BIBLE 2018 | Week 13

March 23, 2018 | Mark and Scott McAndrew

I Corinthians 9-10 | Sunday: 1 Corinthians 9 speaks of Paul’s passionate evangelism. He is willing to bend his preferences toward the unbelievers he is around in order to open up a clear path for the gospel.

1 Corinthians 10 warns us to “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (v 12-13).

Paul uses the story of the nation of Israel in the wilderness wandering as an example of people who began well but ended poorly.

Genesis 48-50 | Monday: Genesis 50:20 is very significant. Joseph says to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” For a great 30 second summary of the meaning of this verse in context, see here.

For an NAC sermon on Genesis 50, see here.

I Samuel 11-15 | Tuesday: 1 Samuel 11-15 tells the story of Saul’s downward spiral toward losing his dynasty. Instead of his son Jonathan becoming king in his place, he learns that the kingdom will be taken from his lineage and given to another – namely, David.

This shows us that, along with Sunday’s reading, that we can start off well and end poorly. Read Saul’s story as an example of what not to do ourselves.

Psalms 36-38 | Wednesday: Tim Keller comments on Psalm 36 by telling us that: 

“Fearing God (verse 1) is not mere belief in him. It is to be so filled with joyful awe before the magnificence of God that we tremble at the privilege of knowing, serving, and pleasing him. Sin shrugs at God. It’s essence is failing to believe not that he exists but that he matters. This attitude is deadly.

Fear of God and self-understanding grow or diminish together. Indifference toward God is a form of self-conceit (verse 2) and self-deception (verse 2). To feel no need for God is to be out of touch with reality—such people have ‘ceased to be wise’ (verse 3). What starts as mere overconfidence can grow into dishonesty and cruelty (verse 4). Sin is spiritual cancer.” 

Keller in one of his devotionals on Psalm 37 says:
“Fretting is a common activity of our age. It is composed of worry, resentment, jealousy, and self-pity. It is dominant online. It chews us up inside while accomplishing nothing. David gives three practical remedies. Look forward (verse 2)—those whose main happiness is found in this world are living on borrowed time. Look upward (verses 3-5)—neither repress nor vent your frustrations but redirect them to God. Leave your burdens in his hand (‘commit’) and learn to find your heart’s deepest desires in who he is and what he has done (‘delight’). Finally, get busy with the things that must be done—’do good’ (verse 3). 
This short prayer from John Newton goes well with Psalm 38. Newton writes:
“Approach, my soul, the mercy seat, where Jesus answers prayer; there humbly fall before His feet, for none can perish there. Bowed down beneath a load of sin, by Satan sorely pressed, by war without and fears within, I come to Thee for rest.” 
Job 25-26 | Thursday: D.A. Carson gives some brief comments on Job 25 and 26: 

“The last speech from Job’s ‘miserable comforters’ is that of Bildad (Job 25), and it is pathetically short because even he now recognizes that he has nothing new to say, and neither do his friends. Job’s answer is long and complex (chaps. 26—31), as if he is determined to drive his friends into silence. Some of it is mere review.

The opening chapter (Job 26) finds Job mocking these ‘comforters’ for their callousness, the sterility of their counsel in the face of suffering like Job’s. It also finds him agreeing with them regarding God’s unfathomable power.

After a breathtaking review of God’s powerful deeds, Job concludes, ‘And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power’ (26:14). While the ‘comforters’ charge Job with reducing God to impotence, Job so insists on God’s transcendent power that he entertains the view that God is distant.” 

Jeremiah 1-6 | Friday: Jeremiah spends most of these first six chapters describing the sin of Israel as a kind of spiritual adultery. Sin is trying to find pleasure/satisfaction in anything other than God or in anything divorced from God. The prophet gives a classic definition of evil in 2:12-13:

“Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
    be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
    the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
    broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

How is this understanding of evil somewhat surprising? Think through the implications of this passage as it relates to evil in your life.

Mark 5-6 | Saturday: Mark 5 tells the story of Jesus casting out many demons from a man who: “lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had strength to subdue him.”

Toward the end of this story in Mark 5 the text says:

“As he (Jesus) was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” 

Some questions to consider in light of God’s mercy and grace towards us as we think through this passage, would be these:

When was the last time that we told someone how much the Lord has done for us? When was the last time we told someone about God’s mercy to us? Charles Spurgeon would remind us:

“If Jesus has done great things for you do not keep it to yourself…be ever ready to speak of it, till all men shall know what Christ can do.” 

