Devotional # 183. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

Devotional # 183. 3/28/16. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22.

Intro. Two weeks ago we went over the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (Devotional # 181) and last week we went over the Tribulation and “the Second Coming” in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (Devotional # 182). In 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11 Paul told us because “our Lord Jesus Christ…died for us” and because we would “live together with Him” forever we should “comfort” and “edify one another.” We will pick up with that same mind-set here and God gives us 18 tasks below!

vv. 12-13. Paul “urges” the brothers (and sisters!) to “recognize” three groups within the church: 1. “Those who labor among you“. The word in the Greek here is kopiao and means to ‘work so hard you become exhausted’ (Source 1). The idea isn’t that you will do things to the point of dropping dead but that God will give you a desire and gift to work really hard for Him. Not sit back and tell others what to do but actually get your hands dirty. What a comforting thing it is to know that there are people in our churches that work this hard for the kingdom! Are you one of them? 2. “Are over you in the Lord“. These are the leadership that God has placed in the individual churches. 3. “And admonish you“. In the Greek this is noutheteo meaning”to caution or reprove gently” (Source 2). These are the people who lovingly, yet truthfully, sometimes gently, sometimes firmly, caution and warn other believers.

What does it mean to “recognize” these people? Paul makes it a little more clear in verse 13, when he says “to esteem them very highly and love for their works sake.” This means to acknowledge and encourage the people you see (or don’t see but know it happens, or hear about). Everyone needs encouragement. By doing this we will be at peace among ourselves.

vv. 14-15. Notice Paul “exhort” people as he’s just told us to “exhort“! And he tells us: 1. “warn those who are unruly”, 2. “comfort the fainthearted”, 3. “uphold the weak”, 4. “be patient with all”, 5. make sure “no one renders evil for evil”, 6. “pursue what is good for yourself” and 7. “pursue what is good…for all.” Let’s look into these:

There are two tasks on here that may be a little uncomfortable or awkward for us: 1. to “warn those who are unruly” and 5. to make sure “no one renders evil for evil”. Both of these have the implication that people within the church will do these things and if you see it or hear about it, then it is your responsibility to make sure it is dealt with. For the vast majority of believers you should not actually approach the people yourself, instead you should mention it to someone in leadership. Notice this absolves you of your duty (other than praying for that person), it makes sure you’re not gossiping to the leader and it doesn’t require you to go tell everyone about it (even in the thin, false veil of a “prayer request” to others). For those actually called by God to confront people in this way, God will be working the ability to “caution or reprove gently” of noutheteo above.

The other five tasks may be difficult to do because your heart may break for people in doing them and you may also have your feelings hurt, but you do them anyway. They are: 2. “comfort the fainthearted”, 3. “uphold the weak”, 4. “be patient with all”, 6. “pursue what is good for yourself” and 7. “pursue what is good…for all.”  In order to do these you must be walking with the Lord and desiring His will and not your own. You will become comfortable with the heavy cost of discipleship and you will see the rewards this side of heaven, even though the rewards in heaven will be much greater.

vv. 16-18. Paul gives us the “will of God” on three tasks. As I always say, anytime we hear that something is the “will of God” we better listen up and apply it to our lives! These three are: 1. “rejoice always”; 2. “pray without ceasing” and 3. “in everything give thanks.”

 

  1. When I hear “rejoice always” it reminds me of when Paul told us “Rejoice in the Lord always” in Philippians 4:4. In Devotional # 137 we talked about how Paul was coming from a background of stress and pain but always had his hope in Jesus, as we should.
  2. We have covered God’s famous command of “praying without ceasing” many times. Recently (1 Thessalonians 2:13, Devotional # 178 and 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10, Devotional # 179) we’ve discussed that it actually is possible to talk with God all the time, it takes intentionality and a closer walk with the Lord, but not only is it possible, we should be striving each day to do it!
  3. Lastly, it is God’s will that “in everything [we] give thanks.” Again, this is a common mentality we’re told to have. We’ve had a special Thanksgiving Devotional (“Thanksgiving 2015”) but we’ve discussed it in regular Devotionals also (like Devotional # 137) and one that was both the holiday and fit in perfectly with the Scripture for that week (Devotional #112). In order to be thankful all the time we have to start expecting everything to work out perfectly and start to have the mindset that God’s will is good and even if it causes us a little pain we are ultimately blessed. The amount of times that we see this mentioned in the Bible, let alone that God is telling us it’s His will shows how important this is.

vv. 19-22. Now Paul moves into some more “action items”, not necessarily the “will of God” because it doesn’t say it explicitly; yet the Bible tells God’s will to man so these should not be considered “throw away” rules. These are crucial for the Christian to obey: 1. “Do not quench the Spirit”; 2. “do not despise prophesies”; 3. “Test all things” and 4. “Abstain from every form of evil.”

  1. We’re told not to “quench the Spirit”, but what does that mean? In the Greek “quench” is often used of fire and means to “extinguish” or “suppress” (Source 3). Five times the Bible describes the Holy Spirit as “fire” (Isaiah 4:4; Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:16-17, Acts 2:34 and here). Of course the Holy Spirit can never be fully put out but since humans have been given a choice, God has allowed us to hold back the Spirit from working. Often this results in extreme discomfort and shame for the Christian who, in retrospect, wishes they had followed the Holy Spirit’s prompting. We are commanded not to “quench the Spirit” not just for us to receive blessing but because we are holding blessing and even possibly salvation back from others! What an awful thing to do.
  1. Next, Paul says, “do not despise prophesies”. These “prophesies” can be spoken by God Himself (Acts 11:27, 28, etc.) or His written word (Matthew 13:14, etc.). When the prophecy of God comes from a legitimate and recognized spokesperson for the Lord it is to be taken seriously (Source 4).
  1. Paul means “Test all things” and when you find “what is good” then “hold fast” to it. I love that Paul tells us to test everything! Don’t just trust blindly. Many people think faith is walking out into the middle of a chasm like Indiana Jones, unable to see the path. Many people think if you are religious then you have to blindly follow a person or a church and do whatever they say. What’s even worse is that many religious people do follow a church or a cult blindly. And yet Paul tells us to “test all things.” If I tell you the Bible says something then look it up, don’t just take my word for it. But I encourage you, if you are going to bring it to correct me (or another believer), please make sure you’re using the Bible to test it and not just giving me someone else’s opinion. Make sure you find “what is good” and right and true. And when you have tested it and know it to be correct – cling to it (“hold fast”) and don’t let anyone steal it from you with fancy words or a sophisticated Powerpoint!
  1. When you hear “abstain from every form of evil”, what do you think of? There are probably the obvious evils that we avoid but I like that Paul doesn’t give us any wiggle room. “Every form of evil” shows us that evil comes in many forms and if the Bible speaks against it or the Holy Spirit convicts you about an evil then it is your responsibility to run away, hold back from it or do whatever it takes to “abstain.” This can’t be done unless you are relying on the Holy Spirit’s power to give you the strength and self-control to not fall into “every form of evil.” Remember the Holy Spirit gave the power to Jesus to “abstain” from falling into Satan’s temptations in the desert as seen in Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13 (see Devotional # 6 for a quick explanation when we covered this in Mark) and to “abstain” from the desire to not be killed on the cross. This very same power also rose Jesus from the grave (as we celebrated yesterday on Resurrection Day 2016) and has been given to us!

