Today I am going to Montana to visit my mom. As I observe people and situations, I will listen for what the Holy Spirit wants to teach me along the way and share them as my Montana musings. Thanks for joining me on this adventure!

My travel day began with more adventure than I intended. Considering myself a seasoned traveler, I tend to be impatient with the foibles of less seasoned companions. But this morning, I was the novice.

I arrived at the airport in plenty of time, I dropped my bag off and moved through security in record time. As I collected my belongings, I realized I left my Yeti in the bathroom outside of security. Immediately turning to go back to the bathroom, I checked with TSA to ensure it was okay to go out and come through security again. Cleared to do so, I hurried through the automatic doors with the recorded voice advising me that I was moving into an unsecured area and I MUST NOT TURN AROUND. At that same moment, the sickening realization that I left my driver’s license in the grey security bin hit me. Without considering the ramifications, I turned around!

The alarm instantly made me aware of my mistake and the hurried movements of the TSA personnel confirmed I had erred. The doors automatically locked and six pairs of eyes trained on me as I apologized profusely, explaining I left my ID in the grey tubs.

Looking frantically with no sign of my ID unnerved me but just that quickly one of the TSA personnel spied it in a tub coming down the conveyor. After retrieving it, another kind TSA employee called the police officer who was coming to assess the threat, letting them know she had me in her sights and it was okay to unlock the door again. She led me through the doors to meet the officer and assured him the threat was neutralized.

I walked quickly to the bathroom, retrieved my Yeti from another kind airport employee and returned to do the whole security thing again. They were just as thorough the second time through but this time I didn’t forget anything. Two passages came to mind as I pondered the adventurous beginning to my day.

19Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

James 1:19-20

…don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 

Philippians 2:3

Today I was reminded to approach all of life with humility, understanding that we all have foibles. It is what makes us human and lovable. Too many times, impatience, annoyance and even resentment wells up when others slow me down. Today, I caused a stir, slowing down the security lines, making others wait because of my humanness. Everyone was so gracious with me. I want to pass that on to someone else, too!

What about you? Is your righteous indignation necessary? Are you impatient with others, forgetting that you do the same things? How can you be gracious to others today?

Years ago an older gentleman gave me his commentary on Revelation to proofread and critique. I asked how he thought it might be used in the future; he saw it being a tool for a class study on end time events and the coming of Jesus. I looked it over and returned it to him with two comments. First, it was very long making it cumbersome for the type of class he envisioned. Secondly, it only presented one view of the events outlined in Revelation. My recommendation was that a class on Revelation would appeal to a broader audience if it included more than one interpretation. You see, on this topic, I adhere to Pope John XXIII’s motto: “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things, charity.” The essential element of the second coming is just that: Jesus is coming again! How, when, pre/post/a millenial, pre/post/mid tribulation — those are all nonessential details that do not change the reality that Jesus IS coming back for us.

Paul writes to encourage the Thessalonian church to not be led astray by the whisperings of some who say the Lord has already come. You can read all his encouragements to the new believers in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12.

It is his blessing that stands out to me and encourages me when I am troubled. He says this:

13As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth. 14He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter. 16Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, 17comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

These are wonderful words of assurance of salvation, exhortation on living well, and a blessing of peace to be upon us. May they be words that comfort you today in whatever you do and wherever you go!

Last week our family camped near Brown County State Park in southern Indiana. For camping, it wasn’t exactly roughing it as we have travel trailers with all the usual amentities — air conditioning, full hook-ups for showers and toilets, refrigeration, hot water, real mattresses. No sleeping under the stars or cooking over a sweltering fire in summertime temperatures.

Even with all these conveniences, it wasn’t like HOME. We ate outside even when it was so warm the sweat poured down our faces. The pool was nice for cooling off and helped to alleviate some of the discomfort of the high humidity and warm temperatures. Sleeping in air conditioning in a travel trailer is nice, but not quite like home. It’s much noisier and less consistent.

We came home Sunday afternoon and by 9:00 o’clock I was ready to snuggle into my bed. HOME…it’s the best. I slept better than I did all week. It was quiet, cool and cozy. It was nice to walk around the house without running into one another or needing to sidestep along the end of the bed to get to the bathroom. No noisy air conditioner or fan running all night. Just quietness!

This morning in my meditation time, I reflected on the two accommodations. For camping, our travel trailer is amazing. I could live in it for a long time, if necessary. But I always look forward to and long for HOME. I know there is something better awaiting me.

This experience reminds me of my life on earth. While it seems I have all the conveniences I could want, something better awaits me. Just as my travel trailer provides all the comforts of home, it is not HOME. My life here is full and complete, I am surrounded by the Spirit of God and he gives me rest on every side, but it is not HOME!

