Saturday, October 31, 2015

Preparing for worship on November 1 2015

As we prepare for worship this coming Sunday I find myself in a very unfamiliar situation.  Over the past 8 years I have served as Lead Pastor of North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene. I have never missed a Sunday for sickness during this entire period of time.  Today my wife Sharron has me on "lock down" - no phone - no meetings.  Since last Sunday I have been fighting a sinus cold that last Sunday interrupted my sermon delivery with coughing and as people have described, my "radio " voice. All this week I have taken over the counter medications to bring my cold to a close.  On Wednesday I saw our family physician who gave me the diagnosis of a severe sinus and upper respiratory infection. Then the "bombshell".  My doctor said no talking for the next 5 days. - thus no phone and no meetings.  Since then, I have been on a high dose of antibiotics and resting (especially my voice).

The passage of Scripture for the message this Sunday is what I consider the most difficult passage from the book of 2 Thessalonians. It is the cornerstone of the series - the 3rd in a 5 part teaching series. Great ready for an awesome time of worship and moving of the Holy Spirit!

We plan to begin with words of welcome to all!

Then we stand and lift our voices in joyous praise to our great God!

The death of Jesus is a tremendous gift to us. It is precious. When we are given a gift of great value, a gift that involved personal sacrifice for us, how should we receive it? With mourning and regret? 

No, that is not what the giver wants. Rather, we should receive it with great gratitude, as an expression of great love. If we have tears, they should be tears of joy.

Worship the Lord by bringing an offering to the Lord!   

Hear the Word of the Lord:

The end times can lead to an assortment of reactions. Some people write fiction books about it while others actually attempt to predict the day and time that Jesus will return. For centuries, people have been predicting the time and circumstances of Christ’s return, and many still try to do so today. But God’s word warns against such predictions, and instead challenges us to prepare and pray for His return while trusting Him with the timing.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Six Reasons Why Pastors and Church Leaders Must Be More Courageous Today

If I could choose one more course for ministry training and preparation, it would be “Courageous Leadership.” I hear from so many pastors and staff who are trained well in the classical disciplines, but who are ill-prepared for the real world of church ministry.

Though there have certainly been more difficult times in the course of Church history for pastors, leading a church today is much tougher than it was 20 and 30 years ago. There have been some demographic and cultural shifts that reflect this reality. But some of the challenges can only be understood in the context of spiritual warfare.

So, what are some of the specific reasons pastors and church leaders must be more courageous today? Though my list is far from exhaustive, allow me to name six of the key factors.

1.   There have been dramatic shifts in culture, most of them adversarial to biblical Christianity. Church leaders can no longer assume that biblical values are normative in culture today. To the contrary, many of the cultural mores are antithetical to Christian truth. The pastor must take a stand in this adversarial environment while remaining pastoral and compassionate.

2.   The position of pastor is no longer held in high esteem in many communities. When I was a pastor in the 80s and 90s, I could count on some level of respect from community members because of my vocation. That is not the case most of the time today.

3.   Church critics can be vicious. Have you noticed that, throughout the Bible, the greatest harm to a believing community comes from dissension among the believers? Opposition from the outside is a challenge; dissension from within can be devastating. And church critics today seem to have gone wild!

4.   Pastors must push against the “me” mentality of many church members. For reasons I have noted for years, many of our church members see church membership as tantamount to country club membership. They pay their way and get their perks. Pastors who push against this pervasive and unbiblical mentality often do so at great cost.

5.   Good church leaders must say “no” often. The best church leaders say no to the good so they can say yes to the best. But those who receive a “no” don’t often receive it well.

6.   Ultimately church leadership is spiritual warfare. Paul leaves no doubt to this reality in Ephesians 6:13: “Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.” Pastors and church leaders are truly engaged in spiritual warfare. They must have courage, a courage that can only come from God.

I am not certain about the mindset of Joshua before he led the people of God into the Promised Land, but it seems like he needed an extra dose of courage. Repeatedly in Joshua 1, God tells him: “Be strong and courageous . . . “ (Joshua 1:6).

Church leaders need to be reminded of the need for courage today. Serving as a pastor is an impossible job without the strength and courage that comes only from God.

Church members: may I encourage you, even exhort you, to pray that your pastors and church leaders will have the courage they need to lead God’s churches? Let me hear from you.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The 2015-2016 snow predictions are in

The 2015-2016 snow predictions are in! The new Farmers Almanac is in and it's saying this is what we can expect. Get the snow boots ready!!

