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.

Philippians 3 Part 1–Bragging Rights

Paul was the super pharisee.  If one wanted a poster child for how to “do religion” Paul was easily that guy. He was circumcised, Part of the tribe of Benjamin, trained by Gamaliel the ultimate Rabbi.  He knew all the traditions, all the law and exactly what to do.  He attacked the Christians with zeal and complete abandon. Any Jewish leader would be proud of Paul’s record.  Paul, however, realized that it was not his knowledge or performance that made him righteous.  Paul went as far as to say that stuff was bio-waste compared to the surpassing greatness of Christ,  Paul no longer needed to flaunt a resume–He simply needed to trust God and allow God to transform him into the image of Christ.
 
We are the same.  We are not a product of our accomplishments.  We can never “DO” Christianity to a level that our actions bring us justification.  In fact, as Paul so elegantly articulated it, our efforts to earn salvation look, smell and feel like bio-waste! We need to know Christ! As we get to know him we quickly see that it is His grace and His mercy, not our background or performance that brings us salvation. If we will simply trust and follow His lead–He will restore our relationship with God, and he will prepare us for the journey that lies ahead.  In addition, the Lord will change our hearts and our desires to conform to His image.  There is simply no greater gift than the salvation we receive by trusting Christ alone.
 
God Bless You
 

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 1 Part 3–To Live is Christ and to Die is Gain

As Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians, He was in prison in Rome. He lived chained between two guards. The one-time world traveler now was awaiting his final fate from Rome. In the midst of the hopeless situation he faced, Paul was able to continue to preach the Gospel through his letters. What’s more, others were preaching the Gospel loudly and spreading the message even beyond where Paul had reached. But, at the end of the day, Paul knew that life on earth was not comparable to eternity in Heaven.   As he languished in prison;  beaten, broken and blind—Paul longed to be home with Lord.  Amazingly, it was that longing that drove Paul to preach the Gospel all day every day.
 
Paul, more than most, understood the deception of a rules-based religion. As a Jew of Jews, Paul learned from the best and performed religion as well as anyone. But, when he had his encounter with Christ, It changed Him. He realized he would never be worthy in his own power. He also learned that God’s grace was sufficient to meet his needs. From there, God brought him to a place that made him a true ambassador for God and showed him that Christ alone was all anyone needed to have a relationship with God.  Paul was driven to get that message out to everyone. So until God brought him home, Paul would spread that message to all who would listen and all who would read the letters he drafted.  Paul Had come to a place that valued Christ above all. So wherever he was Christ was the most important thing.
 
In our lives we have to come to a place where we also can say to live is Christ and to die is gain. Each of us faces trials of various types. In those trials, we can become distracted from what is important and what is not.  If we can move forward with a grateful heart and follow His leading, then no matter the circumstances we face our response can remain grateful and hopeful. Only with a grateful heart is this life bearable. Otherwise, we become like the Israelites in the desert;  complaining when God is in their presence literally dropping food from heaven each day.  Treasure the joys of our life here–but, know to live is Christ and to die is gain.
 
God Bless You

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Philippians 1 Part 2–God’s Refining Process

One of the great gifts of being a child of God is his ongoing transformation of our lives. Paul tells the Philippians that God does not simply provide an escape hatch from Hell, He works to transform us into His image.  Paul says in vs. 6, “He that has begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” When we understand that God’s gift of salvation not only justifies us from eternal death but, it also sanctifies us during our walk through this life; then we can treasure the trials and temptations we face daily in our walks with the Lord. 
  
In our current culture, we have come to expect instant gratification.  We do not want to wait, we simply want all things done now. We live as if we are happy to be saved, but, if the truth was known, we do not want to go through the sanctification process. It is like refining a precious metal. It is hot, hard and slow in coming. We have to face many things we would rather not. In the end, however, we will become the new creations God has promised and we will have a life of peace and purpose.  We must never regret the process of being refined.  We need to expect it to continue until the Lord calls us home. We need to accept the refining and understand that the end of the process produces a life that will be amazing.
 
God Bless You

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons[a]:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Ephesians 4 Part 1–Living a Life Worthy of Our Calling

Paul realized how amazing the gift of Salvation was.  He laid it out simply to the Ephesians. One God, one faith and one baptism. As a people, We become one with Christ.  The Lord has saved us and through His sacrifice and upon His ascension, we became one again with God! What an amazing gift! 
 
So, Paul called the Ephesians to live a life worthy of that gift. How? By remaining humble and gentle. By being patient and bearing with each other.  By remaining unified by faith and not divided by petty differences. Finally, we remain worthy by simply remembering that it is all by God’s grace that we even have eternal life. It is not our behavior or station in life, it is Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection that has provided the amazing life we enjoy. It is that same resurrection that provides our eternal salvation. We should keep that in mind when tempted to be haughty or judgemental of others. All we deserve is death. But His grace was sufficient to give us life.  
 
That realization should provide us joy, hope, and a humble spirit to carry us through until we see Him face to face!
 
God Bless You

 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us, grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it[a] says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

Ephesians 3 Part 1–Mystery Revealed

Paul wanted the people to understand that salvation to all was God’s original and primary plan. The Lord intended Israel to be a nation of priests. Their purpose was to provide the ministry of salvation to all. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, that ministry was now possible. Ironically God used Paul, the “ultimate Jew” to carry the message and minister to the Gentile world. 

In our lives, we continue to live as one’s that are saved because of Christ and Paul. We are saved even though we are not from the lineage of Israel. Because of God’s original plan. The great mystery of God’s love and plan for men was revealed to the rest of the world and us through folks like Paul, Silas, Barnabus, Timothy and John. That mystery and ministry have continued through now and we fill the roles of these apostles and men of faith. While God never intended that to be a mystery, evidently it was. Thanks, Lord for following your plan. Thanks also for commissioning those that have come before and commissioning us to make disciples all over the world!

God Bless you. 

 

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.

When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Ephesians 3:1-11