If we haven’t talked about God’s mercy and His grace towards us, it might be that in some sense we have lost the wonder and awe of God’s mercy and grace. I love this story that Barbara Hughes tells: 

“I will never forget the day fifteen years ago when a young woman named Carol who had received Christ as Savior only a few weeks earlier came to Bible study for the second time. She sat, with her borrowed Bible in her hand, in a circle of women who were well-versed in the Scriptures. Carol quietly listened as the study questions were answered. 

When there was a lull in the conversation, Carol said with great enthusiasm, “I found the most wonderful verse last night!” All those Christian women turned their attention to this baby believer.  

Slowly and reverently she began to read:

‘For God . . . so loved . . . the world . . . that He . . . gave . . . His one . . . and only . . . Son . . . that whoever . . . believes . . . in him . . . shall not perish . . . but have eternal life.’

The quiet in the room was palpable. She was reading John 3:16—a verse many believers memorize from childhood and can prattle off in seconds—but she was reading it as it should be read, as if each word were a holy treasure. Around the circle eyes began to glisten as Carol’s awe of the Gospel laid bare the shame of those of us whose senses had been dulled to its wonder. 

Never lose the wonder of the Gospel! Never imagine that you have outgrown it…It ought to be the true center of our living—defining, motivating, and satisfying us.” 

The Gospel Transformation Bible includes these notes on Mark 6:

“Through the cross and the empty tomb, toward which the entire Gospel of Mark is hurtling, Jesus decisively accomplishes the inauguration of the kingdom of God. The early manifestations of this kingdom, seen in healings, exorcisms, and miracles, anticipate the final and greatest “clinching” of the kingdom: Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

There the kingdom of darkness is dealt its deathblow. Victory is secured. The outcome is certain.”

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BIBLE 2018 | Week 12

March 16, 2018 | Mark and Scott McAndrew

I Corinthians 7-8 | Sunday: 1 Corinthians 7 has fascinated me (Mark) for many years now. It is a long chapter with a whole lot of helpful insights on singleness, marriage and remarriage after the death of a spouse.

I think one of the important points to mention is that Paul is not demanding singleness in this chapter. Paul is speaking into a society where singleness was largely frowned upon and somewhat rare (with widowhood being the exception).

Paul may be encouraging believers to consider the single life because of present persecution they may have been facing (that is one way to understand 7:25-26).

Don’t forget Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 4:1-5.

Genesis 44-47 | Monday: Much like last week, we spent four Sundays on these four chapters. Critically important, yet often overlooked, is the transformation of Judah in chapter 44. It’s hard to overstate how important this is to the story of the Bible. Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. For more on this, see the first sermon listed below.

Genesis 45 shows is that God is sovereign even over the evil deeds of those who sin against us. In Joseph’s own words to his treacherous brothers, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. . . . And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (v. 5, 7-8).

Joseph’s statements are breathtaking and worthy of much thought and meditation. What does this mean about the evils that we endure in our own lives? For more on this, see the second sermon below.

Genesis 46 contains another fascinating parallel to Christ. Here the brothers are told to go tell the good news that the beloved son who was thought to be dead is now alive. For more, see sermon three below.

Genesis 46-48 is about when God interrupts our plans. “God puts us in desperate places in order to make us desperate for Him.” For more, see sermon four below.

1) For an NAC sermon on Genesis 44 (the transformation of Judah), see here.

2) For an NAC sermon on Genesis 45 (the total sovereignty of God over evil), see here.

3) For an NAC sermon on Genesis 45-46 (go and tell the good news!), see here.

4) For an NAC sermon on Genesis 46-48 (when God interrupts your plans), see here.

I Samuel 6-10 | Tuesday: Here we see the people of Israel ask for a king:

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

-1 Samuel 8:4-9

If Judges ended showing how badly Israel needed a king, why was it wrong for Israel to ask God for a king?

The answer is surely their motive.

They did not want a human king who would righteously reflect God’s holy character. No, they wanted a human king so that they would look and be just like the other nations.

To quote Vaughan Roberts: “The problem is that Israel wanted a king instead of God rather than a king under God.”

The Lord responds by giving them exactly what they want. If Israel wants a king who will make them like the other nations, then a worldly king they will get.

Psalms 33-35 | Wednesday: Psalm 33 begins like this: 

“Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! 
    Praise befits the upright. 
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; 
    make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 
Sing to him a new song; 
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”

 

Tim Keller comments on this Psalm with these words:

“Praise is inner health made audible…. [W]e were created not for praise in general but to worship something supremely, to have our thoughts and hearts captivated. We need to draw our hearts from fixation on other things and become enraptured with the beauty of the Lord. One of the main ways to do this is to use skillful music in our worship and private devotion.” 

