As I sit here agonizing over Casey Anthony’s verdict of not guilty on all counts involving murder, I want to share my thoughts. Please hear me out.

First of all, I think that this verdict is partly the fault of Nancy Grace and others who for so long made a career out of trying to bring to light the need for justice regarding baby Caylee, but also to try Casey for murder in the media. Nancy Grace, who has made her career for the past three years based upon Caylee’s case, has put so much pressure on the police and prosecutors to bring Casey to trial, that they jumped to go to trial when they should have waited for the smoking gun. I have mixed feelings about all of this, for at least four reasons:

1)-In the past fifteen years, as DNA testing has been performed on death row prisoners awaiting their execution, the sin and prejudice of the justice system has been revealed as over 50% of all people tested have been found to have been falsely accused. This just shows the pressure that detectives and prosecutors have been under to solve cases, even at the expense of convicting the wrong person. 2)-It also shows the sins of detectives and prosecutors by showing that their real objectives in life are not really for justice at all, but just to win a case and build a career. 3)-It shows the false pride also of detectives and prosecutors who refuse to view themselves and their cases objectively, and possibly have their hunches proven wrong. 4)-Finally, it shows the “good old boy” network that exists all over our nation between police, news media, prosecutors, and judges. The balance that should exist by means of appeals, at the least, appears to not be in place.

There are huge injustices performed day in an day out in our courts and judicial system, this is a fact. There are so many cases one could look at that reveal injustices. It was said that O.J. Simpson got the best justice money could buy, and if a person has enough money the chance of them beating a murder charge that is even an open and shut case is very good. Hannah Overton in Corpus Christi, TX was convicted of premeditated murder for poisoning her child by giving him food that was too high in sodium (an extra packet of chili sauce mixed in water after he was still hungry after eating a big bowl of chili), and then waiting like 25 minutes before rushing him to the emergency room after he began having flu like symptoms. During trial, an expert medical witness was hindered by prosecution tactics from being able to testify to the fact that it appeared that the child had a disease that causes someone to gorge food, including eating excess salt. After the media in Corpus Christi began airing day after day prejudicial propaganda accusing Hannah of this murder of a “poor innocent child”, there was no way Hannah could have a fair trial. A year after Hannah’s conviction when the 20-20 television show aired a program showing many major flaws in the prosecution’s case and how there is no way that this could have been a murder in the first place, Hannah’s defense team received communication over the next couple days from over one hundred people stating that a similar injustice had been carried out on them in that same court system. Then, even after a second 20-20 follow up show, as well as a couple of legal appeals, Hannah remains in prison on a life sentence with no possibility of parole. How could this happen in America? By the way, the same judge in the case, a couple of weeks ago, had a woman jailed and her children taken away from her because she spanked one of her kids and left a little red mark.

You can read more details on Hannah’s case and the latest on her journey at the website setup to free her: http://freehannah.org .

Secondly, I think we have set ourselves up for a disastrous outcome whenever we allow television cameras and live recording of court proceedings. We have become a people that want to be privy to anything and everything that is of a private or personal nature. Today, multitudes want to watch reality television and see all of the nitty-gritty details of what used to be beyond the realm of decency. Allowing a television camera into a courtroom gives attorneys on both sides of a case the opportunity to show-boat or boost their careers, and it also makes celebrities of everyone, including judges, defendants, plaintiffs, witnesses, journalists, and jurors. How do we expect partiality and fairness when people in the courtroom have such temptation put before them that the camera provides? Does anyone remember Kato Kaelin, O.J. Simpson’s clueless house guest in 1994 who became a talk show sensation because of his rambling testimony in the O.J. case? His testimony contradicted parts of O.J.’s account of events so he was a prosecution witness, but after all of his ramblings on the stand, the prosecution declared him a hostile witness. Kato played like an actor for the camera throughout his testifying, and it paid off for him big. Oh, and how many books were later written by those involved in the case?

Third, I think that there should be legislation enacted that gives stiff penalties to the media for divulging information prejudicial to a case that has not gone to trial without equal airtime given to the defendant’s counsel in the same programming, to rebut the accusations made. Without this legislation, how could the average person be given a fair trial when they have already been tried in the media? The media needs major restrictions of some type in order for justice to be carried out.