Conclusion. I’ve decided to cut chapter 5 early here because I really want to spend some good time on verses 23-28. And actually I’m especially excited to share with you about verse 23 (go read it…what do you think I’m focusing on? Why am I interested in talking about this with you? How does it apply to our everyday lives?)

Anyway, today’s Devotional has been very helpful in showing us a partial (yet hefty list!) of Christian tasks. How can we apply these in our lives? Do not quench the Holy Spirit! Let Him move in your life in personal areas of growth and, when you’re called, to help others mature in the specific ways God has intended for them.

 

References.

Source 1: Kopiaohttps://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2872&t=KJV

Source 2: noutheteohttps://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3560&t=KJV

Source 3: sbennymi, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4570&t=KJV

Source 4: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1850.

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Resurrection Day 2016

Resurrection Day 2016 (3/27/16)

Today is Resurrection Day! We celebrate the Lord Jesus rising from the dead. In fact we just had our church’s Sunrise Service…it’s watching the Sun rise as we celebrate the Son’s rise!! In a sermon I gave a couple months ago (click here to listen) we talked about John 20:1-31.

What stands out to me today is in verses 11-16: “But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.  And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!

Jesus has truly risen from the dead and what is His first thought? It’s for us, for our comfort (“why are you weeping?”) to each of us personally (“Mary!”). Jesus has so much love for us to save us from all the bad stuff we’ve done, to die for our sins and give us hope that we too can be resurrected from the dead (read last year’s Devotional # 131 Special Resurrection Day blog about that). As we read in last week’s regular Devotional (Devotional # 182) from 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,  who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” We have obtained salvation through who alone? “our Lord Jesus Christ”! How? What did He do for us? He “died for us” that we will one day “live together with Him”!!

Praise Jesus today, and every day, He rose from the dead! What a miraculous work He has done and continues to do in our lives every day!

Devotional # 182. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Devotional # 182. 3/22/16. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.

Intro. We’ve been going over eschatological (future things/ study of the end-times) themes in that last devotionals and we will continue to here, as we finish out the book of 1 Thessalonians and also as we move into 2 Thessalonians.

v. 1. By using “but” here Paul tells us he is transferring on specific subject matter (the Rapture) while keeping the theme of prophesy. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that he doesn’t need to spend a lot of time on reviewing the Tribulation or Jesus’ Second Coming with them since they’ve talked about it before. However, it is good for us that Paul does go over some of it so we in 2016 can know!

v. 2. Paul gives us our first vocabulary phrase here: “the Day of the Lord”. Anytime we see this phrase it is referring to God’s Judgment (examples are in Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 13:6-9; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1-31; and Joel 3:14). MacArthur explains, “the future ‘Day of the Lord’ which unleashes God’s wrath, falls into two parts: 1) The end of the seven-year tribulation period (Rev. 19:11-21), and 2) The end of the Millennium…here, Paul refers to that aspect of the ‘Day of the Lord,’ which concludes the tribulation period” (Source 1). We should note that the “Day” doesn’t refer to one 24 hour period but can be an epoch of time.

We find our second vocabulary phrase: “as a thief in the night.” Often this is applied to the Rapture but instead this refers to how Jesus comes after the Tribulation. We see this in Revelation 16:15 when Jesus warns how He will come on the scene for the Battle of Armageddon. There also He tells people to be watchful just as we’re told here. Note that after the Battle of Armageddon has been raging Jesus suddenly appears on the scene and ends the war (Revelation 19:17-20).

v. 3. Here we have more descriptions of what the times will be like when Jesus comes for “the Second Coming.” In addition to 1. “as a thief in the night” (v. 2) it will also be: 2. When Peace is Spoken Instead Devastation Hits (“when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them”), 3. Quickly (“as labor pains”), 4. No Escape (“they shall not escape”). Let’s talk about what these mean:

They say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them.” This will be noticeably different than any other time. We’ve always had plenty of people talk about “peace.” But when Jesus comes after literal hell on earth all of the people who have told others to be at peace and also have claimed there is peace and safety will see what true judgment and destruction looks like. This is very clear today considering the terrorist attacks in Brussels Belgium that happened at about midnight PST (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35869254 ). I heard an interview with someone from the U.S. Department of Defense this morning and when asked when terrorist attacks would stop she didn’t say, ‘only Jesus can bring peace’, she started listing tactics and intelligence and military might. But it’s hopeless without Jesus. I mean literally there is no way to get peace around the globe without Jesus’ intervention. The very people saying these things (“they say”) will be the ones immediately, completely annihilated (“sudden destruction comes upon them”). There will have been a time when the Anti-Christ offers a peace plan that will work for a short time (Revelation 6:2*) but his true motives will be revealed – “to conquer.” As this begins the 7 year Tribulation it will be evident that sin and evil will never result in peace. Sadly, there will be many who won’t acknowledge God’s peace plan and willfully condemn themselves to hell.

As labor pains.This is imagery meaning an increase in frequency and intensity. This, again, will be unlike anything the world has seen. As the Tribulation winds down the “destruction” will come on more quickly and painfully. Part of this is what Satan and the Anti-Christ bring into the picture but much of it is dished out by the Father and the Son.

