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Three things:

Paul may have not been a franchiser - but he has consistent ways of planting and growing a church. Here it is Timothy, but whether in person or through letters there is a common methodology in place.

Always the gospel is preached and a church planted.

Here Timothy comes back to:

1) to teach, resulting in a deepening of faith.

2) to encourage and exhort, resulting in steadfastness (patience) in times of turbulence. Both 1&2 leading to more Christian maturity.

3) to report back, providing feedback to Paul. (This is also done by letters to Paul)

Preach, teach, encourage, get feedback.

Seems like a good model to follow :) Please, no McChurch jokes :)
Jesus taught us how to pray in the Lord's prayer. Paul exemplifies the attitude of prayer.

1) earnestly
2) frequently
3) specifically

Another good model to follow, and one I needed to see. Especially the "frequently" part. I pray to be more and more like Paul in my prayer efforts.
1Thess3:13 "May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones." NIV

Some say this is the Second coming, when in Revelations Christ comes back with all the saints.

That may be so. However, this verse does not preclude the idea of the "Rapture".

In the next chapter Paul is talking to those in Thessalonica who are still alive on earth. Before they will be "snatched up", the (bodies of the) dead will go first. So that when the Thessalonians are in the presence of God, Jesus with all the pre-deceasing saints will be there. Whether in glorified bodies or not - still not sure - I think so - but not sure. :(

Paul is three for three in ending chapters with the Return of Christ - so as we will see, this is an important topic to the Thessalonians.

Weak Faith/Losing Faith

I had one of those "sit up in bed can't believe I overlooked this" moments regarding Jeremiah.

Jeremiah whose name means "appointed by the Lord" (a consensus translation as I ran across differing translations), has done all the Lord asked. He has prayed, preached, warned, and grieved over Judah. When God instructs him to do something, Jeremiah does it.

At the end of chapter 15, Jeremiah had been instructed not to pray for the people, but he does pray for himself. For healing and protection.

God's answer:

Jer15:19-21 "19 Therefore this is what the LORD says:
"If you repent, I will restore you
that you may serve me;
if you utter worthy, not worthless words,
you will be my spokesman.
Let this people turn to you,
but you must not turn to them.

I will make you a wall to this people,
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you
but will not overcome you,
for I am with you
to rescue and save you,"
declares the LORD.

"I will save you from the hands of the wicked
and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel."

If you repent? Wait a minute, Jeremiah is a man of God - a prophet! He has been telling Judah repeatedly to turn back to the Lord and repent. Now God is telling Jeremiah to repent?????

What did Jeremiah do? I alluded in last post that Jeremiah might be losing his faith. I think there are two indicators:

1) He had already asked God to avenge him of his persecutors, and God said - He would do it, but in His time.

2)I did all these things for you faithfully, yet I am still grieved, will you not heal me - or are you as a deceptive brook (here today, but not tomorrow).

These two things both indicate a "doubt regarding God". Doubt of what God said before (in #1), and doubt that God is capable or willing to take care of his pains and woes. Jeremiah doubted God's Word, and that is a sin.

God says as much in His response to Jeremiah.

If you repent, I will restore you: indicating Jeremiah had sinned.

If you utter worthy, not worthless words: Stop being so hasty in accusing Me, and don't insult Me with worthless statements.

Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them: don't you turn to them and become like them - doubting my word, having no faith.

If you do these things you will be able to serve me, and I will protect you.

In doubting God's Word Jeremiah was weakening or losing His faith in God. Everything had taken a toll on him. No one was listening, no one heeded Jeremiah, and there were plots to kill Jeremiah. On top of that other prophets had near term fulfillments of prophecies - Jeremiah had been warning many years - but nothing happened.

He doubted, God corrected Jeremiah, and as I said before, I have read that from this point on Jeremiah complains no more. He decides to rely completely on the Lord.
What is the point?

If it can happen to Jeremiah, it can happen to us (believers).

When God is distant, does not seem to be working in your life, trial after trial is raining down on you, is not providing a smooth road for you to walk down - that is not the time to fold up your tent, doubt God, and distance yourself even more from Him - going your own way.

