Super Strong

Isaiah 37:3
“Thus says Hezekiah: ‘This day is a day of trouble and rebuke and blasphemy; for the children have come to birth, but there is no strength to bring them forth.'”

As this chapter unfolds, Judah is a on the brink of destruction. The Assyrian army, who had conquered all of Judah’s enemies, was encamped against the city of Jerusalem. The small army of Judah was no match for the Assyrian forces. It looked as though the nation would fall and the people become prisoners of war. In the midst of this, Hezekiah saw what seems to be a universal struggle. The people who had made an initial decision to follow the Lord seemed to lack the power to walk it out. They had experienced the power of conversion, but were now facing obstacles bigger than their faith. Hezekiah poetically declares,

“The children have come to birth, but there is no strength to bring them forth.”

I think many of us feel the same way. We know Jesus, we love Jesus, we want to please Jesus, but we lack the strength to overcome the things in our life that we know are not pleasing to Jesus. The question is, what can we do about it? Are we left to forever struggle and fail with the weaknesses of the human flesh?

After Hezekiah states the problem, Isaiah declares the solution;

Isaiah 37:7
“Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.”

According to Isaiah, the solution to the problem the people were facing was a work of the Spirit of The Lord. This work would be supernatural in nature and would help the people overcome the obstacle they were facing. As the chapter unfolds, we find the Assyrians are defeated by a work of God. As much as this work was supernatural in nature, there was also a human element. Isaiah put it this way;

Isaiah 37:21
“Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘BECAUSE you have prayed to Me…”

In other words, the way in which the Spirit of God was unleashed to aid struggling Judah was through the practice of prayer. When we are facing difficulties we do not seem to be able to overcome, we can be comforted to know that the Spirit of God is strong enough to overcome anything. If we will be persistent in prayer, we will find the strength to overcome.

Let’s take some time right now to pray for God’s help against the obstacles we are facing in our walk with Christ. No matter how big it may seem or how many times we have been tripped up, the Lord is able to provide the strength to bring His children forth to maturity.

Pastor Jim

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A Pattern

2 Thessalonians 3:9 “. . . not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.”

I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but when I was in the eighth grade all students were required to take a semester of Home Economics. The 18 week course was divided between cooking and sewing. In the sewing section, we learned the basics of operating a sewing machine, and were required to make a pillow as a final project. Most of the students went to the local fabric stores and purchased a pillow pattern. I may have had a slight advantage, my mom was a seamstress and actually taught textiles and design for fashion students at the university level. When I arrived home with my assignment, instead of purchasing a standard pillow pattern, she created a pattern in the shape of a surfboard. Needless to say, at the end of the term when I turned in a polka dot surfboard pillow, fin and all, I received the highest marks.

“. . . but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.”

Paul desired that the Thessalonians receive the highest marks on the day they stand before the judgment seat of Christ. In order to ensure their success, he made himself an example. Their walk with the Lord was clearly patterned for them by looking at the way Paul lived. In this chapter alone he sets the example as a man of prayer, as he prayed earnestly for them. He ws a man of the Word, not simply one who read and memorized it, but as one who was determined that it be shared with others. I love the phrase he uses in 2 Thessalonians 3:1 as he asks them to pray that “the Word of the Lord may run swiftly.” It was his desire that all hear the Gospel, and all came to faith in Christ. He was also of a man of faith. He speaks of wicked men who are opposing them and yet he is confident in the faithfulness of the Lord.

Finally, this chapter is filled with exhortations to work hard. That famous statement, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” is found here. Paul exemplified what it meant to work hard and not to be a burden to others. My father-in-law and I were discussing basic economics when he reminded me, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone is paying for it. Paul wanted the Thessalonians to understand as they worked diligently as unto the Lord, they would in turn be an example for others of what it means to follow Christ.

There are a lot of examples out there, but not all of them are worth following. If you want to succeed in following Christ, determine to follow the example Paul set, then go one step beyond to making yourself a pattern that others may follow.

Pastor Jim

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Don’t Be Shaken

2 Thessalonians 2:1 “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.”

One of the primary themes of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian church is the return of Jesus Christ. Paul lived with the expectation that Christ would return in his lifetime, and urged others to always be on guard. He had warned in his first letter that, “the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Looking around at the condition of the world they lived in, through the lens of Biblical prophecy, had caused some of them to be alarmed and even gripped with fear. Paul mentions how they were shaken in mind and troubled. The term ‘shaken’ would describe a ship being tossed to and fro by the raging seas. The word ‘troubled’ carries the idea of crying out for help. Paul had written to a group of Christians facing turbulent times, with the purpose in mind of encouraging them with the “blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Yet the message designed to give them hope, had actually robbed them of peace, filled them with fear, and was causing them to cry out in despair.

