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We Have Hope

Saints Triumphant Sunday

We Have Hope

Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

It was a long day.  A usual day, but a long day.  Get the kids up.  Get the backpacks packed.  Rush out the door.  Meetings, meetings, meetings.  A pile of work that somehow was growing and not shrinking.  More meetings.  A massive headache.  Screaming down the highway, rushing to pick the kids up from school on time.  Getting home past dark.  Whipping up something for dinner.  It was a long day, but a normal day.  Until the phone rang.

“Is this Sheila Johnson?  Ms. Johnson it’s your husband.  There’s been an accident.  You need to come to the hospital immediately.”  Sheila nearly dropped the phone as she dropped her dinner plate.  She left the pool on the floor of spaghetti sauce mixed with fresh tears as she grabbed the kids and rushed out the door.  Whatever the speed limits were, she wasn’t following.  She drove almost as fast as her heart was beating.  Her family had never really prayed before.  They didn’t care too much about God because they didn’t really have time for God.  But to whatever god was out there, she was fervently and feverishly praying.  “Oh, Lord, please.  Please no,” she kept repeating.

Sheila burst into the ER.  She left the kids in the waiting room as the doctors pulled her into a private room.  “I’m sorry Ms. Johnson.  You’re too late.  There’s nothing we could do.  Your husband has passed.”  The room erupted with an inhuman roar.  And as quickly as the wild wailing began, Sheila was passed out on the floor.   Read the rest of this entry

Daily Devotion on 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Devotion Text: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

As a parent of young children, I’ve begun to learn exactly what I put my parents through on all those cross-country trips as a kid. Sure, it was different in those days. Now instead of packing up the eight-seat conversion van like my dad did, I drive my two sons only as far as the airport and let the good people of Delta or AirTran take us the rest of the way. But, whether flying or driving, plenty goes into planning for a trip–especially with children. Luckily, I have my wonderful wife to help me  do all the work herself, otherwise I’d be lost.

When it comes to our life’s greatest journey–our journey home to be with our Heavenly Father forever–preparation is just as important. In his letter to the church in Thessolonica, Paul writes about how earnestly he wants the Thessalonians to prepare, how he prays for their preparation and how he longs to be there that he may help them prepare.

In very much the same way I would be lost trying to take a cross-country trip alone with my two sons, Paul knows that no human could get through this life alone. Our walk Heavenward is too difficult to do alone, so (miles away) he writes to help those people prepare. Thousands of years away, his words still hold true for us.

We still need the prayers of our fellow believes to strengthen us for the way. So too, we pray for others. We still need “God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us” just as Paul did. We still need the love and fellowship of one another to make our journey pleasant and bearable.

It is with this help, this strength, this love–from God and from our fellow Christians–that we enter the Advent season. We focus not only on preparing our hearts and minds for Christmas, but also for Christ’s coming again. May God be with you as you journey home.

Prayer: Father in heaven, be with me day by day as I do your work here on Earth and continually guide me on the paths you would have me take. Be with more, Lord, as I walk Heavenward hand-in-hand with the Christian brothers and sisters you have blessed me with in my church, in my home and elsewhere in my life. Strengthen me, constantly, that I would not stray and keep me in your loving care here in time and forever in eternity. Amen.

Follow Your End Times Checklist with God’s Help

3rd Sunday of Advent

Follow Your End Times Checklist with God’s Help

Text:  1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Intro

There’s a lot to do this time of year!  Cooking.  Cleaning.  Shopping.  Wrapping (unwrapping!).  Traveling.  Hosting.  Partying.  Cleaning (again!).  Maybe you’ve thought this before—I have—“When Christmas is done, then I can finally catch my breath.”  Then again, I say that every year.  But things never do slow down.  There’s always a lot to do.

