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Northwest Community Evangelical Free Church
And I love this one on the Auto-Shade Windshield Visor -
Warning: Do not drive with sunshade in place.
Or this on Tesco’s Tiramisu dessert: (printed on bottom of the
Instructions on the packaging for a muffin at a convenience store -
“Remove wrapper, open mouth, insert muffin, eat.”
SERMON SERIES: Well done, good and faithful CHURCH
Can of black pepper - Instructions: Usage Known.” (Thank You!)
Infant’s bathtub: “Do not throw baby out with bath water.”
(And, believe me, we could go on and on and on and on!)
A Sermon You Really Don’t Need
You don’t need those product warning labels. You don’t need those
instructions. Everybody knows that stuff. It goes without saying that
pepper spray “may irritate eyes” and that you shouldn’t allow your
Introduction: Nothing you don’t already know…
And you don’t need this sermon, either. The apostle Paul said
Sometimes you already know. You don’t need somebody else to
as much. He told his readers that they didn’t need for him to write
A friend starts to tell you a story - and you wave your arms to stop
because she’s already told you that story. Or a buddy begins a joke - and
And then he went ahead and wrote it anyway. And I’m going
you give them the punch line to let them know that you already know. Or
to go ahead and bring you this message anyway, too.
somebody warns you about a danger you already knew existed. Like
product warnings on manufactured good and food items.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul writes,  Now as to the love of the
brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves
I came across a list this week of product warning labels. These
are taught by God to love one another;  for indeed you do practice it
warnings aren’t really necessary, are they? I mean, don’t we already know
toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you,
brethren, to excel still more.
On a toilet at a public sports facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan, this -
The apostle Paul recognized that Christians needed to love if they
“Recycled flush water unsafe for drinking. “
were going to live the way God wanted them to live. Churches need to love
On a 13-inch wheel on a wheelbarrow - “Not intended for highway
if they are going to function as God wants them to function. You need to
On the packaging for a Rowenta iron - “Do not iron clothes on
That recognition is what prompted Paul to write the words before
us in 1 Thessalonians 4. And for the next few minutes you and I are going
The Dremel Electric Rotary Tool warns us “This product not
On the packaging for Zantac 75 we find this helpful warning,
Love’s SUPREMACY (from 1 Corinthians 13)
If I preached passionately and accurately, with footnotes in the
manuscript reflecting the latest scholarship;
The Nature of Love
If my sermons are masterpieces of tight logic, irrefutable argument,
BUT my life is not marked by love - well, my sermons might benefit the
church, but I myself would be the equivalent of 1604 at rush hour. Just a
As a way of orienting to the theme for this morning, we are going
to turn to Paul’s best known writing on the subject. In 1 Corinthians 13, he
wrote to a church that suffered from a love shortage about the supremacy of
Paul continues. Now, he wants us to think about someone gifted in
And right off the bat, he weighs the value of love against the value
of words. Words are important. People who speak well are often accorded
respect and admiration. He asks that you and I imagine someone with great
[2a] And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries
and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains
[1a] If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…
Here is a man or a woman who has a tremendous grasp of Christian
truth. They understand the essence of the Trinity, make clear distinctions
Here is someone who communicates powerfully. He can wow
between supra- infra- and sub-lapsarianism, know the ins and outs of both
crowds with rhetoric. He can persuade with argument. He can take an
Calvinism and Arminianism, and are able to expound Fundamental
audience from laughter to tears and back again.
Evangelical Pre-Millennial Dispensationalism. This Christian KNOWS!
Or here is someone who speaks by way of supernatural inspiration
And, this Christian has faith! Not just the faith that brought her into
- “the tongues of angels.”
Here's the bottom line -
a saving relationship with Jesus, but the spiritual gift of faith, a capacity to
trust God for miraculous things - and then to see them actually happen!
 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but do not
have love, I have become a noisy gong1 or a clanging cymbal.”
