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Read your Bible!

I have been under great conviction lately that my thoughts are far less important than the Word of God. If you have found yourself on this page today and have not read your Bible, then I urge you to do so now. I promise you that God’s Word is far more interesting than any thing that I have to say.

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Paul was dealing with conflict in the Thessalonian church. He had suffered much persecution because of his faith in Christ. This was common among many of the believers. The issue was that many Jews were the ones doing the persecuting. Part of their process of persecution was through false teaching and disrupting the new believers in Christ. They employed many methods of disruption and destruction upon those who claimed the name of Christ.

Persecution, as I said, took on many fronts. The new believers were constantly bombarded with lies and hatred and confusion. Paul was concerned for them and wanted to make sure that they did not lose heart and return to their pagan ways. Paul addresses some of the things he has heard about in the Thessalonian church. He also address his responsibility to those believers.

Paul was not a stranger to hard work. In fact, he was sometimes criticized for working to support himself instead of having the church support him. He makes reference to this 2:6 and 2:9. Paul knew the authority as an apostle that he had, but he also knew the humility he must demonstrate in this case to the church. Because of this, he worked for all that he needed. He did not wish to be a burden to them. The Scripture is not real clear why he did this, we could speculate and maybe we would be right. But, instead I think it best to know that Paul loved this church and it appears that he is doing what needed to be done to reach them.

Paul offers four examples of his love and responsibility to the Thessalonian church. (I would like to thank Dr. Woo for helping to explain these better.)Paul describes the relationship to the believers in these terms- steward, nursing mother, father, and herald.

Steward- Paul expresses throughout this chapter that as a leader and apostle and disciple, that the new believers are his responsibility.  He has been entrusted with their care. He takes this very seriously and he should. (2:4-6)

Nursing mother- Paul expresses his love for them in a very intimate way. Not only does a nursing mother provide nourishment but protection for her child. Paul is responsible for spiritually feeding the believers and teaching them to grow in Christ until they can learn to feed themselves. He also paints a picture of tenderness for those in his care. He does not provide for them because he has to but because he wants to.(2:7-8)

Father- Paul’s life was an example for the believers. Like a father, he lived and acted in a manner to demonstrate to them how they too should live. He was there to provide the example and correct them along the way. A father disciplines his child because he loves him and wants him to be successful. In like manner, Paul was there to encourage them and build them up. He was the father cheering on his child. Most importantly, Paul raised his children in a “manner worthy of God(2:12).” This was his goal for himself and his desire for the believers. (2:9-12)

Herald- Paul reminded them of how they heard the message of Christ. As a spokesman for Jesus, he declared the Gospel to the Gentiles like a herald would announce a king. This was contrary to the false teachers who sought glory for themselves and not for the king. Paul was pleased that they accepted his master that he announced before them. This was his joy and his responsibility.

If Paul was an example for us who follow Christ, then what responsibility do we have to the believers in our care?

Paul began his letters with a greeting and thanksgiving for the reader (except for Galatians, because he was not pleased with them. But that is a topic for another day). As was also often his custom, he included his companions in the ministry in his letter. In this case, he sends the regards of Silas and Timothy. By doing so, he is essential adding their agreement and knowledge of the events that he is about to address. In like fashion, he is commiting, and they to him, their participation in the work that needs to be done regarding the church of Thessalonica.

Using examples from the book of Acts, we can come to some conclusion about the timing of the letter. Paul wrote it during his second missionary journey. Acts 17:1-9 gives some insight into the time frame, based upon the ruler that was in Corinth, the place Paul is writing from, at the time. Also, we can note that Paul has chosen Silas over Mark in Acts 15 and in Acts 16 Timothy joins them in the work.

In one voice Paul gives thanks for the church and offers encouragement that he and the others are “constantly praying for them” (1:2).  Likewise, Paul clearly brings to light the fact that God had chosen them(Gentiles). This point alone is important because Paul’s mission was to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. To support him in that mission, God saw fit to send the Holy Spirit to dwell with them as affirmation, confirmation, and conviction to those who came to believe in Christ (1:4-5).