John Piper has written a short devotional on Psalm 34:8 (Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!), which you can read here.

 

The Gospel Transformation Bible contains some helpful notes on Psalm 35: 

“Surrendering all vengeance to Christ means that Christians are prepared even to suffer, if that is how Christ chooses to defeat their enemies. Their constant prayer must be that all of Chirst’s enemies would be conquered first by conversion….

Whatever difficulties imprecatory psalms such as this one raise, the ultimate truth they teach is that the curses David pronounces really should fall on us. Our sin deserves cursing. But such curses have fallen instead on the Savior.

He substituted himself in our place, so that the Father can truly say to our souls, ‘I am your salvation!'”

Job 23-24 | Thursday: In Job 22 we begin the final round of speeches between Job and his “miserable comforters.” D.A. Carson once again provides helpful insight.  

The comforters have nothing new to say, and are winding down. Job’s persistent defense of his integrity, though it does not convince them, grinds them into sullen silence. Eliphaz’s last speech (Job 22), though it extends the limits of his poetic imagery, does not extend the argument; it merely restates it... 

While he responds with some arguments he has used before, Job embarks on a new line of thought (Job 23). He does not now charge God with injustice but with absence, with inaccessibility: “If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling!” (23:3). This is not a longing to escape and go to heaven; it is a passionate and frustrated desire to present his case before the Almighty (23:4).

Job is not frightened that God will respond with terrifying power and crush him (23:6); he is frightened, rather, that God will simply ignore him. 

However, no geographical search Job can undertake will find God (23:8-9). Job’s words are quite unlike the modern literary protest that God is so absent that he must be dead. Job is not “waiting for Godot.” His faith in God is at one level unwavering. He is perfectly convinced that God knows where Job is, and knows all about the fundamental integrity of his life (23:9-11).

This integrity is not the bravado of a self-defined independent; Job has carefully followed the words of God, cherishing them more than his daily food (23:12). 

That is why God’s absence is not only puzzling, but terrifying (23:13-17). Job’s continued confidence in God’s sovereignty and knowledge are precisely what he finds so terrifying, for the empirical evidence is that, at least in this life, the just can be crushed and the wicked may escape. The “comforters” claim that Job should be afraid of God’s justice; Job himself is frightened by God’s absence. 

When such days come, it is vital to remember the end of the book—the end of the book of Job, and the end of the Bible.” 

Isaiah 62-66 | Friday: Isaiah 63:1-6 contains one of the most vivid pictures of the wrath of God coming down on the nations. As shocking and graphic as the language is here, we must remember that Revelation references this very passage and applies it to Jesus Himself at His return (see Revelation 19:15).

We must also remember that the wrath described in Isaiah 63 came down in a unique way on Jesus on the cross. The One who executes judgment on the last Day is the One who received our judgment on Good Friday.

We often are familiar with the language of the New Heavens and the New Earth from Revelation 21-22, and rightly so. However, we should remember that John is borrowing much of his language in Revelation from Isaiah 65-66.

Isaiah 66:1-2 shows us the premium God places on humility before His word.

Mark 3-4 | Saturday: The Gospel Transformation Bible contains these notes on the end of Mark 3:

“Jesus never calls his followers to sever ties with their natural families…He does, however, exhort each follower to place the call of Christ above all ties to the natural family.

The hyperbolic language of Matthew 10:35 and Luke 14:26 should not be interpreted as a call to family antipathy but as a clear reminder of the priority of Christ’s claim upon his discipleshis purposes must outweigh all other loyalties.” 

John Piper give us some helpful wisdom from this excerpt from his sermon on Mark 4:  

“[Mark 4:20] says that good soil is the key to a fruitful hearing of the Word. I have said it several times before and no doubt will again: devote some time Saturday night and Sunday morning to prepare your heart for hearing the Word of God. The more you take time to humble yourself and purify your heart in prayer and tune the receiver of your mind into the wavelength of Christ, the more powerfully you will hear the Word and the more deeply you will worship. 

Don’t play into the hands of Satan by staying up so late Saturday night that you can’t stay awake in worship or in Sunday School. He constantly lies to you telling you that what you’re doing at 10:00 Saturday night is more important than being rested to give your best ear to God’s Word on Sunday morning… 

I believe that if we as a church formed the habit of conscientiously preparing our hearts for hearing God’s Word, the Lord might speak with such power that amazing changes would come into our lives for God’s glory and for our joy.

