Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sooner or Later

God was patient with his enemies who put Jesus to death while Jesus was on the earth. But those who did not repent received his recompense at their death (Luke 16:9-31; John 5:29; Hebrews 9:27). God will take revenge against those who harm his children (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

There are times when we see God intervene and our enemies are removed from our lives (Isaiah 51:21-23; 54:17). At other times we suffer for His name's sake (Matthew 10:16-19; Romans 8:35-39).

All tribulation reminds us that this is not our home. We are sent on a mission by the creator of the universe to bring his message into every circumstance.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gift Cards

If someone has given me exercise equipment, I must use it if I want to become stronger. If someone has left groceries on my doorstep, I must consume them if I want to satisfy my hunger. If someone has given me a gift card to my favorite store, I must go to the store if I want to purchase something.

God gives us grace and peace, but we must actively decide to use them (Psalm 84:11-12; Isaiah 50:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5).

I woke up with the words of an old song in my head that describes the process very well.

"Trust and obey,
for there's no other way,
to be happy in Jesus,
but to trust and obey"

1st Verse
"When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey."

Monday, July 29, 2013


Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without getting upset. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure" (2 Thessalonians 1:4).

Then he says something quite unexpected, "Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:" (2 Thessalonians 1:5). To what is he referring? Does he mean the patience and the peace are the righteous judgement, or does he mean the tribulation and persecutions are the tokens of the righteous judgement of God?

Translating Greek into English has many challenges because the Greek words carry endings that are much clearer indicating the object of the pronouns than English. In literal translations, such as Kenneth Wuest's, it becomes clear that Paul is referring to the patience and peace as the tokens of God's righteous judgement.

Our patience and peace come from a source outside ourself. They come from God. Therefore, patience and peace are manifestations that God is at work in you.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hope and Evidence

Those who received this letter were being seriously persecuted Even as their lives were being systematically torn apart, they had patience and faith (2 Thessalonians 1:1-10). Believing that God is directing your every step in the midst of trouble will produce peace (Ps 37:23).

The Bible describes faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). The three key words and phrase are hope, evidence and not seen.

The very definition of faith means we do not see something. We may be mystified as to the purpose of our trouble. So that our faith in one sense is not based on understanding or seeing the positive outcome. But there is much evidence on which to base our belief that God is busy using our circumstance for his glory and our benefit (Romans 8:28-39; 1Peter 4:12-13). We know he often works in secret, but eventually reveals what he has been doing (1 Corinthians 13:12-13).

So we patiently wait the outcome (Psalm 37:7-11).

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Love Reciprocates

There have been a couple of times that someone gave me a Christmas present and I had not bought one for them. I made sure I bought them one the following year. When someone gives us a gift, we naturally want to reciprocate. When we feel loved, we want to love in return. That is a principle of life God set forth in his kingdom.

The more I understand he how much he loves me, the more I will love others.

"We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith grows exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other abounds" (2 Thessalonians 1:3).


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Desert Fountain

God's Grace is like a fountain of peace in a desert. You cannot wonder too far from it or the desert will kill you (2 Thessalonians 1:1-2).

Trying to live a godly life on our own strength is like chasing a mirage of a lake in the desert. You die before you get there.

Depending on God's grace is remembering that your strength comes from God (Philippians 4:13; Psalm 18:2). It is remembering our battles are not ours but his (Exodus 14:13; 2 Chronicles 20:15; Psalm 3). It is believing he will rescue you (Psalm 37). It is choosing to obey the principles set forth in God's word regardless of the circumstance or the behavior of others (Josua 24:15).

God is our refuge, our stream in the desert (Psalm 46:4-7; Isaiah 33:21; John 7;38-39; 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalm 9:9; Psalm 14:6; 91:1-2)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Walk in the Woods

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy open their second letter to the Thessalonians as they did most of their letters. "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and The Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:1-2).

