Beyond the Gospels: Thessalonians

Today’s Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18
[Click the link above to read the verses online.]

We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive.
They are not busy; they are busybodies.
2 Thessalonians 3:11
God gives us a hard word through Paul. He warns us about busybodies and tells us we should all be busy.
In the early church, the community depended on one another like family. Working for one another, sharing their food, supporting each other as needs arose. Within today’s congregations, we are not so dependent on each other. Most have their own homes and food, so we can’t really withhold meals from those who won’t work.
But I wonder… are we all doing the work God calls us to do? Are we actively exercising the spiritual gifts we’ve been given for the building up of the church? Are we truly members? doing the work God created for us to do before the foundation of the world?
I believe if we occupy ourselves with listening to the Lord, obeying His call on our life, we don’t have the desire or inclination to be a busybody who causes disruption.
My experience with following Jesus has kept my life full. He captured my heart when my children were five years old and younger. I was a stay at home mom, but Jesus began calling me to work in the church. Little by little, as my kids grew, the work God called me to also grew. When my children eventually went off to college, I heard other moms talk about not knowing what to do with their time and suffering empty-nest syndrome. All I could think was, I don’t have that problem, God has been keeping me plenty busy.

If your finding yourself with idle time on your hands, not knowing what to do with yourself, maybe it’s time you sought God about the work He has waiting for you. I pray you find the work He has for you in the church, not only for His glory, but heaven knows, we don’t need any busybodies running around the church stirring things up. 🙂
Father God, forgive me for my tendency to be idle and depend on the work of others.
Forgive me for every opportunity I’ve missed to be the member of Christ’s body
You call me to be. I’m ready to work. I do not want to be a busybody.
I want a busy body.

Beyond the Gospels: Thessalonians

Today’s verses: 2 Thessalonians 2:13 – 3:5
[Do you know where your Bible is? If not, click the link above to read online.]

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord…
2 Thessalonians 2:13
We ought always give thanks for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are loved by the Lord. So the question for the day is: Are you?

Think about your brothers and sisters in Christ… 
those in our congregation…
those who are members of other churches…
Are you thankful for them?
If not you ought to be.
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
2 Thessalonians 3:5
Lord Jesus, I thank You for every one of my brothers and sisters loved by You.
Bless each one with the gifts and faith to glorify You. Increase my love for them.

Beyond the Gospels: Thessalonians

Today’s passage: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
[Click the reference above to read on or flip open your Bible.]

For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work…
2 Thessalonians 2:7
The power of lawlessness, wielded by the man of lawlessness, is currently at work in the world. It’s easy to believe when we see how God and His ways are being challenged in every culture and people group. Christians persecuted to all degrees. Perversion of His way seems to be the order of the day.
From atheists to ISIS. From the erasing of gender to the removal of the Ten Commandments. From all ways lead to God and the dismissing of the notion of hell. From the eradiction of truth to the making of your own truth. The secret power of lawlessness is at work.
God’s Word tells us a time is coming when lawlessness will have full sway in the world. Revealed for all to see. Yet I wonder if any will recognize him.
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works.
He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie,
and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing.
They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-10
The man of lawlessness comes with wonderful displays of power, lies, deceptions. If we are not fully grounded and rooted in God’s truth, in agreement with His Word, we run the risk of being deceived. Adam and Eve, two who walked closest with God, fell to his deception. What prevents us from doing the same?
The lawlessness at work in the world today and the full revelation of its coming, may cause some to live in fear and despair. There is no reason if you trust and follow Christ. He too will have His full day of revelation and He will be no match for lawlessness.
And then the lawless one will be reveled,
whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth
and destroy by the splendor of his coming.
2 Thessalonians 2:8
Lawlessness will literally be blown away by His breath. Overthrown by His demeanor.
Those who perish refuse to love truth.
Those who love His truth will have no fear.
Do you love His truth? do you wrestle with Him in it? or dismiss it? because it’s not what you want to hear?
Does the news of the day fill you with panic? dismay? despair? because you spend more time in the news than with Him? in prayer? in praise? in His Word?
Yes. Lawlessness is already at work. Seemingly alive, well, and convincing.
Don’t be drawn into either error: being deceived or being paralyzed by fear.
As Believers we are charged with bringing truth and light into the world. Now’s the time to be bold and stand up for Him. Suppress and derail the works of deceit to the full extent of the faith and power we have available to us through Christ Jesus by way of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, reveal where I’ve been deceived or have the potential
to fall to the secret power of lawlessness.
I want to know and love Your truth. Encourage and empower me
by Your Spirit and Your Word so I can derail and delay
lawlessness from being fully revealed.
Use me to teach others to love truth that they might be saved.