In my experience, this response is all too common. We look around at the present world conditions, and realize the sun is setting, and the day of the Lord is approaching. Because we do not fully understand what that entails, we are often gripped with fear, instead of being filled with expectancy, joy and a new vigor to share Christ with friends and family. The Thessalonians were shaken and troubled because they misunderstood the Bible’s teaching regarding the return of Christ. Some thought it had happened and they had missed out. In an age without satellite TV, Google or cell phones, news did not travel in real-time; rumors of what had taken place in a distant land could take weeks to verify. Paul wrote to assure them the return of Christ is imminent, but still ahead.

“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him…”

“The coming” is a translation of the Greek word “parousia.” This word was used to describe the visit of a king or dignitary to a city, in order the show his magnificence to the people. Paul is stating, King Jesus is coming back in all His glory to set up His kingdom and rule in righteousness. He assures them that before this event can happen, another ruler must appear on the scene. This ruler is called “the Man of Sin”, who will exalt himself as God. The Bible uses many different terms to describe this individual; the most well-known is the term Antichrist. Paul explains, before Christ comes back as King, the Antichrist will be revealed. If this verse stood alone, we might conclude that we should not be looking for the return of Jesus, but for the reign of this Man of Sin. Our eyes would be taken off Christ and His Word, and we would be searching the news feeds for information on world leaders. But this verse does not stand alone. Paul adds,

2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”

Notice the words “And then the lawless one…” it is after the restraining force in the world is removed, that the Antichrist is revealed. It is after this event that Christ will return from heaven, with a shout and set up His earthly reign. It is believed by many, that the restraining force Paul refers to, is the church. Paul is reminding us the next event we should be looking forward to is the sudden and instant removal of the church from earth, and into the presence of the Lord. He described this event to the Corinthians as something that would happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Rather than being filled with fear, we should be living in expectancy; looking forward to the trumpet sound when Christ will call His church home to heaven.

Pastor Jim

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Answers

2 Thessalonians 1:1 “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”

The Thessalonian Christians were going through great difficulties. Paul speaks of the tribulations and persecutions they were forced to endure. He also refers to sufferings, and their ultimate rest from these things will not happen until they are in the presence of the Lord. They are not alone in the these difficulties. Paul wrote to Timothy, explaining, “All who desire to live godly in Christ will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus explained, in this world we would face tribulation, but He was greater than the world (John 16:33). It is the lot of all Christians to experience difficulties that try the genuineness of our faith. What strikes me, is not that they were facing trials, but that they received answers from the Lord. This entire letter is God speaking to the Thessalonians regarding the difficulties they are forced to endure.

“To the church of the Thessalonians…”

We are often faced with trials that test our faith and cause us to cry out for answers. One of the most common questions we ask is simply, “Why?” Why am I experiencing this difficulty. Why, if God is loving and powerful, am I forced to endure such struggles? There are certain questions we will not find an adequate answer for until heaven. There are times when the only way to hear from God is to follow the example of Habakkuk, and get alone with Him and His word (Habakkuk 2:1). There are also times when the answer comes in corporate worship. Since their experience of persecution and hardship was common to all, the answer was found in a message to the entire church. Imagine what a blessing it must have been, when they met that Sunday to listen to this letter for the first time, and they heard a message from God directed toward their circumstances.

I have found that corporate worship is like that. It is not uncommon for me to experience God speaking directly to the concerns of my life, as I sit in church worshipping and the studying of the Word. As a pastor, I am often accused of “spying” on the people (as they poke fun at me) after a message that so directly addressed the things they are experiencing, or even the conversations they have been having about following Jesus. The message the Thessalonians heard may not have been exactly what they wanted (I am sure they wished it left out words like tribulation), but it was exactly what they needed to hear, and was tailored in heaven, specifically to enable them to persevere on earth. I think this is one of the major purposes of the church, and why it is so dangerous to neglect regular fellowship and the study of the Word.

Allow me to encourage you to make a commitment to be in regular attendance at a healthy, Bible teaching fellowship. Answers await as you gather to feast at the table of God’s Word.

