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A Healthy work ethic – a look at 2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 3:10

For even when we were with you (meaning the first time Paul visited this church), we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

This was my uncle’s favorite bible verse growing up – in fact, I think it’s the only one he knew and he lived by it. As soon as we got out of bed on his farm ‘If you don’t work – you don’t eat.’ And he was serious.

But even after Paul left that church, reports still came back that the people were taking it easy and so even in his first letter to the church he writes.

1 Thessalonians 4:10-11

But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.

So as you can see, this is at least the third time he has had to tell these people – get off your buts, get back to work.

But why does he care? I mean really, he doesn’t live there – whether they work or not doesn’t really affect him – and the reality is sooner or later, the bank account will dry up, the food will be gone from the cupboard and they’ll learn their lesson on their own, right?

Why is Paul so worked up – over work? Well, as we look at our text today, it’s important to understand that the Thessalonians were influenced by a few outside sources. First, some Jews were raised believing that only those who studied the Scripture (like the scribes) were doing ‘good work.’ They encouraged the idea that there was a division between the sacred…. and the secular.

But, if you grew up in a Greek  household then you believed that work was demeaning and belonged only to slaves. For Greeks, work had nothing to do with faith, but more to do with social status.

And so like we mentioned earlier, for some Thessalonians they believed work was no longer necessary because Jesus was going to return any moment; and so as a result, they withdrew from work and became busybodies.

So I wanted to take a look at Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians and his philosophy on the work ethic and see what he had to say.

2 Thessalonians3:10 says If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

So the first thing is we need to: Develop a healthy work ethic

Psalm 104:23 Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.

Now does Paul mean that if you lost your job, and you’ve been searching for work for months, then you should just go hungry? No, Paul is talking about people who have purposefully removed themselves from the workforce and who have decided to live off others.  There is a organism like this in nature – the leach or the parasite. A life-form that literally exists by taking life from another.

In John 6 Jesus did this massive miracle of multiplying food and he fed 5,000 people and the next day the crowds found him again and sat down and listen to what Jesus says.

John 6:26 “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”

Jesus says, ‘you’re not interested in Holy things, or teaching, you’re just lazy and you want me to feed you.’

Next in v11 Paul says, ” For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.” The American Plain English Bible says… “For we hear that there are some among you who walk wickedly and do not labor at all, but are worthless.”

There’s a story that says that a man approached St. Francis of Assisi as he was hoeing in a garden and they asked him, what he would do if he knew that he would die the next day. St. Francis said, “I’d keep hoeing the garden.” Because the reality is, work isn’t just the responsible thing to do, it’s actually a command from God.

We all remember the Sabbath rest is in the 10 Commandments, but there is another part to that verse.

Exodus 20:9 says Six days you shall labor, and do all your work.

So yes, we should preach the Sabbath and yes everyone needs some time off and some time away, but…. God also commands that we work; and we see the word command again in…

2 Thessalonians 3:12

Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

But the command to work doesn’t start there, it actually started in Genesis, its the whole reason humanity was made

Genesis 2:5-7

The Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to (what?) work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Later in v15 (the Bile says that) The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

and after it was all said and done….

Gen 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Plus not only does God command us to work, but he actually models work for us, doesn’t he? God isn’t exempt from working, he isn’t the supervisor who only ‘supervises.’

Exodus 20:11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them

Jesus said in John 5

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise…. “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

We worship a God who rolls up his sleeves and gets his hands dirty.

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Sober Up / a look at 1 Thessalonians

In a few short verses Paul is going to offer some “sobering advice.” He says in chapter 4,

1 Thess 4:17-18

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.

So to stay S.O.B.E.R. Paul says there is 5 things to do or be….

1. (be) Sentient – means to be altert, awake, to stand ready… 1 Thess 5:2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come / 1 Thess 5:6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

2. Observe – means to study ask questions, to not take things at face value, but to dig deep.  1 Thess 5:21 test everything; hold fast what is good

3. (be) Blissful – bliss is the state of continual worship, the peace and joy found with being a child of God.  1 Thess 5:16 Rejoice always,

4. Entreat (God in prayer) – entreat means to ask someone with intensity 1 Thess 5:17 pray without ceasing (in other words, don’t give up)

5. (give God) Recognition – Thank God for the blessings of life, give Him credit,

1 Thess 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances;

Paul says, “be sober.” The Coming of the Lord is a call to stay ready… but it is also a source of comfort and assurance because it gives us a view of death that is different from the rest of the world.

