Receive Salvation not Wrath

Isaiah 31-32 and 1 Thessalonians 5

There is so much Paul still wants to say as he is wrapping up his first (recorded) letter to the Thessalonians. Perhaps the mailman is standing at the door ready to take the letter as Paul is finishing up. His writing style is often long winding sentences with many phrases linked together in what English teachers would now call run-on sentences. But he doesn’t have time for that today. He switches to short powerful sentences. “Be joyful always. Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). He has a lot to pack into his final instructions. Many of them deal with specifics on how to please God and how to love others (our two categories from the previous chapter that we are to do more and more). So, read them carefully and take note of how you are doing in these categories.

Paul also takes a final opportunity to remind them/us of the coming day of the Lord. Paul says this day will bring surprise destruction for many. It also becomes a great time to teach a bit on God’s character. Paul writes, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This reminds me of a beautiful passage from our reading in Isaiah yesterday, “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18). God longs to see His people saved from the coming destruction. In the time of Isaiah. In the time of Paul. And, in our time. God longs to see His people saved from the coming destruction, but that does not mean that there won’t be a coming destruction for those who have turned their backs on Him, rejecting Him and His Son.

In Isaiah 31 we read of trouble and God’s judgment coming to the wicked and to those who have turned from God. He denounces those who see they need help – but turn to human allies or their own strength instead of turning to God. They have failed to wait on the LORD, and for them, judgment is coming. God’s perfect plan of salvation requires His children to seek God and accept the salvation offered through His Son Jesus. A response on your part is required to avoid the coming wrath and receive salvation instead.

I will end today, as each of the chapters of 1st Thessalonians have ended, with a reminder of the coming return of Christ. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thesssalonians 5:23-24).

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 31-32 and 1 Thessalonians 5

More and More

1 Thessalonians 4

Paul fits so much into the 18 verses of 1 Thessalonians 4. The chapter is probably best known for laying out the great hope Christians have of the coming of Christ when the dead in Christ shall rise from death to meet their resurrected Lord Jesus at the trumpet call of God. (Remember, “a great trumpet sounding” and a fabulous reunion on God’s holy mountain was also mentioned in yesterday’s reading of Isaiah 27). This indeed will be a moment in time like no other – a celebration like never before – ushering in a Kingdom beyond what we can imagine! Today is a great day to be reminded. Today marks the 6th year that my dad, Pastor Ray Hall, has been dead in the ground. We miss him greatly. But we do not grieve as those with no hope. We look forward to the day of Jesus’ return when the graves will be opened and the dead in Christ will rise to new life! And those believers who are still alive will join in the party. It is a great day to look forward to!

And in the meantime, there is work to be done. Paul cautions against idly waiting. He says stay busy, work with your hands, mind your own business, support yourselves, so you will be a good witness to outsiders – those who currently have no hope for the future, dead or alive.

And, there’s more…in fact, twice in the first ten verses Paul uses the phrase, “More and more”. Do it again. Over and over. An ever increasing spiral. More and more.

The first time Paul uses the phrase in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 is in connection to how we are “to live in order to please God”. Do it more and more. This was my dad’s goal. Even up to what would be the last week of his life, from his hospital bed, when the nurse asked him what his goal was for the day, his goal was to please God. Good answer, dad! I’m guessing it’s not an answer she heard much. People want to be comfortable and pain-free, they want good health, they want good food, they want companionship, they want freedom to pursue personal pursuits, they want to get out of the hospital. But how would our lives look different if our very first and most pressing goal was to please God? And, not just once in a lifetime, or on Sundays, or when convenient, or when you have free-time, or when you feel well, but to strive to live a life that is pleasing to God, and to do it more and more.

If pleasing God is our goal, it becomes very important to know what pleases God. We obviously don’t have time in this devotion to list everything possible, and nor did Paul in his letter. But he did take time to write about the importance of avoiding sexual sins, controlling lusts and living pure, holy lives, for there is punishment coming for those who don’t.

