II Thessalonians 2 Part 2–Artificial Vs Truth

I was praying with a good friend yesterday. During our discussion, he brought up the topic of artificial intelligence. Artificial literally means a very realistic but NOT authentic copy of the truth. What Satan has done his entire existence is to make artificial likenesses of God’s holy truth.  Eve was tempted to be like God through eating the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  The truth was that Adam and Eve were already like God. He made them in His image. The artificial knowledge they received brought sin and death–everything that was NOT God!  Since that time, Satan has used artificial means to fool people into rejecting God–again and again. Usually, Satan’s trick is to ask the same two questions–“Did God Really Say…?” and  “Don’t You want to like a god?”  That is why most sin circles back to Lust of the flesh (Control, gratification, and power) Lust of the eyes (Power, independence and did God really Say…) and Pride of Life (Power, control and being God!)
 
Satan has been using these tactics since the dawn of time. God allows people to be fooled and blinded by them.  But, Christ freed us from the artificial means to “be like God”. When we receive Christ in our lives, we become new creations. We are hidden in Christ–free from sin and death.  But, we are still tempted and do fall, from time to time, back into the trap. In that place, we must stand firm in the power of the spirit; and, we must cling to the truth. We do not need any of the artificial stimuli the enemy offers to receive life. We simply need to trust and follow the Lord and allow Him to transform us into the true image of God. He intended such a life for His chosen. 
 
We must then stand firm in God’s truth. We do not have to believe the lies and fall into the trap of deception our enemy sets each and every day. God reminds us that if we will resist the enemy, he will flee. It is never easy, but it is always effective. Satan’s most beautiful artificial copy can never compare to God’s reality. What is more, when put to the test, Satan’s lies are easily exposed and fall apart.  We simply must trust God, follow our Lord’s lead, and focus upon His truth!!!
 
God Bless You

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The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason, God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Stand Firm

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits[b] to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings[c] we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

I Thessalonians 4 Part 2–What Happens Next

So what happens to those of us who die in Christ? There is a great deal of speculation.  The bottom line is that when we are headed home. Paul was clear in his later letter to the Philippians–to live is Christ and to die is gain.  He was encouraging the Thessalonians to take heart. This life is only a dot on the line of eternity. Paul was making clear that once we finish this life, God will not forget or forsake us!  God will call us home to spend eternity with Him and we will see the fullness and glory of God.
 
In the meanwhile, we should live each day as if it were our last and as if we are working for God–not for men.  Even with the finest bosses, we still need to see our efforts reflect and are to honor our Father in heaven.  The way we live is our legacy. The life we lead should reflect the Lord as our light and life. It is simply no secret that this is the training ground for what is ahead. We should face each day with the confidence that Christ will return and we will spend eternity with Him.  Help me, Lord to live and honor you in all that I do.
 
God Bless You

 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord, himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

I Thessalonians 1–Being Imitators of Christ

Paul loved the people in the Church at Thessalonica.  He planted the Church but was abruptly escorted away after only a few weeks.  Once Paul settled in Corinth, He pinned the letters to the Thessalonians.  Paul was thrilled at the reports he was receiving about the church’s growth, faith, and presence. They were overcoming trial, winning others to Christ and living life in the midst of trials and temptations.  The folks in the neighboring communities were being influenced by their faith and walks.  Not bad for a church that was set up and going in 21 days.
 
In our lives, We also are to be imitators of Christ. We have to walk each day, living life and honoring God whatever the circumstance.  We need to be faithful, we need to be open and we need to walk humbly in the love of Christ. As we do, we will influence others and glorify God. There is no better way to leave a lasting legacy than to simply honor and follow the Lord imitating him in all that we do. 
 
God Bless You

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace and peace to you.

Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians’ Faith

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers and sisters[b] loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

Colossians 3 Final–Living the Life

When one looks to live a life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, there are some basic tenets that must be followed.  Being a good spouse, a good parent, an obedient child, a hard worker and even a respectful boss. Paul was making clear to the Colossians and all that read the letter that Christ is a part of everything men do.  He influences every role that people live in their lives. Christ is not only a factor of our worship as we go to church or Bible study. He is our guide at work, at home and at everything we choose to do.
 
We choose each day to incorporate Christ into every aspect of our lives.  As we do, He leads, guides and directs our paths toward becoming like Christ. He prepares us for the journey we face and fills us with his spirit to assure we can accomplish all He has set before us. In the process, we allow God’s word to dwell in us and we act as a people of peace and respect.  In turn, through the best and worst of times, He guides us and transforms us into His image.  It is a great gift and a lovely part of our salvation and restoration in the Lord.
 
God Bless You

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Instructions for Christian Households

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers,[c] do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor; but, with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

Colossians 2 Part 2–It’s Not About the Rules, Its About the Relationship

Paul was obviously frustrated by the ease that the Colossians fell back into a checklist mentality.  He had literally traveled the world preaching the importance of Christ’s death and resurrection. He had been imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, beaten for preaching the Gospel.  So to hear that one of the churches had fallen prey to the deceitful knowledge and works mentality spread by the gnostics and the traditionalists, was almost more than he could bear.  So Paul reminded the Colossians that when one accepts Christ Jesus as Lord, they are no longer judged by what they eat, what they wear or even what they do.  Instead, they are saved by their relationship with God that was made possible when they accepted the free gift of Salvation.  In short, Gifts simply cannot be earned.
 
