"We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth" (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
What a great compliment Paul paid the Thessalonian Christians! Here's the full essence of what he was saying: "It's incredible to see how much you've grown, both in your faith in Christ and in your love for one another. Everywhere I go, I brag to others about your spiritual growth. How I thank God for you!"
In this short passage, Paul gives us an amazing picture of a body of believers growing in unity and love. Both individually and corporately, the faith and love of the Thessalonians outshone that of all other churches. It is obvious that they were learning, moving, growing — and their lives offered evidence to that fact. According to Paul, they were the talk of every church in Asia.
Apparently, the preaching these believers heard was provoking them to an even deeper walk with Christ. It was melting their fleshly ambitions and convicting them of habits that were not like Christ. And the Holy Spirit in them was tearing down all ethnic barriers and color lines. They were discovering how to embrace any person, whether rich or poor, educated or uneducated, while they offered great love to each other, preferring one another in love.
A most important feature of this church was that they highly honored and revered God’s Word, nor did they allow false teachers to come into their midst and lead people away with new religious fads.
Do you want to grow spiritually? If so, ask the Holy Spirit to shine his light on an area of weakness or sin in your life. God is watering your spirit, feeding your soul, putting down his strong roots in you as you seek him.
In Acts 12, Peter was imprisoned by King Herod. Thousands in Jerusalem were getting saved through the mighty works of God, with reverberations throughout the city—and Herod felt threatened. Of course, whenever God moves supernaturally through his people, it enrages the enemy. Satan had already stirred Herod to kill James, a leader in the church alongside his brother John and Peter.
Now Herod leveled his sights on Peter. “When (Herod) saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. He planned to make a point by executing the boldest believer right at Easter, the church’s most sacred observance. He thought he could frighten the Christians into silence. “[Herod] put him in prison … intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people” (12:4). Herod was going to martyr Peter in a public display.
Peter’s story reveals the kind of spiritual prison Satan uses to lock down God’s people. The word “seized” in this passage doesn’t just mean “grabbed,” it signifies a power far beyond our own. Peter was not just under the arrest of a governmental principality, he was locked down by a spiritual power that was manipulating a powerful man for demonic ends.
Perhaps you are familiar with this kind of spiritual prison; you may even be in one. You think, “Lord, I’ve prayed a thousand times but nothing ever changes. How will I ever be free?” Or you may be praying for a loved one who is in the grip of bondage or addiction.
But in the very next verse we see something that changes everything! “Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (12:5).
A small band of humble men and women held a prayer meeting and the thickest prison walls didn’t stand a chance against their prayers. With one whisper from an angel, the enemies of God in the prison fell so deeply asleep that they didn’t hear Peter tiptoe through the open cell door (see 12:6-7).
Fervent, effectual prayer moves God to open iron gates and set captives free. I urge you to keep praying earnestly — for your loved ones and for everyone you meet. Jesus is ready to amaze us all with his saving, delivering, transforming love!
Through human effort and strength, a good high jumper can leap to about seven and a half feet. But the pole vaulter is different. He carries a pole that he fixes into a hole in the ground. He puts all of his trust in that pole not only to hold him, but to lift him higher than he could ever go on his own. In fact, he may go three times as high as the high jumper.
You can leap on your own and do Christian high jumping but you only get so high. However, when you reach out and then lean all your weight on Jesus and his Word, he takes you higher and over things you could never get over in your own strength.
Romans chapter 11 tells the story of Elijah, who got caught high jumping when he should have been pole vaulting. He was depending on his own strength and insights instead of the counsel of God. Paul recounts that Elijah said during a tough time in his ministry, “Lord, they have killed your prophets. They have torn down your altars and I alone am left — and they are seeking my life!” The divine response came, “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed their knee to Baal” (see Romans 11:3-4).
God told Elijah, “You have not accurately defined your situation. It’s not true that you are alone. There are no-nonsense people just as committed as you who do not compromise.” God was telling Elijah, the high jumper, “I know a lot of people who are sold out to me. You are off on your response by six thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine.”
This is what happens when you try to assess situations with fear, anxiety and your own perception. We need to always ask, “What does God have to say about this situation? Is there something in his Word I can hold on to that will get me over this?”
Always seek a response from your heavenly Father and you will never fail to go higher!
Pastor Tim pastored an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years before serving at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years. He and his wife Cindy presently pastor in Lafayette, Louisiana.
“Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped” (Exodus 34:8). The revelation of God’s nature overwhelmed Moses when he saw how merciful, long-suffering and patient our Father is with his children — even the stiff-necked ones who grieve him.
It’s important to note that this is the first mention of Moses ever worshiping. Prior to this revelation of God’s glory, Moses tearfully prayed and interceded for Israel and even talked with God face to face. But this is the first time we read the words, “[Moses] worshiped.”
This tells us much about the church today. Christians can pray diligently without ever really worshiping; indeed, it’s possible to be a prayer warrior and intercessor and still not be a worshiper. Worship cannot be learned, it is a spontaneous outbreak — the act of a heart that’s been overwhelmed by a revelation of God’s glory and his incredible love for us.
Worship is a response of gratitude that recognizes how we should have been destroyed by our sin long ago, incurring the full wrath of God for all our failures. But, instead, God came to us with the powerful revelation, “I still love you!”
At this point in scripture, Moses was no longer pleading for sinful Israel and he wasn’t asking the Lord for guidance. He wasn’t even crying out for a miracle of deliverance or for power or wisdom. He was marveling at the revelation of the glory of God!
The revelation of God’s glory should be the wellspring of all our worship. We should regularly lay claim to his glory; it is our assigned right and it is meant to be claimed. When Paul says, “I do not set aside the grace of God” (Galatians 2:21), he means, “I won’t nullify God’s offer of mercy by rejecting it.” Those who truly worship God claim the blessing of his promises and see the glory of his love in Christ.
Lay hold of God’s glory today and allow him to guide you into a new revelation of worship.
God is never caught off guard by anything that happens in our world. He isn’t surprised by the awful drug plague or the blood-bath of abortion. So what is his response in times of turmoil and depravity? What does he propose as an antidote to apostasy and growing demonic power?
God’s answer is the same as it always has been — to bring forth the victory of God in a renewed way. In Nehemiah’s day, the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins, the city a literal pile of stones, and the church was totally backslidden. The wicked powers surrounding Israel persecuted them severely, mocking every work they tried to undertake.
How did God respond in such a time of ruin? Did he send a well-trained militia to help them? Did he send a palace guard to smite their prominent enemies? No, God raised up one man — Nehemiah — who spent his time praying, fasting and mourning, because he was broken over Israel’s condition. He also continually dug into God’s Word, grasping prophecy and moving in the Spirit. He remained separate from all the wickedness surrounding him and maintained a holy walk with the Lord. And, in turn, everyone who heard him preach was purified in soul.
Soon a revival of holiness swept the land. “The priests and Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, the gates, and the wall” (Nehemiah 12:30). The house of God also was purged, with everything of the flesh cast out. Nehemiah told the temple workers, “Take out everything that has to do with idolatry or sensuality!”
Nehemiah had the spiritual authority to bring back godly fear to the temple because he had been on his knees, weeping, broken, seeking God’s heart. And because of this, he was able to confess the sins of a whole nation: “Please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant … for the children of Israel” (Nehemiah 1:6).
Beloved, this is God’s concept of revival! Every chamber of your heart that is unclean and unsanctified must be swept out — no dark places left. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
Purpose in your heart to be the person of God who brings about change in the world around you.