The second thing Paul wanted to see more and more from the Thessalonians was brotherly love. He commended them for learning how to love from the best lover and teacher of all time – God himself. (Isaiah also wrote about God instructing and teaching the right way – Isaiah 28:26. How and what are you learning from Him?) I am still working on learning how to love from God and the loving Christian earthly (but far from worldly) parents He gave me – all 4 of them. Dad did teach some great lessons in brotherly love – making time for people (even when you are tired or had other plans), showing grace and second chances (because grace has been given to us), providing for needs (whether it might be a ride to work, a meal, or a visit) and teaching God’s word (because without it, people will perish and have no hope).

More and More. Live to please God.

More and More. Love others.

It’s a great way to spend our time while we wait in eager expectation for the trumpet to announce the arrival of the King, the resurrection of the dead and the beginning of the Kingdom of God. Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 29-30 and 1 Thessalonians 4

In That Day

Isaiah 27-28 and 1 Thessalonians 3

The phrase “In that day” is used at least 7o times in the Old Testament – NIV version. Over half of those times (43 times) it is used by the prophet Isaiah – and four of those times is in today’s chapter 27. Clearly, “in that day” is one of Isaiah’s favorite topics and we can’t really discuss today’s reading without knowing a little more about this phrase. It is interesting to look at all the references Isaiah makes to this time period, not a 24 hour day. Simply go to BibleGateway.com (or your favorite Bible study website) and type in “In that day” in the search bar. If you add in the slightly more descriptive phrase, “The day of the Lord” you will get additional passages listed. Out of curiosity I also checked the KJV and found even more “In that day” passages in this version, including several in the New Testament, used by Jesus and Paul (including in the Thessalonians which we are also reading this week). It appears in the NIV New Testament the phrase is often changed to, “ON that day”. So, it’s talked about a lot, throughout Scripture – but, what is it talking about and why does it matter today?

As you look through the list of “In that day” passages, you find a lot of doom and gloom as a result of God’s judgment and punishment. For example, “In that day, the LORD will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword.” (Isaiah 27:1 NIV). It also appears that pride is often the culprit that leads to the judgment, “The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,” (Isaiah 2:11, and similarly in 2:17). Pride gets in the way and causes all sorts of trouble when we think we know better than God, when we forget about Him and His way and strike out in our own direction – towards destruction. Isaiah says it quite poetically in chapter 28, “You boast, ‘We have entered into a covenant with death, with the grave we have made an agreement…for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place.'” (28:15 NIV) But they continue boasting and bragging, believing their lies as they get closer and closer to death. It seems they don’t even see the danger or care, they are so wrapped up in the lie that has become their false refuge.

Who do you see today who has boastfully made a lie their refuge? I have a few ideas, but what do you think?

I thought first of the movement who boastfully displays pride all over themselves as they try to hijack God’s symbol of hope and His sure promises while blatantly denying the truths of God’s creation: male and female. And, speaking of creation, what of those who make a lie their refuge as they turn from the Creator of heaven and earth and put all their trust in big bangs and chance mutations. There are also those who put great pride in the works of their hands, like the Israelites who were so proud of the capital city Samaria that they had built (and then indulged in the selfish and messy ‘pleasure’ of getting drunk in regularly). (Isaiah 28:1-4, 7-8). And, in their prideful lies they all miss Isaiah’s message that God’s judgment is coming…”in that day”.

And, while it is good to consider how these verses apply in our society, let me never forget to consider how it applies to ME personally TODAY. Where and when do I pridefully put myself and my wishes before God and His will? Do I allow pride in my Christian lifestyle or background to prevent me from loving others? How am I led astray by lies that I have put my trust in, lies about who God is or who He created me to be, what is right and what is wrong? When do I get so caught up in the busy-ness of today that I forget to remember what is coming…”in that day.

Remembering God’s righteous punishment that will be coming in that day can be good motivation to stop doing wrong. It can help me put away the pride and lies and selfish sins. The true threat of coming punishment can be powerful incentive. I know, I am a home-daycare provider. Sometimes it just takes mentioning time-out to make a child stop a moment, consider their actions and stop their misdeeds or tantrum.

But, that’s not all!

