Stand Firm

2 Thessalonians 2

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

The Thessalonians seemed to be concerned that they were already in the middle of the great tribulation. I found that to be very interesting as it seems these days lots of people are saying we are in the middle of the great tribulation now. Lots of things going on in the world today seem to be pointing to “end times” according to scholars and generally people who are way smarter than me. Paul tells the Thessalonians not to be deceived. The day is not here until after the rebellion and the man of lawlessness is revealed. The lawless one is at work and has been at work on earth for all time. Paul says here that the Holy Spirit is restraining him but that when it is time for him to be revealed the holy spirit will get out of the way. 

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

I don’t pretend to understand all there is to know about end times and the day of the Lord and when it will happen. I know this that God’s word tells us no one knows when it will happen not even the Son. I admit I have always been of the mindset I just want to be on the first train out of town. Paul says “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work”. This is true of today as apparently it was true even back in the Bible days. We know that Satan is working to confuse things. Confusion and lawlessness have his stamp on them.

“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” 1 Thessalonians 2:9-10

We, however, are to stand firm. We can be thankful that we are saved and that we are sanctified. 

“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15

We can be thankful that God has chosen us and that we hold fast to the truth. We are called to truth in order to glorify God. Stand firm on what you have been taught, stand firm on the traditions of this word. We are to live for Christ whether we think we are in end times now or whether end times will not be for another 1000 years. We are called to stand firm. 

I am going to end today again as Paul did and let Paul’s words be our prayer. 

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your (our) hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Please pray for the small business industry. Also if you feel safe, visit your local restaurants and shops and by all means if you can tip well. This has been a hard year on everyone. 

Evident Faith

2 Thessalonians 1

This is the second letter written to the Thessalonians. It was written by Paul along with Silvanus (aka Silas) and Timothy. Silvanus was with Paul in Thessalonica when he founded the church and Timothy had delivered the first letter so the Thessalonians knew them. Paul, of course starts his letter extending grace and peace. 

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:2

“We ought always to give thanks to God for you brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” 2 Thessalonians 1:3

The church in Thessalonica seemed to be getting a lot of things right. The emphasis that Paul puts on this verse with “we ought always” and “as is right” shows that they were possibly very humbled by the accolades that Paul had sent them with the first letter. They had possibly responded with humility and were uncomfortable with how much Paul had built them up before. But Paul is letting them know that he boasts in them and that he will continue to because of their faith and love that they have for each other and the fact that it is growing. 

“This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering- since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” 2 Thessalonians 1:5-8

Paul is saying your faith is evidence of the “righteous judgment of God” and their faith is what makes them worthy of the kingdom of God. And even though some may feel that their faith is bringing about their suffering, that God will repay “with affliction” those who afflict. When our faith goes through the fire it does nothing but grow if we hold fast to that faith. Suffering affliction and persecution and walking in it with faith is what shows the world the evidence of God in our lives. Don’t miss the encouraging words here too. That God will repay those who afflict christians and that he will “grant relief” to those who are afflicted. This too shall pass. When you are going through things- persecutions, trials, troubles, afflictions, and you continue to walk in faith, your faith will grow and you can know that the troubles and trials will pass and God will give you/us rest. And God will repay those who may be causing these afflictions. God takes it personally when his children are afflicted or persecuted. 

Paul ends this chapter with a prayer for them. 

“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 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

This is another good one to pray over your people. I pray it for myself too.

Oh Lord Jesus make us worthy of the calling that you have placed on us. May others see the faith and power in our life so that You may be glorified according to the grace that You have given sweet Lord. 

Please pray for your church and your pastor today. 

Walk and Please God

1 Thessalonians 4

“Finally, then brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.” 1 Thessalonians 4:1

Paul is starting to wrap up his letter. He is wanting to encourage the Thessalonians to continue walking with the Lord and to keep growing and to keep walking and to do so more and more. Paul wants us to know that we will never complete our walk with God until we are actually with Him. As long as there is breath in our bodies we are to continue walking and we are to continue trying to please God “more and more”, and learning. Paul goes on with some specific instructions in the next few verses. Things that are for our sanctification. (vv 3-7) Paul warns the Thessalonians to abstain from sexual immorality. Apparently this was a big thing in their culture as it is with ours today. Paul is warning them against impurity but to live in holiness. Really this truly means any kind of sin. Sin is sin, and we are to strive not to live in the sin, but to be walking toward holiness. This is not to say we will ever arrive there either, but we truly need to be conscious of our walk toward holiness and not toward sin.

“For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8

We are called to holiness, to be set apart and we have the Holy Spirit living in us to help us in this regard. 

“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

These Thessalonians were doing a good job of loving each other. So much so that it was being recognized by surrounding cities. Paul is again telling them, keep doing what you are doing. I love this “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs”! Ouch so many of us at times are so busy minding the affairs of others when we really should be just simply living quietly in ourselves in a way that can be recognized by others. Paul carried on that thought, live quietly, work with your hands and walk properly before outsiders. We want the outsiders to want what we have. If they see us all up in each others business what makes us think that they will want to be a part of what we have. (speaking to myself)

The last part of this chapter brings us hope when our friends and loved ones pass away. 

