Short Thoughts – Week 27: Days 183-189

DAY 183           A MINISTER”S CALL

15_But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of_the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles …  Romans 15:15b-16

Day 183 Minister's Calling

What is your calling? We have a friend, now in her late-80s, whose ministry has been in the church nursery and to young toddlers. On our tenth anniversary as pastor and pastor’s wife, she wrote a card of appreciation for our ministry to her. Part of the note reads, “I have enjoyed the growing up of the children and I am pleased that you have let me help baby sit along the way.” Here was a person serving us and the congregation, yet she writes, “I am pleased that you let me help babysit along the way.” She is grateful for the opportunity to serve.

In Romans 15:14-21 Apostle reflects on his own call to ministry and he, too, is thankful. In his case it is gratitude for God’s gift of allowing him to take the gospel to a Gentile audience. He used the tools God gave him, sometimes powerful signs and wonders (v. 19). God took him to places from Jerusalem to Illyricum (the east coast of the Adriatic Sea), and now he was writing to Roman Christians, with plans to go on farther, to Spain (15:24). All of this ministry was inspired by and focused on Jesus Christ (v. 16). For Paul, the drive was to reach places where people had not yet heard about Jesus (v. 20).

Again, what is your calling? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, He has given you a place and people to serve. Since our marriage fifty years ago (as of this writing), Jane and I have served God in Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia, in Canada; plus Ohio, in the United States. It has been as pastor and wife for twenty-one years to two congregations in Ontario and as laypeople in local churches there and elsewhere. For me it has mainly been in use of God’s gift to me of teaching. For my wife, it has been largely through music, but also as a listener and encourager of youth and women. We did not begin with a set plan, but along the way God clarified that and He still does so now in retirement. What is your story of God’s placement of you and assignment for you?

Your Turn:

  1. Read Romans 15.

  2. Note #1: Romans 15:1-7 is strongly connected to chapter 14. Our ministry is not about pleasing ourselves, but our neighbour (verses 1-2). We are to build him/her up and do what is good, and to live in harmony (verses 2, 5).In doing this we will be following Christ’s example.

  3. Note #2: In verses 8-13, Paul shows that his calling to the Gentiles fits into God’s plan, as announced in the Old Testament (four quotations from the Old Testament: II Samuel 22:50; Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalm 117:1; Isaiah 11:10). In verses 22-33, he says that his next step is to carry the gospel to Spain. He is going to Jerusalem to leave with them a monetary gift which the Gentile-dominated churches in Asia Minor (Turkey) had given him to deliver.

DAY 184     –          FELLOW WORKERS

Day 184 Fellow Workers
Official first shovel event for church building expansion

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. Romans 16:1-2

In my lifetime I’ve lived in at least seven communities in three provinces of Canada and one state of the USA. His moving around has meant I’ve attended a variety of churches, in each case making lasting friendships. I can recall tearful farewells when the time came to leave a church and the people with whom we worshiped and worked alongside. As I read the last chapter of Romans, I can easily appreciate what Paul is experiencing as he mentions by name more than thirty people who are either in Rome or with Paul elsewhere sending greetings to the Roman Christians. Paul was a missionary. I’m sure  missionary families of our day also feel like Paul did– thinking of precious believers who have partnered with them in ministry.

 Let’s think of some of the ways Paul identifies these thirty plus people.

  • Fellow-workers: Half a dozen times her refers to them as “fellow workers”. Some we meet in the Book of Acts and some in Paul’s other letters. Still others we find listed only here. They “worked hard” for the Lord, and Paul appreciates each one. The chapter begins with mention of Phoebe who served the church in her town and was a patron supporting Paul’s ministry financially. Now, the Roman church can do the same for her.
  • Loved by Paul: A few he specifically says are “loved” by him. Of one he says, she “has been a mother to me”.  These are terms of affection – they were like family to him.
  • Kinsmen and saints: Four times Paul refers to them as “kinsmen” – continuing the family connection he felt. They were brothers and sisters “in Christ” as was Paul. He respects each as “saints”. He says that one was in Christ before he was. In other words, this man was a mature believer who had led the way for others to follow. Likewise,, one woman was the first convert in Asia Minor.
  • Fellow prisoners: A few had been in prison for their faith. They could especially relate to Paul in his imprisonments. Of one couple Paul says they “risked their necks” for Paul’s life.
  • Approved in Christ: These were folk who were “in Christ” and “chosen” and “approved” by the Lord- they were proven workers whose testimony was sure. Some were known to the Apostles (Peter, John, etc.) and the implication is, endorsed by them.
  • Hosts: Some of those listed were with Paul at the moment, serving as hosts, secretary (writing what Paul dictated), and encouraging Paul in practical ways.

