Establish and Exhort

…we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s co-worker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith….
1 Thessalonians 3:2

Twenty-two years ago – in April of 1995 – I was sitting with a bunch of guys waiting for my name to be called.

I was in the pews of the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis with my brothers in Christ and fellow seminarians as we awaited the announcement of our first calls in the pastoral ministry.

I didn’t have to wait long – at least not as long as most of the guys. That’s the blessing of have a last name that begins with a “B”!

I was excited. But I was also nervous and not a little scared.

My wife – who was sitting a dozen or so pews away with the rest of the wives – was feeling the same way.

We were about to find out where we were going to move to. After being married for four years and living in the St. Louis area that entire time, we were about to find out what congregation extended a call of the Holy Spirit for me to “establish and exhort” them in their faith.

That first call was to Christ Lutheran Church in White Cloud, Michigan and our time there was wonderful!

The calling that a pastor has is at the same time exciting and frightening. The Holy Spirit places us exactly where he knows we are needed.

It isn’t always where we would choose to be, however.

I wonder if that was how Timothy felt.

He was a companion of St. Paul and had traveled with Paul and Silas and Luke to Macedonia and Greece.

It was clear to them that Paul wanted to eventually end up in Athens where they would have the greatest opportunity yet to reach more people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But after Paul was the Holy Spirit’s instrument in starting a church in the city of Thessaloniki, it soon became clear that someone would have to stay behind while Paul traveled on to Athens.

Timothy was chosen to “establish and exhort” the Thessalonians in their faith. He would serve there for time and the church there would thrive by the power of the Holy Spirit working through Timothy’s service.

Timothy would eventually move on to another place – ending up in Ephesus as pastor.

Just as I would not remain in White Cloud, but would be called to Mayville, Wisconsin and then Ontario, California, and then to Hawthorn Woods, Illinois.

Some men spend their entire pastoral ministry in one place. Others move around like I have.

But in each place there are people who become especially important to them.

If you are not a pastor, I encourage you to be one of those people. If you are a pastor, I encourage you to find these people!

Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, in part, to thank them for encouraging and supporting Timothy as much as he was encouraging and supporting them.

As a member of your congregation, I strongly encourage you to pray for your pastor or pastors. To support them, encourage them, lift them up when they seem down. And do the same for their wives, if applicable!

I’m not writing this to get someone to do this for myself, by the way. There are already people in my own congregation that do this for my wife and I – just as there has been in our previous stops – and we thank God for them!

In the last couple of days about 100 men received their first calls to the pastoral ministry in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

They are excited, I’m sure. And not a little fearful.

But please pray for them. If you know one of them, or one of them is coming to your church, I pray you will encourage and support them as they come to serve you and alongside of you in the Kingdom of God where you are!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Purpose

But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:4

Why am I here?

It isn’t that I don’t know. Not really. But I need to remind myself on a regular basis.

I am here to be loved by God – and I am.

I only need to look at the cross to see how much God loves me!

And I am here to share the love of God with others.

Jesus Christ died on the cross to save me – and all people – from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

But sometimes, I forget that. I pursue fame and fortune. Not in a crass way like is depicted in the movies or in books or on TV shows.

But in more subtle ways. I am tempted to do things to get “likes,” to get “follows,” to get “views.”

The temptation is to use these things to define why I am here. If I get more “likes,” “follows” and “views” then I’m being successful.

But these things are not why I am here. They can be results of why I am here but not the reason I am here!

I am here to be loved by God and to share the love of God that is shown to me in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

You are here for the same reason!

In my case, I have a ready-made arena to do this. And it isn’t Facebook or Twitter (I’m not quite involved in Instagram yet).

My first and foremost arena to share the love of God is my family. My wife of 26 years and my sons (just about 21-, 18- and 17-years-old).

Of course, I love them. But I also tell them every day. (Well, every day for Nancy, Kurt & Mark. I don’t talk to Eddie every day, but I tell him I love him whenever I do talk with him).

Before Kurt & Mark leave for school in the morning I tell them I love them. Before they go to sleep at night, I tell them I love them.

I tell my wife I love her when we wake up and before we go to sleep and at various times during the day.

I also show them I love them. I take care of things for them – laundry, the dog, odds and ends for school and what-not.

These are things that I do because God has first loved me. In response to God’s love for me in Christ, I love my family.

I also love my friends and my brothers and sisters in Christ at church and in the Church (notice the difference?).

This is why I am here. This is my purpose. Like Paul, I do it to please God as a response to his love for me.

How about you?

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

Imitators

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….”
1 Thessalonians 1:6

The vision was still vivid in his mind’s eye. A man standing with the sea behind him, beckoning to him.

Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

And so Paul, Silas and Timothy had set sail from Troas and headed west.

They had met Lydia in the city of Philippi.

They had been jailed soon after for exercising a demon from a slave girl.

They then were miraculously released from jail and shared the Gospel with their jailer.

They made their way to Thessalonica and preached the Gospel there for about a month.

They headed to Berea and did the same. But Paul continued on his own to Athens.

Timothy headed back to Thessalonica and the new Christian church there. He caught up with Paul in Athens and gave him a report.

Paul responded to this report by writing a letter to the church back in Thessalonica.

We know this letter today as 1 Thessalonians.

This letter is bursting with encouragement for us as much as it was for the 1st Century Thessalonians!

They heard the Gospel from Paul. They then put that Gospel into practice.

Paul says they “imitated” him and Silas and Timothy.

They pray. They display the power of the Holy Spirit, which is showing love for all people.

Love that was first displayed by Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection to save all sinners.

They also were persecuted for their faith. Paul says that they “received the word in much affliction.”

But for someone who knows the love of Christ in their heart and soul, persecution and affliction do not matter!

They still love their fellow townsmen. They still pray for them. They live the new life they have in Christ Jesus.

This life isn’t easy or soft. It is a hard life because the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature declare unrestricted warfare on us when the Holy Spirit converts us to faith in Jesus Christ!

But Christ is stronger than all three combined! And victory is ours through Jesus Christ!

As Paul encourages the Thessalonians, so we are encouraged to be imitators of Christ and his faithful followers.

We love one another and never shy away from proclaiming the love of Christ to the people around us.

When you do this, don’t be surprised that it makes the news!

Paul lets the Thessalonians know that news of their love and life has spread throughout Greece!

This will be used by the Holy Spirit to bring more people to us to love and pray for and share the Gospel with!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

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Life After This Life

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before…. And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had also seven sons and three daughters.
Job 42:10, 12-13

Job had lost it all.

His vast fortune wiped out overnight.

His seven sons and three daughters all killed on the same night.

He had been struck with some affliction that reduced his skin to festering and itching boils.

The only thing Job is left with is his wife and his life. And his wife told him to “curse God and die.”

And yes, I realize this is exactly how I started the last devotion!

We’ve come to the end of the Book of Job and the story it tells.

Job receives back double of all that he lost. Twice as many sheep, twice as many camels, twice as many oxen, and twice as many female donkeys.

Job is restored to the position he had before as “the greatest of all the people of the east.”

I presume his health is also restored.

Remember, this was never really about how wealthy Job was or how blessed by God Job was.

That was Satan’s accusation. That Job only believed in God because God had blessed him with tremendous wealth.

Satan was shown to be wrong when Job continues to believe in God and look to him as his Redeemer who lives even though Job lost everything but his life and his wife!

Job ultimately shows his belief and reverent awe (fear) of God by praying for and sacrificing on behalf of his friends.

God once again blesses Job with incredible wealth.

But wait a minute! Not everything God blesses Job with is doubled.

In Job 1:2 it says, “There were born to him seven sons and three daughters.” In Job 1:19 we’re told that all ten of them were killed at once when a great wind destroyed the house they were in.