They shall not escape.Revelation shows us people will try and commit suicide but will be unable to kill themselves (Revelation 9:6) and will try and hide from God although they will be unable to do so (Revelation 6:16). Both of these will have happened prior to the “Day of the Lord” that we’re talking about here but we see how stubborn it is for people who know God is real (acknowledging Him) and reject His salvation (instead they beg to be hidden from His face). They have no one to blame but themselves.

 

* Revelation 6:2: The Anti-Christ has a “bow” which is considered a peace plan. But since there are no arrows the peace plan will fail.

vv. 4-5. “But you” marks an important point: Paul notes he’s not talking about the non-Christians from verse 3 anymore, now he’s speaking to the Christians both in Thessalonica and us today. He’s saying the believers (“brethren” and sisters!) are “not in darkness” which means we have a light, a roadmap, for the end times. We also are of the “light” and not of the “darkness” (v. 6). We know “that this Day” will not “overtake [us] as a thief” because this “Day” refers specifically to the Tribulation and since Christians won’t be on earth of that it won’t “overtake us.”

vv. 6-8. So if Christians aren’t on earth for the Tribulation or for the “Day of the Lord” why does Paul give a warning of not “sleeping” here? Because true Christians will be raptured (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Devotional # 181) but that doesn’t mean just because you go to church or say you’re a Christian that you will be raptured. The clear distinction between the “true” Christian and everyone else (the “pretend” religious person included) is shown here. Let’s look at it like this:

“True” Christian: 1. “sons and daughters of light and of the day” (v. 5); 2. “not asleep”; 3. “watching”; and 4. “sober” (v. 6).

Everyone Else: 1. “of the night” and “of darkness”; 2. Not watching (by implication); 3. “sleeping at night”; and 4. “drunk at night” (v. 7).

It should be obvious that this has nothing to do with being lazy or any sort of physical sleep and certainly not with drinking alcohol but the principles and attributes that accompany such things. If you are scared of not being a “true” Christian then now is the time to take action! If you allow yourself to be spiritually lulled to sleep you will miss the Rapture and consequently endure the Tribulation. And for anyone reading this thinking, “this is the typical doomsday speech about becoming a Christian to avoid all the bad stuff” I would agree with you in one way, but in another way I would ask you what’s the alternative? If I die and I’m wrong then I’ve lived a life helping people and reading a Book that has told me to put my family first and stop being selfish. But if you’re wrong you end up going through hell on earth (the Tribulation) and the only time it stops is when you find out that you’re going to the very literal hell. Personally, I hate fire and brimstone tactics to force people into repentance. Jesus never forced anyone, but He made sure they knew. Now you know.

So for those of us who want to be found “watching” and “sober” what can we do? Paul gives us two things to put on: 1. “the breastplate of faith and love” and 2. “as a helmet the hope of salvation.” The “breastplate” covered the vital organs of the body and in the same way “faith and love” protect our vital spiritual “organs.” Interestingly, “salvation” is always associated with the “helmet” (as we saw in Ephesians 6:17, Devotional # 119).

v. 9. This is probably the most important verse to show that believers won’t endure God’s wrath but instead will be saved from His judgement. If you think about it, what would be the point? Why would God put us through something like that if we’ve been faithful to His command of “denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him” (Matthew 16:24)? Although some think that this refers to Christians being saved from God’s eternal wrath and not His Tribulation wrath I disagree. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15 we see “asleep” and so it follows that “whether we wake or sleep” we will “live together with Him.” Sure, God’s judgment wrath was “appointed” on us before we accepted Jesus and it would apply then that if we were among the last group of Christians on earth that the wrath reserved for sinful people during the Tribulation would also be “appointed” on us. But the very fact of accepting Jesus removes us out of any and all of God’s wrath, whether that be hell or hell on earth.

There is an incredibly interesting contrariety (not contradiction) here: Paul says, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation.” In the same way that we can’t have Three-in-One and yet we have the Trinity and we can’t have Jesus be both fully God and fully Man and yet He is, in the same way, we see here that the words “appoint” and “obtain” sit comfortably next to each other. “Appoint emphasizes God’s sovereignty, but obtain is a word that emphasizes human effort. Together, they show that the full scope of salvation involves both divine initiative and human effort” (Source 2). Somehow, although we cannot do good works to earn our way into heaven, God has given us a choice and as such, we are responsible for choosing what He has done for us.

vv. 10-11. What has He done? “Our Lord Jesus Christ…died for us.” The fact that the same God that holds that “wrath”, that terrible “Day of the Lord”, our fate, in His hand, would humble Himself and come down to earth and die for our sins is incredible! But what else would have worked? How could anyone but a perfect God judge us? And at the same time how could He ever find anyone equal to Him in perfection? So it had to be Him who saved us! And that is the great news that Paul tells us to “comfort each other and edify one another” with.

Conclusion. Has this put things into perspective for you? Sure, an understanding of our Bible vocabulary words will be really helpful for you as you strive to be “watchful” and “sober”, but even if you can’t remember all of those things what will stick with you is that Jesus wants us to be vigilant and to encourage each other with Jesus’ great gift of salvation! But we can’t keep it to ourselves! We have to share this gift with other who haven’t trust Him as their Lord and Savior!

 

 

References.

Source 1: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1849.

Source 2: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_1Th/1Th_5.cfm?a=1116001

New Film “Woodlawn” Makes Me Ask: Why Have Christian Movies Gotten Good?

I love films…I’m a bit of a snob about it. I’m also a Christian…I try not to be a snob about it. I like really good films and I love our really good Savior. So I could name AFI’s top 100 films or talk about “Citizen Kane” (1941) and “The King’s Speech” (2010) but right now I want to talk about Christian films.

I remember growing up and even at six I remember thinking “these are pretty bad.” What I couldn’t articulate into words was that the production value was sub-par, the writing was stilted and un-realistic and the acting usually left much to be desired. I was six but I could tell. I knew the truth of God’s word and I loved the Bible stories I heard in Sunday School and I even kind of felt bad for being judgmental because I knew how Jesus could change lives, but I couldn’t get away from the fact that the Christian movies that were available (on VHS!) were poor excuses for the artistic beauty and creativity of God. Sure there was “Ben Hur” (1959) and “Chariots of Fire” (1981) but those were far and few between. Now I didn’t write this blog to bash all of the production houses and people with good intentions back then; I’m sure there was a struggle with budgets, not to mention overcoming the “devil-is-in-the-airwaves”* mentality of many Christians. But my point is that it has gotten better!

220px-Facing_the_giantsMy first memory of a good Christian film was getting roped into watch “Facing the Giants” (2006) at my parents church. My wife and I went a little begrudgingly thinking that we knew what to expect. But it knocked our socks off. It didn’t matter that it was about football (after all I loved “Remember the Titans”) it was a great story with a convincing gospel message. I had to know who made this! How did they get a studio to sign off? I started researching and come to find out it was a church! Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia created Sherwood Pictures  and with a budget of $100,000 they made an incredible film (that, by the way grossed $10,174,663 in the U.S.). Come to find out prior to that they made “Flywheel” (2003), which I still haven’t seen, but they weren’t done there. Subsequently they came out with “Fireproof” (2008) and “Courageous” (2011). Most recently we watched “War Room” (2015) at our church and I have to say I was again pleasantly surprised. It was such a moving story that both of my kids went home and wrote prayers for their closet (no spoilers, just watch it!) not to mention how the daughters competition turns out surprised me (again, no spoilers). Anyway, I went out and bought a copy for a person I know who doesn’t know Jesus. Great film.

How did this happen? I don’t want to come off as if Sherwood Pictures was our savior but they (at least in my mind) pioneered what it meant to make a good Christian movie. Now it’s 2016, everybody’s phone has a camera and anyone can grab an Adobe Photoshop or iMovie and throw something together. But it still takes a good eye, talented actors and good writing to make something that matters. We’re finally recognizing that a documentary of four college friends trying to figure out what the Christian life looks like in “Beware of Christians” (2011) or the scripted “God’s Not Dead” (2014) are valid and vital ways to communicate Jesus to others.

WoodlawnMoviePoster

So now I’ve been hearing buzz about this film “Woodlawn.” It’s a true story about a high school in Birmingham Alabama in 1973 when forced integration created crazy conflicts. I’ve heard it’s the greatest Christian film ever made. Is it? I haven’t seen it yet but our church is showing it this Friday (3/25) night. So if you want to come to House of Grace in Hemet (4000 E. Florida Ave) at 6:30PM see for yourself!

But if you can’t come out then rent it and tell me what you think (in the comments below).

Mark Merrill hosts “Family First Podcast” and interviewed producer Jon Erwin (October Baby, Mom’s Night Out) about “Woodlawn” – Listen here. The podcast gives a description of the movie and some “behind the scenes” details on this incredible real-life story about how Jesus changed not only a high school but an entire town.

LEAVE A COMMENT! I don’t see a lot of Christian movies, what are some worth my time? What are the good ones that actually tell people the truth of Jesus while maintaining artistic integrity, award worthy cinematography and are technologically ground-breaking?

 

*When radio was first used for Christian broadcasts there was more opposition from believers than from secular groups because the Christians feared radio (quoting that Satan was the ‘prince of the power of the air’ [Ephesians 2:2])! Listen to my Early Church History Series by clicking here.

 

Saint Patrick’s Day 2016: Beer Bash or Christian Call?

st-patrick-213x300Someone told me today, “I don’t know why my kids have to go to school today, I consider St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday.” Why? Why does America get so excited and choose to celebrate about old, dead Pat? Here’s an interesting post titled, “St. Patrick’s Day Around the World”.

But more importantly what did Saint Patrick do?

Patrick had Christian parents in Roman Britain but didn’t take it seriously until he was kidnapped and made a slave (“as a swineherd”) in northern Ireland. He prayed faithfully and escaped, traveling “two hundred miles on foot to the coast.” He then got a job on a ship and went to France then to a “Mediterranean monastery.” He returned to his homeland but he kept having dreams of Irish children asking him to come back to them and teach them about Christ. He felt inadequate to preach the gospel so he went to France to study at a monastery and returned to Ireland in 432 AD.

Patrick had to deal with Druids (“keepers of the old paganism”) and hostile chieftains but somehow got through to everyone. Years before Patrick was a missionary a man named Palladius tried to convert the Irish people but had very little success. It seems Patrick’s time as a slave helped him understand the people in a way that they listened to him. It is estimated that he planted 300 churches and baptized around 120,000 people! (Source 4)

It’s incredible that a guy who came to fame because he wanted to tell everybody about Jesus 1584 years ago in Ireland is celebrated with an unofficial holiday in the United States today! “You bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8). So Jesus says that by the “fruit” or works of a believer they will be known. These aren’t what I call “striving works” (as if you could do good works to get into heaven) but instead what I call “proving works” (where Jesus works through us, proving He is the only real hope). Wanna know what that “fruit” looks like? Read my Devotional # 93.

Now we’re beyond drinking beer and wearing green…we’re looking at the heart of Patrick who truly had a heart for others. Whether you’re a Scotchman called to preach to the Irish or a Japanese American called to speak to Zimbabwe, what matters is that when Jesus said to go out and tell all the world – that was an emphatic command to all Christians (Mark 16:15). Do you understand that?! I hear something like this all the time: “I don’t have the gift of preaching” or “I’m not called to speak to people about Jesus.” We’ve mistaken our discomfort for feeling like we are not called, but that’s not the case. It’s fine if you don’t want to tell others about Jesus but you can’t do that and call yourself a follower of Christ. You don’t get to walk into the pizza place down the street and demand a paycheck, right?

“Do you work here?”
“No.”
“Then I’m not giving you a paycheck.”

Jesus asks us, “Do you work here?” He doesn’t ask, “Do you tell people you work here?” He asks, “Do you work here?” “Do You bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

I believe too many of our pastors let people off the hook nowadays. We say you can just be a missionary in your own backyard. Yes, that’s true for some but sadly most people use it as an excuse, ignoring Jesus’ call then live an uneventful life never mentioning the name of Jesus outside of church, if they even go to church.