Romans 16 also has a section (verses 17-20) in which Paul warns the Romans Christians of people who might infiltrate their ranks or directly threaten them, causing divisions, teaching heresy, and deceiving by smooth talk. They are serving themselves, not you and me. We need God’s grace to discern what is good and refuse what is evil.

The chapter ends with a doxology of praise to God and also summarizes what the Apostle has previously said. We are to be tied to Paul’s gospel, understanding the mystery that is now revealed through the writings of the prophets. It is a gospel of faith (verses 25-26). Our praise is directed to “the only wise God” and Jesus Christ who deserves all glory (v. 26).

Your Turn:

  1. Read Romans 16.
  2. Think of the believers who are known to you, who have shown themselves “fellow workers” for the Lord. Thank God for these folk who have proven their loyalty to Christ and who have helped you in many ways. If you were to write a list of such people, what would you say jumps out at you about their faithfulness?
  3. In the end, it is the true gospel that strengthens us, the preaching of Christ, the revelation given by the only wise God in the scriptures.

Day 185 –          GREAT MERCIES

22  The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.24   “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.”25  The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.26  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.   Lamentations 3:22-26


 One of the great hymns of the church is “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”. This became popular only in the 1950s – when Billy Graham began including it in his crusades. Written by Thomas Chisholm (born 1866), the poem was sent in 1923 to William Runyan, who wrote the music and saw to its publication. The poet was afflicted by ill health much of his life, and wrote this in 1941, “My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.”

The first verse of this hymn is taken directly from Lamentations 3:

Great is Thy faithfulness O God, my Father; There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness O God, my Father; There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness, To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Before he gets to the place where he expresses this gratitude to God for His faithfulness, the writer identifies several reasons why he needs God. He says in verse 1 that he is a man who has seen “affliction”, then states several ways in which this affliction has come his way. There have been times of darkness (verses 2,6), brokenness (v. 4), bitterness (vv. 5, 15), a feeling of imprisonment (v. 7), times of danger (vv. 10-13), shame and derision (v. 14), a lack of peace (v. 14), fear (v. 16), a loss of peace (v. 17), a loss of hope (v. 18). Because of all this, he asks that God remember him (vv. 19-20). Can you identify with any of these sorrowful conditions? I’m sure you can!

When the writer remembers what he knows about God. God is characterized by “steadfast love”, ongoing “mercies”, and “great faithfulness” (vv. 22-24). Because his trust is in the Lord, he can have hope (v. 24). If we seek God in our troubled times , we will find His goodness (v. 25). Therefore, we should wait quietly for Him to deliver us (v. 26). Waiting quietly suggests we can set aside our anxiety and gain peace by thinking about the great faithfulness of God.

Interestingly, this advice is particularly important for young people to learn this (v. 27). Meditate and set aside your complaints, he adds; don’t dwell on the insults and ill treatment others have inflicted on you (vv. 28-30).

Your Turn:

  1. Read Lamentations 3.
  2. As suggested above, try to identify the particular affliction you are facing – see verse 4-20. How does the faithfulness of God apply to your type of suffering?
  3. Why is it important for youth to learn the lessons of this chapter?

      DAY 186  –  GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS

For I know the plans I have for you, declares_the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give_you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Day 186 Good Bad News

In I Timothy 4:3-4, the Apostle Paul alerted young Timothy that the time was coming when people would shop for a pastor who preached what the audience wanted to hear, missing what God wanted them to hear:

For the time is coming when people_will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate_for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from  listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

He knew this because history showed it already had happened. Back in the hard, early days of the Babylonian captivity, one of God’s chief spokespersons was the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was approximately 40 years old when King Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel and several others captive to Babylon in 605 BC. The hard times became more difficult still when Ezekiel and others were also taken into exile in 598-97.

