Archive for November, 2007
Kind of an appropriate start-off to a day like today:
2 Pray, too, that we will be saved from wicked and evil people, for not everyone believes in the Lord.
Verse 6 caught my attention, too:
6 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command with the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from any Christian who lives in idleness and doesn’t follow the tradition of hard work we gave you.
Paul doesn’t say “encourage” or “admonish” or “talk to”…he says “stay away from” any Christian who lives in idleness…
I am again reminded of the importance of balance in our lives. There is a time for rest & recreation. I think the message so far has often been about how we must not work so much that we neglect our families or overwork ourselves.
But, we must not be lazy, either. Unfortunately, we all know too many people who do not pull their weight and who take advantage of others and our nation’s welfare system, etc. Paul tells us to simply stay away from those kind of people.
Lord, I commit myself to working today as unto You. Lift up my brothers and honor their faithfulness to You and to their work. Help us be an example of Christ as Paul and his brothers did – working hard when it was time to work, so they would not go hungry. We honor You with our lives today, Jesus – You are SO worthy!
grace & peace,
Paul’s focus turns from encouragement to warnings about end times. As we saw earlier, some had begun to stop working and sat around waiting for the end times. Paul wanted to set some things straight.
I remember when I was growing up and a preacher made an astounding announcement about the return of our Lord. I don’t remember the details, but he had figured out that by that year (I believe it was 1983 or so) the trumpet would sound and we would all be with the Lord. He had figured out not the exact hour (because the Bible said no one would know that), but he knew it would be this year. Up until then, I had a lot of respect for the man and his preaching, but it seemed that things started falling apart after that. Of course, the end of that year came and went, and nothing happened.
I find Paul’s discussion about end times, and more specifically the antichrist, interesting:
3 Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed – the one who brings destruction. 4 He will exalt himself and defy every god there is and tear down every object of adoration and worship. He will position himself in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.
I believe Paul is writing this warning NOT so we’ll be all paranoid looking to identify the antichrist, but instead so we’ll be looking for things that go against what we believe – and be prepared with an answer. But, for us to look for things that go against what we believe, we must first know what we believe.
That’s why I’m so thankful for dBrag (daily Bible reading accountability groups). If you’re not familiar with dBrag, please visit www.dBrag.org. It’s a great way to encourage each other to read the Bible on a consistent basis. I’m learning so much – and I know I’m being changed in more ways than just knowing some scripture.
Some background from my study Bible:
Paul wrote 2 Thes less than a year after he had written 1Thes. … The good news was that the Thessalonians were continuing to grow in their faith, but the bad news was that false teachings about Christ’s return were spreading, leading many to quit their jobs and wait for the end of the world.
So Paul wrote them again.
While the purpose of the first leter was to comfort the Thessalonians with the assurance of Christ’s second coming, the purpose of this letter is to correct false teaching about the second coming.
This first chapter is Paul’s attempt to show the Thessalonians how God will punish those who persecute them.
I liked the following:
11 And so we keep on praying for you, that our God will make you worthy of the life to which he called you. And we pray that God, by his power, will fulfill all your good intentions and faithful deeds.
The above verse is from the NLT online at crosswalk.com. My actual NLT says it this way:
11 So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.
In the meantime, remember to keep praying for each other!
If you find yourself in Orlando this weekend, you might want to check out “The Witnesses” musical. It’s playing at the Plaza Theatre in Orlando.
For more info about the show, check out the website:
www.thewitnessesmusical.com See you there!
Wow, there is so much here! We could spend days on this chapter.
After reading it several times – a few things stood out among the many others:
6 So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be sober.
8 But let us who live in the light think clearly, protected by the body armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.
Excellent wisdom for us all. The verses below really hit home, and I confess that I need work in these areas:
16 Always be joyful.
17 Keep on praying.
18 No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
It is always easier for me to panic and forget to pray. The depth of our faith is revealed in how we respond to situations. A barometer of our faith is our joy and thankfulness.
I’m going to really meditate on this chapter for a while. Great stuff!
Well, how about a nice morning wake up call:
3 God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin. 4 Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honor – 5 not in lustful passion as the pagans do, in their ignorance of God and his ways.