People can be gracious who do not know God. People can experience a sense of peace as they walk on a sandy beach, see majestic mountains, or meander down a path in a rich green forest. Earth bound graciousness and peace can bring momentary relief but have no lasting affect on our state of well being.

The team of ministers who wrote this letter are referring to the only kind of grace that carries power to create lasting peace, God's grace. God's grace is the word used to encompass the mercy, love and power God is working in our lives. Knowing that God is specifically working in each individual life (yours and mine) produces a deep foundational peace both in our mind and in our spirit.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ending His Letter

So we come to the end of Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians. He ends his letter much the same way he begins his letter. "Grace be with you" (1 Thessalonians 5:28).

Those four words carry one of the greatest messages that any person will ever hear. God's grace us what saves us. God's grace is what daily sanctifies us, cleanses us from sin. God's grace purifies our hearts and our minds. God's grace gives us strength to obey him. God's grace gives us work to do and dies the work through us. God's grace denotes all of God's gifts to us.

Face all of your challenges today remembering that you are living with and in God's grace.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Holy Kiss

"Greet one another with a holy kiss" (1 Thessalonians 5:27).

Cultures are different around the world. In some countries grown men hold hands as a sign of friendship. In America two men holding hands indicates an unbiblical relationship. In Paul's day people greeted each other with a kiss on the cheek.

However we choose to express our love and respect, we need to practice displays of affection for one another. We are God's family, and we need one another. Our brothers and sisters in Christ need to know we love them.

An affectionate greeting is a daily reminder of our eternal connection.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Paul's Weakness

Paul wrote most of the New Testament. He saw Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). He knew the Pentateuch by heart (Philippians 3:4-6). God spoke to him in visions (Acts 16:9-10). So why would he feel compelled to ask people to pray for him? (1 Thessalonians 5:25).

Paul was very aware of his humanity and his own weaknesses. He struggled with pride (2 Corinthians 4:7) And he struggled with anger and a vindictive streak (Acts 9:1-2). He knew what his human nature was capable of and therefore recognized his need for prayer.

Our battle against temptation will not be over until we reach heaven. We are currently at war in the Spirit, but we know we are also victorious (Ephesians 6:12-13; Romans 8:37-39).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


When we are intimately involved with someone, it can be difficult to remember we are in spiritual warfare. When the behavior of the person we love hurts us, we naturally want to lash out or withdraw completely. Our thoughts become focused on how that person is not aware of our needs. We ask ourselves why they cannot see what they are doing to us.

When all attempts to communicate our needs have failed, we may contemplate breaking off the relationship. If the person is violent, leaving may be exactly what we need to do. In every case, whether leaving is necessary, or staying in the relationship is right, we must pray for that person. Something is broken inside. Something we cannot fix. Only God can heal deep emotional wounds.

As you pray for wisdom in what choice to make, ask God to heal that person's broken spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:25; Isaiah 42:3; 53:5; Psalm 147:3; Luke 4:18).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Deceptively Simple Sentence

A simple sentence or phrase can communicate volumes. Consider the following examples.

Road work next four miles
Bridge is out.
Hospital zone
Detour ahead
Blizzard forecast for Saturday
Protests in Egypt become deadly

Read Paul's simple request with the same sense of urgency that the previous examples imply.

"Pray for us" (1 Thessalonians 5:25).

Monday, July 15, 2013

Raw Dog

Someone once said "anyone can look nice but scratch below the surface you get raw dog." It is rather a vulgar saying but bears some truth. Before Christ changed us, our natural tendency was to make decisions based on personal needs. Our motive may have been power, a good reputation, money, comfort, stability, revenge, recognition, sexual desire, lusts, or any number of natural motivations.

But as Christ followers, every decision has a foundation of glorifying our Father. We cooperate with the Holy Spirit as he gives us what we need to keep our body, soul and spirit blameless until the coming of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Sometimes we forget to rely on the Holy Spirit and try to keep ourselves blameless by our own strength. That will always lead to failure. How blessed is Paul's next sentence, "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Spirit, Soul and Body

"I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23b).

