Are You A Warm Frog?

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. – Paul in his letter to the church at Thessaloniki chapter 3 verses 11-12.

Well,……… are you? ………A warm frog? Confused? Don’t be, I’m going to explain my question in a bit. Today, I’m continuing in the book of the Thessalonians. It has a lot to offer in the way of encouragement for Christians who are going through trials and obstacles. It seems very fitting at this point in our own history to consider. Paul sent words of encouragement to the church in Thessalonicae, now Thessaloniki. If you are able to, I encourage you to read this important letter.

Back to the frogs. I apologize in advance if this is too graphic of an example for some reading this, but have you ever heard the story of boiling frogs? Yeah, kind of weird, I get it. Well, the story goes that if you want to boil a frog, you just need to put them in a pot of cold water and raise the temperature of the water slowly. And eventually, the water will boil and well, you guessed it the frog will be boiled. He will not notice the temperature getting hotter and will not jump out of the pot. Or so the story goes. I’m not sure. I have never tried it and I do not intend on trying it. And I’m not suggesting you do either. But, the point is this, complacency hits us all.

Like those frogs, who do not notice the temperature raising, we can sometimes get so complacent in our faith, that we fail to notice how we are getting entangled in matters of the world. What I mean is, we start to accept what everyone else is doing, instead of following what God desires of us. Or maybe it is that we just stop caring about others around us. Or about the world around us. And we focus on gossip, or politics, or our careers, or whatever makes US happy. We become focused on ourselves, instead of God, instead of loving others as He commands us to do, we judge, and fight, and slander and cause harm to others, even by our doing nothing to help others around us.

We are just complacent, happy frogs, just waiting around for someone or something else to make us happy. Oh, we might be great at attending church, but when we are home we slip back into our complacent lives, slipping back into ourselves and our own world. We don’t want to be uncomfortable or confronted about our personal lives. We just want to check a box that we have attended church for the week and go back to our warm baths of complacency. We don’t care if others are hurting and we only want to hear happy snack sized, dessert sermons. Never challenge us from the pulpits, or make us bring Bibles to church. Just keep us happy, entertain us, and let us throw some money into the offering to help out those “OTHER” people, that are so bad off compared with us.

I, of course, realize, that this is not all of us. Some of you are facing great obstacles for your faith, risking everything just to have a Bible, much less read it, but I’m still encouraging you to keep up the faith, just as Paul was doing in the first century. Hold onto hope that is found Christ.

To the rest of us, I’m including myself too- I am a work in progress- I challenge us to stop being happy getting by in our faith, and step out and deepen our faith. Study the bible to know what it REALLY says and what those words mean, not just take someone else’s word for it. Learn about the history of the Christian faith -not from skeptics- but from real scholars. Do your homework. Look for ways you can encourage others. Not just because it’s what everyone else at church is doing, but look for the needs that are not public, the people who need an encouraging word, maybe a friend, or coworker, or stranger. Just DON’T be a complacent, warm frog. Get out of the water, before it boils you. God Bless You, – Nancy

Amazed

We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.

– Paul in his letter to the Christians at Thessaloniki (Thessalonians 2:2)

What amazes you? It might seem at times that there is nothing that is amazing. Nothing that just encourages you to the point of feeling overwhelming joy and contentment. You see, I think that is a result of being amazed. We are filled with both joy and contentment. It’s difficult right now to find this joy and contentment. Or to be amazed. If you are following along with this blog, than you will recall last week’s topic of weariness. If you don’t follow, I encourage you to do so, in order for you to not miss any of the blogs. And you can join me in this journey of walking out my Christian faith through difficulties, and changes that we all face in one form or another. I try to encourage you from my own life, that while life is a challenge and is constantly moving forward, we do not have to lose heart. God is with us.

In Paul’s letter, quoted briefly above, Paul is writing to a church located in Thessolonica. He, along with Silas and Timothy, had shared the Gospel of Jesus there over the course of a three week time period, with several people responding positively to the message that Jesus was the promised Messiah, had been crucified and rose on the third day. He was their hope and salvation. However, there was a group of Jewish leaders who tried to have him thrown out of town He narrowly escaped. You can read more about this in Acts chapter 17. The message had been accepted by some, and a group of Christian believers began to meet. After a time, he sent Timothy back to encourage these new believers in their faith. He himself was not going back to avoid a riot. The believers there had also been subject to persecution for their faith and yet remained hopeful and looked forward to the return of Christ. This news brought joy to Paul and it was the reason he wrote back to them in this letter.

