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Join me in praying these Psalms on this Lord’s Day

Psalm 18:1-3
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
    and I am saved from my enemies.

Psalm 48:1-3
Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised
    in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
    is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
    the city of the great King.
Within her citadels God
    has made himself known as a fortress.

Psalm 78:1-4
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
    incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
    I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
    that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.

Psalm 108:1-6

My heart is steadfast, O God!
    I will sing and make melody with all my being!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples;
    I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
    Let your glory be over all the earth!
That your beloved ones may be delivered,
    give salvation by your right hand and answer me!

Psalm 138

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
    before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
    for you have exalted above all things
    your name and your word.
On the day I called, you answered me;
    my strength of soul you increased.

All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD,
    for they have heard the words of your mouth,
and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
    for great is the glory of the LORD.
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
    but the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
    and your right hand delivers me.
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®)
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.
All rights reserved

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.

But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.

How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. 10 Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.

11 May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. 12 And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. 13 May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 [NLT]

Black Crowned Night Heron in Oil | Dearborn, MI | August 2022

I remember the song: Make new friends and keep the old. One is silver and the other gold. I’m not sure I realized how true that was until many years after that 2nd grade musical lesson. But I realize now just how true it is. And I really enjoy connecting with friends – most especially those who are friends in the faith.

I have a number of good acquaintances in the photo club of which I am a member. I enjoy being with them. But there is a special and deeper connection with those who are friends in the faith. Members of the congregation I previously served and of which I am still a member may wonder. We’ve been absent from St. John for months on end. Good reasons: Travel to be with family. Serving another congregation during their vacancy. Travel to Tanzania to teach leadership with PLI International. Even an enjoyable vacation in northern Michigan this summer.

But there are times we do connect and those times are delightful. We hosted a get-together to share the opportunity to support our work in Tanzania. Little pressure to give. Lots of conversation, food, and fellowship. We will gather again with friends who are interested in traveling to Ireland next spring. A great time with friends who love each other. We’ve had friends visit us while serving a church in the Rio Grande Valley. We’ve made great connections with the people here and enjoy their company too.

These visits bless us. We hope they bless those who gather with us as well. We share a common faith. There is never an awkward moment when we suggest a prayer. There is much good will and grace as we opine, discuss, or explore God’s word together.

A friend shared a manner in which he deals with sleeplessness. We had spoken of our mutual occasions to wake up at 3:00 AM with things on our minds and no easy path back to sleep. I shared praying the Lord’s Prayer, the Angus Dei (“Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us…grant us your peace…”) or the Kyrie (“Lord, have mercy!”). He shared the idea of thinking of specific things for which he is thankful. Reciting them as prayers of thanks to God. I’ve since added that to my resources for middle-of-the-night prayer sessions.

Paul speaks of his friends in the faith as well as partners in ministry. They are precious to him and he hopes he is precious to them. They build each other up in the faith and bring great joy. The same is true for me. Friends in the faith are the silver and gold of human relationships. They are a delightful blessing for with we can thank God: in the middle of the night, and in this very moment. Thank you, God, for our friends in faith. They make the love of Jesus ever more real.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.

But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.

How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. 10 Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.

11 May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. 12 And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. 13 May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 [NLT]

Flowers & Fountain Pastel | Dearborn, MI | August 2022

I was in Cub Scouts when our den visited the local water treatment plant. Rushing water pounded below as we looked over a walkway. Pipes ran from one open tank to the next. Valves, dials, and levers were everywhere my wide eyes looked. It was a really neet thing for a 9 year old boy to see. Then one of the men suddenly pushed me out onto an open grate some 15 feet above one of those tanks. I could look straight down through the gaps in the grate and see the swirling water below. I probably yelled. He and others laughed. Thankfully the grate held me, and even the man who had pushed me stepped out on it with me. I’m not sure it was all that mean spirited. But I didn’t enjoy it.

Gaps in teeth, sidewalks, drywall, or floor tile can be annoying. And they are easily filled. Gaps in our faith require filling as well.

On the one hand we have the clear and comforting promise of Isaiah 42:3, that is attached to Jesus in Matthew 12:20: He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle [NLT]. God will not despise the weakest faith. Jesus promises that whoever comes to him, he will not turn away (John 6:37).

Yet this is no excuse to think that we should be content with weak faith. Scripture is full of admonitions to grow in our faith. We are commanded to “speak the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). And “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Peter urges us to “make every effort to supplement [our] faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are [ours] and are increasing, they keep [us] from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:5-8

As Paul writes here I can see two things he wishes for the people of Thessalonica. He prays that their love for one another and for all people would grow and overflow, and that their hearts would be strong, blameless, and holy. Those are worthy gap fillers. They are filled by embracing God’s love and grace, holding to his truth, and daily repenting of our sins and renewing our faith in Jesus.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.

