Look at the Potential Costs and Rewards of Discipleship

Costs and Rewards of Discipleship

©  2023 C. O. Bishop

(Explication of Hymn “So Send I You” by Margaret Clarkson


Last week we introduced the idea of discipleship as being the natural result of salvation. Saved people now belong to Jesus. The result ought to be that we willingly serve Him and follow Him. I want to examine that concept more carefully, especially considering both the costs and the rewards of discipleship:

Two Hymns From Canada

In 1954, Margaret Clarkson wrote a hymn, “So Send I You.” She was a believer, and she worked as an elementary school teacher, in logging and mining camps in northwestern Canada. She felt very isolated there, as a Christian. Sometimes she was the only Christian there. Sometimes there was another believer with whom she could fellowship. But later, teaching in public schools in towns back in Eastern Canada, she felt just as isolated. She was also in constant pain: She had suffered from migraines since babyhood: (Her first words, according to her mother, were, “my head hurts!”) Arthritis eventually crippled her so badly she could no longer work.

In light of the hard circumstances under which she served, she reflected on the meaning of what Jesus said in John 20:21 …“As My Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” Her lyrics reflected the potential cost of discipleship. That is not awrong” perspective: Jesus warned His disciples to “count the cost!” He wanted them to know in advance that the cost of true discipleship can be very steep. BUT, He also revealed that the promised rewards would be commensurate with their service.

So… let’s have a look at what she wrote:

The 1954 Lyrics

Lack of Present Fulfillment

So send I you to labor unrewarded;
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown;
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing;
So send I you, to toil for Me alone.

To whom do I belong? Who am I actually serving? It is entirely possible that the people I am trying to reach will show zero appreciation for the service I offer. They may reject everything I say, and disdain my friendship or my offers of help. Jesus served faithfully. But those He initially came to reach also rejected Him. John 1:11 says, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.”

For Whom are You Suffering?

So send I you, to bind the bruised and broken;
O’er wand’ring souls to work, to weep, to wake;
To bear the burden of a world a-weary;
So send I you, to suffer for My sake.

In Philippians 1:29, the apostle Paul said, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake

We know that we are to care for the lost, and to reach out to them: and we don’t mind that. But, we don’t like hearing about “suffering,” and that sort of thing. People told us, all our lives, that “being a Christian means I should always be happy!” Remember Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet.” He spent much of his life, grieving over the people to whom he was sent, as they consistently rejected everything God said through him.

A man once declared from the pulpit, “Church is supposed to be fun!”  (Well, I really hate to “rain on his parade,” but I don’t see “fun” as being one of the expectations for church, in the Bible! Can it be fun? Sure! But is that a “core value” for the church? No!)

We gather for mutual encouragement, for corporate prayer and worship, for teaching, and training in discipleship! Sometimes all we can do is grieve together…but it is still encouraging to us all, because we know we are not alone in our grief, especially in company with other believers, but in fact, we are never alone at all! The next stanza reflects that truth:

In Whom do we find comfort?

So send I you, to loneliness and longing;
With heart a-hung’ring for the loved and known;
Forsaking home and kindred, friend and dear one;
So send I you, to know My love alone.

You see, Miss Clarkson was feeling completely isolated, but she had the sense to know that she was not alone: She was simply relying on the Love of Christ alone! She was far away from her family and friends, and living in extremely rough conditions, but she learned to lean on Jesus and His Love for all her emotional needs. We need to come to grips with that same dependency.

In Whose direction will we place our confidence?

So send I you, to leave your life’s ambition;
To die to dear desire: self-will resign;
To labor long, and love where men revile you;
So send I you, to lose your life in Mine.

I don’t know what Margaret Clarkson had originally considered to be the “plan” for her life: she earned a college degree in teaching, but teaching in that logging camp and the later loneliness of the various schools, was not part of her plan. She evidently came to grips with the question. She believed that God had sent her there for the purpose of ministry, and she wrote many of her poems and hymns during those hard, lonely years.

How will we deal with those who treat us as Enemies?

How do we respond, when there is deliberate animosity against us, and against Christ and the message of the Gospel? Margaret Clarkson concluded the 1954 version of the hymn with thoughts on that question:

So send I you, to hearts made hard by hatred,
To eyes made blind because they will not see.
To spend, though it be blood, to spend and spare not;
So send I you, to taste of Calvary.

The Cost of Discipleship

Consider what it cost Jesus to bear the burden of Sin for the entire human race: We can read in 2nd Corinthians 5:21 that he “became sin” for us. He did not become a sinner: He became Sin. The eternal, holy, righteous God became “God in the Flesh”…the “incarnate God,” for us. But, He had to take the final step of becoming the object of the wrath of God as He poured out His Judgment upon Jesus, in place of the Human Race. Without His final act of “self-emptying,” as described in Philippians 2, we would still be lost.

Following Jesus eventually will cost something. In Luke 9:23, Jesus said “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross daily and Follow Me!”

It was reflection of the Cost of Discipleship that inspired Margaret Clarkson to write that song in 1954, along with many other poems and hymns. She was in constant pain, and four years later, after surgery to fuse most of her lower spine, was forced to retire, due to crippling pain.

The 1963 Lyrics

But, in 1963, nine years later, after talking with numerous missionaries, Miss Clarkson realized that she had left out the potential rewards of Discipleship. So, she wrote a new set of lyrics to the same tune.

We may feel that the second set of lyrics are “more encouraging,” or we may instead be offended that “someone wrote ‘feel-good’ lyrics to a serious song about discipleship.” But it was the same author! She had simply come to understand and embrace the other half—the eternal part—of the story of discipleship! Here it is, still reflecting on the call of Jesus:

More than Conquerors

So send I you — by grace made strong to triumph
O’er hosts of hell, o’er darkness, death and sin,
My name to bear and in that name to conquer —
So send I you, My victory to win.

We are not sent as helpless lambs, feebly tottering toward inevitable defeat: Romans 8:35-37 says that, in all of the perils of this life, “we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!” Does that make it easy? No! Stephen was the victor while he was being murdered! Paul and Silas were the victors while they were in the Philippian prison, bleeding from the beating they had received! We need to see things from God’s perspective!

We Carry a Message of Life, Liberty, and Hope

So send I you – to take to souls in bondage
The Word of Truth that sets the captive free
To break the bonds of sin, to loose death’s fetters —
So send I you, to bring the lost to Me.

Jesus said in John 8:32, “…ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” In Philippians 2:15, 16, we are told that we are to “shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life…” Regardless of circumstances, we are his ambassadors! Bring people to Jesus! He sends us to “bring the lost to Christ” by means of the Gospel: not to “bring them to church, and hope someone else can persuade them.”

In Whom do we Find our Strength?

So send I you — My strength to know in weakness,
My joy in grief, My perfect peace in pain,
To prove My pow’r, My grace, My promised presence —
So send I you, eternal fruit to gain.

Paul was weakened physically by injuries and possibly disease: but in 2nd Corinthians 12:10, his conclusion was “therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I Am weak, then am I strong.” Notice that he did not claim he liked being mistreated, nor that “pain doesn’t hurt!” Pain does hurt! Persecution is not enjoyable!

But Paul found that when his natural abilities and strengths were laid aside, so that the only thing upon which he could lean was the grace of God, then he was actually far more capable and effective. In John 15:5, Jesus said, “Apart from Me ye can do nothing.” Notice that he did not say, “you cannot do as much…” or “you can’t produce as good a quality.” He said, “Apart from Me ye can do nothing!”

We know the eternal result: We submit ourselves to Him, to be the tools in His hands: to be His voice, His hands and His feet. And we expect that the fruit of our lives will turn out to have eternal value.

What is the Ultimate Expectation of a Faithful Disciple?

We speak of “going to one’s reward.” That is an accurate description of what a disciple can expect. Salvation is not a reward: it is a gift. Romans 6:23 says, “…the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

But; reward is earned. Reward is the result of service. Salvation is a gift, given on the basis of faith in the shed blood of God’s chosen sacrifice…faith in Jesus, alone.

The Reward of Sin

If an unbeliever dies, still unforgiven, they receive the wages of sin, also described in Romans 6:23. If a disobedient believer dies: one who was a true believer, but one who was either unconcerned (or perhaps was simply untaught) about a walk with Jesus, and who was unwilling to absorb any of the cost of discipleship, then the reward is minimal, but, (always providing that the original faith was genuine) salvation is still theirs.

The Rewards of Discipleship

But a genuine believer sees that the logical response is to desire to be part of the “agenda” of Jesus. They want to be on His team, and to be following His will. To them, He says,

So send I you — to bear My cross with patience,
And then one day with joy to lay it down,
To hear My voice, “Well done, My faithful servant —
Come share My throne, My kingdom and My crown!”

That is the ultimate expectation of Discipleship. If you are a believer, God says you are already seated with Him in the throne. He says you are already part of the Body of Christ, and will share in His glory. But He also says there are Eternal rewards beyond this minimal promise. What are they? He does not tell us any details, but we know enough about Jesus to know that His reward will more than amply repay any toil or suffering we may encounter here in this life.

As the Father hath sent Me, so send I you.”

Jesus has already demonstrated what true discipleship entails, and the early believers followed in His footsteps. So, what can we conclude about these two sets of lyrics for the same song?

Notice that Both Hymns tell the Truth:

One hymn tells of the daily, painful, grind, and the potential cost of discipleship. The other tells of the ultimate victory, and the reward for service. Both are speaking of reality: but the second reality is to be our eternal perspective. Don’t lose sight of the goal!

In Philippians 3:13, 14 Paul said, “Brethren I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul did not claim to have “arrived!” He continually strove to walk with Jesus so as to receive the reward for faithful service. We can do that, too!

Lord Jesus, please grip our hearts with the urgency of the Gospel and the fact that this life is our only chance to work with You in fulfilling the will of the Father who sent You. Remind us constantly that “as the Father sent You, Jesus; You have, in turn, sent each of us!

What is the Connection between Salvation and Discipleship?

Salvation and Discipleship

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 5:5-8

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.


Last week we talked about the End Times, and particularly, how the “Day of The Lord” plays out in scripture. We pointed out, from 1st Thessalonians 5:1-4 that the Church will not be part of the Tribulation, simply because we are not part of the coming judgment on the World and Israel, as seen in Daniel chapter 9.

However, that does not leave us without responsibility. The fact that we are “Children of the Light, and Children of the Day” means that we are not of the night and not judged with the world. But it also means we have certain responsibilities.

The fact that we have already been transferred into the Kingdom of Light is the security of our Salvation. But the fact that we are called to Live as Children of Light, is our call to Discipleship.

Salvation and Discipleship

So… what is the difference between “Salvation” and “Discipleship?” Is every saved person thereby also a disciple? Well…positionally, yes, perhaps they are. And, Yes, everyone who is saved is called to full discipleship.

But, relationally, and conditionally, no! Sadly, we do not always “follow Jesus,” though that is what He calls us to do! We need to see the difference, and how the difference applies to our lives.

