First sentence: We live in an age of fear, an age that seems poised for the apocalypse.
Premise/plot: In Michael Youssef's newest book he teaches from the books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Each chapter covers a section of verses. He argues that believers have much to learn from the first century church and that understanding what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians will help us make sense of the crazy world we're living in. Understanding Paul's message will make a difference in how we live our lives, how we see the world.
These two letters serve as a unified message of instruction on a number of issues:Youssef writes of an end-times paradox:
• how to build and maintain a healthy church
• the importance of evangelism and church planting
• the value of godly living and morality
• the necessity of living productively and supporting one’s family
• above all, the great theological questions surrounding of the second coming of Christ
"The paradox is simply this: There has never been more interest in the end times than there is today—yet that interest is not being manifested in the lives of Christians."He asks his readers:
"How can anyone sincerely await the return of the Lord, yet live as if the world will go on forever? How can we be watching for the second coming—yet we do so little to reach out to those who would be left behind? There’s nothing wrong with reading about the end times and learning about Bible prophecy, but shouldn’t we also spend time inviting the lost into the Lord’s kingdom?"Reflect on this a minute or two:
"One day, the Lord will return to take us to heaven. This truth ought to motivate every dimension of our lives. It ought to inspire us to serve more, to witness more, to give more, to pray more, and to live in the daily expectation that Christ could return at any moment. C.S. Lewis once made this convicting statement: If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next."He concludes, "In short, if we say we expect the return of Christ at any time, we should live like it."
Genuine believers, he argues, are characterized by faith, love, and hope. He writes,
"Each of these traits is outgoing, not inward; active, not passive; visible, not hidden; public, not private. Faith is active toward God. Love is active toward other people. Hope is active toward our expectation of the Lord’s return. Faith is anchored in the past, in actual historic events, as we look back to the Lord’s saving work on the cross. Love is anchored in the present, as we practice Christlike love toward the people around us. Hope is anchored in the future, in the trustworthy promises God gave us in his Word. The Bible does not recognize a “private” faith. Faith is, by definition, visible and active. Faith must work. Love must labor. Hope must endure."Genuine believers have been transformed. The three signs of transformation are renewed character, radical conduct, and reliable compensation.
Youssef points out that if we're living like the Lord could return at any time, we will actively be sharing the gospel. And we will be sharing the true gospel no matter the cost.
"The reason many Christians today do not experience opposition or hostility from the world is that they do not preach the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ. The true gospel is offensive to the world. But many Christians walk on egg shells, avoiding any subject that might offend. They never speak of sin, hell, judgment, atonement, the cross, the resurrection, or the blood of Jesus. No wonder they never experience any persecution! They are so bland and timid that there is nothing about them that would offend anyone."
"The church in America today needs to teach the uncompromised truth. The church needs to display courage in the face of opposition and criticism. The church needs to build up the saints in wisdom and integrity, so that they will stand firm for God’s Word."
"If anyone ever calls you narrow-minded for staying true to the gospel, consider it a compliment. No authentic believer should ever want to be praised for being tolerant of error, falsehood, and sin."My thoughts: Feeling convicted yet? I sure was! I love how thought-provoking Youssef's book was. It challenges readers to rethink their lives. It is one thing to say you believe something and quite another to act on your beliefs and use your beliefs as a foundation to how you live day in and day out. It is one thing to say you believe in Christ, and another to obey Christ and follow Him.
Youssef's book is rich in insight. I love how the basis for this book, the basis for his arguments is Scripture itself.
"Hope is involved with the sufferings of humanity. Hope rolls up its sleeves and gets its hands dirty. Hope is continually lighting candles of faith in the hearts of others. In times of persecution and oppression, hope endures. Hope perseveres. Hope brings us peace in the midst of trouble. The serene and confident expectation of the return of Jesus Christ, whether his return takes place in the next instant or ten thousand years from now, fills us with a peace that no persecutor can take away."
"God didn’t entrust his gospel to you so that you could hide it away. God saved you for a purpose. He placed you where you are for a purpose. He provided you with opportunities for a purpose."
"The future is important, but not as important as the present. Someone once said that the past is history, the future is a mystery, but the present is a gift to be used in service to God. Satan wants to distract us from the task at hand. He wants us to focus our attention on the past—on past hurts, past failures, past regrets—because he knows that if we are focused on the past, we will be immobilized in the here and now. Or he wants us to focus our attention on the future—on worries and fears that may never come to pass, or on wishful thinking that never accomplishes anything. He knows that if we are living in the future, we’re doing nothing in the here and now."
"True freedom is not the freedom to sin but the freedom to serve God and live godly lives out of hearts full of gratitude and love. True freedom is to be free of the tyranny of our fallen selves—our rebelliousness and lusts. True freedom is to be free from enslavement to Satan and sin."
"A message that is “almost right” is wrong. A message that is “almost true” is false. In fact, a message that is a subtle distortion of the truth may be far more dangerous than an outright lie because it is more likely to lead people astray."
"Some claim that history is cyclical—it goes in cycles, and events often repeat themselves. In a limited sense, this is often true. But in a larger sense, we know that history is linear. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The end of history has been planned and foretold. The trajectory of history will come to a sudden halt. The drama of history will reach a grand finale. The pinnacle of history will be the glorious resurrection of believers. The tragedy of history will be the judgment and dreadful end of unbelievers."
"Truth is not determined by emotions. Truth is not determined by circumstances. Truth is not determined by the persuasiveness of a smooth-tongued teacher. Truth is determined by the Word of God."
"Right now, we all have a very narrow window of opportunity—the window of our own mortal existence. None of us knows how wide that window is—if it is the span of thirty or sixty or ninety years. During that short span, we will determine our eternal destiny by the choices we make and the truths we believe or the truths we reject."
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible