Sunday Night Thoughts – July 30


Today we took in four members at Preston Wesleyan Church. Two are coming in as Covenant Members and two as Community Members. The Discipline of the Wesleyan Church gives us two options for the ritual. I elected to take us through the long form even though those who were coming in as members had already answered the questions. I believe it is important for those who are committing to membership in a church to know what their responsibilities are. It is also good for those who are members to be reminded of what they signed on for as members. Again, two of my children were involved, so again I was a proud father. It already looks like we’ll be having another membership service before too long.
Tonight, we finished up Keith Drury’s book, With Unveiled Faces. It has been an interesting journey. As a side note, I found it easier to practice those disciplines of abstinance rather than those of action. We looked at the discipline of response tonight. How do respond to both the good and bad that comes our way. It shapes our Christian character. As we discussed this discipline, I noted that this idea of how we deal with trials has come up several times in the year since God has called us to Martinsville. I like how James puts it. Trials come our way to shape us into the people God wants us to be. To balance this out, so do the good things that come our way. How we deal with sucess, wealth, fame, health, and other things shape our character. I have enjoyed the teaching that has come from this book, because it is practical and allows us to think and as Paul puts it, “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”

Paul’s Final Instructions

Membership Sunday

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

12Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15Make sure nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22Avoid every kind of evil.
23May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
25Brothers, pray for us. 26Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

This morning we want to take a look at Paul’s final instructions to the church at Thessalonica. Yes, they are the final instructions, but most of them hinge on what Paul has already written about.

This morning we are taking members into our church. The instructions Paul gives to the church there are also good for us. Especially as we remember what it is to be a member of Christ’s church.

First he tells the church to respect those in authority over them in the Lord. We don’t exactly know the structure of the early church, but we know that there was some type of accountability structure to the church. Here in our church the Local Church Conference is the highest authority. Most of their authority has been delegated to the Local Board of Administration or in our case the Ministry Leadership Team. The pastor is the chair of that team. We also have a District Board and a District Superintendent and General Board and three Superintendents. We must respect the authority of those over us. Will we disagree? Sometimes, but Paul tells us to hold them in highest regard. He also tells us that conflict should be the exception not the rule. We are given several quick instructions.
· Live in peace with each other – Oh that the church could learn to do this. What a wonderful witness to the world that would be.
· Warn those who are idle – some had stopped working thinking that Jesus’ return was soon. Paul tells them to get back to work and work until his return.
· Encourage the timid
· Help the weak – This is counter cultural – don’t we say that God helps those who help themselves. Guess what? It’s not in the Bible. We help these, not reject them.
· Be patient with everyone – HELP! This is a difficult prayer for us to pray. We want God to change the other person not me!
· Make sure no one pays back wrong for wrong – retaliation is never a Christian option
· Always try to be kind to each other AND to everyone else. – I think Paul is beginning to meddle here.
· Be joyful always – This is not the happy, happy, happy all the time, but joyful because of what Christ has done in our lives. This is a constant
· Pray continually – We should be in regular prayer for the church, each other and those who don’t know or have rejected the Good News.
· Give thanks in all circumstances – Because of what Christ has done by his work on the cross and resurrection from the dead, we can be continually thankful.
· Do not put out the Spirit’s fire – Stay in touch with what the Spirit is doing – Go with His flow, not ours.
· Do not treat prophecies with contempt – Prophecy is a communication of the mind of God imparted to a believer by the Holy Spirit. It may be a prediction or an indication of the will of God in a given situation – Sometimes God speaks, and we don’t listen.
· Test everything – a balance to the above statement – Sometimes it is just man speaking on his own behalf.
· Hold on to the good, avoid every kind of evil – I think you know where Paul is going with this. We’ve seen what Paul thinks over the past few weeks.
· Then we have this statement. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” Here is prayer for entire sanctification (or set apartness to God’s purpose) where the believer is freed from sin and empowered to live a holy life. The whole person, not just the body or the mind is to be made holy. And those who are holy do not transgress God’s law. And it is God’s will that we pursue holiness in this life. And the God who calls us to holiness can be relied upon to complete what he began.
· Pray for us – all Christians are in need of prayer
· Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss – Paul sends his greetings to everyone even those he had to correct. The holy kiss was equivalent to our handshake.
· I charge you…to read this letter – Everyone (EVERYONE) must hear what is in this letter.