But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.

How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. 10 Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.

11 May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. 12 And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. 13 May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 [NLT]

Adorned Pathway Pastel | Dearborn, MI | August 2022

“The chickens are coming home to roost,” he said. “What do you mean?” I asked. “We started all those mission congregations, and now we have to support them,” he replied. It was the way things were done 40 years ago. A district of our denomination would start mission sites and support them financially over a sometimes interminable period of time. Everyone hoped that over time they would become self-supporting, but that was not always the case. Too often, in fact, congregations developed an entitlement mentality. It was inevitable: That model could not sustain itself.

Death and taxes are said to be inevitable as well. In fact, they are said to be the only two things that you can count on. But there is another – prosperity gospel preachers notwithstanding: We will suffer if we follow Jesus. Paul alludes to this in this letter to the church in Thessalonica. They have suffered – just as he had said they would. He writes, “But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know.” 

Some say that a peaceful and happy life is the evidence of being in the will of God. Debbie Boone sang, “It can’t be wrong when it feels so right.” Oh my. Sadly that is certainly not true. Although they will ultimately pay, drug lords, crime bosses, and scallywags of every type enjoy outwardly peaceful and happy lives. A happy life may be a gift of God. We may pray the prayer of the psalmist:

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. – Psalm 16:5-6

But when trouble comes, we must also pray with Jehosaphat:

“O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:12

We can do that because our hopes are based on God’s eternal promises. And we believe that God’s steadfast love endures forever. We live this out in faith in God and in love for one another. We are neither abandoned by God nor without the comfort of others in the midst of our suffering; though sometimes our friends’ well-meaning words may prove to be unhelpful. (I’m thinking of Job’s three friends who came to be with him in his suffering. They said nothing for 14 days. But when they began to speak, they moralized, judged, and pontificated. None of that was helpful.)

You may know someone who is suffering. He may be experiencing a crisis of faith. She may be nearly hopeless. I’m not certain that by telling him or her that such suffering is inevitable they will be comforted. But I am certain that God’s steadfast love is expressed sometimes without a word, explanation, or justification. No I told you so will salve the wounded heart. But a word of prayer, a kind touch of the hands, a reminder of our true hope will avail to God’s purposes.

For suffering may be inevitable. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” But he also said, “Rejoice, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This is our hope in the face of the inevitable troubles we must all face. Thank God for those who do not give the false-hope of a troubleless life, and for those who are willing to stand with us in the face of those inevitable troubles. They may be inevitable. But they are not final.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.

But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.

How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. 10 Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.

11 May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. 12 And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. 13 May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 [NLT]

Walkway Adornments | Dearborn, MI | August 2022

Leslie White writes about 6 Things Jesus Teaches Us About the DevilHer list:

  1. The devil attacks when you’re alone.
  2. The devil attacks when you’re vulnerable.
  3. The devil wants to separate you from your walk with God.
  4. You are very susceptible to the devil’s advances when you’re upset.
  5. The devil will twist Scripture.
  6. The devil feeds on your pain.

There may be others we could list, but this is sufficient. And Paul recognizes the clear and present danger that the devil poses to faithful followers of Jesus. We are not immune to his attacks. We are not defenseless, nor are we destined to give in. But just because we follow Jesus doesn’t mean the devil will leave us alone.

In this letter to the church in Thessalonica Paul recognizes the first of the list Leslie offers: The devil attacks when you are alone. Jesus’ first head-on encounter with the devil occurred when he was alone in the wilderness. Having been there for forty days the temptor urged, “Command that these stones be turned into bread.” Jesus was alone and hungry (#2). But he resisted by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the word of God.

Paul is concerned that these new believers would give in to the devil’s attacks. They were separated from him and apparently also from other spiritually-mature believers. He wanted to be with them to bring  them courage and strength. That being impossible, he sent Timothy in his place, and Timothy brought back the good news of their continuing faithfulness.

Sometimes we simply cannot be present with others in the face of their struggles. We are limited by time and distance. Or we may simply not have the resources necessary to help someone through their troubled times. That’s when the Body of Christ is such a blessing. It’s not all up to us. We cannot do it all, nor should we try to. In fact we impede the growth of others when we try to be all in and all there for everyone. That’s not how the Body of Christ is designed to work.

The devil is a clear and present danger to our faith. He is the thief who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. Our prideful idea that we must take care of all things, never leaning on others, or asking for help, or sending others into the fray is also a clear and present danger. Sometimes people fall prey to that idea, thinking that only the pastor can provide spiritual care. They forfeit the prayers of the saints and miss the comfort of mutual conversation and consolation that brothers and sisters in Christ provide.