Harsh conditions faced both the remaining populace of Judea and the exiled community in Babylon. Jeremiah, based in Jerusalem, carried on a ministry to both groups and the message God gave him was not a popular one.

The people wanted words of comfort and hope – God would deliver such a message but not in the way and times they desired.

In Jeremiah chapter 29 we meet so-called prophets who told the people what they wanted, namely, the captivity would last only a couple of years (28:3). This sounded like “good news” but was really not. Jeremiah’s message was that the exiles should settle in for 70 years! While this sounded “bad” it was actually part of God’s plan that would bring about the greatest good. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (v.11) There would come a time when the people would pray to God, seek Him, asking with all their heart. Then, God would be found and restore them back to their homeland (verses 12-14).

Jeremiah warned the people not to listen to false messages and reject the false messengers (whom God would punish for their adulterous activity), for claiming to represent Him, and for rejecting and harshly treating Jeremiah – see verses 15-23).

Jeremiah was the true prophet and his news was good. The exiles should settle down in Babylon, build houses, plant gardens, marry and raise children, all the while praying for the welfare of their homeland (verses 4-5). They were even to pray for Babylon (verse 7) – a remarkable thing to do, but it was in their own self-interest since they would be there for some time.

Such was the plan of God. He would bring them back to Judea (verse 10) They were to prepare the next generation for that day, while living faithfully in the present (verses 12-13). The present sometimes involves difficult circumstances, but God is always interested in His children’s “welfare”. The word (v. 7) is the translation of the Hebrew “shalom”, meaning a full peace of heart and life.

Your Turn:

  1. Read Jeremiah 29.
  2. What about Jeremiah’s time resembles our day?
  3. Think of how in our day there are preachers who speak words that may sound “good” but are really “bad”. What examples of such messages come to mind?
  4. Re-read verses 12-13. Similar calls to live lives of submission to God are found in Psalm 42:1-2 and Colossians 3:1-2.

Psalm 42:1-2, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

Colossians 3:1-2, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on_things that are above, not on things   that are on earth.”

Day 187 – The Word of the Lord                       – An Example

 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you  in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth  everywhere, so that we need not say anything. I Thessalonians 1:8

187 Word of Lord Exaample

The picture you see above is of my mother’s Bible. She was not a scholar or a teacher, but she was a woman of faith who paid attention to the preaching of the word of God. There are plenty of notations written on the pages of her Bible, mostly from a sermon or lesson she was listening to at the time. Her Bible also had little pieces of paper with additional notes, or a poem she had clipped from somewhere. She set an example to her family in her appreciation of scripture.

Jesus challenged us to provide a good example to others:

John 13:15  –    For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Mark 10:45  –  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Matthew 5:16 –  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

So did Peter and Paul in their letters:

1 Timothy 4:12   –  Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.                                                                                                                                                 Titus 2:7   – Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity                                                                                                                                                                                                                         1 Peter 2:21 –    For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

In I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Paul reflects on the example set by the Christians in Thessalonica, Greece. In particular, he focuses on their handling of “the word of the Lord” (v. 8). He also uses the word “gospel” (v. 5). He is speaking of the message he delivered when he first visited Thessalonica. Paul begins describing this “word” and the way it came and the impact it had in verse 5 of I Thessalonians 1.

The way the word of the Lord came:

  1. The gospel came not only in word… (v. 5a). As we learned in another devotional, Romans 10:14-15 says that for the word of God to be heard, someone has to carry the word to them and share it. In this case it was the apostle Paul who went to Thessalonica. Words were used for communicating the word of God, so it is important how we speak or explain the gospel about Christ, and the manner in which we do so.
  2. It came in power and in the Holy Spirit (v. 5b). The two – power and Spirit – go together. Only the Holy Spirit of God can penetrate a heard and mind and soul. I Cor. 2:4-5 states, “My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
  3. It came with full conviction (v. 5c). as fully convinced of what he spoke and therefore could be bold in presenting it. People are more likely to respond in faith positively if the presenter himself is convinced.