Beyond the Gospels: Thessalonians

Today’s Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 1
[Open up today’s passage by clicking the reference above, or open up your Bible.]

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you
worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition
your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you,
and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
God makes us worthy of His calling.
There is nothing we can do to make ourselves worthy.
By His power He brings to fruition every desire to do good, every act prompted by faith.
We can’t do it if we tried.
He makes us worthy and uses His power all for one reason.
So that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in us

Our purpose in life is to glorify the character of Christ according to His grace.
How does your life glorify Jesus?
Paul thanks God for the growth in the Thessalonian church: growth in their faith and in their love for one another. Paul boasts of their faithfulness despite persecution. These are ways to glorify Jesus.
But Paul continues to pray for this growing church to be worthy of God’s calling. We all have room to increase our faithfulness when it comes to glorifying Christ with our lives. Every day should be a personal pursuit to live our lives for His glory. Increasingly.
Let us spend some time in prayer.
Pray for yourself and for our congregation to be worthy of His calling, fruitful by His power, faithful in the face of persecution, all for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Father God, make us worthy of Your calling as individuals
and as a corporate body. Fill us with faith-full desires to do good
and bless us with the power to carry them out. May we never seek
our own glory, but Jesus’s alone. Use us according to the faith
and grace You have blessed us with. Grow us up in Jesus’s name.

Beyond the Gospels: Thessalonians

Today’s Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:18-28

The grace of our Lord be with you.
1 Thessalonians 5:28

Sometimes the strangest things catch my attention, today it’s the small word with in Paul’s final words to the Thessalonians in this first letter. A blessing asking for the Lord’s grace to be with them. When something catches my attention in His Word, I take it as a prompting to dig deeper.
What does it look like for the Lord’s grace to be with us?
I think most of us see ourselves basking in His grace and forgiveness, living a carefree life, knowing His grace for us. But looking into the original language, Greek, I find the word meta translated here as with. According to the Dictionary of Biblical Languages, it means: in the company of; a marker of association. So to get a clearer picture of the blessing Paul gives, we can rewrite the verse as:
The grace of our Lord be a marker of association of you.

His grace should mark us. To be associated with Jesus does not leave us the way He found us. People should be able to see and experience His grace through us.
We are not only to receive His grace, but just like Him, we are to be ready to pour out grace on others. If we are associated with Him, we will be fountains of grace.
How are you when it comes to pouring out grace? when you’re driving? with your family? when your feelings have been hurt? when you’ve been misunderstood? when you’ve been cheated? when you’re sick? when those around you are suffering?
Is His grace with you a marker of your association with Him? do others find grace in your company?
I believe the more we understand His grace and allow it to work in our lives, the more we are willing and able to pour out grace on others.
With. It’s what the grace of our Lord is to be to us. With us everywhere we go.
Lord, Your grace is not just for me to receive, but it is with me to pour out on others.
Make me a vessel of Your grace, a fountain overflowing grace!

Beyond the Gospels: Thessalonians

Today’s passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-17
[Click above to read on or open up your Bible.]

