Pattern

2 Thessalonians 3:9
“. . . not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.”

I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but when I was in the eighth grade, all students were required to take a semester of Home Economics. The eighteen week course was divided between cooking and sewing. In the sewing section we learned the basics of operating a sewing machine and were required to make a pillow as a final project. Most of the students went to the local fabric stores and purchased a pillow pattern. I may have had a slight advantage in that my mom was a seamstress and actually taught textiles and design for fashion students at the university level. When I arrived home with my assignment, instead of purchasing a standard pillow pattern, she made me one in the shape of a surfboard. Needless to say, at the end of the term when I turned in a polka dot pillow, fin and all, I received the highest marks.

“. . . but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.”

Paul desired that the Thessalonians would receive the highest marks, on the day when they stand before the judgment seat of Christ. In order to ensure their success, he made himself an example. Their walk with the Lord was clearly patterned for them by looking at the way Paul lived. In this chapter alone, he sets the example as a man of prayer, as he prayed earnestly for them. As a man of the Word, not simply one who read and memorized it, but as one who was determined that it be shared with others. I love the phrase he uses in verse one, as he asked them to pray that “the Word of the Lord may run swiftly.” It was his desire that all would hear the Gospel, and all would come to faith in Christ. He was also an example in faith. He speaks of wicked men who are opposing them, and yet he is confident in the faithfulness of the Lord.

Finally, this chapter is filled with exhortations to work hard. That famous statement, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” is found here, and Paul exemplified what it meant to work hard so as not to be a burden to others. My father-in-law and I were discussing basic economics when he reminded me, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone is paying for it. Paul wanted the Thessalonians to understand that as they worked diligently as unto the Lord, they would in turn be an example to others, showing what it means to follow Christ.

There are a lot of examples out there, but not all of them are worth following. If you want to succeed in following Christ, determine to follow the example Paul set, then go one step beyond, and make yourself a pattern that others may follow.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Isaiah 37- Super Strong
Isaiah 38- Setting Things In Order

Don’t Be Shaken

2 Thessalonians 2:1
“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.”

One of the primary themes of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian church is the return of Jesus Christ. Paul lived with the expectation that Christ would return in his lifetime, and urged others to always be on guard. He had warned in his first letter that, “the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Looking around at the condition of the world they lived in, through the lens of Biblical prophecy, had caused some of them to be alarmed, and even gripped with fear. Paul mentions how they were shaken in mind and troubled. The term ‘shaken’ would describe a ship being tossed to and fro by the raging seas. The word ‘troubled’ carries the idea of crying out for help. Paul had written to a group of Christians facing turbulent times, with the purpose of encouraging them with the “blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Yet the message designed to give them hope, had actually robbed them of peace, filled them with fear, and was causing them to cry out in despair.

In my experience, this response is all too common. We look around at the present world conditions, and realize the sun is setting, and the day of the Lord is approaching. Because we do not fully understand what that entails, we are often gripped with fear, instead of being filled with expectancy, joy, and a new vigor to share Christ with friends and family. The Thessalonians were shaken and troubled because they misunderstood the Bible’s teaching regarding the return of Christ. Some thought it had happened and they had missed out. In an age without satellite TV, Google, or cell phones, news did not travel in real-time; rumors of what had taken place in a distant land could take weeks to verify. Paul wrote to assure them the return of Christ is imminent, but still ahead.

“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him…”

“The coming” is a translation of the Greek word “parousia.” This word was used to describe the visit of a king or dignitary to a city, in order to show his magnificence to the people. Paul is stating, King Jesus is coming back in all His glory to set up His kingdom and rule in righteousness. He assures them that before this event can happen, another ruler must appear on the scene. This ruler is called “the Man of Sin”, who will exalt himself as God. The Bible uses many different terms to describe this individual; the most well-known is the term Antichrist. Paul explains, before Christ comes back as King, the Antichrist will be revealed. If this verse stood alone, we might conclude that we should not be looking for the return of Jesus, but for the reign of this Man of Sin. Our eyes would be taken off Christ and His Word, and we would be searching the news feeds for information on world leaders. But this verse does not stand alone. Paul adds,

2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”

Notice the words “And then the lawless one…” it is after the restraining force in the world is removed, that the Antichrist is revealed. It is after this event that Christ will return from heaven, with a shout and set up His earthly reign. It is believed by many, that the restraining force Paul refers to, is the church. Paul is reminding us, the next event we should be looking forward to is the sudden and instant removal of the church from earth, and into the presence of the Lord. He described this event to the Corinthians as something that would happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Rather than being filled with fear, we should be living in expectancy; looking forward to the trumpet sound when Christ will call His church home to heaven.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Isaiah 35- Stream In The Desert
Isaiah 36- The Lord Will…

Answers

2 Thessalonians 1:1
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ . . .”

The Thessalonian Christians were going through great difficulties. Paul speaks of the tribulations and persecutions they were forced to endure. He also refers to sufferings, and their ultimate rest from these things will not happen until they are in the presence of the Lord. They are not alone in the these difficulties. Paul wrote to Timothy, explaining, “All who desire to live godly in Christ will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus explained, in this world we would face tribulation, but He was greater than the world (John 16:33). It is the lot of all Christians to experience difficulties that try the genuineness of our faith. What strikes me, is not that they were facing trials, but that they received answers from the Lord. This entire letter is God speaking to the Thessalonians regarding the difficulties they are forced to endure.

