Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 19 July 2018

Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 2 Thessalonians 2:3(NIV).

The most celebrated villain in history has already appeared and he’s here among us now.  He’s you.   He’s me.   He is antichrist.

It seems like a fantastic proposition, the stuff of apocalyptic fiction, yet Paul says it’s true.  Perhaps he will be a single person.   John mentioned many “antichrists” meaning false leaders, people who lead others to reject Christ because he (and they) are anti-Christ, against Jesus Christ.   Yet, in this verse, Paul mentions one man, the worst of the worst.   It won’t be Satan; it will be a human; verse 9 corroborates this.   Millenialists and tribulation believers look for the coming of this one man as the definitive marker that humanity has entered the end times.   They’re probably right.

Yet you and I are men of lawlessness.   You and I are against Christ.   You and I are still steeped in our sins and daily rebelling against God.   Hopefully we aren’t leading legions of gullible people away from Jesus, but when we lead lives of hypocrisy we lead one or a few.   When you think about it, that may be even worse.  I’m a hypocrite; so are you; so is Pope Francis, Franklin Graham, your aunt Myrtle, and everyone we know.

We’re sinful.  We commit lawless acts every day, things that try to tear us away from the redemption of Jesus.   As we get closer to the actual end times, things will get worse.   Things that society used to forbid will become acceptable.  Heinous events and unspeakable evils will become more and more common.   People will lead lives that directly contradict even the small things Jesus taught.   We will embrace petty evil and reject common good.  Come to think of it, maybe we’re in the end times after all.

Or maybe not.   Yet in those coming days, the worst of the worst of humanity will rise up and cause unheard of destruction.  Nuclear war, widespread murder, the most vile kinds of apostasy you can dream up:   whatever it will be it will be awful.  And the thoughts that give him birth are the ones that tempt and hurt each of us now.  We side with the man of lawlessness with every sin we undertake.   Our roles may not make us world leaders, but perhaps people are even more effective one on one, at a personal level.   If we’re anti-Christ, that can have deadly consequences.

The way out of that?   Cling to Jesus; cling to faith in Him.   Do whatever it takes to turn from temptations by growing closer to God.  Turn our everyday lawlessness to everyday righteousness by letting Him make that change in us.   And that’s a tougher road to follow.

For further reading:  Mark 13:5, Matthew 24:10-12, Daniel 7:25, Revelation 13:5-6, 2 Thessalonians 2:4, 9

Again, come Lord Jesus and quickly.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 18 July 2018

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. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NIV).

Scoffers and skeptics:   they were old news even in Paul’s time.

My Concordia says that the primary theme of 2 Thessalonians is the second coming of Jesus.   It was written to people who knew first-hand, may have even seen, the first coming of Jesus (including Him after He was resurrected).  They intimately knew about the miracle of Him.   Quite understandably, they thought He would be coming back in the near-term, in their lifetimes.   How shocked do you think they would be to learn that it has been over 2000 years since?

You couldn’t blame them if there were some people who scoffed at the notion that Jesus would return from death.   After all, nobody (but Him) ever said they would and had.  The claims Paul and the other disciples were making about Jesus’ coming return were fantastic and illogical (and that’s no small matter given the widespread Greek culture of revering logic and knowledge).  Jesus’ first century resurrection had rocked the religious, political, social and even economic world in ways nothing else had throughout all of history.  Yet the farther they, and we, get from Easter Sunday, the more our world seems to give credence to the scoffers who say it can never happen again.   Many of them say, in fact, the first time never happened.

It makes no sense.   When you’re dead, you’re dead.   It’s physically impossible.   You’re simply believing a fable.   Get a grip already.  A rotted, decomposed body can’t live again.   Fool.   Would you hear those words today (or do you)?   Admit it:  you would have heard them in the AD 30s and after as well.

