Monthly Archives: September 2015

The “I Will” Church Member

Man with arms raised in worship

The “I Will” Church Member by Rick Burdette (With Special Credit to Thom S. Rainer and His book)

Philippians 2:3-2:4

I WILL – The “I Will” Church Member
Philippians 2:3-4 (pg. 819) September 27, 2015

Introduction:

Let me ask you a really important question. When it comes to your relationship with Church…and if you’re part of the family here that we call Gardenside, this church…is your main concern, “what do I get out of church…Is this church doing everything I want?”

Because if you view church that way you’re viewing church in the wrong way.

And this series of messages is an encouragement to consider saying “I Will” instead of “I want.”

Philippians 2:3 & 4 jumps out at me when it comes to how we should view our relationship with the Church…it says:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”

You see the “why” you are part of a church will greatly affect your attitude about church.

In the two years I’ve been at Gardenside Christian there is a statement I hear often when I meet people in our community. In fact I heard it so often it kind of makes me chuckle…It’s this statement: “I used to go to Gardenside or my parents or grandparents were members at Gardenside.”

What doesn’t make me chuckle is many times when I ask “where do you go to church now?” And they usually answer “nowhere.” Sometimes I’ve even asked “why?” The answers are varied from a silent smile to “I got hurt, to my life just got hectic, or I went through a divorce.

Many of us who grew up in Church went because we had no choice in the matter…the “why” I went was because Dad would whip my behind if I didn’t…It was part of our family’s lifestyle…Sundays and Wednesday nights were times to go to church .

Or maybe you got married to someone who went to GCC and the natural thing to do was to be part of their church.

[My buddy Ralph, his wife Nancy and their three kids went to Fern Creek Christian together. They were all involved in music, the youth group and different ministries…and then came the divorce…it was devastating for them all. Ralph’s friends, Nancy’s friends, their kids and their friends…After it was final I remember the Church trying to love them all…but Nancy would sit in one pew…Ralph another…and the kids had to choose where and with whom to sit…Finally Ralph moved…and Nancy left…she said “too much past baggage.” The kids stayed…they were teenagers…we had a strong youth group…but I’ve seen Ralph and Nancy’s story over and over again….the pain of staying became much stronger than the pain of leaving.]

Here’s the truth of every single human life…

I. SIN AFFECTS US ALL IN VERY MESSY WAYS

In Malachi 2:16 God says, “I hate divorce!” Why? Not because He hates the people who go through a divorce. He hates divorce because of what it does to people…It’s emotionally shredding…it divides families, friends and churches…And there has never been a divorce without “sin” being involved…and it doesn’t matter if that sin is 99% one person and 1% the other. God hates what all sin does to the hearts of people…especially when that sin flows like acid into the lives of the unsuspecting and innocent.

And on top of this the reaction of some in the Church who treat divorced people as lepers…or judge their situation with the words “I’d never do that.”

Much like the older brother in the story of the prodigal in Luke 15…They judge harshly and refuse to go in because of a false self perceived “righteousness.”

When the Church stops becoming a hospital of grace and becomes a “country club” for only the “right” members the world sees no hope for their messy lives as we sit around and clean our golf clubs and spikes.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or van conceit” is the Apostle Paul’s plea for us not to become self focused and hard of heart…

Lee Strobel wrote a book several years ago called “Inside the Minds of Unchurched Harry and Mary” and he recalls his life before Christ as a big city newspaper investigative reporter…

It was heavy stuff…Being a big city newspaperman can be an ego trip; I stroked mine to the limit.

But after a while, I began to notice that I was becoming increasingly desensitized to other people. I recall interviewing a grieving woman whose young daughter had been raped and murdered. As she poured out her pain, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow! These are great quotes! And I’m the only reporter who’s got them!” I didn’t care about her daughter or her despair; I was after a front-page byline and another bonus from the boss.