Fourth, I truly hope that those in the justice system pay attention to this Casey Anthony case and learn that jurors are no longer as likely to convict people with any Dog and Pony prosecution case that is circumstantial and based only upon a theory of motive, with no physical evidence for a conviction. When a person’s life and future is on the line, there ought to be a heavier burden than has often been accepted in the past. Guilty “without a reasonable doubt” ought to be rethought, in other words.

Today, I don’t think justice has been served, except in the matter of how to deal with sloppy prosecutor’s. It is good to remember on a day such as this that our country is the only one which is based upon the ideals of “liberty and justice for all”. God help us to keep both.

. .

One Solitary Life: Author Unknown

Posted: December 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

ONE SOLITARY LIFE

He was born in an obscure village,
the child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another obscure village,
where he worked in a carpenter shop
until he was thirty.
Then for three years
he was an itinerant preacher.
He never set foot inside a big city.
He never traveled two hundred miles
from the place he was born.
He never wrote a book,
or held an office.
He did none of these things
that usually accompany greatness.

While he was still a young man,
the tide of popular opinion
turned against him.
His friends deserted him.
He was turned over to his enemies,
and went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross
between two thieves.
While he was dying,
his executioners gambled
for the only piece of property he had –
his coat
When he was dead,
he was taken down
and laid in a borrowed grave.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone,
and today he is the central figure
for much of the human race.
All the armies that ever marched,
and all the navies that ever sailed,
and all the parliaments that ever sat,
and all the kings that ever reigned,
put together
have not affected the life of man
upon this earth as powerfully as this
“One Solitary Life”.                           

Merry Christmas!

In my last blog thread, I discussed the Rapture (“snatching away“) of the church from 1 Thessalonians, and mentioned that it is the next event on God’s prophetic timetable.  In this thread, I want to back up and talk more in depth about the “parousia”, and then discuss 2 Thessalonians and how Paul wrote about the Second Coming (or Advent) of Christ (the other aspect of the “parouia“) in that letter.

Lets talk now about the “parousia” of Jesus…  In the gospels, that last full day that Jesus was with His disciples before His arrest and crucifixion, He took them by the temple as He was on the way to the Mount of Olives.  When they passed by the temple the disciples were admiring its beauty, and in response to this Jesus said, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (Matt. 24:2).  Then, we read of how as Jesus sat with His disciples on the Mount of Olives that the disciples came and asked Him the questions that led to His giving them what has been called His “Olivet Discourse” (see Matt. 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21):  Matthew 24:3  – “And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?””  The Greek word translated “coming” in verse 3 is the first mention in the New Testament of this Greek word “parousia”.  The disciples were asking Jesus three questions here: 

(1) When will the temple be destroyed? (2) What sign(s) will precede His appearing (“parousia”)? (3) What will be the sign of the end of age (or world as we know it)?

In the last thread when we talked about the epistle of 1 Thessalonians, we saw that Paul wrote about the event called the “parousia”, and we saw that he wrote about this in relation to the Rapture of believers.  But, Paul uses the same word in the book of 2 Thessalonians when he teaches there about the Second Coming of Christ that will occur at the end of the Tribulation when He is establishing His kingdom.  In the scripture, the “parousia” refers to the return of Christ, and as such both the event of the Rapture and resurrection of the saints, as well as the event of His execution of judgment of the unbelieving world and establishment of His kingdom are involved.  It refers to the Rapture as well as the Second Coming (or Advent).   Here is what Harper’s Bible Dictionary says about the “parousia:

Parousia (pah-ro̅o̅-seeʹuh), a Greek term meaning ‘arrival,’ ‘coming,’ or ‘being present.’ The Gospel of Matthew has three sayings of Jesus concerning the future Parousia of the Son of man (24:27, 37, 39) and one in which the disciples ask Jesus what the ‘sign’ of his own Parousia will be (24:3). Paul refers to the future Parousia of Christ five times (1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23). James encourages belief that the Parousia of ‘the Lord’ is near (5:7-8). The author of 2 Thessalonians, perhaps Paul, refers to the Parousia of ‘our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2:1, 8). 2 Peter speaks of Jesus’ previous Parousia, possibly at the transfiguration (1:16), but also of ‘his’ (probably Jesus’) future Parousia (3:4) and of the future Parousia of ‘the day of God’ (3:12; cf. ‘the day of the Lord,’ 3:10, and ‘the day of eternity,’ 3:18). 1 John refers once to ‘his’ (probably Jesus’) Parousia (2:28), expected very soon (2:18).

