December 13th, 2010


You are someone’s crowning achievement.  Maybe it’s your mother.  Perhaps a teacher or mentor.  It could be your pastor.

Not long ago, I heard my sister Elizabeth express her calling as a teacher with passion.  She’s received multiple recognitions for her excellence in the classroom and has from time to time been invited to take a position in administration.  Her response: “I can’t change lives in administration.  I can change them in the classroom.”  That’s why she teaches, and I know there are kids who have my sister to thank for giving them options far beyond what they ever dreamed were possible.

It’s not just that her students have Elizabeth to thank.  She has them to thank for giving her joy and meaning in what she does.

That’s how the Apostle Paul felt as he wrote to his churches.  “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).

In my calling, when I witness a marriage healed, a kid grasping the gift of eternal life through Jesus, parents offering their child to God through baptism, a person find grace following sexual brokenness, a life given to humility before God and service to others, a man or woman hearing the call to ministry, a person working in the community giving some of the credit to our Good Samaritan Fund and how he was treated by our office staff, that’s my glory and joy.

Think about it.  When you experience emotional healing, fresh promise, or new life in Christ, you give deep satisfaction to a counselor, a father, a boss who believed in you.  That in itself is worth staying on the path.



Dec 13: 1Thess
Dec 14:
Dec 15:
Dec 16:
Dec 17:
Dec 18:
Heb 1-6
Dec 19:
Heb 7-10
Dec 20:
Heb 11-13



·        How can this week’s letters not be my favorites?  We get to read the “pastoral” epistles – and I’m one of those.  Paul is so profoundly timeless as he guides younger pastors through the joys and privileges of shepherding their flocks.  Before that, the Thessalonian letters are such a wonderful contrast to contemporary overconfidence (on the one hand) and avoidance (on the other) about the “end times.”  We also read Hebrews this week, the only New Testament book longer than one chapter that I’ve never preached through at Corinth.  2011 might just have to change that.

·        1 & 2 Thessalonians are important letters because without them we would have little teaching from Paul on the second coming.  Jesus’ return is a major theme in both letters, probably written back to back from Corinth around the year A. D. 50.  The Thessalonians were worriers, spiritually speaking – worried that loved ones who had died had missed the day of the Lord (1 Thess. 4:13-18), worried about their own destiny (1 Thess. 5:1-11), worried that somehow they had missed the coming of the Lord (2 Thess. 2:1-2).  Paul writes to assure them.

·        Pastoral epistles.  1 & 2 Timothy and Titus are all written to those whom Paul had mentored and left behind him in a place of leadership when he moved on after planting a church.  Timothy had also accompanied Paul on some of his missionary travels.  While these letters do not offer a blueprint for local church bylaws, they do offer significant insight into how church life should function, particularly leadership in the local church.

·        Philemon.  One of the shortest books in the New Testament, Philemon is a personal appeal from Paul to a brother in Christ whose slave, Onesimus, had run away and stolen from his master on the way out.  Under Paul’s loving guidance, Onesimus had given his life to Christ and was ready to return to his master.  Paul wrote appealing for humility and grace, seeking to restore the Christian bond between the owner and slave.

·        Hebrews.  Authorship of Hebrews is debated, with some of it sounding like Paul and some of it very different from his other letters.  Although the  letter is anonymous, the early church believed it should be included in the canon, reflecting authenticity as a first century document and consistency with the message of the New Testament.  Primarily addressed to Jewish Christians, Hebrews proclaims Christ as “better than” Moses and warns Jewish Christians from forsaking Christ and returning to their Jewish faith.

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