As I read Paul’s letters to the new believers in Thessalonica, I sense their excitement for another home. They anticipated Jesus’ return, living with him forever. It seems they had three concerns: What about people who die before Jesus returns? When will this happen? How should we live until then? Paul clearly says that even those who die before Jesus’ return will meet him in the air (so I admit, I don’t know that I understand how it will happen–I’m content to know that it will happen.) Secondly, the timing is not important. Finally, it matters how we live. Alert, clear-headed, protected by the armor of faith and love is how we live. And then he says this:

…wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.  Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

The intended use of these words is to encourage one another! For me, I need to be reminded that I can take confidence in my helmet of salvation. Jesus died to save me, not to pour his anger on me.

And that encourages me! What part of this is encouraging to you? Share it with someone today!

In 1988, there was a publication that gained quite a bit of popularity in certain circles entitled “88 Reasons the Rapture will be in 1988.” The author spoke with certainty, even narrowing the Lord’s return to three days in September—11, 12, 13. Needless to say, it caused a stir for many, me included.

One woman I know didn’t preserve anything from her garden that summer or buy her son school supplies since they wouldn’t be needed anyway. She was scrambling for school necessities on the 14th when she was still here and her son brought home a school supply list.

Others, like me, anticipated those days with trepidation. I was pregnant at the time and dealing with a good bit of anxiety. I remember laying down for a nap one day listening to a flock of birds raising a raucous in the trees outside my window. They were suddenly completely quiet and my immediate thought was, “He took the birds first!”

Well, here we are almost exactly 32 years later and we are still waiting and watching and expecting for the clouds to burst open, announcing the arrival of Jesus. Please don’t misunderstand…I am excited to be gathered together with the Lord in the sky. I just think about it differently now than I did then.

We aren’t the only ones who have waited nor are we the first to question the signs of the times. Apostle Paul wrote two letters to the new believers in Thessalonica and both letters include encouragement to maintain the course despite what they heard about the Lord’s return.

The most outstanding bit of advice Paul gives these new believers is at the beginning of chapter five:

Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-2

It reminds me a lot of Jesus’ admonition to the disciples in the book of Acts.

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.”

Acts 1: 6-7

I guess it must be human nature to want to know what happens next and when. But Jesus says it isn’t for us to know. So what are we to do with this in-between time until the Lord returns? Hang with me this week as we explore what Paul said to the new believers in Thessalonica and what we can do today!

Happy Monday! God is good. He is still in control. He is coming again! I encourage you with these words!!

So, I go to the dentist – I show up – and he is going to do the work. What else do I need to do? I have to position myself for the work. For me, this often means taking my coat off and hanging it, along with my purse on the hook provided. I sit in the chair, submit to the paper bib and relax into the chair while the hygienest eases me back into a prone position. At any point, if I refuse to cooperate, the work cannot be done.

The same is true in the work that God is doing and continues to do in my heart and mind. I need to show up AND position myself for change. It means I put down anything I brought with me — this might be lies I believe about myself, God or others. Willingness to let him rearrange my thinking is imperative. He doesn’t force me; I willingly submit to his work in my life.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6

The work — transformation into the likeness of Christ — is God’s work. He will continue the work until the last moment of history. We accept God’s gift of salvation and then show up and position ourselves for him to do the work of transformation.

Are you showing up and positioning yourself so he can do the good work in you?

The dentist. Who likes to visit the dentist? It is one of those things I do because it is good for me and I only have one set of teeth. I better take care of them. While there is much I can do between visits to ensure gum, teeth, mouth health, some things require the dentist.

Visiting the dentist for a cleaning is an excellent example of active-passivity. It’s a weird term, I know, but one I want to highlight today. It gets better, I promise.

So much of what I do to maintain a healthy life is up to me. I choose what to eat, I choose how (or if) I will exercise, I choose my spiritual practices. All of these are active choices by me and then require my active participation. But there are some things in life — the spiritual life — that are done for us. We just need to show up. Let me illustrate.

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.  God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

These verses are an example of active-passivity. Our role is showing up (accepting God’s free gift of salvation in Jesus) and God will do the work of making us holy and keeping us blameless because of Jesus. It’s like going to the dentist. We show up, sit in the chair and then the dentist (or hygienist) cleans the tartar off and checks for problems. We show up, the work is done.

Are you showing up? Have you accepted the free gift Jesus’ offers? God will make this (holy and blameless) happen because he is faithful.