I’m calling you out. 1. Jesus commanded you to lovingly tell others about him. Period. 2. Jesus may have told you to drop everything and move to the other side of the world to tell people about Him. You don’t have to be Saint Patrick, be you, but recognize the same Holy Spirit that allowed Saint Patrick to be a slave and then moved him out of his comfort zone, moves you today. As Jesus said, “Go!

 

References:

Source 4: A. Kenneth Curtis, J. Stephen Lang & Randy Peterson, The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History, Christian History Institute, Fleming H. Revell (a division of Baker Book House Company, 1991, 1998, pp. 47-48.

Devotional # 181. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Devotional # 181. 3/15/16. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

 

Intro. Last week we covered the first 12 verses of this chapter (Devotional # 180) where we saw how to be righteous Christians, but I mentioned that it was laying a foundation for us to understand how the Rapture of the Church was going to go.

vv. 13-14. Having said that it is God’s will for us to be sanctified and cleaned by not being sexually immoral (v. 3), leading a quiet life, not gossiping and working hard (v. 11), Paul finishes that thought by explaining we need to be good witness to non-Christians (“outside”) and that we Christians “may lack nothing” (v. 12). With the fact that we lack nothing, Paul moves in to the truth of what our resurrection and the Rapture will be like. You see, because we lack nothing we also do not lack knowledge. That’s why Paul can say, “I do not want you to be ignorant” because ignorance is the lack of information.

I was reading Proverbs 14 this morning (as I attempt to read the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds with the current calendar day) and verse 6 stood out as applicable to this study: “A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it, but knowledge is easy to him who understands” (Proverbs 14:6). From what we’re reading here in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 there are those who are “ignorant” that heaven exists and that the Rapture of the Church will happen. Today there are very few people in the “civilized” world who haven’t heard the truth about a biblical heaven and the idea of the Rapture with movies like “Left Behind” with Nicolas Cage and the “Left Behind” book series (and films with Kirk Cameron). So we can see that many of them are “scoffers”, making fun of a Savior who would die on the cross; the ideas of sin, the Rapture and heaven. But for the Christian, we have this “knowledge” and it is “easy to him who understands.” What does this do for us? We’re told this so that we will have “hope” (v. 13) but notice that verse 14 says “if”. The “if” here makes it a conditional promise. “If we believe…” Believe what? “That Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” You can’t get much clearer than that!

In verse 14 we have the roadmap: What is to be done: “believe”, in Whom: “Jesus Christ”, Why: because He “died and rose again”, and the Result: the Father “will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” To “sleep in Jesus” sounds a little strange but is actually a truthful and perfect way to put it. Anyone who has died but believed in Jesus is not really spiritually “dead” – they are merely “sleeping.” Do you remember what Jesus said to His disciples, the family and the mourners of the little girl He raised from the dead in Mark 5:35-43 (Devotional # 15) ? He said that she was just sleeping, and then proceeded to bring her back to life. What an incredible story and what an incredibly hopeful outlook – that death is not the end but merely a short time of sleep followed with the fullness of eternal life! We must keep in mind that for that little girl (and any other people Jesus raised from the dead during His ministry) they were going to have to die again since every person must die (1 Corinthians 15:22; Hebrews 9:27). But the principle still applies: God considers the physical death of His Church as merely sleeping.

vv. 15-17. Paul substantiates his claim by saying this is true because it is “the word of the Lord.” This isn’t something Paul made up or even connected the dots and made a hypotheses. No, the facts of heaven and the Rapture were told to him by God. Not only to him but we see it elsewhere in the Bible, proving the validity of these claims.

The Thessalonians were unsure in what order future things were going to happen. Would their dead friends and relative miss Jesus coming back? Hadn’t Jesus promised to save Christians from difficult times? Paul explains how things will happen and in what order:

 

First, at “the Rapture” Jesus will come down from heaven. This will be announced, as always, at Jesus’ command (“shout”), also announced by a separate voice of an archangel and lastly, announced by a trumpet blast.

Second, the Christians who have died before Jesus raptures the Church will rise before the believers who are still alive (“we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep” and “the dead in Christ will rise first”).

Third, the Christians who are still alive will be taken from their earthly bodies (essentially dying) and join Jesus “in the clouds.”

 

We’ll look into these things in more detail but I think at this point it’s important to note that although many Christians refer to Jesus’ return for his Church as the “Second Coming” technically the “Second Coming” is something different that doesn’t happen until after the Tribulation. Although The Rapture and the Second Coming share some similarities, here are several key differences:

 

The Rapture vs. The Second Coming (Source 1)

  Rapture Second Coming
The Church Jesus returns FOR His Church (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:16-17) Jesus returns WITH His Church (Rev. 19:11-16)
Tribulation Before (1 Thess. 5:9; Rev. 3:10) After (Rev. chapters 16-19)
Reason Believers get delivered (1 Thess. 4:13-17; 5:9) Non-believers get judged (Rev. 3:10; 19:11-21)
Viewed Hidden (1 Cor. 15:50-54) Visible to all (Rev. 1:7)
Timeline Any time (1 Cor. 15:50-54; Titus 2:13; 1 Thess. 4:14-18) After specific events (2 Thess. 2:4; Mt. 24:15-30)

 

 

Contrasts Between the Rapture and the Second Coming (Source 2)
Rapture Second Coming
Christ comes for His own (John 14:3; 1Th. 5:28; 2Th. 2:1). Christ comes with His own (1Th. 3:13; Jude 1:14; Rev. 19:14+).1
Christ comes in the air (1Th. 4:17). Christ comes to the earth (Zec. 14:4; Acts 1:11).2
Christ claims His bride (1Th. 4:16-17). Christ comes with His bride (Rev. 19:6-14+).3
Removal of believers (1Th. 4:17). Manifestation of Christ (Mal. 4:2).4
Only His own see Him (1Th. 4:13-18). Every eye shall see Him (Rev. 1:7+).5
Tribulation begins (2Th. 1:6-9). Millennial Kingdom begins (Rev. 20:1-7+).6
Saved are delivered from wrath (1Th. 1:10; 1Th. 5:9). Unsaved experience the wrath of God (Rev. 6:12-17+).7
No signs precede rapture (1Th. 5:1-3). Signs precede Second Coming (Luke 21:11,Luke 21:15).8
Focus is Lord and Church (1Th. 4:13-18). Focus is Israel and kingdom (Mat. 24:14).9
World is deceived (2Th. 2:3-12). Satan is bound so he cannot deceive (Rev. 20:1-2+).10
Believers depart the earth (1Th. 4:15-17).11 Unbelievers are taken away from the earth (Mat. 24:37-41).12
Unbelievers remain on earth. Believers remain on earth (Mat. 25:34).13
No mention of establishing Christ’s Kingdom on earth. Christ has come to set up His Kingdom on earth (Mat. 25:31Mat. 25:34).14
Christians taken to the Father’s house (John 14:1-3). Resurrected saints do not see the Father’s house (Rev. 20:4+).15
Imminent—could happen at any moment. Cannot occur for at least 7 years.16
Precedes the career of the man of sin. (2Th. 2:1-3). Terminates the career of the man of sin (Rev. 19:20+).