Here is how the Thessalonians received the word of the Lord:

1.     They became imitators of Paul’s team and of the Lord (v. 6a). Verse 3 already has reported that they have been faithful in their work, loving in their labour (hard work for others) and steadfast in their hope of the return of Jesus Christ one day (see verse 10). These three – faith, love, hope- are evidences of the new birth. They were an example in how they responded. Their lives changed and their testimony especially helped believers throughout Greece (Macedonia in the north and Achaia in the south – v. 7. These people who heard about the Thessalonian Christians, heard that they had turned away from dead idols and now served the living God (v. 9).

2.      They received the word joyfully, even in times of affliction (v. 6b). Paul and Silas were badly treated by a mob and were helped by the Christians to leave town in the darkness of night (Acts 17). So, things were not easy in Thessalonica. Yet, there were happy to belong to the fellowship of believers.

3.     They “sounded forth” the word of the Lord. They shared their faith and did so loudly. The idea of the term used in verse 8 is that they made a loud bang that was heard all over Greece. Their sharing of the message went forth “everywhere”.

Your Turn:

1.     Read I Thessalonians 1.

2.     The example set by this New Testament church revolved around how they responded to the presentation of the gospel. They received it and broadcast it. Their lives changed and affected others. Do others see that you are a person of the word?

3.     I get the impression that the Thessalonians were bold in their proclamation, not at all ashamed or embarrassed to be called Christians. Are you not ashamed but rather bold in identifying with Christ?

Day 188    – The Word of the Lord: Respect

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. I Thessalonians 2:13Day 188 Word of Lord Respect

We are not to worship the Bible, but we are to respect it as the Word of God.

In I Thessalonians 1 there is repeated use of the phrase “gospel or word of God/the Lord” and the emphasis is on how to set an example in its presentation and reception. In chapter 2, there is similar repetition of “the gospel of God” (used five times in verses 2, 8, 9, and 13), this time with an emphasis on the respect that the speaker and hearer is to maintain for the word of the Lord.

To respect is to admire or esteem someone or something. It is a way of treating someone or something which will mean that we do not violate that person or thing. It is an attitude that shows maturity in how we interact with another person or object.

God’s word deserves respect:                                                                                                          “This God – His way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true..” (Psalm 18:30).

  “Every word of God proves true…”(Proverbs 30:5)

With this in mind, we turn to I Thessalonians 2 and notice that in verses 1-12 the Apostle Paul is thinking about how the word of the Lord is communicated – how he and his companions shared the word with these folk in Thessalonica. Then, we see in verses 13-16 how the Thessalonian believers received the word.


BOLDLY: He boldly declared the good news sent by God (v. 2). This was in spite of the persecution they experienced (he and Silas were falsely accused, beaten, and imprisoned, Acts 16:22-23). A faithful witness to Christ should not be intimidated.

NO DECEPTION: Paul and friends gave an honest message, with no impurity or deception (v. 3). A faithful witness must not add to, subtract, or twist the scriptures. He or she should maintain integrity in dealings with others, including in the way the gospel is shared.

ENTRUSTED: The messenger of God is given a trust to share (v. 4). We have a responsibility to guard the truth of the word of the Lord.

FOR GOD: Paul spoke to please God, not to please his hearers or himself or for self-gain (verses 4-6). We avoid flattery that is really a pretext for greed. We do not seek to glorify ourselves in the eyes of our listeners. We must be gentle and caring (like a nursing mother or a father with his children (vv. 7, 11). We are willing to work hard (v. 9) and evidence Christian character (holy, righteous, and blameless conduct, v. 10), faithfully discharging a message of encouragement (v. 12). In other words, we practice what we preach. We live in a way “worthy of God”, just as we challenge others to do (v. 12).