So, what does this have to do with being amazed? Well, like the Thessalonians, we all face struggles, difficulties and have the option to lose faith and hope. We are all the same. Human nature has not changed. But, they remained faithful.

There have been times, when I have struggled and felt like the whole world was falling apart, or at least my world. In those times, what I needed was a reminder of just how awesome God is; how amazing He is, and how this life, despite its struggles, is not falling apart, but is growing me and deepening my faith.

I can recall several times, when God has shown up in a time I was struggling. It is something small, and what others would overlook or consider a coincidence. But to me it was the greatest sign that God was with me and encouraging me to hold onto hope. To focus on His goodness, despite the bad circumstances in my life.

I remember one time, as I had left a Christian conference, not uplifted, but to be honest, I was rather discouraged. The conference had the right intentions, but the wrong motives. I had been given an insiders look into this ministry and was looking forward to someday serving in a leadership role, only to find myself very disillusioned and discouraged by what I saw behind the scenes. Though the conference was to last the entire day, I asked my husband(who was attending with me) if we could leave early, before the last session. He didn’t like the idea of leaving early, but reluctantly did for me. I recall it caused a bit of a heated discussion between us.

If you have been around churches or Christian ministries for awhile, disappointment is bound to happen. When we get more involved, we will find the flaws and truths. Sadly, this turns many away from Christianity and at least in my case, discouraged me, because I had really thought this was a legit group. Just like in Paul’s day, there are many who claim to be in ministry to serve others, but they are not, and need to be avoided. It is not just that they are people who are not perfect and sin, there are some people who are intentional defrauding others for their own benefit.

My husband and I drove away from the conference early and stopped at a nearby dollar store. If you are not familiar with these stores, in the United States we have stores that sell basic household needs for one dollar per item. The quality is not great, but if you just need something quick, it is the place to go. I cannot even remember what we were stopping to purchase, but I DO remember feeling so discouraged, hurt, angry and sad. And mostly confused. My thoughts began to rattle around in my head as my husband went off down a different aisle. I recall standing near the glasses and fighting back the tears. I did the only thing I knew to do:pray. So as I walked by those glasses, I began to pray silently, asking God to help me, to understand He was still there, to help me forgive those who had hurt me, and to ask forgiveness for myself, if I had acted wrongly towards my husband or others, by leaving the conference early. I barely notice as someone passed by me with a cart loaded with items, and handed me a piece of paper. It was a Gospel tract with the photo of a rose on the front with the words “You’re Special” printed just above the rose.

I’ll be honest I was scared to look up, or turn around. I knew it had been from God, and frankly I expected to see an angel in disguise, pushing that cart. When I did gather my wits about me and turn around, they were gone. No one in the store with a loaded down cart, ANYWHERE. Yeah, God showed up. and amazed me with His care and concern. I still can’t believe it, except for the fact that I have that little Gospel tract to this day. Oh, I’m sure there are some who would doubt the identity of my fellow shopper, but it doesn’t matter, I believe God uses whatever means to deliver messages of hope.

I think He continues to do this, but we are the ones who don’t notice. I had another amazing incident recently, but not so dramatic. It required me to do some research, but once I had, I was once again amazed by God. He answered my prayers, but not in the large demonstrations, but in small ways. I had almost overlooked it, it appeared so insignificant. I wonder how many times God has answered our prayers, but we fail to notice, because we are not seeing what He has done. We need to look for the amazing. Looking for God’s handiwork in our lives.

Paul was filled with joy as he wrote, not because he recalled his own difficulty there, but that there had been fruit form his preaching, “You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results.” verse 1 chapter two. He was amazed by what God had done there through the Holy Spirit. He could have focused on his own life threatening experience, but chose instead to see God’s hand at work.

Struggles and difficult times do not last forever, but sometimes we must go through them. Yet God is with us. God bless and look for the amazing this week.- Nancy