Pastors’ Blog

This page will contain blogs from our pastoral staff.  They might be articles, devotions, reflections, current events, or even something humorous or silly.  We pray that this page and the things that we share here are useful and encouraging to you!

Our latest blog:

The Surprisingly Spiritual Structure of First Thessalonians

I want to surprise you with something that surprised and challenged me. The “something” that surprised me comes from 1 Thessalonians; however, it was not a particular verse or phrase from the letter that stood out to me. Instead, it was something about the structure (in youth, we call it the “layout”) of the letter as a whole. Does that sound boring? Academic? Dry and dusty? Well now you know why I was surprised to find something outstanding! Let me share it with you. 

First Thessalonians divides into five parts: an introduction (1:1), the first section (1:2–2:16), the second section (2:17–4:12), the third section (4:13–5:11), and a conclusion (5:12–28). One neat thing about the body of the letter (the three middle parts) is that the theme of presence and absence characterizes all three sections. 

The first section reflects on Paul’s presence with the Thessalonians: he remembers spending time with them, sharing the gospel with them, loving and being loved by them, and suffering together. The second section moves to Paul’s absence. They are separated by space, but not in heart. Paul longs to see them again and help them continue to grow in Jesus. He heard that they were suffering, and he wants to help. 

With these two sections in mind, what do you think the third section would be about? I would think the sequence would be something like: Paul’s presence—absence—return. I would think that Paul, having reflected warmly on his time with the Thessalonians and then mourning his separation from them, would encourage them with news of his return. Here’s the surprise: he doesn’t. Instead, he points them to a different return. In the third section of the letter, he points them to the return of Jesus. 

This was a surprisingly spiritual lesson for me. When I see people struggling, do I point them to myself, or to Jesus? In my discipleship, do I try to save people, or direct them to the Savior? Do we enable each other, or do we empower each other with the hope of the Gospel?