...For they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. We have this power in Christ to preach the Word of God and win the hearts of people towards Jesus. The Thessalonica church was such an example. After they believed in Jesus, they stopped worshipping idols and turned towards God. The devil often uses idols to trap people. The truth is idols are man-made and cannot save anyone. People often worship idols, but idols cannot bring real peace to our hearts, Idols trap people with fear. Many years ago, I went to a fishing village in Taiwan to preach the gospel. Life was difficult for the people living in that village, but yet they had many gold-plated temples. The villagers were giving lots of money to different temples. I asked them, "Why do you give so much money to the temple when you are so poor yourself?" They answered, "Our family members are at the mercy of the wind and waves when they are out fishing in the ocean. We do not know if they can make it back each day, so we have to go to the temple to pray." I asked them, "Do you pray only to one God?" They said, "No. You have to pray to all in case you miss the true God?" I discovered that they hearts are filled with fear and they are forced to pray.
The false gods use fear to trap people, but the true God accepts us for who we are. Perfect love casts out all fear. The true God loves us. Not only so, but He gave Himself up for us. A person who worships the true God will have no fear. Once, the evangelist, Benny Hinn was in a Muslim village and heard a Muslim say, "Allah, you are great!" He asked this man, "Does Allah love you?" Suddenly, this Muslim could not speak because He did not know whether Allah loves him. He knows that Allah is powerful, but he was not sure if Allah loved Him.
The false Gods use fear to trap people, but the true God loves you and has a plan for your life. God created each person different. You are unique in the entire universe. There is only one of you. Even your twin sibling cannot replace you. When I think about this, I know God loves each person and accepts us for who we are. Jesus even died for us on the cross so that our lives can be changed. What we have is such a precious gospel. This gospel is the power of God unto salvation. May the Lord strengthen our faith to preach His Word.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, I thank you because the gospel is the power of God that is manifested not only in our lives but in the lives of anyone who is willing to believe in you. Help us to abandon our idols and return to the true God, and may you receive all the glory. I thank you and pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!
And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia--your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it...
The Thessalonica church was a church that set a good example. Not only in terms of faith, hope and love, but they were a good example in sharing the gospel as well. In this passage, it says that the gospel was spread out from amongst them. This is such a beautiful statement! Think about what has been spread out from amongst us? Is it gossips that have been spread? Is it church disagreements that has been spread? May the Lord help us to focus on preaching His word, so that His word may be spread out from amongst us. Not only do we need to receive God's Word, but we also need to preach His Word.
The Chinese believers love to listen to sermons and receive God's Word. If they do not like what they hear, they will criticize it a bit. However, they do not act according to the Word they hear. This is the greatest weakness in the Chinese church. May the Lord help us to realize our mistake and preach the Word of God in our daily lives. Firstly, we need to speak God's Word and be a witness for him. An effective witness is not only what we say, but how our lives have been changed, just like the "before and after" in advertisements. In the same way, the most effective tool for sharing the gospel is a transformed life.
Secondly, we need to spread the Word of God with our hands, which is handing out gospel tracts. Tracts are an effective tool for sharing the gospel. When you pray and bless it, you will see God's Word bringing power. Every Home for Christ is an organization that hands out gospel tracts to all families in every country around the world. Once, EHC personnel were handing out tracts in one of the African villages and they discovered that a little boy was there doing the same thing. The boy had the same gospel tract. Upon asking him, they discovered that he was one of the children living in the village. This boy was initially upset about these tracts being handed out and wanted to pick them all up and throw them away. However, before he threw them out, he read one of them and the Holy Spirit touched Him greatly and he received Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. The first thing he did after he received Christ was he wanted to share the gospel, so he went to put a tract back at every house. Hallelujah. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. May the Lord help us to preach the gospel daily in our lives.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, I thank you because your word has power and authority. May God give us a strong and courageous heart to preach your word boldly each day, and also give us fruit for our labor. I thank you and pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!
You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul said that "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." First of all, Paul followed Christ, and then the Thessalonian church followed Paul and even other churches followed the Thessalonian church. It is contagious to follow other examples. I knew a pastor from Mongolia who used to be a thug that would get drunk and beat other people up. After he became a preacher, he preached the gospel with tremendous power, and he often asked other brothers to share their testimonies. We noticed that, interestingly enough, the testimonies of these brothers are often around how they were drunks, had beaten others up, and their lives were changed by Jesus, hallelujah! A leader will attract similar kind of followers, thus we also need good examples to follow in our lives.
