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1Thessalonians bible notes

Daily Bible thoughts 963: Tuesday 8th September 2015: 1 Thessalonians 5: Living in the future tense (Part 2).

1 Thessalonians 5: Living in the future tense (Part 2).(please click here for todays passage)

The film, ‘Marvellous’, captures something of the wonderful story of Neil ‘Nello’ Baldwin, who became kit man at Stoke City in the era when Lou Macari was manager. It’s a drama which truly deserves the epithet ‘heart-warming’. On reading (16) I thought about Neil and a comment his character makes in the film: ‘’I wanted to be ‘appy so I decided I would be!’’

We’re continuing to look at some of Paul’s practical injunctions set in the context of living in the light of Christ’s return. Here are some further points:

Live joyfully (16): Joy is a choice. Neil Baldwin was right. You can’t always choose your circumstances but you can select your attitudes. Living joyfully is very much about being a thankful person (18) – someone who counts their blessings rather than continually obsesses over their burdens. It is also about living to serve others (see 15). If you live for others you will almost certainly run into joy as a by-product. ‘’Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part…Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.’’ (13b-15) The Message. Good, healthy relationships are a key to joy-filled living.

Live prayerfully (17): This is not about always saying prayers, but living in a spirit of prayer. We need to be prayed for (25), and we need to pray for others (23-25). ‘’Friends, keep up your prayers for us.’’ The Message.

Live thankfully (18): As I have already begun to intimate, I see these three exhortations as being interlinked. A prayerful person who is learning to give thanks ‘’in all circumstances’’ will also be coming to understand the secret of joy. In fact, it is no secret. This is out in the open. There is a further dimension to this life of joy and it comes next:

Live with openness to the Holy Spirit (19-22): But do this with discerning wisdom. ‘’Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible.’’ The Message.

To be able to live out the wonderfully practical instructions in this closing section of 1 Thessalonians, we will need the ‘’grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’’ (28). It is ours in abundance.

Prayer: Thank you Lord that you make possible what you insist on.

Daily Bible thoughts 962: Monday 7th September 2015: 1 Thessalonians 5: Living in the future tense.

1 Thessalonians 5: Living in the future tense.(please click here for todays notes)

Today and tomorrow we will look at some down to earth, practical implications of believing in the second coming of Christ. Many get carried away with speculation. By and large I believe they are missing the point. Belief in the Second Advent should affect our ordinary everyday lives right now. Here are some points to consider:

Be alert (4-9; Luke 9:32): We are to stay spiritually awake. William James said, ‘’Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake.’’ (Think about Jesus’ teaching in the gospels about faithfully carrying on with the work we’ve been given to do. For example see Matthew 24:32-44).

Be people of faith, love and hope (see 1:3): As we saw previously, these are the ‘credentials’ of genuine Christian experience. Keep trusting in Jesus; keep on loving God and others and holding on to the revealed truth about your glorious future prepared by the Lord.

Be good congregational members (12, 13a): As far as it depends on you, make it as easy as you can for your leaders to do their often difficult work. Be a fellowship of encouragement, warning, caring, patience, forgiveness and goodness. There is such a lot encapsulated in a few short lines (14, 15). Each statement in this ‘rapid fire’ series of final exhortations is (and I know I am mixing my metaphors) like a sweet to be sucked and savoured. Every word matters.

Live in harmony with one another (13b): You probably have little idea just how much this will bless your leaders. It’s one way you can help them. I once read an article in ‘Time’ magazine about President Ronald Reagan. It said that he was such an affable guy, he hated it when there was in-fighting and squabbling among his staff. At the time that very much resonated with me because I was aware of the pain of having one or two people in my congregation who struggled to get on with each other – at least some of the time. Church leaders hurt when those they serve hurt each other. Remember this, and aim to live in peace. But do it not primarily for the sake of your leaders, but because God Himself calls you to such a life, and makes it possible.

Prayer: Lord God may my everyday life exhibit the truth that I belong to another Kingdom and that I am awaiting the coming of that Kingdom in all its fullness.