Even other people noticed my hardening heart. Once I covered a trial in which the key witness was a teenage gang member. He testified how a rival gang had lined up him and his friends against a wall and then, one by one, shot them point-blank in the head. Three of his friends died instantly; somehow, he survived. At least, he survived long enough to point out the killers in court. According to a doctor’s testimony, it was only a matter of time before the witness himself would probably die from his injuries.

After the trial was over, the prosecutor allowed me to interview the teenager for a feature story. I was excited because I knew it was going to be a front-page exclusive. In fact, I was so pumped up about beating the competition to the story that I was interviewing the witness in a very lighthearted and upbeat way.

In the middle of the interview, the prosecutor pulled me aside and said angrily, “Strobel, what’s wrong with you? This kid watched three of his friends get blown away, he’s probably going to die himself, and you’re interviewing him like you’re Bob Hope or something.”

His words haunted me for a long time. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I care about that kid or his murdered friends? Why did I not empathize with the woman whose daughter had been murdered? Why did I only care about myself, my byline, and my career?

The Bible has a term for it – hardness of heart.

Something happens to us when the lives of others become a story to be reported on. Something horrible happens to our soul when we forget how messy this sinful world is…when we separate ourselves from the pain of others…Hardness of heart is the opposite of “In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”

This attitude…the mindset of Jesus is what moves our hearts from hardness to humility…and our desires from “I want” to “I Will.”

The truth is when lost or hurting people encounter Jesus, especially in the messiness of their sin they are loved…the problem has never been about Jesus…it’s been about His representatives…some who have forgotten that “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling place among us.” (John 1:14) and “Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.” (John 1:16)

If Gardenside is going to “Passionately Prepare All People for an Eternity with Jesus” it begins with God’s people…

II. CULTIVATING A HEART OF SERVICE

Verse 7 of Philippians 2 says “Jesus made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.”

Every time I read that verse my mind goes to the Upper Room right before Jesus’ arrest.

He’s taken off his upper garment, rolled up his sleeves…wrapped a towel around himself and He’s going from disciple to disciple…lowering himself to their feet…and He washes them.

It’s a powerful lesson about who He is… “You call me Lord and Master and rightly so, but what I do now I do as an example for you to follow.” (John 13)

We will never be more like Jesus than when we humble ourselves and serve others. Churches that become self serving places create arrogance and hardness of heart….they become churches filled with spiritually sick people who continually say “I want.”

Churches filled with people who become servants and follow the heart of Jesus become filled with joy and love and continually say, “I will.”

Can you imagine what would happen if that heart flowed through the lives of every single person here at Gardenside Christian…From the time they got out of their cars, to dropping off their babies and children to how they are almost overwhelmed with the love of Christ?

But even more than how they are loved when they walk in our building…but how they are loved by God’s people through the week…Somehow in this messy, dark world of sin…the light shone.

What would happen if you chose this attitude of service with the girl whose serving you at the restaurant? What would happen if you chose to wash their feet with love and encouragement to the guy who washes your car?

What would happen to our souls if we chose to cultivate a heart of service in the everyday encounters of our lives?

God would add to His Church daily those who are being saved…Church would no longer be a place we go but a people we are…And the “I Will” heart of service would beat in our chest…instead of the “I Want” heart of the world.

Let’s Pray.

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FINAL INSTRUCTIONS

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Final Instructions by Rick Burdette

1 Thessalonians 5:12-5:28

FOLLOW THE LEADER – Final Instructions
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 (pg. 826) September 20, 2015

Introduction:

I will never ever forget Christmas of 2003…a few weeks earlier I’d sat with mom and dad in the doctor’s office as he gave us the news that dad’s cancer had spread…and there wasn’t much more they could do. Dad weighed 125 pounds soaking wet before this disease…and the chemo and lack of appetite took its toll through the battle…so without a doubt my father and all of us knew this would be his last Christmas with us here on earth.

