Our scripture this morning is 2 Thessalonians 2:2-4.
“Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.”
We have been told that we will not know the time that the Lord will return. The disciples asked Jesus after the resurrection if it was time and He told them “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know” (Acts 1:7). While it may be easy to think we are living in the last days, Jesus tells us to be strong in our faith and persevere.
The dissent and discontent we are experiencing is not new or unique to our time. God’s people have suffered oppression and disagreement since the first days of the church. We are called to find ways to live together in peace despite our differences.
If we can listen to each other’s concerns honestly, intending to understand rather than contend, we can begin the healing process. We may never be in complete agreement but we can certainly treat each other with love. Jesus showed us how to be in connection with God and our brothers and sisters eternally.
Heavenly Father, we are thankful for all Your blessings. Help us to live in the light of Your love, sharing the joy we have found in You with all the world. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22.
“Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.”
Paul shares a wide variety of sound teaching in this passage, speaking of our relationships with each other and God. All of this instruction is intended to make us aware of our responsibility to care for one another. You can’t love God and hate His children.
Jesus came to show us God’s love in action. The result of real love is acting as Christ would in all situations. Sadly, we are not perfect in our love yet, but we can continue to grow. God is ready to forgive us when we repent and return to Him.
This guidance from God through Paul sounds simple; why then do we find it so hard to obey and practice it? Our world encourages us to do whatever we feel like, regardless of its effect on others. God created us to love Him and one another, caring about their needs above our own. If we continue to “hold on to what is good” and “stay away from every kind of evil” (v. 22), we can joyfully obey.
Loving Lord, it is hard to see Your children mistreated and suffering. Forgive us and show us how we can live and love each other as You intend. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18.
“For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
Paul speaks of the Day of the Lord and our joyful reunion with Him. We have read of the Last Days and troubles that will occur, but those who have put their faith in Him have nothing to fear. Jesus was raised to destroy the power of death forever.
We are told that the dead in Christ will rise and we will all be together. This is God’s plan for us and His love in action, that those who believe and obey will be united with Him. Scripture states “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4).
Are you ready to be with Him forever? Sometimes we pray “Come Lord Jesus!” because of the things we see happening here, but we must be prepared. God calls us to live in His love, sharing the Good News and waiting patiently until the time He determines.
Gracious God, we are thankful for the gift of Your son who came to save us. Help us to be steadfast workers of Your coming kingdom. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is 1 Thessalonians 4:7-12.
“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. But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more. Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.”
Paul begins this passage with an important point: “anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God” (v. 8). He writes this as part of the instruction to love one another. Watching over each other in love means we do our best to keep each other from being harmed by sin.
This is a hard concept for us. Are we meddling in each other’s lives when we mention sin? In Matthew 18:15 Jesus says “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” I feel this is the same as making sure someone takes their medication or avoids things that will injure them.
However, it is up to each individual to accept this. When the rich young ruler turned away after being asked to sell all he owned and follow Jesus (Matthew 19:21-24), Jesus didn’t chase him down the hill to force him to obey. God has given us free will to choose for ourselves. We can invite others to follow Jesus, but only they can choose to do so.
Heavenly Father, we are saddened when others turn away from Your love. Help us to continue to share the Good News no matter what circumstances or responses we encounter. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is Colossians 2:13-17.
“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.”
Paul has a way of teaching that exposes our failures, but then points us to the redemption we have received in Christ. He writes “He canceled the record of the charges against us” (v. 14) and “disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities” (v. 15). He explains that Jesus came as an example of love and forgiveness to us, and as a warning to the powers of this world that God will prevail.
Jesus told us that the world would oppose God’s will and oppress the faithful, but that through His love we are made strong to stand with Him against evil. Now as the body of Christ, we are called to carry on His ministry, empowered by the Holy Spirit to go in His name. The world is in desperate need of His forgiveness.
Are you sometimes embarrassed or afraid to share your faith? That is the world resisting the change that is to come. Don’t let it prevent you from proclaiming the risen savior! As Paul wrote in this passage, “Christ himself is that reality”.
Loving Lord, thank You for forgiving us and calling us back into connection with You. Help us to be faithful servants of Your kingdom, sharing Your love with everyone. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is Colossians 4:2-6.