Daily Bible thoughts 961: Friday 4th September 2015: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11: On tiptoe of expectancy.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11: On tiptoe of expectancy.(please click here for todays notes)

I heard a preacher tell a story about how he and his wife had been burgled, sadly not for the first time I think. He said, ‘Wouldn’t it have been nice if those thieves had popped round the day before, saying that they’d be calling the next day, and giving some idea of their time of arrival? We’d have been there to welcome them. We’d have had the kettle on…!’ Point taken. Burglars don’t operate in such a convenient manner.

I remember a quiet Wednesday afternoon some years ago. I had only been out of the house for a short time, collecting my daughter from her primary school. On returning home, I discovered that we had been visited by some criminals (or a criminal). Up until then it had been a peaceful day off! Now our quiet day was dramatically disturbed. It was totally unexpected. We were not ready for our uninvited ‘visitors’.

Paul says that the ‘’day of the Lord’’ will come unexpectedly ‘’like a thief in the night’’ (2) as far as unbelievers are concerned. It will take them by surprise. It will be a day of judgment (9).

But this will not be the case for believers. We belong to ‘’the day’’ and to ‘’the light’’ (5). We have the revelation of God’s Word. ‘’We do not belong to the night or to the darkness’’ (5b). So then we should be different to the rest of the people in the world. We’re in the know. We are aware of what is going to happen – at least to some degree (Luke 21:25-28).

The world will be caught by surprise, but believers should be on the tiptoe of expectancy.

(By the way, note that verses 10, 11 sum up 4:13-18).

If we believe that Jesus is going to come back to this world, this conviction will have some extremely practical implications for our lives now. Paul spells some of them out in 1 Thessalonians 5, and we will go on to consider them in the next couple of studies.

Prayer: Lord, help me to live as a ‘son of the day’ and make the most of the light you have given me

Daily Bible thoughts 954: Wednesday 26th August 2015: 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18: When ignorance is not bliss.

 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18: When ignorance is not bliss.(please click here for todays passage)

In ancient times, when a dignitary went to visit a city, it was a common custom for the populace to go out to meet him on route, and escort him on the rest of his way. This would seem to be the picture Paul draws on in today’s reading. The visit was known as a ‘’Parousia’’ and this is a word Paul frequently uses for the second coming of Christ.

In what ways do these verses ‘’comfort’’ or ‘’encourage’’ (18)?

  • They bring knowledge (13). What we know can significantly affect our emotions. This passage is about certainty: ‘’According to the Lord’s own word…’’ (15). We are building on Rock when we construct our lives on Christ’s Word (Matthew 7:24-27). If we know the truth it will set us free.
  • They remind us that Jesus both died and rose again, and that our future hope is based on this concrete fact (14; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23; Colossians 1:18). We can expect to rise again if we are ‘’in’’ This truth is our anchor.
  • There is the inference (14b) that believers who have died are with Jesus, even though their bodies are yet to rise from the grave (Philippians 1:21, 23).
  • They assure us that there will be a physical resurrection for fellow-believers who have died (16).
  • They tell us that both they, and Christians still alive at the time of Christ’s coming, will share the same destiny, which is to ‘’be with the Lord forever.’’ (17b).
  • They speak of a reunion. Although for a time we will be parted by death, one day we will be ‘’together’’ (17) again. The word translated ‘’caught up’’ is a particularly strong one meaning ‘to seize hastily’, ‘to rob with violence’, to draw to oneself by swift, sudden movement (see Acts 23:10 where the same Greek word is used.) A magnet will attract something if it is the right material. There can be no doubting the sheer magnetism of Jesus, and His power to draw to Himself, at His coming, all those who are His.

Reading between the lines, some of the Christians in Thessalonica had already died since Paul and his colleagues left town. The church had somehow got a message to Paul (perhaps they had written to him?) and they wanted to know if those believers who had passed away would suffer any disadvantage over others still alive at the time of the second coming. As someone said, Paul’s reply was, ‘Not at all. Jesus will come down from heaven. There’ll be enough noise to wake the dead!! They will get the front seats, and the rest of us will fill up the rows behind.’ All of these truths taken together mean that we don’t have to ‘’grieve like the rest of men who have no hope’’ (13b). Yes there will be tears and the pain of parting, but we have a bright light shining in our ‘valley of the shadow’ (Isaiah 9:2).