Someone gifted with the ability to speak in foreign languages by
But in this passage Paul introduces us to a mathematical equation
the power of the Holy Spirit (some in Corinth were gifted in this way), or
who has the grace of silver-tongued eloquence, but who has no love
, is just
Prophecy + Knowledge + Faith - Love = 0
 And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and
If I step up on this platform on a Sunday morning (like today),
all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do
stand behind this pulpit and present my message from Scripture with a
not have love, I am nothing.
If you are gifted with the capacity to trust God, and regularly pray
prayers that would make others blush - for the salvation of individuals or
the repentance of cities - and see God do it - but have not love, you are
To be “a noisy gong” was a proverbial expression for an empty talker in the first
We simply can’t get around the problem of lovelessness. Paul says
Paul says that LOVE is superior to eloquence, faith and prophecy,
that without love, the most gifted, knowledgeable, faithful person in the
Then he gives us the most thorough and concise answer to the
Other gifts come to Paul’s mind as he writes. He wants to be brief.
question, “What is love?”
found anywhere in literature.
But he also wants to cover all the bases.
A Snapshot of Love
 Love is patient3
- The patient Christian feels the full weight of
 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I
another’s harmful intentions, understands full well without denial
surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me
it hurts that someone meant them harm, and in the face of that says, “I can
wait for God to right all wrongs.”
There is a beauty to philanthropy and benevolence. I’m impressed
…love is kind
- Either through active hostility or a tired “taking for
to see people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet donate their billions to
granted,” kindnesses can become the kinds of things that “used” to happen
charity. I think that is great.2
(in a marriage or in a friendship). But the absence of kindness spells the
death of an important aspect of love.
I don’t know what motivates these men to give what they give, and
I’ll assume the best of motives. But there is a way to give gifts lovelessly.
Love is…not jealous; love does not brag4 and is not arrogant
ourselves with other people leads invariably to either jealousy or arrogance.
The very dynamic that makes the gift life-changing is gone when a
Each person we meet will in some ways excel what we do and in some
ways be inferior to what we do. Love refuses to play the comparison game.
From time to time you may read in the classified ads something
 does not act unbecomingly, it does not seek its own5
- When Paul says
like the following: 1985 Buick, body good, tires good, sans motor.”
that love does not seek its own, he means that love seeks what is best for
In other words, it is a great car, except that it doesn’t have an
engine! That car won’t take you anywhere. It’ll look good sitting in your
…is not provoked6
- A down-to-earth way to understand what Paul is
driveway, but don’t expect it to take you to the grocery store when you
saying is that love isn’t “touchy.”
The loving person doesn’t take offense,
doesn’t fly into a rage at what may be said to him or done to him.
That is what philanthropy is like without love. It misses the whole
Another translation of “patient” is “long-suffering.” 4
The standard Greek lexicon of the New Testament refers to the braggart as “a
Warren Buffet has donated or pledged to give over thirty billion dollars to the
Bible scholar Gordon Fee has said of this phrase, “In some ways, this is the fullest
Gates Foundation, which invests 1.3 billion annually to alleviate poverty and
expression of what Christian love is all about.”
disease and to provide education. Sadly, Buffet has said of his gift, “There is more
This is the same word the apostle used in Ephesians 5 when he told fathers to not
than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way.”
Whatever else benevolence
(exasperate) their children to wrath. The difference is that here in 1
may do, it does NOT buy anyone into heaven. Let’s pray for Mr. Buffet and for all
Corinthians 13, people are acting toward you or me in ways that might exasperate
those who believe that they can give their way into Heaven!
us, and we are choosing to not be exasperated!
…does not take into account a wrong suffered
- Where there is love, there
It is true that at various times “LOVE” can take on different faces
. Of all the facets of the gem of love we are examining this
- gentle love, sacrificial love, tough love. But - will there ever be a time
morning, none of them looks as unreasonable as this. The call to forgive IS
the most radical call in the New Testament.7
“You know, I think I should act unbecomingly here.”
“I ought to be unkind and impatient.”
Love is strong. There is no moral mushiness to it! It rejoices with
“I should rejoice in unrighteousness today.”
TRUTH! Love is not gullible, but it refuses to take someone failure as the
last word on the subject - as Paul says in the wrap-up of his description of
love. Love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the
truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all
And this 1 Corinthians 13 description is something Paul didn’t
things; love never fails.”
even have to write about to the Thessalonians. Telling them the importance
of love was as superfluous as reminding us to not use our microwave to dry
And what about that last phrase, “love never fails”
? Well, Paul
sure doesn’t mean to offer a guarantee that if we are loving, things will turn
The Thessalonians knew how critical love was for their Christian
experience, for life in the church, and for their witness to the world.
Faithful and loving witnesses to Christ get martyred; loving wives
and husbands sometimes get ignored and taken for granted. Loving
 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for
employees can unfairly be passed over for promotion.
anyone to write to you…
I think that what Paul means is that love is always
But, despite not needing to write about love, Paul did write to them
in style. Love will always
be appropriate for the child of God.
There is never a situation when the believer will say, “Love is not
Love’s Instructor (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10a)
Evidently, when Paul and Silas and Timothy had been with these
folks in Thessalonica, they spent a lot of time telling them about the importance of love. The apostles certainly knew how important love was.
And in fact, all of the New Testament authors grasped how
important love is in the Body of Christ.
When, while being crucified, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not
know what they are doing,”
His purpose was not personal psychological
liberation. He wanted to bless His enemies. So, when we love someone by
forgiving them, it is for the benefit of THAT very person who has done us dirty.
Sure, we may receive some emotional benefit from the act of forgiving - but the
point of forgiving is to spread the grace we have received to another. Forgiveness says, “I am perfectly forgiven by God for sins I have committed against Him. I
will, therefore, stop keeping lists of wrongs others have committed against me, and
We may often say, “it goes without saying” to refer to some aspect of an item
act in the way most likely to draw them to repentance and to the Lord - I will
being discussed that is so well understood that it doesn’t need to be stated
The Apostle John mentions it over and over again in his first letter.
[1 John 3:17] But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in
 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for
need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in
anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one
[1 John 4:7] Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and
everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does
It could be that Paul has in mind the words of Scripture when he
not love does not know God, for God is love.  By this the love of God
mentions God as teacher, because God certainly speaks through His Word.
was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the
Both the Old Testament as well as the New affirms the centrality of love.
world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we
loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation
And he might be referencing the life of Jesus - God in the flesh -
for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one
who not only taught us to love but also showed us the way to love.
another.  No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another,
God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
More likely, though, I think Paul is saying that God Himself is
actively teaching each believer, instructing him or her in the grace of love
The Apostle Peter wrote [1 Peter 1:22] Since you have in
and impressing on each believer the importance of love.
obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the
brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.
And this would be one of the principal ministries of the third
Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit
And Paul emphasized the need for loving relationships in the
is active in the life of the believer in many, many ways.
church not only in 1 Corinthians 13, but throughout his letters (see
Ephesians 5:2; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:7). He even listed it first9
us of our need for Christ’s salvation in the first place.
among the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5.
Then, when we place our trust in Jesus, He is the One who baptizes
the Body of Christ, so that we are united with every other Christian.
Biblically speaking, EVERYBODY GOT IT! All the writers of the
New Testament bought the idea that love was essential and central to life in
us and empowers
us for service. He provides each of us
with special gifts
so that we can each contribute to the ministry of the
But Paul explains that the reason he did not really need to talk
much about love to the Thessalonians is NOT because he had covered the
And, as Paul says here, He personally teaches each Christian TO
topic so thoroughly when he had been with them.
It was because they had another, far better Teacher, who regularly
It is He who is constantly prompting
you to love. He is the One
gave them instruction about the importance of love.
who opens your eyes
to see where love is needed. He convicts
you have not been loving and have passed up opportunities to love. It is the
Spirit who gently affirms
you when you have loved well.
Perhaps as the defining trait.
The Greek tells us that we are, literally God-taught to love.