News flash, scoffers:   the Bible hasn’t been disproved.   The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most thoroughly documented even in all of antiquity.   Science and faith are seemingly mutually exclusive, but while science routinely disproves itself, faith in Jesus (and the veracity of the Scriptures) are consistent.   They are supported by themselves and by faith in them.   What’s more, archaeology and proven history support more than deny the account of the life of Jesus.   His words were and are reliable.   Knowing that, is it unreliable to think they’re true about everything, including his return?   You know the answer.

Jesus came back once.   He promised to do so again.   His Word is reliable and honest.   When the scoffers come, let them say what they will.   It’s only hot air and it’s nothing new.   They were trying to discredit Paul 2000 years ago and their modus operandi hasn’t changed since.

For further reading:  Mark 13:27, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 2 Timothy 2:18, 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3

Come Lord Jesus quickly.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 17 July 2018

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. 2 Thessalonians 1:12 (NIV).

Someone close to me is currently being savagely attacked by the devil; I’ve written about this before.   It’s tough to watch, and while my family is praying for them, they’re rebuffing our efforts to reach out, to prayerfully support, to help as we can.   To be honest, we won’t stop, because you don’t stop fighting for the heart and soul of people you love.  The way to fight for them is to pray to Jesus, even when the recipient of your efforts rejects both Him and you.

Why do this?   So that the Lord Jesus may be glorified in them, and that they may be glorified in Him.

That’s a crazy thing about faith:   Jesus is glorified whether we do things or not.   He’s glorified because He’s God, not because of our prayers or actions.  I think it must be the thing that frustrates Satan and his duped followers most of all.   No matter what they do, no matter how hard they try, no matter that evil may win a day and it seems like good is on the run, Jesus still triumphs in every possible ending.   He still stands; He still reigns; He’s still Lord, still always as He has been.   Unharmed, unblemished, undaunted, undefeatable:  no matter what terrible things may happen, in the end, Jesus is still glorified.  When we praise Him, He reflects that glory through us.

That’s another crazy thing about faith:   no matter how bad we’ve gone, as long as we have breath, Jesus, in His glory, is still always calling to us.   “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling…calling o sinner come home.”   On our worst day when we feel most defeated and when we have done or said the most unspeakable things, Jesus is still there, His hand held out saying “take my hand and come back to peace.”   It’s so illogical, so crazy in its implications, so super-human.  You know:  glorious.

It must really piss off Satan.   Too bad.

When you care for someone, you don’t give up.   You don’t let evil triumph in their life while you still have a way to help.   A friend of mine wisely said, “there are some people you can help and some you can only pray for.”   That’s where we are with this person we know:   we can only pray for them because they’ve shut down and won’t engage back in living.   So we keep praying, and keep encouraging, and keep looking for openings where God clears paths to help in other ways.   No matter what we do, Jesus is glorified.   That makes it worthwhile.

For further reading:  Isaiah 24:15, Philippians 2:9-11, 2 Thessalonians 2:1.

Lord, help everyone who so desperately needs Your love, peace, and encouragement.   Help us to do reflect Your glory to others.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 12 July 2018

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. 2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NIV).

Confession time (again):   yesterday I ended by saying “don’t be a jerk.”  Don’t be a jerk about how you talk about Jesus.  Walk the walk and talk the talk harmoniously.  So here’s the confession:   I’ve been a jerk about it.   Online, in person, in any modality I have been a jerk.  I haven’t been worthy of His calling to talk with you (and others) about Jesus.   My witness has been words and actions and, to be honest, my witness has been discredited by other words and actions.   Got skin, got sin, and, like Paul, I’m the worst of sinners.

Confession (again, again):  every day, Jesus says “keep moving forward.”  On my own, apart from Jesus, I can’t do or say anything about Him that’s meaningful.   It’s His Spirit that places the good words in my mouth and moves me to work for Him with my hands.   Where I am weak, Jesus steps in and injects His Spirit to strengthen me.   Where I don’t know what to do or say, when I submit to Him, Jesus does those things.   My sinful nature becomes His glorious appeal.   It’s not me:   it’s Jesus making me into who He wants me to be.   It’s not a cop-out for:   it’s how things really work.