Salvation Should Result in Discipleship

(Ephesians 2:8-10 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.We are saved by Grace (unearned favor) through Faith (Believing God: ”He said it, we believe it!”)  The result should be that we do the good works that He has ordained us to do.

Yes, my sins were fully paid for at the Cross: I am fully forgiven now. I have redemption now. Also, I am unconditionally accepted by God, now. I have Eternal Life now. But to actually experience that Eternal life, in any meaningful way,I need to step into the other half of that transaction. He says that “We are His workmanship, created in Christ unto good works…”


The life of a disciple is completely committed to the service of his Master. There are good masters and bad ones in the world. The disciples of an evil master commit evil works because they are committed to following their evil master, and carrying out his will. If that is how the broken, evil world handles discipleship, how much more should we be committed to carrying out the will of our Master? He is not only Good, Himself, but He is also the ultimate source of all Good in the world?

We can easily “say” we are committed to His service, but, when it comes to choices, on a daily basis, we need to begin asking ourselves, “Will this specific choice be to His credit and honor?” This is where we “put shoe-leather on our faith.” That has to become the central question: “What would He have me to do?”

The Example of Saul of Tarsus

Saul of Tarsus, in Acts chapters eight and nine, was persecuting the church, because he was committed to destroying it. He thought that by doing so, he was serving God, so he went after it fervently. (Interestingly, in John 16:2, Jesus had predicted that the time would come when anyone who killed Christians would think they were serving God by doing so.)

But Saul was unwittingly serving the Evil One. In Romans 5:10 we see that we all start out as enemies of God. (Saul thought he was a great friend of God!) In Ephesians 2:3, we find that we all are born Children of Wrath, and we are natural servants of the Evil One. (Saul thought, as a Jew, that he was already a child of God!)

But in Acts 9:1-6 we see a transformation:

1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

Notice the Order of Events:

  1. Jesus shone the Light on Saul. (Think of it as the “Gospel Light.”)
  2. Paul responded in faith, askingWho Art Thou, Lord?” (Consider this to be the point of Salvation for Saul, as he responded in trembling astonishment and he believed Jesus!)
  3. Paul asked for orders! “What wilt thou have me to do?” (This is the beginning of Discipleship, immediately after salvation!)

So, by application of Ephesians 2:8-10, we can read the experience of Saul of Tarsus as an object lesson.  (By the way, this Saul later changed his name to Paul: “Saul” means “asked for,” and it was the name of the first king of Israel. “Paul” means “little” or “insignificant.”)

How does Paul’s life form an object lesson to teach Ephesians 2:8-10?

  1. We can see that Grace came in the form of a blinding light from the sky and a voice calling to him, by name. (Not everyone gets this experience: in fact, it was unique to Paul!) But He was saved by Grace, just like everyone else!
  2. We can see that His Faith was instantaneous, but untaught. He simply Believed Jesus, more than whatever he had believed before. Jesus became his new standard! And that response of Faith to God’s Grace is how he was born again!
  3. The “Good Works that God had before ordained” for him to “walk in” were pretty spectacular. The remaining nineteen chapters of the book of Acts are largely about his travel and trials and ministry and the persecution that resulted.

(We see the rest of the story of Saul’s conversion, in Acts 9:8-19. In verses 15 and 16, we see Jesus saying what those good works might entail: Speaking to Ananias, who was sent to restore Saul’s sight, Jesus said,  “Go thy way, for He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.)

Paul was one of the few disciples who got to see in advance what his ministry was to be. Most of us do not. We grow in faith, from the moment of salvation, and we learn that we truly are “called to discipleship.” There are no exceptions.

Making the Call of God Personal

We grow into a deeper understanding of that rather vague, uncomfortable idea, until it becomes our life’s guiding principle. At some point, we finally fully agree, that “If He bought me and I belong to Him, then it makes sense that I should be working for Him!”

And, ultimately, we find ourselves involved in full-time service of one sort or another. I have taught Bible for 45 years, always self-supporting. Until this last three years I worked secular jobs, as did Paul, to support myself and my family, but I still devoted myself to training young believers, and raising them up to discipleship. Some went on to become missionaries, some became pastors or teachers. Some served in other ways….but discipleship was the common thread in all their lives.

In my own case, I had never “asked” to become a Pastor: but now I feel honored to be permitted to feed the flock of God. There are others among you who are also gifted to feed the flock: this is not a “one-man show.”

Jesus said, “Feed My Flock!”

Every person who is gifted to feed the flock needs to be ready (at a moment’s notice,) to “put on his Discipleship Boots,” so to speak, and go to God’s “Sheep-food bin,” (we call it “the Bible”) and dig out enough “sheep food” to feed the flock, at least on an occasional basis. (If nothing else, choose to do so, just to allow the regular teachers a break. You need the opportunity to serve, and they need the opportunity to sit down and be fed, once in a while!)

Last Sunday night, I got sick. I was hurting everywhere, and I was running a fever, so I called on one of the brothers to take Wednesday night’s Bible Study in my place, and he did! Was it easy? Nope! It wasn’t! Would it have been easier if he had already prepared a lesson in advance and was just “chomping at the bit,” hoping to get a chance to share it? Well, yes, I expect it would have been: But the point is, he rose to the challenge, and he served. He fed the flock!

The “Thessalonian Challenge”

Notice the statements that are made in this short passage:

  • All of you (believers) ARE the children of the Light, and the children of the Day.
  • You are NOT of the night, nor of darkness. (How did you get that way? You were born again as the genuine children of God!)
  • THEREFORE, (Because we have been born again, and we are children of the Light, and children of the Day,) then…what?
  • let us not sleep, as do others; (Our lives are not to be “just like everyone else:” we have a new Master, and new priorities! Jesus said we are no longer of the World, and the result will be that we can no longer hope to “fit in.”)
  • but let us watch and be sober. (The contrast is to be a constant difference in how we see the world around us, and how we respond to our surroundings. Our sobriety, and considering the eternal value (or lack of such) makes us automatic “misfits.”)
    • (For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.)But let us, who are of the day, be sober, (The world sleeps, but we are to be awake to the Spirit of God and the coming Judgment: The “Day of the Lord,” and the final judgment coming on sin. That ought not to put us to sleep!)
  • putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

What kind of person is told to “put on armor…” a breastplate, and a helmet?

Only a soldier is told to put on a breastplate, and a helmet. (Only a serious disciple is called to fight for his master.) But the call to put on the Armor of God is extended to all believers. Why? Because every single one of us is called to discipleship! Not only that, but we are called to always be on full alert! God never says, “Stand down! Be at ease, there is no threat, here!”

In fact, in 1st Peter 5:8, He says, “Be sober, be vigilant; for your enemy the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

So, stop and think: do you truly think Satan and his servants are going to “take a day off?” The truth is, they do not! And, because they do not take breaks, we cannot! Our release will come soon enough, in God’s timing. And their final judgment will come shortly thereafter. But it is usually when we decide to “take a break” that we get into trouble!

We are Called to Rest, but we are not to “take time off from discipleship.”

(Can we rest? Absolutely, we can!) We are called to continual rest: but we are to rest in Him, not rest from Him. You married folks, ask yourselves: If your spouse said, “I’m leaving for a day or two: I need a break from being around you!” How would you feel? I would feel terrible! But when we decide to take off on a tangent and pursue worldly things, that is precisely what we are telling Jesus: “I am tired of attempting to walk with you: I think will go back to my old ways for a while!” That is not discipleship. Discipleship means following Jesus.

Do we fail sometimes? Yes, we do! And I am grateful that God forgives our failures. But don’t try to tell yourself it is not important to Him! It is! And it should be important to us, as well.

Lord Jesus, draw us along as Your Disciples! Teach us to walk as You walked, and Serve as You Served. Tear down our self-centeredness and teach us the sobriety to see the Holiness of God and desire to Imitate His Love and Grace.

What Is the Day of the Lord?

What Is the Day of the Lord?

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 5:1-4; compare 2nd Peter 3:10, Isaiah 2:12 and others.


As we are working our way through 1st Thessalonians, we have come to a portion touching on the end times. In chapter four, we saw a detailed description of the Rapture of the Church. In the beginning of chapter five, we see the Beginning of the Tribulation and the fact that it does not involve the Church.

Some years ago, I heard a man teaching on 2nd Peter 3:10. I believe that he meant to teach honestly and accurately: he probably was not a false teacher. But he evidently also did not search out the other references to the “day of the Lord.” He tried to force both events in this passage to fit into a single 24-hour day.

2nd Peter 3:10

Let’s read it: 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

  • It comes as a thief in the night, and
  • All the heaven and Earth (and all that is in it,) will be destroyed.

This verse summarizes the facts. I might say, “the Book of Genesis says God created the Heavens and the Earth, and Joseph was embalmed in a coffin in Egypt.” While that is true, it is not helpful: it skips 1700 years of history! 2nd Peter 3:10 tells us the “beginning and the end” of the Day of the Lord.

What do We Know?

We want to knowwhen the “opening bell” of the Day of the Lord will be. We also want to know what happens during that “day.” God freely tells us what will happen during the Day of the Lord. He does not tell us when it begins. In Matthew 24:36, Jesus specifically warns that “NO Man will know the day or the hour of His coming.” And, in Acts 1:7, He reiterates that “it is not given unto you to know the times or the seasons…

The teacher I heard probably tried to teach honestly. But if he had researched even a little, he would have found that it could not be a 24-hour day. During that “day of the Lord,”  the Gentile nations will come to Jerusalem: How often? They will come year by year, to worship the Lord, in person! And this is specifically after they had warred against Israel. So, it cannot be a single 24-hour day.

Zechariah 14:16 says, “and it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts [that’s Jesus!], and to keep the feast of tabernacles.

That places this specific occurrence after the Tribulation, and before the destruction of this World. So, the passage in 2nd Peter covers a lot of territory…not just a 24-hour day.

“First Mention” Principle

In Bible Study and Interpretation (also called Hermeneutics) we teach a concept called the “first mention” principle. It means that if we are addressing a topic, it is a good idea to go back and look up how God introduced that topic.

Isaiah 2:12-4:6 introduces the topic of the Day of the LORD. He says that it will be a time of heavy Judgment on Israel. He says that all their pride and self-will and idolatry will permanently be put away from them. But He also warns that in the process, they will lose everything they now count precious.

Relatively few people of Israel will even survive the “Judgment portion” of the Day of the Lord: We can see in Isaiah 4:1 that there will be an extreme shortage of men. They will be reduced to an approximate 7:1 ratio of women to men. It says that “in that day, seven women will lay hold of one man, saying, we will pay for our own food and clothing, but let us be called by your name, to take away our shame.”


In the books of Isaiah and the other Old Testament prophets, the contrasts become sharper and sharper. Isaiah 11:10-13 says all the Jews from every nation will be brought back to Israel, and that they will all get along perfectly. It also says that the “Root of Jesse” (the Messiah) will be there, and the Gentiles will eagerly seek Him. That sounds like a total blessing! But we just read of all the judgment and destruction! We can already see what seem to be irreconcilable differences in what is predicted for the Day of the Lord. And that is just in Isaiah!

In Isaiah 11:6-9 we see that the entire animal kingdom will be restored to peace. (That indicates a partial lifting of the curse.) The predators and prey will all eat the same diet… the lion will eat hay, just like an ox, etc. Those all sound like blessings!

Are there Contradictions?

But in Isaiah 13:6-11, it says, “Howl ye, for the Day of the Lord is at hand; it will come as destruction from the Almighty!” Verse nine says it will be a day of “cruel wrath and fierce anger.” And, Isaiah 19:23-25 says it will be a day of blessing, and peace, and gentleness!

(Do you see some apparent contradictions?) Remember, ALL these prophecies will be fulfilled literally, in the Day of the Lord. If any fall short, then God’s Word would fall short. Remember, too, they must be fulfilled in the Day of the Lord, not before. There may be similar things that happen before it, (or which have already happened.) But the ultimate fulfillment has to be in the Day of the Lord. (Don’t take a “similar” thing to mean that the day of the Lord has come.)

So, Which is it? Destruction or Peace?

Will all the earth be blessed, as in Isaiah 11:9, where He says, “the knowledge of the Lord will cover the Earth as the waters cover the sea…”? Or will “…the heavens…pass away with a great noise, and the elements … melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein … be burned up” as 2nd Peter 3:10 says?

God’s Word is complete, and it is also completely true. Both of those “extremes” have to happen. And all the things attributed to the Day of the Lord have to happen exactly as predicted.

The Divine Puzzle

We see that “The Day of the Lord” looks like a very complex “puzzle.” We know it all has to “fit together,” but it really doesn’t look possible.

Years ago, my father sent us a wooden three-dimensional puzzle. As I recall, it had about nine very similar pieces. They all interlocked to make a sort of “many-sided wooden ball:” a polyhedron of some sort. Separately,, all the parts looked very similar. But they only went together in a very limited group of possibilities. Once you know the secret, you can reassemble it, but without that knowledge, it seems impossible.

Without the clues here in 1st Thessalonians 4 and 5, the “puzzle” of the End-times and the Day of the Lord would be very difficult to understand.

Is there “Order” in the “Puzzle?”

We see that there is a long list of things that have to happen “in the Day of the Lord.” Only one of them falls into the category of “unknowable.” It is the Rapture of the Church. We do not know when that will occur. It could happen very soon (and we hope it does, of course.) But it also could be many years from now.

We can list fairly accurately every other item on the list of “things to come in the Day of the Lord.” The Bible requires that they come in the order given in the book of the Revelation, including all the terrible wrath and judgment, the plagues, and all the peace and joy and blessings. How do they fit together?

In 1st Thessalonians 4 and 5 we begin to see “how they fit together.”

  1. The Rapture of the Church: We cannot predict this accurately, and it “Comes as a thief in the Night.” then,
  2. The Tribulation Begins: all the details are laid out in Daniel and Revelation. The Tribulation encompasses all the judgments: all the plagues, wars, and destruction on Earthexcept one.
  3. The Return of the Lord (Revelation 19:11-21) comes next. He immediately sets himself to the task of The Judgment of the Living (surviving) nations (Matthew 25:31-46.) But, The Tribulation does not include the final destruction of the Heavens and the earth, as described in 2nd Peter 3:10. That destruction is 1,000 years later.
  4. Kingdom Age begins: The Kingdom age encompasses all the blessings and Peace and holiness and Joy that is predicted in the Old Testament Prophecies. The Jews have been waiting for and hoping for this Kingdom, over the last 3,000 years. It will fulfill all the promises of Peace and blessing in Isaiah and elsewhere. Everyone who enters the Kingdom will already be a believer, but New Generations will be born and will reach adulthood during this time…and many will hide rebellion in their hearts, even though Jesus is living on Earth, and ruling from Jerusalem. They will still rebel inwardly, just as Judas did.
  5. End of the Kingdom Age: Satan will be released for a short time and all those “secret rebels” will join him in an all-out siege on Jerusalem, attempting to overthrow The King. At that moment (once they have all assembled there,) the Father will rain fire from Heaven and destroy them all, and then,
  6. The Heaven and Earth will pass away: (“the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”, and Immediately,
  7. The Great White Throne Judgment will occur: (Revelation 20:11-15) This is the end of “the Day of the Lord.” All sin will have been dealt with, once for all. The “bringing in of eternal righteousness” predicted in Daniel will also happen right there, and the eternal state will begin. The New Heaven and Earth will appear after the Judgment is complete.

What are We to Do, regarding the Day of the Lord?

In 1971, there was a book written, called “What to do until the Messiah Comes.” It was entirely centered on self-improvement, humanitarian activities, peaceful, communal living, gardening, and crafts, etc. Nothing about His coming, at all.

So, What is the Problem with that Picture?

Did Jesus give instructions about “what to do until He returned?” Yes, as a matter of fact He did! And none of it had anything to do with any of the things in that book!

He said we are to be doing what he said to do, and so, to be found faithful. That includes loving our neighbor as ourselves, submitting to civil authority, demonstrating a holy lifestyle, etc. But it also includes taking the Gospel to the lost and dying World.

Philippians 2:15, 16 says we are to “shine as lights” in that dark world, and to be “holding forth the Word of life.” That means offering Eternal Life to the lost!

In 1st Corinthians 15:34, Paul admonished the Corinthian believers to “Awake to righteousness and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.”

You see, they had a job to do, and they were not doing it!

So, What about Us?

The Day of the Lord has not begun, but it could begin at any time. And once it begins, then our time for voluntary obedience to Jesus (out of Love and a genuine desire to please Him with our lives) will end. Our only opportunity to “join Him in double harness,” working with Him to “do the will of Him who sent us, and to finish His Work”… will be gone forever.

The Obedience of Faith is what pleases the Lord. When the people asked Jesus “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” He replied, “This is the Work of God, that you believe on Him whom He hath sent!

Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

What, then?

If I really believe He is coming back, What then? If I can see that my time is especially short, simply because of my age, I should take this seriously. Ephesians 5:16 says to “redeem the time, because the days are evil.” More explicitly, as Colossians 4:5 says, we are to “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. This is about our relationships with unbelievers. This is “lifestyle evangelism” and “personal evangelism.” It has to be lived, but it also has to be spoken.

Some of you have friends who do not know the Lord. Some have relatives, and family members who are still lost. Give this some thought. The fact is, we all are running out of time. We are running out, and they are, too!

Lord Jesus, allow us to see our own mortality and how fleeting our time on Earth truly is. Help us to live in the Light of that Knowledge, and use wisely whatever time we have left.

Is the “Rapture of the Church” in the Bible?

The Rapture of the Church:

(How does it appear in Scripture?)

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:1-10

Chapter 4

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Chapter 5 

1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

For when they shall say, Peace and safety; THEN sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.


Paul says he shared these truths (in chapter four) with the Thessalonian believers for a reason. It was to provide them with comfort and hope in the face of death. In earlier passages, he had also referred to the abuse they had suffered for their faith. And, in the next chapter, he addressed the coming judgment on the unbelieving world and Israel.

When reading any of the epistles, remember that they were originally letters. The writers addressed them to churches, mostly, although a few seem to have been addressed to an individual believer. The original manuscripts had no chapter or verse divisions. Why is that important? Because, sometimes, the idea being taught in one chapter moved directly into the topic of the next chapter. Thus, when we read 1st Thessalonians 4, we remember that chapter five flows directly out of chapter four.

The “Catching Away” of the Church

Chapter four gives the most complete description of what we call the “Rapture of the Church.” 1st Corinthians 15:50-53 also describes the event. It adds the fact that our bodies will be instantly transformed from “flesh and blood” bodies to the supernatural bodies we will inhabit for eternity. Read it:

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

What “Last Trumpet?”

Notice that the “last trumpet” of the Church age is not the “last trumpet” of the Tribulation period. But the trumpet in 1st Corinthians 15 is identical to the one in 1st Thessalonians 4.

The seventh (and last) trumpet in the Tribulation (Revelation 11:15) announces the next stage of judgment on earth! There is nothing “good” happening. (In fact, Revelation 4:1-3 says that a “voice like a trumpet talking” calls the Apostle up to the Throne of God. The Revelation makes no mention of the Church being on Earth, from that point on. Many Bible students see this as a veiled picture of the Rapture of the Church. (I share this view.) We will be called up, out of the Earth, before the Tribulation begins!

Revelation 5:9, 10 describes a group of “24 elders” who evidently represent the church. They say, “You have redeemed us by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue and people and nation.” And, “You have made us unto our God kings and priests…”

Only the Church is “redeemed out of every family, language, ethnic group and nation.” Only the church is called to become “kings and priests.” (Israel is called to become a “kingdom of priests:” That is not the same thing.) Therefore, we see that the Church is in Heaven, and gathered around the throne of God, before the Tribulation begins in Revelation 6:1.

The “Thief in the Night” Prophecies:

1st Thessalonians 5:2 says that the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.

2nd Peter 3:10
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Matthew 24:42, 43
42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.”

Revelation 16:15 says, 15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”

We see several warnings, mostly given to Israel. Each states that the Day of the Lord would come as a thief in the night. Matthew says the character of this event is that “the world (including Israel) wakes up” to find that they have been “invaded,” and that something is missing.

What will be Missing?

If we read 1st Thessalonians 4 and 5 as a unit, (which they are) we find that the Church has “gone missing!” We also see that the Tribulation begins immediately after that event. Paul says that “they knew perfectly well that the Day of the Lord will come as a Thief in the night.” But one of the characteristics of the whole “thief in the night” concept is that you do not know when he is coming. All of the rest of the Day of the Lord is fully laid out: choreographed by God, through prophecy. All except the Rapture of the Church!

Why is “the Rapture of the Church” a Secret?

The Rapture of the Church was a secret because the whole concept of the Church age was kept secret. It was not revealed until after Jesus’ crucifixion, His death, His burial, His Resurrection and His ascension! The first human to be shown the revelation of the Church was the Apostle Paul. It was a brand-new thing that God did on planet Earth!

And, since the Old Testament prophets were not even allowed to know of the existence of the Church, they obviously could not be told about how it would be removed.

What are the “Seventy Weeks of Daniel?”

In Daniel 9:21-27 the prophet Daniel (at about 607 BC)gives us a very important timeline:

21 Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. 22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. 23 At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.

24Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

(Starting When?)

25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

We see that the 70 x 7 years (490-year) prophecy began with the command to rebuild Jerusalem. (Not the Temple: the city!) King Artaxerxes gave that command in Nehemiah chapter 1, about 446 BC. He made that decree almost 160 years after Daniel’s prophecy. But it covers the first 69 “weeks” (483 years), and culminates in the crucifixion. Then it skips to the 70th “week” (7 years.) It gives a brief, but clear description of the Tribulation, including the antichrist.

But, What happened to the Church Age?

The Church is not included!

