Dark Days, Bitter Heart

The book of Ruth takes place in the dark setting of the time of the judges. Everything that could go wrong seems to go wrong. What we would expect is that every person would do what is right in their eyes, but what happens is that even in the most difficult times imaginable, an unlikely person, Ruth, chooses to show loyalty to God and His people.

We are faced with difficulties, sometimes the unimaginable, and we are called to live like God’s covenant people. God has equipped us to do this through the Gospel.

Scripture: Ruth 1

A Prayer and a Promise for Unfinished People

Paul brings his first and deeply affirming, encouraging letter to the Thessalonians to a close. He prays that their sanctification, God’s will for them, will be finished and through at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. And he promises them that their faithful, heavenly Father, the God of peace, will surely do it!

In the midst of all the rigor of this call to walk in a way that pleases God more and more, in the face of opposition that seems unrelenting, he urges them on through his prayer and his promise.

As followers of Jesus in a world broken by sin and pressing hard against our faith in Christ, and in this life with its temptations pulling on our flesh, we often feel the discouragement and a kind of futility in living this life to which we’ve been called. We feel very unfinished, with the finish line nowhere in sight. But through his prayer and promise, Paul urges them and us, not to lose heart today because on that day He (our faithful Father) will make what’s unfinished glorious!

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28; Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:11

How to be the Family of God

What does it look like to be a family of believers headed to forever together? That’s the question Paul is answering in this text. He’s calling the believers in Thessalonica to walk in a way that pleases God more and more. He’s told them that it’s God’s will for them to be sanctified. And as he finishes his letter, he gives them 17 commands that we’ve grouped under three headings – think of them as three core values for the family of God:

Humbly submit to those who lead us (12-13)

Do good to those around us (14-15)

Trust and Obey the God who saves us (16-22)

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22; Ephesians 2:20, 3:4, 4:11; Matthew 7:15-16; 1 John 4:1

The Day of the Lord

The Day of the Lord seems to be a fundamental teaching for believers. Jesus Himself spoke of it as “the coming of the Son of Man.” The Apostles of Christ taught the early church about it, Peter wrote of it in 2 Peter 3, John wrote about it in Revelation, and Paul writes about it here.

Notice that in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul has to inform the believers about what would happen to the dead in Christ at His return. But in 5:1-11 he says they are already “fully aware” about the Day of the Lord.

So, why was it so important? Because the Day of the Lord was then, and is now, the goal all of history is rushing toward! Paul knows that what the Thessalonians believe about the Day of the Lord should inform how they live. So he describes what it is, and how they should live in light of it’s coming.

The big idea for the message is this: The coming Day of the Lord is a call to spiritual sobriety today.

The Day of the Lord is certain, sudden, and brings inescapable destruction. Therefore we should remember our identity, walk in sobriety, anticipate our destiny, and participate in community.

Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 1:7b-9; Luke 17:26-27; Revelation 6:15-17; Luke 21:34

No One Left Behind: Hope and Comfort in the Face of Death

Christians ought to be indistinguishable from others in society in many ways. And yet, our lives should be extraordinarily different in particular ways. Death is a universal human experience, but for the Christian, it should be very different.

Death had forced the believers in Thessalonica to say goodbye to some of their loved ones. They were grieving and they had questions: “When Jesus returns, will my loved one be left behind, left out?” “When Christ returns, will they miss it?”

Paul writes to fill in the gaps about what they know and to tell them that when death forces you to say goodbye to a loved one in Christ, grieve with a sure hope and comfort one another with this truth: because Jesus is risen, He will leave no one behind at His return.

For Christians, there’s a difference: a different death, a complex grief, and a sure hope. There are four reasons why no one is left behind: Return, Resurrection, Rapture, and Reunion. So how will you respond?

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5; James 2; Philippians 1; Genesis 50:11; John 11:35; Mark 13:26-27; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57; Ephesians 2:1-2; John 14:1-3

An Honorable Reputation

God desires for His people to love excessively and aspire to live uniquely for the sake of having an honorable reputation.

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

Sexual Purity

We live in a sexualized society. And while we’re 2,000 years removed from Paul’s letter to the new followers of Christ in the church of Thessalonica, our cultural situation is very similar. They came to faith out of a culture that deified sex. People lived to please themselves, but Paul is calling these new believers to walk and live in a way that pleased God more and more.

How do we live that kind of life in a culture that’s saturated with sexualized images, messages, and beliefs? We cling to three important things in this text: We have a calling from God, a warning from God and a Helper from God.

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; Ezekiel 36:26-27

Please God

We all know people who are hard to please. Maybe their standards are so high you can’t please them, or they change their minds about what they prefer, or they’ve never told you what pleases them. In this text, Paul transitions from looking back at the Thessalonians new lives in Christ, to looking into the present and future, asking and urging them to excel at something they’re already doing – pleasing God.

The big idea for this text is this: Christians ought to walk in a way that pleases God more and more. We’ll consider what pleases God – a life of obedience and faith, why we should please God – because of the instructions we have, the blessing it brings, the glory to come, and our love for the Master, and finally, we’ll ask, how do we please God – by reckoning rightly about sin, others and our suffering, and meditating on pure things to filter the pollution.

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2; Matthew 15:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; Romans 8:18; John 14:21-24; Romans 6:11; Phil. 4:8

Loving People through Prayer

For three chapters, the Apostle Paul has been encouraging the young church in Thessalonica and reminding them of his deep love for them. Today, we finish this section of the letter with Paul saying again that he longs to see them, “to supply what is lacking in their faith.”

When Paul writes these words, he writes them like a prayer. And in this section we see that Paul loved these people through prayer, and we learn, in turn, to love people through prayer as well. We see the kind of heart Paul had in his prayers, that fueled his prayers and even in difficult seasons, like the one he was in, kept him praying. And we see what Paul prayed for these people.

Of all the needs, desires, and longings they must have had for themselves, what rose to the top for Paul to bring before the Father? Their spiritual growth. We often ask God to change things in our prayers, but Paul never asks God to change anything about the Thessalonians circumstances. He asks God to change their hearts.

And the good news is this, we are confident our Father hears and answers our prayers, because Jesus paid the price for our sin so that we could be reconciled to God as our loving heavenly Father.

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Acts 6; Matthew 7:7-11; John 1:1-2, 14; Matthew 22:37-39

The Church that Lasts

We face questions in life that are different at every stage. But after 20+ years of building a career or family, there is one question that keeps you up at night. “Will it last?” That is Paul’s question about the work he and his team started in Thessalonica, about the Church that was born over those three short weeks.

In this text, we see Paul write more emotionally and vulnerably than anywhere else. And it’s clear that the church that lasts has four characteristics: It is loved by her leaders; stabilized by personal ministry; tested through afflictions; and lasts by faith.

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:17, 3:5; Hebrews 13:7; John 16:33; Revelation 7:15-17