In verse 6, we read the main point of the opening chapter. Paul is beginning a discussion that he will pick up again in chapter 3. He is doing several things in this verse, which reads;

And you became (1)imitators of us and of (2) the Lord, for you received the word in much (3) affliction, with (4) joy of the Holy Spirit,(ESV)

1) Imitators of us– Paul is saying that not only did he and his companions do a good job, but that the Thessalonians were doing the same in regards to living out their faith in Christ;

2) Imitators of the Lord– Christ had given a great example of how believers should live their life. This message was clearly communicated to the hurch and they were again living as Christ had commanded and demonstrated

3) in much affliction– Paul knew persecution better than most. He was one of the best at persecuting Christians at one time. Now he was on the receiving end of persecution because of his faith in Jesus. As imitators of Paul and of Christ, the Thessalonians also knew persecution. This is one of the promises that all believers must know and accept. In Christ, all of us will suffer affliction. This is a mark of believing in Jesus.

4) joy of the Holy Spirit– Paul, in some of his other writings describes a joy that can only come from the Holy Spirit. The one thing to take note of here is the Spirit is with the Gentiles. Because the evidence of this was manifested through joy it confirms the promise of the Spirit that Jesus spoke of and the prophesy of the Spirit from Amos for the Gentiles. Paul quoted Amos 9 in his defense for the Gentiles at the Jerusalem Council as described in Acts 15.

More than anything else in this chapter, I think that Paul is acknowledging the work that the Gentile believers have been doing. He especially notes that in verse 7. Paul describes the work that was done in Macedonia and Achaia. If we know nothing else about these places, we could conclude that these new believers were active in sharing the faith they have in Jesus. Paul was pleased with this and wanted to encourage them to keep doing the good work.

Finally, Paul closes his letter with a hint of the matter that he wishes to discuss- Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (v.10). Paul knows that there are some issues that are causing trouble in Thessalonica. Because he loves the church, he is eager to address these and other issues that they are facing in the chapters to come.


When Jesus Returns…

Will you be ready when Jesus returns?

I think it is essential to establish a mainline belief that Jesus has already been to earth as both man and deity-in one. Through this action He took on the sin and shame of His creation so that we can be reconciled to our Creator-God. So, in order for us to believe that he will return, we must believe that he has already come and gone and promises to return again.

However, the next time He comes to earth, it will be much different than when he came the first time. The Old Testament describes this as the “Day of the Lord.” The prophet Amos describes this day much differently than many of the Jewish scholars of his day. Amos discusses the judgment of God upon His people not deliverance from their oppressors as many had hoped.

It is not my intent to get into a deep discussion of eschatology and the many views of what and when and how the Lord will return. There are several views, not all of which agree with one another. Instead, I want to impart my study of    1 Thessalonians and the questions that church had regarding the Second Coming of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians around 50AD. He was in Corinth at the time and he is responding to some issues that had arisen in the Church at Thessalonica. For the most part there are false teachers that are distorting the truth about the coming of Christ. There was also some internal issues with the believers, they thought that you had to be alive when Jesus returned. Because of this fear they began to question what happens to those who have already died? Naturally, this created numerous other questions, especially in regards to the timing of Christ’s return- will it be soon?

Paul was addressing Gentiles who had heard the message of salvation and came to  faith in Jesus Christ. One indication of this is that they had “turned to God from idols (1 Thes 1:9).” The Jews had put all of their idols away the last time they were exiled. (However, the Law became their idol, which is what made it so difficult for them to accept Jesus.) These Gentiles probably had a good knowledge of Old Testament teachings. Likewise, there were probably some Jews that had accepted Jesus and were there to teach them as well. In addition, there were some Gentiles who had previously accepted Judaism, they were often known as “God- fearers” ( Acts 13:16). They were circumcised according to the law and baptized or “put into” the Jewish faith publicly through ceremonial washing. (This is who John the Baptist was likely baptizing, because Jews did not need to be “put into” Judaism- they were already Jewish.”

The prevailing fear in 1 Thessalonianswas that if you were dead when Jesus came back, then you would miss out on the blessing of His return. Paul addressed this concern and warned the church to make sure their hearts were ready and to not worry about the physical condition. Paul gave pretty clear instructions throughout this letter that remain applicable today.