In fact it would just be a little over 2 months before he was gone. He died on March 2, 2004. I preached his funeral on March 4.

But I’ll never forget that Christmas of 2003…It wasn’t the presents I remember (although he’d ordered me a Scottie Cameron putter from Ebay and the one who taught me how to play golf…gave it to me). I don’t play much anymore…but I’ll die with that putter in my bag.

But that’s not what I remember the most…I remember Dad purposefully sitting alone with each of his grandchildren on the sofa and talking with them…In his own courageous, stubborn, loving kind of way he challenged them to be everything they could be…He was saying “goodbye” and these were some final instructions…

I think Dad knew they were his legacy…after he was gone it would be his children and grandchildren that would carry the torch…and he wanted them to know some of the priorities he’d discovered in life. He’d lived them…even shared them before…but now time was short…He knew what he was doing…and so did they! He was giving some final instructions.

The Apostle Paul comes to the end of this first letter to the Thessalonians…A letter that’s been filled with love and encouragement to follow the leader…these are words of final instructions to his spiritual children and grandchildren…His legacy…

Listen to our text this morning:

1 THESSALONIANS 5:12-28 (p. 826)

Respect your leaders…Live at peace with people…Don’t seek revenge…stay in the will of God…nourish your spiritual gifts…and others…Remember the One who called you…and P.S. STAY IN HIS WORD AND HIS GRACE!

You see Godly leaders know that we are always one generation away from extinction…unless there are Christian children and grandchildren, there is no future legacy.

It’s why he poured his heart out to Timothy, his son on the faith in 2 Tim. 4:6 with these words: “I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure!”

There is no success in God’s kingdom of disciple making if we leave no successors.

John Maxwell put it this way “A leader who develops people adds…but a leader who develops leaders multiplies.”

Gardenside Christian Church is no different than any other church in God’s kingdom when it comes to this essential priority…And it’s important to understand.

I. LEADERSHIP IS HARD WORK

There’s a very weird thing that has happened in American Christian Churches…when it comes to leadership…we’ve given people authority when there’s been no evidence of disciple making in their lives…We sometimes give titles…to individuals who have no real ministries.

Scripturally this is something that the Apostles including Paul just simply wouldn’t understand.

Paul says “Brothers and sister acknowledge those who work hard among you. (That “among you” thing again! It’s what koinania fellowship is built on), those who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.

That hard work Paul’s referring to has nothing to do with the facility…(and yes I’m thankful for those who take care of our facility) but the hard work of leadership always involves caring for people…admonishing people.

Why? The next verse tells us…because every church has idle people, disruptive people, disheartened people, weak people, and vengeful people.

Getting idle people off their “blessed assurance” to do ministry is hard…for many reasons…schedules, selfishness, laziness…who knows…but there are 168 hours in every week…if every adult at Gardenside served 1 hour a week in a real ministry each week…we’d have to develop new ministries…leaders are always part of the non-idle…seeking to grow disciples in their ministries…not guarding turf…my goal is to work myself out of a job…and then God can reveal a new job. Leaders are men and women who say, “Come with me…help me…serve alongside me…we urge and warn “apathetic” believers that “serving” includes sacrifice, but it’s where joy is found in the Lord. By the way Paul links idleness with disruptiveness. Makes sense doesn’t it? You’re idle because you don’t want to serve others…Life is about your needs. So becoming disruptive usually comes from a heart that is self focused instead of “others” focused.

Have you ever noticed that Satan uses idleness as one of the greatest tools to disrupt our peace and the peace of the Kingdom.

King David was on the roof of the palace when all the others were out on the battlefield. Adam and Eve weren’t working the garden when the Serpent tempted them to go outside God’s will. Noah got drunk…Sampson lost his strength… “Idle hands truly are the Devil’s workshop.” Not many of the Old Testament kings or prophets finished very well when they stopped serving God.