Judgment: Several of these sayings link the coming of the Son of man, Lord, or Christ with the prospect of judgment. The sayings in Matt. 24:37, 39 compare the Parousia of the Son of man to the unexpected and disastrous coming of the flood in the days of Noah. Paul twice expresses the hope that his Thessalonian congregation will be found blameless at the Parousia (1 Thess. 3:13; 5:23). James characterizes the Lord whose coming is at hand as ‘the Judge’ (5:8-9). In 2 Peter, the Parousia (3:4) is directly associated with the coming ‘day of judgment’ (3:7), and 1 John uses similar language, referring both to the prospective Parousia (‘that…we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame’; 2:28) and the prospective day of judgment (4:17). In the synoptic Gospels, Jesus frequently intimates that the coming of the Son of man will be the time when people will be judged (Matt. 13:41-43; 16:27; 25:31-46; Luke 18:8; 21:36; cf. Matt. 7:21-23, where Jesus is to be the Judge). Generally, the Synoptics portray the Son of man as Judge, though in Matt. 19:28 and Luke 22:30, the twelve disciples are to judge the tribes of Israel. In Luke 12:8-9, the angels of God appear to be the judges (but cf. 1 Cor. 6:3, where Paul writes that Christians are to judge angels!). In Matthew, angels appear as attendants or bailiffs (13:41; 24:31) of the kingdom of the Son of man, a term evidently equivalent to his court of judgment (Matt. 13:41; 16:28). References to Jesus’ prospective kingdom often have a similar meaning (e.g., Matt. 20:21; Luke 22:30). Jesus is expected as Judge in other NT writings as well (e.g., 2 Tim. 4:1; James 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 4:5).”

So, in the letter of 1 Thessalonians, Paul was comforting the Thessalonians who were concerned that Jesus had not yet returned and yet some of their number had passed away (“fallen asleep”), and they were concerned that these ones would be lost for eternity.  Paul encouraged the church that the Lord Jesus was coming to Rapture (“snatch away”) His church and that when He came He would bring with Him all of those who had previously fallen asleep in Jesus, resurrected those ones first, then resurrect believers still alive on the earth.  Finally, all believers in Christ would be joined up together in the clouds with Christ, and so they would remain with the Lord forever.

But, shortly after writing and sending off the first epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul received another report from the church.  He learned that they had received a spurious letter said to be penned by Paul, and it stated that the Lord had already returned to the earth.  Now, the Thessalonians were concerned that the Lord had returned to judge the earth (the second aspect of the “parousia”) and that they were now in the midst of the Great Tribulation (described in the 3 sets of 7 judgments of the book of Revelation, seals, trumpets, and bowls).  The fiery trials and persecutions that the Thessalonians were going through seemed to confirm that they were living in the Great Tribulation (the church through history has often thought that she was in the midst of the Great Tribulation, most recently in WWII and the rise of Hitler and Nazii Germany).  So, in the book of 2 Thessalonians Paul writes to the Thessalonians to comfort them by showing them the kinds of things that would occur on the earth after the church has been Raptured by Christ.  

In 2 Thessalonians, the description of the events that would occur at the “parousia” of Christ are much different than simply being Raptured.  Notice the many unique descriptions that will typify the “parousia” from the book of 2 Thessalonians  (2 Thessalonians 2:1-11, “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him {THIS IS REFERRING TO THE RAPTURE HERE}, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord {THE DAY OF THE LORD REFERS TO THE DAY OF JUDGMENT OF HIS WRATH, HIS SECOND COMING} has come.  Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.  Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?  And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.  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.  Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;  that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.  For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.“):

A)     It would be preceded by an apostasy (complete “falling away”) of the church (2 Thess. 2:3).

B)    The “Man of Lawlessness” will be revealed (called by John in his epistles the “antiChrist”, and having many other titles in the Bible) (2 Thess. 2:3).