We are not part of the judgment spelled out in Daniel 9:24. He clearly says that the judgment has a purpose, and it has recipients. The recipients are Jerusalem and all Israel. The unbelieving World is involved as well, as the World is the means by which God is judging Israel. And there will be terrible judgment poured out on the entire World. But we are not part of that prophecy at any level. We simply are not included.

What is The Big Secret? Why the Mystery?

Ephesians 3:1-11 lets us know just how great a secret it was (Paul speaking:)

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

An Object Lesson

God is teaching the Holy Angels something they had not known, (which we absolutely do not know.) He is using the Church-age believers as an “object lesson” to show His Eternal Wisdom to the Angelic host who had not followed Satan in his rebellion. (Do I understand this? No! Emphatically, No!) But, there it is! The Church age believers are in a special category. We are separated from the world and from Israel, for a purpose far beyond our comprehension. God says so!


Why is it so surprising that He would complete that separation? He will do so by pulling us out of harm’s way before He brings the Judgment of the Tribulation upon Earth. God separated Noah from the judgment of the Flood on the Earth, by means of the Ark. The result was that the judgment of the world excluded Noah! God sent angels to separate Lot from Sodom, so that the judgment of Sodom excluded Lot! He separated Israel from Egypt, by the blood of the Passover Lamb, and by the miraculously selective judgments upon Egypt, so that the judgment of Egypt excluded Israel!

He separated us from the World already, through the Blood of Jesus, and He has seated us with Him already in the heavenly places, in Him! Why would He not “complete the transaction” by moving us out of harm’s way before executing judgment on the rebellious World and Israel?

There is far too much here, for one message: We will have to complete this message over the next few weeks. Next week we will talk about the “Day of the LORD.”

Lord Jesus, please fix our attention upon the Light of Your Written Word, recognizing that it is the printed message of You, the Living Word. Help us to walk in the light You provide!

How are We to Love the Brethren?

How are We to Love the Brethren?

© 2023 C. O, Bishop

1st Thessalonians 4:9-12

But as touching brotherly love [philadelphias: (root is “philéo”)] ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love [agapan: (root is “agapao”] one another. 10 And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren [believers] which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;

11 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.


Here in verses 9-12, we see two forms of “love” commanded (in verse nine), and several general commands as to how that is to be carried out.

The first form of love mentioned here in verse nine is the “Love of the Brethren.” The Greek word is “philadeplhias.” The word comes from the root, “philéo,” and is usually translated “brotherly love.” It has to do with a “familial care for other believers:” seeing them as our family, and caring for one another in that way.

But the second word, in the latter portion of the same verse, is from the Greek root “agapao.” It is completely different than “philéo.” And this is the one Jesus commanded the disciples to have toward one another.

What is the Difference?

The “philéo” love has to do with how we feel, and how we function, toward family: It is how we are to feel and act toward a brother or sister. (Always assuming that the family has a bond of familial love and affection and concern for one another: some families fail in that regard.) Paul points out in verses nine and ten that they are already applying this love toward the brethren. He feels no need to exhort them regarding this love.

But the subject has shifted by the end of verse nine: he has switched to the subject of “agapé” love. He says they had already been taught that they were to “Love one another:” (He quotes Jesus on this note. See John 13:34, 35.) He says that they had already been demonstrating this agapé love to all the believers in their geographic area. But he exhorts them to increase and grow in that function.

So, How is that done? What does that “Look like?”

Keep in mind that agapé love has nothing to do with feelings. When we read the description of the agapé love, in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8, we notice that there is no reference to feelings, at all. Every single descriptor is demonstrated by actions. They all describe how agapé love behaves or does not behave.

So, let’s explore each of the descriptors and see how they might find application in our lives.

1st Corinthians 13:4-8

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: 

Please notice that because the Greek language has about five different words for love, four of which are used in scripture. The King James Translators attempted to set apart the agapé love by using the word “charity” to translate it. The “problem” for us is that the word “charity” has changed over the years, and now it virtually only means “giving to the poor.”

In a way, that makes sense, as the meaning of “agapao” means the pouring out of yourself for the benefit of someone else, without regard for how it affects you. Jesus demonstrated that Love at the Cross: He poured Himself out for us, not allowing His own feelings or comfort to interfere with His sacrifice for us.

So, What do we see as the Descriptors for Agapé love in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8?

  1. Agapé Love is patient (longsuffering.)
  2. Agapé Love is kind.
  3. Agapé Love is not envious.
  4. Agapé Love is not given to arrogance, boasting or pride.
  5. Agapé Love is not “puffed up”…not filled with self-importance.
  6. Agapé Love is not given to inappropriate behavior of any kind.
  7. Agapé Love is not focused on self, or the needs of self.
  8. Agapé Love is not easily stirred to anger.
  9. Agapé Love is not given to assuming bad motives in others, nor keeping a “score.”
  10. Agapé Love is not pleased with evil things, no matter to whom they happen.
  11. Agapé Love is happy when truth is honored, even if it is not to its own benefit.
  12. Agapé Love is able to bear up under every load, and withstand every trial.
  13. Agapé Love is able, despite circumstances, to hope for God’s blessing in all things.
  14. Agapé Love is able to outlast any trial, enduring it as part of love.
  15. Agapé Love is eternal, and it has eternal value.

Interestingly, verse eight goes on to point out that some of the things we may think are eternal are not! The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not eternal. They are for this life only. There will come a time when those gifts are no longer needed. But the Agapé Love has eternal value and will not cease to function. Choosing to love in this way is always an act of the will…not a response to feelings. It is not based on emotions, but rather, it is a voluntary choice.

What are some Other things we know about Agapé Love?

Romans 13:10 says “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore Love is the fulfilling of the Law.”  Jesus confirmed this, in Mark 12:30-33, saying that the twin commands “thou shalt Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy mind and all thy strength,”  and “thou shalt Love thy neighbor as thyself” were the “core value” of all of God’s commands. That, if you fulfill those two commands, you have fulfilled all the rest!

Galatians 5:13 says we are not to use our “Christian Liberty” as an opportunity for self-serving, (serving our flesh; our old sin nature,) but rather, by agapé love, we are called to serve one another. (Love Serves!) Jesus said (Mark 10:45) that “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many,” (Love Gives! Love serves, and Love gives!)

1st Peter 4:8 exhorts us, “And above all things have fervent charity [agapé love] among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

Cover sins? “Cover…” how? Agapé Love motivates us to “throw a veil over” the faults of others. God says that in the same manner that He has forgiven us, He expects us to forgive others.

So, How has God forgiven us?

In Psalm 103:12, He says that he has removed our sins from us as far as the East is from the West. That is a pretty powerful statement! I have always appreciated that particular comparison because it is unlimited. If I fly North, I can only fly so far before I will suddenly be flying South! And the reverse is also true. But! I can fly East for the rest of my life, and I will never suddenly find myself flying West! And the same is true in the other direction. It is an unlimited separation.

Furthermore, (in Psalm 103:14) God says that “He knows our frame, that we are dust….” He understands our frailties and He accepts us as we are. (Will you be that considerate toward those around you? Will you accept them as they are, and choose to tolerate their idiosyncrasies? Will you tolerate their irritating mannerisms, and their flawed logic?) The word “forbearance” means to lovingly “put up with” one another.

How do you see other believers?

Romans 4:7, 8, quoting King David, says “Blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

God the Father sees you in Christ…and only in Christ. He sees you as perfect, clean, and holy, in Christ!  The Lord chooses to no longer see you as a guilty sinner. Can you choose to see other believers in that same light? That is what agapé love requires.

If you are loving others with the Agapé love, then you are not so likely to hold their faults against them. In your own mind, you will set aside those faults and you will overlook their shortcomings, and not take into account the wrongs you have suffered. Why? Because their soul is more precious to you than your own comfort. Their well-being is more important to you than “standing on your own rights.”

What are the Results?

The result of agapé love ruling your life will be a more consistent tranquility, as well as a deep concern for the welfare of other believers. You will find that you are no longer likely to be offended by others. You will genuinely care about what they care about, and look for opportunities to be a blessing to others without calling attention to yourself in the process.

Relationships will deepen, as others sense that you genuinely care for them, not just superficially, or “just when it looks good.”

Priorities will begin to change as you begin to see others through God’s eyes. Your focus will shift away from self, and you will increasingly find yourself asking God to show you His way to respond to life, and His path for you to follow. Your church-family will become increasingly precious to you, as you learn to see the brothers and sisters through God’s eyes.

The “Litmus Test”

The reality of whether we love God is revealed by whether we treat the brethren with His Love. 1st John 4:20 poses the question, “…he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?

So, if someone claims to love God, but their actions show that they do not love other believers, then God says they are lying about loving God. That sounds harsh to us. But it is in the same verse we just read: It is the first half of that same verse. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar…” The reality is, we are fooling ourselves…deceiving ourselves.

And, in 1st Thessalonians 4:11, 12, he says another result is that we will be more likely to tend to our own business, and to live quiet lives. We will also be productive, looking for ways to maintain a clear conscience and good relationships with others, particularly unbelievers.

Practical Holiness

We will strive to earn an income through honest work, and use that income in a way to honor God, and not be dependent upon others, for testimony’s sake. These are good principles for today as well: today, there are various programs which may tempt us to milk “free money from the government,” not admitting that it ultimately comes from our fellow taxpayers. We don’t want to have a reputation for being “freeloaders,” of any kind.

Galatians 6:4, 5 agrees, saying “But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.”

But if another brother or sister is under a crushing load that they cannot bear, we exercise the love of Christ and ease their burden.

Agapé love is practical. And it looks for the opportunity to bless others in practical ways.

Jesus showed the ultimate example of Agapé Love when He bore our sins at the Cross. He met our need, without respect to what it cost Him.  We can either follow His example or fail to do so.

Lord Jesus, fill our hearts with a consciousness of Your presence and Your Love. Teach us to love as You love.

The Call of God to a Holy Life

The Call of God to a Holy Life

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 4

1Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.


Paul begins to give further instruction to these new believers. Remember that they lived in the Roman world, where, just as in the Grecian Empire before it, the public and private morals were very corrupt. Sexual sin, in particular, was rampant.

Corinth was far worse!

In Corinth, at that same time, where the church had even greater contamination, there was a gigantic temple to Aphrodite. It was called a “temple,” but the acts of “worship” involved having sexual relations with the temple prostitutes (for money.) The Encyclopedia Britannica records that in its heyday, that “temple” had 10,000 prostitutes, both male and female. Business was booming! I assume that sexually transmitted diseases were also flourishing there.

In Thessalonica, no such religiously oriented prostitution existed. But there was still the ungodly influence of the World, just as there is today. Paul begged the believers to live the way the apostles had taught them during their brief stay there. (That is what “beseech” means: “beg!”) They had been taught what sort of lifestyle pleased God. Paul begged them to “abound more and more” in that walk with God. They were to be growing in that relationship.