Rewards are a beautiful incentive to do what is right. As we look at the list of Isaiah’s use of “In that day” references, we see many exciting and glorious views of the future, following the punishment. Isaiah 27:13 says, “And in that day, a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” And in the next chapter, we read, “In that day the LORD Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people.” (Isaiah 28:5). It is such an encouragement to read through the passages describing the coming reward – the perfect Kingdom of God when He shall reign. In Isaiah’s “In that Day” passages of hope and a coming perfect joy and peace, he includes references to the coming Messiah and His role in his father’s Kingdom. (When you have time, it would be interesting to create a list of what other names and descriptions Isaiah uses for Jesus the Christ?) Rewards can sometimes do what threats can’t. It’s amazing to see how fast the daycare children focus on the work at hand and get all the toys picked up when there is the promise of a waiting treat.

We can be sure God’s threats are not empty, His punishments are just and the rewards He graciously gives we can’t earn but will be beyond all we can imagine! How will you prepare today for all that will come “in that day”? And, how can we help others to be prepared? Paul had some great ideas for the Thessalonians. “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.   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.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12,13 NIV)

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com hereIsaiah 27-28 and 1 Thessalonians 3

The Apostle Paul Refused to Mask Up!


1 Thessalonians 2

If you’ve not read Marcia’s devotion for yesterday, it would be good to give it a quick scan now.  She sets us up well for I & II Thessalonians.  By the way, thank you Marcia, for all the work you do with SeekGrowLove!  These readings and devotions are a great ministry!  It is amazing how often the Old and New Testament readings complement each other.  Isaiah did speak a great deal of judgment, but as always, God never wasted an opportunity to lay out hope for his people.  Isaiah also had much to say about the coming Messiah.  I appreciated Marcia’s suggestion that we note what Paul alludes to at the end of every chapter in I Thessalonians.  If I had known that before, I had forgotten.  


At any rate, let me note just a few highlights in I Thessalonians 2 . . .


Paul was literally driven to preach the gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus the Christ.  Neither opposition, nor disagreement, nor persecution could dissuade him.  He was a straight shooter, told it like it was.  He would have nothing to do with masking, hiding anything, or any impure motives (See V. 5).  He provided for his own needs, toiling at his own profession, rather than to be a burden in any way upon the church.  Actually, on another occasion he apologized for that very practice, realizing the church needed to understand and meet their responsibility to care for those who provided for their spiritual needs.  The context of the situation would evidently dictate what is right.  


Notice the tenderness of Paul’s love and concern for the brethren.  He was gentle with them, like a mother caring for her little children (V. 7).  Then in Vs. 11,12, he dealt with them as a father deals with his own children – encouraging, comforting, and urging them to live lives worthy of God who calls us into his kingdom and glory.  He was thankful for them, and proud of them as they served and obeyed.  Who are your spiritual mentors, men and women who have taught you, encouraged you, comforted you, and challenged you spiritually?  May we make them proud.  May we walk in their footsteps.  May we build on the foundation others have laid before us!  May we minister to others!  May we be true as we wait and watch for the coming of Jesus!    

-John Railton

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 25-26 and 1 Thessalonians 2

Rescue from the Coming Wrath

Isaiah 23-24 and 1 Thessalonians 1

As editor of SeekGrowLove, last December I created the Bible reading plan we are using this year. Each day we are generally reading two Old Testament chapters and one New Testament chapter. But, to fit it all into 365 days we’ve included Psalms and Proverbs in chunks throughout the year, taking the place of the New Testament reading. I didn’t pay much attention to what Old Testament and New Testament chapters were lining up together for each day. But, I have been amazed throughout the year at how often the two readings have complimented each other. It just goes to show how God’s scriptures are all connected, forever pointing us to the One Almighty God, His Son Jesus, and His plan of salvation and hope for the future. And, it’s been that way for all the generations who went before us, even for those who were reading His words as they were originally written by their writers.

Isaiah had been writing and preaching to the Jews around 740 BC. He was sharing many prophecies he’d received from God of what destruction was to come if the Jewish people and their neighbors did not repent and turn to God. Many of the things Isaiah wrote about did indeed come true within the next few generations. Some of the prophecies Isaiah wrote about (such as we find in Isaiah 24) were telling of a coming judgment further down the timeline – a time still in our future as well. We have not seen it all take place yet, but we can be sure that God’s words are true and just and will happen as He told Isaiah they would – perhaps in our generation or the next few.