Yesterday’s passage spoke about the sleep of physical death for Believers.
Today’s passage addresses the spiritual death and the sleep of unbelievers.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day
should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light
and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-6
Believers fall asleep with their physical death.
Unbelievers, spiritually dead, sleep-walk through life.
Believers are called to be children of the day, quite a different life than those who walk around in darkness. Children of the day should not be surprised by the day of the Lord. We who are spiritually awake should live our lives constantly aware of the possibility and reality of His coming any moment. 
The day of the Lord will mean destruction for those who refused to believe. They will not escape. They walk around in the dark oblivious to the danger they are in. We Believers have an opportunity to wake up others in our circle of influence, if we will remember to live as light. With faith and love guarding our hearts we reach out to the lost, those stumbling in the dark. And with our mind focused on what He as done for us, we are able to share the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ with compassion.
We have no time to play around in the dark. Believers will not suffer His wrath, but those sleepwalkers will. We need to take the time we have left seriously, not living like those who are spiritually dead and asleep. But living like those who are preparing our hearts and others for His coming.
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle
and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, 
be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back
wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other
and for everyone else.
1 Thessalonians 5:14-15
Are you awake? spiritually speaking? Or do you spend your days focused on the same things as unbelievers? pleasing yourself? running after the things of this world? ignoring the signs?
We are to stay awake while we walk this earth, encouraging one another and building each other up. Preparing the church for His coming and reaching out to as many as He puts in our path.
Father God, teach me to live as Your child of light.
Use me to draw others to You, help me to resist the temptations
of darkness. I know You’re coming. I know I need to prepare myself,
Your church, and others. Show me how.

Beyond the Gospels: Thessalonians

Read today’s verses: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
[Can’t reach your Bible? Click the link above to read online.]

Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:18
The last verse of this passage strikes me as a little odd. …encourage one another with these words. These words are about death. Even though we remember Christ’s death on Good Friday each year and celebrate His resurrection annually at Easter, we don’t really talk much about the death and resurrection of individual Believers. As a matter of fact, mostly we don’t talk about death at all. 
Today, let’s meditate on this passage together and find the encouragement God wants us to receive.
For Believers, death is but sleep. It is not the end. There is hope for Believers even in death, because sleep is a temporary but necessary part of life. We should not grieve like those who have no hope. We have hope in Jesus.
When Jesus returns, with a loud command and the trumpet call of God, those of us who are still living will see those who’ve fallen asleep in Christ wake up! Many of us, or should I say most, have lost loved ones who Believed to the sleep of death. They will be the ones who are privileged to rise first to meet Jesus. We will get to see them rise. Can you imagine what a sight that will be?
Then it will be the turn of those who are still living. They will be caught up together to meet Jesus and then be with Him forever. Resurrection without the physical death!
Death is but sleep.
Those who fell asleep first rise first.
All will be caught up together to meet the Lord.
Forever we will be with Him.
In the eternal perspective, God’s perspective, what we suffer now is but a moment. Soon brothers and sisters, all will wake, all will live, forever, with Him.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade —
kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power
until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while
you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
1 Peter 1:3-7 NIV84
Lord Jesus, help me find encouragement in Your words about death
and the resurrection to come. Fix this truth deep in my heart, fill me with praise
and joy for all You’ve done and what You will do.
It’s just a little while…

Consider sharing how this passage of death and resurrection encourages you. Leave a comment in the comment box to share with those who come here to read and be encouraged in their faith.
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Thanks for sharing your faith.

Beyond the Gospels: Thessalonians

Today’s Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
(Click on the link to read today’s verses.)

Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your
ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work
with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect
of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Thessalonians 4:10-12

There are just some seasons in life that seem loud. I’m in the middle of one of those right now. The middle son is graduating in two days. It’s been a joy to send out announcements and attend parties. We’ve planned a great family dinner, relatives are coming for the celebration and the list of things to do is still growing. It is truly a beautiful time… but it is a bit noisy around here.

Seasons of noise come and go, but if our lives seem stuck with the volume knob turned to ten it might be time to take a serious look at Paul’s words. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. The world we live in just doesn’t like quiet. Silence often leaves us feeling like we are missing something and it takes a little practice to find comfort in the midst of no sound.