Learning to listen to the Holy Spirit is the key to knowing God’s will. Yesterday we noted Paul’s admonition to holiness, specifically in regard to sexuality as a key to knowing God’s will. Paul gives another key in his closing remarks.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Never have these attributes been more needed than now. In the midst of all the unrest in our communities, it is difficult to maintain a joyful, grateful, praying spirit. And yet, that is just what God desires for our lives.

Today I offer thanks for a loving Father in heaven who is good, is still in control and who has my best in mind. Gratefulness moves me to prayer, not only for my own family and friends, but for my church, community, state and national leaders; for the chaos that surrounds so many and for peace in the midst of chaos. It is more important than ever to find refuge in the shadow of His wings. It is in his presence, in the shelter of His wings, that joy overflows, consumes my life and spills out on those around me.

Yes, indeed. These qualities to be are God’s will for my life. And then what I do is secondary.

God’s will. What is God’s will for my life? Should I do this? Or that? Who hasn’t asked those questions before? It seems like handwriting on the wall or, at the very least, an e-mail would be most appreciated at the difficult junctures of life.

It is my belief that “God’s will” isn’t as restrictive as I once imagined. As a matter of fact, there are very few things that fall outside of God’s will. His desire for my life is that it is rich and satisfying (see John 10:10) and that happens in many ways. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians gives two clues concerning God’s will for our lives.

Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more.  For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-3

To be holy is to be set apart. Just as we set apart clothing for certain purposes, so our lives are set apart for a special purpose. Nothing is more irritating to me than when I carelessly undertake a task in my Sunday-going-to-meeting clothes. You know, arriving home from a special occasion and I see some task that needs doing. Changing clothes is too time consuming so I get at it in my best clothes. Then there is dirt, mud, grease, rips – whatever I encounter and my set apart clothes are no longer special.

This admonition to holiness is specifically in regard to the way we express our sexuality. As followers of Jesus, we are commanded to control our bodies. It is God’s will for you to be set apart in this way. The seriousness of this message is emphasized in verses 7 and 8…

God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8

The admonition to holiness and purity in our sexuality isn’t popular. But then, no one ever said following Jesus would be the popular thing to do. God’s plan for sexuality is to bring fullness and joy. If this isn’t your experience, I encourage you to find your Timothy and talk it out. There is hope and freedom, even in this!

Praying for others can be a heavy task. I mean, we should pray for one another, right? But what if I don’t know what to pray? How can I pray for others whom I don’t see often and I don’t know what is happening in their lives? Paul gives us some great clues!

How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith. May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon.  And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.  May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

The elements found in this passage can be prayed for virtually anyone, anytime and rest assured, the prayers will be in line with the Word of God. This is how Paul and his companions prayed:

  • Thank God for the person
  • Ask that any gaps in his/her faith be filled
  • For opportunity to be together – (community is important)
  • For an overflow of love to be poured out on him/her
  • For hearts that are strong, blameless and holy before God
  • For anticipation of Christ’s return

It is not as important as we think to know all the details someone’s life in order to pray effectively. Dig in and let’s lift one another to the Father!

Perception management. A term originally coined by the US Military, is the process of conveying or denying information to a(n) (foreign) audience to influence emotions, motives and objective reasoning with the goal of influencing perception, resulting in actions favorable to the originator’s objective. In simple words, it is managing information so that others believe what I want them to believe and act accordingly.

For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.  Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money!  As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.

1 Thessalonians 2:4-6

Paul and his companions were obviously not concerned with managing the impressions others formed. Their motives were questioned; they were accused of flattery, running a scam and seeking praise. In other words, they couldn’t be trusted. If concern for perception had been important for them, the accusations might have been different.

There are two ways I get caught in perception management. First, if I am an honest person and really want your approval, I give or withhold information based on what I believe will sway you in a favorable direction. Or, if I am a dishonest person and I don’t want you to know my secrets, I give or withhold information to hide my behavior. Hiding or revealing information to produce results favorable to me is perception management. At it’s core, it is duplicitious behavior.

As a follower of Jesus, I don’t need to give one thought to perception management. My focus needs to be on Jesus. My concern is for what pleases Him, not what pleases others. It is almost a given that at some point, my actions will disappoint someone or at the very least, be misunderstood or misconstrued. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4,

As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

1 Corinthians 4:3-4

Perception management is a twisted trail to travel down; one that will prove to be troublesome at some point. It is so easy to be pulled in this direction. For one, it is quite accepted, and even expected, to live in a way that reveals or conceals only what will impress others. It is counterproductive to authenticity.

Do you find yourself caught in the web of perception management? Is concern for what others think or say about you choking the life out of you? As Elsa sang in Frozen, “Let it go, let it go!”

You might even want to take the time to listen to the song as it is an invitation to live from who you really are rather than attempting to manage and hide behind a facade.