What does spiritual vitality look like in our lives?

The theme we’re examining as we go through 1 Thessalonians as a church is “Being Real Christians in Challenging Times.” It’s not hard to figure out how such a theme applies to all of us right now, is it?

On Sunday we continued our journey through the very first book of the Bible the Apostle Paul wrote and got into verses 5 through 10 of chapter 1. Starting off we’re introduced to the idea of being “imitators” and “examples.” Verses 6 and 7 say, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”

If we’re serious about living out our Christian faith, we will look at those around us we can imitate or take after. Particularly in the first-century church, persecution and danger lurked everywhere for believers in Christ — and naturally they had to have been asking themselves, “How do we live under pressure as believers?” Well, one of the best ways to do so — then and now — is to be a good imitator. But here’s the other side of that coin: Once we become imitators and have a grasp of how the Christian life should be lived, we then become examples. In this circle of the spiritual life, we who’ve been blessed with instruction and understanding must do the same thing for others coming after us!

Further, the importance of spiritual vitality shines through the passage as we see four related traits of believers: They are centered on others, they are Bible powered, and they endure under pressure and exhibit supernatural joy. Let’s look at those traits.

In verse 5 Paul tells the Thessalonians that he and his companions came to them for their sake. That’s what it means to be centered on others. In times of crisis and persecution, many people focus on themselves — but as believers in Jesus, we’re called to look out for the needs of others as more important than our own. So, if you’re feeling pressure from outside forces today, it’s time to get into God’s word and see the best path to relief from anxiety — especially during a crisis like COVID-19 — is to reach out to others who may be in need.

In verse 8 we read that “the word of the Lord sounded forth from” the Thessalonian church. What a tribute to the young church from the Apostle Paul! He recognized that his flock was all about the business of “echoing out” the Good News of the gospel. And one incredibly important thing to remember — particularly now when any number of people you know are looking for answers — is that more than likely you are the gospel, and people see the gospel in you. Long before they crack open a Bible! That’s a sobering but exhilarating idea.

Following that same thought in verse 9, we find Paul looking into the pasts of believers who — like most people of their time and place — worshiped idols made of stone, wood, or metal instead of the true God. But do idols have to be things we can touch? Of course not. For us, idols are anything we worship or bow down to. How does such a definition impact your own life? Well, is your idol the stock market, your personal financial security, your health? Thing is, the stock market — for all the power it’s been exuding lately — has been in free fall and is incredibly unstable at the moment. There are so many things we can’t control — but we do know the Lord is the one who’s in control of all things. And that has to be part of our communication of the gospel.

Finally verse 10 says we’re to wait for Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. We learned Sunday that the Greek word for the verb “to wait” takes on the meaning of to “remain up.” Interestingly last week we talked about having steadfast hope — and the Greek meaning for that idea is to “remain under.” In this latest passage, we see that the idea of “remain up” is closely related to our lives not being bound to earthly things since we’re waiting for Jesus, the Son, to come back from Heaven. These days people are waiting for a lot of things besides Jesus Christ: They’re waiting to start socializing again, they’re waiting for the COVID-19 infection rate to reduce, they’re waiting for their kids to go back to school and for the economy to improve — all very important things. But as Christians we have supernatural joy about what Jesus is going to do in our lives whether there’s a deadly virus going around the world or not. And we always should wait on Jesus to deliver us as we “remain up” in our worship of him.

Listen to the sermon here:

Hi Friends, we want to share some links to resources to help you keep growing spiritually even while we can’t meet together in person on Sunday mornings.

Worship at Home with Contemporary Christian Music

K-Love Radio: 106.9 FM. They also have an app.

Star 99.1 FM Radio. You can also listen online through their website.

Pandora online music. Search for Contemporary Christian music stations. I also enjoy Instrumental stations like Jim Brickman and David Lanz.

Devotions and Bible Reading Plans

YouVersion App. The Bible App, and The Bible App for Kids. Read devotions and group plans to read through the Bible, including: The Bible Project Reading Plan

The Bible Project: Videos for each book of the Bible and topical videos

First Five Bible Study App, short but meaningful daily devotions

Faith and Fun For Kids

God’s Big Story: 15-minute podcast for kids that tells Bible stories in very creative and fun ways.

Adventures in Odyssey Club: Daily devotions for kids, and unlimited streaming of more than 800 Adventures in Odyssey radio drama episodes. Great content for the whole family. Free Trial to test it out.

Free Audio Books – Parents can pick and choose free audio books for their children.

20 Virtual Field Trips: Art Museums, Zoos, Aquariums, and more

Strengthen Your Family

Visionary Family Ministries : is offering FREE streaming access to six video Bible studies along with participant workbooks. The Scriptures shared in these studies have the power to transform family relationships.