I am not sure about the amount of snowfall we will experience this coming winter - however I am sure that this Saturday evening we turn our clocks "back".

 Get ready: it's almost time to "fall back y'all."

Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 1, which means you will need to turn your clocks back an hour before you go to bed Saturday night Oct. 31. The annual tradition signals the official start of shorter days and, on Nov. 1 sunset will occur about 5:19 pm. Plan ahead - enjoy the extra hour of sleep - and don' t be late for church!

The sermon title this Sunday is BE ALERT!   Come prepared......

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Praying Church yeah, right!

"Prayer can do anything that God can do, as God can do anything, prayer is omnipotent." (R.A. Torrey, "The Power of Prayer") 

Many Christian leaders, possibly stating with Augustine, said that prayer is the occupation of the soul. For the mature Christian, their heartbeat is to serve the Lord and, in serving, we are communicating and, in communicating, we are praying. The occupation of our soul is our communication lines with our Holy God. The occupation of our soul is our prayer life with Christ, one of the primary purposes of our existence.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7)

When prayer is mentioned at most churches, dull, dry, and boring images come to mind. Most Christians flat out do not want to pray and even get offended when they feel they have to spend what they perceive as too much time in prayer, usually over 10 minutes. Yet the Bible is filled with examples of prayer gatherings, which we called to participate with. This is called "corporate prayer," which means praying together as a community of believers. However, this does not necessarily mean praying for big business. What it does mean is a way to express oneness and unity. Yet we do not like to do it! We may spend time with our individual prayer lives but not together or when we do, it turns into gossip and ridicule.

God calls us to seek His presence, as a body of believers with one mind and voice, so why don't we? And if we do get together, it is all about us and our individual needs and desires, which is good as long as we include others and go beyond our own backyard. So we need to find the excitement of communing with our Lord and doing it with each other. We are to focus on the Lord and not ourselves.

When we desire to have a church that is after God's purpose then prayer will be at the heart and core of it. The church cannot function without prayer. To have a church that does not pray is like having a telephone operator who refuses to use the phone or the computer programmer not using a computer in their occupations. Sounds like foolishness? Well a lot of churches do not pray, in fact if you carefully inspect churches as I have over the years, you will be shocked on how little prayer actually goes on, or that prayer is wispy and scarce.  

At North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene we gather for prayer each Wednesday evening at 6:30pm.  Our church is filled with people who love God and believe in prayer - but I cannot understand why only 10- 15 people come on Wednesday night to pray.  God help us! Will I see YOU this evening for prayer?  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Judge sets atheist holiday

A newspaper clipping from my files:

Monday, October 26, 2015

How can I make it right with God?

The Bible says in Romans 1:17, “The Good News shows how God makes people right with himself”  (NCV).

How does God make us right with himself? This is called the Gospel, and there are three points.

First, we can’t make ourselves righteous.
Heaven is a perfect place. There’s no sin, sadness, evil, or injustice. But here’s the problem: We are imperfect, and God can’t let sinful people into Heaven because then it would be full of sin, too.

Romans 3:20 says, “No one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are”  
(NLT, second edition).

The only people who think they can keep God’s laws are those that don’t know them, because God’s laws are perfection, and none of us are perfect. We cannot be made right on our own. So God had to come up with a plan.

Second, God sent Jesus to pay for our sins so we could be declared righteous.

When you break man’s laws, you pay man’s penalty. When you break God’s laws, you pay God’s penalty, which is eternity in Hell. Somebody has to pay for all the things you’ve done in life that hurt other people, yourself, and God. God said, “I’ll send my Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty. He will take your place so you don’t have to go to Hell. You can be with me forever.”
Do you understand why the Gospel is called Good News? It means everything you’ve ever done or will ever do wrong in life has already been paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross. You have been made right with God.
“[God] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy”                 (Titus 3:5a).

Third, we have to accept by faith what God did for us.

To be made right with God, just believe and accept by faith that what Jesus did on the cross paid for your sins. Then, you are a part of God’s family. You can live the way he wants you to live now and then go to Heaven in eternity. That is righteousness.

Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”

Hallelujah! We can all be saved no matter who we are, what we’ve done, or how long we’ve done it.

