What Pleases God?

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2

Paul reminded his fellow Believers of the importance of living to please God. What pleases God? In Scripture, we find a number of things please God.

Having faith in God pleases Him. -Hebrews 11:6
Obeying God pleases Him. -1 Samuel 15:22
Doing God’s will pleases Him. -Hebrews 13:21
Fearing God pleases Him. -Psalm 147:11
Being spiritually minded pleases Him. -Romans 8:6-8
Following Jesus’ example pleases Him. -Matthew 17:5
Doing good and sharing pleases God. -Hebrews 13:15-16

For most of us, these are very tall orders. How can we possibly accomplish all of that? Of course we can’t do it on our own. That’s why God didn’t leave it up to chance. We know the power of the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and is ready and willing to help at the mention of His name. We can’t do this alone. Nor should we. We need the help that only Almighty God can provide.

I suspect that “calling on Him” is another on the list of things that please Him.

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A Powerful Prayer

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

One of the great things about Paul’s prayers is we can easily adapt them to our own situations. If you’re like me, you sometimes don’t know how to pray for people. These prayers are powerful because they’re scripture. God can only bless these words.

Commit them to memory if you have to. Pray them over your own life. Even as you think through the words, you’ll realize that perhaps you’re not as loving as you could be to others, as an example. Sure, you love people but overflowing with love? What’s that?! It’s the very reason we should be learning these kinds of verses to keep in our arsenal.

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The Right Time to Encourage

6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10

Someone in Thessalonica might have read this and asked, “What are we lacking in regards to our faith? Isn’t faith in the Lord Jesus enough?” Of course it is, so what was Paul meaning here? They really weren’t lacking anything except encouragement and strengthening from older, more mature Believers. They didn’t need to be present 24/7 but occasional checkups go a long way in strengthening faith and encouraging Believers. There’s only a subtle difference between “lacking” and “adding to.” Paul’s reunion would add to the encouragement of the Church.

As we fellowship on the Lord’s Day, encourage someone in the faith. The right words spoken at the right time can make a world of difference in someone’s life. You never know when that correct time is.

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Hey! How Ya Doin’?

For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain. 1 Thessalonians 3:3b-5

Paul lived in a world where it took weeks to communicate simple messages and travel even the shortest of distances. There was no radio, television, newspaper, automobile, train, airplane or even electricity. He would have no way to know how the church had been getting along unless he was there himself or sent a messenger to check up on them.

He just wanted to know how they were doing, something we do every day through email, telephone, text, video chats, or in-person visits. Even if the person is across the country, we can be there quite literally in a few hours. And to save time, we have the person on speed dial.

It’s so easy to keep in contact with family and friends and to find out how they’re getting along. We might even think we’re bothering them if we call a couple times each month. If the person is that close to you, you are probably not being a bother. The person welcomes the call.

You probably have two or three people on your “short list” to call but just haven’t managed the time. They want to hear from you one way or another. Why not give them a call or text them? You’ll be glad you did.

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Reliable Friends

So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3a

The trials Paul was referring to was his persecution. Why would the Thessalonians be unsettled hearing about Paul’s persecution? Well, what would it be like to have a good friend of yours go to jail? It would absolutely be unsettling. We would be devastated by the news. So Paul had sent Timothy to ease their fears.

How much did Timothy know about what was happening with Paul? We don’t know, but it doesn’t take much to encourage others to think and pray positively about the situation. We have an idea what could happen, and that’s enough to encourage great prayers.

Thank the Lord today for good reliable friends in your life. Send them a quick note or call them to tell them how much you appreciate them.

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Longing for Eternity

17 But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy. 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20

These few verses present us with a word picture of how we could be longing for our Eternal Home.

Wanting to be there physically.
Knowing family is there but not able to be there just yet.
And of course, being in the presence of Jesus, for He will be our Glory and Joy.

We get glimpses of eternity on occasion here on Earth, but our longing for Heaven and Jesus remains. The work we do here and the lives we can influence matter to God. We don’t know how it all fits together and works together in the end because it’s a complicated world with an infinite number of moving pieces and players.

God still watches over the affairs of mankind. Nothing escapes His eye.

Nothing surprises Him. Not the latest terrorist bomb, dictatorial tyrant, or devastating natural disaster.

We don’t quite understand Eternity and all its dimensions.

But we do know this: Our Savior will be there seated on His throne, much as he’s seated on His throne right now. All the rest of this on Earth is a little blurry, a little fuzzy to our eyes.

Forget about some of your troubles today and take a few minutes to consider Eternity. You’ll be glad you did.

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Standing With Those Who Cannot

14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

When Paul wrote this, the Jews were persecuting the Church. I’m not certain why they were so hostile. History has shown, though, that governments have been the primary Church oppressors. Islam has persecuted the Church severely in the past, and radicals still persecutes the Church.

How has the Church survived these 2000 years? God has preserved the Church on each Continent for His purposes. As regular as the sun rises each morning, persecution precedes church growth. I don’t understand and cannot explain it, but that seems to be the way God operates. Of course, out goal isn’t to become persecuted but to realize persecution isn’t, as they say, the end of the world. For some, it’s just the beginning of a new life.

Still, though, we who are not being persecuted should continue to pray for those who are being persecuted. Yes, their fellowships will grow, but there is a lot of hardship and terrible things that happen during that persecution. It’s not something we should take lightly.

North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and India are all nations that are extremely hostile towards fellow Believers. Take a few minutes today to lift up one of those nations and Believers within.

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Importance of the Word of God

13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 1 Thessalonians 2:13

A friend of mine shared on Facebook something he heard a radio preacher say today, “What you read in God’s Word is sometimes more important than what you here from this pulpit.” Paul would certainly disagree with that statement (as stated in this verse), and so should we.

The Word of God has stood the test of time. We come and go. It’s like comparing a pothole to the billions of stars in the billions of solar systems in the universe. In other words, there is no comparison. Hopefully, the preacher merely misspoke and his congregants informed him of his error.

What you read in the Word of God today will be much more signficant than what you hear others say about it, including this devotional.

Praise God and His unchangeable Word of God.

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Stresses of Bi-Vocational Ministry

9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12

Over the past few verses and even in Corinthians, Paul made it a point to tell the churches that he didn’t want to be a burden to them.

Paul was bi-vocational in that he made tents to pay his way (Acts 18:1-4) while he preached the Gospel. Even though the churches he wrote to were mature, his aim was not to burden them or to be a stumbling block for any who questioned what he did. It takes a certain level of maturity to recognize potential pitfalls before they occur, and finances was one of these pitfalls many ministries have. Did he refuse someone slipping him a few bucks? It’s hard to say but he certainly didn’t require it.

Today, as you consider ministries you support, consider slipping that ministry or person an extra few bucks, not because you have to but because you want to. When missionaries come home on furlough, the stresses of having to raise support are real. While you may never know it, going from church to church and small group to small group takes a lot out of you. Why not ease that burden just a little today?

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