The body is easily understood as our torso, limbs and interior organs, but how does one decipher between the spirit and soul? Some have defined the soul as our will, mind and emotions and our spirit as the essence of who we are. Scripture seems to use the words soul and spirit interchangeably (Genesis 17:14; Matthew 10:28; Acts 2:27; Romans 1:9; 1Corinthians 2:11, 12:13; Philippians 4:23).

Our soul and our spirit are as closely associated as the marrow with the bone and our thoughts and our motives (Hebrews 4:12). Yet God is able to distinguish one from the other.

The point of Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians is that every part of us is committed to being and acting in a blameless manner.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Atheistic Good Works

People who do not know God do good works. They feed the poor, build schools in foreign countries, raise money for cancer research, build community awareness, and volunteer time, money and effort to help others (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Good works do not put us in right relationship with God. That is why the second half of Hebrews 13:21 is so important. The God of peace will not only perfect us in every good work but he will also work in us what is well pleasing to him. God is making us more like him (Romans 8:28-29).

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Finding God's Will

Paul mentions the God of peace (1 Thessalonians 5:23). We are looking at the five places in the New Testament that describes what the God of peace will do. Today we look at Hebrews 13:20-21. "The God of peace will perfect you in every good work to do his will."

Growing up as a Christian I did a lot of worrying about how to find God's will for my life. Basing major decisions on the feeling or sense that something was his will instead of on principles of sound wisdom, I made mistakes that resulted in much pain for me and others. I found myself in a continual state of unrest. That was precisely because I thought I had to figure out his will.

Scripture tells us God has all we need that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and we have the promise that he will perfect us in every good work. We can rest assured that God can open and close doors for us (Revelation 3:8). There is no need to be anxious. As we rest in the knowledge that he will direct us, and as we spend time with him in prayer, we can make decisions based on godly principles and wisdom.

God will direct your path (Psalm 37:23; 119:105; Philippians 2:13).

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Locked Doors

Paul reminds us, "The God of peace will sanctify you wholly" (1 Thessalonians 5:23). When I was younger a speaker referred to our hearts as a house with many rooms. Some of these rooms have locked doors so that God cannot deal with us on those hidden issues. The speaker said we must open every door to God.

I wonder if the speaker had forgotten the story of Jesus suddenly appearing to the disciples behind locked doors (John 20:19-29). We cannot prevent God from dealing with any issue in our lives (Hebrews 4:12-16). If we try, we only prolong our misery.

Let's run to our healing Father today (Exodus 15:26; Psalm 103:3; Psalm 147:3-6).

Monday, July 8, 2013

Instructions for Battle

Sometimes we are like the child dressed in army fatigues ready to do imaginary battle, but as soon as something goes wrong, we have one of two reactions. Either we hide behind the nearest rock, or we react in our own strength. Both actions have disastrous outcomes.

Scripture tells us "The God of peace will bruise Satan under your feet" (Romans 16:20). God gives us specific instructions on how he will accomplish this in, through and for us. 1. We are to put on the full arm our of God (Ephesians 6:11-17). 2. We are to keep standing (Ephesians 6:13). 3. Pray in the Spirit and pray for all fellow believers ( Ephesians 6:18). 4. Commit ourselves to God (James 4:7). 5. Resist the Devil ( James 4:7). 6. Draw near to God (James 4:8). 7. Remain in the shadow of his presence (Psalm 91).

God will receive glory in every circumstance. If that is our prayer, we have much to rejoice over.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The God of Peace

God is referred to as the God of peace five times in the New Testament. There are four promises connected with those references.