Today is the day to settle this. If you are not sure if you are going to Heaven when you die, please pray this prayer: “Dear God, thank you that you made me and that you made me to know you. Thank you for the choice that you’ve given me to accept or reject your offer of salvation. Today I humbly ask you to save me — not based on what I’ve done but based on what Jesus Christ did for me. I don’t understand it all, but as much as I know how I want to put my trust in your Son. God, I want to get to know you. I want to learn to love you. I want to hunger and thirst for righteousness the rest of my life. I put my trust in your grace and in your forgiveness. I want you to be the Lord of my life. Amen.”

Please contact me if you have made a decision today. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

This summarizes my week

Today I am fighting congestion and a touch of fatigue.  Responsibilities mounted throughout this week and on Friday as I was trying to do several things at one time - I prepared the power point presentation for my message today only to discover when I tried to transfer it to a jump drive I inadvertently deleted my manuscript and power point.

I did not have time on Friday to finish with my prep and found myself in unexpected territory of preparing my presentation late Saturday evening.

No worry -   God is faithful and I am now psyched about preaching tomorrow.   I pray for an unusual anointing of God upon the words God has placed in my heart and soul.

Here is a video to complement my message today along with a great resource I recommend:

In case you were unaware: This summarizes my week...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Preparing for Worship on October 25 2015

On the last Sunday of October we gather for worship of our great God! Last week our attendance was surprisingly low and I am praying that God will draw people to His House this coming Sunday.  I feel that god has placed a significant message in my my soul that has marinated all week.  Each day this week I have gone to my preaching notes and refined and added notes as God has lead.

As we prepare for worship tomorrow - here is the planned order of worship.  We make our plans, but God has the last word!

We gather in the Worship Center during the countdown and when it concludes - we stand and open our hearts and voices to sing for joy to the Lord!

We draw near to God in prayer.  Bring your request to the Lord for He inclines His ear toward us when we pray.

When thinking about Jesus, His healings, miracles, and acts of compassion tend to come to mind. We think about the way He cared for the poor, served His disciples, and sought out social outcasts. But when we think of Jesus, we rarely think of Him coming in power to judge the living and the dead. Most people tend to think of Him in ways that are comfortable to them, without contradicting or challenging the beliefs they already hold. As we study 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, however, we will see that Jesus refuses to bow to our preconceived notions of Him. While Jesus’ first coming was marked by humility and service, His second coming will be marked by judgement and glory. Only those who have trusted in Him will be able to stand in that day. In light of Christ’s promise to return in power and judgement, we must make the most of the time God has given us by seeking His face and telling others the good news about Jesus while there is still time.

Friday, October 23, 2015

God Is Always Present, Regardless of How You Feel

When you are a baby Christian, God gives you a lot of confirming emotions and often answers the most immature, self-centered prayers so you’ll know he exists. But as you grow in faith, he will wean you of these dependencies.

God’s omnipresence and the manifestation of his presence are two different things. One is a fact; the other is often a feeling. God is always present, even when you are unaware of him, and his presence is too profound to be measured by mere emotion.

Yes, he wants you to sense his presence, but he’s more concerned that you trust him than that you feel him. Faith, not feelings, pleases God.

The situations that will stretch your faith most will be those times when life falls apart and God is nowhere to be found. This happened to Job. On a single day he lost everything — his family, his business, his health, and everything he owned. And then, for 37 chapters, God said nothing!

How do you praise God when you don’t understand what’s happening in your life and God is silent? How do you stay connected in a crisis without communication? How do you keep your eyes on Jesus when they’re full of tears? 

You do what Job did: “Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised’”                                                                                                             (Job 1:20b-21 NIV).

Tell God exactly how you feel. Pour out your heart to him. Unload every emotion that you’re feeling. Job did this when he said, “I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter. I have to speak”                                      (Job 7:11 TEV).

He cried out when God seemed distant: “Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house” (Job 29:4 NIV).

God can handle your doubt, anger, fear, grief, confusion, and questions.

 Source:  Rick 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Spiritual Warrior’s Prayer

As we prepare for intercessory prayer this evening at 6:30 at North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene I am moved by Warrior's Prayer that I recently read. It is part of a battle plan for prayer I am developing since seeing the film: War Room.  I commend it to you today.

Good morning Lord. Thank you for assuring me of victory
today. By faith I choose to follow your battle plan and to
prepare myself according to your instruction.

