Devotional # 178. 1 Thessalonians 2:10-20

Devotional # 178. 2/22/16. 1 Thessalonians 2:10-20.

Intro. As we’ve walked through the second chapter of Thessalonians we’ve seen the theme of Paul reminding us what God had done directly and indirectly. In vv. 1-3 (Devotional # 176) we saw that although there are difficulties in encouragement it isn’t from “error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit” but was completely worth it. In vv. 4-9 (Devotional # 177) Paul taught us we have been tested and been approved to grow in patience and affection for Christians and non-believers. In these verses we’ll see again how God has taken care of us through persecution and taught us that the Church should be a joy to other Christians as much as it is to God the Father.

vv. 10-12. Here Paul is restating how he, Timothy and Silas encouraged and exhorted their brothers and sisters in Thessalonica. It was “devoutly and justly and blamelessly.” Last week Paul used the analogy of a mother, this week he uses another parental analogy, this time about a father. He explains that he “exhorted, and comforted, and charged everyone of you, as a father does his own children.” Before, when he used the analogy of a mother it was about being “gentle” and “affectionate” but now he’s talking about “exhorting and comforting and charging“. It’s not that these are so widely different and the point isn’t that these are the exact types of traits that mothers have to follow and separately fathers have to follow; instead it is what is natural to a mother and what is natural to a father. I know from experience that mothers nurture, that doesn’t mean that they don’t discipline but their primary trait is one of nurturing. I also know personally, as a father and as a son who has been fathered, that dads can do a great job of encouraging and charging their children. We talked a bit about “motherly” traits last week in Devotional # 177 , so let’s talk a bit about the fatherly role here. If my kids have done something that they’re a little bit unsure about, say at painting, and I playfully make fun of it even just a little bit it basically destroys them. But if I encourage them about it they’ll get even more excited and tell me more details and even more importantly they’ll want to do it again. In the same way when we are encouraging other believers, when we take on the fatherly role, sometimes we have to give them the hard answer or be blunt with them. The key, as always, is love. And that’s where Paul is saying he came from whether in motherly traits are fatherly traits he loves the Thessalonians and has given them a role model to follow when they disciple others.
Did you notice that he said “every one of you“? He didn’t pick out just one special person but he labored and gave each one the time that was needed. And the reason he has taken the time to love and encourage them is that they “would walk worthy of God” who called them “into His own kingdom and glory” (v. 12). So if we “have been approved by God” and “entrusted with the gospel” (v. 4) then God has called us and we must “walk worthy“. We talked about walking worthy in Ephesians 4:1 (Devotional # 103) and Colossians 1:10 (Devotional # 145). Last week we talked about how we are called to do something very difficult but here we see the end goal: we get to go to “His own kingdom and glory.” We will get to go to heaven and be with Him!

v. 13. Paul starts the section off with saying “for this reason“, for what reason? I believe it’s twofold: starting with the reason of going to heaven (v. 12) but also because when they received the word they welcomed it (v. 13). He says for that reason “we also thank God without ceasing.” Do you think someone can really thank God for something without stopping? The short answer is “yes!” Paul was so thankful that the Thessalonians had accepted Jesus as their Savior and were following after Him, that his mind was always thanking God.  (We’ll cover Paul’s “pray without ceasing” prayer life mentality more when we get to 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Devotional # 183). So Paul thanks God constantly that when the Thessalonians “receive the word of God” they welcomed it for what it really was: “the word of God.” We too can be thankful and confident that this isn’t “the word of men” but truly is the “truth“! One of the proofs of this is that it “effectively works in you who believe.” So it’s not just some dull archaic letters on a page but it is the living breathing word of God and it doesn’t just work sometimes it works “effectively“. But does it work for everyone? Yes, everyone who “believes.” We must understand this “believe” if we are to understand verses 14-16, Paul is essentially talking about Romans 10:9–10 which says, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness’s and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” So if we have heard the truth and we confess it and we believe in our heart then we are made righteous. Of course this is not our righteousness, which just means “right-ness” before God, only He can give us that.