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13

I’ve lost a few people that I love a whole lot in the past few years. But I do have hope to see them again because I know that those people are with Jesus. I’m not always sure if I understand the proper order of things, but according to what Paul teaches us here those who are already “asleep” will be with Him first and will gain their resurrection bodies and those who are still alive will meet the Lord along with the “dead in Christ” in the clouds. 

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

This is our hope! That one day we will be with Jesus! And we can be assured of this hope because we walk with Him! 

Please pray for the medical professionals today.

Good Report

1 Thessalonians 3

Paul mentioned at the end of chapter 2 that Satan had hindered him from returning to Thessalonica. However, that did not mean that Paul had forgotten the Thessalonians. Since he couldn’t go, he sent Timothy. 

“Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.” 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3

To me I picture here Paul being overcome with worry over the Thessalonians because of his use of the language of “we could bear it no longer”. Have you ever been so sick with worry over another individual you simply did not think you could bear it anymore. Paul had warned the Thessalonians that they would come under affliction. Affliction and trouble is something that we all will have in this life in one way or another. Paul knew that the Thessalonians were young in their faith and he was concerned that they would allow the afflictions and persecution to sway their faith. Some translations say “shaken”. This is one reason that we should study and build our faith when things are going well for us and the worries are not so deep so that when the afflictions and persecutions come we will not be shaken. Paul was concerned about them so he sent Timothy to check them, to check their faith and if need to have Timothy minister to them and to encourage them in their faith. 

Timothy returns with a good report. 

“But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you- for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.” 1 Thessalonians 3:6-7

Paul was overjoyed by the good report Timothy brought back. The Thessalonians were standing strong in their faith and were standing strong in what they knew to be true about Paul. Some of the persecution that they would have been receiving was persecuting Paul for having left them. Even though it appears the nonbelievers in Thessalonica ran Paul out of town, they were possibly using that against him and the new believers. Paul had been in great distress over the Thessalonians but Timothy’s good news of them brought joy to him. 

“For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God,” 1 Thessalonians 3:9

Paul was just grateful and being grateful for them brought him joy. Have you ever practiced just being grateful? I say practice because sometimes it is a practice that we have to do. I know I do. At times, I will let the “afflictions” and “persecutions” get me so down I have to consciously decide to be grateful. I don’t think Paul was having to do this consciously. He was genuinely grateful to God for them, and that brought him joy!

Paul is still praying to go to see the Thessalonians and in the process he is praying for their love for each other to grow. 

“Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

No matter how much love you have for each other, for the people in your family or your church there is always room for your love to grow. That is the second commandment, being only second to loving God. As love grows, our hearts are established in holiness. 

Oh Lord, may our love for each other grow and abound so that our hearts will be established in you! 

Please pray for our President and government leaders.

Faith Speaks

1 Thessalonians 1

In studying I learned that this is believed to actually be Paul’s first letter. Paul founded the church in Thessalonica and then he was run out of town. While in Corinth, Silvanus (or Silas) and Timothy came to him with news that the church in Thessolanica was going strong. Paul writes them a letter to encourage them. As usual he lets them know in the first verse that this letter is from himself, Silvanus and Timothy and he extends grace and peace to them as for his usual greeting. 

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

Even though Paul was not present with the Thessalonians, he mentioned them in his prayers often. From these verses we can see that when Paul left them, their faith was already at work and they were already clinging to the hope of the Lord that they had received. 

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

Some translations use the word beloved for “brothers loved by God.” This word in Jewish cultures was many times saved for great men of the faith such as Moses or Solomon. So for Paul to use this term in relation to the Gentiles was sending a message to them. He calls them beloved and then he notes that they were chosen by God. The Thessalonians received the word in power. They immediately recognized the power that they have, that we all have, just by claiming the name of Jesus. They also received the Holy Spirit with full conviction when they received the word. They recognized Paul, Silas and Timothy to be men of God. 

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so the you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7

The Thessalonians followed Paul and his companions because they were following Jesus. This also makes mention that they received the word “in much affliction”. Many times we make the mistake of thinking when we become Christians that our troubles should be over and that we will not have trials and tribulations. The lives of these Thessalonians may have gotten better because they had Jesus but from the sound of this it does not necessarily mean that their circumstances did. Yet they had joy of the Holy Spirit and they became an example to others because of it even in the midst of afflictions.

“For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from he wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10

There is a famous quote from St. Francis of Assisi that goes “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words!” It appears that is what these Thessalonians were doing. They received the word of the Lord, they believed it and they had faith in Jesus and they demonstrated their faith in Jesus in their actions. Paul is saying your faith is being talked about so much I don’t have to say anything. People are talking about how you turned from serving idols to serving the true God and you are following Jesus! Oh to be like them and let my faith and my actions speak louder than my words! I think I like these Thessalonians. 

Oh sweet Lord to be more like the Thessalonians! That my faith would be seen by others. 

Please pray for your church and your Pastor today! 