Why does this come up so much in scripture? Sexual sin is not like tobacco – where it harms your body and costs so much money. Sexual sin is not like alcohol – where it makes you loose control of your mind and tears up your liver. Sexual sin can be kept quiet, so no one even knows about it – it’s not hurting anybody!
Have you ever had these thoughts? To me, if the scripture mentions something once, it’s important. Think of all the times the Bible warns against sexual sin.
Obviously, it’s VERY important to understand the critical nature of sexual sin and self-control in this area. To gain control of your body and live in holiness and honor. Without control in this area, I’ve seen otherwise upright Christian men continue to flounder where they were at, not gaining any ground, but growing weaker because they refuse to do something about it. It has been compared to heroin addiction because the body’s need for ejaculation <can I say that here?> becomes like the need for a ‘hit’. Sexual sin has ruined marriages and relationships of otherwise strong Christian men – and I would theorize that it is because of the secrecy and prolific nature of sexual temptation around us.
I won’t do it here, but you can look at www.Barna.org and do a search on sex or pornography or homosexuality and you’ll see how prevalent the problem is even among Christian men.
Paul’s warning is applicable even today. Avoid sexual sin – and learn about God and His ways. Here’s one place to start: http://www.restoringsexualpurity.org
God, I pray for those among us who struggle in this area. Lord, I pray for an extra anointing today to help them remain holy. Give each of us the strength and the opportunity to utilize the plan You’ve put in place to get out of this quagmire: confession, repentance, accountability. Send Your Holy Spirit to convict and to bring us to a place where we can operate fully in Your power! -amen
In spite of how they were treated at Phillipi, Paul & Silas persevered. They went to Thessalonica to preach the Word and were able to start a church there…even under threat of those Jews who followed them there for the purpose of shutting them down and throwing them in jail. God is faithful.
7 As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but we were as gentle among you as a mother feeding and caring for her own children. 8 We loved you so much that we gave you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too. 9 Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that our expenses would not be a burden to anyone there as we preached God’s Good News among you.
The boyz had every right to ask money from the early Christians at Thessalonica, but instead Paul worked during the day as a tent maker so he’d have living expenses and the new church wouldn’t have to pay them. What a demonstration of love and dedication to the Lord. That way no one could accuse him of ministry for the sake of riches or glory.
Very rare today.
Paul gave his very life for Christ – preaching & encouraging. This is an encouragement for me. What can I do this day to spread the Word? How can I be used of God?
Thank You for your Word, Lord. Use me to bring encouragement to the body and glory to Your name. Give us boldness & courage and a real compassion for the lost. -amen
The church that was established at Thessalonica was only a few years old at the time Paul wrote this letter.
Paul saw the need for this church to mature in their faith. He also saw a misunderstanding about the second coming of Jesus Christ. According to my Bible study notes, these are the two themes to this book.
At the time, the Christian church was under heavy persecution from zealous orthodox Jews, angry Greeks and the Roman empire – and many were being put to death because of their faith. As a matter of fact, Paul & Silas had come into trouble from the Jews shortly after establishing this church (read Acts 17:1-7).
If you remember some of our discussions of Acts when we went through that book together, Thessalonica was a highly diverse area with many cultural influences, introducing many confusing peagan and foreign religions. This made the establishment of First Church of Thessalonica a unique challenge.
Paul brings encouragement:
4 We know that God loves you, dear brothers and sisters, and that he chose you to be his own people. 5 For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know that the way we lived among you was further proof of the truth of our message.
It’s the Holy Spirit that draws us and changes us. And, the people of Thessalonica saw this power in the lives of Paul and Silas.
Do people see the power of the Holy Spirit in your life? Would people be drawn toward God from seeing you under pressure, or would they be repelled?
Lord, I submit myself before You this morning. Fill me with your power today and remind me of who’s I am. Help me reflect Your love in spite of the persecution that goes on around me. Remind me of the consistent God-walk of men like Paul. Use my life somehow today to draw others closer to You, Lord.
I’ve heard and read this story numerous times. As a kid I was in a play about this story. Yet, isn’t it amazing how you can read a passage in Scripture a hundred times, then the next time you see something different? (That’s because God’s word is living and active – see Heb 4:12.)