The Apostles’ Teaching

We can go through the Pauline epistles and see what sort of other things he is “likely” to have told them. Some they probably already knew, as some of these “new” believers in Christ were already well-taught Jewish believers, and others were Gentile proselytes to Judaism.

They all were gaining an understanding of the God of the Bible and a beginning of awareness of His Holiness. Some of the things Paul taught may have seemed to be “new,” and those were probably rooted in the “upgrades” that Jesus pointed out. He sharpened the understanding of the believers, to realize that sin is not just “outward actions:” It also includes the root thought or attitude that fostered the eventual actions.

Why is Sexual Sin a Good Example to Use?

In Romans 7, Paul used the example of covetousness. It is one of the prohibitions in the ten commandments and it is one that is entirely inward, though it will certainly bear outward fruit.

Still today, there are people who teach that “you cannot sin in your mind.” They teach that “until it results in an outward action, it is not sin.” Jesus refuted that, saying that when a person is angry without cause, they are in danger of judgment. In the same passage, He taught that when a man looks upon a woman to desire her, (That is what “lust” means: “desire.”) that he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. That is where sin begins. Every man who is honest with himself already knows this. But we can expand that concept to every other sin.

All sin begins in the heart! And that should not be a surprise: Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” So how can we escape such a cycle of sin and death?

What does it mean to be Holy?

Verse three states that we are to be holy: we are God’s private property. That is what “sanctification” means: It means that we have been declared to be “holy.” It means that we are set aside for God’s private and exclusive use.

Remember that the vessels in the Temple of God were Holy, too. On more than one occasion, the temple was raided, and the vessels were stolen. In Daniel 5:3, 4, we see that the Babylonian king Belshazzar took those stolen vessels and drank from them, specifically “drinking as an act of worship to his idols.” He and all his family, friends and servants drank from those holy vessels and praised the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone.  That was an blatantly blasphemous desecration of God’s property!

Result of Defilement

But here is the question to consider: having been defiled in that manner, were those vessels less holy? Were they not still God’s private property?  The fact is, they did belong to God.  When they eventually were returned to the temple, they had to be washed, and reconsecrated for Temple use: but after that cleansing, they were once again used for their intended purpose.

When we fall into sin, no matter how great or small, we are taking God’s private property and using it in a manner that shames Him, just as Belshazzar did! We still belong to God, but we are defiled by the sins we commit. Until that sin is confessed and fellowship is restored, we are just as defiled as those holy temple vessels had been by the wicked acts of Belshazzar and company.

What Vessels?

It is interesting, too, that, in verse 4, God chose to use the word “vessels” here, regarding us. (What vessels?) Since there was so much information about the “vessels” of the temple, and what happened to them, it is interesting that God chose to refer to our bodies as “vessels.”

In Romans 9:21-24, Paul pointed out that physical “vessels,” made of clay, by a human potter, could be destined for honor or dishonor, according to the intent of the maker. A flowerpot, for example, is usually made of cheap, common, red clay. It is used to hold beautiful ornamental plants, but it is relatively weak, very porous, and fragile.

Fine china, in contrast, is made of expensive kaolin clay. It can be fired at extreme temperatures and, as a result, it is much harder and stronger. Ironically, toilets and other such “vessels” are also made of kaolin clay. Their intended use is not the same as it is for “fine china.”

What is our intended Use?

But what the vessel is made of is not the question, here. The real question is, “What is its  intended use?” We are intended for God’s use. Yes, we are weak and fragile, and we have many “frailties” built into us. But we are made for His honor. Especially after being born again, we belong to Him and are expected to live in such a way as to honor Him. We cannot claim that “our frailties made us do evil.” We choose to sin.

In contrast, the angelic hosts were created with none of our frailties, and yet a third of them chose to follow Satan into rebellion, despite knowing their Creator face to face. The reason God offers His Grace to us and not to them is that we have not seen Him, and we have no idea of the enormity of our rebellion. God says we received Grace because we sinned ignorantly. The angels did not sin ignorantly: they knew their Creator personally, and had seen His glory in person.

Possessing our Vessels

We are immortal spirit beings, dwelling in bodies of mortal flesh. We will exist somewhere, forever, either with the Lord, or apart from Him. Unlike the Spirit of God, our spirits have a “starting point,” at conception. Jeremiah 1:5 makes it clear that God knew us before He created us: He says His foreknowledge precedes the creation of each new spirit. And, from conception, that spirit lives in a body (sometimes called a “temple” or a “tabernacle”…a tent) of flesh. How we use that body, and how we use our minds, will either honor God or fail to do so. Paul teaches that, as born-again children of God, we are to walk with God in a manner that honors him.

Defrauding your Brother

How we live also affects others: For example, if you are unfaithful to your spouse, it doesn’t just affect you. It affects your spouse, and it affects the person with whom you committed adultery, and their other relationships are affected in turn. Children are affected, too: sometimes scarred permanently by the sins of their parents.

We cannot undo the effect of our sin. All we can do is confess it, and stop it! We are told to renounce that kind of behavior and live as the people of God. You cannot serve the flesh and simultaneously serve God. And in verse six, God warns that He still judges sin: don’t get the idea that people are “getting away with” anything.

This is not just an admonition to married people, either: the word he used here, translated as “fornication,” is “porneia.” It is a broader term than “adultery:” it simply means “sexual sin.” It is where we get our word, “pornography.” Satan begins his attack in the mind, luring us to lewd thoughts and tempting through the eyes and ears, as he lures us to sin.

But we are given the weapons of warfare to combat that attack: 2nd Corinthians 10:4, 5 says, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but are mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imagination and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”.

Casting Down Imaginations!

That rather rules out the idea that “our inner thoughts are ok, so long as we don’t act on them,” doesn’t it? And the fact that the weapons are not carnal tells us that we can’t fight this battle in the flesh. Finally, he says that every thought is to be taken captive to the obedience  of Christ.

“Secret sin” is not a secret! God is completely aware of every thought we entertain, for better or worse. Our lives are completely open to His gaze. I don’t know about you, but that is not an entirely comfortable thought, to me. It means that when I am thinking wrong thoughts (regardless of what kind) I am “doing” what those thoughts entail, right in front of God. I am defiling myself in His presence, even though I may protest that “I didn’t do anything!

We are called to cast down our imaginations of sin (of every kind, not just sexual sin) and bring every thought into obedience to Christ.

God has not called us to remain in uncleanness, but to accept our new position (being “holy unto the Lord,”) and live that way!

He Who Despises

Is everyone going to respond well to this message? No…unfortunately, even among born-again believers there is a tendency to rebel. We all still have a Sin nature. But God warns us here, that if we despise this commandment, and rebel against it, we are not rebelling against man’s rules, but against God…the very God who gave us the Holy Spirit to seal us as His property. That is serious business, and sometimes has terrible consequences.

Sin Always has Consequences

Ananias and Sapphira died, physically, because they attempted a “secret sin:” God called them on it, and He made an example of them. He took them home on the spot.

We don’t always know what the consequences will be. I have known more than one believer who fell into sexual sin and contracted incurable diseases: One of them died of that disease. It all could have been avoided by stopping the sins where they began: in the heart.

Anger management is another area that can have terrible results. More than one believer has succumbed to anger, and ruined his or her testimony, or marriage, or has even been imprisoned because of his or her sin.

Ann and I knew a pastor who permanently lost his ministry, because of theft…shoplifting! (What a foolish choice!) And yet, it begins in the heart, just like every other sin. It had already affected his ministry, before he was finally caught. He confessed that he had been plagiarizing his sermons, too…(he called it “stealing” those sermons.) That whole sad story was completely avoidable! And so is the damage we incur in our own lives by our sins.

Embrace the Holiness of God! Allow Him to transform you from the inside, so that your life begins to reflect His holiness and so that His Love can freely flow through you. Only the Holy Spirit can empower you to live in such a way as to continually exhibit His Grace.

Lord Jesus, help us to apply the principle of practical holiness in our daily lives, so that we do not allow the enemy a foothold in our lives, but rather walk close to You, and in safety.

To Increase and Abound in Love

To Increase and Abound in Love

© C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 3:11-13

11 Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.

12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: 13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.


Last week we saw that the passion of the Shepherds, including that of the Great Shepherd Jesus, is for the people of God to thrive, spiritually, and to become strong and healthy, as believers, and to consistently reflect the priorities and compassion of Jesus.

Our “prime directive” from Jesus is quite different than that of the television series, Star Trek, where the characters insist that their “Prime Directive” is that they must not disturb any other culture’s pattern of thinking, or way of life. Jesus stated our Prime directive: “Love one another as I have loved You.” That is an utterly different direction, and it has entirely different results.

It is OK to talk about the Bad News!

Notice that Jesus did not hesitate to “disturb our way of thinking,” nor to warn us of impending doom. In fact, He spent more time warning of the coming Judgment than He did elaborating on the joys of Heaven.

Jesus came specifically to turn us away from our old way of life. He did not say that “whatever we are doing is fine,” or that “all ways were equally good.” Quite the opposite: He cut across the grain of every culture in the world, by stating that Sin is what stands between us and God, and that the result will be eternal condemnation, apart from God’s intervention. But God has intervened!

How did God intervene?

God intervened through an act of selfless Love…Agapé Love. Jesus summed it up in His famous statement, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” It literally says, “in this manner, God loved the World…” This is HOW God intervened. And, most importantly, His intervention included the whole world.

But Jesus cut across the smug self-righteousness of the Pharisees and Priests, and He also cut across the pompous worldly-wise self-confidence of the Gentile philosophers. He offered the absolute truth of God to Man, enclosed in Human flesh.

The One and Only:

He clearly stated His unique position as the only begotten Son. The Greek word is “monogene.” It means the “Crown Prince; the “Heir to the Throne.” He is not “one of many ways,” but the Way. Jesus the Messiah is not “one of many truths,” but the Truth. He is not “one of many sources of Life,” but the Life! His own “prime directive” was to satisfy the righteous demands of God’s Holiness on behalf of the entire human race. He fulfilled that directive by a perfect life and a perfect sacrifice at the Cross. He bought the whole World by the shedding of His Blood.

And Jesus gave us our prime directive, in John 13:34, 35. He said that we are to exhibit that same Agapé Love toward one another. We are to “intervene” by Love. We are not to allow other believers to just “slide off” into unfruitfulness and to become the wreckage Satan desires for each of us, but rather to intervene and encourage one another to press on, and walk in obedience to Christ. Remember that the command “Love one another” comes in the context of the foot-washing lesson, in John 13.

Galatians 6:1 clearly states that we are to help one another in the spiritual battle, and to restore one another to fellowship, as needed. This is all part of our “prime directive.”

What About the World?

Paul reiterates that “prime directive” of Agapé Love in 1st Thessalonians 3:12. He expands upon it to point out that the command includes extending that Agapé love toward all people: not just other believers. We are not directed to “allow people to just go their own way,” but rather, we are to warn them that judgment is coming, and offer them the gift of God.

Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death” (There is the judgment!) “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” (There is the gift we are sent to offer!) This is how we are to love the world as Jesus did! It is by taking the necessary risks of rejection and possible persecution, and going ahead with the job of evangelism.