That’s what Paul is saying in this verse.   God makes us worthy of His calling.   On our own, by our own motivations, we aren’t worthy of it.   We aren’t worthy to even speak His name because we’ve chosen to sin against Him.   On our own, our desires are only desires, and we are ruled by them, which is how the evil one keeps sneaking in and turning our focus.

Enter Jesus.   Enter God into our lives and He makes all the difference.   With Jesus in residence in your heart, the evil one is powerless.   With Jesus inspiring my thoughts, my thoughts are inspired to become His words, to help and to encourage.   With Him in our hearts, we can see when we’ve said and done wrong and turn from it, then try to make amends; to change.   When He controls peoples’ actions, we don’t have to obsess about the things we’ve done wrong.   You and I can focus, instead, on the great things He can do through us now.

I mess it up.   I do that quite regularly; no excuses.  To paraphrase Paul from Romans, the stupid things I don’t want to do, these I keep on doing.   Yet I’m still who Jesus wants to work with to make me worthy of what He wants me to do, then equip me to do it.

For further reading:  John 15:5, Romans 1:10, Romans 7:19, 2 Thessalonians 1:12.

Lord, mold and make me today to do Your will.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 11 July 2018

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 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10 (NIV).

When I was a kid, I spent most of my middle school years in southeast Oklahoma.  During lunch hours, I sat with kids who talked about their churches (really, they did).   It was the late 1970s, and they talked a lot about the end times, about the days and things that will happen when Jesus returns.   I had attended church all my life, the churches I had attended were mainstream northern protestant (Lutheran or Presbyterian), not charismatic evangelicals such as Baptist, Assemblies of God, or Pentecostal.  I had never learned about any of this, and what they said scared the crap out of me, making me question whether I was good enough for Jesus.

I felt angry, upset at how they treated this end-times news as if it was some special information only they knew about.   These teenagers tossed it around as if it was something cool, something given just to them, and when I started asking questions they responded with, “DON’T YOU KNOW THIS?”   I didn’t.   That was the point when I gave up.

News flash:   on our own, you and I AREN’T good enough for Jesus.   We choose other things and separate ourselves from Him.   But it isn’t up to us to do things to become “good enough” for Him.  We can’t.   He’s already done everything necessary to repair our relationship.  At the cross, He replaced our sin with His blood and our uncleanness with His purity.   When His Father sees us, all He sees is Jesus covering one of His beloved children.

Here’s a second news flash:   this is for everyone.   It isn’t just for Christians or evangelicals.  It isn’t just for people who look or think like you, and it isn’t just for the people you like.   It isn’t just for black people or white people, and it isn’t just for Americans or Ugandans or underground believers who defy Communist China.  Jesus is coming back and He’s coming back with holy fire to make all things new, and He wants everyone to know so they can believe in Him first.   It isn’t a secret, and we aren’t to act as if you need a secret handshake to know it.  We aren’t better than anyone just because we know it even if we may be better informed.   Get with the program but don’t be a jerk about it.

For further reading: Philippians 3:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:3, 2 Peter 3:7, 2 Kings 17:18, Isaiah 2:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:9.

Lord, help Me to witness for You today to everyone.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 10 July 2018

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 2 Thessalonians 1:8 (NIV).

Sad verse; this is a very sad verse.

I read all the “Left Behind” books.  They’re fiction, yet in the scene where Jesus delivers His divine judgment against those who rejected Him, He is described as looking sad.   For those who choose to not believe in Him, it will be a moment of supreme terror and it will show; for believers, it will be shock, and that’ll show as well.  Yet for Jesus, I’m betting the book will have called it right.   I’m betting Jesus will be sad in that moment, maybe even weeping.

