June 22 – Encouragement for Believers

Read 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18

“Bad company corrupts good character.”1 Corinthians 15:33

I was blessed to have been brought up in the church as I have been attending Grace Church for the entirety of my 30 years. With Dad being on staff, as well, I have spent a lot of time at Grace Church . . .it became a home away from home for me.

When I transitioned from private to public schools, I quickly found out that I was in the midst of a drastically different environment. It seemed like an easy decision for me, but I remember choosing to invest in friendships at church rather than school. It wasn’t that I neglected those at school, but I chose to really dig into church friends, as I thought they would strengthen my faith more. That, and I kept hearing how easy it would be to give into the ways of the world.

In our reading today, Paul is encouraging Thessalonian believers to, essentially, be careful who you surround yourself with. While Paul is talking from a working standpoint, as there were people not working and reaping the rewards as if they were, I believe the principle can be applied to other areas of our lives as well.

As you think through who you constantly surround yourself with, would you say that those relationships are healthy? Are they bettering your relationship with Christ or dragging you down?

Now, let me be clear. We are in no way being called to abandon such relationships:

“Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

How much are you allowing them to influence your life? Are you guiding them towards Christ or are they guiding you towards the way of the world?

I encourage you to take an inventory of the impactful relationships in your life? Reassess who has such access to your life?

When you identify unhealthy relationships in your life, now think about how you are going to encourage them to elevate faith in their life.

As Christians, we are called to be a light in the darkness. However, we need to be careful how much we allow the darkness to influence our lives. Looking back on it, I should have been more intentional in my relationships with those outside the faith . . . I still need to be.

I am doing the Kingdom no good by staying in a shell.

Will you join me in helping those far from God see the forgiveness and grace of God?

Jake Lawson

June 21 – When False Teaching Arises

Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17

“Repent for the end is near!”

This is a message that preachers have been preaching for centuries, even since the time of Jesus, and theologians have been debating when the rapture is going to happen for just about as long.

People get all caught up in current events and try to make themselves and others believe that the Antichrist has made themselves known and that certain current events are lining up with how Scripture describes the end of the world as we know it.

Personally, I have never been one to give into all of the chaos.

Look, Jesus is going to come back and, when He does, it’s going to be awesome. When that will happen, only God knows . . . literally. Who is the Antichrist? We have no way of knowing until Scripture is fulfilled and, believe me, it will be crystal clear. There will be no debate.

In our reading today, Paul is writing to Thessalonian believers who are in the midst of such debates. People of the time were saying the Rapture already happened where others are making claims about the Antichrist.

How Paul responds is amazing.

Pastor John MacArthur writes, “Unlike most contemporary teaching on eschatology (end times), Paul’s motive was not sensational but pastoral. His goal was not to gratify curiosity about the end times but to comfort confused Christians.”

As you read through our reading today, identify the encouragement that Paul gives to the Thessalonian believers. Throughout the reading, he encourages them, when false teaching arises, to remain calm, use discernment, and stay firm in the teaching you were previously taught from Scripture among others.

We live in a world where people are quick to sensationalize the future when we have no way of knowing when things are going to be set into motion.

Why not focus on living and enjoying the lives we have now and pointing people to hope in Christ so that, when they see Jesus coming through the clouds, they are overjoyed rather than fearful for their eternity?

How often do you allow yourself to be drawn away from the hope of the Scripture? Do you find yourself getting caught up in the “the end is near” talk? Are you fearful for what’s to come?

If that is you, friend, I implore you to read the words of hope from the Bible! The future isn’t something that we need to fear but something that will be amazing!

I pray that Paul’s encouraging words to the church in Thessalonica are encouraging to you still today!

Jake Lawson

June 20 – Faith & Perseverance

Read 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

“More and more.”

These three words from verse 3 pack an aspirational punch, don’t they? Let’s hang on them for just a minute and ponder. . . do I look more and more like Christ? Does my character reflect God’s truth more and more? Is my faith growing deep into the ‘more and more?’

This is what the Christian faith is all about. Becoming. We want it all now. We shame ourselves for not being farther along. But does God? Is He pacing the floors of His celestial home, lamenting about our lack of ‘arrival?’ Why don’t my children have it together?

But God seems to be all about our process. Our ‘more and more.’ I’ve written about this before. You may tire of my soap box, but it bears repeating.

You are in the process of refinement. The good news is that the more you say ‘yes,’ to Jesus, the more you will become like Him.

Here’s the bad news. Our best hope of looking like our Lord is through suffering.

Ugh…

Yeah, me too. I’m not the first in line to sign up for suffering. In fact, some of my prayers are rather pathetic as I cower and say, “God, whatever it takes. . . but please be kind.”

Cost. Yikes. I’m afraid of it. I want what God wants. But there’s this fear inside of me that worries if I can take it. If I will suffer. If my people will suffer.

But there’s this other piece, more like a massive chunk of truth, that God is always good. And He is always kind. And I can shake in my boots at the thought of what He may allow, or I can choose to gain composure as I remember and believe that I’m safe, standing secure in His grace, untouchable, really, as His child.

So, it’s through suffering and loss that He builds us. He reminds us of our need for Him for everything. He pulls us close and whispers His truth into our ears and souls. He comforts, convicts, and transforms our character, more and more.

My friend, please persevere. Please keep saying ‘yes’ to our God. He has your best in mind. When we get to the end of our days, don’t you want to hear “well done” and be “counted worthy of the kingdom for which you are suffering?”

Once we were enemies of God. Now we are His friends. We are free to trust Him and obey Him in the fiercest of trials. We get to persevere with a grit that is forged in our hope of a greater rest someday. We are recipients of grace. Peace. Belonging.

We are created for and will experience the ‘more and more…’ it makes all that we endure here on earth a bit more bearable, doesn’t it?

God has never let me down. Never. I bet He hasn’t let you down either. Take some time right now to thank Him for His faithfulness through a trial you’ve endured from your past and pour out your heart to Him about a trial you are facing today.

You can rest, knowing He loves you, sees you, and holds everything you need.

Shelly Eberly

December 19 – Behind the Christmas Card – Traditions

Read 1 Corinthians 11:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and Colossians 2:8

You’ve heard it said that “We are all creatures of habit.” Habits allow us to get mundane or repetitive things accomplished without a great deal of thought.  Confession: I am not a morning person. Waking up when the alarm goes off is hard for me. I am one of those folks who will set my alarm with the intention of hitting the snooze button a couple of times until I can figure out what planet I am on.  I rely on my morning habit or routine because, the less actual thinking I need to do before I head out the door to go to the office, the better.

Then there are Traditions. This time of year we have transitioned with blinding speed from Thanksgiving to an entire Christmas season.  A season full of things we do that carry an importance to them because of the special place and the special memories we have for them in our hearts. When my children were little, dough was rolled out on the counter amidst clouds of flour. Trays of cut-out cookies formed by little hands were baked. An explosion of sparkles, sprinkles and icing followed, transforming the cookies into edible works of “art”. On Christmas Eve, gifts under the tree always meant a new pair of “Christmas jammies” for everyone to sleep in, awaiting the next morning. These are traditions that continue to this day and now include grandchildren.

Because these traditions are rooted in love, I hope they are ones that continue to be passed down from generation to generation. Paul understood how important it would be that things of the Christian faith be passed down. Our readings today highlight this:

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.”

“So then, brothers and sisters stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

Paul also saw clearly from his days as a Pharisee that it was easy to elevate spiritual laws and traditions above God in a way that made them a stumbling block. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Over these next days as you wrap gifts, drive around looking at the brightly colored light displays, and drop change in the kettle, stop along the way with me and consider all the traditions that fill our December. Are we passing the days, handing off love in words and action that point to the Savior? Do our traditions speak words of truth about The Word of Truth, saying “You are valued. You are important. You are loved.”?

Merry Christmas!

Wade Karhan