 

(For more on how Christians will not go through the Tribulation and how our current trials and tribulations are much different from the Tribulation event, see Devotional # 179).

The charts above should give you some good information (and maybe even some extra stuff you didn’t know like how unbelievers won’t be aware when the Rapture happens or that there are no signs that happen prior to the Rapture) but let’s look a little deeper at a couple of things specifically here in verses 15-17.

 

We should acknowledge that time and again in the end times it is Jesus who starts something or gives a command to begin (read Revelation). In verse 16, “The Lord Himself” who descends “with a shout” is giving a “war shout”, which shows He is “a victorious King, giving the word of command to the hosts of heaven” (Source 3). This makes sense when we realize that when the Church is pulled out here at the Rapture it is the immediate beginning of the Tribulation, the 7 years of horrible plagues that God rains down upon the earth. Jesus is signaling battle positions to His angels. After the archangel comes the trumpet blast. We should be aware this isn’t “the judgment trumpets of Revelation 8-11, but is illustrated by the trumpet of Exodus 19:16-19, which called the people out of the camp to meet God. It will be a trumpet of deliverance (cf. Zephaniah 1:16; Zechariah 9:14)” (Source 4).

 

Many say that the word “Rapture” is not in the Bible, as if that somehow makes it untrue. I would point out at words like Trinity, Jonah’s whale and the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” are also not found in the Bible but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many places in the Bible that teach the concept without using the exact word we use. So the reason we call it the Rapture is because of the phrase “caught up”. In the original Greek “caught up” is harpazo, which means “to seize” or “to snatch out or away” (Source 5).

 

We see that all of the Christians, those who were dead and those who have just died, all join Jesus “in the clouds”, “in the air.” So Jesus never actually comes down to earth but stays in the sky bringing His Church to Him. It is important for us to recognize that if He did come all the way down to earth at this point then He would be failing at the prophecy in Zechariah 14:4.

v. 18. The last part of verse 17 (“thus we shall always be with the Lord”) and this verse gave the Thessalonians, and give us nowadays, a lot of hope. The fact that all of the difficulties we have gone through on earth are over and we never have to leave our beloved Savior’s side is such a hopeful thought that it makes our current struggles worth it. Now here in verse 18 it says to “comfort one another with these words.” It’s important that we understand that this kind of “comfort” isn’t like Paul saying ‘hang in there through the tough times, the Rapture is soon’ instead he means ‘live holy lives, we have our hope of salvation!’ Do you see the difference? There is nothing wrong with being comforted by the Rapture (most Christians are!) but in the first example the focus is on us and the difficulties we’re going through, and the quick event of the Rapture, but as we’ve said many times it’s not all about us, it’s all about God. So if we “comfort” each other with encouragements to live holy lives as pleasing to God, and are hopeful and appreciative of the eternal salvation He provides, than we aren’t focused on ourselves instead our holy lives are also testimonies to the “ignorant” and “scoffers” (“outside”) who can receive his salvation just like we did!

 

Conclusion. When we recognize the foundation that Paul set in the first half of this chapter (1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, Devotional # 180) about living godly lives suddenly how Paul ends the chapter makes a lot of sense. And this key portion of Scripture on the Rapture reminds us of our personal responsibilities in our lives and in the lives of others. We take great “comfort” in the hope of our salvation and that we “shall always be with the Lord”. As you’ll see in Revelation 19:6-14 we come back to earth as part of Jesus’ army, so He is training us for great things. (Here, in 1 Thessalonians 4 Jesus is coming FOR His Church, in Revelation 19 Jesus is coming WITH His Church.) We have great responsibility and continued hope in Jesus!

 

 

References.

Source 1: http://christianity.about.com/od/endtimestopicalstudy/f/secondcomingof.htm

Source 2: http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/revelation/related-topics/rapture-versus-second-coming.html

Source 3: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Th/1Th_004.cfm?a=1115001

Source 4: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1848.

Source 5: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G726&t=KJV

Devotional # 180. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

Devotional # 180. 3/7/16. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12.

 

Intro. Last week we covered all of chapter 3 of 1 Thessalonians, talking about Paul’s concerns for the church there and also the differences between current tribulations and the Tribulation of the end times (Devotional # 179). For this week we need to realize what we’re talking about next week. This week, in verses 1-12, we’ll see how to be righteous Christians, and next week we’ll be talking about the Rapture of the church. So what Paul gives us this week in verses 1-12 will help us better understand the Rapture through context.

vv. 1-2. The key to this section is in the words, “How you ought to walk and to please God” (v. 1). Notice that Paul says that these commandments are given through Jesus. So the things that follow are clearly telling us how we can be found faithful whenever Jesus decides to rapture the church.

vv. 3-8. The first thing that we should be doing to be found righteous when Jesus comes back at the Rapture regards sexual immorality. “Sexual immorality” in Greek is porneia, where we get our word “pornography”, and means “prohibited sexual intercourse.” This is in regards to “adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.” (Source 1). Why do you think this is the first thing mentioned? I believe that sexual immorality is very easy for every person to fall into and beyond that it affects every person. You and every person you know will be affected by this.

Notice that it says, “this is the will of God, your sanctification.” Any time the Bible tells us that something is the “will of God” we should pay attention! God’s will is our sanctification, which means “our purification” (Source 2). God wants us to be pure, according to His standards.