In Job 42:10,12 it says that God restored the fortunes of Job two-fold.

Except for his children.

Job 42:13 says that Job and his wife are blessed with ten more children. Not twenty more!

But think of this: Job’s first ten children have been killed in this life. But as believers in God they would still be living! They are living forever in heaven!

When Job and his wife are blessed with ten more children, they have two-fold children! Ten on earth and ten in heaven!

This is a subtle yet powerful way of telling us that there is life after this life!

And that life is ours because our Redeemer lives!

Jesus Christ is our Redeemer and he lives! He had died on the cross, paying the penalty for all our sin. His sacrifice on Calvary was the redemption price that purchased and won us from all sin, from death itself, and from the devil.

You and I – as believers in Christ – will live forever in heaven! Even if we die on this earth, we will live forever!

This is the ultimate lesson of the Book of Job!

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

King’s Ransom

“…my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly.”
Job 42:8

Job had lost it all.

His vast fortune wiped out overnight.

His seven sons and three daughters all killed on the same night.

He had been struck with some affliction that reduced his skin to festering and itching boils.

The only thing Job is left with is his wife and his life. And his wife told him to “curse God and die.”

Three friends come along to sit shiva with Job for seven days.

But after Job curses the day he was born, they feel obliged to speak.

They were not very helpful. What they say ranges from “you must have done something very wrong to be treated by God thusly” to “your children must have sinned, that’s why they were killed.”

They went on and on. Job defended himself, telling them that he hadn’t done anything wrong to deserve this! But his three friends insisted that he was wrong!

Finally, a young man named Elihu speaks up and tells Job and his friends that it doesn’t really matter. God is God and can do whatever he wants!

Then God finally answers Job’s pleading.

Job repents of blaming God for unjustly – or, at the very least, covertly – afflicting Job.

We know the whole story because we have been privy to a conversation between Satan and God at the beginning of the story. We know what’s been going on the whole time. That God allowed Satan to attack and afflict Job in order to prove that Job believes in God because he is God and not because God has given him vast amounts of wealth.

In other words, Job passes the test!

Here at the end, God speaks to the three friends and tells them to bring bulls and rams equal to several year’s income for one person. This number of bulls and rams is also noted as what a king would provide for a sacrifice.

God has the three friends bring a king’s ransom to Job. Not as restitution or payment. But as a sacrifice that Job will perform for them.

Even after all the verbal pain these three inflicted on Job, Job will intercede for them to God!

1800 years later, Jesus – with a sign above his head that said he was the king of the Jews – would do the same thing.

And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:33-34).

And that is exactly what God did! Both in Jesus’ case and in Job’s!

…and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer” (Job 42:9).

God tells us to not seek revenge. God tells us to pray for our enemies. God tells us to love our enemies.

Job and Jesus are our models for this kind of living. And so that is what we are to do.

That is why Job went through what he did, so we could learn this lesson and live the Godly life.

By the power of the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace (God’s Word and Sacraments) we are forgiven of all our sins. And by the same power we can intercede for others, even our enemies!

Let us model Job – and Jesus – and love everyone and pray for them.

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

Special Announcement

Starting this weekend, “In My Father’s Footsteps” will be released only Monday through Friday at about 6:00 a.m. Central Standard Time (-5 UTC).

Also, the True Man Podcast is back! The latest episode is “Come and See Now Go and Tell” and you can hear it here.

Finally, the Job Devotions will be available in print this May! There is an announcement about that here.

Special Announcement

Starting this weekend, “In My Father’s Footsteps” will be released only Monday through Friday at about 6:00 a.m. Central Standard Time (-5 UTC).

Also, the True Man Podcast is back! The latest episode is “Come and See Now Go and Tell” and you can hear it here.

Finally, the Job Devotions will be available in print this May! There is an announcement about that here.