Paul’s Example

In verse 12, Paul also concludes that they could take his and the other evangelists as a working model of how to apply this concept. Paul, Silas, and Timothy had taken the necessary risks to bring the Good News of Jesus to Thessalonica. They endured the danger there, just as they had done in Philippi, though in Thessalonica, they escaped further injury.

Remember, we read in Acts 17, that they had gone to the synagogue, in Thessalonica, probably still bleeding from the wounds received in Philippi. They accepted the calculated risk that the Jewish leaders might resent the message that Jesus was their true Messiah. The evangelists (missionaries,) showed all of the people in the synagogue (from the Jew’s own scriptures,) that the Messiah was expected to suffer death at their hands. They showed that Jesus had, in fact, fulfilled their scripture by subjecting Himself to the abuse, torture and crucifixion He had endured at Jerusalem.

Some of the Jews believed the message. Many Gentile proselytes believed. And the result was quite literally, a riot. It has often been observed that, wherever Paul went there resulted a revival, or a riot, or both. In this case, it was both. And yet, he said that the Thessalonian believers could take him and his fellow laborers as examples of how to live.

What Effect Did Paul Expect in Their Lives?

In verse 13, Paul said that if they committed themselves to that “Prime Directive,” the expected result should be that they would find their hearts increasingly established and strengthened in a practical Holiness, so that at the Lord’s return they would stand blameless before Him.

Positionally, believers have already been declared “holy” by God. Positionally, we already stand blameless before Him. (See Ephesians 1:4) Our position in Him, our salvation, is a gift. Nothing can alter that position. But, in terms of reward, all the results are very much conditioned upon responding to Him consistently in obedience.

Compare Two Ministries

Several times I have compared the ministries of Jeremiah and Jonah: Jonah got great “results,” but he had begun in complete rebellion, and even in the face of a major revival, he was bitter toward God for saving the enemies of Israel. God had to remind him that those people were precious to Him, too.

In contrast, Jeremiah poured himself out for the souls of the people to whom he was sent, though they abused him. He prayed and wept for them, seeking their repentance. But, as far as we know for sure, only two of his audience responded in faith.

We do have a choice How we serve!

Given a choice, I would rather be like Jeremiah than to be like Jonah!  Consider how Jeremiah exhibited Agapé Love. Then compare Jonah. Jonah hated the people to whom he was sent, and was hoping to see them destroyed! He was bitterly resentful toward God for saving them, and said, in effect, “I knew you were going to do this! That is why I ran away to begin with!”

Yes, God rewards obedience, but He also rewards obedience from the heart: not just “outward compliance.” God knows our hearts. He honors His Word, simply because it is His Word! But he honors us for willingly joining with Him in the double harness of service that He offers.

Service is a Privilege.

First, it is a privilege reserved for those who have been born again, into His family. Secondly, it is reserved for those believers who willingly respond to the call of God.

In Isaiah 6:1-8, the prophet Isaiah heard that call: “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” (We might call that a “rhetorical question,” as the call was being directed to Isaiah!) But Isaiah responded as though he were a volunteer, saying, “Here am I, Lord! Send me!” He was eager to join Jesus in the Work of the Gospel.

What about Counterfeits?

Do some people imitate the service of God? And are they possibly even earnestly coveting His favor and reward? Absolutely they do, and that may be their earnest hope. But if you circumvent the Cross, refusing to deal with your sins, then you are impersonating a child of God. As a lost person attempts to serve God without His approval, they are similar to the people we sometimes hear about who impersonate police officers. Some of them even buy uniforms, and paint their cars to look official, and then go out and attempt to arrest “bad guys.”

The problem, of course, is that it is a crime to impersonate a police officer. Thus, even if what they are doing while wearing that counterfeit uniform is technically a “good thing,” they will not be rewarded for their supposed “good deeds.” They will be punished for the crime of impersonating an officer of the law.

Jesus knows the Difference!

Jesus said that there will be people under judgment, who protest that they are the “good guys!” They will say, “But we did all these great things in your name!” And He said that His response will be “…but I never knew you! Depart from me, you workers of iniquity!

He will not say that to any of His “born ones.” (By the way, the Greek word translated as “children,” in reference to those reborn into the family of God, is “teknoi,” meaning “Born Ones.”) He will not reject you for wrongdoing, though your rebellion or neglect may cost you much of the reward you had hoped to earn.

Practice, Exercise, and Growth

As with everything else in life, this new life in Christ takes practice to gain any stability. It is not something “natural” we are attempting, any more than it was “natural” for Peter to walk on the water with Jesus. It was impossible unless Jesus enabled him, and even then, the moment he shifted his focus to the surroundings, he began to sink. The same holds true for us!

It requires practice and exercise to gain experience and stability in a walk with Jesus. And it requires spiritual food to grow strong and healthy. In 1st Peter 2:2, we are told, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby.” If we are not feeding on God’s Word, and practicing the application of His Word in our lives, then we cannot hope to grow strong and stable as believers. And we certainly cannot hope to become proficient at walking with Him if we do not consistently practice doing so.

Learning to Walk

When you were physically learning to walk, as a baby, success meant always getting up one more time than you fell down. As we are learning to walk with God, we often find that we have stumbled and fallen into sin. We confess it to God: (That is how we get up!) He forgives us, and we again set out to walk with Him.

Paul says that as we continue to practice exercising the Agapé Love in our relationships with others, including our outreach to unbelievers, we will become stronger, more effective, and more fruitful in our walk with Him. That growth and experience gives us great confidence as we go to meet Him, or, even just on a day-by-day basis, as we anticipate His return.

Perhaps this phrase seems small and unimportant, in the context of the things in the coming chapters, but since the Lord’s primary command is in view, we need to take it seriously, and consider how to apply it in our lives.

Lord Jesus, please open our eyes to the state of the World around us, and help us to see the people of the world as You see them: rather than seeing them as servants of the enemy, let us see them as victims of the enemy. Give us a heart of compassion to reach out to the lost around us, and to encourage one another as we see Your return approaching.

The Passion of the Shepherds

The Passion of the Shepherds

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 3:6-10

But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:

Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.

For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; 10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?


Paul had sent Timothy to Thessalonica to find out how the church was doing. He had feared that because of the heavy persecution against the infant church, they might have collapsed under the load of abuse. But he was thrilled to find out that the Thessalonian believers were not just “doing well,” but truly flourishing! Back in chapter one he had alluded to that, saying that wherever he went, now, he was hearing about their rich testimony of grace, faith, courage and Agapé Love.

But there had been a time when he was unsure about them. That is understandable, since he had only been with them for three or four weeks at most. From a human perspective, that was simply not enough time to gain any stability in the Lord. But God was the One in control. Human strength is very limited, but God’s authority and ability is truly unlimited.

Fire on the Mountains

There is a book (no longer in print, but still available on the internet) called “Fire on the Mountains” by Raymond Davis. This book chronicles the beginning of the evangelical church in Ethiopia; before, during and after World War II.

In 1937, Mussolini’s armies invaded Ethiopia, and the missionaries were forced to leave both the country and the fledgling church they had led to Christ. Their years of labor and love had only resulted in 48 believers, who were scarcely trained in the scriptures at all, as not much of the scriptures had yet been translated into their language. The missionaries were heartbroken, of course, because they were sure that the church would fail under the extreme persecution, and especially without the careful teaching the missionaries themselves had been providing.

God Was at Work

The war ended in 1945, but it was another two years before the missionaries were allowed to return. So, they went back, expecting to have to start over and rebuild all the work that was lost during the war years. What they did not know was that God had protected His Flock, and He had caused it to thrive under the persecution!

They had left behind 48 believers who had only small portions of the scriptures in their own language. But, when the missionaries returned in 1947, they were met by a church numbering over 10,000 believers! Obviously, there were some serious needs for teaching and training, but, instead of a tiny group of fearful saints, there was now an army of enthusiastic, committed Christians!

Paul may have felt the same joy and amazement those missionaries felt. He knew how terribly the new believers had been treated by their unbelieving neighbors and fellow-citizens, and was fearful that his own work had gone to waste. But He didn’t know that God was at work in Thessalonica!

Human Doubts

We might say, “Well, he should have known!” But bear in mind that Paul was just as human as we are, and he was there to see the horrific treatment the believers received. I can easily see how he could begin to doubt the Grace of God sustaining the believers in his absence.

Pat James was justifiably fearful for the future of this church, here at True Hope. He had planted the church, and worked for years, teaching and encouraging and praying, and investing his own life for the future of the believers, here. Especially later, as Pat began to suffer from the disease that eventually killed him, he despaired of the future of the church he loved. The church was his passion, and his calling. Feeding the flock, and praying for the believers, and defending this flock against false teachers was what he lived for! So, he was heartbroken to see the church dwindling and then to know he was getting too sick to even continue the work!

But God had good plans for the church. It stabilized, after the initial shock of losing the founding pastor, and it began to get healthier. Finally, during the Covid pandemic, it began to grow, numerically. It was growing spiritually, as people became hungrier for the Word of God, and began to study on their own. God was tending to His flock, just as He did the church in Thessalonica, and in Ethiopia. And, in the last few years of their lives, Pat and Jan James had the joy of seeing the church prospering and growing.

Now We Live!

Paul said, “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord!”

He felt that “life was worth the hard times” if the result was the stability of the believers and their firm walk with God! I’m sure Pat James felt the same way, seeing that the church he loved was growing and thriving, after he had thought it would fail and die.

I know, in my own life, it thrills my heart, too, when I see more than half the people in the church also showing up for Wednesday night service. I remember when it was difficult to get more than half a dozen people to attend on Wednesdays, and they seemed to mainly be there to “support the cause.” Now I see people who are eagerly feeding on God’s Word and anxious to understand it for themselves. That is the sort of thing that makes all the hard times and sad times worthwhile!

Easing our Fears

And, from a committed Shepherd’s point of view, it eases the fears of “what will happen to the church when I die or when I am forced to abandon the work?” The missionaries in the case of the Ethiopian church were convinced that all their work had been in vain. They were heartsick for ten years, praying for the fledgling church and the 48 believers they had left behind. They did not know whether they would ever be allowed to return. (Remember that, at the beginning of the war, all the battles seemed to be going in favor of the Axis powers.)

Had those dictators remained in power, the missionaries might never have returned. But, again, God was at work. Ten years is a long time, from a human perspective, but it is less than a blink of the eye, to God! And, in the absence of the evicted missionaries, He had worked miraculously. The church blossomed, strictly because of God’s Work, not their own.

The Passion of the Shepherds

Every shepherd who is earnestly responding to the call of God to feed and strengthen the flock is gripped by the sense of urgency and vital importance of feeding the flock on the Word of God. And, since God gave us the Written Word of God as the “designated sheep food,” we also reasonably expect and anticipate spiritual growth and health to result from that food.

Sometimes it takes time for people to thrive, as was the case in Ethiopia and in the Dom people of Papua New Guinea, where Jim and Judy Burdett invested their lives. Other believers may thrive immediately, as did the churches in Thessalonica, and Philippi..