Although we do not have the answer to every question, we do know that one day Jesus will return to planet earth, and it will be the destiny of all true believers to be with Him (and each other) for always. Can you look forward to this? Is your trust in Jesus?

Prayer: Thank you Lord for unveiling enough of the glorious future you are preparing to whet our appetites.

Daily Bible thoughts 953: Tuesday 25th August 2015: 1 Thessalonians 3: 1-11: Tell me why.

1 Thessalonians 4: 1-11: Tell me why.(please cliché here for todays passage)

The Bible doesn’t just tell us what to do, but it also supplies reasons for doing it. Yesterday we saw how, in this section, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about holiness, or sanctification: living to please God. If you read carefully through the passage you will see that he supplies a number of motives for his exhortations to good and godly behaviour. He not only tells us what; he also explains why. Here are reasons for his teaching on holiness:

  • God has called us to such a life (7); it is His will for us (3). He is our Lord and He is to be obeyed (8). We don’t get to write our own scripts; we follow the Lord’s. We are a people under authority; under orders;
  • Reinforcement of previous teaching given by the authority of Jesus (1,2. 9);
  • We are no longer what we were (5). We’ve been called out of the world of paganism and heathenism. Each believer is a ‘’new creation’’ in Christ: ‘’the old has gone; the new has come’’ (2 Corinthians 5:17);
  • We do know God and His ways (5). We are not like others. We have enormous privileges, and a huge responsibility to go with them. There are no excuses for living like unconverted people;
  • God will punish sin (6);
  • Have regard for the family of God (6a). Sin is primarily vertical in direction in that it is an offence against God. But it has horizontal Sin hurts God, but it also has negative effects on people. This is particularly seen in the teaching about marital fidelity. If you have an affair with a fellow Christian you are damaging her husband; you are doing wrong against your brother, and that should not be;
  • To win the respect of outsiders (12);
  • For financial independence.

The last two points above particularly relate to a Christian’s every day work life. A disciple, who is a representative of Christ in the world, should not be a layabout or a sponger, but an excellent worker, quietly influencing the world day by day. If we earn our keep, not only can we look after ourselves, but we will also be in a position to share with others who are in real need (Ephesians 4:28). For Paul, those who would not work did not fall into the category of the truly needy. They were not to be assisted.

Be encouraged that God never calls without also equipping. So everything Paul wrote to the Thessalonians was possible for them (and is possible for us) because of the presence of the Holy Spirit within (8b; see also Ephesians 1:13; Romans 8:9b; Galatians 5:16).

Furthermore, Paul had already prayed about these matters (3:12, 13) and, reading between the lines, was a fervent pray-er for this church.

Let’s encourage one another in a life of growing Christ-likeness, and pray for God’s help. We have every reason to live differently, and we are not alone.

Daily Bible thoughts 952: Monday 24th August 2015: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12: The world’s largest room.

 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12: The world’s largest room.(please click here for todays passage)

In this passage Paul outlines certain aims and aspects of Christian living. In today’s thought we will consider what these are. Tomorrow we will look at why we should live in such a way.

In essence, Paul’s call is that believers should live in a way that pleases God (1) and make progress in such a life. There is no time to stand still. There is a repeated emphasis in these verses not only on upright behaviour, but also on advance and progress in the things of God (1b, 10). Where the Thessalonians were doing well, the apostle asked for ‘’more and more’’ of the same. Someone said, ‘’I’m in the biggest room in the world – the room for improvement.’’

So Paul is writing to the Thessalonians about the life of sanctification; of holiness (3a, 7). This is the kind of living that pleases God. It is instructive to note that there was nothing new about this teaching (1, 2). They were, in fact, being reminded of what they already knew. One important facet of the church’s teaching ministry is to repeatedly go over material that people know, but may not be fully living. It’s in their heads, but not yet in their feet! The expression in (4) ‘’that each of you should learn’’ shows, for example, that growth in purity is not automatic; it takes time. (The new Christians in Thessalonica had come from a ‘’heathen’’ background, and it would probably be a lengthy process for many of them to divest themselves of attitudes and practices that were natural to them in heathenism.)