So, let’s resolve to take time for meditation and prayer and solitude and quiet walks…so that the soil of our heart is plowed deep for the Word of God…. 

Be like rich…farmland, deeply plowed, free of thorns, free of rocks, moist from the rains of the Spirit, and then receive the power-packed seed of the Word of God. And this church will overflow with fruit—thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold.” 

How do you seek to influence (rather than manipulate) your husband?

January 23, 2018 | Mark McAndrew

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (1 Peter 3:1-2)

Several people have asked where the line is between seeking to influence your husband versus trying to manipulate your husband.

This is a challenging question.

As far as I can tell, manipulation is different from spiritual influence in at least two major ways: motive and goal.

First, manipulation is motivated by selfishness, not love.

Second, the goal of manipulation is to change the outward action of someone (in this case, your husband) for your own convenience or advantage.

Spiritual influence is motivated by a love for your husband and with the desire/goal to see him transformed first inwardly, then outwardly, by the gospel. It also seeks to stay within the biblical parameters Scripture has laid out for how wives should relate to their husbands.

Manipulation is about winning a personal preference battle. Love is about laying down your preferences for the good of another.

If a wife desires her husband to lead spiritually for the good of their marriage and family, this is a holy desire. If she is unwise, she will speak demandingly of her husband and nag him about this until he either shuts down or gives in. This puts her husband in a lose-lose position. If he disobeys his wife, he disobeys God. If he obeys his wife, he is now following her lead.

However, if she is wise she will do at least three things.

First, she will pray. She will pray for her husband in the quietness of her heart daily, repeatedly, even hourly. The Lord loves to answer the humble prayers of submissive wives who long for the spiritual growth of their passive husbands.

Second, if she catches her husband doing something right (taking some kind of spiritual initiative) she will praise him for it and encourage him in it humbly and gladly.

Third, on occasion, she may have a private, calm, loving, gracious, humble, conversation with him about her desires and wishes. It may be best in these situations not to offer advice or solutions, but rather to calmly and humbly present a concern and seek his council.

These “concerns” should never be shouted out in a desperate moment in the midst of a disagreement or argument. (That goes for both husband and wife.)

In marriage there is often a tendency to store up our frustrations (keeping a record of wrongs) until we finally boil over in some moment of conflict. We then pour out the ‘record of wrongs’ on our spouse in a crushing, punishing, unloving kind of way.

How should she approach her husband?

John Piper helpfully says:

Patiently, full of prayer, full of hope, and full of forbearance and occasional efforts to draw him into conversation about her longings for him.

By occasional efforts to draw him into conversation about her longings for him, I mean the opposite of nagging. Nagging is day after day, coming at the guy sideways, top down, underneath, and communicating by body language and sideways comments that he is not measuring up. That destroys the relationship. It paralyzes the partner. It feels hopeless, and it feels like love is vanishing.

Rather, I’m referring to an occasional and intentional, “Can we talk honey? Can we go out to lunch and just talk about something I want to talk about?” Do it when you’re not tired or angry. It should be an appointment, and it shouldn’t feel undermining or threatening. Then she can lay out her heart for him, say what she needs to say, and ask him if he is willing to do more.

[For the rest of his answer, see here.]

CAN YOU GIVE AN EXAMPLE?

I asked Kelly for a specific illustration of manipulation.

She said that after a husband has upset his wife in some way, the wife may be tempted to storm off and hide away in the bedroom sulking, waiting for her husband to come fix things. This is manipulative and selfish.

However, if a husband has acted selfishly toward his wife, she has a wonderful opportunity to practice forgiving grace that might actually get to his heart. Instead of huffing off or angrily telling him how bad a leader he is being, she can draw strength from the wells of the gospel. Grace can enable her to overlook the offense and treat her husband with gospel motivated love instead of trying to get even or hurt him back.

This is very close to the kind of behavior I imagine Peter was thinking of. Read the passage one more time:

1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external . . . 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God [not their husbands] used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (1 Peter 3:1-6)

A WORD FOR THE HUSBANDS

To the husbands, it would be good to ask your wife at least monthly, “How are we? Is there anything about my schedule that you think should change? Is there anything about the way I am behaving that is spiritually harmful to you or the family?”

By doing this, the husband is still leading (and leading well), but he is also giving his wife a clearer voice than she might otherwise be able to have on these kinds of issues.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)

**WHAT ABOUT ABUSIVE HUSBANDS?**

If a wife has a verbally abusive husband, she should speak to the elders of her church immediately and if necessary contact the police. If there is actual physical abuse, she should immediately contact the police.

