“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.” In Zachariah’s prophesy, the birth and coming of John the Baptist was not simply an answer to one couple’s prayer for a child; it is an answer to the prayers and hopes of all God’s people. How do we keep our focus on the entire Community of Faith and the world in a culture and time that emphasizes individual experience with God? Are our ministries focused on just individuals? – Help us to see Your saving work for all people. Amen
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Many will say they are seeking God’s will for their lives. What if we were to start here: God’s will is for you to give thanks… How would this look in our daily lives? How might it change our perspective as Christian leaders? – Let me see this world, Dear Lord, as though I were looking through your eyes and give thanks. Amen.
“Each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable…” Sometimes it is easy to talk about godly character in some theoretical way, disconnected from what we live in our body. “Self-control” is the embodiment of bringing the body under the discipline of heart and mind. Why is it tempting to have an intellectual faith separated from the body? Why is our body and what we do with it important to our faith and ministry? Spirit of God, only through your power may I live a holy and honorable life. Empower me.
“May God…direct our way to you…make you increase and abound in love…strengthen your hearts in holiness…” The prayers recorded in the Scriptures always seem deeper than some of our modern prayers that seek personal blessing or some personal want. Both types of prayer should have a place in faith, but prayers for the gathering of believers, the abounding of love, and the hearts of believers strong in holiness should at least challenge our prayer life to seek from God that which matters most. What do you pray about most? What is your prayer for others? Lord, teach us to pray!
“We sent Timothy…to strengthen and encourage you…so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions.” Paul’s concern for the Thessalonian Christians was that some might abandon the faith Jesus. In our day it is tempting to see “Strengthening and encouragement” as a pep talk or a bolstering of confidence in the midst of some personal discouragement. How would “strengthen and encourage” take on new meaning in the context of a people who are suffering for their faith? How can we strengthen and encourage those who suffer for their faith in our day? Lord, bring comfort to your suffering children.
“for a short time…being separated from you–in person, not in heart…” The Apostle Paul spent time among the Thessalonian Christians; his ministry there was fruitful and he grew to love these believers like they were his own children (1 Thessalonians 2:7ff). Isn’t it a wonderful gift that God created us with the capacity to love in such a way that though there is distance in geography, there is no separation in the heart? Who are the people you love who are distant right now? Who are the people who love you from afar? Give thanks for these people!
“when you received the word of God…you accepted it not as a human word, but as…God’s word.” Carefully looking at the context of this verse reveals that the proof of receiving God’s word in this manner is displayed in their imitation of other churches and their willingness to suffer for Christ as did their fellow Christians. This seems to be a different standard of “acceptance” than we often hear or see with our modern ideas of freedom and personal choice. What is the difference in practice between hearing human words and God’s word? Help us to hear your word!
“We were gentle…like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children…like a father with his own children.” Christian leaders can learn much from these verses. I have observed many Christian leaders who talk about and put their visions/dreams ahead of relationships. For Paul, ministry is a context of family. Leaders are parents who are gentle, tender, caring, urging and encouraging. The goal is that all may actual live a life worthy of God who saves us and calls us. Are these parenting fruits part of my ministry with people? Lord, have mercy and make me to lead like you.
“We speak not to please mortals, but to please God” (2:4). Courage and motives. It takes courage to face suffering, to declare God’s truth in places where there is opposition. How courageous am I? For Paul, his motives do not spring from deceit, impurity, trickery, or flattery to win some money and riches. He speaks to bring the life Jesus offer to the people. He seeks God’s pleasure, not his and not that of those around him. What motivates me in my faith? in my living? in my serving? Give us courage and a pure heart O Lord! Amen.
“what kind of welcome we had among you.” When the Thessalonians welcomed the message of Paul and the salvation of God there were clear characteristics: turning to God and from idols, active service for God, and joining with God’s people in waiting for his return. Have I turned from all my idols to God? Am I actively serving God? What does it mean for us to “wait?” Father, where there are idols help me to turn completely, where there is ministry let me serve fully, grant that I might have hope as I faithfully wait with your people. Amen.