So how do you remember to do the things you need to do?  There are about as many ways to remember things to do as there are things to do.  You might use sticky notes.  You might write out a neat little list.  You might use a marker board at home.  You might use the more rudimentary string around the finger or write on the hand methods.  Or you might use something more high tech.  Maybe you use a smart phone, because yes, there is an app for that.  In fact there are hundreds of different reminder and To Do list apps on smart phones and computers.

Well I don’t care if you use note cards, sticky notes, printed lists, or typed lists.  I don’t care if you use an iPhone, an iMac, or yes even one of those other hideous computer products.  It doesn’t matter to me—pick one of them or pick all of them . . . as long as you remember what the apostle Paul is about to tell you.  Today he provides you with a daily To Do list to follow as we wait for Jesus to return.  You might like to follow along with 1 Thessalonians 5 on page 6 of your service folder so you can take note and then Follow Your End Times Checklist with God’s Help. Read the rest of this entry

Daily Devotion on 1Thessalonians 5:16-24

Text:  1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

How do you remember to do all those things of life that you need to do? The TO DO LIST methodologies out there are about as vast as the amount of things we have to do in our lives. Some write on their hands. Some tie strings on their fingers. Some write out neat little lists. Some have planners. Some use calendars. Some use smart phones because, yes, there are tons of apps for that! Or some take the more passive approach and just wait for the Honey-Do list to be dictated and mandated.

The point of all these utilities–be they rudimentary or technologically geeky–is that we don’t want to forget things that are really important.

The apostle Paul takes a similar approach. As we wait eagerly and expectantly for Jesus to return, there are a number of things that are good for us to be doing. Paul lists them in the devotion text for today. All of these checklist items can be very challenging at times, but the great encouragement is given in the last two verses:  God himself will give us the strength! The God of peace will fill us with such peace so that we continue to live sanctified lives. He is a faithful God. He most certainly will do this.

So get out your pens, your schedulers, or your smart phones and take note of these important TO DOs as we wait for Jesus to return:

  • Be joyful always (v. 16)
  • Pray continually (v. 17)
  • Give thanks in all circumstances (v. 18)
  • Do not put out the Spirit’s fire (v. 19)  (In other words, stay in God’s Word which strengthens your faith!)
  • Do not treat prophecies (God’s Word) with contempt (v. 20)
  • Test everything (v. 21)  (Measure everything against God’s Word and will)
  • Hold on to the good (v. 21)
  • Avoid every kind of evil (v. 22)

What a list! But the God of peace is faithful. He will help us to accomplish our TO DO list as we prepare for Jesus to return!

Prayer: Lord, help us to follow your instructions and properly prepare for the return of your Son. Give us the strength to live sanctified and God-pleasing lives. I ask in your faithful name. Amen.

Daily Devotion on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Devotion Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

He is coming back, soon!

We know how true these words are. Jesus is coming back! We don’t know when it will be, but he has given us signs–wars, rumors of wars, earthly disasters, evil will increase! He is coming soon!

Yet, how soon is soon?

Put yourself in the shoes of the first Christians. Jesus is coming soon! There were plenty of wars, rumors, disasters and evil acts in AD 50 as there is today, and Jesus said he will return soon! Then, a loved one passes away and another and another–fellow believers who had faith in Jesus’ returning were dying before they saw it come to fruition. How soon Lord? Come now!

Paul calms their fears in his letter to the Thessalonians. Just as those who live to the last day will be taken to heaven, so too will those who die before the last judgement arrives.

The exact timing of “soon” is known by God alone and although we wait for the day in eager expectation, we can’t assume God’s timing will align with our own. So, with those earliest Christian, we know that our fellow Saints will be right alongside us with the rest of God’s lambs on the last day.

What great comfort! What great joy! Nothing, even death, can separate us from the love and the promises of God! To him be praise forever and ever.

Prayer: Lord, protect your saints. Give us strength to endure this sinful world until you take us to be with you, whether that be through our death or on the last day. Keep us ever mindful that you are coming soon, even if that is not on our time. Help us to use the time we have left in this world to bring more saints into your kingdom. Amen.