AS GOD’S WORD: These people recognized that what Paul preached was God’s truth, not just something Paul manufactured. Only what is from God accomplishes anything (v. 13)

IMITATORS: They followed the example of the first Christian churches, based in Judea who remained true to God in the face of harsh treatment from the enemies of the gospel (vv. 14-16).

Your Turn:

  1. Read I Thessalonians 2.
  2. We know that our own day has its full share of false messengers who pretend one thing and live another. They seek to please men rather than God, use flattery and deception, and preach a message of their own making. How can you assess the messenger? How can you see through the deception of false messengers?
    1. FAITH: Paul had to leave Thessalonica in a hurry, for his own safety (2:17-20). His initial teaching of them had been interrupted and he wanted to return and complete the teaching he had only begun (3:10, “supply what is lacking in your faith”). So, he sent Timothy (3:2) and still longed to return himself as soon as possible. Timothy would further instruct them in “their faith”, a faith that he observed and had reported on to Paul (3:6). This seems to be a reference to their holding onto the truth of the gospel (v. 8 says they were “standing fast in the Lord”).
    2. LOVE: Timothy had also reported on their “love” (3:6). An evidence of this love was their desire to see Paul again.
    3. COMFORTED: They had comforted Paul by their faithfulness (3:7). Seeing someone else’s faith and love is a source of comfort, especially when Paul himself was enduring affliction in his ministry. It gave him courage to go on (“for not we live”, 3:8). This steadfastness and care of the Thessalonian Christians also brought to Paul gratitude and joy (3:9) and prompted him to pray all the more that he could bee them soon and finish what he had planned to teach them (3:10).  Paul is very respectful of the word he shared, being careful to stay true to it. Notice how he also understands that his way of living must also be true. Respecting God’s word means living with integrity, caring for the hearers, and honouring God.

      Day 189 – THE PEOPLE OF THE LORD  

      But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.  I Thessalonians 3:6-7

      Day 189 People of Lord mailbox

       Having reflected on the “word of the Lord” in chapter s 1 and 2, Paul will shortly turn to the “coming of the Lord” in chapter 4 and the “day of the Lord” in chapter 5. But, in between chapters 2 and 4, he has a more personal reflection – namely on the “people of the Lord” here in chapter 3. This reflection shows us what the people of God should be – what should characterize those of us who claim to be God’s people.

        1. Read I Thessalonians 3.
        2. Being separated from people you love is difficult. There is alot of emotion in this chapter (“could bear it no longer”, “comforted about you”, “joy we feel”, “pray earnestly night and day”). Image what I could be like in Paul’s day – weeks and months or more with long time frames from one letter to another, compared to today when a phone call or text or email or video call and be made in milli seconds. Separations can sometimes lead to worries and wonderings about the security of the relationship. We should make good use of the easy ways to contact others that we have available to us today. Who might you write a note to today?
        3. Notice how they comforted and encouraged one another: Paul sent a trusted messenger to them; he also wrote a letter; the messenger reported on the surety of their faith and love, which inspired another letter.

          So, the people of the Lord should be characterized by faithfulness to God’s word, even in times of pressure and affliction. They should also be characterized by love for their fellow believers, and in particular , for those who had introduced them to Christ in the first place. Our faithfulness and love is a comfort to our teachers.

          Such faith and love inspired Paul to pray for them – asking God that he be enabled to go to them soon so he could guide them in how to be further established in a way of life that consists of a growing love for one another and by a holiness that Jesus will find in them upon His return (3:11-13).

          Your Turn:

          1. Read I Thessalonians 3.
          2. Being separated from people you love is difficult. There is alot of emotion in this chapter (“could bear it no longer”, “comforted about you”, “joy we feel”, “pray earnestly night and day”). Image what I could be like in Paul’s day – weeks and months or more with long time frames from one letter to another, compared to today when a phone call or text or email or video call and be made in milli seconds. Separations can sometimes lead to worries and wonderings about the security of the relationship. We should make good use of the easy ways to contact others that we have available to us today. Who might you write a note to today?
          3. Notice how they comforted and encouraged one another: Paul sent a trusted messenger to them; he also wrote a letter; the messenger reported on the surety of their faith and love, which inspired another letter.