Paul, in this section, writes about three particular areas for growth in sanctification. There is nothing exhaustive about his treatment of the subject, but probably these three things were particularly relevant to the Thessalonians. They remain of great importance to today’s church:

  • Sexual purity/self-control (3, 4);
  • Love (9, 10);
  • Daily work (see also 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12; Ephesians 4:28). It would appear that some of the Thessalonian Christians had, deliberately or otherwise, mistaken Paul’s teaching about the second coming of Jesus. They were sitting twiddling their thumbs in the departure lounge at the airport, cases packed, waiting for their flight to be called! What’s the point of working if Jesus is coming back soon? Paul gives good reasons, as we will see tomorrow.

If you content yourself with standing still in the Christian life, you won’t tread water for long. You will soon start to go backwards. Warren Wiersbe says that ‘’more and more’’ should be the desire of the dedicated Christian.

Prayer: Lord, I am aware of the temptation to stay close to the shore; to just paddle in the shallows. But deep within me I long to go deeper into your unfathomable depths. Please hear the cry of my heart for growth, progress and development. I don’t want to stay as I am.

Daily Bible thoughts 944: Thursday 13th August 2015: 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13: According to your faith.

 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13: According to your faith.(please click here for todays passage)

Ronald Dunn, in his excellent book, ‘’Don’t just stand there, pray something!’’ tells a story about a certain group of Sunday School children who were praying for a missionary. In one letter they wrote to him something along these lines: ‘’Dear Mister Smith, we are praying for you. We are not expecting an answer!!’’

It is interesting to see how many times Paul prayed for the Christians under his care, and how frequently he asked for their prayers for him and his ministry. It is clear that he was convinced about the efficacy of prayer. He believed that certain things would happen if believers prayed that would not take place if they didn’t. He was expecting answers.

So, for example, he prayed that the roadblock preventing his return to Thessalonica (2:18) would be removed (3:10, 11), and he and his colleagues evidently poured a lot of time and energy into this praying. They were ‘’most earnestly’’ looking for divine intervention.

But also, and this is typical of Paul, he prayed for spiritual growth (12, 13). His letters are sprinkled with such prayers. He believed that love would ‘’increase’’, that hearts would be ‘strengthened’ and that holiness would be cultivated as a result of prayer. There seems to be an implication in these two verses that growth in holiness is essentially about growth in love. ‘’And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you.’’ The Message.

The more we love God and the more we love people the more we will experience the essence of holiness. As Augustine reputedly said: ‘’Love God, and do as you like.’’ This brings us back to the great command enunciated by Jesus (e.g. Mark 29-31). When you boil it all down it’s about loving God and loving people. That is the essence of holiness, and it is something to be prayed for regarding ourselves and others.

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to grow in love. Please pour on the love so that it splashes and overflows and touches many people.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 943: Wednesday 12th August 2015: 1 Thessalonians 3: ‘There may be trouble ahead…’

1 Thessalonians 3: ‘There may be trouble ahead…’(click here for todays passage)

Recently, my wife and I spent a restful few days at Idbury in the Cotswolds. One morning, I was looking out of the window, watching the birds playing ‘chase’, and I had a sudden thought that if a budgie were to be released into the wild, these seemingly gentle birds would probably reject and kill it. I believe it is a fact that birds will often turn on other birds of a different plumage.

One preacher said that when a person becomes a Christian they make at least two discoveries. The first one is good; the second not so good. First of all, they find they’ve got a whole lot of new friends, and that’s great. But they also come to realise that they now have a number of new enemies, and that, of course, is less welcome. A new convert asked his pastor, ‘Now that I am a Christian, how much of the world must I give up?’ ‘Don’t worry,’ his minister replied. ‘The world will give you up!’

