“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” 1 Thess. 2:19-20 NKJV
Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.
Do you want to know truth? Be able to discern lies? Know how to figure it all out in these confusing times and have peace? The Bible says Jesus is the truth. I have experienced it and it has changed my life. I was once a hot mess of sin, promiscuity, drug and alcohol use and so much more. But I was lost and when I could not find my way, or find a truth, I numbed it with bad choses. When I found Jesus, and truth – I found peace and deliverance from those things.
If you want a relationship with God without truth you will get the counterfeit, hypocritical Christianity that has kept some of you away for too long. You need truth and relationship. You need to be honest with yourself and God (including honest repentance) and God will reveal truth to you. It becomes the two way, interaction that your relationship with God is built on. This is why Jesus is called the truth, because he is our only way to the Father.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen
Dear Heavenly Father – Please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of who you are, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Open the eyes of our understanding, please, so we may know the hope of our calling and the vast sovereignty and power of the grace of the cross. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word and our sound mind. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen
Today’s reading is the Book of First Thessalonians chapter 2 (embedded below for your convenience in the NKJV).
2 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But [a]even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict. 3 For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.
4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 5 For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a [b]cloak for covetousness—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. 9 For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.
10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and [c]charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
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. 14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are [d]contrary to all men, 16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.
Longing to See Them
17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. 18 Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
MEMORY VERSE CHALLENGE:
Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
As we discussed yesterday, the first 3 chapters of this book are personal narrative more than instruction and today’s reading seems to continue yesterday’s greetings. When things are repeated in the Bible – there is always reason and we should always perk up our ears to pay attention. In Greek writing culture, Greeks repeated phrases and concepts as a means to build suspense but not necessarily the mysterious kind. Modern literature build suspense by focusing on unanswered questions leading up to the climax or the point of it. Greeks excitedly repeated the climate and the point. Their thought process was the first time you heard it you may have missed that it was important. The second time they stir your thoughts so your response is “hmmm, that is something”. The third time you hear it, your response should be “Ah ha! Amazing! Wow! That is important!” See, building suspense and excitement.
This is not that foreign to us. We have many amazing preachers and public speakers who repeat a phrase a few times whipping the audience up into excitement. It is not strange to odd to them read their speech and find it written repeatedly.
What is odd is that modern Christians read the Bible – quietly in their head. Jews always went to gathering to hear the Torah and Prophets read – and if reading them for themselves – they would read out loud. Never did someone read silently. Most of antiquity followed that same pattern, since usually there were few who could even read, so if you could read then you would read it out loud for everyone else. Paul wrote for people who listened and did not read.
This could shed some new insight about some strange wording you find in certain passages:
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJV
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22 NKJV
This doesn’t mean you must literally hear it or you must go to church on Sunday. And this is why people say hearing means reading. But, I’ll tell ya what – Although I read and study it diligently; I also turn on the audio function on the internet version of the Bible that I use (many great choices out there). There really is something great about hearing someone read it to you. I sometimes follow along reading, so I do not get distracted. Other times I listen while I work, or do chores. I do not always read through the Bible in a year (last year we studied through it) – But it is easy and fun to listen through it – and that takes less than a year (you put it in and stop when you don’t have the time any longer and don’t break it up by chapter and verse.
Digging into today’s reading – the letter was carried up to Thessalonica and read out loud to a gathering of the believers, probably at Jason’s house.
The Letter started off with a greeting. Today’s reading starts with Paul defending himself. That escalated quickly. These people are doing great, so who is accusing Paul, and of what is he being accused and why is he defending his conduct??
Paul’s letters were usually to address a problem, answer a question and generally were written in response to something – we can tell by the way he wrote. But scrolls and ink were hard to come by and expensive – so Paul is as short and direct as possible, pinching pennies. Unfortunately that means – we can’t always extrapolate what the problem was, what the question was, or what he was responding to. There is a lot of speculation based on the context and historical information – and you all know (or will soon learn) that I am not a fan of speculating. And I try to be clear about what is speculation and opinion and what is truth.