Let’s face it, The world lives in fear of death, stories and movies about death and dying are called HORROR. And for many, the subject of death is to be avoided – we just don’t want to talk about it.

Paul says in 1 Thess 4:13 that those people live like that because they have no hope

That’s the reality they live in whether they will honestly admit it or not.

An so Paul knows that people in the Thesalonian church are dying and he says, “comfort one another” – “I don’t want you to be uninformed” – because for Paul – there is nothing FINAL about death!

Even in death – there is hope – we have hope! Those that have passed – we will see them again – and when it is our turn, death is not the end – it is only the beginning.

When we did the Hymn sing, Mike almost did the unforgivable sin of singing Amazing Grace without singing v5. You never do that – everyone loves v5.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise. Than when we’d first begun.

Can you look down the road of life, with the second coming in your sights as not only a promise and a hope, but a certainty? When you sing v5 of Amazing Grace does it give you Goosebumps because you’re so excited?

Listen, there is a bigger future out ahead of us and it’s more than just a new house, or a new job or a new car.

There is more – so much more in store than the possibility of getting married, or retirement. What’s the one thing coming on the horizon that you are most looking forward to? A birthday? Seeing an old friend? A planned vacation? My goodness, are we aiming too low?

In C. S. Lewis’ wonderful books The Chronicles of Narnia, the characters who have lived in Narnia have completed their time and work there; and in a closing chapter Aslan, the lion (who represents Christ) has come for them in order to take them home. They are headed away from Narnia and as they enter Aslan’s territory, one of the characters cries out: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. …Come further up, come further in!”

I believe that when we enter Heaven, we will say, “This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.” And I don’t think it’s a sin to love the Earth or to love our lives, and I don’t think it’s bad to want to stay here or to cling to life for as long as we can – rather I think the reason why we love this world – is because sometimes it feels like the world to come. You know in the book of Revelation it says the future holds a new heaven and a new earth – a restored earth, a redeemed earth and a perfect earth – the place we were meant to live.

And on that day we will say with the Psalmist:

Psalm 16:6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.


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Zondervan College Bible

For the most part, this is a straight forward Bible, with not a lot of bells and whistles. There are no book headings, and there are not always notes on every page. What this Bible does have is over 200 devotionals (one almost every 5 pages), particularly geared for 17-24 year olds who struggle to find their own voice, giving feet to their own faith, in a way that’s Biblically grounded.

I had expected this Bible to be a little different than it is. I had expected a Bible with devotions that relate to ‘students, school and perhaps being out on your own.’  So I think Zondervan would have done better to gear it a little more toward the college life, than just ‘regular devotions’ that one can study (otherwise why call it the college Bible?).

In additional to the devotionals, there are a few reading plans such as “read your Bible through in a year” and “30 days with Jesus” and “20 not so famous stories.’ Of course this Bible has other standards you’d expect, such as an index, concordance, etc. But again, I wish this Bible were a little bit more “collegiate” in design with more study notes, a concordance and relevant devotionals.

I guess the good news is, you don’t have to be a college student to read this Bible. Anyone who is “college aged” could pick this up and find something useful. I would recommend this for anyone who is college aged and perhaps looking for a first time Bible to help them navigate early questions and life issues.

Thank you to Zondervan for this advanced copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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The Bible Code / a look at 1 Thessalonians

Paul is a man like the Thessalonian church who is waiting on the son from Heaven.

Look at what Jesus says about us… he says

John 15:19

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but …you are not of the world…

Jesus said in John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world.

From God’s own lips. You are not of this world and God’s Kingdom is not of this world either. And so the second coming of the Lord is a day that I want to look forward to. Not as a reward or as a job well done – but as a person who is homesick – heaven is my true home and I am not from here.

How does this revelation affect our lives?

Look at the first few verses of chapter 5

1 Thess 5:1-5

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers  you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.