Let’s take some time today to be still and quiet before the Lord. Find a place to sit and just be. Consider your own thoughts in the light of His Spirit. Listen to what God is speaking into your heart. Relish in the thought that you are a daughter or son of the Most High. You are loved and cherished… the apple of His eye. You are His.

Lord, I still my mind so I can hear You.
I still my heart so I can sense Your presence.
I still my will so I can give this time to You.
Speak Lord, for I am listening.

Beyond the Gospels: Thessalonians

Today’s Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13
(Click on the link to read today’s verses.)

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other
and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
1 Thessalonians 3:12

I heard a very frank preaching once that still impacts me today. The teacher was speaking about the sin in our lives when it comes to loving others. He talked about the impossibility of making ourselves care for someone or changing our own hearts when it comes to issues of racism and bigotry. What intrigued me the most was the preacher’s challenge. Basically he challenged listeners to just be honest with God and ask Him to change our hearts.

Seems easy enough at first thought, but who really wants to be honest with God about such things. It is a humbling moment to realize you cannot orchestrate a change in your heart through willpower alone. It is even more humbling to turn to God and honestly confess it before Him. We’re a funny people at times… trying to hide something from a God who sees it all. The truth is God knows it already. It’s our own pride that keeps us from saying it out loud.

I was ironing shirts the day I heard that message. I can see it clearly as if it were just a moment ago. There I am steaming iron suspended over the board and smiling to myself. This teaching is a life changer. It is not my job to will my way into loving someone. My job is to admit when I can’t and ask God to do the loving through me.

Paul prays that the Lord would increase the Believer’s love for each other until it overflowed. He will do the same for us. Go on… give it a try. Think of that person or group of persons that you are finding hard to love. The ones you might avoid in the grocery store or feel annoyed with when you see them coming. What someone leaves you frustrated every time you talk to them?

Now that you have someone in mind let’s pray.

God, you know my heart and my mind. You know I am finding it hard to love ______________. I get so frustrated with _________________, but mostly I’m frustrated with me. Forgive me for being prideful and hiding what I know you already see. I can’t love ________________, but you can. Love them through me Lord in a way I never could. Increase my love for them until it is overflowing. In Jesus name… amen. 

I’ve said this prayer so many times over the years and He is always faithful to answer. No, it doesn’t always happen over night, but little by little our hearts will shift and change. And one day what frustrates you doesn’t even bother you anymore. You’ll find yourself reacting so differently in a circumstance that there is only one explanation. The explanation has a name… Jesus.

Beyond the Gospels: Thessalonians

Today’s Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5
(Click on the link to read the scripture.)

We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading
the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one
would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are 
destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you 
that we would be persecuted.
1 Thessalonians 3:2-4

Unsettled… the word sort of sticks in my spirit this morning. Webster’s defines the word as “nervous, upset, or worried; not comfortable.”  When I find a word in scripture that sort of floats up to the top I begin to ask myself questions.

Am I feeling unsettled about something lately?

What am I worried or upset or nervous about?

Where am I uncomfortable?

This is how God works in me. He asks the questions and I answer… truth is revealed. Won’t you take a moment and do the same? What things come to mind as you answer the questions? Is there a common theme in your answers?

Paul’s words are clear. We are destined for trials and there’s no getting around them. The big question is not what trials are we facing, but how is it with our spirit. How are we handling them? What is our reaction in the face of persecution and trouble? Life is full of unsettling circumstances but it doesn’t have to unsettle us. He is our calm in the storm… our comfort in the uncomfortable. May we choose peace in the face of upset and worry this day.

Father God, when I sense an unsettling in my spirit, in my heart,
remind me to bring it to You. You are never unsettled by anything,
nothing ever surprises You or catches You off guard.
You are in control and have purpose for all You allow in my life…
even those things that seem unsettling. You are my Rock,
the foundation of my life. You keep my life on solid ground.