Corinth was one of those cities, where despite the initial positive reception of the Gospel, there was a thick “layer” of carnality and worldly behavior to be “peeled away” before they could begin to flourish. Paul was there for about eighteen months, but both of his letters to that church are almost completely devoted to corrective teaching. They had problems!

Paul was in Ephesus for about two years. and they seem to have done well. I do not know why one group of people will respond well and another will respond with only moderate interest, but it seems to be more dependent upon the recipients than upon the messengers. Paul brought what was effectively the same message, everywhere he went, but the responses varied wildly.

How will they Respond?

His heart’s desire in every case, though, was that the people would feed on the Word and thrive on that clean food. When I worked as a teacher, in the industrial trades, one concept I held to is that “teaching has not been accomplished until learning occurs.”  It is not sufficient to “recite” a great pile of facts or theories: if your audience is either not grasping what you are saying, or cannot see how to apply them, then “reciting” is all you accomplished. When learning has truly occurred, your students can put into practice the concepts you have taught, and use them in everyday life. That is the result of teaching.

When I taught the principles of welding supervision, most people seemed to respond well, but when I heard reports back from the shop floor, how at least some of them were applying what they had learned in class, it brought me great joy. Because then I knew that “teaching had truly been accomplished!”

Since the learning and spiritual growth of the church is the whole goal of the shepherd, it becomes the driving passion, taking precedence over virtually everything else. We want to know that the principles of God’s Word are not just being placed in the mental “library shelves” of believers, but are being implemented in the “Living Room.” They are no longer just head-knowledge, nor just “fun-stuff-to-know-and-tell:” They have become a living, working reality.

That is what Paul was anxious about, and that is what brought him great joy, when he heard the answer!

Who are the Shepherds?

There are a wide variety of “shepherding jobs” that a believer can step into. It is not just the “Pastors, Elders, Deacons, etc.” It can include any believer who matures to the point that they devote themselves to feeding the flock around them. It can be simple mentoring, as several people in my life have served. It can be formal teaching. It can be just drawing alongside a younger believer and being an encourager.

When your heart is exercised to “do the will of Him who sent you and to finish His Work” as Jesus said, then you are becoming “one of the shepherds,” in a practical sense. You are joining with Jesus in that job, and He will assign you tasks as He sees fit.

If you are interested in what the work of the Shepherd entails, please read Ezekiel 34:1-10. If that passage stirs your heart and sounds to you like a “call to action,” then you should consider whether God is directing you to join with Him in the job of feeding His flock.

If you are devoting yourself to praying for the believers around you, and seeking their stability, growth, and blessing, then you probably are one of the shepherds, even if you don’t see yourself that way.

How does God see the Matter?

In Hebrews 5:12, 13, the writer admonishes the believers, saying “You should have been teachers by now, but instead, you now require someone to re-teach you the things you should have mastered long ago. Instead of maturing, you have become babies again!” What a sad thing to have to say to a flock! What a hard thing to have to hear about yourself!

How should We See it?

But what we can “take away from” that passage is that all believers are called to grow at least to a level where we can function as examples and mentors for younger believers and encourage them to grow up too. Does that mean you have to teach? Not necessarily. But it does mean that we are called to bear fruit, in the sense of spiritual reproduction, and that new believers ought to find us to be faithful examples of the Love of Christ as well as faithful Ambassadors, and handling His Word in a faithful manner. We are not to stagnate in babyhood, as believers. We are to grow to maturity.

The Passion of Jesus, the Great Shepherd … is to see us grow to be like Him! That is called “discipleship!” We are to follow Him and learn to be like Him. That is the result of choosing to join Him in double harness and to learn from Him as we work beside him.

Lord Jesus, raise us up to walk in Your footsteps, and to serve with you, caring for the scattered flock in this world.. Give us Your Compassion and commitment to Your Word. Make us the disciples You have called us to be!

That No Man Should Be Moved

That No Man Should Be Moved

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 3:1-5

1Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:

That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.


Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers partly because he simply misses them, as he wrote earlier. But he was also concerned for their spiritual well-being. He knew that they had been under persecution, and he was fearful that they could be turned aside from their faith by the harsh trials and become unfruitful.

Notice that, in verse five, he pointed out the enemy who sought to cripple them spiritually. It seems appropriate to spend some time on how that enemy attempts to cripple believers.

Paul was fearful for the believers at Thessalonica. He had heard nothing of them for a long time; so, he feared they may have been ensnared by the enemy in some way, and become unfruitful.

Who is the Enemy?

This seems pretty self-explanatory, but God spells out for us that our enemies do not include other humans, even when they are acting like enemies. Ephesians 6:12 states that our enemies are not “flesh and blood.” He names several categories of demonic creatures (which I can’t define, because the scripture does not define them.) And, in 1st Peter 5:8, we are admonished  to “be sober, be vigilant, for your enemy the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” That leaves no question as to the identity of our ultimate enemy and his desire regarding us..

So, What are the Enemy’s Plans for You?

Remember: You are Secure Forever:

Just as a preliminary word of encouragement, let me assure you: Satan cannot take you away from Jesus! But he will try to make you think he can do so.

In John 6:37, Jesus said, “he that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.” And, in John 6:39, he said, “This is the Father’s will, which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”

In John 10:27-29 He said, “27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and my Father are one.

No Created Being Can Separate us from the Love of God.

Also, in Romans 8:38, 39, Paul confirms that “38 … I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Finally, in Hebrews 13:5, God says, “…I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” So, when you feel fear of “losing your salvation,” or fear that God may abandon you, remember these things:

  1. Jesus will never “kick you out.”
  2. God the Father has willed that Jesus will not lose a single one who has trusted in Him.
  3. No one can “pluck you out of His hand.”
    That includes all the fallen angelic hosts, including Satan himself.
    That includes you! You are a created being: you cannot separate yourself from His Love.
  4. God will never leave you, nor forsake you!

Do remember that you can ignore God and fail to experience His peace and His Joy, and the confidence of knowing that you are “still on His team.” 1st John 5:13 says He wants you to know that you have eternal life.

Because You are “on God’s Team,” Satan desires to cripple or destroy you!

Just as an army, retreating before a powerful enemy, will seek to destroy anything they have left behind, so their enemy cannot use it, Satan desires to render you useless to God.

He cannot do anything to you without God’s permission, but he can entice you to walk out from under God’s protection, and thus you may become a target for his attacks.

If he can cause you to doubt God’s Character and Grace, then he can make you live as though you were not “on God’s team.” He will attempt to lure you into immorality, or fear, or pride, or any other manifestation of your old Sin Nature. Then other people will see you as being “no different than any other sinner” (or worse, because you claim to belong to Jesus, but are living as though you never knew Him.) If he can do that, then he has succeeded in destroying your testimony, and it will no longer matter “what you say:” everyone around you has already read the “testimony of your life,” in your behavior.

We have already been warned of this, and in Philippians 1:29, it is spelled out, “for unto you it is given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Jesus did not promise an “easy life” to believers: He said, “these things I have spoken unto you that in Me you might have Peace. In the World, ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the World.” (John 16:33)

What about Fear?

Does Satan use fear against us? Absolutely, he does! We can be so overwhelmed with fear that we are completely unable to function. Where does the fear come from? It is not coming from God: In 2nd Timothy 1:7, He says, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

We can be distracted by (and dwell on) the Internet News, and be drawn into the countless conspiracy theories that abound there, and we will be ensnared by fear. Even if some of the “scary things” on the news are true, there is nothing we can do about any of them, as a rule.

But what God says, we can obey. I do not need to know all the horrible plans Satan has for the World. All I need to know is who my true Master is, and all I need to do, is walk where He says to walk. That is why the Psalmist says, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul.” The News can’t do any of those things! Satan will use it (or any of a thousand other distractions) to do exactly the opposite.

What about Anger?

There were plenty of things for the Thessalonian believers to feel angry about. They had been grossly mistreated by the unbelieving World. They had lost their belongings in some cases, and had been physically attacked, in others. There were false teachers there, insisting that, without becoming Jews and following the Mosaic Law, they could not be saved.

Those things probably engendered both fear and anger. But both reactions are fruitless. Only Light dispels darkness. Anger from believers will not prevent the anger of others around them. God says for us to drop it. Love has a better hope of dispelling anger. And forgiveness has a better chance of producing internal healing than does resentment. In James 1:20, God says, “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”

What about Pride?

In the sense of “arrogance,” we truly have nothing to feel “proud” about, Our birthplace, from a human perspective, is strictly an accident. Whatever family we were born to, again, was not of our choosing. We can enjoy all those things and be grateful that we had good upbringing, or that we have been brought up in an environment where the Bible is honored and taught. But, once again, we had nothing to do with that fact. We either embraced it and valued it or we did not, but we had no part in making it happen.

Our gifts are just that: gifts. Perhaps we have worked hard to build upon the talents we have been given, but that talent was inborn, not earned. If I was born color-blind, or even completely blind, I have nothing to be ashamed of: but as a sighted person, I cannot feel “proud” that my eyes are functional, and even that function is diminishing, as I age.

Some people have music going inside all the time, without thinking of it. I’m one of those people, but it isn’t something I chose. And it isn’t always good. A “bad song” can get stuck in my head just as easily as a “good song.” But when I wake up in the morning, there is already a song cycling through my mind, for better or worse. It is nothing to engender pride at all: it is just there. Same for most other things.

Clean Pride

Can I feel “proud of my children” or “proud of a worker” whom I trained? Sure, but the clean “pride” of grateful, joyful satisfaction with the results of one’s labor is not the same as an “arrogant attitude” that says, “because my kid is a champion wrestler, I must be somehow better than you.” That kind of pride is always offensive, and always destructive: Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

What about Unbelief?

Unbelief among believers? That sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it is very common. Think of Peter: He believed God enough to “get out of the boat!” But moments later, unbelief kicked in, and he instantly sank. We suffer from the same malady!

Unbelief is the cause of our not having the confidence to just go ahead and do what God has commanded us to do. Unbelief is what makes us fear the future, and fear abandonment by God, even when we know His promise that He will never leave us.

Satan attacked the simple faith of Eve, by first questioning God’s Word, then denying it entirely and accusing God of dishonesty…claiming that God had a hidden agenda and that He had lied to her and Adam. Satan still does that today. If he can cause you to weaken in your trust of The Savior, then all of his weapons are empowered to draw you away into abject failure and defeat.

What about the Desire for Fleshly Gratification?

We always have a choice: we can believe God …or not. We can obey God …or not. We can trust Him …or not. And our old Sin nature, one of our other enemies, is in league with the Evil One. Jeremiah said, regarding our old Sin Nature, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” Our old nature clamors for attention and demands pleasure. But it is completely corrupt: Romans 8:7 says that even God can’t fix it! So, He gave us a new nature!

