I do not cease to give thanks for you

“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,” Ephesians 1:15-16 (ESV)

In his prayers for the various churches Paul often writes about how he is thankful for them based upon their behaviour.

In this instance it is their “faith” and their “love”. Not unlike yesterday’s letter to the Thessalonians.

Given the recurring theme in his epistles it is clearly very, very important.

Paul’s single-minded focus serves as a terrific model for our own prayers.

The book “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” by Don Carson does exactly this. Emphasising the benefit of using Pauline prayers as a template for our own prayer-life.

Building up a repertoire of prayers that are clearly Biblical and God-centred.

Some modification to the prayers will, of course, be necessary. Personalising them to our own circumstances and those of the church we attend and the 21st-Century world we live in.

Yet the trials we face and the struggles we may have to endure are not dissimilar to those of the church in the first century.

Kim+

prayer : that I would be consistently praying for my fellow believers

action : model my prayers on those of Paul

we ought always to give thanks to God

“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” 2 Thessalonians 1:3 (ESV)

More on the topic of Thanksgiving. But this time it’s Paul’s thankfulness for his “brothers” at Thessalonica.

Specifically, because their “faith is growing” and their “love” “for one another is increasing”.

I love the balance between the inward, personal “faith” and the outward, helpful “love”.

And how their “faith” is not just “growing” but “growing abundantly”. Such providence can only come from God.

Both are important aspects of the Christian life. Both are necessary elements.

I imagine one leads to the other. That their trust in the Lord results in greater “love” for each other as they become less distracted by worldly concerns.

And so how could Paul not be thankful?

Kim+

prayer : that my “faith” would “grow” and thus my “love” for my brothers and sisters in Christ would “increase”

action : pray for my fellow Christians

give thanks to the LORD

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalms 118:29 (ESV)

As Americans celebrate Thanksgiving today I am challenged to think about thankfulness.

It’s a common theme these days but I want to look at it from a Biblical perspective.

It’s an easy trap to thank God for the many blessings we have. And that’s not a bad thing. After all, it is thanks to Him that we have all these good things.

But do we thank Him for simply “loving” us “steadfastly”.

For His patience? His forgiveness? The wonderful gift of His precious Son sent to die on the cross for us despite our, and sadly because of our, rejection of Him who loves us unconditionally?

In a materialistic society the focus is, more often than not, centred around our welfare and wellbeing.

We thank God for possessions and health and family etc. But as great as these all are, they’re simply temporal. Fleeting. Transitory. As the writer of Ecclesiastes astutely observes.

We seem so selfish. So self-interested. So self-absorbed.

There are people living on the streets of our cities. Countless millions starving in Third World countries. Kids being sold into slavery and prostitution.

Friends suffering from disease. Mental anguish. Stress. Pain. Loss. Grief.

I lament the greed and idolatry of our society and the way it distracts us from the important things: God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible.

Shouldn’t our energy be spent helping others? Loving others? Praying for others?

Isn’t our priority to be a witness of God’s love in this broken world?

How can we best do this? What practical things do you do?

Kim+

prayer : thank you God for your never-ending love

action : seek to love others as God loves us

you were washed

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)

It’s easy to read this passage and point the finger at “wrongdoers” (another translation for the “unrighteous”).

Yet, as Paul so clearly points out at the end, some of the listeners were once exactly like those he describes.

In fact, the only thing that “makes” them righteous is the blood-of-Christ as it washes them clean.

Better that we should spend a lot less time condemning the practices of others and more time “repenting” of our own sins (Luke 1:3).

We don’t condone sinful behaviour. But neither are we to “judge” it. That’s God’s responsibility (Matthew 7:1ff).

What we should be doing is “loving our neighbour” in genuine and practical ways (Luke 10:36).

For like Jesus, we should “desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13 – quoting Hosea 6:6).

Kim+

prayer : forgive my unrepentant heart: my pride, my greed, my lust

action : share the grace of God through merciful actions

fan into flame

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV)

I love the imagery here. The raw energy behind the elemental strength of fire. It’s eagerness to spread quickly from a tiny spark into a huge conflagration.

This is perhaps the reason I want to start this new blog. So I can fan into flame the gift God has graciously given me.

It’s too easy to hide behind a mask. To pretend to be someone or something we’re not. Or simply denying who we really are.

Afraid of what people might say. What they might do. How they might treat us.

Rejection. Persecution.

But I’m a Christian and there’s no reason to be ashamed of the gospel.

It has the power to heal. To redeem and restore. To renew and regenerate.

To save lives.

Kim+

prayer : that I would be bold in proclaiming my faith

action : “love” others through the gift God has granted to me

How Christ Enables the Church to Upbuild Itself in Love

Eph 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high
he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in *deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:4-16 (ESV)

Through the reading of scripture over the past week or two I have learned that God uses all His people to build up His church.

And this has become even clearer by listening to John Piper in his sermon, “How Christ Enables the Church to Upbuild Itself in Love“.

The main point I take away from this particular talk is the importance of small groups. Groups of believers meeting regularly to talk; to listen; to read God’s word; to pray for one another.

Essentially, they perform the invaluable function of support and encouragement to one another. And thereby enable the growth the church as their faith is strengthened.

These groups are meant to complement regular weekly meetings such as Sunday worship services. But they’re not supposed to replace them.

Ideally, we should attend both. And in so doing, find opportunities to love each other in practical ways.

Kim+

prayer : that small groups in our church would be a great source of learning and encouragement

action : attend a small group regularly – every week where possible

speaking the truth in love

“speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV)

Flowing on from the past few verses we see Christ is the head of the “body”: the church.

He is the perfect example upon whom we are to model our behaviour.

How? By speaking the truth in love. That is, by sharing the gospel.

Why? Because, like Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (Romans 1:16).

And by being open and honest and willing to suffer for my faith I will be “building the body up in love”.

But we all need to do our bit as “each part” needs to “work properly”.

Thankfully we have Gods grace and the support and encouragement of fellow believers.

Kim+

prayer : that I will faithfully speak the truth in love

action : continue to update this blog at least 3x per week