vv. 14-16. With that in mind, that once you hear the truth you have to believe it, we get a glimpse into what the Thessalonians were dealing with. The persecution from their “own countrymen” was exactly what the church in Judea had also gone through. Read about the church in Judea in Acts 4:1-4, Devotional # 45. So the church in Judea had gone through (and continued to go through) a difficult time and they couldn’t possibly know that they were the fore-runners of how to handle persecution but they were able to look at the persecution Jesus had gone through for encouragement. And now the church in Judea was acting as a model for the Thessalonians. And no doubt thousands of churches who have endured persecution over the last two millennia have looked to Thessalonica as a model of how to get through persecution. God is always faithful to provide for us exactly what we need!

vv. 17-20. Even though Paul and Silas and Timothy have been away from the church in Thessalonica they can rest assured that Paul and the others have been with them in heart. And not just that – Paul and the others really want to see them again and have wanted to see them except Satan keeps spoiling their plans to go to Thessalonica.

There are two things in this next part that are really important for us to recognize: 1. Paul looks at the Thessalonians (and all Christians that he’s had a hand in bringing to the Lord) as a “hope, joy and crown of rejoicing“; 2. Paul is looking forward to the end of all the things that have to happen Revelation in order to be “in the presence of Jesus“.

Regarding the first one, Paul does not have disdain towards other Christians although I’m sure there were some that he was annoyed with sometimes but he views them as brothers and sisters, as children of the Lord. If we can develop the same outlook that God the Father has for others we would be very loving! Paul mentions that they are a “hope” which means that he receives courage and optimism from knowing that they are weathering the battles and following the Lord. He also says they are his “joy” which is pretty obvious that they bring him a happiness that can only come from when children are obedient. Lastly, he mentions the “crown of rejoicing” which is also known as the “Soul Winner’s Crown.” This is a literal crown that Jesus will give the people who have worked  hard loving others to Christ. We need to be more mindful of who we are praying for and “working on” to be saved and also those we’re discipling. What a great thing to be able to present people to Christ some day!! For more on the Six Crowns in the Bible see Devotional #136. He finishes off the chapter with this thought also: that the church is their “glory and joy.” Now I have to ask you, if you’re not attending church on a regular basis and making those relationships with other believers how can you ever hope to say something like this?

The second thing is that Paul is looking forward to when Jesus comes back (“His coming”). Now this could be one of two things: when Jesus comes back at the Rapture (Revelation 4:15) or at His Second Coming (Matthew 24:37; Revelation 19:11-20:6). I agree with MacArthur, who feels that by context, Paul probably means the Rapture (Source 1). This makes sense since we have no reason to think that Paul saw the same things John did (which is now the book of Revelation) and Paul’s words are that his joy and crown of rejoicing will be them “in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ as His coming.” If Paul is looking forward to presenting them when Jesus comes back then it must be the Rapture since that is next on God’s timeline. Since this has not happened yet we too can be looking forward to this time and we also should have a list of people that are our joy, that we are looking forward to presenting to the Lord and ushering into His presence for eternity!



Source 1: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1846.

Devotional # 177. 1 Thessalonians 2:4-9

Devotional # 177. 2/15/16. 1 Thessalonians 2:4-9.

Intro.  Last week when we started 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 we saw the theme of Paul reminding what God had done directly and indirectly. We went through verses 1-3, which showed that Paul had lived out what he had taught the Thessalonians to preach the gospel even when there were difficulties. This week we’ll see that we have been tested and been approved to grow in patience and affection for Christians and non-believers.

v. 4. Paul tells us that those who preach the gospel have two very important things: they have “been approved by God” and then “entrusted with the gospel“. The idea of being “approved” in the original Greek is dokimazo meaning “to test, examine, prove, scrutinize” (Source 1). And to be “entrusted” in Greek is pisteuo meaning “to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in” (Source 2). This applies to us now as it did 2000 years ago, so if God has tested you and has been persuaded that you are able to carry the good news of salvation then who are we to question it? The key is that when we speak we’re not trying to make men happy but God. Because it is “God who tests our hearts” (which is a double confirmation with the definition of dokimazo we just read), it is God who we will have to answer to someday. Do we really allow what people think of us to make us bashful and self-conscious? Or do we have the “bold[ness] in our God” (v. 2) that Paul and the others had? If we truly believed that what we were doing mattered and saved souls and that we would answer to God one day we would be less concerned about what a person thinks of us and more concerned with truly preaching the good news.