Jesus didn’t come to destroy us.   He won’t return with the sole purpose of doing that either.  Even though He will return in mighty justice, heavenly fire, and more power than the world has ever known, that’s not why He’s coming back.   He’s coming back to restore creation to the way He created it.  He’s coming back to permanently restore true love, real harmony, and peace forever.   Jesus is coming back in power and glory to claim His followers to bring them into eternity with Him and it will be the greatest day in history, especially since it will be the last one.

Yet involved in that will be expunging those who chose no part of it.  Those who insisted they know better, those who spurned Him, those who embraced hypocrisy, those who live in hate and worldly pleasure, those who simply don’t care:  they will be punished.   He will unleash His angels to bind and eternally sentence them to be apart from Him.   Oh, they’ll live forever; we are eternal beings whether eternally in heaven or hell.   Yet their forever will be one of eternal punishment, apart from all love, hope, and peace in whatever hell has in store for them.   Whether hell is literal fire or emotional torment (or both) we don’t know.   Whatever is in it, it will be terrible.

I feel sorry for these unbelievers, especially since the Gospel isn’t a game of “I’ve got a secret.”   It’s sad, and I’m thinking that’s how Jesus will feel.   It’s not what He wants; it isn’t what He intended for His children.   He wants brothers and sisters, friends, followers, lovers of His real love.  He wants all of us to be saved, including scoffers.   He wants saints and sinners side by side with Him forever.  But He’s holy and the new Earth refined out of His fire will be holy like Him.  For that holiness to exist, it must be free from all that reject Him.   That means God will punish those who reject Him and who choose to reject the Gospel of Jesus.   And that’s the saddest news ever even as it’s necessary.

For further reading: Philippians 3:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:3, 2 Peter 3:7, 2 Kings 17:18, Isaiah 2:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:9.

Lord Jesus, come quickly and have mercy.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 9 July 2018

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. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 (NIV).

God is good.   He helped me achieve a life goal, and it’s gonna be roasted to a crisp.

I’m working in New England this week and had a few free hours after my flight landed.   So yesterday I traveled to Vermont.   That meant I have now been in all 50 states of these United States.  Again, that may not seem like much, but this is a big country.   What’s more, except for Nevada and North Dakota, I’ve been to 48 of those 50 since I left home at age 18, over half of them repeatedly.   Vermont was the last state I needed to visit to join an elite club of people who spend way too much time on the road.

Vermont is a beautiful place.   Hilly, green, lush, friendly.  I only visited a few miles of it.   I checked in on Facebook, posted some pictures, had a great chat with a Navy veteran at a tourist center, and then bugged out.   But the drive up and back was gorgeous.   Literally it was one of the most pleasant rides I’ve ever had.

One day it’ll all be burned up in blazing fire from heaven.

That kind veteran I met:   really nice guy.   Vietnam Veteran; a veteran of the Gulf of Tonkin crisis in fact.   He’s been around, and I told him my story and that he was the first person I’d met in Vermont.   We got along well, as vets do.  Yet I hope he believes in Jesus because, if he doesn’t, one day he’ll know more trouble than he’s ever thought possible.

Paul reminds us that God is just.   He is perfect and His justice is perfect.   It is exactly what every situation needs.   God made this earth (and we who inhabit it) to be in perfect communion with Him so that we can share the blessings of Him.   Yet we frustrated His just and good creation with our free choice of sin.  Our just God respects our choices because that’s what love does yet He has promised to return and make all things new.   That will involve worldwide justice.   And terror for those who thwart Him.   And smiles and love and reunions.   And it will involve fire.

Even in beautiful Vermont.   It’ll be a shame to think of such a wonderful place being scorched to a crisp.   Yet God already has something even more beautiful in store.   Knowing that, bring on the fire.

For further reading: Luke 18:7-8, Romans 12:19, Colossians 3:25, Revelation 6:10, Hebrews 10:27, 2 Peter 3:7, Jude 14, 2 Thessalonians 1:8.

Lord, thank You for helping with my goal.   And thank You for Your coming justice!