That is the time to redouble your prayer efforts, repent of any sins, and rely completely on God. He is a faithful God who will complete His works! Tell him that, tell Him you are not going away, tell Him He is your sole source of comfort and that you rely on Him.

Earnest prayer, praise of God, and unshakable faith - that pleases the Creator.

It all will pass, and later (in life or in heaven) you will see the purpose of it all.

We have an example here in Jeremiah - and I pray that we all learn something from it.

Jeremiah 16:16-17

Jeremiah's response to God's Words on judgment are now different:

Jer16:19 " O LORD, my strength and my fortress,
my refuge in time of distress,
to you the nations will come
from the ends of the earth and say,
"Our fathers possessed nothing but false gods,
worthless idols that did them no good."

Jeremiah is now focused on God, and not his own grief. He realizes the source of strength and refuge - and it is God.

Jer16:21 "Therefore I will teach them—
this time I will teach them
my power and might.
Then they will know
that my name is the LORD."

This is the only way to get Judah (and individual people) to open their eyes to the Lord.
Jer17:1 ""Judah's sin is engraved with an iron tool,
inscribed with a flint point,
on the tablets of their hearts
and on the horns of their altars."

The sins are deeply engraved, and infectious to the next generation.

God teaches Jeremiah here that there are two ways to live. One or the other - not both.

Jer17:5 "This is what the LORD says:
"Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength
and whose heart turns away from the LORD."

man trusting in man - whether it be in life or regarding salvation.

"Cursed is that man," i.e., everything he does ultimately will be brought to nothing. That is what a curse does -- it removes the profit, the worth, the value of anything."- Ray Stedman

That man is as a shriveled up bush in the desert. One that could bloom elsewhere under the right conditions. But in the desert (trusting in man), nowhere near fulfilling the potential God has for it.

Jer17:7 "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him." NIV

That man is as a tree planted by the water, always bearing fruit. Water ingested symbolizes the Holy Spirit. External water symbolizes God's Word. The man who trusts in God and is continually washed with His Word has nothing to fear, and will bear fruit.

Jeremiah begins to get it:
"The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?" NIV

This where the rubber hits the road, and where so many people have a hard time.

"Man is basically good" is FALSE TEACHING. "beyond cure":
"This means it never can function as it originally was designed to do. It can never fulfill all you expect of it. It will never fulfill your ideals, or bring you to the place where you can be what you would like to be. It is corrupt. It is infected with a fatal virus. And it cannot be changed. There is nothing you can do about it, ultimately. It is useless and wasted." - Ray Stedman

That is why in Christ we die to ourselves, why we are given a regenerated heart - the circumcised heart of the OT.

Worse yet, it is deceitful. It wants to look good, it promises to do better, but in the end it is a slave to our human nature.

God says he will inspect the heart and mind and reward a man according to his conduct and deeds. Really? If you are not saved in Jesus Christ - do you really want that?

Our sanctuary, our salvation is in God:

"A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning,
is the place of our sanctuary."

Jeremiah now gets it:
Jer17:14 " Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed;
save me and I will be saved,
for you are the one I praise."

Salvation and healing of our hearts is of God!
***Keeping the Sabbath Holy*** (IMPORTANT)

Why talk about the Sabbath at the end of chapter 17???

I think it is a picture of "the man who trusts in the Lord". The Sabbath was a reminder of God resting from his work (of Creation). We are to rest and cease from all work on the Sabbath.

More importantly, it is a picture of faith and trust in Him.

Heb4:10 " for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his" NIV

We are to cease our toil, our works - and rest in Him. Trust Him. That is pointing to salvation: Trust in Christ, cease trying to do it by our works, and let God take over. Rest in God. That is why the Sabbath is so important to God.

It is not what day you select, nor any ceremony and ritual you perform - it is trusting in him and ceasing YOUR work (towards salvation) and letting God take over your life.

SALVATION is of God.

So, if you continue to work and toil (for salvation)and not rest in Him, if you continue to reject the Lord, if you refuse to trust in Christ - What happens? I think the symbolism in the end of Chapter 17 speaks enough to this point.

Jer17:27 "But if you do not obey me to keep the Sabbath day holy by not carrying any load as you come through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem that will consume her fortresses.'"