In the coming days, I hope to explore the book of 1 Thessalonians in depth by chapter. As a student, much of this writing is for my own education. However, I hope that the Lord will use it to instruct others, especially those who do not have the resources to the Word that I have been blessed with in America.

Please return daily and feel free to comment.

3 Nails

When I was a boy, I did not like school. We moved a lot when I was a child. In fact, in the 3rd grade, I went to 3 schools in 3 different states. One of those places was Greenville, Mississippi. My mom and dad worked in construction, so they woke up really early and left for work. My brother and I would get dressed and watch cartoons until the teenage girl who lived next door would come and get us and make sure we got on the school bus. But, one day I did not want to go. So, I locked myself in my dad’s truck and would not come out.

Have you ever done something like that? Let me tell you it is NOT a good idea. The girl missed the bus and could not go to school. My mom had to leave work and come and get me out of the truck. I was in big trouble!

Usually, when I got into big trouble my dad would take off his belt and spank me. That really hurt and I did not like it. That’s why I tried not to get into big trouble very often, but it was too late.

My mom and dad were really angry. And instead of spanking me immediately, they had other plans.

My dad was a contractor, he built things. So he decided that if I was not going to go to school, then I was going to go to work. I was in the third grade! This had to be against the law, but dad did not care.

At first, I was pretty happy because dad did not spank me. But that did not last long. Instead, Dad said that today I was going to be a carpenter. He also said that every nail that I bent, I was going to one spanking each! Suddenly, I wanted to go back to school. I had bent lots of nails before and I knew I was going to bend more today- and that meant lots of spankings!

That day I bent 3 nails. That was 25 years ago and I still remember getting 3 spankings from my dad.

I broke the rules didn’t I? I deserved to be punished for skipping school, making the babysitter late, and disobeying my parents.

I would like to tell you that I never did anything wrong again. But I have. In fact, I still do things wrong today. When I break God’s laws it is called sin. God is my heavenly father, and he created everything, including you and me. But when we sin, we are separated from God.

But do you know what? God wants us to be close to him. So he sent us his son Jesus to take the punishment for our sins. You know why I remember how many nails I bet that day? I remember because Jesus died and was hung on a cross with 3 nails. He took my punishment for me.

The Bible says that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8”

Jesus died for your sins. Before you were ever born, he died for your sins. God does not want us to be away from him and he loves us so much that he would let his only son die for you and me.

Some of you have already asked God to forgive you. Some of you have not. Listen very carefully. I want to sit right where you are and be quiet for just a few more minutes. Listen with your heart, not your ears.

Do you long for something to fill the gaps in your life? Is something missing? Have you tried to fill the emptiness and pain with everything else?

Salvation only comes through Jesus. The only thing that can fill the empty and heal the hurt is accepting that Jesus is the Son of God, believing that he can save you from an eternity without your creator, and confessing that you need Jesus to rescue you from your separation from God.

If you have this and you have more questions then contact me and we can discuss it. If you have already made this decision, then I encourage you to tell your story to others. This is my story, everything in it is true.

Tell your story, someone needs to hear it. (I told this story at vacation Bible School in June 2009.)

Jesus Resurrected

Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:1-53; John 20:1-31

After Jesus had been dead for three days an angel went to his tomb. The earth shook and a giant stone that covered the tomb was rolled away. The guards that were watching over the tomb were frightened and looked like dead men.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb, not knowing what had happened. When they arrived they saw an angel with clothes as white as snow. They were afraid. But the angel said, “Why are you looking for Jesus here. He is not dead. He is alive and has risen from death, just like he said he would. Look for yourselves, he is not here. So go and tell his disciples that Jesus is going to Galilee, he will be there waiting for them so they can see for themselves. “

So the women ran off quickly. They were filled with joy. But before they could get to the disciples, they saw Jesus. He told them, “Do not be afraid, but go and tell my brothers to meet me in Galilee.”

Once they found the eleven disciples, because Judas had hung himself, they told them everything that had happened. The disciples did not believe them, except for Peter.  Peter went to the tomb to see for himself. There he found it empty and wonder for himself what had happened.