When I was in college, I had a group of close classmates whom I talked about everything with. One classmate once told me that he had a special feeling for me. He felt that other people could make mistakes, but I couldn't because I was a Christian. I suddenly realized that it's a great responsibility to be a Christian. If our lifestyle and behavior cannot bring people before Jesus, we might actually keep them away from God. May God help us and let us have good testimonies in life, and set good examples in church. Brothers, we must rise up for the Lord, because men tend to follow the leaders. If there are good brothers rising up in the church and setting good examples, then other brothers will follow. But don't expect others to rise up first - Start with yourself by offering yourself to the Lord! Once you become a good example, you'll see how you become more influential. Not only that, we also need to set good example at home.
A father once testified that one time he was shoveling snow in the winter, and half way through he noticed that his son was following him, and his son said: "dad, I am following your footsteps!" This word greatly inspired him. Brothers and sisters, your children are following your footsteps now. The testimonies of our life will impact their whole life tremendously. May God help us to keep on following and imitating God in our life, so that we may live out the fragrance of Jesus.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you because you are our greatest example. Let us follow you and imitate you in our daily life so that we may manifest your glorious beauty and draw others to follow you too. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.
According to Paul, in order for the Gospel to completely spread out in one place, there needs to be several things. First, it must be done with word. If the word is not spoken, how can it be heard? If we wish the whole world to turn to the Lord, we must be willing to stand before God and let us become vessel for the Gospel. May God use our mouth to speak the word of God and spread the testimony for the Lord, so that those around of us may hear the Gospel. Faith comes from the word of God, and word of God comes from hearing. We need to hear God's word in order for us to produce true faith. Therefore, there must be channel for God's word in order for the gospel to be spread, so let us be willing to become such channels before God.
Second, we need authority. We're not fighting a war of the flesh, but like the Bible says we're fighting with the principalities of the heaven. People of the world are often controlled by devil Satan, thus their hearts and souls cannot be released. We can only defeat all the strongholds with the authority of victorious Jesus. When Jesus resurrected and before He ascended to heaven, He said that "all authority in heaven and on earth have been given to me." And then, He sent the disciples with "go make disciples of all nations." By the authority of our victorious Lord Jesus Christ, we can enter the world around us and overcome all the authority of the enemy through prayer.
Third, we need the Holy Spirit. Only when the Holy Spirit fills us will we carry His power and bear the fruit of the Spirit, and then we will draw people to turn to Christ and bring out power in our ministry. Holy Spirit gives us all kinds of gifts, and when the gifts are exercises signs and wonders will follow those who believe. When the gifts of the Spirit are exercises, the name of Christ is uplifted. When hearts and souls of people are touched by the Holy Spirit, they will turn back to God.
Four, we need faith. Our entire belief is based on our faith. In order to believe in God's word and power, we must first have genuine faith in God. If a person has no faith, no matter what you says to him, there won't be any impact. We must come to God by faith in order to receive all the grace that He's giving us.
Five, we must have good deeds. When your life carries testimonies, you have the power to touch others without even saying much. When the love of Christ is flowing out from your life, others will be touched. Brothers and sisters, we need to have word, authority, power of the Spirit, faith and testimony life. May God use us to become a fully-equipped channel for the gospel!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, I thank you because in you there is power and authority to overcome. May the Lord help us to depend on you, make us channels for the gospel in our daily life, and let your will be satisfied in our lives to the fullest extent. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul gave thanks for the church of Thessalonica for three things: first, their "work produced by faith"; second, their "labor prompted by love";' and third, their "endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." First, it was the work produce by their faith. You might be thinking, aren't we justified by faith? Why is work also needed? Even though we are justified by faith, Book of James tells us that faith and obedience are inseparable, because faith without action is dead. We must have faith, and also the action that is brought forth by the faith, and that's what Paul meant by "work." While we trust in God, we also need to obey his guidance in our lives. James 2:17-20 says that even the demons believe there is one God, but they don't submit to Him, so they are filled with fear and awe because they know that once the judgment comes they'd have to accept the outcome of perishing. We believe in God and obey His guidance, and thus God will bring us peace, joy and satisfaction. The church of Thessalonica set a good example for us.