This morning we are Christ’s church. We are going to receive members into the church. We need to remember to do the things that Christ has commanded us to do through his servants…

Jonah – Veggietales Style

Tonight we invited our K through 5 ministry – KICS – or Kids in Christian Service over to the parsonage to watch the Veggietales movie Jonah. The creators do a great job of telling the story of Jonah, the Old Testament prophet. Jonah was suppose to go to Ninevah, but heading in the opposite direction. God was merciful to him even though he disobeyed God. God directed Jonah back to Nivevah so that Jonah could tell the city to repent. Jonah had a second chance — God could have killed him on the sea. Jonah tells the city to repent and they do. Jonah waits for God to “take care of” Ninevah but it never happens. God causes a vine to grow to shade Jonah and God kills it the next day. Jonah is more concerned about the vine than the people of Ninevah. Jonah wonders why God has not destroyed the people of Ninevah for their wickeness. We must remember that God is a God of compassion and mercy. God wanted the people to repent and because of Jonah’s message they did. Perhaps God is calling us to minister to those we don’t think need a second chance. The scriptures tell us that God is not willing that any should perish. God has given us a message to tell. It is our job to tell it and leave the results to God.

Student Ministries

This past week I have been doing some brainstorming regarding our student ministries this fall. Over the past several years, the Lord has impressed upon me the importance of student ministries. During our Local Church Conference Celebration, I gave this important statistic from Child Evangelism Fellowship, which says that 84% of all adults who have received Christ did so between the ages of 4 and 14. In just a few weeks we are going to hold an all-day Vacation Bible School. My director is excited about the opportunities that we will have to share Christ, not only on Saturday, but during Sunday worship as well as the kids present the closing program. If your a regular reader of my blog, please keep August 5 and 6 in your prayers as we minister to the children in our community.

This is one part of our student ministries program. We have a wonderful van ministry that picks up students in the area. The van runs not only Sunday morning, but Wednesday evening as well. Over the summer we have been averaging about 25 students and adults for this program. Which is great for the summer. In a few weeks, our students will be going back to school and we are planning kick up our program a few notches. One of the things that I have been working on is a name for our student ministries that encompasses who we are. The one that keeps coming to the top is Mosaic.
Our students are a diverse group in several ways. God is piecing us together into a beautiful picture. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense when you are close up, but when you back away the picture comes into view. Another one that is still kicking around is Chi Alpha or Christ First.

That is the goal of our student ministries is that each student would put Christ first in their lives. You can see the logos that I’ve come up with. We are also looking at putting into place a student ministry leadership team made up of adults and students. I’m looking forward to helping them give leadership to this exciting venture. Please be in prayer for this and our church as we seek to build God’s kingdom in our community.

Our Glorious Hope

I’ll never forget my first introduction to Christ’s second coming. It was at a youth rally and I was probably a little older than James at the time. At the youth rally they showed the film “A Thief in the Night.” I remembered seeing clips of it on television. Several years later, probably at youth camp the film was shown again. I know that it frightened me even as a Christian. Last week I said the beauty of preaching a series through a book is that you have to take it as it comes. This morning is no exception. I’ve never considered myself an expert on the second coming. There are those who do consider themselves experts and they have all kinds of charts and can proof-text their way through the Bible to make it all fit together. By the way, I have great difficulty with those who like to take the scriptures like this and try to put them together like it is a great big jigsaw puzzle. It is very dangerous to do that. This morning is not one of those types of messages. We want to take a look at what Paul writes about the second coming of our Lord.
Just a few moments ago we read a good portion of the text responsively. What was the purpose of Paul writing to the church at Thessalonica? It was to encourage the believers there and to fill in the gaps in the teaching that the missionary team did not get to take care of while they were there. The return of Christ is a concern for the church. The Greek word for Christ’s return is parousia. William Barclay explains it as the arrival of an emperor, a king, a governor or famous person into a town or province. There are some practical implications. If you are going to be visited by a VIP, you need to get ready for his visit. The coming of a king demands that all things must be ready — if such is true in the physical world, how much more so in the spiritual world. To participate in the celebration for the parousia of the King of Kings, even as one among multitudes in the welcoming crowd, would be an exhilarating experience, and just the beginning of the eternal celebration of his presence – which the word parousia basically means.
This is the glorious hope that we all have as brothers and sisters in Christ. This becomes the background of our message this morning. The believers at Thessalonica were concerned about those who had died since Paul had visited there. They were concerned that those who have died would not participate in the grand celebration of the return of the King of Kings. Paul tells us in verse 13, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep (or literally die), or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.” So Paul is reassuring the Thessalonians not to grieve for those who have already died in Christ. They will not be left out of the celebration. Paul says that they have a hope, unlike the pagan culture around them. Inscriptions on tombs and references in literature show that first-century pagans viewed death with horror, as the end of everything. Paul even reassures us this morning that death is not the end. We could even say that death is only the beginning, because we have a glorious hope of being resurrected with Christ.
Paul goes on the to describe what is going to happen. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of (an) archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” This particular passage is the only time in the New Testament that the world “rapture” is clearly referenced and it comes from the Latin Vulgate rendering (the first Latin translation.) While I was working on this sermon, I did some research on this. It was interesting to note that many who believe in the “rapture” of the church, believe it will be a silent rapture. Let’s take a look at the scripture. First the Lord will come down. It’s interesting to note that this event is important enough that the Lord himself will come. He will not send a representative from heaven but he himself will descend from heaven. Then there is a loud command. The word used in the Greek is used for a charioteer urging his horses. This is not a silent command. Second, there is a shout of an archangel. Third, there is the trumpet of God. This is not the first time a trumpet is used when God manifests his powerful presence. The text does not indicate whether these are one or three separate “sound effects,” but in any case when the Lord returns it appears the whole world will know. This will not be a silent occasion.
It is also interesting to note that this scripture tells us nothing of the unbelievers or those not in Christ. Paul only addresses the Thessalonians current concerns. So, as least in the words of Paul to the church is what is important. The Lord will come, with a loud shout, the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God; the dead in Christ will rise first, and then those of us who are alive in Christ second. We will gather in the clouds (which by the way is symbolic of God’s eternal presence.) At that point we will be with the Lord forever. Paul tells the church to encourage one another with these words.
However, Paul is not finished in his teaching. In a classic example of a bad division of chapters, Paul continues, “Now brothers (and sisters) about the times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” Allow me a point of personal privilege here. I wholeheartedly agree with Paul’s teaching here, I believe that there are far too many “prophets” out there who spend there time looking for signs of the second coming of Christ. There are far too many Christians trying to figure out when Christ is coming. Paul says don’t worry about it, because it’s coming like a thief in the night. Jesus said, “Keep watch and pray, because if we knew when the thief was coming we would have been ready for him.” Jesus coming will be like labor pains. He will come suddenly and without warning. Those who are not ready will not be able to escape.
Paul is encouraging the brothers and sisters to be ready for the coming of the Lord. How do they do that? He says they are not in darkness. This is a classic metaphor that John uses. Living as children or sons of light vs. living as children of the dark. We do not belong to the darkness, so (echoing last week’s message) we should live as children of light, sanctified (set apart) for God’s use, living the life that he has called us to live. Now in verse 6, Paul uses the word asleep in a different way. Let us not be like other who are asleep (in the dark), but let us be alert and self-controlled. This is really a continuation of the thought started in chapter 4. What happens to those who are asleep? They sleep at night and he takes it one step further. He equates being in the dark to being drunk. (Those who get drunk get drunk at night). He writes that we belong to the day. Think about this. Jesus Christ is coming as a thief in the night and we need to be ready at all times. Depending on the person, it is easy to rouse them from sleep, but a drunk person is even more difficult. Once I had to rouse a drunk person and it took ten to fifteen minutes until he was coherent enough even to have an incoherent conversation. Matter of fact his car that he was in was parked on the shoulder of the wrong side of the road facing oncoming traffic with his lights on but his motor off. I knocked on the window for a good five minutes to wake him. He had fallen asleep drunk in his car in front of our last church. At first I thought he was dead, because his french fries were still in his hand.
Paul tells us to be alert, (not like this guy I just told you about.) You could also add to be alert and sober. There are some Christians who are not ready; they are not alert and sober to the Christ who is coming back again. He also tells us to be self-controlled (where have we heard that lately?)
Besides being alert, sober, and self-controlled, he tells us to put on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet. Warren Woolsey writes, “Faith and love as a breastplate will protect vital organs, heart and lungs. The hope of salvation as a helmet, protecting the head is the climatic position. Hope is especially appropriate in a context of waiting for the Second Coming.
Christ brought us salvation, through his death on the cross, verse 10. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep (dead) we may live together with him. Christ’s atoning death for us and our union with Him by faith. Paul returns to the metaphor of awake and sleep as it refers to life and death and reassures his congregation that whether alive or deceased, that those in Christ will have forever fellowship with him.
So what? So Jesus is coming again. So Jesus is coming again for those who have died in Christ and coming again for those who are alive in Christ. So what? What difference does it make?
It makes a difference in the way we live. We must live to please God in all areas of our life. Now I know some of you are going to think I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but nothing is of more importance in our Christian life. We MUST live to please God at all times, because he is coming back and we don’t know when. I don’t care what’s happening around the world, because if Jesus’ return was imminent in the First Century, how much more closer is his return today. Are you living a life that is pleasing to God? Would he come and return for you today? We never know when he is coming back. Are you ready?
If you are, do as Paul commands us in verse 11. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”

Sunday Night Thoughts – July 16


It’s been a while since I’ve been home on a Sunday night to journal the day’s events. It can be summed up with one word, “Wow!” As I started preparing for this week’s sermon, I could sense that God was doing something special. The district rallies only spurred that on. As I entered the sanctuary this morning to run over my notes and the music for the morning, I sensed that God’s spirit was going to flow and I was going to have to flow with it. God was prompting me to move some of the songs around so they would flow better. The special music this morning was “Be Still and Know” written by Stephen Curtis Chapman. As I listened to the lyrics during rehearsal, I felt that we needed to move it before prayer. The service flowed through the Holy Spirit this morning. We emphasized the holiness of God and how we need to live to please God. God flowed through the message. That was only the beginning.

Tonight was even better. Tonight, we held a baptism service at the home of one of our church people. 22 people showed up (which about doubled our summer attendance lately) and we baptized 5 of our students ranging from 9 years to 15 years old. We began by singing songs of praise and testimony, read some scripture, examined the candidates and then baptized them. As the students came up out of the water, every one cheered and made a lot of noise. How cool is that! The most special time for me was that I got to baptize my two youngest children. Not many dads get that opportunity. Tears come to my eyes even as I write. To be the man that God wants me to be means that I must pass on the legacy that has been handed down to me.

I am continually amazed to see how God can work through someone who is simply open to His leading. Today is one of those ministry days that I’ll be able to cherish for years to come. Thank you to God our Father, Jesus the Son, and the every present ministry of the Holy Spirit. Wow!

Living to Please God

For the past three weeks, we have been taking a look at Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. We have discovered that for the most part the church at Thessalonica was thriving despite persecution that was happening around them. The first three chapters overflow with thanksgiving from the pen of Paul. This morning’s passage begins with the word finally and that can usually get us preachers in trouble. I know as soon as I say the word finally, I better start wrapping it up, because many are already starting to tune out. The word finally would have better been translated “and now…” or “further…” We are about two thirds of the way through Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians and Paul has much say to us in the last third. Let’s take a look at 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12.

1Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please god, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2For you know what instruction we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

3It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who give you his Holy Spirit.

9Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.

11Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

What we want to take a look at today is Paul’s instructions to the church at Thessalonica on how to live a life that pleases God. As I’ve already mentioned, Paul starts with the word “finally.” This usually means I’m wrapping it up, but not here. Paul has much more to say. The next word in the sentence is brothers. Usually this is used to signify a new paragraph, but here it is used to signify that the following section deals with life in the Christian community, as we saw last week. An old gospel song says, “you will notice that we say brother and sister round here. It’s because we are family and these folks are so dear.” Occasionally at district conference, I heard someone reference brother so and so. This practice reminded us that we are a community of believers together and that we are a family. We are the family of God in Christ Jesus. We should think of each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, because that’s what we are. While Paul and the missionary team were in Thessalonica, they instructed the church how to live to please God, and as we look at Paul’s writing they are continuing to live that way. Last week, we saw that a brothers and sisters in Christ should continually be moving closer and closer to Christ. The wording here is weak compared to the Greek. It should really read you MUST live to please God. We as brothers and sisters in Christ must live in order to please God and we MUST as Paul urges the church to do so more and more. Paul lets the church know that this is not in his own authority but the authority of Jesus Christ. So the first thing we are taught this morning is that we MUST live in order to please God. How do we do that?

As we look at this passage, Paul writes to us that it is God’s will that we should be sanctified. So many times we think of sanctification as a point in time. But here the word indicates an ongoing process. We don’t just get sanctified and rest on our laurels for the rest of our life. Sanctification is a process that follows us throughout our Christian life. Sanctification refers to the process of setting ourselves apart for God’s use. God has declared himself holy and he wants his followers to be holy as he is holy. Many will say that this is impossible, but why would God command us to do something that was impossible?

As we continue to take a look at this passage, we find that sexual purity was strongly connected with holiness. Ernest Best writes, “Sanctification is not something for worship alone but for every act of life.” Paul urges the readers of Romans to offer up their bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, because that is our spiritual act of worship. He goes on to say, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Paul writes you should avoid sexual immorality. The word avoid in the Greek is a strong one. The Greco-Roman world was loose sexually. There were various forms of extramarital sexual union that were tolerated and even encouraged. It doesn’t appear that there is a specific instance that is being referenced, but that this is reinforcement because of the surrounding culture. The term sexual immorality is a broad term but includes adultery, fornication, prostitution and deviant sexual behavior. I don’t think our culture is much different than that ancient culture. This is something we need to hear in 21st century America. Paul’s teaching is clear: Christians should abstain from all sorts of sexual misconduct by doing what is right, whether by self-control or by restricting sexual activity to the marriage partner. In this way we honor God and can offer up our bodies as living sacrifices. Why, because sexual sin harms others besides those who engage in it. Just this past week, I stumbled across an account of a young woman who had recently discovered her husband had been cheating on her. You could see the way this had destroyed her life. We often forget that cheating will also affect the cheater as well. Paul warns not to act like the heathen do. John Stott writes, “Christians must behave in a completely different manner because we do know God, because He is a holy God, and because we want to please him.”