C)    The “antiChrist” will oppose and set himself up above every so-called god or object of worship, take his seat in the temple, and demand to be worshipped as God Himself (this is what Daniel wrote about as being the Abomination of Desolation, that event that Jesus pointed to in His Olivet Discourse as being the event from Daniel’s 70 week timetable that would signal the end of the age, see Matt. 24:15 and Daniel 9:27) (2 Thess. 2:4).

D)    The “antichrist” will come with great satanically empowered false signs and wonders, and cause great deception upon the earth (2 Thess. 2:9-11).

Paul had already comforted the Thessalonians in the first chapter of 2 Thessalonians that they did not need to worry that those who were persecuting them would get away with these things, for he tells them that when the Lord appears He will also bring fiery retribution to those who do not know the Lord and do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is a description of that judgment of Revelation chapter 20 referred to there as “The Great White Throne Judgment” of Christ.  This description of the future fiery judgment and retribution of God is possibly the scariest passage in the entire Bible for the nonbeliever:

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10:  “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,  when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.

Notice the metaphors in the passage above that depict the second aspect of the “parousia” of Jesus, when He comes to carry out His wrath and judgments upon those left on the earth after the church has been Raptured up to be with Him:

A)    Mighty angels come with Him (inferring a mighty battle that will take place in the spiritual and earthly realms).

B)    His judgment will come in flaming fire (the Law of Moses was received on Mt. Sinai amidst flaming fire, thus it is fitting that the judgment based upon that Law should be accompanied with flaming fire).

C)    Retribution will be meted out to those who do not know the Lord (becoming a Christian involves coming into a personal relationship with Christ as one’s personal Savior) and do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ (trusting in Jesus and His work on Calvary’s cross alone to save you, and acknowledging Him as your Lord).

D)    Full payment for the penalty of their sins will be dispensed upon those being judged.

E)    The eternal judgment will involve eternal destruction (resurrection bodily but not to glory but rather to corruption) and removal from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power (Jesus referred to hell as being “outer darkness“).

What did Paul seek to communicate then to the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians?  He sought to comfort them that the Lord had not come in His Second Advent to judge the world in His wrath because that period will be unmistakable, with all of these earmarks Paul has described.  And, the Lord is first coming to Rapture (“snatch away”) His church, for as Paul wrote to them in 1 Thessalonians, the church is not destined for God’s wrath:  1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  What a great comfort this is for the believer in Christ who has assurance of salvation through trusting in Christ through the gospel!!!

How I long and put my focus not upon living in the Great Tribulation, but upon His soon “Glorious Appearing” for the church, just as Paul described the “parousia” to Titus:  Titus 2:11-14, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

From the beginning of creation, men have struggled to understand why we are here and if there is life or existence beyond this life.  Today, the secular media investigates stories of people who die and then come back to life and tell what the experienced in death.  Mediums consult the dead for people, and many seek truth about the afterlife in the paranormal and in metaphysics.  People seem to want to cover all of the bases in their quest to know about the afterlife.  There is hopelessness and fear for most when they consider the afterlife.  Yet, the Bible gives clear and understandable teaching about life beyond the grave, and the Bible itself claims to be inspired by God.

The Romans world, in which the Thessalonian church was located to whom the apostle Paul wrote his epistle of 1 Thessalonians, was filled with despair and lack of hope beyond this life.  Just as many people today live lives full of desperation because they have no hope beyond this life, likewise lived the Thessalonians.  The Bible Exposition Commentary lists the following epitaph that was common on grave stones from this era:

     I was not, I became,  I am not, I care not

Paul had spent a mere three weeks establishing this church in Thessalonica during his second missionary journey, and he had taught them the gospel and the basic teachings concerning Christian doctrine and practical discipleship.  He had taught them that Christ would return for His church and take them to be with Him.  But, since Paul’s time with the Thessalonians, several of their group had fallen asleep (a biblical term for having died), and they now feared that these ones who had died before Christ returned would be lost for eternity.  Paul wrote his first epistle to the Thessalonians to give them encouragement and comfort about loved ones who have passed away.