In our day and culture, everything is competitive. Income, family size, achievements at work or school all help to define our success and our standing in the community.  As with the Colossians, however, God reminds us that our eternal salvation is not a competition, it is a faith journey started with a free gift.  His chosen simply have to trust and follow the Lord. He will do the work of forgiving, restoring and preparing us for Heaven.   Christians must not fall into the trap of believing that their feeble attempts at “Doing the Christian life” will ever be sufficient to win favor with God or earn some sort of salvation bonus.  We are completely forgiven and completely saved from sin and death.  We can simply rejoice in the true grace the Lord provides and follow God’s lead as we continue on this Amazing Journey.
 
God Bless You

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh[b] was put off when you were circumcised by[c] Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.[e]

Freedom From Human Rules

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Colossians 1 and 2 Part 1–The Real Gospel

In the early Church, there was much persecution of leadership.  Of the original apostles all but John were killed as martyrs. John was also martyred, but when he was dropped in a cauldron of boiling oil he was not injured in any way. He was subsequently banished to Patmos where he wrote the book of the Revelation.  The point is, that as Paul delivered this letter to the Colossians, he was suffering for the Gospel.  He wanted the Colossians to understand that that was part of the deal.   As they preached the Gospel, there was a spiritual war going on and those that fought for the cause of Christ did so knowing the cost.
 
He encouraged them to not be concerned for the persecution, but, also he asked that they not follow other forms of the gospel and make his suffering a waste.  Paul reminded the people that Christ was the entire Gospel. There was no Christ plus knowledge, Christ plus tradition, or Christ plus a checklist. It was Christ and that was all. Christians that considered performance a part of the salvation process nullified the purpose of Jesus Death and resurrection.  Christ plan was never to act as an accountant and somehow balance the books! He came as an advocate–our defense lawyer, and as a sacrifice the only legitimate restoration and redemption for people’s sinful lives.
 
That Gospel is as true today as it was when Paul penned the letter. We still need to celebrate the fact that our ministry is an act of war in the spiritual realm. We need to embrace the idea that we will never earn the salvation we have been so kindly given.  We are still the chosen of God only because Christ acts as our advocate and our atonement. As of this day, Christ is all and Christ is enough to save us from our broken lives and restore us to eternal beings with hope and a future.  Let’s not try to earn our way into God’s favor; instead, let us run the race set before us and follow Christ’s sanctification in our lives humbly and graciously.
 
God Bless You
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 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. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
2  For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

Philippians 4 Part 1–How to Recapture Hope

Did you ever have one of those days…Paul did, every day. He lived chained between two guards and was simply waiting for the final word from Ceaser–and then he would die.  In the midst of that, Paul continued his letter to the Philippians with some very practical tips for life.
The Goal–Stand firm in the Lord! If we brace our lives on anything other than Christ, we are doomed to collapse. The picture is of a sailor on the ship during a violent storm braced for the rushing waters determined to sweep him out to sea–standing firm braced to the immovable anchor that is our Lord and Savior. 
 
How does a frail human find the where-with-all to stand firm…Paul gives us some direction:
 
First, be unified. He asked these women that were now enemies to embrace and align in Christ. It would make them stronger and take away the divide among the rest of the church. When it is difficult, we look to blame, to justify, and to escape. Feelings get hurt, friendships tested and lives destroyed. We have to be united and gracious people; building each other up not picking each other apart.
 
Second, rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS, I repeat rejoice! Easy to say difficult to do. It feels so disingenuous to cheer from one’s sickbed, from the bottom of the emotional barrel. with empty pockets or in a quiet lonely place. The critical piece is the ability to rejoice no matter what circumstances are front and center. God’s grace builds us to a place of peace rejoicing because Jesus IS and is all we need.
 
Third, Be gentle to all! knowing the Lord is near! We do not have to be harsh, defensive or demanding! There is enough of that from so many sources. Being gentle is so refreshing, endearing and unique–it draws people to Jesus! 
 
Fourth, do not be anxious–Pray, seek God’s counsel, and be thankful. Everything can go on the list–NOTHING is too big or too small! Petition God, He expects it and does not take offense! When you do, peace will overtake you. like the eye of a hurricane, there will be sunshine and stillness in the center of chaos.
 
Finally–Think about whatever is true, nobel, right, pure, lovely and admirable! Think about the excellent and the praiseworthy! If the thought does not fall within those bins–take it captive and destroy it.  Dark thoughts allow dark attitudes to take hold! Be practical, be pragmatic but don’t swirl down the drain of self-pity and become useless. If we focus on what is right and right with our lives–in time, we can navigate through the treacherous currents that seek to draw us away from land and into the depths of despair. We must choose to focus on the things that are solid like the Rock that is our salvation!
 
A friend challenged me to be still, I confess I am a fidgeter, But our Lord reminded me tonight I seek God and His counsel–not man’s opinion or man’s approval. Thanks for the word, my Savior and friend!
 
God Bless You

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Final Exhortations

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.