You know the story – Daniel gets a huge promotion and does better than any of his peers. He is recognized and his peers get jealous. So jealous, in fact, that they plot to kill him. After trying hard to find fault with Daniel’s character, then his work, they realize the way to eliminate Daniel is through Daniel’s religious commitment:
4 Then the other administrators and princes began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling his affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize. He was faithful and honest and always responsible. 5 So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the requirements of his religion.”
What a testimony! They searched for a way to bring Daniel down, but Daniel was found blameless and upright, “faithful and honest and always responsible.” Not too many men would withstand that scrutiny today.
Well, King Darius was offered a suggestion that few prideful, carnal leadership types could resist. It was suggested that the king make a law that essentially made him a god for 30 days! No one was to bow or pray to any other god, just to Darius, for 30 days. This law is what led to the arrest of Daniel. When the king realized what was really happening, he was angry with himself for ever making such a law:
14 Hearing this, the king was very angry with himself for signing the law, and he tried to find a way to save Daniel. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament.
Well, the law was irreversible and Daniel ultimately had to be thrown to the lions for breaking the bogus law. The king was distraught:
18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night. 19 Very early the next morning, the king hurried out to the lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you worship continually, able to rescue you from the lions?” 21 Daniel answered, “Long live the king! 22 My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” 23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him because he had trusted in his God.
Because Daniel trusted God, he was rescued – and God received glory:
25 Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! 26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. 27 He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”
And, Daniel did pretty well, too:
28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Is there a situation in your life for which you could receive criticism? Are you following God so closely that others are jealous of your success and want to see you brought down?
I fear many of us could not even stand up to the scrutiny the men gave Daniel at first, when they tried to find fault with him. Not to mention, how most would cower and maybe pray in secret in the presence of such laws. Yet, David stood his ground and prayed, in the sight of all, three times daily as he had always done. This demonstrated his confidence in God and his lack of fear of men or governments. In the end, Daniel was rescued in a miraculous way.
The encouragement today is to pursue God with all your heart, no matter what others may think, focusing on the reward from God rather than the criticism of men.
Sixty-six years have now passed since chapter 1 of the book of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar has apparently not heeded the advice Daniel gave him in the previous chapter and is now wandering out in the wilderness like a wild animal, eating grass (as prophesied in the kings dream that Daniel was asked to provide the interpretation).
Now Belshazzar, the new king, has a similar dilemma. As he was feasting and partying, showing off with the nobles and concubines, a mysterious hand appeared from nowhere and wrote on the king’s wall:
5 At that very moment they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, near the lampstand. The king himself saw the hand as it wrote, 6 and his face turned pale with fear. Such terror gripped him that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way beneath him.
Great rewards were offered to anyone who could read and interpret these words. As you can guess, Daniel was called upon once again for his talent of interpretation and here’s what he said to the king:
24 So God has sent this hand to write a message. 25 “This is the message that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN. 26 This is what these words mean: Mene means ‘numbered’ God has numbered the days of your reign and has brought it to an end. 27 Tekel means ‘weighed’ you have been weighed on the balances and have failed the test. 28 Parsin means ‘divided’ your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
Perhaps it would have been better for ol’ Shaz to not have known what the mysterious hand wrote, because that night he was killed.
Daniel gives us a clue as to why this king, like his predecessor, was removed from power:
20 But when his heart and mind were hardened with pride, he was brought down from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. 21 He was driven from human society. He was given the mind of an animal, and he lived among the wild donkeys. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he learned that the Most High God rules the kingdoms of the world and appoints anyone he desires to rule over them. 22 “You are his successor, O Belshazzar, and you knew all this, yet you have not humbled yourself. 23 For you have defied the Lord of heaven and have had these cups from his Temple brought before you. You and your nobles and your wives and concubines have been drinking wine from them while praising gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone gods that neither see nor hear nor know anything at all. But you have not honored the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny!
Do you think these Babylonian king would get the message? Do you think they’ll ever see “the handwriting on the wall?”
How can we apply this story to our own lives? Isn’t it God who gives us honor and takes away honor? It is God who gives us the breath of life and controls our destiny – yet, it’s so easy to think we can do this on our own.
Honor God with your life!