I have heard Bible teachers say that the epistle of 1 Thessalonians is the most important book in the NT because of its prophesies, and that this section of scripture were are looking at in this study is the most important passage in the book.  I don’t think I agree with the book being “the” most important book in the Bible, but the reason that people say this points to the book’s importance.  This book, along with 2 Thessalonians, are great books for their teaching on prophecy.  1 Thessalonians is really a primary source for learning about The Rapture, and 2 Thessalonians for learning about the Second Coming of Christ, that event that will occur after the seven year Tribulation of the book of Revelation and when Christ returns to establish His Millennial kingdom on the earth after having judged and humbled the nations through the Tribulation.

If we were to poll Christian people today about whether they believe that the Rapture of the church is taught in the Bible, most would say that they do not think so.  However, I believe it is clearly taught in this book of 1 Thessalonians.  In 1 Thess. 4:13-18 there is clear teaching about the Rapture, and we find the Greek word “arpadzo”, which is translated “caught up”, used here.  The Latin Vulgate translates this word “raptured”.  So, the word “Rapture” is the Latin translation of the word which means “to be snatched away in a violent sort of way.”  This passage teaches that the church is waiting to be “snatched away” by the Lord when He comes for us, which is what the word and concept of “rapture” means.  I think every funeral service ought to quote this passage. 

The teaching of the “Rapture” makes believers realize that the return of Christ for them is “imminent”.  This means that it can happen at any time without any future events that need to occur, and also that it is the very next event to occur on God’s timetable of prophetic events which precede His return to establish His kingdom.  It also gives us great comfort because in this passage in 1 Thessalonians, for Paul assures us that we will be reunited for eternity with all of our saved loved ones when Christ returns for the church.  Further, Paul teaches in this passage that the “Rapture” and the “resurrection” of believers is one event, and that when Christ returns for believers that they will receive a glorified incorruptible body that they will inhabit for eternity.  Those believers who have already passed away (fallen asleep) will be brought with Christ and resurrected in glorified bodies (one event), and then we who are live and remain shall likewise be resurrected and meet Christ and our loved ones in the air.  Finally, all believers shall spend eternity together with Christ.

I love this passage that Paul wrote about the resurrected body that all believers in Christ will receive in that moment in time when Christ returns for us:

1 Corinthians 15:39-52, “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.  There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another.  There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.  So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body;  it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;  it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.  So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.  The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.  As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.  Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.  Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

As I study through the New Testament, one of the things that I find is that Jesus and the apostles constantly warned God’s people that difficulties, trials and persecutions awaited them, and that they should not be surprised or taken off guard if they encounter such things.  This of course flies in the face of the popular “health, wealth, and prosperity” teachings that many espouse these days. Peter wrote about not thinking that the “fiery ordeal” that we sometimes find ourselves in is some strange happening to us: 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about how he had been warning them ahead of time that trials and persecutions awaited them: 1 Thessalonians 3:4, “For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.” At a later date, Paul wrote the following to Timothy about persecutions being certain for all Christians: 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Jesus kept telling His disciples that just He was persecuted that they too would be persecuted, and He told them also that through all they suffered in this world that in Him they could still have peace: John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

On his second missionary journey, Paul had gone with his traveling companions to the Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica on three successive Sabbaths and preached from the Old Testament scriptures Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and raised from the dead.  Some Jews had believed, a number of God-fearing Gentiles, and some of the prominent women.  But, soon afterward Jason, the man from the synagogue whom Paul had been staying with, was arrested by the Jews and charged with various crimes.  Later that night, Paul was escorted out of the city secretly because of the persecution that had arisen.  Paul and his companions (Silas and Timothy) had then regrouped in Athens, and Paul was very concerned about how the Thessalonians were faring.   He knew they were such young believers and now having to face much persecution he feared would be more than their young and tender faith in Christ could endure.  Finally, when Paul could no longer endure worrying about the Thessalonians, he sent Timothy to them to see how they were faring.  Timothy later returned with the good news that the church was weathering the fiery storms of persecution and that their faith and love were increasing, and they were even now preaching the gospel themselves, far and wide. It was this report from Timothy that caused Paul to write his first letter to the Thessalonians.

Suffering and trials can cause us to doubt whether or not God loves us, whether He is in control of this world, whether we are following His plans and have His favor, and whether or not He even exists at all.  Many people who once professed a faith in Christ eventually have turned away when they couldn’t understand why they should have to suffer as they had suffered.  And, lets be honest most people at times wonder and struggle with the fact that many times it is the good people who struggle and have difficulties and the wicked for whom life seems to go well.  A Christian needs to gain a proper perspective on trials and persecutions to be prepared to handle all that life throws at us.  Lets talk about what that perspective should be.

