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.

II Thessalonians 2–When is the End?

What is to come and when it is to occur is a Great Mystery that is only known by the Father.  Some thought the end would occur when the Temple was destroyed in AD 70. Then at various points through the years, WWII, When Isreal was made a Sovereign nation, the ’80s, the ’90.s the Millennium and even now people are sure this is it.  IT MAY BE!  The point is really that we need to focus on becoming like Christ and not be neutralized by the fear or hope that it is time for the rapture.  God intends for us to live as if He could return any day. He does not try to trick us, but he intends to train us to live as if for eternity–not for a single day.
 
As Children of God, this was never intended to be our home.  We all look ahead to the day we will be with the Lord and be like the Lord; no more pain, no more sorrow, no more tears. We strive to be like Christ. We long to be with Him.  We listen to His word, follow His spirit and spread his name.  As we do those things, it becomes less important when He returns and more important that we are prepared for His return.  We do not need to fall for the trick of false profits and false promises. We take Paul’s advise to be content whatever our circumstance. Whether well fed or hungry living in plenty or in want–We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!
As we go forward let us set our hearts and minds on things above and not be concerned about when or how He returns!
 
God Bless You

 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness[a] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 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.

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.

Colossians 3 Part 1–Spiritual Focus

We are simply called to think and be different. Paul laid it out quite simply to the Colossians, Live with your heart and mind focused on eternity.  What a difficult proposition. We are all focused upon what is in front of us. Life’s day to day struggles surround and take up focus and energy.  But Paul puts it simply–set your hearts and minds on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Such focus raises our hearts and spirits out of today’s struggles and focuses them on eternity.  
 
In addition, such focus helps us to better deal with our sinful attitudes and actions. We no longer live as lustful, coarse and hateful people because that person died with Christ and as new creations, we focus upon becoming like Christ.  It is not only a process by which we stop living like the world but we start living selfless, purposeful lives in Christ. We rise above the old and live as one that is focused upon Heaven. We do that through time in God’s word, time in prayer and time in fellowship with other believers.  Help me Lord to live as one that is eternal not one focused upon this world’s struggles.  
 
God Bless You

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

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 2 Part 3–Working Out Our Salvation

Next, Paul puts practical steps into this idea of having Christ’s attitude.  First is to continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.   The ongoing transition from a Godless life to a Christ-filled life.  The technical term is sanctification.  It is the process we experience as we come to be like Christ.  It is a difficult process because it runs counter to current world culture.  Paul reminds us, however, that it is God at work in us that makes sanctification happen.  His spirit aligns with ours and slowly makes us over into His image.  It is that verse in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “For if anyone is in Christ, they are new creatures.  The old has passed away and behold all things become new.”
 
The other command for us is to do what we do without grumbling or disputing.  It is the idea that as a church we learn to be content in our circumstance and do our lives humbly trusting God to finish the work He has started.  It is easy to get frustrated in training. It is easy to doubt, complain and to lose hope.  But God is greater than any circumstance, no matter how difficult.  We simply have to trust the Lord and follow Him despite the emotion and trial.  When we do, we not only honor God but also we honor those who have poured into us all our lives.  Help me, Lord to humbly allow You to do the work in me that You have planned and allow me to do it without a bad attitude or complaint.
 
God Bless You


 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Philippians 2 Part 1–Unity and A Like-Minded Church

Two of the greatest gifts Christians can give to God are the gifts of selflessness and unity.  Paul told the Philippians that nothing would bring Him more joy to have them be a church filled with selfless and unified folks.  He had the Philippians to look deep within themselves to find the selfless nature within.  In that, he called them to look to gain the same purpose.  Be of one mind. Act selflessly and consider others interests more important than their own. Sadly, none of those traits come naturally.  Paul knew that the church would need to look at Christ and his nature to discover the need to be selfless.
 
In our culture, it is the same. Like the church in Philippi, we are surrounded by a culture that screams individuality. It tells us to look out for old number 1. It breeds conflict and drives churches apart. That is why the call to unity is as critical today as it was in Paul’s day. The world would love to see the end of the church and its antiquated ways. The world hates to see selflessness. It loathes unity. Those things are boring and tend to bring folks together and make them stronger.  Both strength and unity allow the Church to grow and to give hope in an otherwise hopeless life.  Paul knew it then and we know now that the three great gifts from God are faith, hope, and love. If the church becomes selfless and unified, those gifts will flourish. If unity is absent, those gifts wither and die. We must, therefore, follow Paul’s lead and seek to live united and selfless lives.
 
God Bless You
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.