Weekly Family Devotions from The Bible Project: Sign up at this link to receive weekly Video, summary teaching, and Scriptures to discuss together.

Please share more ideas and links in the comments! Thanks!

The coronavirus suddenly has affected every one of us. And not just at Calvary Chapel Living Hope, but in every church across America and across the globe. And at this time when the earthly foundations of our everyday lives begin to buckle under, each of us must ask ourselves, “What empowers you to keep going in life?”

The passage in our brand-new series we covered on Sunday in 1 Thessalonians answers that question.

One of the interesting aspects of this book of the Bible is that it’s the very first letter the Apostle Paul wrote. He did so after a series of journeys and escapes from persecution, and one of the spots he landed in — for a mere four weeks — was Thessalonica in Greece. After his stay, Paul was in Corinth for over a year, waiting for his companions Silas and Timothy to bring him news of how the churches they planted were doing. Finally, Paul’s friends showed up — and brought him amazing news: The church in Thessalonica was flourishing! With that, Paul put pen to parchment and sent his fellow believers an inspiring, encouraging message.

Paul writes in verse 2, “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.” That gets to the very heart of what we’re looking at today: What empowers us to keep going is life is God’s power. This gospel power through prayer enables each of us to grasp God’s supernatural strength so it can be unleashed in our lives.

Verse 3 continues, “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Faith. Love. Hope.

Let’s look at faith first. Paul doesn’t mean merely a belief system. Real faith goes beyond that; it’s as an active, living force in our lives — and we need that kind of faith, because we don’t have enough of it on our own. It’s the kind of faith from God during dark times. Through anxieties. Through hardships. Through job losses. Through divorce and loss of friendships. Through death and through disease. Exercising that real faith means taking bigger and bigger steps toward God each day, even when the path appears too daunting. Because with God, all things are possible! And when we’re faced with what seems impossible, we need to move forward and give it all over to God. Note to self: Get more faith.

Now let’s look at love. Of course, we’re talking about agape love — the love associated with God’s unconditional love for us. But like faith, this kind of love is more than a feeling or an emotion; it’s a power God grants us so it can be used. So we can put it into action. Love must be our motivation, each day. We must act not only for our own interests, but also for the interests of others. Note to self: Get more love.

Finally let’s examine hope. The Greek word for hope means to “remain under.” And Paul spells it out so well, telling the Thessalonians that their endurance (or steadfastness) was “inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Think about that: When you consider the struggle to just get through the day, to deal with school closings, and curfews, and reports of the coronavirus spreading deeper into our communities — that all takes endurance and steadfastness. And where does such strength come from? Hope that God has given us!

God is working in all of our lives right now. He’s been there in the good times, and now for all of us, this is a bad time. But he’s here all the same. God allows us to live in challenging situations in order to stretch us. We don’t merely agree with a belief system, we don’t merely feel love, and we don’t sense hope like it’s 50-50 proposition and we’re crossing our fingers and we’re “hoping for the best.” No. Faith, love, and hope from God is rock solid. And with those powers inside of us, God wants to do incredible, supernatural things in our lives. Let us believe on that as we move forward in these days to come.

Listen to the sermon here:

In order to contribute to the social distancing solution, we are now meeting in Zoom small groups and on Facebook LIve on Sunday mornings. Please go online to our Facebook page where we are studying 1 Thessalonians via Facebook Live. I will also give you the latest updates about Calvary Chapel. See you online Sunday at 10:00 am. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/CalvaryChapelLivingHope/

If you don’t have a church home, we want to invite you to join with us. Although we aren’t meeting physically, we are very connected and continue share life together and grow spiritually. If you would like to learn more or get connected to Pastor Scott, he would welcome an email from you at scott@takejesushome.com

Pastor Scott shared a surprise on April 5. You can see the link to that surprise here:

Ten Two Six Presents

Are you a giver or a taker?

As you no doubt know, givers think about others and look to their well-being while takers think about themselves and how they can take advantage of others. (There also are “matchers” who will do for you as long as you do for them.)

But as Christians, we’re givers. We have no choice. Indeed, we’re all born as takers and inherit a sin nature, but Christ has come into our lives and turned us into givers. And God is the ultimate giver: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at commitments of faith as revealed in Nehemiah: First, obeying God, then the marriage relationship, and then letting God control our business and financial lives. This past Sunday we examined the fourth commitment — taking care of the house of the Lord. And that “Are you a giver or taker?” question most definitely came into play.