Great leaders are encouragers…Life is hard at times…disheartening…Godly men and women are heart lifters…encouraging those who have hit the wall in the marathon of life to keep running…to finish the race…What would happen with the hearts of the disheartened if you took an hour each week to encourage….a call, a visit, a text…A life of joy is found when you act upon the generous impulse to “breathe God” into someone whose being smothered.

Helping the weak can be a physical or a spiritual ministry…weak doesn’t mean “less valuable.” It means “without the strength.”

[I wouldn’t ask Peanut to pick up the cinder block that was in his way when he wanted to ride his bike…I’d pick it up for him, because I love him.

What if your friend just doesn’t have the strength to pick up the cinder block of the marriage, or their grief, or their sin? Great men and women of God help those who are struggling to carry the burden…with that burden. Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Do you know what the law of Christ is? “Love one another even as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) This is the new command He gave His disciples.]

Being patient with everyone might be the hardest earmark of Godly leaders listed here. Patience extended to the weak and disheartened is much easier than to the disruptive and vengeful. But Paul’s goal is peace and unity…not war and division…Patience doesn’t mean not dealing with difficulty…it means dealing with difficulty with the hope of reconciliation…Truth is spoken with love…Both grace and truth are present in the conversation…You don’t pay back evil for evil. You don’t try to get even…because the big picture is more important than your right to seek revenge. “Strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”

Leaders aren’t conduits for the critical and unhappy….leaders are protectors of the whole body of Christ…as they care for and admonish in the Lord…It’s a hard job…that deserves the highest regard in love.

I think one of the most perfect stories of leadership involved two people named Harriet and George:

Harriet, the church gossip and self-appointed supervisor of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business.

Several residents were unappreciative of her activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence. She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his pickup truck parked all afternoon in front of the town’s only bar. She commented to George and others that everyone seeing it there would know that he was an alcoholic. George, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and then just walked away. He said nothing. Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of Harriet’s house and left it there all night…(Pulpit Helps, April 2003)

I’m not sure the Harriet’s of the world will ever change, but I love George’s gentle way of dealing with her sin.

Being a godly man or woman who understands leadership is hard work, but absolutely essential if God’s church is to be healthy and grow…is seeking one priority in their lives…

II. THE WILL OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS

How can we reach a place in our Christian lives where we understand and live in the will of God…That’s an important question for each of us who would follow our leader, Jesus Christ. Paul ends with two things that make this possible and then an assurance, if we do them…

1. HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (v. 16)

Joy is the inner sense of God’s presence despite your circumstances or your possessions. It’s the 2nd fruit of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5…proceeded only by love. It’s produced by the Holy Spirit. It’s a knowledge that God is there…Jesus is living in you and will not leave you.

And even though you and I might not understand all that happens in our daily lives…God is at work…for your good and for His glory.

It’s a relationship that is continually strengthened by conversation…after all, isn’t that what prayer is? The word continually is used for prayer, because the child of God who is seeking the Father’s will…shares adoration, love and requests with God as a part of their living…It becomes the normal to praise Him, even in the storm. It’s almost automatic to lift up those you see hurting…There are times you go into your closet and have prayer times, but children who know and love their dad…run to him with almost everything…exciting things…scary things…loving things…If we live continually in this kind of conversation with God…seeing Him one day will be a joy…not a fearful surprise.

It allows us to become ‘grateful people,” because we see His power and promises at work in and around us…We trust Him to be a God who “works all things together for the good of those who love Him, for those whom He’s called.” (Romans 8:28)

You see God’s will is to shape His children to have the attitude of His perfect Son Jesus…and when we want that more than anything else…everything changes…even when life is hard…It all starts with the attitude of our hearts.

And the 2nd thing that lets us understand and live out God’s will is

2. PUT YOUR FAITH INTO ACTION.

Faith that doesn’t translate into action is a “dead faith” according to James 2:17…“Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
(James 1:22)

If belief never becomes active it’s in the same category as the demons. That’s why Paul says, “Don’t quench the Spirit…Don’t treat prophecies with contempt…test them all… Hold onto what is good…reject what is evil.”