The God of peace will be with you (Romans 15:33; Philippians 4:9)
The God of peace will bruise Satan under your feet (Romans 16:20)
The God of peace will sanctify you wholly (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
The God of peace will perfect you in every good work to do his will (Hebrews 13:20-21)
The God of peace will work in you that which is well pleasing in his sight (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Today we remember we serve the God of peace.

Walking in the Rain

Paul instructs us to abstain from every form of evil. The King James Version is translated avoid every appearance of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

Billy Graham once said he would not give his sister a ride in the car in the rain if he was by himself because passers by would not know it was his sister. Rather than risk someone stumbling, he would give his sister the car keys and walk by himself.

Most of us are not as famous as this world evangelist and do not need to worry about being misrepresented by the press. But there are activities that we may feel comfortable doing that may cause other believers to question. A believer is wise to sacrifice his or her freedom for the sake of another brother or sister in Christ (Romans chapter 14).

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Harmful Prophecy

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).

I watched a film on what happened to the American Indians when settlers came from Europe. The injustice and cruelty tended to produce defiance or helplessness. While captive on a Reservation an Indian prophet told his people that the white man's bullet cannot harm them. The white man's time was limited and they would be gone soon.

The "prophet" and his followers were massacred.

When we see prophecy that devastates lives, we tend to despise anything spiritual. Paul encourages us to not quench the Spirit, but rather test everything and hold fast to that which is good. In some cases we will need to walk away and have nothing to do with a false teacher. In other cases we will recognize a pure heart that needs teaching. At other times we will recognize a mature teacher of God's word and rejoice. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).

There is an old American saying, "Don't throw out the baby with the bath water."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Not Powerless

When we find ourselves surrounded by sorrow or deadly force, how can we give thanks(1 Thessalonians 5:15-18)? It may appear there is nothing for which to be thankful. Paul and Silas bare backs were beaten Roman style with strips of flesh hanging off their backs. Then they were placed in stocks. This happened because the people to whom they were preaching turned on them and forced their arrest (Acts 16:16-25).

When midnight rolled around they were giving thanks by singing hymns to God and praying. They had turned their focus away from thoughts of being powerless, persecuted and betrayed and turned their thoughts toward the love, mercy and power of God.

"Thank you Father that you love me and never leave me destitute in any circumstance. I am not in the worlds hands. I am under your care. If you see fit to allow me to suffer, it is for your glory and my good. You are able to deliver me, and you are able to sustain me to the end of my life. I choose to trust you and your love."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

3 Directives, 1Motivation

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18). God gives us three directives and a motivational reason to do as he says. Let's look at these backwards starting with the motivation.

God reassures us that he controls the beginning and the end of all our circumstances. "This is the will of God for you." In every situation he is either carving away harmful residue from your spirit or ministering to someone else through your responses. In most cases he is doing both things through the same circumstance (Romans 8:28-29; 1 Peter 2:12, 3:1-2).

We give God thanks because he is making us more into the image of himself and he is gracious enough to allow us to be part of his ministry to others. We continually pray because we know our natural instinct is to lash back, and we recognize our need to depend on him working in and through us. Remembering these truths, we rejoice regardless of the situation.

How good it is to walk with God (Ephesians 5:8; 1John 1:7).

Monday, July 1, 2013

Purposeful Punishment

We read that we are to never return evil for evil but always follow that which is good. What does this look like in the face of child molesters, murderers, robbers, and perpetrators of viscous crimes? Does the commandment to forgive and the instruction never to return evil or evil mean we do nothing to stop those who violate others (Matthew 6:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:15)?

No. It is not merciful to allow someone to continue to violate people. It is not merciful to future victims or merciful to the violator. We can never understand mercy until we face judgement. The only hope of salvation for many is the facing the consequences of their actions. God instituted punishment for crimes both to protect individuals and to deter sin (Numbers 15:29-31; Exodus chapters 21 -22; Leviticus chapter 26).

It dies mean whatever we do to confront the criminal is not done out of vengeance but a heart that desires repentance and salvation.