Pastor Jim

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Search And Read

Isaiah 34:16 “Search from the book of the Lord, and read: Not one of these shall fail…”

This verse contains an exhortation followed by a promise. The exhortation is to search the book of the Lord. Webster defines search this way, “to look into or over carefully or thoroughly, in an effort to find or discover something” My wife and I look at some things quite differently. When an item is misplaced I become frustrated, thinking that if it is not where it belongs, there remains an unlimited number places to look. She on the other hand begins to search. I think she sometimes enjoys the challenge. Inevitably, in a matter of minutes, she has located that which is lost. We should approach the Word of God the way an explorer or a excavator approaches life. We must understand, there are precious treasures tucked away in the Bible and  if we are diligent, we will find the ones that are designed for our present condition. I once heard of a man in search of gold. He spent years working his claim only to come up empty. Finally, in a moment of discouragement he sold the rights to his land and moved on. The new owner, within a few days, struck it rich. The first man had given up only inches away from the mother lode. This exhortation is  a motivation with a promise; “not one of these shall fail.” This promise is like a warrantee or a guarantee. Unlike the warrantee we write, this is not followed with pages of clauses or conditions. The fact is, when God makes a promise His promise is sure. Paul wrote that all the promises of God are yes and amen (2 Corinthians 1:20). Jesus declared that even after heaven and earth pass away the Word of God will still remain (Matthew 24:35). He explained that His word was so sure that building our lives upon it is like building a house upon the bedrock (Luke 6:48). Whatever you may be facing, take the time to search within the pages of the Bible. You will find there truly is a promise designed as a countermeasure for what you are experiencing.

Pastor Jim

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Get Ready

1 Thessalonians 5:2 “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.”

Years ago, when our twin sons were infants, my wife woke me in the middle of the night. Having been up with one of the babies, she saw someone in our yard. Concerned that we might be dealing with a home invasion, my instinct was to grab something to protect myself and head into the yard. As I peered through the front window, I realized that it was actually a group of teenagers who were toilet papering our house. I immediately thought of grabbing the garden hose, getting on the roof and spaying them down. The problem was, the garden hose was in the front yard where I had left it after its last use. Frustrated that I was unprepared for the surprise visit, all I could do was run outside, make myself known, and watch them run off. Thinking they might return to finish the job, I laid on the roof with the hose in hand for the next few hours, only to be disappointed by the fact I had missed my opportunity. Paul reminds us that the return of Christ will be like an intruder in the night. The time to prepare for His return is not after His arrival, but in anticipation to His coming.

1 Thessalonians 5:3 “For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.”

One of the most interesting signs the Bible warns us to be looking for, is the fact that people will be suggesting He is not coming. Peter wrote, in the last days people would mock the very idea of Jesus’ return. They would be saying things like “you Christians have been talking about that forever.” Paul also reminds us, while many of the signs of Christ’s return are things that have been happening throughout history, they are things that will increase in severity and frequency. Like a woman having contractions, the pain increases the closer she gets to her delivery, so will the signs of Christ’s return increase as the day approaches.

1 Thessalonians 5:4 “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.”

While we cannot know the day or hour of the return of Christ, we can be living in expectancy, so we are not caught unaware. The way to be prepared for His return, is not by twisting every current event into a fulfilled prophecy. Instead, we must be sure, that first, we have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, and second, we have surrendered to Him as Lord. You might be able to rattle off all of the signs that point to His coming, yet you are not living for Him. If that is your story, you will be overtaken as by a thief in the night.

There is little doubt, we are living in the last days. The State of Israel, the climate in the Middle East, the rise of immorality being accepted as good, all point to the imminent return of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. The one question that remains is, are you ready should He come back today?

Pastor Jim

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Peace And Quiet

Isaiah 32:17
“The work of righteousness will be peace,
And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.”

“Oh yeah, what’s in it for me?”

This seems to be a commonly asked question. Before we make any sort of investment with our time, talent or treasures, we want to know what the return is going to be. We want to calculate the costs and compare them with the benefits to determine if the investment is worth it. Here, Isaiah details the return we will receive for living a righteous life. He speaks of both the work of righteousness and it’s effects.

Work is a word that means to expend energy in order to accomplish a desired result. It is work to lift a sofa, or move a dresser, from one part of the room to another. Isaiah explains that righteousness must be worked out. It is not enough for us to be righteous, we must do righteousness. In other words, the decision to do the right thing will produce the fruit of peace in our lives. Whenever faced with a challenge, we have to decide either to look to God and do things that will please Him, or to ignore God and do whatever we want. Isaiah promises that when we do what is right, we will be rewarded with peace. Effect is a word that refers to that which inevitably follows an action. Isaiah reveals that the inevitable result of righteous action will be both quietness and assurance.

Peace, quiet and assurance are some of the most valuable commodities in life. Even the richest men have found their resources are not enough to purchase peace. Often, substances, or bizarre practices are engaged in, in hopes of producing peace. Yet, peace will only truly be attained when a person is in a right relationship with God. That relationship starts by receiving Jesus Christ, and continues by daily living out the precepts of His Word.

If you want some peace and quiet, try doing that which is right in the eyes of God.

Pastor Jim

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