The Bible Exposition Commentary states the following about this letter of 1 Thessalonians and how that God uses trials in our lives as Christians: “The trials and testings that come to our lives as Christians are not accidents—they are appointments. We must expect to “suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29). Persecution is not foreign to the believer (1 Peter 4:12ff), but a normal part of the Christian life. Paul had repeatedly told them this while he was with them. We must warn new believers that the way is not easy as they seek to live for Christ; otherwise, when trials come, these babes in Christ will be discouraged and defeated. Of course, behind these persecutions is Satan, the enemy of the Christian (1 Thes. 3:5). He is the tempter, and he seeks to ruin our faith. Note the emphasis on faith in this chapter (1 Thes. 3:5–7, 10).

To this persecuted church comprised of brand new babies in Christ, Paul did not pray that the persecutions and trials be removed from them. Rather, he prayed for their faith to grow through them, for their hearts to be purified through them, and for their love for God and others to grow through them. The Bible Exposition Commentary writes the following about Paul’s prayer for the love of the persecuted Thessalonians to grow:  “Paul’s second request was that their love might abound (1 Thes. 3:12). Times of suffering can be times of selfishness. Persecuted people often become very self-centered and demanding. What life does to us depends on what life finds in us; and nothing reveals the true inner man like the furnace of affliction. Some people build walls in times of trial, and shut themselves off. Others build bridges and draw closer to the Lord and His people. This was Paul’s prayer for these believers, and God answered it: “The charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth” (2 Thes. 1:3). Our growing faith in God ought to result in a growing love for others. We are “taught of God to love one another” (1 Thes. 4:9), and some of these lessons are best learned in the school of suffering. Joseph suffered for thirteen years because of his brothers’ envy and persecution. Yet he learned to love them in spite of their hatred. The Jewish legalists persecuted Paul from city to city, yet Paul so loved his people that he willingly would have died for them (Rom. 9:1–3). When I counsel young couples in preparation for marriage, I often ask the man: “If your wife became paralyzed three weeks after you were married, do you love her enough to stay with her and care for her?” True love deepens in times of difficulty; shallow romance disappears when difficulties appear. But true Christian love is shown not only to believers, but also “toward all men” (1 Thes. 3:12). We love one another, but we also love the lost and our enemies. Abounding love must not be bound. It must be free to expand and touch all men.

I highlight the phrase above, “What life does to us depends on what life finds in us; and nothing reveals the true inner man like the furnace of affliction”, as I found it profound and true. I think the church today in its preaching of the gospel needs to change our emphasis. So much of the time the emphasis is when we preach the gospel that if people believe in Christ He will make their life easier, their marriage work better, the family life work better, their lives be more successful, etc.  The phrase, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life“, might not be the best statement to make in our presentation.  The motive of “life enhancement” for believing in Christ is just wrong, and it produces many converts who turn back when difficulties and temptations later come along.  I can imagine that when Paul preached the gospel he probably told people that if they thought that they ought to become a Christian because their life is going to get easier, their family will get along, they will be blessed with good jobs and prosperity, etc., that they should not consider signing up to believe in Christ for salvation.

Now, Timothy was sent to the Thessalonians to encourage and strengthen their faith through teaching the foundations of the Christian faith.  But, even in this he was only helping to toughen them up, not giving them the expectation that in everything they should be prospering because they were now believers.  I warn you now, that if you are a believer, you are going to face difficulties, trials, and persecutions. You can have the peace of Christ in the midst of them, as well as joy, for these are fruits of God’s Spirit in our lives.  You can know that God works all things out for good to those who believe in Christ (Rom. 8:28).  But, don’t think for a moment that your peace and joy are going to be dependent upon favorable circumstances for you, they are likely to be in spite of them! Don’t be surprized at the fiery ordeal among you…

Our text:  1 Thessalonians 2:13  – “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”

Paul rejoiced greatly over the Thessalonians, and one reason that he did so he explains here was because of how that they ‘received’ the word of God.  They didn’t treat the word of God like it was really ‘the word of men’, not like it was just Paul’s ideas, or any man’s ideas.  They treated the word of God like it came from the very mouth and heart of God, and contained the very oracles of God. 