We noticed in Nehemiah 10:32-38 that a whole lot of work and people-powered service went into the care of the temple. There was financial giving so the temple could run, of course, but also there were feasts, festivals, offerings — as well as the giving of wood, crops, and cattle. And the key word: Firstfruits. In other words, the Israelites gave back first a portion to the Lord what the Lord freely gave to them.

In terms of principles, our church operates in much the same way. At Calvary Chapel Living Hope, our short- and long-term goals are the same: Evangelism, discipleship, and mobilization. But to continue focusing on those goals requires that we all be the givers that God has turned us into through Jesus.

While giving certainly isn’t all about money and finances, that is a part of what our giving and service means. But also it’s crucial to know deep in our souls that when we give to the church, we’re really giving to God. We’re really serving God. And when we give, we also give away our selfishness.

We started off our time with the question, “Are you a giver or a taker?” But we also explored a second question: “Are you a leader or a follower?” And the answer to that question has huge implications for how we function as the body of Christ — and not just at Calvary, but globally. In short, we’re all leaders, and we’re all followers. Obviously we all follow Jesus, who is Head of the church and guides and leads us. Pastors provide leadership as well, as the one who teaches, guards, and equips the flock.

But all of us also are leaders! When we became Christians and accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, when our hearts turned toward following God, when the Holy Spirit empowered us, all of us were given spiritual gifts. Which means that by identifying your spiritual gift and letting God unleash it, you are impacting the church. In fact, the exercise of your spiritual gift (or gifts) will change the course of the church!

But it all starts with your willingness to be a giver.

Listen to the sermon here:

What does it mean to be committed to the Lord?

That’s the question we’ve been exploring over the last couple of weeks in our study of Nehemiah. We’ve been encountering the Israelites rediscovering their spiritual lives and declaring they want to make changes and be committed to God.

We initially looked at how they learned to be obedient to the Lord — the first commitment. Then we looked at valuing and raising up the marriage relationship — the second commitment.

Then this past Sunday we investigated how to operate in our business and financial lives — and it comes from this verse in Nehemiah 10:31: “When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.”

Let’s first look at the relationship between the Old Testament and New Testament. As believers in Christ, we’re not under the Law as the Israelites were in Nehemiah. But the Old Testament nevertheless contains valuable principles we can apply to our lives today.

The Jews honored and celebrated the Sabbath. As Christians, we do not. But why? The answer has to do with covenants God set up between himself and his people in the Old Testament. There was God’s “rainbow” promise to Noah that no more floods will cover the Earth; there was God’s promise to Abraham that all nations of world would be blessed through him, which extended all the way through to Christ. Then there were the covenants of circumcision and keeping the Sabbath day to set apart the Israelites. And then we find the prophecy in Jeremiah 31, in which God tells the Israelites that he will write the Law on their hearts — a sign of a new covenant to come in Jesus.

With the coming of Christ, there’s a shift from the Law to grace. There will be no more temple sacrifices needed — Jesus made one sacrifice on the cross for all and for all time. Through Christ’s covenant, we are now the temple where the Holy Spirit lives, giving us the closest possible relationship with the Lord. As for the Sabbath day and keeping it holy, as believers in Jesus, he instead gives us the rest we need, and we’re no longer required to keep the Sabbath day.

So, what do we do with a passage like Nehemiah 10:31, where we find the Israelites declaring they won’t do business on the Sabbath day? Well, the idea of Sabbath-like rest is still very valuable — and can apply to how we go about our financial lives. And namely it’s about Who is ultimately in control: God! If the Lord is responsible for our livelihoods, then we will be trusting him and letting him impact the way we work at our jobs and businesses. Do you bring your work home all the time? Do you labor 24/7? Is your mind constantly on money — how much is coming in, how much is going out? Where does God fit into all of that? By finding time to rest from our labors, we’re saying to God, “I trust you. May your will be done in my financial life.”

The verse in Nehemiah also talks about leaving the ground fallow every seventh year — which is a principle that farmers still use. It’s about using the Earth in a respectful, healthy, sustainable way and not continually robbing from it. But that also requires trust in God. Leaving the ground fallow one season so it can replenish itself means that we won’t be able to use it for a while — but again, it comes back to the question: How much am I trusting God and believing that he will sustain me?

Finally, the verse talks about cancelling all debts every seventh year. This is a valuable principle that shows us not only caution in terms of loaning to others but the power of giving to others. When we do things like loan money to family and friends, for example, that can forever change those relationships — and often in negative ways. But when we freely give, we don’t have to worry about those relationships changing negatively — as all good gifts ultimately come from the Lord.

So let us take time to rest from our labors as we trust in God to provide for us and deepen our relationships with him; let us honor the Earth that God has given us and be good stewards of it; and let us freely give to each other as the Lord freely gives to us.

Listen to the Sermon here: