This Sunday we continued to look at 10 principles from our passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22. We started off our journey the previous week with a discussion about authority — verses 12 and 13 — which is one of the foundations of the Christian life. Because if we don’t understand authority and don’t put it into practice, we will end up in places we don’t want to be. We could develop an integrity problem, which is why God wants us as believers in Jesus to live well under civil, spiritual, and parental authority.

And this past Sunday we talked about a second principle — and it’s literally from a five-word sentence at the end of verse 13. And this is all it says: “Be at peace among yourselves.”

Peace and living peaceably is more than stress management. In fact, the idea of peace from the Greek words in this passage is that it’s a verb! An action. Now, of course, in English the word “peace” is a noun. But when we look at it here through a spiritual lens, it’s a verb — so we then add verbs to it and strive to “live in peace” and “practice peace.” And then we begin to see why having peace and being focused on peace is such an important part of what it means to be connected to God.

Our discussion about peace has three parts to it. The first is the idea of release. Every time we move toward peace, we’re releasing something. For example, releasing anger toward another person or releasing control of certain things. Or maybe we’re releasing guilt. Perhaps we come to a point in our lives when we discover that we can’t try to balance all the scales of right and wrong and that we need a savior — and that’s when we release guilt and receive what Jesus provides.

Again, the peace of God is not stress reduction. This is so important to keep in mind. Because instead God’s peace is, in face, him giving us something. He allows particular challenges in our lives and then gives us peace that floods over us amid those challenges. Like Psalm 23 says, the Lord prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. He doesn’t make our enemies disappear. They’re still around us. But in the midst of our troubles, God’s peace abounds. He gives us that daily grace and energy despite our problems

Indeed, peace is also something we must put into practice on a daily basis. That’s the second part to peace. In fact, our life’s mission in many respects is to live in peace. Are you having a problem with one of your children? Well, did you know that God allowed this child in your life so that God could do something special in your heart? To do something that actually benefits you? So whether it’s a difficulty in a personal relationship or somebody cut you off on the road or you got a bill you weren’t expecting or you’re experiencing an ache or a pain that brings up anxieties, God is using all those things so that you will seek after his peace — to put into practice living in peace each day.

Finally, God’s peace is something we need to receive. His peace is, in fact, just one of the things we receive when we come to faith in Jesus — and it transforms our lives and our relationships. There is no more self-condemnation. And we don’t need to keep on saying that we can’t forgive this person or that person, but instead we can allow God to work in our lives. The Lord’s peace is so big and powerful that it fills up every nook and cranny in our hearts.

Yet the question remains: Will we allow God to give us his peace? It may sound like a strange question, and we may initially assume the answer is, “Of course! Why wouldn’t I want such peace in my life?”

But look at what Isaiah 26: 3 says: “You keep him in perfect peace   whose mind is stayed on you,  because he trusts in you.”

Is your mind focused on the Lord right now? Are you trusting in him every day, hour by hour, minute by minute? And is God’s peace something we’re prepared to receive and put into practice? And are you viewing Christ’s peace as merely a stress reducer — or are you willing to receive it and let it wash over you in the midst of your problems and challenges?

Since June 28, 2020, we are meeting each Sunday morning at the Barn located at 329 Edgebrook Rd in Robbinsville. Join us at 9:45 am for worship and then teaching from God’s Word. Children are welcome and appreciated. They worship with their parents at first and then after we bless them, we’ll send them off to the grassy area for their own discipleship time.

Children ages 10-14 stay in and listen to the sermon with clipboards to take notes. Then they go out during the last two songs to discuss the sermon with their children.

Bring your Bible because we do Bible Study. We are currently working through the book of 1 Thessalonians. Also, bring your own chair, put it where you want in the barn. You might want to be by the open sides or doorway to get more of the breeze. Or maybe you want to be right up front so that you can see the slides for singing on the screen.

Enjoy the many blessings of gathering together as we worship, fellowship, and serve the Lord together.

God has created in us the need to attend worship services together. In times like this, gathering together can help us regain our sanity. There’s just something about being together that calms us down, makes us feel connected and whole, and simply allows us to breathe again.

Research shows that people who regularly attend church report stronger social support networks and less depression. They smoke less and lead healthier and even longer lives. In a very real and physical way, church is actually good for your health.

Here are some benefits you’ll experience by attending church with others:

  1. You will connect with God. Entering a house of worship, whether it’s a school, or a barn, or a traditional building you are instantly elevated to a sense of opening up to God and trying to understand His message. The simple act of walking in the door to be with God’s people brings you closer to Him.
  2. You will experience gratitude. By practicing gratitude, you can reframe negative or frustrating situations into learning opportunities. Gratitude helps you to realize how blessed you are. Attending church can help you open your hearts and eyes to see the things you have.
  3. You will be connected socially. Social distancing wears on a person. At church you find friendly people and you actually make and strengthen good friendships.
  4. Your family is strengthened. Families who attend church together report higher levels of happiness and satisfaction with life. Why? Church reconnects you to your shared beliefs. When you commune with God at church on Sundays, you’re reminded of your pledge in marriage and your brother-sister connection is reinforced even with your children.
  5. You will feel reverence. When you attend church, you’re transported to a place of worship and peace.  It gives you a space to pray and to express humility and gratitude. It allows you to feel at peace and gives you respite from the hustle and bustle of your daily life.
  6. You will have an opportunity to give back. Church offers an opportunity to donate your time and money to causes you believe in. You can also help out through interaction to share God’s grace and love with others.
  7. You will discover the lessons in your trials. How many times have you been struggling in a particular area and found that the sermon or message applied directly to your situation? Church helps us “get it,” whether we are ready for it or not.
  8. You will learn and practice forgiveness. It can be hard to let go of disappointments, frustrations and annoyances. There’s no better place to be reminded of the gift of forgiveness that we’ve already received than by going to church, and your heart can’t help but be softened in the process.
  9. You will experience refreshment through worship. There’s something special about worshiping together. Participating in hymns and spiritual songs uplifts you and gives you messages you might not otherwise hear. It’s amazing how open your heart can become through worship, and how sometimes, even the weight of the world can be lifted off your shoulders the moment that first song begins to play.
  10. You will find deeper meaning in life. When you go to church, you’re given a greater sense of purpose and meaning. You can see the history of what has led us up to this point, and the promise that lies in our future even beyond this world. Church helps you revisit the larger narrative of life and the reasons to hold on and keep the faith.

(These 10 ideas were adapted from an article written by Ruth Soukup and can be found at livingwellspendingless.com)

We’ve come upon an incredible passage of Scripture in our study of 1 Thessalonians. In fact, verses 12 through 22 of the book’s fifth chapter are so rich with meaning and power that we need to look at them over the next several weeks bit by bit. This past Sunday we looked at the first two verses, which talk about authority in the lives of Christians: “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.”

Indeed, all of us in the church are under authority in one way or another. That’s how God designed it. But sometimes the idea of being under authority — not just in the church, but in our lives in general — doesn’t sit well with us. Some folks develop a mantra that they don’t respect authority. Of course, when earthly authorities fail in their duties and end up hurting people, it can be very natural to lose respect for them. But the Lord has another way of looking at these issues, and his word will help us know where to draw the lines.

First, let’s look at civil authorities. Paul wrote about them in chapter 13 of his letter to the Roman church:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

Paul wrote these words when the Roman Empire was ruling over the known world and began persecuting the church. Not a good thing at all. Yet Paul says God instituted earthly authorities to carry out his will. How are we to make sense of that? How do we reconcile that? In short, it’s something we as believers must hold in tension. For example, while the Roman Empire was brutal in countless cases, it also benefitted the early spread of Christianity through its establishment of trade, roads, and shipping.

Now, in our present situation — in the era of the coronavirus — what do we do when our government says we cannot meet as a church? How do we as Christians respect and subject ourselves to such authority? Again, it’s something we must hold in tension. In our country, we have a Democratic form of government that’s ultimately in hands of the people. But still we must support those in leadership, even when we disagree with what they decide. So, for instance, last Sunday night I exercised my First Amendment rights and spoke out with other pastors in calling for reform in our government. But still we must obey the law. It’s a constant tension we must examine and grapple with — and of course ask the Lord’s help when we do so.

Now let’s take a look at spiritual authority.

Christians are different from others because we say, “I am going to place myself under the authority of God’s word.” We do what Scripture instructs. We go to God’s word first when we have questions and then do our best to apply the Bible’s principles to our lives. And we do so even when what we’re commanded to do goes against culture. That’s incredibly challenging, particularly given the times we’re living in, when social and cultural pressure is so pronounced and constant. And then there are those who decide they’re not going to adhere to what God’s word says — and they end up elevating their own wisdom over God’s. That’s called humanism. But we all know that human wisdom in the face of God’s wisdom is flimsy at best.

In addition, spiritual authority doesn’t belong to a person — rather we’re all vehicles through which the Holy Spirit’s authority is able to be carried out. Pastors, for example, are only a Godly authority as they rely on God and his word. If they don’t, their authority doesn’t mean much. Also, submission to earthly authority means we accept the wisdom, power, and peace that comes from God through others. No, it doesn’t mean obedience — but it does mean having the wisdom to listen and be open to hearing from others, particularly those who’ve lived on this planet longer than us.

In fact, that’s one of the benefits having older Godly people among us. They’ve been through experiences we haven’t, and they can offer solutions to problems we may never otherwise have considered. Let me challenge you again to seek out such people — to be open to their counsel and experience. Let them help you grow and develop as a person and as a Christian. We all need others in our lives with more wisdom and experience who will look out for our best interests. Don’t miss that! Because when the world creeps in, and we start to think we can do whatever we want, and we can do it all on our own, God will use others — those with spiritual authority — to speak into our lives and pull us away from the thin ice we’re skating on.

Finally, there’s the issue of authority in family life. Parents and children are often at odds in this realm. But parents can begin to shape their children by modeling being under the authority of the Lord themselves. Watch what happens when you to God, “My answer is yes,” and your children are watching. Now that’s countercultural! And for young people, God will do some amazing things in your lives when you choose to submit to the authority of your parents, just as you submit to the authority of the Lord.

Being under authority isn’t always easy, but God designed those relationships — through our government, through our church, and through our families — to protect us, to help us grow, and ultimately to become closer to him.

This past Sunday we talked about the rapture.

One of the first things we covered is the fact that the word rapture doesn’t appear in the Bible. But that’s OK. The word trinity doesn’t appear in Scripture, either, but that doesn’t diminish the complete legitimacy of the trinitarian nature of God when it comes to our faith as Christians.

We also looked at what the word means. Rapture communicates the idea of being “snatched away” without warning — in the same way a thief comes in the night and suddenly takes away what he wants, and you never knew what hit you. That’s what the rapture of the church will be like. Suddenly. Instantaneously. No emergency broadcast system. (Sounds pretty exciting so far, doesn’t it?)

Then there’s the how. How will the rapture happen? Well, Paul tells his readers in 1 Thessalonians 4, verses 15 through 17, the following process. First, Jesus himself will descend from heaven with a “cry of command.” If you recall the gospel account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the tomb, he literally gave an order to his deceased friend to “come forth.” And with that, Lazarus — dead as dead can be — walked out the tomb. That’s what Jesus will do when he comes for the church in the rapture. And what will his command produce? Well, all the Christians we’ve known who’ve died (and those we’ve never known) will rise first. And what about believers who are alive when the Lord comes back? This is the exciting part, assuming we’re alive when it happens: We’ll be “caught up together” with the now formerly dead in Christ “in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

Given all the strife and worry and disease and fighting and killing and hatred going on in our world at this very moment — and turned up to an intensity few, if any, of us have ever known — wouldn’t it be glorious to suddenly leave all our troubles behind and be with Jesus forever? It without a doubt will be the most amazing thing to ever happen on earth, save for Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead and ascension into Heaven. And some of us, someday, may get to experience it.

Another way to understand the rapture is the biblical account of Jesus’ last moments on earth, which took place a good month or so after he rose from the dead. In the book of Acts, we’re told the disciples asked Jesus when he would come again, and his reply was that no one knows the hour or the day. It’s a hidden entry on God’s calendar, and one of our only tasks is to live each day as if “this will be the day.” Even more clues about the rapture came when Jesus was blessing his followers on the mountain amid that Acts passage — and he was taken from them into the air and covered by clouds. Boom! Gone. What an indescribable sight that must have been. But then two man dressed in white — angels — appeared and asked why they were staring into the sky — and that Jesus would return one day in the same way he departed from them. (So, if you’re wondering what it will look like when the Lord himself descends with a word of command, we might want to consider what Scripture says about his ascension.)

Our passage in 1 Thessalonians also tells us that as a church we should “encourage one another with these words.” Indeed, beyond all our present troubles, the promise this passage brings is the best kind — especially for those of us who’ve lost loved ones in the Lord. The rapture means we’ll get to see once again those we’ve lost to death. And all of us together will be with the Lord — always. Which also explains the early part of the passage which says we should “not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

Paul continues with his discussion of the rapture in chapter 5 and gives yet another clue — that when people are feeling full of “peace and security,” a “sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” Ouch. That is a sobering truth to digest. But fortunately, as believers in Jesus, we can put on the “breastplate of faith and love” and the helmet of “the hope of salvation.” We have nothing to fear, as “God has not destined us for wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.”

So, let us live like the rapture could arrive at any second. Indeed, it could happen right now — exactly at the moment you read these words — but also let us live without distractions. Let us live the truth that we all have purposes in Jesus moving forward — right now — that can be marked by our witness and spread of the gospel.

Get ready to fly.

Listen to the sermon here: