Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.” I’ve always heard that whenever you see a therefore you should look to see what it’s there for. So let’s look at the verses leading up to verse 11.
First a little background info. The city of Thessalonica was a bustling seaport city of about 200,000 people. The largest city in Macedonia and the capital of its province. Paul had left Thessalonica abruptly after a rather brief stay and was writing to the church to encourage them. There were recent converts from paganism who were left with little support in the midst of persecution. Paul writes to encourage these new converts in their trials, to give instruction concerning godly living, to urge some not to neglect daily work, and to give assurance concerning the future of believers who die before Christ returns.
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10
Paul encourages the Thessalonians not to dwell on what others are doing or the trials and difficulties they face in their society, but to focus on Jesus. He writes in v8-10; “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.
V11 THEREFORE, encourage one another and build each other up, as you are already doing.”
We face trials and difficulties today, too. Don’t give up. Be encouraged by God’s Word and encourage one another and build each other up. Every word or act of encouragement we add to another’s life is a little brick to build her up. Let’s keep building and change our culture.
“You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” Psalm 30: 11-12
Sackcloth, not a word we use in today’s culture, but we see it frequently in scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments. What is sackcloth? Just what it sounds like, cloth to make sacks. My imagination takes me to rough burlap bags. So did the people of biblical times wear burlap bags? Not exactly. According to Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible by Packer and Tenney, sackcloth was dark in color with a coarse texture and made from goat’s hair. In times of extreme sorrow, the Israelites wore this rough material next to their skin. Sackcloth was a symbol of mourning and was also a sign of repentance.
Let that sink in, an outward sign of repentance, of turning away from sin and toward God, of being sorry for sin. The sorrowful Israelite would tear his clothing then clothe himself in sackcloth, place ashes on his head and then sit in the ashes. Total sorrow. Mourning of sin.
When we acknowledge our sin and realize how it grieves our heavenly Father there should be mourning. It should be like putting on spiritual sackcloth. The memory of that sin feeling rough, prickly, painful. Shame and guilt troubling the sorrowful soul. But when we cry out to God for forgiveness, He graciously forgives. The atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus makes it possible for Him to turn our wailing into dancing. He removes the spiritual sackcloth and clothes us with joy.
Jesus died for your sin and mine. Accept Him as your Lord and Savior and receive His gift of eternal life.
“ ‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend you heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing.” Joel 2:12-14
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3
Since 2010 I have been teaching step-by-step painting classes for people who have no experience with painting. All you do is grab a friend, make a reservation, and show up. At the end of the two- hour class you go home with your own masterpiece. You don’t have to bring any supplies, everything you need to create your painting is furnished. Some students come in a bit apprehensive because they’ve never done anything like this before. They’ve never painted a picture, but they’ve always wanted to try. Perhaps they have never tried because of the daunting task of collecting all the supplies that they would need. Being equipped with everything you need is somewhat empowering, both in a painting class and in life.
Unfortunately, I don’t always feel so empowered, in fact, I often struggle to believe I have what it takes to be the woman God has called me to be. Much of the time I feel as if I’m missing a lot of the tools needed to build that godly life He wants me to live. Tools like patience (that’s a biggie), perseverance, self-discipline (sometimes nonexistent), wisdom, boldness, and the list goes on. I have good intentions, but… I sometimes feel overwhelmed. Do you?
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”2 Peter 1:3
He has made available to us all that we need spiritually through our knowledge of Him by His glory and goodness. Glory expresses the excellence of His being—His attributes and essence. Goodness, on the other hand, is His excellence expressed in His deeds—virtue in action. God gives us everything we need because God gives us Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote almost the same thing to the church at Philippi.
“My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
According to Colossians 2:10, those who follow Christ are complete in Him. You have the Holy Spirit of God living in you and that’s enough even when we feel like we’re not enough.
So, when you lack wisdom, ask Him for it; when you’re running on empty, rest in Him and allow Him to strengthen you; when you need patience, joy, love, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, allow the Holy Spirit to grow that fruit in your life. It won’t happen overnight. It takes time for fruit to take shape and grow, but grow it will, and since those God calls, He also enables, you are fully supplied to be all He has called you to be. And so am I, so let’s get to it!
“God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
In today’s techno-society of electronic communication, the handwritten love letter has become almost obsolete. In years past, to receive a letter from a loved one was something special, it still is. Words sent from far away connecting two hearts. Treasures kept for decades bundled together with a satin ribbon.
As we celebrate Valentines Day, a day set aside to celebrate love, let’s meditate on the greatest love of all time—the love of God for His creation, mankind.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called
children of God!” 1 John 3:1
A love so great that He would sacrifice His only Son for my sin and your sin.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes
in Him would not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
The Bible, God’s word, is a love letter, always pointing toward Jesus. Always with the purpose of imparting His love for His children. His love letter is written to you. Not the you of your past or the you of your future, but the you today who surrenders to His love. That’s the you He pursues today, no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done. Choose to accept His love written in red with blood shed for you on the cross. Choose Jesus.
Admit your sin. Believe Jesus is God’s Son and that he died and rose again for you. Confess Him as your Savior and Lord.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Hu cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2
It's that time of year. The time here in South Carolina, when the crepe myrtles and knock-out roses need to be pruned. Actually, not just pruned, but cut back fairly severely. My dear friend, Dianne, who was my plant mentor, used to say to cut them back by Valentine’s Day, which means I only have a few more days to get it done. Pruning is hard work. Besides the actual cutting, there’s also the clean-up. Not my favorite thing to do. But it’s all necessary in order to have beautiful blooms later.
God is compared to a loving gardener who prunes or removes those areas of our character that keeps us from bearing good fruit. Those things that keep us from looking more like Him. It may be ugly (like a badly pruned crepe myrtle) and painful and we often resist, but it’s merciful and good of our loving Father to cut away those things that choke and entangle us spiritually. When pruning is skipped, the plants suffer, and so do we. We were created to bear fruit. Today’s painful pruning paves the way for tomorrow’s blooms and fruit.
As I think about pruning, I’m reminded of the peach trees in neighboring counties. When they are full of beautiful blooms and the fields are filled with clouds of pink, the workers come in and prune the trees, cutting away many beautiful branches. In effect eliminating some of the potential fruit. This is necessary so that the existing branches, filled with blooms, can grow bigger, better fruit.
We may be doing lots of good things, but sometimes the Lord needs to prune and eliminate some of those things so that the remaining good things can be better, more productive, more fruitful, more glorifying to Him.
If you are in the midst of a spiritual pruning season, be patient, let the Lord do His work. It may be painful at times, but the beauty that will come is worth the pain and the effort. Trust Him, He is the Master Gardener and He knows what is best for you.
“For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
Picasso said “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” I find this to be a true statement. I love to paint, to draw, to create pieces of art and thoroughly enjoy the work of fellow artists and of children. There is magic in art, it can stir the emotions and calm the mind.
As wonderful as man made art is, it cannot compare to the amazing beauty created by God, the Creator of all that exists. No one can paint a sky like God can. No artist, try as they might, can make the colors God can create when He turns the sky from turquoise to orange to gold to indigo. Nature expresses the wonder of the Master Artist in countless ways, but His most beautiful creation is mankind. We are made in His image, crafted with skill and a purpose, by God for His purposes..
How interesting that the Greek word translated ‘workmanship’ in Ephesians 2:10 is poiema, from which we get our English words ‘poem’ and ‘poetry’. Genesis 1:27 is the first occurrence of poetry in the Old Testament. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 NIV. Poiema can also be translated ‘work of art’ or ‘masterpiece’. We are God’s work or art, His poetry in motion, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Sometimes we don’t feel like a beautiful work of art, we’ve forgotten our purpose. God didn’t create us with His masterful workmanship just so we might be the brightest, most beautiful, most skillful,or most successful. We were created in Christ for good works, planned and designed by God, specifically for us. Good works that further the kingdom of God, good works that grow and exhibit our faith. He has a plan for you. A good plan filled with good things for you to do. He has created and gifted us each uniquely, we are treasured and beautiful in His sight, and fortunately, He isn't finished yet. We are His most valuable expression, created to declare the most significant story our Savior has to tell…the story of grace. We are His masterpiece.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a
wedding banquet for his son.” Matthew 2:22
Jesus often used parables to make His point. The book of Matthew includes the parable of the Wedding Banquet in chapter 22. Jesus told the story of a king who prepared a royal banquet for the wedding of his son then sent his servants to those who had been invited to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent more servants to tell the invited guests that a dinner of finest meats had been prepared and that “everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet”(v.4). But they paid no attention, one went to his field, another to his business, then the rest seized the servants, mistreated them and killed them. Naturally, the king was enraged and said to his servants that those who had been invited didn’t deserve to come. He sent them into the streets to invite anyone they could find to come to the banquet. The servants did as the king had instructed and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. Then an odd thing happened, the king noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes and asked him, “Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?” The man was speechless, then the king had him bound and thrown into the darkness. Jesus ended the parable by saying, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
A wedding is a beautiful, special occasion. A time for family and friends to celebrate the love of the happy couple. To be invited to a wedding is an honor, a privilege. The couple thinks enough of you to invite you to celebrate with them. Jesus likened the kingdom of God to a wedding feast. It’s a picture of God’s generosity and His amazing, unconditional love as well as a picture of His judgment on those who reject his love and do evil.
God loves you and has issued an open invitation to all who will accept, an invitation to intimate fellowship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. His invitation is serious and should never be taken lightly. It is a privilege that Almighty God, maker of heaven and earth, invites you to be a part of His family. Eventhough God accepts you where you are, it’s not enough just to show up, you need the right clothes. You can’t enter the Kingdom of heaven on your own terms, only on Jesus’ terms. Fortunately, through His death and resurrection, Jesus has provided the right clothes that you need. Put on Jesus, accept His free gift of salvation.
“…everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.”
“She is a tree of life to those who embrace her.” Proverbs 3:18
In 1730, 294 men and 69 women of the Bishnois branch of Hinduism died while trying to protect trees in their village from being cut and milled into building materials for a palace. They literally clung to the trees while being slaughtered by the foresters. Fast forward to the 1970’s, when a group of peasant women in the Himalayan hills of northern India threw their arms around trees designated to be cut. Within a few years this tactic had spread to other parts of the globe including the United States. Despite its noble history of nonviolent resistance, “tree-hugger” is often considered a derogatory term in most circles.
The writer of Proverbs personifies wisdom as a woman and likens her to a “tree of life” that is to be embraced (Proverbs 3:18). We’re reminded in verse 13 that the man, or woman, who finds wisdom is blessed, also translated happy. With wisdom comes understanding. Wisdom is more profitable than silver and brings a better return than gold. Having wisdom is a top priority. 1 Corinthians 1:24 csb tells us, “Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger that human strength.” When you find Jesus, you find the source of all wisdom. In Him is God’s wisdom and power. Until, through faith, you find a relationship with Jesus, life won’t really make sense. This is the path to long life, which in the New Testament, is eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlastingl life.” John 3:16. Here you’ll find the tree of life…the Cross, embrace it!
Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand.” Psalm 17:7
“How are you today?” “Better than I deserve” goes the exchange. It’s true, we are better than we deserve. As sinners we deserve death and hell, but because of God’s amazing grace we don’t get what we deserve, we get mercy. We get eternal life with Jesus instead. That is the wonder of His great love.
Psalm 17 continues in verse 8, “Keep me as the apple of your eye, hide me in the shadow of your wings.” To be the apple of one’s eye is to be the thing most treasured. David recognized that God’s children are His treasure. Think about that—You are treasured by God, the maker of heaven and earth, and what He treasures He blesses and forgives. His blessings and forgiveness are always much more than we could ever begin to deserve.
When problems, struggles, and hardships come into our lives we may not feel very blessed. Maybe you can’t see the blessings for the fog and smoke of the battle. Rest assured, whatever struggle, difficulties or suffering you may be facing today you can count on God’s never-ending love for you. In His great love, He died for you. In His lavish love, He is generous to all; those who serve Him for decades as well as those who accept Him with their final breath. In His faithful love, He never leaves you nor forsakes you. It’s all grace, all undeserved, and all the result of a great, amazing, lavish, never-ending, faithful love.
Through His death and resurrection, Jesus made a way for you and me to be forgiven, allowing us to enjoy the wonders of His great love throughout eternity.
Susan Sims Meyer
Thoughts and paintings from my personal quiet time and Bible study