In Isaiah 24 we read that God’s judgments will reach across the earth and affect everyone: priest and people, master and servant, borrower and lender, rich and poor. There are none who will be able to escape it because of their wealth or power or position. “The exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt.” (Isaiah 24:4b-6a NIV). This will be the fate of the majority, those stuck in their sins without a Savior.

Isaiah also gives hope. To the Jews of his time he spoke of a remnant who would survive the destruction from the conquering armies and return to Jerusalem. This too, has already happened. And, regarding the judgment that is yet to come, Isaiah also has a word of hope and restoration for those who do trust in God in a world that doesn’t – the “very few” that are left after the harvest has taken place. (verse 6 and 13). We have not seen it take place yet, but we can be sure God’s words are true and just and will happen as He told Isaiah they would – perhaps in our generation or the next few.

Those who are left are shouting for joy, giving God praise and singing, “Glory to the Righteous One” (vs. 14-16). Isaiah warns it won’t be easy. This group will be targeted by the evil who tries to trap them. But, God is coming with power and justice. “In that day, the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon…for the LORD Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders, gloriously.” Satan, his demons, and all sin and evil and those who have turned their backs on God will face God’s judgment. And God will reign.

Truly, there are so many passages that line up so well with Isaiah 24 (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Daniel 12, and Revelation just to name a few). For this is indeed a huge part of God’s story for the ages. It is what God wanted Isaiah to tell the nations nearly 3,000 years ago. And, it is what God wanted Paul to remind the church in Thessalonica less than 2,000 years ago. 1st & 2nd Thessalonians are often called the eschatological letters of Paul because of the many references to the end times (or, the end of this age and the beginning of the next). It was not enough for Paul to tell them how they ought to love and serve at the present, without preparing them for what was to come in the future, even if it wasn’t during their lifetime.

As we read 1st and 2nd Thessalonians this week and next, look for how many times Paul teaches, reminds, warns, and encourages the church with God’s perfect plans for our future. How does each chapter in 1st Thessalonians end? For a clue, let’s look at the end of chapter 1? “They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10 NIV). It is especially exciting reading of a part of the future that Isaiah was only able to allude to – the second coming of Christ Jesus, since Jesus had not come for the first time at the time of Isaiah’s writing.

May we read and heed the warnings of Isaiah and Paul as sent by God. May we be encouraged by God’s plan for the ages as displayed throughout His scriptures. And may we too turn, “to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10 NIV).

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here Isaiah 23-24 and 1 Thessalonians 1

Your Work, Labor & Endurance – through Faith, Love & Hope

1st & 2nd Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 1:3 – We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.


Work Produced by Faith

Faith is defined as having a firm belief, complete trust and confidence in something. As a Believer, our faith is determined by the extent of which we believe that God is who He says He is and that His son, Jesus the Messiah, was born of a woman, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for the redemption of your sins, was raised to life, is currently sitting on a throne next to his Father, waiting to return again to reign in the Kingdom. IF you and I believe all of that – then our day to day life will be a compilation of evidence of acts done in faith and by faith. 


James makes the claim in the third chapter of his letter “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1) that “in the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (3:17). And in verse 26 of the same chapter, James writes, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead”. 


The Thessalonians didn’t just accept the gospel message, they acted on it. Jesus was both their Savior and their Lord, meaning that they were obedient to the call on their lives. They were doing the work that God had prepared in advance for them to do (Ephesians 2:10). Likewise, when we accept the gospel message for ourselves, we have to respond. Jesus tells us in the book of Luke that we must take up our cross (do the work) and follow him (9:23). 

Labor Prompted by Love

Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”. Have you ever wondered why these four domains are identified? Have you ever loved someone so much that there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do for them? You sacrifice all that you have in order to serve them, sacrifice for them, and labor for them. In the following verse, we’re told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Sacrificing ourselves for family members and close friends is one thing…serving and laboring for others beyond our closest relationships is quite another. 