God’s love is mediated through the Body of Christ, and we’re all part of that body. Failing to take advantage of that gives the devil yet another opportunity to steal our joy, kill our hope, and destroy our faith. Thank God when he sends others to our side to help in that struggle.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?

11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 [ESV]

Sundial in a Garden | Dearborn, MI | August 2022

What you believe matters to me. It matters to your eternal blessing. It also matters to your family and loved ones. It matters even to the stranger on the street. What you believe eventually comes out in the way you live, what you say, and what you set your heart on.

This is all well and good, but what happens when we sin? What happens when we betray our faith? I’m guessing that some of those who read this blog may not think they sin, or certainly don’t believe that they betray their faith. We may know intellectually that even the smallest sin is a betrayal of our faith. But we all too easily overlook those small missteps we make from time to time. We lose our temper, say something hurtful to someone, and perhaps even take God’s name in vain. But only briefly do we give in to this sinful behavior. It’s no big deal, we might think.

Let’s illustrate the danger of even the smallest transgression this way. You’re walking down a path. On one side is a chasm 1500 feet straight down. On the other a rushing river with a torrential current that will dash you against the rocks and over a 500 foot waterfall. You take only a small step to the side and the path gives way to the cliff. A false step – even a tiny one, on purpose or even accidentally – will cause you to plunge into the torrential currents of the raging river. You are no better off than someone who takes a giant leap to one side or another. Either a giant leap or a small misstep will result in death.

So to with sin. If we keep the whole law and break only one part, we are guilty of it all (cf. James 2:10). So what are we to do? We’ve all betrayed our faith. We’ve all sinned. And what if our sin is the kind that keeps us awake at night? What if you’ve taken that leap into the abyss of evil?

That’s where faith finds its greatest value: for we believe that for the sake of Jesus, God forgives sin. For Jesus’ sake we can repent, return to God, and be saved. So if you believe you must live a perfect life in order to be saved, you will soon end up living a hypocritical life to cover your sin. But you can never hide from God. If you believe that God welcomes sinners, receives us when we fail, or even betray our faith, you will find great comfort in God’s mercy and steadfast love.

What do you believe? Do you believe in the forgiveness of sins? Do you believe in the goodness, grace, truth, mercy, and steadfast love of God? I do. And that matters a lot…a whole lot!

Join me in praying these Psalms on this Lord’s Day…21 years after the terrorist attacks on America. May God have mercy on us all!

Psalm 11:1-5
I have taken refuge in the LORD.
How can you say to me,
“Escape to the mountain like a bird!
For look, the wicked string the bow;
they put the arrow on the bowstring
to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.
When the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”
The LORD is in His holy temple;
the LORD’S throne is in heaven.
His eyes watch; He examines everyone.
The LORD examines the righteous and the wicked.
He hates the lover of violence.

Psalm 41:1-3
Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him;
the LORD protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
The LORD sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health.

Psalm 71:1-6
In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me, and save me!
Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.

Psalm 101:1-2
I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O LORD, I will make music.
I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?

Psalm 131
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!

17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 [ESV]

Flower Bed | Dearborn, MI | August 2022

The last two years have been challenging in many ways. Churches have suffered from the lack of in-person worship opportunities, government-mandated shut downs, fear, masks, and even the illness of church leaders and pastors. Many churches switched to online worship experiences. Some did outdoor worship. Still others stayed open in the face of fear and mandates to the contrary. Some offered people the opportunity to join in with others online in prayers and even in participating in the Lord’s Supper.

Add to all those external challenges were the conflicts from within. Some refused to wear masks. Others would not come to worship unless masks were mandated. Churches that offered the opportunity for their families to receive the Lord’s Supper at home were sometimes censured. Churches that refused to do so were largely not.

It wasn’t only the church that suffered. Families and friends suffered as well. While it was a novelty to play games online with our grandkids, it’s a poor substitute for being present face to face. A dinner with friends via ZOOM was a bit of a reprieve from isolation and loneliness. But it just not the same.

The negative impact of all this has also been seen in our schools. Students have suffered learning setbacks because of remote learning, a general malaise of fear, and social distancing limitations.

There’s nothing like being in person for learning, dining with friends, enjoying your grandchildren, and gathering for worship.

The ancient near-eastern equivalent of social media and virtual reality was letters of correspondence. That’s what we have here. And Paul laments his being hindered from being present with these people face to face. He chalks it up to Satan that they are kept apart. Part of that may have been his imprisonment. Part of that may have been the persecution he endured. Whatever tool Satan used, it kept him from visiting these people face to face.