Both the Biblical account in Acts 17 and historical accounts say that Thessalonica was a Christian hating town. (Yesterday’s verse about them going out as missionaries – easy to go when staying is life threatening!) We know form Acts that if Paul returned, Jason would get thrown in jail or worse. We know they immediate tried to discredit Paul and his teaching – moving here into grey area. Then into speculation: They must have attacked Paul’s character and conduct – so here Paul clears things up. I hope you read today’s reading (above) because I am not repeating the verses here.
Now, why would Paul have to tell them what they saw and experienced?
This is very relevant today. At least over the last couple years with the pandemic and especially in politics – this is another strategy, attack the enemy comes after us with. So we need to be aware of this. It plays out like this: We see and experience one thing. They gaslight us and tell us we did not see or experience it but then feed us another story over and over until we begin to believe it.
So then here Paul has to remind them of the truth. This is what really happened, remember?
Let’s look at the Russian / Ukraine thing that has the world all looking. They told me this is new and scary and could be WW3. But – remember? They have been fighting for many years. 12 years ago there was a treaty and Ukraine broke it, and Russia retaliated – and the terms included Ukraine NOT petitioning to become a NATO nation. Remember? Is the fighting worse now? Well they had very violent upheavals on and off over the years. And do you remember that Ukraine was also in the middle of a civil war? And the guy they have running things now, was a cabernet dancer/singer/swinger. As Christians we need to SEE the truth, regardless of what they are telling us to see. And NO I have not and will not side with either country in that conflict. But I will pray for their leaders to turn to God and for God’s will to be done.
The point is Paul has to defend against the gaslighting that have the ones who experienced Paul, turned around, and the new believers thinking Paul behaved in ways he did not. At least, between what he said, what we know of Thessalonica from Acts and what we know from history it would seem.
“You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” Verses 10-12
There are other speculator ideas of what this is all about as well. One such theory is that Paul is instructing them to be like him and work, work, work; and this alludes to problems addressed in 2nd Thessalonians. To me it seems more biographical and narrative and not instructive. Paul is pretty direct with instruction.
Next Paul also reinforces the truth, validity and effectiveness of their salvation. So it would seem, again speculation, that someone was attacking their status as Christian causing them to doubt their very relationship with God!
When I was a new convert – I doubted my salvation occasionally, and doubted what I saw and experienced. I also doubted the worthiness and how can it be… all the things new believers go through. To this day, if I find doubt pop up – I remind myself of my conversion, my conversation with God and even more powerfully than that – I can repent, ask for forgiveness, and recommit my life to Jesus. Boom – done.
It might not have been people wavering in their faith due to others attacking them, although the suffering and death is mentioned. But this is a church of new baby believers, who have not yet had time to mature. They are out there being missionaries and standing for their faith and suffering – all grown up believer actions – but they are still babies, so they could need the conversion reminder just because of that.
Paul concludes the chapter expressing how much he really wants to come back to them. Sadly Paul has all sorts of other spiritually warfare battles going on – and is still running for his life out of cities he ministered in.
And we think we live in perilous times? I did not have to run for my life today. Someone did break windows at my home, but I did not run for my life. How about you?
I like to think, this chapter is all about applying honestly back into your troubles for some clarity – and our troubles are NOT as emotionally difficult.
I mean, take my quarterly sales tax for my business. In order to do my taxes, I run a report in my system. The system gives me a bunch of things all broken out in different ways. I just grab my total sale, my taxable sales and the sub totals for taxable counties. Then I go online to the sales tax site and I enter those totals and it asks if I want them to tally it. I say yes. And submit – the computer does the rest the money is automatically transferred all done takes 15 active minutes. BUT there is an emotional component. I worry I will do something wrong. I have heard all these big scary things in relation to sales taxes in my life and so I have this emotional baggage. So – every time – I print the form. I run the report days ahead. I double check that the report is calculating correctly. I shuffle data and figure out all sorts of things. Then the next day I write out the answers on the form. And I manually tally and calculate and I print the schedules and addendums and add my answers and tally and calculate and those certain classifications, I have to look up each time to know what numbers to enter and them I double check that the amount I came up with is the amount I collected. Finally I spend 15 minutes in the online program entering the first couple of pieces of data and telling it to do the rest and clicking submit. The emotional element makes things way harder, take way too long, distracts and takes away from what I should be doing. If I only apply truth in my troubles – I can see clearly and get the task done.
Thank you for reading in 2022 – a Year of Wisdom and Salvation
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!