Living out God’s Word requires an absolute reliance up on His Spirit…Godly teaching and discernment…Good isn’t something we become…Good is something we do when prompted by God…evil isn’t something we are…it’s something we do when prompted by “the evil one.” We are called by both these voices…one calls us to sin…one calls us from our sin…one is faithful…one is faithless.

[Paul ends with an assurance for the called Child of God…”May God Himself, the God of peace sanctify you through and through (make you His completely in spirit, soul and body until Jesus returns!)

“The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it!”

Is He calling you? Has He called you? My mom used to always come out and call me home for supper when I was little…Dad was home…it’s time to eat…time for the family to be together… “Ricky…Come home for dinner.” I was ornery sometimes…and she’d have to call more than once…even though when I got home I was never disappointed with the meal…God’s a lot like my mom!]

THE RETURN OF THE KING

Sending a Son To War

The Return of the King by Rick Burdette

1 Thessalonians 4:13-4:18

FOLLOW THE LEADER – The Return of the King
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (pg. 825) September 6, 2015

Introduction:

I think it’s important that we remember that when Paul originally wrote his letters to the churches…including the Thessalonian churches, there were no chapters and verses…These early believers would have no idea what it meant to turn to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18…The archbishop of Canterbury named Stephen Langton developed the chapter and verse system in 1227 to make it easier to find scripture…and the Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first to publish the Bible in chapter and verse form. Now almost all Bible translations follow Langton’s chapter divisions.

I share that only because it’s important we realize that what we’re studying is a letter. Its God inspired. But, it’s different reading a letter than a text book. When we write a letter to people we love, the ideas tend to flow. We don’t stop after 13 verses and say…New Chapter. Paul, Silas, and Timothy were in the midst of persecution. They’d been jailed right before they came to the Thessalonians…and that persecution followed them to Thessalonica…and these new believers found themselves under the same attack as the churches in Judea, and the same attacks that would kill all the Apostles, except for John.

So when the Apostle Paul writes this letter while facing severe persecution to people who are facing severe persecution…love, compassion and encouragement flow from the ink…it’s not only a book to be studied, but this is a love letter to be felt.

Just a recap of some of the statements Paul made earlier in this letter help us understand. He says, “you became imitators of us and Jesus in spite of severe suffering (1 Thess. 1:6). “We dared to tell you the gospel in spite of strong opposition. (1 Thess. 2:2) Paul knows “that the Thessalonians suffered from their own people.”
(1 Thess. 2:14) but he also knew “in all his distress and persecution he was encouraged because of this churches faith.” (1 Thess. 3:7)

I’m not sure any of us can truly understand “severe persecution, strong opposition.” Real “suffering and distress” in reaction to our faith…but I believe it’s coming.

This Follow the Leader letter to the Church is a “Hang in there” letter. In the midst of difficulty and in the middle of a sexually immoral society…stay on course, keep the faith, trust Jesus. Because the King will return…it’s why we should understand.

I. IGNORANCE ISN’T BLISS

“Brothers and sisters (Paul writes) we don’t want you to be unimformed about those who sleep in death.”

In other words…we don’t want you to be ignorant.

[I remember in a class at Johnson one of my profs. Brad Burnett while teaching on restoration history got frustrated with a student named Dwight…and he said “Dwight, you are one of the most ignorant people I’ve ever met. And Dwight seemed shocked…and replied “I don’t feel ignorant!”]

I think Dwight thought Prof. Burnett was calling him “stupid.” But ignorance isn’t stupidity…Ignorance means “uninformed.” “It means you don’t have the information you need to make the wise decision.”