Steadfast Prayer

Colossians 4

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2

A short statement but it says so much. Paul is telling the Colossians to continue steadfastly or some translations say earnestly in prayer. They should be vigilant in their prayer life. But not only that, he says to be watchful in it with thanksgiving. Now Paul mentions being thankful in many of his letters. But here he is telling them to pray and then be watchful for your answer that’s coming and go ahead and thank God for it. Kind of puts a little different spin on it. I have some things that I feel I am praying very earnestly about, but I am so guilty of praying so earnestly that I actually get fearful I am not going to get the answer I desire. But Paul is telling us/me to not only pray earnestly but to expect a good answer and go ahead and thank Him for it. 

“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison- that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” Colossians 4:3-4

After Paul instructed the Colossians on how to pray, he asked for prayer for himself. But not how I would probably pray if I were Paul. Paul makes mention of being in prison, but his prayer is asking them to pray on his behalf that he would communicate the word of truth clearly. I would probably be praying “get me out of here”. But not Paul, he just casually mentions being in prison, his main goal was his communication of the gospel. I think he got his answer, what do you think? 

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6

This instruction is for how we should walk toward those outside the faith. It’s so easy to get upset at those who do not know Christ for the way they treat Christians. It seems the Christians are always the ones persecuted these days and truthfully we see it in scripture and possibly each generation feels that its “the worst its ever been”. However, we are not to join with them in persecuting them. We are to walk in wisdom and to let our talk back to them be gracious and seasoned with salt. We are to follow Christ in such a way that makes others want what we have. When we get angry and self-righteous there is nothing gracious that would be inviting about that. It’s hard sometimes when we feel our faith is being attacked. But we should always keep in mind that they are the outsiders and we should be walking and living in a way that is inviting, gracious, seasoned with salt. 

The last verses of this chapter (7-17) are Paul introducing the men that he would have deliver the letter to the Colossians and final greetings. Paul ends this letter as he does many of them in his own hand. It seems most if not all the time Paul has a scribe write most of the letter but he will take the pen in hand as he signs his name to it. 

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” Colossians 4:18

Paul mentions his chains again, but not in a sorrowful way, but more to say this is my authority. I am in jail because of preaching and teaching Christ so don’t forget the why. And again, he extends Grace to the Colossians, just like he does many other times. 

Oh sweet Lord, may we continue steadfastly in those things that we are bringing before your throne today and may we expect the answers we desire or even better. Thank you Lord for good answers to the requests we have made. Please help us Lord to walk in wisdom so that others will want to know more about You! And may we extend Grace!

Please pray for the educators and students as more and more schools are trying to adapt to this new normal. 

The Hope of Glory

Colossians 1 

Paul is writing this letter to the church at Colossae. More specifically “to the saints and faithful brothers.”

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” Colossians 1:1-2

Commentary told me that this is not a church that Paul knew personally. This was a small city that it is believed was very prosperous at one time but was on the decline at the time Paul wrote this letter. Paul had heard of problems in the church there that he wanted to address. 

As Paul does many times, however he starts out with a prayer of thanksgiving for them and for their work in Christ. 

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing-as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. Colossians 1:3-8

Epaphras was a minister to the church in Colossae and had possibly been the one who had brought the gospel to the christians there. The people had embraced his preaching and Paul is starting off telling them all that they have done right. The next part of his prayer is a good one to pray over someone that you are praying for. I love praying scripture over people and this one is a good one. 

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” Colossians 1:9-12

Paul prayed for the Colossians and according to this prayer he prayed for them constantly. He was praying for them to be filled with knowledge and understanding of the gospel as well as for their walk with the Lord. He was praying for their work for the Lord to be fruitful as they increased in knowledge and that they would have strength, endurance and patience. He also pointed out that when they, when we work for Jesus it is our way of sharing in the inheritance of Jesus. 

Paul goes on in verses 15-18 Paul is explaining Jesus to them, and who He is. Jesus was the firstborn of all creation, and all things were created by and through him. Everything that our Christian life is based on, everything we are is through Christ. 

“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.” Colossians 1:19-20

He is our reconciliation to God. Jesus and the blood of the cross is what reconciles everything on earth and in heaven. We can be reconciled to God because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. 

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” Colossians 1:21-22

The last part of this chapter is Paul explaining his ministry to the people of Colossae. I am sure they knew who Paul was, however, Paul lets them know why he is a minister of Christ, yes even in his sufferings. Paul’s aim and his goal is always to “make the word of God fully known.” 

“of which I became a minister according to he stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” Colossians 1:25-26

Paul is telling them that he knows that this word was a mystery to many for “ages and generations” but it is now for everyone, even to the Gentiles. 

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

Christ in you, Christ in me, Christ in all of us is “the hope of glory”. Our hope is built on Christ in us. Any power, any strength, any hope we have is based on Christ in us. Paul wanted them to know it, to know the hope of Christ in them. It was Paul’s aim and it was Paul’s reason for preaching, teaching, and for writing letters. 

“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” Colossians 1:28-29

Oh thank you sweet Lord for the passion and the teaching of Paul and for these letters that teach and preach Christ to us, Christ in us, to the hope of glory!

Please pray for small businesses and the service industry today.