vv. 5-6. Now Paul says there was no point in time when they used “flattering words” which reminds us of the “exhortation” that didn’t come from “error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit” (v. 3) that we talked at length about last week. Paul didn’t appeal to people’s pride by “flattering” them and didn’t hide behind “coveting” (“a cloak for covetousness“). Guzik explains, “Paul understood that covetousnessalways has a cloak. It is always concealed by a noble sounding goal. But Paul did not use the flattering wordsthat often are a cloak for covetousness” (Source 3). They also didn’t “seek glory from men” whether that was Christians are non-Christians. He goes on to say that he could’ve had the right to “demand” being taken care of as an apostle, as 1 Corinthians 9:14, Galatians 6:6 (see Devotional # 94) and 1 Timothy 5:17-18 say. But he didn’t do that because he thought the testimony would be more pure to new believers if he didn’t make those demands which he had a right to (1 Corinthians 9: 15, 18).

vv. 7-9. Instead they “were gentle among” the Thessalonians. In what way were Paul and Silas and Timothy “gentle“? We don’t know all the ways but Paul uses the simile of “a nursing mother” who “cherishes her own children.” Most of us, from personal experience, know how a mother loves the child that she is nursing. She is providing sustenance for that child – without her the baby will die. So she is patient and self-sacrificing and caring as the baby is nothing but selfish and also immature. When people first become Christians they are immature – they don’t fully know what the love of God is and so their bad habits and selfish desires often win out. We must be like Paul, like a patient and self-sacrificing and “affectionate” mother regardless of the selfishness and immaturity of other Christians. Next week we’ll see Paul use a “fatherly” analogy, which will give us a fuller picture, coupled with this one.

Once Paul and Silas and Timothy left the Thessalonians they missed them (“longing for you“) yet they were glad that they had received “the gospel of God“. But that wasn’t all that Paul and Timothy and Silas had “imparted” to the Thessalonians they had given their lives…not in terms of death but in terms of life! Paul challenges the brothers and sisters there to remember that they had “labored and toiled…night and day” for the Thessalonians. Paul isn’t prideful but he’s again making the comparison of how they are like a loving mother to the Thessalonians who are “newborns” in the faith. He and Silas and Timothy didn’t want to be “a burden to any of you” when they “preached to you the gospel of God.”

Do we be grudgingly “love” other believers? I’ll be the first to admit that I do. I might not say anything out loud but in my heart sometimes I’m thinking ‘you don’t know the sacrifice I’m making to talk to you about this or to go out of my way and help you.’ It can be very frustrating when someone is telling us their problems and/or asking for advice and we give them solid biblical advice and they shut their mouth only long enough until we stop talking, and they go right along on with their problems as if we haven’t given them the answer. But the more we give things over to God and let God have control the more patience we will have to just keep loving others and encourage them and strengthen them. Believe me this will take so much of your time. This will make you miss out on things that you’ve been looking forward to and cost you dearly. But it’s worth it. We know this because it was lived out by Paul.


Conclusion. Again, we see the theme of remembering what God has done indirectly and directly. In reminding the Thessalonians Paul is also reminding us, be affectionate and patient with those who need it and whom you were called by God to minister to. Paul devoted his life to this, toiling “night and day.” What God is asking you to do will cost you greatly, and no, it’s not popular today (remember what we talked about last week in Devotional # 176, how the modern Christian church has done a tremendous disservice by “deceiving” people towards Jesus?) And really self-denial never has been popular but you need to “put away lesser things” (Source 4) and love other non-Christians by “preaching…the gospel of God” and loving other Christians “gently“, “affectionately” and “not being a burden” to any of them.



