Not Only Words, But Power

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20th Sunday after Pentecost (October 22, 2017)


1 Thessalonians 1 | New Living Translation (NLT)

This letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy.

We are writing to the church in Thessalonica, to you who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

May God give you grace and peace.

We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you. So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia.

And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God.And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.


After a brief trip through Philippians, we now enter the first of Paul’s two letters to the church at Thessalonica.  We begin with Paul’s greeting to the congregation there.  The church at Thessalonica was being faithful to the gospel.  We find out later in this passage that the church had been sharing the Good News throughout Macedonia and Achaia.  The gospel has brought an amazing change in the church here.  After all, isn’t that what the Good News is all about.

In verse 5, Paul tells about how the Good News came to the church.  The key to the word of God going out is not in the words only, but with the power of the Holy Spirit.  This church received this message with joy and they received it, not from Paul, Silas, and Timothy, but from the Holy Spirit.  Paul, Silas, and Timothy spoke the words that the Holy Spirit had them speak.  This is the power of the gospel at work.  Yes, the gospel is about words – but without the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, it is just words.  It was the Holy Spirit that proved to the believers at Thessalonica that the words Paul and his friends spoke were true.

I think the other thing that is important is that this same power that came upon Paul and the others, came upon this church and that is why the gospel was replicated and spread far beyond Paul’s original work there. The church at Thessalonica – at least the church that is written about here in the first chapter of this letter – is something to be emulated.  This is a picture of the church at work.

In the Wesleyan Church we have talked Disciples making disciples and the church multiplies itself until the Wesleyan Church has a transforming presence in every zip code.  This is the church of Thessalonica.  Paul, Silas, and Timothy made disciples and they went and did the same thing.  In this way the church grows and multiplies itself.  It is the transforming presence that comes as a result of the Holy Spirit’s power.  This is what I desire as the pastor of McCrae Brook.  It is what I desire of the church – especially here in the Brook.  Let’s go reach every zip code in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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Sunday Night Thoughts

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As I write a cold front is making its way through Northwestern Pennsylvania.  We have had some very nice days here in October.  Tomorrow we face a different reality.  However, there is no snow in the forecast.  Our low tomorrow is forecast for 42 with a high of only 50.  Tuesdays low will get us into the 30’s, but a warmup by the end of the week.

This past weekend we had James home for Fall Break.  It’s always good to have him home.  The last couple weeks have been sort of crazy, so I’m hoping this week is a bit more normal.  We did have a great time of fellowship with the Eldred area churches on Tuesday.  I led the musical worship and brought the devotional.  We have a great group of churches here in the area.

This week, we head to Hamburg, NY for our monthly Leadership Development.  We are learning about the craft of preaching.  Pam and I enjoyed last month’s preaching seminar and even tried some new ideas as a result.

It was a good day here at McCrae Brook, even though several of us struggled with playing our instruments.  I led the congregation in “Beautiful Saviour” by Stuart Townend and struggled with playing it correctly.  The message went well as I preached on being a generous people.

That’s about it for this week.  Have a great one!

Pressing On | A Running Update

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I have gotten out of the habit of writing these, but thought it was time.  The summer has come and gone and we are now in fall.  In fact, here in The Brook, we are past peak, meaning the color has come and gone and the more trees don’t have leaves than trees that have them.  Summer was very good on the running front.  I had five (100+) mile months in a row.  The last time that happened was in 2013 and I was training for the Richmond Marathon.  I only have 39 miles for the month, but if I get my act together and get some long runs in, I should be able to get 100 miles for October.

My goals for 2017 were:

  1. More miles (run and walk) than 2016 which was 976. I am currently at 778 – so I have 220+ miles to go.
  2. A thousand miles or more of running and walking.
  3. At least 1,017 km of running.  I currently stand 49 km short of that goal.  It looks like that will be the first one I reach.

One of the reasons I’m writing today, is that I just ran one of my best runs of the season.  My initial goal was just to go out and do an easy Saturday run – nothing too long or too fast.  As it turns out, it was one of my best paced runs of 2017 – especially considering the distance of 7 miles.  I was ecstatic about this run – 7.1 miles at a 9:44 pace and two of those miles were faster than a 9:30 pace.  One of my goals is to stay on track over the winter so that I can work on that pace as soon as it gets warm again.

Right now, it’s just going to take some perseverance and that’s what pressing on is all about!

 

Think About…

Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost (October 15, 2017)


Philippians 4:1-9 | New Living Translation (NLT)

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.

Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.


This has been a very quick trip through Philippians and today is our last reading from Philippians.  I really want us to concentrate on the last four verses of this reading. Paul writes, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything…tell God what you need and thank Him for what He has done.”  As I quote that, I feel like I am pointing three fingers back at myself.  Why is it so hard to obey God’s words?  I mean, it seems so simple – don’t worry and instead of worrying pray.  What’s prayer? telling God what we need and thanking him for what he has done. And yet, we (I) struggle with this – day after day.

People often think the teachings of Paul and the teachings of Jesus are so far off, but are they really.  I would encourage you to check out chapter 6 of Matthew.  It is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Rather than cut a whole bunch, I’ll copy the last two verses: Matthew 6:33-34:

33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

It seems Christians would learn (and like I said, I’m just as guilty) and submit themselves to the Lord and pray.  Why do we worry about such things, when all we really need to do is pray?

Several weeks ago, I preached on the Fruit of the Spirit. One of the characteristics of the Spirit is peace.  Paul tells us if we want to have true peace – the peace that passes all understanding, we must submit our worry to God. If we pray to him…tell Him what we need…thank Him for what He has done, then we will have true peace. After all, who wouldn’t want that.

In addition to praying, Paul also offers another solution.  He says, think on these things.  In many ways, these things are similar to the Fruit of the Spirit.  What are these things?

what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable…things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

There is an old children’s song that says, “O be careful little eyes what you see….” Imagine if…in addition to prayer…believers (Christians) would think on the above.  I think that we would see a radical change in the direction of the church.  We spend way too much time on the opposite.  Yes, when it appears the world is literally falling apart, we think we need to focus on the opposite.  But the God of peace comes when we think on the things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise.

If you have worry, I encourage you to take Paul’s advice…Paul’s solution:

  1. Don’t worry
  2. Pray
  3. Think on what is right and true
  4. Obey God’s Word.

If we do these, we will have God’s peace.