To prepare for the battle ahead, by faith I put on the belt of
truth. Renew my mind to what is true. Fill me with truth.
Expose in my heart the lies that I am tempted to believe. The
truth is that You are a sovereign God who loves me and cares
for me. The truth about me is that I am Your child - bought
and paid for. Nothing can separate me from Your love.
 By faith I put on the breastplate of righteousness.

Today I am committed to do what is right regardless of what it costs me. 
Allow the righteousness of Christ to shine through me today.

 By faith I put on the sandals of the gospel. I am available to
You. Use me in the lives of others. I pray that in my conduct
and speech I would accurately represent you. Make me a
calming presence everywhere I go.

 I now take up the shield of faith. My faith is in You and You
alone. Apart from You I can do nothing. In You I can do all
things. Everything that comes against me must come
through You for I am in you. As you walked without sin on
this earth, live without sin through me today.

By faith I claim victory over _____________ (list some of the temptations I know I will face today). When I face these temptations, remind me that the victory has already been won.

 By faith I put on the helmet of salvation. Thank You for saving me. Thank You for forgiving me. Thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to live inside me. Holy Spirit, I
surrender my will to You today. I surrender my thoughts to You. I choose to take every thought captive to the obedience
of Christ.

And last, I take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Claim several promises from scripture.) So Lord, I go now rejoicing that You have chosen me to represent
you to this lost world. May others see Jesus in me. May Satan and his hosts shudder as Your power is manifest through me.

In Jesus name I pray,


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Franklin Graham: Are We in the Last Hours Before Christ's Return?

As you watch the news, do you feel as I do—that it seems the world is coming apart at the seams? There appears to be no end to the bad news. The killing of Christians by Muslims from Indonesia to Bangladesh to Pakistan. 

China tearing down church buildings. Christians tortured, beheaded and crucified in Iraq, with villages burned and churches destroyed, and much the same in Syria.

American pastor Saeed Abedini is still imprisoned in Iran for his faith. Throughout Northern Africa, the Middle East, and many parts of the world, the church of Jesus Christ—and anyone or any group who bears His Name—is under attack. In our own country as well, there is great opposition to the church of Jesus Christ. We see this throughout the media, the entertainment industry, government and politics.

Jesus warned His disciples in Matthew 24 when they asked Him about the signs of the end of the age. He said there would be wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes and pestilence. He told them, "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake" (Matt. 24:9, KJV).

As I read the news, I can't help but wonder if we are in the last hours before our Lord Jesus Christ returns to rescue His church and God pours out His wrath on the world for the rejection of His Son. I don't know if we have hours, days, months, or years—but as Christians, God calls us to take the truth of the Gospel to the ends of the Earth. Our job is to warn sinners of the consequences of sin and show them that God is loving and gracious, willing to forgive if we come to Him in repentance and faith. We have to accept God's provision for our sins—the shedding of Christ's Blood on the cross. This is what we preach at BGEA—Jesus Christ, dead, buried and risen! Ultimately this is what matters most in this world.

We have seen firsthand the pestilence of Ebola. This year the virus has already claimed the lives of over 1,000, making it the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. A medical doctor serving with Samaritan's Purse in Liberia was infected with this deadly virus, but through the prayers of many righteous, God spared his life. All this reminds me of the urgency of preaching the gospel while we have the opportunity. Jesus tells us, "As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work" (John 9:4, NIV).

I have just completed a major evangelistic Crusade in Pittsburgh, and we have another coming up in Toronto, Ontario, and then Erie, Pennsylvania, where the Good News will be proclaimed to thousands and broadcast over the Internet to reach even more. This fall we have a powerful new My Hope film being released with a never-before-seen message from my father about heaven. 

This is a great chance for you and your church to partner in My Hope 2014 with Billy Graham and invite your friends and loved ones to hear the Gospel. Plan to show it to people you know and encourage your church to show it as well.

Whether we are holding evangelistic Crusades in stadiums or reaching the lost in closed countries in the Middle East through the Internet as they search for answers to questions like "What happens after I die?" or "Who is Jesus?"—through whatever means we are able to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, your prayers and financial gifts make this ministry possible. We are grateful for your partnership and your heart for the gospel.

Franklin Graham, son of iconic evangelist Billy Graham, is the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse.

This article originally appeared on

Monday, October 19, 2015

Happy Birthday to the Church of the Nazarene

The Nazarene founders could have chosen October 16, 1907, as the denomination’s official anniversary date. That was when a new denomination was created by the First General Assembly meeting in Chicago, Illinois. 