What a difference how we view the word of God makes in our lives.  How we view the word of God means everything in whether or not it can work in our lives as God intended it.  If we question the word of God, or don’t accept its authority or power in our lives, then it cannot have the desired effect in us that it could otherwise.  On the other hand, if we reverently and gratefully accept the word of God as containing the very oracles of God, then the word can change our hearts, motive us to carry out God’s will, enable us to be able to fulfill what God has commanded and made known to us, and give us victory in every situation and over every single foe we face, both in this realm and with the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.

There are a number of passages of scripture that speak to the type of attitude that we ought to have towards the word of God, as well as good examples of people who had a good view of the word of God, including:

  1. Psalm 1:1-3, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” 
  2. Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” 
  3. Psalm 19:7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” 
  4. Matthew 5:6, ““Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”.” 
  5. In the book of Nehemiah, we learn the story about how after the Judeans had returned to Israel after being in captivity for 70 years in Babylon where they had grown very dead spiritually, that revival occurred in their land when the priest Ezra read the entirety of the books of the law to the people gathered together in the center of Jerusalem:  Nehemiah 8:1-8, “And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel.  Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month.  He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law.  Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam on his left hand.  Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.  Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.  Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.” 
  6. Luke 8:15, ““But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance”.” 
  7. Acts 10:33, ““So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord”.” 
  8. Acts 17:11, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” 
  9. James 1:25, “But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” 
  10. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

It is said that there is an ancient inscription on the Cathedral in Lubeck, Germany, that says:Ye call me master, and obey me not. Ye call me Light and seek me not. Ye call me Way and walk me not. Ye call me Wise and follow me not. Ye call me Fair and love me not. Ye call me Rich and ask me not. Ye call me Eternal and seek me not.  Ye call me Gracious and trust me not. Ye call me Noble and serve me not. Ye call me Mighty and honor me not. Ye call me Just and fear me not. If I condemn you, blame me not.

Yesterday, one of the Calvary Chapel pastors shared a very moving video clip with me from this past week at his church, and this is sort of an illustration of  what having a proper attitude towards God’s word ought to look like.  This clip is such a blessing, please view it now by clicking here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtQrCV42g4Q

Concerning God’s word, I admonish you that we should always have this attitude:

  1. Approach it with respect.
  2. Recognize it as infallible.
  3. Believe it to be sufficient.
  4. Be willing to be guided by it.

The ‘word’ that the Thessalonians had accepted for what it was, the word of God, was the gospel message itself.  Yet surely, they also accepted all of the teachings of God’s word with a similar attitude.  The word of God brought conviction to their hearts and produced a desire to obey it and serve God with all of their lives.

God says that His word will not return void but will accomplish what He intends it for, Isaiah 55:11, and by viewing His word properly for what it is, that word is able to bring life and blessing, and not be a curse and a judgment upon us, “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”   

Notice here that Paul says that the word of God performs that work that God intended it for in our lives if we “believe”.  Tragically, if we do not believe the word of God when we receive it, then that word can only be a word of judgment and condemnation to us…  How important it is how we view the word of God in our lives.  As I said at the beginning, the word of God can change our hearts, motive us to carry out God’s will, enable us to be able to fulfill what God has commanded and made known to us, and give us victory in every situation and over every single foe we face, both in this realm and with the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.  But, it can do this only if we received if for what it really is.

Paul had planted the church in Thessalonica during his second missionary journey, after he had been publicly humiliated and persecuted in Philippi. Instead of giving up on missions because of his hardships, Paul continued as the Lord led him. When Paul got to Thessalonica, he spent three successive Sabbaths preaching from the Old Testament how Jesus Christ’s being crucified and risen from the dead matched the prophesies of scripture. As a result some Jews believed in Christ, along with a number of God-fearing Greeks, and some prominent women. But, the authorities immediately showed up at Jason’s house from the synagogue, the man Paul had been staying with. They hauled off Jason and his companions (Paul wasn’t around at the time) and took them and accused them of serious crimes. As a result, Paul and Silas were escorted secretly out of the city after dark.

