Primary Source

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 (NLT)

Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.

And then, dear brothers and sisters, you suffered persecution from your own countrymen. In this way, you imitated the believers in God’s churches in Judea who, because of their belief in Christ Jesus, suffered from their own people, the Jews. For some of the Jews killed the prophets, and some even killed the Lord Jesus. Now they have persecuted us, too. They fail to please God and work against all humanity as they try to keep us from preaching the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles. By doing this, they continue to pile up their sins. But the anger of God has caught up with them at last.


Is it from God?

Whenever we hear a pronouncement from another human being regarding what we should believe or do, “Is it from God?” is the obvious question any Christian needs to answer.

All sorts of people claim to speak truth, supposedly looking out for the best interests of their audiences. These people can be quite eloquent at times. Hearing them, we can find ourselves moved intellectually or emotionally.

The Christians of Thessalonica came to their beliefs while living in a politically important trade center, a place where ideas would have flowed as easily as goods. There was much to be heard, and there were many ways to live.

Paul commended them because in the midst of all of that, they had recognized the declaration of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to be a message from God, changing their lives accordingly despite the ongoing persecution they experienced.

Paul and his colleagues obviously had help from the Holy Spirit, whom we believe goes ahead of us as we spread the Good News. With their hearts readied by God’s constant-if-subtle grace, some of the people of Thessalonica were able to perceive Paul’s words about Jesus Christ to be from God. They heard the Christian message despite the general buzz around them.

If a miracle is God intervening in the normal course of events, then it’s a miracle any time such conversion happens. Non-Christians encountering the message of Jesus Christ as Lord have a tough time stepping toward belief. They have to decide first of all if the existence of a loving God makes sense to them.

They then must figure out if they can trust that God loves them despite their sins and accompanying sense of unworthiness. None of us can reach such a state of belief without a little prodding and guidance from the Holy Spirit, and help from Spirit-inspired people.

Having accepted Christ as Savior, we should have an easier path, assuming our discipleship has gone well. “Is it from God?” can be answered using sources we have learned to trust, in particular God’s word as revealed in the Holy Bible.

Once we have established a broad understanding of the Bible’s message, and especially after working our way through the nuances of some of the finer details of Scripture, we have a kind of touchstone, a way to test the purity of what we encounter in the world.

Let’s just remember to use it, particularly in these trying times.

Lord, we thank you that you love us so much that you have revealed yourself repeatedly through the centuries. We recommit ourselves today to the idea that all truth is rooted in action, the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Amen.

The Power of Stories

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Psalm 78:1-4

O my people, listen to my instructions.
    Open your ears to what I am saying,
    for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
    stories we have heard and known,
    stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
    we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
    about his power and his mighty wonders.

Biblical truth often is communicated in less-than-obvious ways. This piece of Psalm 78 reminds us of the power of stories and our need to wrestle with what we hear in them.

The psalmist says, “I will speak to you in parable.” Christians tend to associate “parable” with the stories Jesus told to reveal an astonishing truth. In today’s psalm, the word has a slightly different meaning, in that the psalmist is referencing historical stories passed from one generation to the next.

The underlying principle is the same, however. We should take those stories, turning them round and round and upside down. We should peer inside of them as deeply as we can. We meditate on them, we chew on them. Our goal is to discover something deeper about God and what God wants for his creation.

I get the sense that average Americans struggle with defining “truth” today. We confuse the search for truth with the acquisition of undisputed facts. As hard as it is these days to come up with an undisputed fact, it is still a much greater challenge to seek truth.

Searching for meaning in the stories of the Israelites and in the stories of Jesus is, I believe, the best way to fathom God and his mysterious love for very sinful humanity.

I can tell you God is merciful, but you’ll remember this truth better if you dwell on the story of the fall in Genesis. Focus in particular on the pause God takes while doling out punishment to show pity for the shivering, terrified, naked humans

I can tell you God loves you and longs for you to return to him, but you’re going to better grasp how deeply God loves you if you spend significant time meditating on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Look at the story through the eyes of father, son and brother and consider what they feel and why.

I know, this involves us slowing down and truly absorbing a story, a skill we’re losing rapidly in our modern cultural rush. But if you want to deepen your ability to search for truth in Bible stories, I can recommend a couple of books to get you started.

Fairly Simple: Any of the “Parables from the Backside” books by J. Ellsworth Kalas. Dr. Kalas was one of my preaching professors, and he was the master of shifting to an unusual perspective within a familiar story so we can see truth in a new way.

A little more challenging: Henri J.M. Nouwen’s “Return of the Prodigal Son.” Nouwen offers his meditations on a Rembrandt painting depicting the moment the son returns home. This book is considered a modern Christian classic.

Whatever age you are, whatever education you may have, there’s more to be found in the Bible.

Lord, as we explore what you have revealed to us through stories in your holy word, may we find joy, excitement and a deeper sense of purpose. And give us the opportunity to pass on these truths to a new generation. Amen.


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