One year later, the Second General Assembly, meeting in Pilot Point, Texas, from October 8-14, 1908, expanded the new denomination’s numbers and made it truly national by reaching deep into the (U.S.) South. 

At the Sixth General Assembly in 1923, the founders chose an official anniversary date for the church, but instead of applying the “logic of firsts,” they used “the logic of inclusion,” choosing the Second General Assembly as the benchmark for observing “this great spiritual marriage.” There is good reason to be glad that they did. 

The primary agenda at both General Assemblies was to effect mergers. The assemblies were linked so closely that the sixth general superintendent, John Goodwin, later observed that the Second General Assembly functioned as an “adjourned” (or carryover) session of the First. The assemblies united regional churches from America’s east and west (1907) and south (1908). There were later mergers, including two major accessions in 1915, but the three churches that united across two Octobers gave the united church its essential shape and character. 

The East-West union merged regional churches that had compatible cultures. The North-South union was different, with regional differences between merger partners that were sharper and more complex, with the divisive politics of 19th century America looming large in the background.
From the 1820s on, the slavery issue had alienated Americans along regional lines. 

In the 1840s, the growing animosity between North and South divided the major Protestant churches — Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists.  In Broken Churches, Broken Nation, historian C. C. Goen argued that these schisms actually accelerated the movement towards war, since each division of a national church loosened one more national bond that had once bound the American people to one another. Then came the bloody and devastating Civil War of the 1860s. Slavery, regionalism, and war had poisoned the well of American Christianity. The situation merited H. Richard Niebuhr’s condemnation that the broken denominations stood out on a bleak cultural landscape as naked emblems of “the world’s triumph over the Church.” 

The Hallelujah March October 1908  Pilot Point Tx. 
Consider how unlikely the Pilot Point merger really was. Those who met in October 1908 at Pilot Point, Texas, understood this history of regional conflict and war. The older ones present had lived through it. The younger ones had been schooled in it. The Methodists did not reunite their northern and southern denominations until 1939. The Presbyterians did not do so until 1983. The Baptists have never done so. But in 1908, in a small Texas town, the holiness people looked beyond the social and political estrangement, the legacy of suspicion and regional stereotyping, and they united their forces in the name of Christian holiness.

Historian Abel Stephens wrote that American Methodism succeeded in its first century because its preachers proclaimed that God’s divine grace is imparted to sinners and actually changes them. Early Nazarenes inherited this message of transforming grace. The union of churches at Pilot Point was a shining example of the social reality of Christian holiness. At the heart of the Christian message is a word of reconciliation: first between sinners and Divine Love, and second, among estranged members of the human family. Pilot Point signifies the reality that holiness heals hearts and unites people who are otherwise driven apart by sin and conflict.

The minutes of the Second General Assembly state that on Tuesday morning, October 13, Phineas Bresee called the assembly to order at 8:30 a.m. Various leaders from the different sections made speeches celebrating the approaching merger.

Then "Bro. R. B. Mitchum spoke in a very tender way of the gracious leadings of God up to this moment. He desired to move that 'the union of the two Churches be now consummated.'" Others seconded the motion. Bresee announced that this was "an epoch-making time" and "an answer to Christ's prayer" for Christian unity.

The minutes state that "the motion being put, it was passed unanimously by a rising vote, amid great enthusiasm" at 10:40 a.m.

"The burst of holy joy continued for several minutes, brethren of the South throwing their arms around brethren of the North, East, and West, at the same time singing a new hymn for the occasion. . . . Soon the inside of the tent became too small for the freedom of such joy, and the people began marching out and around the great tent, with waving handkerchiefs and shouts of joy, and eventually formed in an immense solid circle on the grounds, where Dr. Bresee mounted a chair and addressed the multitude in words of inspiration."
Pilot Point left an indelible impression on those present. For them, it was an experience of reconciling love and a symbol the gospel can triumph over the divisive and chaotic forces of this world. 

Today it remains a potent and enduring symbol that genuine Christian holiness creates new social realities. Pilot Point retains the power to speak to us as a church whose people now represent so many different nationalities, races, cultures, and tongues.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

New Teaching Series: The Return Pt. 1 Are You Ready?