Paul says the second coming of Christ will happen like a mugging or a woman giving birth. Meaning what… well it means you can expect it, you can even be prepared for it, but you won’t know exactly when it will happen.

But wait, what about the Bible code?

What about the doomsday prophesies and all that?

Isn’t the secret to the second coming locked away somewhere in the Bible and all we need is the right key to unlock it? What does Jesus say about that?

Matt 24:36,44

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

Make no mistake, this is from Jesus’ own lips. When is the second coming? Nobody knows. Jesus says, “…even I don’t know.” So anyone who claims to know, makes a prediction, makes a prophecy, just nod and smile and remember what Christ himself said, “nobody knows.” But also notice what he says in v44

“…Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

But wait, how can you be ready…. if you don’t know when you’re leaving? What if I said, “You and I are going on a trip to Alaska.”

And you said, “Great- when do we leave?”

And I said, “I don’t know… but be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.” What would that mean? How would you live? Paul gives you two examples, a happy example an a scary example.

Paul says it will be like someone breaking into your house, or like having a baby. (and listen, if you have to choose between the two, is my wife here? Pick breaking into your house – that way it’s all over in one night) But can you say with any certainty WHEN those events will happen? Nope. But can you be ready and prepared for those events should they happen? Absolutely.

Paul uses these illustrations to make the point that the whole thing will come unexpectedly and it will catch us off guard. But then Paul draws the contrast to say that it won’t be the case for everyone.

1 Thess 5:6-8

So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober

Paul says we are children of light and so if we live ready – we will be ready. If we live in anticipation of that day it will be a day of great joy and not sorrow.

1 Thess 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

The second coming is the day our salvation is made complete—the day that this mortality takes on immortality—and the day we receive our glorified bodies.

This is exciting stuff, and so Paul offers encouragement – he says “don’t sleep!”

And he says “be sober” right? He says don’t stumble around drunk – is that a weird thing to say?

Well, when we think of someone who is drunk we think of someone in a stupor or confused, right? Someone whose capacity is diminished. And you know, to “Intoxicate” actually comes from a Latin word meaning “to poison.”

Paul asks…

Is there anything poisoning your spiritual life right now?

Is there anything diminishing your spiritual sensitivity?

Paul says “sober up.”


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Waiting for the Son / a look at 1 Thessalonians

We will see Jesus face to face

You and I have an appointment for the most awesome meeting ever—a meeting in the air first and foremost with our coming King and Bridegroom—This is the great reunion God has prepared for us.

Jesus says in John 14:2

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

The second coming is not a fairy tale. And so then, since this is reality, since this is the future hope we all have – then the second coming and the resurrection should impact our lives.

Listen to how Paul describes the Thessalonian church in chapter 1

1 Thess 1:9-10

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 delivers us from the wrath to come.

Is that an accurate description of our lives? Have we turned from idols to serve the living God? Are we waiting for His Son from heaven?

The Greek word for waiting is the word anamenō and it means to anticipate with patience and trust. In other words it’s the waiting of a servant, waiting on the master. Not the impatient foot tapping of a child. Because we certainly live in a world where we expect to be waited on don’t we? If the waiter takes longer than 10 minutes with our food – we’re already looking around for a noose and a royal proclamation.  If store clerks don’t acknowledge us, if cashiers take someone else ahead of us when we were there first – WATCH OUT! Head’s are going to roll!

We can actually get caught up in earthly pride can’t we? We can allow our status and our worldly accomplishments to confuse us about what really matters. I mean after all, “don’t they know who I am? You don’t know who you’re dealing with.” And listen, there is nothing wrong with being satisfied in your work, or proud of what you’ve accomplished, but just like anything else – we can take it too far. Our wealth and our status can actually blind us to what’s truly important.

Because here is the thing – this world that you love so much, this life that you are holding on to… it’s all going bye -bye. Listen to how Paul describes it.

Philippians 1:21-23

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain… Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Paul says, “…there is a struggle in my soul – of where I belong.

Do I belong on Earth contending for the faith, or do I belong in Heaven – with my King?”

And you can hear the confusion in Paul’s writings…. and he simply says, “I don’t know the answer.”

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