Jeremiah 19 (NKJV)
“Then you shall break the flask in the sight of the men who go with you,
and say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot be made whole again; and they shall bury them in Tophet till there is no place to bury.
Thus I will do to this place,” says the LORD, “and to its inhabitants, and make this city like Tophet.

Hitchcock’s Bible Names Dictionary – Tophet defined: “a drum; betraying”

Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary – Tophet meaning clarified: “Tophet = Topheth,
from Hebrew toph “a drum,” because the cries of children here sacrificed by the priests of Moloch were drowned by the noise of such an instrument;
or from toph, meaning “to burn,” and hence the name of a particular part in the valley of Hinnom. “Fire being the most destructive of all elements, is chosen by the sacred writers to symbolize the agency by which God punishes or destroys the wicked.”
“Tophet properly begins where the Vale of Hinnom bends round to the east, having the cliffs of Zion on the north, and the Hill of Evil Counsel on the south.

It terminates at Beer ‘Ayub, where it joins the Valley of Jehoshaphat. The cliffs on the southern side especially abound in ancient tombs. Here the dead carcasses of beasts and every offal and abomination were cast, and left to be either devoured by that worm that never died or consumed by that fire that was never quenched.”

offal definition: [a. Waste parts, especially of a butchered animal. b. Refuse; rubbish.]

Thus Tophet came to represent the place of punishment.”

What the Holy Spirit says is true in Galatians 6 (NKJV):
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

Let us, then take the excellent and wise advice of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, in Galatians 6 (NKJV)
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Jeremiah 20 (NKJV) – Jeremiah’s Unpopular Ministry
O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision daily; everyone mocks me.
Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.

What courage! What faithfulness! What love for God! What trust in God is being demonstrated!

Truly, Jeremiah’s obedience is highlighted by the fact that he is going against his natural desire as he obeys. He loves the Lord God more than he loves himself.

May this characteristic be true for me and for all of us. The Lord Jesus said in Luke 14 (NKJV):
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Jesus also said in Matthew 10 (NKJV):
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

The key point I note is this: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

I am pondering this most excellent quote in the new book by Gary Smalley titled, “I Promise”, page 64:

“When you feel unhappy or unfulfilled in your marriage, more than likely it means you have not done enough to create a secure environment where unconditional love can flourish. You need to focus your attention entirely on what you can do to become more loving—not on trying to change your partner—because that’s what will make the greatest difference in your marriage and in your happiness.”

“As long as we focus on being right and in control, insisting on the appearance of being correct while making our spouse appear to be wrong, the secure environment in which love can grow will elude us.”

“You probably don’t want to hear this, but it’s true. If you are unhappy in your relationship, you’re probably the one who’s probably at fault. A strong statement? Absolutely. But if you can come to grips with the truth of it, it will change your marriage and your life.”

Jeremiah truly loved his people – the people of Israel – enough to deny himself and lose himself and his way. Then, his love for God and his love for the people – though not received with favor by the people at that time – shined clearly through.

The Lord Jesus tells us to deny ourselves and to lose ourselves – to stop being first so He can be first. In that way, we can be a vessel for God’s pure love to flow through us.

For we will, by Grace, have given up selfish motives to seek the highest good of others around us.

Then, we will be just like the Lord Jesus Who was not “selfish” and had no “vain conceit”, and He considered others more important than Himself.

I Thessalonians 5 (NKJV)
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.
See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.
Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophecies.
Test all things; hold fast what is good.
Abstain from every form of evil.

I note this part of the verse: “always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all”. And you cannot do this without prayer and dependence on our Loving Lord.

That is, (my paraphrase): deeply receive God’s Love as you deny yourself, and always put others first.

I Thessalonians 5 (Amplified)
And may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [separate you from profane things, make you pure and wholly consecrated to God]; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved sound and complete [and found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).
Faithful is He Who is calling you [to Himself] and utterly trustworthy, and He will also do it [fulfill His call by hallowing and keeping you].

I really like this rendering of these verses. In order to give up our way so that Jesus is First, we have to offer ourselves to God as we cannot do this without Him.