What is a “peaceful and quiet spirit” really?

“Wives . . . let your adorning adoring be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Peter 3:4).

After the sermon Sunday, several people were asking what exactly this “gentle and quiet spirit” looks like in reality.

For clarification, you can be outgoing and yet possess this spirit. You can also be shy/quiet and lack it. Peter isn’t describing a natural personality trait because this “gentleness” is a fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).

The opposite if likely a “rash and fretful spirit.”

Matthew Henry wrote a short book on the gentle/meek and quiet/tranquil spirit. You can read a great short summary of it here. I found it very helpful personally.

 

 

______________________

One last thing.

The exact term Peter uses for “gentle” is occurs only three other times in the New Testament. See if they shed some light on its meaning.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)

“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” (Matthew 21:5)

Also, Peter’s term for “quiet” (or tranquil) is only used one other time.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but both times “quiet” (hēsychios) appears it seems to be in the context of ways Christians can try to win unbelieving authority figures to Christ.

The Framework of Prayer

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I just finished reading through this powerful book by D.A. Carson. In this book Dr. Carson goes through several of Paul’s prayers. I couldn’t put the book down and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I thought I would try to write some about this book as a way to help process what I read and thought this might be beneficial to others. One of the first prayers of Paul that Carson looks at is found in 2nd Thessalonians 1:3-12 which I included below:

“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

A Fundamental Component of Prayer – Thanksgiving

What we see at the beginning of this passage is Paul talking about giving thanks to God for these Thessalonian believers. One thing that has struck me lately is how often Paul gives thanks for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Carson says: “Clearly, thanksgiving is a fundamental component of the mental framework that largely controls Paul’s intercession.” As we examine our own prayer lives, I think a good question to ask would be to ask ourselves if thanksgiving is a fundamental component of our mental framework that largely controls our prayers?  I think that we need to drill down even deeper though into this question of thanksgiving in our prayer lives.

D.A. Carson gives us some additional questions to ask: “For what do we commonly give thanks? We say grace at meals, thanking God for our food; we give thanks when we receive material blessings―when the mortgage we’ve applied for comes through,…we may utter a prayer of sincere and fervent thanks when we recover from serious illness. We may actually offer brief thanksgiving when we hear that someone we know has recently been converted. But by and large, our thanksgiving seems to be tied rather tightly to our material well-being and comfort. The unvarnished truth is that what we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most highly value. If a large percentage of our thanksgiving is for material prosperity, it is because we value material prosperity.”

When we look at Paul’s prayer here in this passage we find that: “Paul gives thanks for signs of grace among Christians, among the Christians whom he is addressing.” Paul says: “We…give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly…” These believers are growing in their faith. They are: “stretching upward in spiritual maturity, and for this Paul gives thanks.” Paul continues by giving thanks to God for their increased love for each other. Paul says: “We…give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because…the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” Carson says that: “If their love for one another is growing, it can only be because they are Jesus’s disciples: did not Jesus himself say that such love would be the distinguishing mark of his followers (John 13:34-35 – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.).

Carson probes this line of thought a little bit further. He points out how groups with shared ideals and goals frequently find it relatively easy to foster love, tolerance, and inner cohesion among themselves. Groups like a rock-climbing club, a football team, or a trivia team. However, he says the church is different. “It is made up of people who are as varied as can be: rich and poor, learned and unlearned, practical and impractical, sophisticated and unsophisticated,…disciplined and flighty, intense and carefree, extrovert and introvert―and everything in between. The only thing that holds such people together is their shared allegiance to Jesus Christ, their devotion to him, stemming from his indescribable love for them.” Then he points out that when Christians are growing in their love for each other, this is a sign of grace in their lives and is the work of God. When we see brothers and sisters in Christ growing in their love for each other we should direct our thanksgiving to God, as this is a sign of grace in their lives. So, when is the last time we thanked God for believers who were growing in their love for one another? If it has been a long time since we have done this I think we need to hear from Carson again who writes that: “we must look for signs of grace in the lives of Christians and give God thanks for them.”

I will end this post with another series of questions from Carson. He asks: “For what have we thanked God recently? Have we gone over a list of members of our local church, say, or over a list of Christian workers, and quietly thanked God for signs of grace in their lives? Do we make it a matter of praise to God when we observe evidence in one another of growing conformity to Christ, exemplified in trust, reliability, love and genuine spiritual stamina?”