Source 1:

Source 2:

Source 3: David Guzik,

Source 4: My paraphrase to lyrics of the hymn “Rise Up, O Men of God!” by William P. Merrill.

Devotional # 176. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3

Devotional # 176. 2/13/16. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3.

Intro. We’ll break up 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 into several parts but the consistent theme throughout the whole chapter is remembering what God has done. Whether that be what God has directly done or what God has done through other Christians.

Just in this chapter Paul uses “you know” four times (v. 1, v. 2, v. 5, v. 11). He also uses phrases like “you remember” (v. 9) and “you are witnesses” (v. 10) to remind them of the things that they’ve seen. Why is he reminding them of these things? Let’s keep reading to find out!

vv. 1-3. Paul shows his care for the Thessalonians by using the term “brethren” (as we’ve often said this is encompassing of both brothers and sisters in the church) and he tells them that they’re already aware that when he and Silas and Timothy came to them it wasn’t a useless trip. Is he trying to remind them of something that they’ve forgotten? Is he trying to fake it because they don’t really remember it that well and he thinks that he can make the trip more “rose colored” in their memories? No, in fact he finishes this little section (vv. 1-3) by telling them there was no error or deceit. And that’s actually the reasoning of why he’s reminding them: because they have come to love the truth, they’ve stopped serving idols (1:9) and have a love for God and their salvation, so they need to be encouraged in what is true. Just like the Thessalonians, we also need to be encouraged. We have grown as Christians deeper than when we first believed. But sometimes we need to be reminded of what it was like when we first believed. This helps us be thankful for both where we were and where we’re going but it also gives us a mindset of sharing Christ with others and knowing that they’ll go through the same battles and we can prepare them for those battles because “we know” and “we remember.”

So Paul’s trip “was not in vain” because it produced these Christians in Thessalonica. And then Paul fills in the story for them, which they apparently already knew, about how he and Silas and Timothy had come from Philippi before going to Thessalonica for the first time. How were they treated in Philippi? They were “spitefully treated” which basically just means that people were mean to them whether verbal abuses or physical abuses. We actually covered the story in Acts 16:19-24, 37 (Devotional # 56). But they continued to be “bold in our God” when they came to Thessalonica. Can you imagine if Paul had just given up after Philippi? Then these Thessalonians wouldn’t have heard about the gospel at that time and they wouldn’t have become friends with Paul and grown as Christians. So much rests on us persevering and continuing on in what God is given us regardless of what outside forces pound against us. But we can’t just do this alone we have to have God’s help. Many times that means that we submit to things that we don’t like. Maybe we don’t see the persecution coming but God is calling us to prepare. He’s calling you to pray on your knees but you’re too busy. He’s calling you to read your Word and tell your family about it but you’d rather complain about work and your coworkers. Paul didn’t give up and I love that he uses the phrase “our God“, it wasn’t just that Paul was special and had a unique relationship with God instead He is “our God” also. There’s enough of God to go around! He truly is “our God“!

And in verse 3 Paul reminds them that when he was encouraging them it didn’t come from “error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.” These three things we need to keep in mind when we are encouraging others.

-Are we encouraging other Christians in “error“? This would be when we misquote Scriptures (accidentally or on purpose). The ends don’t justify the means; as William S. Paley reminds us, “White lies always introduce others of a darker complexion” (Source 1). No matter how small it seems and how much you think it will help in the long run, we Bible believing Christians pride ourselves that there is no error in the Bible so don’t make it start having errors now.

-What about “uncleanness“? The Hebrew had been taught by God to avoid anything “unclean.” This applied to everything in their lives, divided into threes. For animals there were “holy” ones that could be sacrificed, there were “clean” that couldn’t be sacrificed but could be eaten and then there were “unclean” that couldn’t be sacrificed or eaten. This was also a representation of people (“holy” priests, “clean” Hebrews and “unclean” Gentiles*) and Paul was showing “his ‘manner of life’ was pure, not sexually wicked” (Source 2). It’s really cool that this got mentioned here in 1 Thessalonians because in my daily devotions this morning I was reading in Genesis chapter 7 which is when Moses is bringing all of the animals on to the Ark before the flood. God tells him to bring both “clean animals” and “unclean” (Genesis 7:8). From the beginning God has made a way of salvation for the Hebrew and Gentile.