If we do not give up, then the wonderful promise in verse 24 will become manifest in our lives: “Faithful is He Who is calling you [to Himself] and utterly trustworthy, and He will also do it [fulfill His call by hallowing and keeping you].”


The sin, I think, that God is asking Jeremiah to repent of is the whole "what about me?" track. God was trying to warn Jeremiah that he couldn't hang if he didn't change his focus. Sin is not about a personal affront to God. It is about leaping headlong out of lawfulness, out of the protection of the promises of God into "beyond here be dragons" land. We can play it any way we want, but there is only one way to come through it without the smell of smoke on our clothes.

I can so relate to Jeremiah. Getting off-center after having received the word of the Lord, delivering it, then comes the emotional and spiritual "WHOOMP" that can be crushing. The confusion of wanting men's approval, the absolute terror when he was in the stocks, not so sure that he wasn't totally insane -- feeling like the heart in him to commune with God betrayed his own safety and interests. To have it well up in him and not be able to stop it up and then not be able to deal with the consequences -- Oh, I know that one well.

It takes such maturity to walk confidently before God. To just accept that we are not our own, to not judge ourselves but leave it to God who justifies us by faith -- not to abandon that faith in Him and wander off looking at our own nakedness instead of his face -- trying to cover ourselves -- Oh, it's just 'way beyond what I can consciously process. How many times have I wished the same thing -- a curse on my birth, wishing I had never seen the light -- it seems so melodramatic but it really is how painful it gets.

I think when the people of God experience this agony that comes with being one with Christ and speaking His word we automatically think we are crazy and run from the abandon into a more controlled atmosphere. The deception of the current culture as to what is "normal" is so thick that false prophets rise easily -- they don't have the same motives, so they don't experience the same withdrawl and confusion. They are focused on themselves, on their success, on their popularity, and they have CONTROL of themselves, worshipping the works of their own hands as divine, deceived into thinking the ease of their way is God's approval. It's hard not to believe that, too, when you are being whipped and put into stocks for your trouble.

It's so easy to forget that God is doing something but that if we just keep our eyes on his face we will be delivered out of the hands of men. That's a narrow line to walk, but it's the only line that will keep us safe. Oh, Lord, Have Mercy!

We just can't survive on the fence in this level of deception -- the only ones who can be delivered out of the hand of the enemy are the ones who are enrolled in the "though he slay me yet will I trust him" school of faith. Not because of God's vanity, but because we will lose our focus and therefore lose our joy. To lose our joy causes us to misjudge our circumstances then we sink like Peter walking on the water -- it's just the law.

No wonder the word says that except the days be shortened, even the elect would be deceived.

But I echo Vance's last quote -- because we can't be smart or together enough. We have to depend on the Faithful One to DO IT. Like Peter -- we have a Lord who teaches us lessons we can't process and holds onto us when we short-circuit.

Do it in Me, LORD! Don't bother with my kicking and squirming and whining and complaining! Do it anyway! Love through Me! Save through Me! Establish your Kingdom in me and just give me the grace not to get caught up in how naked I am before the world!

This is a day late but not a dollar short. Yesterday people spoke about music, the type of music they enjoyed in worship and by inference the kind of music that should not be played or tolerated in worship. Music is all relative to the person’s experience and to what they mentally consider sacred or profane. If you were to do research on many of the hymns, specifically the music that accompanies the words many would be surprised that much of the melodies were not original compositions but taken from folk songs and yes, even bar songs of the day. Just as folks today object over the hard rock or hip hop styles that they here and call it sin, so too did the folks back in the “day” complain about the profane music they heard that was unlike what they use to hear.

Last night I went to a concert held at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola by a the Clarion Music Society which plays masterpieces on period instruments and or lesser known or played pieces by Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, etc. Beethoven was commissioned by Prince Niklaus Esterhazy II, a patron of Haydn, to write a Mass for his beloved late wife. Expecting the Mass to be in the style of Haydn, Esterhazy was unpleasantly surprised that Beethoven made it colorful, using the music to paint lively word pictures. Esterhazy thought it was vulgar or profane. The great Gospel classics of today were frowned upon at the time they were written.

Ramona--Grace and peace

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