business, hard work, and respect).  Paul often connects our faith and the need to live out that faith.  Living the Christian life, in the mind of Paul, was just an extension of the faith of any believer.

Second, Paul reminded them of the eminent return of Jesus.  His instructions on how the living and dead saints will join Him in the air is only the backdrop for his real focus.  Paul wanted the church to not forget that Jesus will come back "like a thief in the night."  This expectation bounded the need for living the Christian life by declaring Jesus' promise to take them out of this difficult life and warning them that Jesus will show up at any time to check on their labors. 

Following this letter, Paul writes his second letter to the church at Thessalonica.  Our sermon on June 30 will focus upon our faith and the justice of God.

Questions:  How do you see the mercy and justice of God realized in our world?  How would you explain how God is both merciful and just to a child?  How have you come to accept God's justice in your life?