So the disciples traveled to Galilee where they met Jesus. He rebuked them for their lack of faith in him and in his resurrection. While they were together, Jesus gave the disciples some final instructions. He told them, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to very end of the age.”

After he had said these things and led them out of the area of Bethany, he blessed them and then was taken up into Heaven.

Matthew 26:57-27:66; Mark 14:53-15:47; Luke 22:63-23:55; John 18:19-19:42

After Jesus was arrested he was put into prison. The guards began to mock him and beat him. They even blindfolded him and as they hit him said, “Tell us who hit you.” They said and did many mean things to Jesus.

When morning came, Jesus was taken before the chief priests and the leaders of the Jews. They could not find any evidence against Jesus but many people came and made false accusations. They were looking to find something so that they could have Jesus killed.

Finally, the high priest challenged Jesus and said, “Tell us under oath of God, are you the Christ, the Son of God?”

Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say.”

Then the high priest accused Jesus of blasphemy, which means to say something that is untrue against or about God.  The priest wanted the people to agree that Jesus had done this because they all heard him say that he was indeed the Christ. And all the people agreed and declared that Jesus was worthy of death.

Deciding that they did not need more testimony, they took Jesus to Pilate. Pilate was the governor of the Romans. At this time, the Romans were in power through most of the land. They had many soldiers and they were fierce warriors. This is why they took him to Pilate, because he must make the decision to carry out the death sentence.

When Jesus and Pilate met, Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say.”

But Pilate did not think that this was enough to kill Jesus. But the Jews were very angry and they said that Jesus was stirring up the people and causing all kinds of trouble. They wanted to make sure that Jesus was put to death.

But because Jesus was not from Jerusalem, but from Galilee, he had to appear before a man named Herod. Herod happened to be in Jerusalem at the time.  Herod was pleased to see Jesus, because he had heard of the many things that he had done. He wanted to see him for himself. Although Herod asked him many questions, Jesus did not answer. So they mocked Jesus and dressed him like a king. He did not resist them. Then Herod, who before this time had been Pilate’s enemy, befriended Pilate and sent Jesus back to him.

When Jesus returned, Pilate could not find any sign that Jesus was the leader of any rebellion.  So he met with the Jewish leaders and decided that he would whip Jesus, to make them happy, and then set him free. But this was not enough for them. They wanted him put to death.

Since this was the time of the Passover, it was customary for the governor, Pilate, to release one prisoner at the request of the people. The people knew this and they began to ask for the release of a murder named Barabbas not Jesus. So Pilate agreed and asked what he should with Jesus? The crowd began to chant, “Crucify him!” and Satan moved among them.

Pilate agreed to do this and ordered for Jesus to be beaten and crucified. The soldiers took him away. They made a crown of thorns and shoved it onto his head. They beat him almost to death and then they took him to be crucified.

Crucifixion was a horrible way to die. Jesus had to carry a large wooden cross to the place where he would be nailed to it. Because Jesus had been beaten so badly, another man was forced by the soldiers to carry it for him. Once they arrived to the place, large nails were driven through Jesus’ hands and feet. Then the cross was dropped into a hole and Jesus hung there in great pain until he died.

While Jesus was on the cross, the soldiers continued to mock him. They made a sign and placed it over his head that said, “King of the Jews.”  Because many had gathered for the Feast of the Passover, the city was filled; many people witnessed all of these events. Many of the soldiers told Jesus, “save yourself if you really are the Son of God!” But Jesus new that he must stay on the cross. He knew that the sins of everyman would only be paid by his blood and through his death.

Jesus knew that he was the sacrificial lamb for the Passover. And as he drew his last breath and died, the sky grew dark, the earth shook and a large curtain in the temple was torn completely in half. This was the curtain that all the people had to stay behind, except for the high priest, because God was on the other side. Because of their sins, they were separated from God. Now Jesus had provided the final sacrifice for sin. They were no longer separated from God.

The body of Jesus was taken off the cross and placed in a borrowed tomb. An official seal was placed on it, a large rock covered the entrance, and guards were posted to stop anyone from stealing the body.