Intro:  35 years ago Mount St. Helen’s was a beautiful mountain 96 miles south of Seattle,  Washington, and 50 miles northeast of Portland, Oregon. Geologist became concerned that all evidence pointed to a major eruption on the mountain and the call to evacuate was issued. 
Over TV and radio; over loudspeakers mounted on top of police cars, the announcements were loud to evacuate the area. House to house notification were made and people began to leave the area.  One person refused to leave: Harry Truman – not the President.   
Harry Randall Truman was a resident of the U.S. state of Washington who lived on Mount St. Helens. He came to brief fame in the months preceding the volcano's 1980 eruption after he stubbornly refused to leave his home despite evacuation orders. 

He was the owner and caretaker of Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake, located at the south end of Spirit Lake at the foot of the mountain in the danger zone at the time of the eruption. I know this mountain and it will not kill me.
An ash plume billows from the crater atop Mount St. Helens hours after its eruption began on May 18th, 1980, in Washington State. 

On that date, an earthquake struck below the north face of Mount St. Helens in Washington State, triggering the largest landslide in recorded history and a major volcanic eruption that scattered ash across a dozen states. The sudden lateral blast—heard hundreds of miles away—removed 1,300 feet off the top of the volcano, sending shockwaves and pyroclastic flows across the surrounding landscape, flattening forests, melting snow and ice, and generating massive mudflows. 
That morning Harry Truman and his 16 cats had just finished breakfast when the eruption took place.  Harry along with every living thing near him was dead moments later. A total of 57 people lost their lives in the disaster. The column of ash and gas reached 15 miles into the atmosphere, depositing ash across a dozen states.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.                 2 Peter 3:10 NKJV
Now as He sat 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?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.  “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.                                                        Matthew 24: 3-14 NKJV
The church in 2 Thessalonians was confused over the belief of the second coming of Christ. They responded with panic and lawlessness. Some were shaken and alarmed by the things they heard, while others were caught up in rebellion against God. Paul taught the church to respond with faithfulness and preparation. We should respond the same way as we get ready for His return.
"Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure."         2 Thessalonians 1:1-4
How do you get ready for something that you don’t know when it’s going to happen? How do you get ready and stay ready for Christ’s return?
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.                 2 Thessalonians 1:3
Paul says they were experiencing persecution and affliction. To be a follower of Christ doesn’t mean you are exempt from life’s trials; it can actually bring them. Christians face harassment at school, at work and around the world Christians are persecuted for their faith. Persecution is probably what you think it is… Christians are marginalized from society.
 “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”                                                                                                                      John 6:33 MEV
Jesus promised that in this world we would have tribulation. Jesus said if they hated me they will hate you and if they persecuted me they will persecute you. If you aren’t expecting that and prepared for that, you might wane in your faith. But if you know it’s coming, you can be prepared.
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged…                                                   2 Thessalonians 1:3a
Paul bragged on the church of Thessalonica for modeling an increasing faith — they kept pressing forward like Paul to know Jesus more deeply and to see their faith grow. Faith is like a muscle, you can feed it and exercise it and see it grow. Think about your service to the Lord.   Many work hard for God – other say – I can’t give 2 hours on one Sat a month to help clean the church.  I can’t help in the nursery or with the children’s ministry – others can do that.  Pastor – stop asking for money – I just can’t give 10% of my money back to God.  When will you exercise your faith?
3. GROW in  LOVE                                                                                                     
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater …                                                         2 Thessalonians 1:3b
We should grow in our love for one another more and more. We need each other.  There are many “one another’s” in the Scripture. As the time of Jesus draws near, we will need each other more and more. The writer of Hebrews said gather and encourage each other. As the day of Christ grows closer, you should press in toward your faith family and love others and receive love from them.
Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.                                                                                 Hebrews 10:25
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!                             Philippians 4:1  
             So love through acts of kindness…. LOVE IN ACTION.
Brothers and sisters, we want you to know what happens to those who die. We don’t want you to mourn, as other people do. They mourn because they don’t have any hope.                                                                      1 Thessalonians 4:13 NIV
Paul bragged on their perseverance in the midst of the hard times. They persevered because of the hope within them.
True faith is not perfection.  True faith will always get back up. You must persevere because that is when the character of Christ is developed in us.
… because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.                                                                                                         James 1:3
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance…                                                              Romans 5:3
As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.                                                    James 5:11
When we pass the test, when we walk through the fire, God says He can reward us and strengthen us. It will all be worth it when Jesus returns.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set
your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.                                                                                        Colossians 3:1-4

Are you prepared?   Are you a Harry Truman – I know this place better than anyone else.   Are you ready?