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The Big Picture

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Prayer

1. Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and take them to heart that, by the patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life. … through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

If You Knew...

My Dream concerning how God prepared things that brought us here.

Is this your only contact with God’s Word?

Today’s text:

1 Thessalonians 5:16–24 ESV
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. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Sounds like a list - specifically, a “to-do list.”
Have you ever heard of the “duck test?”
Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916) may have coined the phrase when he wrote:
When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.
If your only exposure to this text is today, I would understand if you listened to those words with a sigh, a groan, and a shudder.
- how many of you do EXACTLY - and as FREQUENTLY - what this text says?
1 Thessalonians 5:16–22 ESV
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.
Paul says, “Rejoice always;” that seems to leave no room for complaining, for recriminations, for arguing and debating. It also apparently leaves no room for second guessing, for sarcasm, or for pointless conversations.
What about “pray without ceasing?” If I do that, when do I have time for condemning those with whom I disagree? When do I get the opportunity to “clap back?”
“Give thanks in all circumstances?” When my money is tight and my bills aren’t right? When my kids embarrass me or, from their perspective, “when my parents just don’t understand?”
Finally those last three: Don’t quench the Spirit - don’t despise prophecies - Abstain from EVERY FORM of Evil. Short of becoming a monk or a nun, HOW? Strike that - even the monastery and convent provide no haven against sin - just ask the various bishops of the Roman Catholic Church.
What is God doing to us with this list of do’s and don’ts? Well, let’s step back a bit....
Christ is coming again
The Epistles “To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”are written for a purpose - the purpose of encouragement. The letter begins with thanksgiving for their very existsence:
1 Thessalonians 1:2–5 ESV
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
The “power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes” - that’s how Paul describes the Gospel in , - worked effectively in the lives of those Christians in Thessaloniki. Paul knows this because he preached it there, and he has no doubt concerning the power of the Gospel when it is preached and heard.
When Christ returns, everything will be seen in the light of Him.
How many things have you experienced that, in the light of later events, turned out to be a blessing instead of a curse? How many times have you looked back and said, “Thank you Lord for doing what I needed instead of what I wanted?”
Isaiah 61:3 ESV
to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
God gives us these things - notice the words “to those who mourn.” God gives joy to those who mourn, strength to those who are weak “that He may be glorified.”
It is impossible to understand what God is doing in your life when you are only casually related to Him by Sunday visits. When your only conversation with God comes through the Lectionary. No matter how thoroughly I preach the text, I am only preaching the text, not the full context that surrounds it - the Whole Word of God - you won’t give me enough time to do all of that in one service!
1 Thessalonians 5:23–24 ESV
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
exposition of text and close.

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