“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should. Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”
Praying is an intensely personal thing…or it should be. Paul says we should pray “with an alert mind and a thankful heart” (v. 2), an encouragement to be truly involved in our prayers. God wants to hear from us, but we should be ready to hear from Him as well.
Jesus taught us that personal prayer was a necessary part of our faith life. He showed that two way communication with God is not only possible but essential. Corporate prayer in worship and praying for each other’s needs are all forms of prayer in which we must be involved.
Prayer enables us to know God’s will for us, along with scripture and teaching. Jesus gave us an example of effective prayer when His disciples asked Him to teach them (Matthew 6:9-13). All prayer is beneficial and important in the work we are called to do.
Loving Lord, we are grateful to be in touch with You through prayer. Bless us to listen, understand and act, going in Your name to share the Good News. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is Philippians 3:12-16.
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.”
Paul reminds us that we can trust in God’s love and mercy, knowing that there is forgiveness when we truly repent. When we are connected to Him, we must focus on moving forward in faith, rather than recalling or returning to sinful behavior. Someone once said that backsliding into sin is like rooting through the garbage you have already thrown away!
Paul likens it to a race with a focus on the finish line. Runners don’t move back toward the starting line if they want to win. We are called to be better and do better now that we know Christ’s love, growing in faith and not returning to our old ways of living.
While each of us must run the race ourselves, we are blessed to have the support and encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to share our faith with others. When we help others learn about our Lord, we all move forward. God reaches out to His children regardless of their past, and has charged us with sharing the Good News that all may be saved through Christ’s sacrifice for us.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of Jesus Christ who came to set us free. May we continue the work He began to bring all people to You. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is Philippians 1:27-30.
“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.”
Paul’s ministry was a struggle from the very beginning. His experience of being called by Jesus on the way to Damascus changed him from the chief persecutor of the church to the most eloquent and strident supporter of the church (Acts 9:1-19). He writes that our struggle may be different, but that it is part of our trust in Christ to stand against a sinful world.
Jesus came to show us that the ways of the world are not the ways of God. When we turn from sin and accept Him as our savior, our lives are changed forever. It is then our task to go in His love to change the lives of others.
Paul reminds us “we are in this struggle together” (v. 30). While we must choose to follow Jesus as individuals, we go in His name as the church. No one is alone in God’s love, and we stand united as the body of Christ.
Gracious God, we are thankful for those You have sent to teach and encourage us in our faith. Help us to reach out to all the world with the Good News of Your coming kingdom. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is Philippians 2:3-11.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Paul recounts Christ coming to save us and reminds us that we are called to love others as He did and continue His ministry. Jesus was completely obedient to God’s will and His plan for us, and taught us how to help others come to know Him. Through our repentance and continued faithfulness we are blessed to live with Him eternally.
It is an amazing thing to be part of what God is doing in creation! He made us for relationship with Him and wants all His children to return to that original connection. Because of our disobedience we have strayed from Him but through Christ’s sacrifice we can be restored. He was willing to suffer on our behalf to bring us back to the Father.
What are we willing to endure for His sake? We must admit our sin, ask forgiveness and be made one with Him, and then go in His name to share the Gospel. While we may not be called to give up our lives for others as Jesus did, He calls us to a new life in Him.
Loving Lord, in Your mercy You sent Jesus to save us and lead us back to You. Bless us to go to spread Your love throughout the world. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is Ephesians 5:15-20.
“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
God has called us to be part of His plan. As we know, He needs no help from us, but graciously includes us in His redemptive work. Paul tells us to “make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (v. 16), using the gifts God has given to reach out to others.
Paul says we must strive to “understand what the Lord wants you to do” (v. 17), through prayer, studying scripture, and discussing God’s plan for us with others. When we go into the world, others are watching our behavior to see if we act in accordance with our teachings. A faith that doesn’t obey its own beliefs is not a true faith.
If we accept the Holy Spirit as the guiding presence in our lives, we can act as Jesus did, loving one another and leading those who don’t know the Lord to an eternal relationship with Him. It won’t be easy, the world will resist losing its power over people. However, we know Christ goes before us and has opened the way to life everlasting for all.
Loving Lord, we are weak because of our sin, but when we repent and turn to You, we can be made whole through Your love. Send us to share the Good News to all Your children. Amen.