-And lastly it wasn’t “in deceit.” Paul didn’t deceive anyone into becoming a Christian. I’ve been studying when Satan deceived Eve in the Garden and it struck me that he doesn’t blatantly lie but uses half-truths and preys on her weakness. In the same way the American church has deceived non-Christians over the last 40 years or so. We’ve been trained to be nice to people and to sometimes talk about Jesus and that He loves them and if the people will just accept Him into their heart then everything will be perfect. When we do mass alter calls or even witnessing and never following up then people think of Jesus as Santa and when their life actually gets harder (because they’re dying to their flesh and suddenly Satan is their enemy) they think they tried Jesus or church but that it didn’t work. We must stop “deceiving” people into a false following of the Lord. Lay the cards out in front of them (over time, after you’ve truly showed them the love of Jesus) and explain to them why their life will become more difficult but why it’s the best and most important decision they’ll ever make.


Conclusion. Paul has reminded his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica of their history with the Lord and with Paul and Silas and Timothy and their other believing brothers and sisters. In the same way we need to be reminded…and to be reminding…other believers of what they were like when they first believed in the Lord and how we have loved them and why these things are important. Go out and love the “clean” and the “unclean” today!



Source 1:

Source 2: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible,  p. 1844.

Decision America Tour 2016

A little over a month ago I posted a blog (Political Prayer Preparation) as a request to pray for our politicians, the election and for God’s will to be done in our country. Now I found out that Franklin Graham has started something called the Decision America Tour 2016. He’s hitting every state preaching the gospel and asking for people to pray for the politicians. Recently I heard someone say you can’t complain about the government and politicians unless you’re praying for God to do something. Franklin Graham is doing something and I challenge you to come alongside him and do the same. If you go to this website:  you can get all of the info and one of the things I would challenge you to do is to “Sign the Pledge”. The pledge will be explained when you go to the website but basically it’s just an agreement to pray for God’s will to be done in America. Don’t think of it as if you’re just signing up for something but think of it as giving your word to God that you will seek Him. Also consider the impact that it will have on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritans Purse for them to know that there are millions of Christians who stand with them and support them through very difficult times. I’ve signed the pledge, will you?

God bless

Devotional # 175. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10

Devotional # 175. 2/4/16. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10.

Intro. In the last Devotional we talked about a lot of great things but what is probably most important for us to remember in order to apply to this weeks is that when Paul gave the gospel to the Thessalonians it wasn’t “in word only“. It was in power, the Holy Spirit and much assurance (v. 5). This week we will see how the people of Thessalonica latched onto the truth, having been worshipers of idols they responded to the living God. Today’s section of Scripture will challenge us but if we hold to it and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us we will move mountains!

v. 6. Paul says that the Thessalonians became “followers of us and of the Lord“. When he says “followers of us” he means they had seen Paul, Silas and Timothy living out their faith, trusting in the word of the Lord, praying for them and fellowshipping. And in so doing the Thessalonians were also “followers…of the Lord.” It’s the beautiful picture of how we first trust in the Lord. We must “hear it” and how can we hear it unless there are people preaching it (Romans 10:14)? The Thessalonian church came about in just three weeks of Paul being there (Acts 17:2). They trusted in him and what he was saying because it was proved as they started trusting “in the Lord“. The great part is that they weren’t holding Paul, Silas and Timothy up on a pedestal as we often do with Christian pastors and speakers. No, if that’s what your entire faith is based upon you will be disappointed. I’ve actually seen people walk away from the faith because a pastor was adulterous or caught in sheisty business deals. Yes, this is disappointing and should break our hearts but they’re just people who can be corrupted. And so we lean upon the one who cannot be corrupted. We lean upon our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. 

