June 18 – Thessalonica – View of Death and the Afterlife

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11

The Battle of Trenton was a small but pivotal battle that took place on December 26, 1776 during the American Revolutionary War.  George Washington planned to cross the Delaware River on December 25. He would then surround the Hessian Garrison (German mercenaries hired by the British).  Because the river was icy, only 2400 men crossed under Washington’s command.  A spy reported to the Hessian commander, Colonel Johann Rall, an urgent message of an advancing attack.  But the commander, who was playing poker at the time, took the note and put it in his pocket.  Washington attacked and the Hessian’s encampment began firing, but it was too late. The Hessian Garrison was captured.

Things could have turned out much differently for Colonel Rall, but he chose to remain uninformed, hiding the note in his pocket.  Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians wants them to be informed.

“Brothers and sister, we do not want you to be uninformed

about those who sleep in death,

so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”1 Thessalonians 4:13

Paul doesn’t want the Thessalonian believers to wonder about life after death.  The Gentiles had no hope of a life after their earthly life. Believers can have a confident hope that soothes their grief.

“For we believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that

God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.”1 Thessalonians 4:14

Paul reminds the Thessalonians that Christ died and rose again and will return with those who have “fallen asleep”.  Did you catch that?  Christ died!  But believers sleep!  Because Christ experienced death, we won’t! Christ took the penalty for our sin, experiencing death in all its horror, so that we would not have to.  The word “sleep” is not applied to Jesus, because He died.  And because He died, we have no need to fear death.  He died for us so that we may be together with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:10).

“Death does not annihilate them. It is but a sleep to them.

It is their undisturbed rest.

They have retired out of this troublesome world,

to rest from all their labors and sorrows, and they sleep in Jesus Christ.

Being still in union with Him, they sleep in his arms and are under his special care and protection.

Their souls are in his presence, so that they are not lost, nor are they losers,

but great gainers by death, and their removal out of this world is into the better.”

(Matthew Henry commentary on 1 Thessalonians)

Because He experienced death, we sleep.  And because He was raised from the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:14), and is alive, we have a confident hope of being awakened at His return.  We have the full assurance of a joyful resurrection and life with Him. 

This knowledge removes fear and sorrow.

You have been informed.  You have been given a special message. Jesus died, rose again, and will return for those who are in Him (1 Thessalonians 4:14). What will you do with this message? First Thessalonians 4:18 tells us to encourage one another with these words. Who will you encourage today?  Don’t put this message “in your pocket” hiding it away, risking the lives of those around you. 

This is news that can save lives!

Janene Nagel

June 17 – Thessalonica – Work Ethic

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

A boy used to pick raspberries when he was in junior high. The job included eating all the berries he wanted. But the bushes irritated his arms and they got scratched up. So, he soon learned the hard way that he needed to prepare by wearing long sleeves.

He used to deliver morning newspapers when he was in ninth grade. He soon learned that people wanted their newspapers on time so he needed to get up earlier and make sure he was on time. And some of his customers were very irritating to him because they didn’t pay their bill and then they avoided him.

In high school, he had a job working in a drugstore cleaning and dusting.  But since he had hay fever, he discovered that the dust caused irritation in his nose and throat. It wasn’t a big deal and he plowed his way through it.

He worked at college basketball camps for many summers. He soon learned the hard way that this job involved a lot of effort. Every coach was doing their best during the 16-hour days in a gymnasium that was 100°. So, he learned that he needed to pace himself while doing his best and drink liquids.

It takes work and effort to accomplish anything in our lives. You reap what you sow.

“What a person plants, he will harvest.”Galatians 6:7

God put the light in you! Sometimes you work with people who are difficult to work with. They irritate you. How do you handle it? Do you focus on Colossians 3:23?

You are working for God, not people.

By being prepared and punctual you can do your job with efficiency and be a great example to others. There are always roadblocks and irritants. How do you handle it? God is the hope that leads you out of the dark!

There will be flare ups and people who are difficult to get along with. Sometimes there is danger. As a high school teacher for 35 years, I found out one day that I had a student in my class for an hour who had a gun strapped to his leg under his pants. Who knew? I certainly didn’t.

When there is friction, complaining and discontent at work, remember to fight with God’s weapons of compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength and patience. (Colossians 3:12).

It can be done!

Slow down, pray to God, walk away, wait, listen more, speak less, control yourself, sleep on it and write a note and don’t send it. Do not allow your anger to be out of control! (James 1:19-20).

Let Jesus be in charge!

God put the light in the Christian. Let your light shine!

Tom Weckesser

June 16 – Thessalonica – Sexual Purity

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Someone I know visited a couple soon after their wedding.

“So, how are the newlyweds?” they asked excitedly.

“Well, honestly, not much different.”

This couple had been living together for quite some time before their wedding.

For the last several decades, our culture has been loosening more and more it’s grip on sexuality. Where it once was this precious act to be cared for, sex is now something that two consenting people can take part in and it’s not thought about twice.

I mean, why should you care about the old school tradition of saving yourself sexually until you’re married?

Because, as Paul describes in our reading today, it is one of the things that defines a believer.

Where it has become commonplace to toss sexual purity aside, Paul, in our reading, urges believers to use their bodies for honor and that it is the will of God for believers to be sexually pure.

How do you apply our reading today?

It’s very clear.

Fight for purity.

It defines your faith.

“So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.”

It’s sad to see that sexuality has become what it is today, especially in the church. Taking a stand for purity isn’t going to make you popular, but it is something that God values tremendously. Rejecting God’s teaching on sexuality is rejecting Him directly.