Here’s an example of my ignorance…I did not know that UK, Duke, North Carolina and almost every other school received 3 to 4 times the money from the football program than it’s basketball program. Mark Nagel, Prof. of Sports and Entertainment Management Program as the University of South Carolina said, “Certainly the fans identify with what sport wins the most but football just has the potential to make so much more money with attendance and TV contracts.” I was ignorant of this truth.

The Apostle Paul doesn’t want us…or the church in Thessalonica to be uninformed, ignorant about what happens to believers when they die…this information is especially pertinent when persecution and death have affected those you love and is a real possibility for you as well.

He starts with a very real truth – Death means there will be grief. Whether you are a believer or not…death is painful…death equals separation from those who are “alive still.” Important people in our lives are now absent…and we have to keep living here…and it’s not as good without them.

It’s the struggle for all “mankind” according to Paul…“The writer of Hebrews says, “People are destined to die once, and after that to face the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27)

I shared at Judy’s funeral the other day “we’re all in the same boat…If you are human…part of mankind…life here is temporary…70, 80, 90 years at best and whether you are a believer or not, Jesus says “God causes His sun to shine on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45)

This life will sometimes have calm seas…sometimes storms will blow so severely you think it’s going to capsize the boat…It will be that way for every single one of us in this life.

Paul says the difference is “hope.” The question is “Have you invited Jesus in the boat with you? To hold the tiller through cancer or persecution…to control the ship until we reach safe harbor and He says “Peace be still!”

Death is strong stuff…Scripture calls it the last and greatest enemy to be defeated. It’s a shadowy valley that causes every heart to grieve. What makes the difference? What we believe is on the other side of the valley…or better yet, who we believe walks through that valley with us…and what’s on the other side. The real question:

II. DO WE BELIEVE THAT JESUS DIED, ROSE AGAIN, AND IS COMING BACK?

Paul says that “We believe that Jesus died, rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Thess. 4:14)

Now that’s information that removes ignorance! And replaces it with hope. In fact Paul gives us some specifics about Jesus’ promise! There will be some of us alive when it happens…but something beautiful will happen involving believers who have died…The dead in Christ will rise, first. We know it’s a resurrection of their bodies…because Jesus is bringing “their spirits with Him…they’re already in His presence and will accompany Him when He comes back. The Arch Angel will announce “It’s time.” The trumpet will blow in celebration and whether we’ve died or are still alive, we head towards home…we meet the Lord in the clouds…perishable bodies have become imperishable. The temporary tent has been replaced with an eternal mansion. Death is swallowed up in victory. The sting of sin has been overwhelmed with the healing of forever life…with the Lord!

You see, it’s life changing…not just to believe Jesus died and rose again….BUT THAT HE’S COMING BACK!

It’s the whole point of this letter…It’s why the central core of this love letter is the two words “and so” in verse 14.

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again. “and so” we believe death doesn’t win…death isn’t the end…for those who have fallen asleep in Him or us who are still alive here!

How can you tell if someone really believes? How can you tell if faith goes beyond that of the demons who know that Jesus is the Son of God? It’s whether you live in expectation of eternity. It’s whether you long for His return…with an urgency to see Him and your loved ones again…and maybe an even greater urgency to share your hope with those who aren’t ready.

Because this hope is for believers…this is the promise for God’s children…it’s not the reality for everyone. It’s why Paul writes almost immediately in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 (remember, it’s a letter) “For you know very well that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, while people are saying “peace and safety” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”

The same word that’s used to describe “eternal life” for those of us who believe in Jesus is used to describe “eternal destruction” for those who don’t.

There are 162 references in scripture to “Hell” over 70 of those references are attributed to Jesus Himself. According to the gospel, Jesus spoke more about Hell than any other subject. Matthew 25 starts out “when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him. (sounds like what 1 Thess. 4 describes, huh?) He will judge like a shepherd separating sheep from goats. Sheep on the right…goats on the left…and the characteristic that identifies the difference between the two…is “did your belief translate to your life?” Did you love and care for “the least of these?” Did you see in people who were sick, in prison, hurting and lost, the face of Jesus himself?” To those who died…the King upon his return says “come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matt. 25:34)

But for those who did not…The King upon His return says “Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:41) The end of this story concludes, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matt. 25:46)

The same word for eternal is used in both instances! And the differences in destinations are determined by our life changing relationships with the King…He reveals that truth WHEN HE RETURNS, not “if” He returns.