How do I know that the Thessalonians trusted and loved Paul but held Jesus as preeminent and worshipped Him only? Because in the second part of this verse it says, “having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” If it had just been Paul’s word that they were receiving it would’ve faltered and there would’ve been no reason for them to cling to it through “much affliction“. WARNING (I have to pause here and say what I’ve said many times): the Christian life is not easy and you will go through many difficulties. In fact we’re going to see a couple chapters from now that we are actually “appointed to [afflictions]” (1 Thess. 3:3). So if someone is telling you that as a Christian your life is going to be all roses they don’t know that God has actually chosen (“appointed“) each of us to go through some really tough stuff for His sake*. Not only did the Thessalonians go through trials but it was very evident that they had the “joy of the Holy Spirit“. This cannot be replicated or faked for any sustainable amount of time. This “joy” in the midst of severe hardships and beatings and persecution (“much affliction“) cannot happen without the Holy Spirit living and working inside of you.

Trials for His Sake: Sometimes Christians make the mistake of thinking that just because they’re going through a difficulty they are enduring persecutions for the Lord. But that’s just not always the case. Sometimes it is because we have sinned and although we have confessed that sin and God has forgiven us for it there are still consequences to it. Sometimes you’ve just made a poor decision, it wasn’t necessarily sinful, but again there are consequences for our stupidity. So the next time that you’re going through something difficult don’t just pat yourself on the back and say, ‘I’m just going through a trial for the Lord’. Instead pray that the Lord would reveal whether it was your stupidity that brought this about or the fact that you’ve truly stood for Him and are being persecuted for your faith in Him. I know when I do this in my life it puts things in perspective: it makes me not want to sin and do stupid things and makes me more cognizant of when I am in line with His will and therefore being persecuted either by sinful people or by Satan who hates that I am loving as Jesus loved and bringing more people to the foot of the cross.

vv. 7-8. We see that when you live with the type of life that the Thessalonians were living you become an example to others. If you become a Christian and continue to be one even when times get tough and not only that but have joy during those times, then people will look at you as a spiritual role model. Paul takes the time to clarify that this is being a role model to other Christians (“all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe“). Does this scare you? Do you not want to be held as an example? Think of it like this: have you ever been encouraged by another Christian? Chances are good that person was scared of being an example but God used them anyway. In his book on leadership called Leading With a Limp, Dan B. Allender talks about how the #1 qualification we should be looking for in a leader is someone who was put in a leading situation, failed at it but has returned hesitantly yet willingly to serve again. Why? Because they have been humbled and they realize power and popularity are really difficult to manage. They also understand they may not be the best choice for a job but they’re simply willing to be of service anyway. You have a choice today: accept what God calls you to do and do it with His help and power or not to do it. If you don’t do it you will have a difficult life because you’re running from the call of God and also you will have to answer to Him in heaven someday about why you told him “no”.

If you say “yes” you will also have a hard life (“many afflictions“) but you will have Him working through you, you will receive his peace, you will be used to bring someone to faith in Jesus which results in them escaping hell and going to heaven, and you will receive crowns (see Devotional #136 for the full list) for being faithful. As for me, I will be faithful to His call.

You see it wasn’t that the people in Thessalonians had become popular it was that “the word of the Lord” had been proclaimed and not just to Macedonia and Achaia “but also in every place.” The gospel had been preached so well by them that Paul didn’t have to hit those areas, not only that but he didn’t have to remind the Thessalonians to do the preaching because they had done such a great job. They actually made his life easier so that he could go on and focus on others. Don’t you see that’s how God uses us? You’re afraid of going out of your comfort zone but really you’re expected to take up some of the slack and by you answering the call of God you make other Christian’s lives easier which in turn makes your life easier to focus.

vv. 9-10. Paul shows how others were talking about how the Thessalonians had such a dramatic change in their life. They had been idol worshipers and they left that and followed after “the living and true God” instead. They waited on Jesus. It’s interesting how Paul puts this; he shows that Jesus is the “living and true God’sSon from heaven.” Not only that but Jesus was raised from the dead by God the Father and it is “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” This is great because not only is Paul acknowledging who Jesus is and what He has done but is also summarizing the very gospel message that the Thessalonians are now famous for preaching!