“To the church of the Thessalonians…”

We are often faced with trials that test our faith and cause us to cry out for answers. One of the most common questions we ask is simply, “Why?” Why am I experiencing this difficulty. Why, if God is loving and powerful, am I forced to endure such struggles? There are certain questions we will not find an adequate answer for until heaven. There are times when the only way to hear from God is to follow the example of Habakkuk, and get alone with Him and His word (Habakkuk 2:1). There are also times when the answer comes in corporate worship. Since their experience of persecution and hardship was common to all, the answer was found in a message to the entire church. Imagine what a blessing it must have been, when they met that Sunday to listen to this letter for the first time, and they heard a message from God directed toward their circumstances.

I have found corporate worship to be like that. It is not uncommon for me to experience God speaking directly to the concerns of my life, as I sit in church worshipping and studying of the Word. As a pastor, I am often accused of “spying” on the people (as they poke fun at me) after a message that so directly addressed the things they are experiencing, or even the conversations they have been having about following Jesus. The message the Thessalonians heard may not have been exactly what they wanted (I am sure they wished it left out words like tribulation), but it was exactly what they needed to hear, and was tailored in heaven, specifically to enable them to persevere on earth. I think this is one of the major purposes of the church, and why it is so dangerous to neglect regular fellowship and the study of the Word.

Allow me to encourage you to make a commitment to be in regular attendance at a healthy, Bible-teaching fellowship. Answers await, as you gather to feast at the table of God’s Word.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Isaiah 33- That Will Fix It
Isaiah 34- Search And Read

 

Get Ready

1 Thessalonians 5:2
For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.”

Years ago, when our twin sons were infants, my wife woke me in the middle of the night. Having been up with the babies, she saw someone in our yard. Concerned that we might be dealing with a home invasion, my instinct was to grab something to protect myself and head into the yard. As I peered through the front window, I realized that it was actually a group of teenagers who were toilet-papering our house. I immediately thought of grabbing the garden hose, getting on the roof and spaying them down. The problem was, the garden hose was in the front yard where I had left it after its last use. Frustrated that I was unprepared for the surprise visit, all I could do was run outside, make myself known, and watch them run off. Thinking they might return to finish the job, I laid on the roof with the hose in hand for the next few hours, only to be disappointed by the fact that I had missed my opportunity. Paul reminds us that the return of Christ will be like an intruder in the night. The time to prepare for His return is not after His arrival, but in anticipation to His coming.

1 Thessalonians 5:3 “For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.”

One of the most interesting signs the Bible warns us to be looking for, is the fact that people will be suggesting He is not coming. Peter wrote, in the last days people would mock the very idea of Jesus’ return. They would be saying things like “you Christians have been talking about that forever.” Paul also reminds us, while many of the signs of Christ’s return are things that have been happening throughout history, they are things that will increase in severity and frequency. Like a woman having contractions, the pain increases the closer she gets to her delivery, so will the signs of Christ’s return increase as the day approaches.

1 Thessalonians 5:4  “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.”

While we cannot know the day or hour of the return of Christ, we can be living in expectancy, so we are not caught unaware. The way to be prepared for His return, is not by twisting every current event into a fulfilled prophecy. Instead, we must be sure, that first, we have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, and second, we have surrendered to Him as Lord. You might be able to rattle off all of the signs that point to His coming, yet you are not living for Him. If that is your story, you will be overtaken as by a thief in the night.

There is little doubt, we are living in the last days. The State of Israel, the climate in the Middle East, the rise of immorality being accepted as good, all point to the imminent return of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. The one question that remains is, are you ready should He come back today?

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Isaiah 31- Throw That Out
Isaiah 32- Peace And Quiet05

Headlines

1 Thessalonians 4:18
“Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

We are living in uncertain times. Violence rages in the Middle East, the threat of terrorism continues, even increases, despite all of our efforts to eradicate it, the rising threat of hostile nations developing nuclear capabilities, not to mention the domestic violence and uncertainty  we face on our own soil. Just today, the headlines on some popular news sites include: “New York store owner funded ISIS,” “South Korea detains Americans,” at least 220 killed in a day in Syria.”

At times, the thought of these things can become overwhelming, and we are struck with fear. While nuclear threats, embassy attacks, and car bombs did not fill the headlines in the newspapers of ancient Thessalonica, these believers had their own set of challenges, trials, threats and fears. In an attempt to encourage them through the difficulties they were facing, Paul broaches the subject of the return of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

While the threats we are currently facing are real, and the rising tensions around the world do cause concern, the Bible teaches that things as we know them, will culminate with the glorious return of Jesus Christ. A day is coming when living believers will be called home to join those who have gone to heaven before us, through faith in Christ. Paul explained to the Corinthians, this would be in a moment, as quick as the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52). While it is important for every believer to live a life that impacts the world for the Kingdom of heaven, we must also be living with an expectancy that Jesus Christ is coming back. Jesus said,
Luke 21:28 “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

As you head out the door to tackle your responsibilities, keep in the forefront of your mind the fact that Jesus Christ will be calling His church home soon. Let that impact the way you treat temptation, others, and the way you allow the current events to impact you. In light of the return of Christ, we should be doing all things heartily as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Isaiah 29- Hungry
Isaiah 30- Throne Of Grace

Prosperity

1 Thessalonians 3:3
“That no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.”

There seems to be a great deal of teaching in the church today regarding prosperity. The messages vary, but the basic idea is God wants to bless and prosper you. This prosperity is defined as being wealthy, healthy and successful. There is no question, by following Jesus, you will avoid many of the pitfalls in life that lead to suffering, but it is wrong to use a secular dictionary to define Biblical terms. The same Jesus who promised abundant life, also promised that in this world we would have tribulation (John 16:33). The same apostle who experienced what it was to abound, also went through times where he was abased; he said, “Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:12).

Here, in 1 Thessalonians, Paul speaks of the afflictions that the believers were experiencing. The word translated ‘affliction,’ means to press together. It would speak of someone who is experiencing trials that are squeezing in upon them,  making them feel as though they will be crushed. Similar words to affliction are: distress, oppression, or even tribulation. Paul tells the Thessalonians two things about the trials they are facing.

First, the word is in the plural form, meaning these afflictions come in many shapes and sizes, and are incidents we will experience throughout our Christian walk. Second, Paul reminds us, we have been appointed to theses afflictions. God, in His sovereignty and will, His unlimited love for us, and power toward us, not only allows difficulties, but appoints us to some of them. While it is wrong to blame every trial on God (some things are the consequences of our own sin, or the result of living in a fallen world that fights against God), there are difficulties into which God directs us. Why? Why would a loving, heavenly Father allow us to go through times of difficulty? The answer is manifold, but carries at least two primary thoughts.

First, we are appointed to afflictions so we will grow in Christ. The Thessalonians were known for their faith, love and commitment to the Lord. Their maturity had much to do with the difficulties through which Jesus led them. Second, their growth, through afflictions, worked to lead others to Christ. So often, it is seeing how a believer handles his trial, that leads others to trust in Christ.

Be careful you do not accept prosperity teaching at the expense of the Bible’s teaching on Christian growth and maturity. Paul said his desire was “to know Christ in the fellowship of His suffering”(Philippians 3:10).

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Isaiah 27- Slaying Dragons
Isaiah 28- Objects Appear Larger

You’re Doing It Wrong

1 Thessalonians 2:13
“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

A few days ago I was working at my computer using a program that had been updated with new features. While I had used the program before, these new features added elements with which I was unfamiliar. I was having trouble with what should have been a pretty simple task. Each time I tried to make it do what I wanted, the program would override my action, doing something else to the document. In frustration, I called out for help from one of the other pastors, who is quite computer savvy. When he came to my aid I said, “This stupid thing is not working.” To which he replied. “That’s because you are doing it wrong.” After a moment of being offended, I realized he was right and I humbled myself allowing him to show me the correct way to work the program. I was delighted to find it was not the program that was being stupid, and the upgrades were actually quite helpful. But what does that have to do with our text?

“The word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

I have heard people say something to the effect of, “I tried reading the Bible, but it did not work for me.” Others, might even goes so far as to say, “I tried Jesus, it did not work.” To which I think the proper response would be, “you are doing it wrong.” Notice that Paul speaks of the effectiveness of the Word of God to work in the life of the believer. He actually lists three necessities if we want the Word of God to work effectively in us.

You received the word of God which you heard from us”

First, they took the time to hear the Word of God. We read in Romans that “faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). The first step to being transformed by God’s Word is to receive the Word. We must put ourselves in a place where we are ingesting the Word of God on a regular basis. This includes the need for daily Bible reading, as well as church attendance, where we are being taught through the Word of God. Sadly, not all churches teach the Word. Find one that emphasizes the Bible and teaches through it.

“. . .you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, . . .”

Second, as they read through the Word, or heard Paul teach, they recognized these were not the opinions of man to be argued with, updated or discarded. Instead, they realized the Bible is in fact, the Word of God given to man. Writing to Timothy, Paul declared the Word of God is inspired and profitable. We all like that word profit, it means we gain from it. When we understand the Bible is of great value, take the time to listen to it, not to argue with God, or try to conform its teaching to fit our lifestyles, we will find that it effectively works in us.

“. . . the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

Finally, Paul declares when they heard the Word, it was coupled with faith. They believed God wanted to do exactly what He said and they expected to see those things worked out in their lives. I recently read a tweet that said, “If you are not praying for a miracle you probably won’t get one.” The same idea is true when reading the Word. If you do not believe what God is saying, you are not going to be willing to put it into practice, and you will find yourselves accusing the Word of God of being impotent, instead of effectual.

Allow me to encourage you to approach your Bible as the Word of God, receiving it daily, trusting in its warnings and promises, so you, like the Thessalonians, may find that it has effectively worked in you.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Isaiah 25- Storms
Isaiah 26- War And Peace