Hope For the Future (Reprise)

Today we come to the end of what has been a very encouraging and inspiring journey through the book of 1 Thessalonians. I hope it has been a blessing to you.

The underscore of this letter is, quite simply, hope. I have called this series, “A Real Life Faith,” because I believe that faith is about embracing hope. When we are reminded of our great and glorious hope in Jesus’ promised return, our faith surges, our endurance strengthens, and our determination to see through the temporary trials and rest in the promised deliverance is built up.

You see, Paul makes very clear that, at the end of our days upon this earth as it now stands, God will finish the transforming work he began when first we believed. In chapter 5, he repeats a phrase used earlier in the letter:

“…And may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5.23.b).

What a glorious thought, isn’t it?

When that day comes that Jesus returns and calls us up and out of this sin-cursed world, the transforming of out lives that started when we put our trust in him will be fully and finally completed. And, as Paul taught us in chapter 4, “and so we will always be with the Lord.” I don’t think we can quite grasp the significance of that statement. We will be with him… never separated again, never to ache for his presence because we are in it.

My brothers and sisters, in this is hope.

Whatever life throws at us, it is only temporary. The eternal is sure. This is a real life faith.

And a real life faith is hope for the future.

Father, thank you for your promises that provide a hope beyond our ability to fully grasp. May that hope stir and strengthen and motivate our faith until that day comes.

Enduring… Together (Reprise)

The next few verses in this closing section of 1 Thessalonians 5 (vv. 16-22) contains what may be the most familiar verses of this letter to many of us. Here we are reminded of how we press on as family in the midst of a crazy, controversial, and contentious world.

This text is comprised of a series of very short, concise statements that have been preached, taught, memorized, and cited over and over and over again:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 These 5.16-22).

He urges us to rejoice. I have come to understand that joy is the awareness or consciousness of grace. To rejoice, then, is to stir up our awareness of God’s grace, to take joy once again. And Paul calls us to do so always. We ought always to be conscious of God’s great grace toward us.

Continue reading Enduring… Together (Reprise)

Raised In Relationships (Reprise)

One of the key ideas in the book of 1 Thessalonians is the one I focused on as the cornerstone of chapter two—A Real Life Faith is Raised In Relationships.

All of these cornerstone ideas of this series are kind of recapped, or reprised as my musical background prefers, in the last part of the letter (5.12-24).

In the first few verses of this passage, the Apostle admonishes his readers about some of the relational dynamics among church life:

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”

That’s a big bite, but we can break it down a bit. Continue reading Raised In Relationships (Reprise)