Second, Paul gave thanks for their labor prompted by love. Love requires paying a price. When Jesus gave up His life on the cross, He made the best interpretation for love, for true love must have the cost of the cross behind it. When we love others, we might never be repaid, and we might even be rejected. Others may also misunderstand how we choose to express our love. Jesus Christ loves us so much that He was willing to persevere the pain and suffering on the cross. When we love others, shouldn't we also expect many difficulties ahead of us? Let us not be afraid of difficulties, because the love of Christ can conquer all kinds of hardship and overcome all kinds of labor that we need to pay, but we'll ultimately see the true effect from love.
Third, Paul gave thanks for their endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to persevere during hardship, to wait upon God to make way for us and to wait for the Lord's return. When we serve God, we also need to persevere and wait. Sometimes we can't see any fruits, but we must be patient and see how God's Spirit can bring forth wonderful outcome. May God help us, let us bear fruit in all things that we do, so that we may receive His favor before Him.
The church of Thessalonica had faith, love and hope. Their faith paid the price of obedience, their love paid the price of labor, and their hope paid the price of endurance. May God also help to live out such a testimony in our daily life.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, please teach us to have work of obedience in faith, and pay the price of labor in love. Let us wait upon you in perseverance every day, because our hope is only in you. May you strengthen our faith and our entire belief system before you. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.
The church in Thessalonica was established during Paul's second missionary trip. When Paul wrote this letter, the church was under tremendous persecution. Therefore, Paul specifically greeted them with "Grace and peace to you." Grace and peace were exactly what the church needed back then, and we also need to bless one another with grace and mercy. In all kinds of hardship and temptations, we need peace from the Holy Spirit and grace in Jesus.
Paul truly understood how to pray blessings on the church and brothers and sisters. We often see what's lacking, but overlook all the grace that God has already given us. When my daughter was small, on a birthday I took a day off to take her out to play. When we were having dinner, I asked her whether she was happy. Suddenly she thought of the fact that we didn't go see a movie, then she started chanting that she didn't see a movie. I reminded her that I spent the whole day with her, but she still only remembered that she didn't get to see a movie. This is the attitude of a child, but aren't Christians often like that?
We often only see what we don't have, and we keep on asking God for more, but we don't see all the grace that God has already given us. Brothers and sisters, do you often give thanks for the church? Have you ever given thanks for the pastors? We often see the shortcomings of the pastors, but not what they're good at. We need to give thanks for the gifts that God gave us and for the good shepherds that He provided us. Some churches don't have pastors for years and it's really difficult for them. Let us give thanks for our pastors and coworkers now! And may God help us to not just see the shortcomings of others, but also see that God has already given us great coworkers. In the big family of Christ, let us uplift one another as we together dash forward on the heavenly path, and that is a wonderful grace of God!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you for giving us a great church, coworkers and brothers and sisters. Let us dash forward together and support one another on the heavenly path so that your name can be glorified. Give us a thankful heart as we face our daily life. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God... They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: "The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: "'Go to this people and say, "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving." For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' "Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!" For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some have said that Book of Acts is a work in progress, because you and I are still writing this book. Lord told us personally, in Acts 1:8, that we will be His witness till the ends of the earth. Back in the days of Jesus, He set foot in all Judea and Samaria; in the Book of Acts, the disciples set foot in Europe. The gospel continued to be spread out till the ends of the earth. Throughout the generations, the Holy Spirit continues to work; not only in Europe, but also in Americas. The revival in South America's Argentina brought multitude to the Lord. Lord's Spirit also moved in Europe and China, where hundreds of thousands turn back to the Lord in many places. According to some statistics, on average about twenty thousand people are accepting the Lord in Mainland China each day. God's revival fire also came upon Singapore, Taiwan and other Asian countries.
Around the world, however, there are still many countries that are unreached. There are still many strongholds in Muslim and Buddhist countries. Therefore, we must ask God to vision for the Kingdom and we ought to pray for His work around the world. In the past few years, many organizations continuously prayed for the countries in the 10-40 window. There are 62 countries in that region, and the population is mostly Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu. People are mostly poor and it's difficult to spread the gospel in those countries. We all need to pray for these countries and the people, because they are the unreached that God has assigned to us. The church needs to rise up and work with God, so that His will may be done in this generation.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you, and we ask that you give us the same power as the early church so that we may preach the gospel with the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. Let us rise up for the Kingdom of God in our daily lives so that your name will receive the greatest glory. Bless us and make us missionaries of the gospel. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!