This is why we’re told to love with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength – because it’s not easy. Sometimes loving another is labor. It’s hard work. It’s humbling ourselves by putting our own desires off to the side in order to honor others. But it’s what we are called to do. And it is possible if we lean into the strength that is provided through our faith in Christ. 

Endurance Inspired by Hope

One of my favorite types of exercise is a 20 minutes HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout. I like it because I don’t have to do it everyday, it’s quick, and efficient. And I get to rest for almost half of the time during the “down” intervals. If I were ever called upon to do something that took longer than 20 minutes, I would be gassed! I do not have the endurance for it. And I have no enthusiasm to train for it! 


Walking out your faith knee deep in “works produced by faith” and “labor promoted by love” is not for the faint of heart! It’s not a one time deal. And unlike my HIIT workouts, it’s an all-day, everyday kind of commitment –  for a lifetime! This requires an endurance that cannot be faked nor manufactured. The only source for the necessary fuel to keep this faith-centered life going is HOPE. A hope that has a foundation on the love God has for us. When we stay zeroed in to that – we are able to dig deep and and go the distance. As Paul says in his second letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. We can have a FULL life that gives us the endurance needed to do the good works. 


The Christian life is not for the wimpy. In this single verse out of 1 Thessalonians, we are told that we must work, labor, and endure. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t seem very comfy. It’s not a life of luxury and indulgence. The ONLY way that we will be able to sustain this day to day living is doing so out of Faith, Love, and Hope. May these virtues fill your heart today.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1st Thessalonians & 2nd Thessalonians.

Tomorrow we will read Acts 18:19-19:41.

Great Hope

1 Thessalonians 4

_1 Thessalonians 4 16

The fourth chapter of 1st Thessalonians speaks of sanctification, how we are made clean and pure by Jesus.  Having been sanctified we have great hope.

Application: All Christians should memorize 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  Friends for eternity (such as Paul, Silas, Timothy, Paul M, Esther, Jerry, etc…) have great comfort in the resurrection.

Paul & Esther

Peace

1 Thessalonians 3

1 Thessalonians 3 8

The big three are faith, hope and love.  Chapter three is all about growing stronger in faith. (vs. 7).  Esther and I have been watching all the very small things God has been doing through each day to show His love to us.  Things such as sending rain after the baptism tonight instead of during.  Things such as God’s gentle spirit blowing the door shut to the tabernacle as we write this devotional.  Things such as the enormous peace in the stone chapel as we prayed very early in the morning.

 

Application: As Christians, we can endure all persecution, and still have faith God loves us as we obtain perfect peace with both God and other friends.

 

-Paul & Esther

 

The Friends are Opposed by Satan

1 Thessalonians 2

1 Thessalonians 2 2b

In the second chapter (v 18) the friends are blocked by the enemy.  Esther and I, as we prepared for Camp Mack, found all sorts of odd things happening as people did and said strange things to try to hurt our mission.

 

Application: Sometimes, the stronger the opposition, the more you know you are doing God’s Will.  No matter what happens, God gives great peace to friends in Christ.

 

-Paul & Esther

 Friends

 1 Thessalonians 1

1 Thess 1 2
The first verse of 1 Thessalonians tells us what this wonderful letter is all about: Friends: Paul, Silas, and Timothy had become extremely close spiritual friends. These three spiritual friends prayed together, worked together, and became very close to the people in Thessalonica. The first chapter should be read with the concept of two or three gathered in the name of Jesus praying and loving others in a particular area or church. I have made many friends much the same as Silas and Timothy were to Paul.  Thessalonians is all about fabulous friendship in this life and the life to come (v.10).
Application: Everyone has to choose which friends they should have. If we seek God and ask Him for guidance, God will lead us to the right people to be around. Just as Paul, Silas and Timothy constantly sought God’s Word and His guidance, they were able to connect because God rewarded each of their daily dedication to God. We as individuals need to be in constant prayer and God will lead us in choosing friends. I also encourage you to love your friends just like God loves us.
Paul Moore – and his friend Esther