The World, (Our third enemy) says, “Follow your heart! Your heart will never lead you astray!’  But God says my heart is the most likely agent to deceive me! I have had my whole life to practice listening to the three enemies of my soul. I’m an expert at sin and unbelief. It takes practice to learn to listen to God instead of my old sinful heart.

So, when the World, in popular music, says, “How can something so wrong feel so right?” We should recognize the faulty reasoning it offers. Who engineered that flawed logic? And, ultimately, who is attempting to lure us away to sin? Satan is the Spirit at work in the World, and our old sin nature agrees with both our other enemies. They all work to convince us that if it feels good, it must be good. God gives the answer in Galatians 5:16 “… walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”

We always have a choice.

How you respond to God’s Written Word is a choice you make daily. Remember that since Jesus is repeatedly identified as being the Living Word of God, the way we respond to the Written Word is truly how we are responding to the Living Word. When we ignore the written Word, we are also ignoring the Living Word.

We have choices to make every moment. If we continue to make bad choices, then the enemy can draw us away and make us unfruitful in the service of Jesus.

Lord Jesus, please grant that we will be aware of the choices we are making and choose to walk in the light as You are in the Light. Enable each of us to serve You in the way You want us to serve. Help us to remember that we are Your Ambassadors.

The Joy of the Shepherds

The Joy of the Shepherds

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

1st Thessalonians 2:17-20; (Comparing Matthew 11:28-30; Acts 20:28-31; Hebrews 13:17;  1st Peter 5:1-4; John 4:34)

1st Thessalonians 2:17-20

17 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. 18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.

19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? 20 For ye are our glory and joy.


At various times, over the years, we have examined the scriptures that explain the “Work of the Shepherds.” We will do so again, in the near future, but today we will address a parallel idea: What brings Joy to a Shepherd?

In 1st Thessalonians 2:17-20, Paul first says that he has tried more than once, to go visit the Church in Thessalonica. He misses them, and longs to see them again. He says that Satan was the culprit who prevented his return to Thessalonica. (How did Paul know? We are not told.)

Please don’t jump to the conclusion that Satan is personally involved when you don’t get to do the things you want to do. Satan is not omnipresent (he is not “everywhere at once,”) nor is he omniscient (he doesn’t “know all things.”) He does not “cause you to sin:” You are perfectly capable of sinning without his involvement. (However, he definitely approves of your sin, so, if you want to “please the enemy,“ just keep it up!”

But, in this case, somehow, Paul was aware that there had been Satanic intervention, preventing his return to Thessalonica. We are not told how he knew. It is just a fact.

Glory and Joy in Working for Jesus

But, in verses 19 and 20, Paul says something pretty important: He says that the believers, there in Thessalonica, were his Glory and his Joy. He specifies that they are his hope for blessing, and honor, at the coming of Christ.

They will be his Joy, to see them standing before Jesus, and knowing that he had been a co-laborer with Jesus in getting them there!

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said some odd things:

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

I am told that the Greek word, here, translated as “yoke,” was specifically the double-harness made for two people to pull together. It allowed two workers to unite their strength and move a much heavier load. Jesus was inviting those who were wearied by their own attempts to serve God, in their own strength. He invited them to join Him in double-harness and find rest, because of His strength. And He promised they would learn to walk with God and learn to join Him in His Work. He said that the burden would be easy and light, compared to what they had been attempting alone.

Choosing Partnership With Jesus

But the bottom line is that, when we choose to join Jesus in that double harness, we become co-laborers with Jesus. We are seizing the opportunity to serve with Him! This is true, whether we are in an official position of “working for God” or serving, unseen, and just faithfully doing what He asks us to do. (This is not something “reserved for church leaders.”)

As we walk with Him and serve with Him, we learn His priorities, and gain His perspective. He changes our thinking about essentially everything. Things that once seemed important to us have become rather trivial from our new perspective. Goals we once felt strongly about may become irrelevant. And, yes, the result is “rest to our souls.” Our anxieties over the fears of this world begin to fade away, and the very temporary, shallow “joys” of this world are becoming less attractive to us.

Are You “Called to service?”

Whether you know it or not, the short answer is “YES!” If you are a believer, then you are called to be a disciple. You are called to work with Jesus and to follow Him in all things.

For three decades, I frequently wanted to leave the vocational job God had given me. But Ann and I were both aware that God had provided that job. Unless He directed me elsewhere, I was to “stay put!” So, I stayed there, and worked, and taught, and took opportunities to counsel and encourage believers, there at work.

I was working with Jesus there, just as much as I was working with Jesus in the churches I served. But I was grateful when the time came to leave. Being laid off after that long in service was not a grief to me: it was a relief!

Job Security for Believers

There are no “layoffs,” though, in God’s service. He has called us to serve. We may remember Samson, and ask, “but wasn’t Samson ‘laid off?’” Yes, Samson was in trouble because of his careless attitude toward the calling of God: He suffered losses because of his sin. (In the game of Hockey, they have something called a “penalty box.” Samson was in the “penalty box,” but he was still on the team.) And God chose to use Samson again, one last time, before he died.

All Believers are Called to Service

In Romans 8:28-30, we see that every believer is called to service. Revelation 5:9, 10 and Hebrews 13:15 teach us that every believer is called as a priest in the Body of Christ. We are called to serve Jesus as did the priests in the Old Testament, bringing sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, interceding for others in prayer, and acting as His ambassadors to those around us, This service is both in blessing and serving them, and in offering His grace and forgiveness through the Person of Jesus.

We are called to be His hands, feet, and voice, as His Ambassadors. But we are working with Jesus. Jesus said, in John 15:5, “apart from me ye can do nothing.” That is the literal truth. The things God has called us to do are impossible on our own: but He does not ask us to do them on our own. He says “take My yoke upon you and learn of Me.”

And the Joy we will receive in hearing “Well done, thou Good and faithful Servant,” will surpass all the hard things we have experienced along the way. If you have led others to faith in Christ, then they will be a special, personal joy to you at his coming. If you have drawn others to walk with Him, then their lives, in which they honored Him, will also be a joy to you.

Daniel 12:3 says, “…then they that be wise will shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars, for ever and ever.” There is a reward for a faithful walk with Christ. And part of that reward is sharing in His joy.

So, going back to the original question…:

What brings Joy and Blessing to Shepherds?

In Acts 20:28-31, Paul gave some instructions to the elders of the Ephesian church. He addressed them as “overseers” and as shepherds. He exhorted them to do the work of tending to God’s flock. Paul warned them of the hidden dangers to the flock. He told the Ephesian elders that they were to “stay put,” in Ephesus, and tend to the flock they shared as their responsibility for oversight and teaching.

He warned them that predators would come (“grievous wolves”); false teachers, attempting to draw away disciples after themselves, and not concerned for the flock. But they were to feed the flock, and to guard against those predators. Nothing was said in that passage about “joy.”

In 1st Peter 5:1-4, Peter did much the same thing, but not to a specific group of elders: rather, to all elders of churches throughout the church age. He told them that they were to feed the flock, and care for them, providing a spiritual and physical example for the others to follow. They were not to allow the question of payment to be their motive for service…money was not the point of their service.

No Hierarchy in the Church

They were told that they are not “the bosses.” Not “lords” over the flock, but serving as examples. And he concluded that there would be specific reward for having served well in that capacity. He calls it a “crown of glory that passes not away.” And when will they receive it? When the Chief Shepherd comes. When Jesus, the true Shepherd, returns to claim His own. They have joined Him in His Work, and will share in His Joy.

There are five such “crowns” mentioned in the New Testament, but we need to keep in mind that the Greek word translated as “crown” in all five cases, is the word “stephanos,” meaning “a victor’s crown,” (not “diademos,” meaning a royal crown.)

The Olympic champions were crowned with laurel leaves, honoring their accomplishments, But laurel leaves wither and fade. This crown, and the others, like it, are said to not fade away. We are not told much more about any of these “crowns,” so I am not going to attempt to elaborate on them.

Future Reward

But we can see, that one result of faithful service is the joy of God’s pleasure in our work.

Jeremiah had a very rough ministry. And, in spite of his suffering, as a prophet, as far as we know, only two people believed his message during his lifetime. So, did he receive the joy of Christ, saying “Well done!”?  I expect he did! He served absolutely faithfully, weeping for the grief he felt, at the constant rebellion of his countrymen.

How about Jonah? Thousands of people were saved through his ministry. So… does he get a better reward? I seriously doubt it! Why? Because he served in a very poor attitude, hoping the people to whom he brought his message would reject it and be condemned!

So, is it possible for a servant of God, serving as a shepherd, to not experience that joy? Evidently it is!

Missing out on Joy

Hebrews 13:17 gives the general warning to all believers, regarding the leadership of the churches: (This is not in regard to civil leadership: it has to do with “those who keep watch over your souls.” Civil leaders are not in that category.)

17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Leaders whose flocks rebel against the Word and which follow the world’s patterns of beliefs and behaviors still have to give account to God, for “what happened on their watch.” They feel personally responsible for the results of their teaching and or leadership. The leaders of the failed church at Laodicea (for example) will not be joyful at the Lord’s return. They will grieve the loss of blessing and honor that should have been theirs to share before the Lord, with those people.

Finding Joy as a Shepherd

A shepherd feels joy to see the spiritual prosperity of those he has been called to feed. He feels joy in sharing that work with his fellow shepherds and in seeing new leaders growing up from within the flock. He rejoices in the spiritual health of that flock. Numbers are a side issue. The primary concern is the spiritual health of those he serves.

A shepherd can miss out on joy in this life because people reject his teaching. (That was the case for Jeremiah. But he has eternal joy in Jesus’s satisfaction with his work.)

Or he can miss out on joy in this life and the life to come, because he had wrong motives in service, (as Jonah showed us.)

But if the shepherds over a flock are missing out on Joy, for whatever reason, it also affects the flock. Speaking to all the flock, Hebrews 13:17 says, “it is unprofitable for you,” if the shepherds have to report failure in their ministry.

Feeding on God’s Work

In John 4:34, Jesus said, “My meat (my food) is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work!” A faithful shepherd echoes that central purpose and passion. He finds his sustenance in the Person of Christ, and in obedience to Him. He looks for satisfaction and Joy in the service to which he is called. (This is true for all believers, not just the shepherds.)

In Matthew 25:21, Jesus said,   21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.We seek to join Jesus in the work, and to share in His Joy!

But the greatest joy a shepherd can have, in this life, is to see God’s Word taking root in the lives of the flock, and to see their lives reflecting the Glory of God, as they are transformed by His Word. To see new leaders being raised up by the Spirit of God, so he does not feel fearful about what will become of the flock when he himself is no longer able to serve.

Pat James, the founding pastor, here at True Hope, became too sick to serve, and he feared that this church would fail. But Richard Banham and I reported frequently to him, letting him know that the church was flourishing again, and Pat and Jan James rejoiced in that news. They had Peace and Joy, knowing that the flock was doing well.

This is the Joy of the Shepherds!

Lord Jesus, teach us to follow You in such a way as to bring Joy to You, and so that we may share in Your Joy.