The grace of love is so important that God has not left us on our
Paul would say that their love for each other in the church was an
own to figure it out. Through His active involvement in our lives, the Holy
indication that God was teaching them. We’d say that whenever love flows
Spirit leads us deeper and deeper into the world of love.
in a church, it indicates that God is at work, teaching the grace of love.
All through our lives we are pupils in God’s school of love. And
Based on what I’ve seen around here lately, I’d say that as surely as
together, this day, we PRAISE GOD for this ministry of the Spirit!
God taught the Thessalonians, He has been teaching us, too.
Now, as evidence of God’s prompting the Thessalonians toward a
life of love, Paul only had to point to the way they lived.
Evidence of the Teacher’s Teaching
Adults and Teens putting together an AWANA program week in
Adults serving Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers and
Elementary kids year in and year out in Sunday School;
 Now as to the love of the brethren… you do practice it
Basketball Camp and Vacation Bible School serving children with
toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia
Thousands of dollars flowing into a Benevolence Fund and
They had probably started to exhibit love when Paul had been there
groceries filling the shelves of the food closet to feed struggling families;
with them and had led them to faith. (It often happens that when someone
Care Groups that lavish love on members in the good and the bad
tastes the love of God through faith in Jesus, they pass that love on to
Phone calls getting made to people who hurt;
Transportation provided for those who cannot drive;
Then, not long after Paul had been forced to leave Thessalonica due
to persecution, he had sent Timothy back to them to see how they were
Meals being delivered to families in sickness and in crisis -
you can mark it down with certainty that God is teaching love.
doing. Evidently, Timothy came back to Paul (who was in Corinth) with a
glowing report that these young Christians were continuing to grow in love.
Every act of love you’ll see here is an indication of the work of the
Spirit of God. He is teaching us. And we are learning.
Look at those words in our passage and you’ll see an expansiveness
and inclusiveness to Paul’s affirmation here. Twice he uses the word “all.”
Not that we have arrived. Not by a long shot. There is still only
imperfect love here. Lovelessness still lives here. And any lovelessness is
The Thessalonians weren’t allowing personality differences to get
an indication that we are not being sensitive to the ministry of the Holy
in the way of their loving ways. They weren’t being selective in who they
would love (and how many of us fall into that trap?!). Everybody in that
And, as there was room to grow in love at Thessalonica, so there is
room to grow in love here. That’s why Paul included the zinger he does at
They loved each other within the church (and just think of the ways
the end of his “non-discussion” of love.
in which that love might have been manifested in a first century context…)
and even ventured out beyond the city limits to points beyond, throughout
Excel Still More! (1 Thessalonians 4:10b)
Jesus showed the way by laying down His life for us. And we
want Northwest Community Church to become a church where sacrificial
[10b]…But we urge you, brethren, TO EXCEL11 STILL MORE!
love is just the way we are with each other.
Maturing in Christ is more process than product. Life in Christ is
Brothers and sisters, let us love one another!
not static, but dynamic. And at every point, Jesus’ way provides us with countless opportunities for growth and change.
At times, the progress may seem to be snail’s pace slow. Hurtful
habits, problem thought patterns and destructive words retreat from our experience at the speed of a glacier.
But progress does come. Slowly, sure. But surely it comes.
And as we give thanks for progress made, we make it our aim to
“excel still more.”
I doubt if there is anyone here today who would say, “Well, I’ve
got this ‘love’ thing figured out. Lovelessness is no longer a problem for me. I guess I’ll just go on to the next thing.”
Those honest enough to look into a mirror will admit that they’ve
In fact, entering more deeply into a life of love is essentially what
Individually, none of us has arrived. And, as a church we have not
arrived. But, both individually and as a church, in Paul’s words we want to
add to what progress has been made and “excel still more.”
Here at Northwest, we are aiming to create a culture by the power
John tells us that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Well, we
long to see an environment where, because the current of LOVE is flowing with such strength, we are free to take risks and to ask for help.
This is the third time we find the word “excel” in this letter (although it is
in 3:12), and the term is characteristic of Paul’s understanding
of the Christian life.
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