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.

II Thessalonians 1 –Perfect Vision and Perfect Plan

I have always told my kids to act as if Jesus was sitting right beside you…because He is.  It is crazy to think and act as if you are acting in secret. The Lord sees all things and knows all things.  That is why throughout the Paulian epistles, Paul reminds his readers to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel.  While living our lives, we can rest assured that God will repay evil and reward good.  He will not miss a thought or action and will seek to restore that which is taken.  As His chosen, God’s people must endure the trials and temptations set before them, but as they do, they do so with the assurance that all will be made right in the day of Christ Jesus.
 
In our lives, we too can rest confidently in God’s grace and provision.  There are times and things that seem insurmountable, but, no matter how hopeless, we can cling to the faith and hope we receive as gifts from Christ Jesus. Paul reminded us that three gifts from God remain–Faith, Hope, and Love. Because of the greatest gift, Love, we can hold on to the faith and hope we place in the Lord. We can also cling to the love we have and share with one another as His children. We are God’s and should always look to pray and serve one another–without hesitation, without agenda, and without any alterior motive.  We simply trust God, love others and follow Him closely. In that pursuit, God will lead, provide and prepare us to be like the Lord and to serve others. That is the hope of glory and the gift of our Lord.
 
God Bless You

 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters,[b] and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result, you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you because you believed our testimony to you.

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ

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 4 Part 1–Living Holy Lives

As Paul saw things, the chosen of the Lord should live lives that honored God. Paul reminded the Thessalonians that the salvation process was a process of sanctification. Simply put, sanctification is the transformation that happens as Christians trust God and follow his daily lead. The areas that Paul discussed included sexual impurity, attitudes toward others and their treatment, and the thoughts we have about life, love, and God.  Paul reinforced the idea that Christians should live quiet lives, not looking to satisfy sexual cravings, not hurting or stealing from others, and not seeking instant gratification or attention.
 
In our lives, we are to do the same. We need to live quiet lives that seek God and not our own whims and desires.  We need to treat others with respect, kindness, and selflessness.  We need to live a life that reviews our actions and deeds and continually lays them on the altar.  The sanctification process prepares Christians for eternity.  This world is not our home, and as we pass through, we need to exhaust the effort to be like Christ.  While it is not a performance-based faith, we have to allow God to change our hearts and lives to be like Him.  When we do, we will experience peace and purpose that will help us to complete the Amazing Journey and to follow God with confidence.
 
God Bless You

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact, you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.[b] The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

I Thessalonians 3–The Power of Standing Firm

Sometimes it feels like a waste of time and effort.  Paul and Silas were in Greece having escaped attack and persecution in Thessalonica. But, as time marched forward, Paul had the nagging feeling that his abandonment of the Thessalonians made their time in the region useless.  So, Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica to check on the group. Paul was pleasantly surprised to find out that the church had remained strong and was growing.  He had not labored in vain.  
 
It was a great reminder to Paul that while he ministered to those people, It was God that completed the work. The reminder is important on two fronts. First, we have to continue to trust the Lord to complete the work we start.  We do not save or disciple people. God does.  We are simply available and prepared to deliver God’s message and allow God’s spirit to do the ministry. We simply trust the Lord in ministry as we do in our personal walks–to prepare and provide what is needed to carry the day.  Second, we must remember that it is not about us. We are not the message, we are simply the messenger.  We cannot stress or grow prideful as we minister.  To do either takes the emphasis off of God and puts it back on us.  We simply obey and trust God to do the work. As we do, God will do amazing things just as He has always done.  
 
We march forward, stand firm in our faith and allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us to impact our families, community and the world for His sake!!!
 
God Bless You

So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.

Timothy’s Encouraging Report

But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

I Thessalonians 2 Part 1–The Heart of Ministry

Ministry can never be about one’s personal gain. People see right through that. Paul expressed to the Thessalonians that he and Silas ministered with pure hearts and right motives.  They worked to earn their own keep, they took on dramatic opposition and in the midst of that, they spread the Gospel, discipled believers, and spiritually raised the church.  They remained transparent, kind and nurturing in the midst of their own trials and testing.
 
Ministry is never easy. We are at war. Our enemy wants to destroy and neutralize our impact on the lives of others.  He will use personal gain, open opposition, trials, and temptation to confuse and minimize our impact.  As Christians, we have to fight on, but, in the midst of the battle, remain kind and Christ-focused as we minister to others. Rick Warren’s premise “it is not about you” is truth in your walk with God and your ministry to others. The more it becomes about you, the less effective you become. It is critical to lay all your concerns on the alter and continue to seek God’s direction and provision no matter what is before you. It is never easy and sometimes seems completely hopeless. But God does protect, provide and prepare us for what lies ahead. He did it for Paul and He will do it for us–if we will allow Him.   Help us Lord to trust you and minister in all circumstances you have set before us.
 
God Bless You

 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God, we dared to tell you His gospel in the face of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children[a] among you.

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.