Face to face is far better. It’s the mid-level of intimacy. Neighbor-to-neighbor is the first level. Face-to-face is the second level. Heart-to-heart is the third level. The only deeper sense of intimacy is that enjoyed properly in marriage. And in every case the real thing is far better than any substitute.

That’s why gathering for worship is so important. You can relate to people in all three levels: as neighbors, friends, and as close friends. God’s gift of the Lord’s Supper is a further extension of this, for in that we experience a deep intimacy with Jesus and all the company of heaven, together with all the saints who join us at the communion rail.

Sometimes we must resort to some sort of virtual experience. But there’s nothing like being there, face to face, and is appropriate, heart to heart. May Jesus allow that for us all!

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!

17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 [ESV]

Marigolds & Black Eyed Susans | Dearborn, MI | August 2022

I recently encountered a photo of a gathering at which I was present, and I looked for myself in the photo. Too many people. Too small faces. Me, not found. But whenever I look at the Bible, I do find myself. Sometimes in encouraging ways. Often in sobering ways. Ultimately in thankful ways because of Jesus’ presence with me in those passages.

True, Jesus sometimes has some very harsh things to say to religious people. In fact it was the religious leaders with whom Jesus was particularly challenging. Whether calling them whitewashed tombs, or children of the devil, he was not afraid to call them to account for their actions. But to anyone who was willing to humble himself before God Jesus was remarkably kind and merciful. The woman at the well: The woman caught in adultery: The sinful woman who anointed him with expensive perfume: all received words of kindness, grace, and mercy. I’m happy to be numbered with them.

Paul echoes Jesus’ values and interactions in dealing with the Thessalonians. They had suffered. They had remained faithful. And Paul expresses solidarity with them. He has words of encouragement for them. He is willing to call them brothers.

The Thessalonians are the focus of attention and love on the part of Paul. Perhaps you can identify with that: a dedicated servant of God has expressed love and encouragement to you. You have been in the prayers of a prayer warrior. Someone who is a follower of Jesus has visited you, offering God’s word of grace and truth. That’s where you can be in this picture of Christian love and concern.

May it never be that we are in the group who seeks to thwart others from gaining access to Jesus. We must not be the source of discouragement to faithful followers of our Lord. We must never get in the way of one who is spreading the word of Christ. Ridicule, criticism, grumbling, and fault-finding all do exactly those things. Let that never be our place in the picture!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dbr-podcast-link-graphic-e1650918496934.jpg

David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!

17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 [ESV]

Black Eyed Susans | Dearborn, MI | August 2022

I learned photography from my friend Jerry. He had a friend,Tim, who was also a photographer. He was a year ahead of us in school and quite accomplished. He regularly had photos published in the local newspaper, and once rigged up an enlarger in his basement, bought a giant sheet of photo paper and made a very large print. I got to help with that project. Cool!

But one time I did something that was not cool. I had been assigned to take a photo of the SEMO University cheerleaders. Tim also had the same assignment, but from a different publisher. He had been there first and had lined up the cheerleaders in a very pleasing arrangement and taken the photo from atop the bleachers. It seemed like such a great set up, I simply stepped in after him and took my own photo from the same vantage point with the cheerleaders in the same pose. That was not a good idea. “Don’t you ever steal my setup again!” was his simple and direct comment to me afterwards. Sometimes imitation is the best form of flattery. But in this case it was not flattery, it amounted to infringing upon his artistic creation.

In the case of the Christian walk, however, imitation is the best form of discipleship. When you see someone living out their faith with integrity imitating their form of life is a very good thing to do. Paul even here calls the Thessalonians to imitate the churches in Judea. They were an example of faithfulness, discipleship, prayer, and missional focus. It seems likely to me that Paul would be alluding to the church in Antioch which had sent him out on his first missionary journey. They had also suffered for the sake of the gospel. But rather than turning away from the message of Jesus or abandoning their strong missional identity, they continued to support Paul in his work and sent him on three separate missionary journeys.

That’s an example worth following. During the past 18 months Diane and I have had opportunity to visit a number of different churches. I have noted some of the very excellent things these churches do for the sake of God’s kingdom. Whenever I can I tell others of these practices and efforts I do so. Strong and ongoing mission trip support year after year. Hospitality that is obvious and genuine. Commitment to excellence in facility care and worship experience. Discipleship programs that truly engage people in daily discipleship practices.

Those are modern day examples. They are worthy of imitation. That’s not theological or spiritual infringement. In fact whenever we can we ought to invite others to imitate our faith and way of life.

You say you’ve got some failures, sin, and missteps in your walk with Jesus? So does everyone else. Lead by example of contrition, repentance and a renewed commitment to live out the truth that God has revealed to us. He will come for his own and we will be eternally happy because of his great love and merciful redemption. Perhaps our example will embolden others to follow that path of faithfulness as well.