What are some ways that you can and should fight for purity in your life? Are there any areas that you are compromising your faith in this way? Is there some patchwork that needs to be done?

It’s a tough job, for sure.

I was recently asked to officiate a wedding for someone very close to me. While, initially, I was thrilled and honored to be asked, I quickly realized that a personal conversation was going to need to take place as they were living together and didn’t see anything wrong with it…but they knew better.

They just didn’t care enough to change.

I sought advice on the best way to have this conversation and ended up telling them that, while I was honored to be asked, before God I cannot officiate a wedding if this issue wasn’t addressed. They seemed to understand but ended up moving in a different direction.

While I worried about the toll this would take on our relationship, at the end of the day, it was the right move because sexual purity isn’t just an annoying and old school law, it is something that defines a believer and shows our commitment to God Himself.

Fight for purity.

Jake Lawson

June 15 – Thessalonica – You Were Prepared for This!

Read 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

For those of you who know the Lawson’s, you would know that the matriarch and patriarch are two very different people. Not to say that they don’t share such qualities in varying degrees but, where Mom is expressive, encouraging, will hug anyone and is quick to cry, Dad is calm, collected, wise and disciplined. Second only to God, Mom and Dad have shaped me into the man I am today. To this day, I’ll do something and smile, knowing Mom would do the same thing. However, Dad’s words of wisdom will often pop into my head as I have benefited from his encouragement often over the years.

While my wife, Kelly and I were dating, I was flying back home from Florida and had to transfer through O’Hare in Chicago…literally one of the biggest airports in the world. I was anxious about making my connecting flight and was starting to sweat at the thought of the journey when Dad told me in a way that only he could, “Get off the plane and read the signs. They won’t lead you wrong.” Sure enough, I got off the plane and, when I could feel the anxiety swell and my chest start to tighten, I heard Dad in my head say, “Follow the signs”.

Our reading in 1 Thessalonians today is Paul encouraging very close friends of his about their faith. They are strong in their faith but, because of life circumstances, they are wavering. Paul is encouraging them, essentially telling them, “You’ve been preparing for this!”

It’s easy to trust in God when things are going well for you. However, it’s a whole other ballgame when life gets hard. How quick are you to trust in God in the midst of a storm? How much do you remember the truths you have read and internalized from the Bible beforehand?

I can recall the exact emotions I felt when I dialed Dad’s phone to tell him and Mom that Kelly and I miscarried our second baby when they didn’t even know we were pregnant. I remember the feeling of hopelessness as I was in the hospital being told I was suffering from seizures that were causing my heart to pause.

Where is God now?

Does He even care?

Friend, it’s through tears and through personal experience that I tell you that God cannot be closer to you than when you are going through trials. You have been preparing for this! Your faith is in place for when life gets hard. We have been blessed with hope!

My challenge to you is simple: trust and prepare.

If you are reading this and life is going well for you, continue to spend time alone with God and His Word. How can you strengthen your faith and secure your foundation for when life takes a turn?

If you are reading this and you’re struggling, hold fast to your faith! You’ve been preparing for this! God is near and promises to never leave you. The answers to your problems can only be found in the person of Jesus and the inspired words of the Bible.

There is hope! God is good and He is near!

Jake Lawson

June 14 – Thessalonica – Potential to be a great example

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:20

“Is It Cake?” is a game show cooking competition, where cake artists create replicas of everyday objects in an effort to stump the judges.  The cake artists have to imitate the “real deal” down to the texture, size, shape, color, etc.  Judges have to spot the “sweet fake” from the “real deal”.  The fake is revealed when the host of the show tries to cut into whichever item the judges decide is the “sweet fake”. 

The Thessalonians in this passage were not a “sweet fake”.  They were the “real deal” following the example of Paul.

“You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message…”1 Thessalonians 1:6a

The Thessalonians welcomed the Gospel message and were fully convinced of its truth.  The evidence of this was seen in the way they lived.  The example that Paul and the Thessalonians set was based on their living faith, hope and love.

They had a Living Faith:

“…in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 

And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 

The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—

your faith in God has become known everywhere.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6b-8

Their faith was seen in their joyful witness, in the midst of affliction.  Their response to suffering became an example to imitate.  Paul was told of the Thessalonian’s faith and word spread, and their example reached many.

They had a Living Love:

“…for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us.

They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God…”1 Thessalonians 1:9

The proof of their faith was not only seen in their perseverance under persecution, but it was seen in their love for others.  The Thessalonians had turned from worshipping false idols, to loving the one true God.  They were devoted in service and love to God’s people.  I am reminded of a song we used to sing at camp, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord….and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” 

They had a Living Hope:

“…and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—

Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”1 Thessalonians 1:10

They lived with the hope of His return.  Because they believed Jesus was raised from the dead, they had a confident hope that He would return.  Because they believed He would return, they had a confident hope that He would deliver them from wrath.  The Thessalonians had a living hope that Jesus had purchased their salvation, and that He would return, bringing with Him a full and final deliverance from the coming wrath – death.

The Thessalonians were watching Paul, and others were watching the Thessalonians.  Like it or not, we are being watched and examined by the world.  What we say and do, and how we respond to situations, leaves behind a witness as to who we are.  When the judge’s choice on “Is It Cake?” is cut into, all is exposed.  Whether we are going through trials or just living our life day to day, we are exposed to the world around us.  

How does your life reveal your faith? Your Love? Your Hope?

Janene Nagel