Scripture continually cautions us to “say peace and safety.” God’s Word constantly encourages us to not become apathetic and complacent about the day of Jesus’ return…it will happen suddenly…like “a thief breaking into our house in the middle of the night.”

“But you brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.” (1 Thess. 5:40)

After this letter…and Paul’s teaching the Thessalonians ignorance has been replaced with information…so has ours…what we do with it is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a “fruit.” Wisdom is not putting it in a “fruit salad.”

Knowledge is knowing that Jesus is going to return…wisdom is living in expectation of it.

Conclusion:

[I’ve carried a letter in my wallet since August 10, 2007…I’d like to read it to you in conclusion of this message.

Dad,
For the past week I’ve had this weight bearing down on my heart and I don’t know what it is or where and why I feel this. It’s like I feel how you feel….I can’t help but worry and have a sense that you need some words from someone that knows you because they are lucky enough to be exactly like you. God has been calling me and I feel that you need to know some things that I can’t ever tell you in words. Either because we are just a bunch of babies and I could never get them out or they just don’t have any words that can explain it. But I’m gonna try.

My whole life from the time I was born there has never been a time when I could say that you were anything less than an amazing father. I don’t know what it is but there has always been something there between you and I. Even as a child I couldn’t help but idolize you and truly see God in every work of your life. I was laying in my bed about 10 minutes ago and all I could think about was how much I miss my father…and it’s not that you’re just my father. It’s way more than that. I don’t exactly know the point in which it changed but it was close to the same time that the house you raised me in was no longer the home that I lived in, but you became my best friend. You’ve always been my dad but I see it so much different…it’s like a student and his favorite teacher. You can’t help but hang on to every word they say because you know that whatever it is will be the truth and that they have so much to teach you. You are the reason I am the way I am today and will continue to be the reason I grow into an amazingly Godly man. I’ve wanted nothing more than to make you proud…and in the process became quite proud of myself and the man you molded me into.

I’ve never told anyone this but I think that I need to tell you. I know you worry about me over here and you don’t have to. We both have the best guy for the job looking out for us. When daddy Jack died, I saw true strength. I learned on that day that my father is the strongest man alive and men like you are not made by chance or luck…they are made by amazing fathers. It’s funny how life shows you things and God works…God has shown me everything I need to know through you and my grandfather. I really want you to know that my strength and courage in life and over here comes from you. I’m sorry for things that I have done to make you look anything less than honorable but I promise that the man I have become will be a direct reflection of the man that raised me. I will go out into the world and tell everyone the good news, and with the help of God all things are possible. I love you from the deepest part of my heart and just like the Lord tells us…everything you do and say reflect on him. I will make you proud. I will continue to serve the Lord and be a direct reflection of you. Through you God has changed a lot of people’s lives and if anything…you’ve changed mine. Try to wake up with a smile because when I come home…we will be a team for the Lord. Completely unstoppable. He has been molding me through you for this purpose.

You are my hero…You always have been and what I’m doing over here is not even a portion of important compared to what you did for me.

Tyler

I’m not sure how many times I took that letter out and read it…maybe hundreds of times. It made my heart feel better, it gave me hope, it made me long for when my son came home…and I’ll never forget that day in Killeen Texas when he did.

God’s Word is a love letter…every word is meant to show us His plan…His purpose of sending His Son into a “War Zone” of sin…He won the victory. He fought my fight. He died for my sin…He rose for my eternal life.

And I can’t wait until He comes back…and takes us home.