Most of us would agree that what Paul is talking about is not pleasing to God. I want to take a risk here and point out that we have been conformed to the world more than we think. All we have to do is take a look at what was shocking on television twenty years ago. By today’s standards, it is tame. The moral line is moving all the time in our culture. The culture shapes us in various ways; music, television, movies, and the Internet. There are things that we see and hear in the media that we should not be filling our minds up as believers. Because what happens, is that spills over ever so subtly into our lives and it becomes part of the norm and I’m not so sure God would be pleased with it. Before we continue on, what is in your life today, that if God did a complete inventory of, he would not be please with? Sometimes this even appears in subtle ways. Sometimes we will say things that have a double meaning; we flirt and call it being friendly; we watch movies or television programs that stir up the darker side of us; we wander the internet and “stumble across” things we should be viewing; we listen to music that sends the wrong message. So many times we think just of rock music as sending a bad message, but many types of music have bad and even raunchy lyrics including rap; r & b, pop, and even country!
As we were at the Power Rally on Monday night, Steve Wilson talked about standing on holy ground. In order for Moses to stand on holy ground, he had to take off his shoes. What do you have to get rid of to stand on holy ground today? What changes do you need to make in order to offer up your body as a living sacrifice the king that God will accept? What is standing in your way today to live the life that God is calling you to live? Paul tells us that “God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” However morally bankrupt the society may be in which one seeks to live an authentic Christian life, he or she need not conform to the prevailing pattern. The God who calls to sanctification also enables holy living through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
So we know that we need to stay pure in order to please God, but what else? Again Paul calls for love. He calls for the church to love it’s brothers and sisters more and more. Again you’ll notice to progression that needs to happen. It’s not just love one time and your done. No, it’s over and over again. The word for love here is not the familiar agape or unconditional love, but philadelphia or brotherly love. It is a term when we tell our children to love their siblings, those who are related by blood birth. It is a God-given love and it is mutual. It reaches beyond these four walls to brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. Just this week, I had the opportunity to renew acquaintances with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the Shenandoah district. Most of my brothers and sisters in this district are fellow co-labors of the Good News. We had a great time (and for the most part, we did not talk about how our churches were doing, but how we were getting along spiritually.) This is great brotherly love for each other. It’s part of the connection that I still have with FLAME. To encourage my brothers and sisters who are preparing for the ministry. Paul lets the church know that they are doing what they are supposed to do. Let me say as Paul did. You do love the brothers and sisters in the church and I urge you to do it even more and more.

Paul is not done yet with telling us how to live a life pleasing to God. One of the dangers in preaching a message like this especially one with so strong a challenge to live a live pleasing to God, is that those who have their house in order begin to meddle in the business of others. Let me say that this message did not come without me spending some quality time with God and getting my own house in order during the past week. It appears there were some in the church who were spiritual busybodies. They were trying to make other’s business their business. We have a wonderful altar here in front of us. We used to call it the mourner’s bench. We need to be very careful when people come to the altar. Matter of fact, nothing would please your pastor more than weekly use of the altar. In a way it gives us a sense of our spiritual pulse. Are lives being changed? But when people are concerned to come to the altar because of spiritual busybodies, nobody wins. God’s work cannot be done. Paul says to knock it off. That does nothing to build the body of Christ. That does nothing to win the respect of outsiders. Nothing hurts the kingdom more than when the world sees us picking at each other and minding each other’s business rather than our own. Paul is about to discuss about the second coming of Jesus and this next statement might be a warning to those who are doing nothing because Christ’s return is “around the corner.” Paul says to keep busy, and I’ll add, even if it only means teaching the gospel to those who desperately need it. Some suspecting the imminent return of Christ had stopped working and were relying on others to support them. This is not a good witness to the Good News. Paul says keep working until Jesus comes, so that you will be a good witness and that you won’t have to be dependent on anybody.

We have a great challenge this morning. As with the past few Sundays, the altar is open. How is God speaking to you this morning? Have you surrendered everything to him? What is standing in the way of you standing on holy ground? What is standing in the way of you standing constantly in God’s presence? What would it take for you to be a living sacrifice – holy and pleasing to God? Do you want to live a life that is pleasing to God? The altar is open, God is speaking.