This applied to the Thessalonians in the same way it applies to us, we should not be overtaken by our lusts. God didn’t call us to be unclean but to be holy (v. 7). And the authority of it is unquestioned: if you don’t obey this you are not rejecting man’s command “but God, who has also given us the Holy Spirit.” The point is that we’re not like the Gentiles (v. 5) who don’t know God but we’re holy and we have the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Interestingly the word porneia that we just talked about meaning “sexual immorality” has the meaning of prohibited physical intercourse but it can also mean prohibited spiritual intercourse. In places like Jeremiah 3:20; Isaiah 1:21; Ezekiel 16:30 in the Old Testament, when God’s people worshipped other fake gods He called it “adultery” against Him. Since Paul is helping us understand the end times here in Thessalonians, it’s important that we look at places like Revelation 2:18-29 where we see that the future church of Thyatira is blamed for the sin of “sexual immorality” against God. So spiritual “sexual immorality” will continue to be present until the end of the world but what does your life look like now? And do you stand against it? Are you an “overcomer” (from Revelation 2:26)?

vv. 9-12. In verses 9-10 Paul encourages the Thessalonians that they don’t need any special motivation to love each other in “brotherly love.” What they do need is to continue in it “more and more.” I know this mentality from my work: continuous improvement. If we accept something as “good enough” we will become lackadaisical and that “good” will eventually end. In the same way when we are doing well in showing love to others we must continue in it, never giving up and never thinking we’re doing “good enough.”

 

Lastly, we’re given 3 items to model our lives after: 1. “lead a quiet life”, 2. “mind your own business”, 3.  “and to work with your hands.” When Paul says, “lead a quiet life” and “mind your own business” this is in direct contrast to the world. The unbeliever is all about how much noise they can make and how much gossip they can get and spread around. A truly changed Christian life doesn’t have wild fights or drunken parties, and it doesn’t spread news, even if it’s true, about others. A Christian doesn’t do this, not because they’ve been told not to or they are trying to obey a rule, but because Jesus died for their sins and the Holy Spirit truly has changed them.

 

The final model “to work with your hands” needs a little explaining. In looking at history it seems that the Thessalonian church was mostly made up of the working class of people. When they were saved and then heard that Jesus was going to be coming back (the Rapture) they thought they didn’t have to work anymore (Source 3). So this isn’t saying that only labor jobs are good work, but it is saying that whatever you do give it your best, as to the Lord (Colossians 3:23, Devotional # 162).

 

Conclusion. This has been a good lesson for us on what God’s will is for our life. So often we think about God’s will for our life as if he is a career planner trying to fit our resume into a position where we’ll be really happy. The truth is God is much more concerned with the shape your heart is in than what shape your bank account is in, or your job security or emotional happiness meter is registering. In reality the way He changes our lives, and uses us to change the lives of others, is much more important. Remember next week we’ll finish off this chapter talking about the Rapture in great detail. If we consider what our sanctification looks like by staying away from physical and spiritual sexual immorality and leading a quiet life while minding our own business and working to give Him glory then we will be ready if He does Rapture us tonight!

 

References.

Source 1: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4202&t=KJV

Source 2: hagiasmos, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G38&t=KJV

Source 3: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Th/1Th_004.cfm?a=1115003

Devotional # 179. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

Devotional # 179. 2/29/16. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13.

Intro. As we’ve moved through 1 Thessalonians we’ve seen that Paul and Silas and Timothy started and mentored the church in Thessalonica. We have the unique opportunity to both learn from the mentors and from those being mentored as we read through this letter and apply the encouragements to our own lives.

vv. 1-2. Again, we see Paul and Silas and Timothy’s hearts here. They wanted so badly (“no longer endure it“) to see, fellowship, encourage and train up the Christians at Thessalonica but they were unable to leave Athens. So they decided to send Timothy. Often times we think we can handle something through a text or an email (or even a phone call allows us to hear the inflections in a person’s voice) but what is really needed is a face to face with a person. Be willing to go out of your way to meet up with someone, to make the long trip, to see, fellowship, encourage and train up other Christians. Something I’ve learned in my job is there is no replacement for meeting someone and talking with them. There are people I’ve dealt with over the phone for 5 years but it wasn’t until I met them that they were really willing to go out of their way to help and the same for me helping them. It’s about the connection that you make with others. Meet with other Christians, not just when it’s convenient but when the Lord leads and you love them so much you can “no longer endure it“.

vv. 3-4. If we correctly interpret this it will give us peace, a game plan for our future and a great desire to see people saved. But if we incorrectly interpret this it could lead to a lot of difficulties in our lives and the lives of others. If we read this as if believers will go through the Tribulation (including the Great Tribulation) we can lose hope and also lead others incorrectly. So the context here (as we saw last week in 1 Thessalonians 2:14, Devotional # 178) is that Christians have to go through some tough times. In fact “we are appointed to this.” But the present difficulties are a vast difference from what Christians will endure during the Tribulation. The first point we need to know is that 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says, “for God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This shows us current Christians that we will not go through the Tribulation (“wrath”) but instead have obtained “salvation” from God’s wrath. The second point is to contrast what current trials and tribulations look like as opposed to the Tribulation that will last 7 years as Revelation describes. In 2 Corinthians 11:23b-28 Paul describes some of the things he’s gone through:

 

“…in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”

 

That is what current difficulties look like when suffering for the Lord. So what does the Tribulation of Revelation look like? Revelation, chapters 6-19 detail the Tribulation, some examples are:

 

-“there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth” (Rev. 6:12b-13a).

-“The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood.  And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter. Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night” (Rev. 8:7-12).

-“By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed—by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths.  For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm” (Rev. 9:18-19).