Paul taught the Thessalonians the inevitability of suffering for Christ in some form (3, 4; John 16:33; 2 Tim.3:12). The spirit that crucified Jesus is still abroad in this world, and it is pervasive, and while we live in the world we can expect trouble. It is extremely important that new Christians should be thoroughly prepared for this in the discipling process, so that no-one is taken by surprise or feels mis-led. There is no ‘easy-believism’ in the New Testament. ‘’We did not want any of you to lose heart at the troubles you were going through, but to realise that we Christians must expect such things.’’ J.B. Phillips (3) Suffering in some way is the common experience of the majority of Christians across the world. Satan, like the savage beast he is, seeks to ‘’devour’’ believers through persecution (1 Peter 5:8, 9).There is the very real danger that some may fall away through fear or discouragement etc. This was Paul’s concern for the Thessalonians, and why he sent Timothy to them (5). He was fearful that they might have been ‘savaged’ in the early stages of their Christian experience. ‘’You will understand that, when the suspense became unbearable I sent someone to find out how your faith was standing the strain, and to make sure that the tempter’s activities had not destroyed our work.’’ J.B. Phillips.

Because it’s ‘a jungle’ out there, it is essential that new believers should have a family around them who will stick close to them. That’s what Paul, Silas and Timothy did with the new Christians in Thessalonica for as long as they could (Chapter 2). But when they could not be there in person, God’s keeping power was nonetheless in evidence. Thank God, we can trust His ‘amazing grace.’

Prayer: Lord, help me to be willing to be hit by any of the ‘missiles’ this fallen world hurls at you.

Daily Bible thoughts 942: Tuesday 11th August 2015: 1 Thessalonians 3: ‘Love Does.’

 1 Thessalonians 3: ‘Love Does.’(please click here for todays passage)

It is instructive to consider how Paul showed his love and concern for the new Christians in Thessalonica:

  • He sacrificed Timothy to go and see about their welfare (1, 2). He went without his friend’s companionship and assistance so that they could have his help. Paul and Silas and Timothy were a close knit team, and it must have been hard to let Timothy go. (In fact, reading the account in Acts 17, it seems that Paul may have been alone in Athens for a time, in which case the sacrifice was probably even greater.) But ‘love does’! Loving involves giving and putting others first. Real love is Christ-like in its quality and one measure of love is, ‘What am I prepared to give up for the sake of another?’ (By the way, there’s a saying that ‘’Two’s company; three’s a crowd.’’ Many of us will understand, from experience, how this can be so. But the grace of God can overcome all natural obstacles, and these three men were able to work together for the cause of the Kingdom of God.)
  • He used words that conveyed how precious they were to him. He wasn’t afraid to let his feelings show. He told them what they meant to him; how much he wanted to be with them and how he prayed that it might be so. He poured this love into ink and letter format. Who should you drop a line to soon, to thank them, let them you’re thinking about them, and that you’re praying for them etc.? Still today, in this digital age, (and perhaps more so because of it), people love to receive hand-written letters. Many will be kept, and even discovered by family and friends after the recipient has died. Letter-writing can be a wonderful ministry in itself.
  • He spelled out the difficult implications of what it means to be a Christian; he warned them about the uncomfortable ramifications of discipleship, just like Jesus did (3, 4). (We will return to this theme in tomorrow’s notes.) But Paul and his team showed ‘tough love’. ‘’Not that the troubles should come as any surprise to you. You’ve always known that we’re in for this kind of thing. It’s part of our calling. When we were with you, we made it quite clear that there was trouble ahead. And now that it’s happened, you know what it’s like.’’ The Message.
  • He prayed. He prayed for their growth in love and holiness (12, 13). He prayed for the way back to Thessalonica to become unblocked so that he could see them again and serve them again (10, 11). He prayed ‘’earnestly’’…’’Night and day…’’ (Again, we will think a little more about the content of Paul’s prayer in Thursday’s notes.)

Still today Christian leaders can apply these timeless lessons from Paul, Silas and Timothy. We are to both show and tell God’s people how much we love them; serving them, sacrificing for them, praying for them, and being totally honest about all the implications of following Jesus.

‘’In the middle of our trouble and hard times here, just knowing how you’re doing keeps us going. Knowing that your faith is alive keeps us alive.’’

This wonderful intertwining of hearts lies at the very core of pastoral ministry. May it be in evidence in every local church!

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