But, after Paul left, some people in Thessalonica used the opportunity of Paul’s leaving the city as he had done, to create a gossip-fest about him. These ones said that Paul had abandoned the Thessalonians, that he obviously didn’t care for them or he wouldn’t have left, that he had a false motive for planting the church, namely greed, and that he had fleeced the sheep, and also, that he had lied when he told them he would return to the church. Ughhhh, don’t you hate gossip. Gossip is always deadly wherever it lands.

Chapters 2 and 3 of 1 Thessalonians contain Paul’s defenses of himself to these accusations. I want to look at just two of the defenses that Paul makes to the Thessalonians: (A) He tells them that he showed to them the love of a nursing mother for her child, and (B) He tells them he showed them a father’s care and love.

(A) The love of a nursing mother: 1 Thess. 2:7-9 – “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”

a. It is hard to overstate the love of a mother, the love that the apostle Paul told the Thessalonians his actions had shown to them. A person who loves you is one you trust your life to, and the Thessalonians knew in their hearts the great love that Paul had shown to them. Paul had treated the Thessalonians like a ‘nursing mother’ tenderly cares for and comforts her child.

b. Paul says that because of the mothering type of love he had for the Thessalonians that they had imparted to the Thessalonians not only the gospel ‘but also our own lives’. Paul had let the Thessalonians be close to him as friends and understand his real thoughts, struggles, difficulties, and joys in life.

c. A Commentary Critical And Explanatory amplifies Paul’s statement to the Thessalonians this way: “As a nursing mother is ready to impart not only her milk to them, but her life for them, so we not only imparted gladly the spiritual milk of the word to you, but risked our own lives for your spiritual nourishment, imitating Him who laid down His life for His friends, the greatest proof of love (Jn 15:13).” Mother’s nurture, mother’s protect, mothers meet needs, and mothers empathize and guide us through their love and counsel.

d. There are too numerous to count the number of quotes and illustrations to found today of the love of a mother, but here are just a few:

i. Helen Rice–“A mother’s love is patient and forgiving when all others are forsaking, it never fails or falters, even though the heart is breaking.”
ii. Mark Twain—“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”
iii. Unknown–“The death of a mother is the first sorrow wept without her.”

e. Paul tells the Thessalonians, ‘you had become very dear to us’, and the mothering love that he showed to them was expressed in his laboring hard and providing for his own support as he preached the gospel to them: ‘our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God’.

f. The Greek word that is translated ‘gentle’ here means to be “mild in bearing with the faults of others”. Like a mother treats her children, so Paul was mild in bearing with the faults of the Thessalonians.

(B) The father’s care and love Paul showed to the Thessalonians: 1 Thess. 2:10-11 – “You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,”.

a. As a loving father over the Thessalonians, Paul had lived his life before God and them ‘devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly’. A loving father sets the standard for what is acceptable and unacceptable in the household, and seeks to live that and train up and discipline his children in that way.

b. Paul tells the Thessalonians that just like a loving father does with his own children that ‘we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one’. A loving father trains up and disciplines in love his children because he seeks to mold them into being the kind of people who will bless others and be used of God when they grow up.

c. A father needs to exhort and admonish his children, but he also needs to encourage them when they become discouraged. This Greek word that is translated ‘exhorting’ means “to call to one’s side and encourage”. It implies to help a person to keep on going in the Lord.

d. The Greek word translated ‘encouraging’ here means “to comfort and console”.

e. This Greek word translated ‘imploring’ means “to charge someone”, and Paul had been charging the Thessalonians to godly living and perseverance in their Christian faith, regardless of persecution, trials, and obstacles. Paul always urged believers to walk in a manner that is worthy of the Lord, and to strive to be holy as the Lord is holy.

What I would like you to consider today in light of these words is two-fold:

First of all, the Lord loves us with both a “motherly” and also a “fatherly” love. He acts as both a mother and a father to his children, just as Paul did. Like a mother He protects us, nurtures us, feeds us, and comforts and consoles us mildly and gently. Like a father He comes along side of us and encourages us to get up and keep going when we fail. He points out to us by word and example His uprightness and holiness and calls and implores us to be holy just as He is holy.

Secondly, should we not seek to have a mother’s love and a loving father’s care for those whom God puts across our paths as we seek to preach the gospel?