 

Everyone can agree that the sun isn’t black, bloody hail isn’t currently falling and there isn’t a demon army with snake tails shooting fire and brimstone out of their mouths. That kind of death and destruction is reserved for the end of time and for the unbelieving, Jesus rejecting multitudes. I hope this helps you distinguish between the trials and tribulations that Christians have been going through since 33AD and the event of the Tribulation that has yet to come.

v. 5. Paul says “for this reason.” For what reason is he talking about? For the reason of both the Thessalonians and Paul, Silas and Timothy suffering afflictions and tribulations; this is why they wanted to send Timothy to the Thessalonians. So that Paul could know their “faith.” He was double checking that Satan (“the tempter“) hadn’t “tempted” them.  What sorts of temptations would Satan try and entice the Thessalonians with? The same that he does today. Maybe it’s that this Christian life isn’t worth it, maybe it’s that God isn’t real, or that we can still be Christians without standing up for the Lord and sacrificing our happiness and resources. In fact, Satan has three foundational temptations that he usually goes to. I’ve started calling them “Sins Triple Root” and they are: 1. the “lust of the flesh”, 2. the “lust of the eyes”, and the “pride of life”. We see them in three specific places in the Bible (Genesis 3:6, Luke 4:4, 8, 12 and 1 John 2:16). But how does this help us? If we are aware that Satan is trying to use one or all of these temptations on us then we can fight against them. God tells Cain, “sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” in Genesis 4:7. God is clearly stating that with His help we can overcome sin’s temptations.

v. 6. Verses 1–5 were telling us Paul’s heart in sending Timothy to find out how the Thessalonians were doing, here in verse 6 we fast-forward to Timothy having visited them and come back. Timothy’s report was: “good news“. They had “faith and love” and they had fond memories of the time that Paul, Silas and Timothy were there. Remember when they first came through they were only in Thessalonica for 3 weeks (Devotional # 175) according to Acts 17:2, which is not a lot of time. Paul is a smart man for checking in and making sure that the good memories that he has were also good memories for the Thessalonians.

vv. 7-8. Paul says “therefore” (meaning because there was a good report) it comforted Paul and Silas, Timothy and others. I think often times we underestimate the effect that we can have on other Christians. My wife and I were having a conversation with some friends yesterday who are younger in the Lord. They told us how they appreciated our biblical council but we told them it’s a two-way street: because they’re reading their Bibles and in prayer God uses them to give us encouragement and counsel also. Notice that Paul does say that in all of the “affliction and distress” they are comforted. This is another proof that the tribulations he’s talking about here are the ones happening in real time, right now.

 

So what does Paul mean by “for now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord”? One group of commentators explain it as Paul saying, “it revives us in our affliction to hear of your steadfastness (Psalm 22:26; 2 John 1:3-4)” (Source 1).

vv. 9-10. It’s really interesting how Paul puts this. He’s saying that even though he’s thanking God day and night that the Thessalonians came to put their faith in God and that they continue to walk with Him, he feels it’s not enough. Paul is saying that it’s too much for his heart and his lips. What incredibly important lesson can we learn from? That we should be praying day and night, or as we’ll see in a couple weeks Paul also calls it “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Devotional # 183). But what really hit me right now as I’m reading through this is that Paul felt ill equipped to actually think and praise God efficiently. That’s something I need to work on in my prayer life. A lot of times I run through the things that I want but don’t feel a burning passion that I haven’t properly communicated to God how thankful I am that He has done certain things. What about you? Is your thankfulness ever too much for your heart and your lips? I think when we have that mindset then we can begin to enter into a prayer life that truly is taking place “night and day.”
A couple of years ago I tried to pray continually – it basically meant that throughout my entire day I asked God to remind me to pray. And you know what? It actually happened! It was one of the best days that I can remember. I’ve never felt closer to God. So why haven’t I done it in years? I’m not sure exactly…maybe I’m afraid that the next time I try it, it won’t be as good, maybe I feel like I’m too busy or maybe I just haven’t thought about it. But what I do know is that Paul leads by example and we should follow that example. That day that I just told you about where I was able to pray day and night was a regular full day for me. It wasn’t like I went into solitary confinement or took a “me day” in the woods. The reality of it was that I was able to pray all day long even with all my normal responsibilities. So I’m challenging myself and you to do this. Pick one day and do whatever it takes. Write yourself reminder notes, send yourself emails, do whatever you have to do to constantly be in prayer. But I strongly suggest that you make it a day like any other day because the end goal is for us to develop a mindset when we’re praying continually and we can’t do that if we orchestrate special situations since that’s not our everyday life. So what do those prayers look like? Well it could be a 45 minute long prayer in the morning as you’re getting ready and then some five-minute prayers throughout the day. At lunch you decide to be by yourself uninterrupted and pray. Some more quick prayers followed by some lengthier ones and then go to bed. It’s not realistic to say that you won’t have any conversations with anyone and you won’t do anything else. It’s just that the gaps of time that we waste should be filled with prayer. Trust me you won’t run out of things to talk to God about. Don’t just make it a list of “I wants”. You’re talking to your Father, and He will talk to you. Be patient, but be ready for “the tempter” (v. 5). Be thankful and have joy!

vv. 11-13. I love the separation of the Persons of God here! Not only does “our God and Father” direct our way but so does “our Lord Jesus Christ“! We can take notes on Paul’s blessing here. He says that Jesus “the Lord” can, if it is His will, “make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all.” And we know that it is Jesus’ will, as He says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). We too should be praying not just for our increase in love to love other Christians (“one another“) and love for non-Christians (“all“) but for our other Christian brothers and sisters to be praying the same thing and to be flooded with the same love.
And what will come from that kind of love? Jesus will “establish [our] hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” This applies as much to us today as it did to the Thessalonians then. Paul is giving us great hope! We will be made “blameless” – in the eyes of God, our Judge, it’s as if we’ve never sinned. And we will be made “holy” – in the eyes of God, He will make us pure. When will these things happen? “At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” when we are with all of the other Christians (“saints“). Interestingly the word for “coming” here in the Greek means “presence” (Source 2).  Once we are in Jesus’ “presence” we are blameless. We have cast off this tent of a body and taken on our perfected resurrection body. We are made blameless because he is blameless!
Conclusion. We have been reminded about the things that we probably know: to thank God, to pray day and night, and to check in with other Christians. But we also learned somethings that we may not have known: 1. Satan chiefly uses three root sins to tempt us and 2. the difference between trials and tribulations that we face now and the Tribulation to happen in the future. Were there any other things you were reminded of? Was there anything that you learned for the first time? Leave a comment below. God bless!

 

References.

Source 1: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Th/1Th_003.cfm

Source 2: Parousia, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3952&t=KJV