Today I am looking at another way 1 Thessalonians shows us how to live in 2020.
I, like you, am disheartened when I hear condescending references to “evangelical Christians” or see believers portrayed as a joke.
When the faith I hold to is mocked and ridiculed, misrepresented and even distorted by false teachers and those who would use portions of what I believe to the advantage of their agenda, I tend to shut down.
Even boisterous believers who are declaring things that seem bold yet I know do not line up with the teachings of Christ can send me scurrying to get away from the noise.
Then I read Paul’s words in the opening passage of Chapter 2.
“Brothers and sisters, you know our visit to you was not a failure. Before we came to you, we suffered in Philippi. People there insulted us, as you know, and many people were against us. But our God helped us to be brave and to tell you His good news.”
1 Thessalonians 2: 1-2
I ask God to help me do so many things that I don’t know how to do.
Navigating relationships, technology, directions, time managements…all of these are a challenge to this girl. And so I pray for help all the time.
As I look at the words of Paul, I am reminded I can also pray for God to help me brave in the times we are living in.
I carry within me the hope of Christ and I want to be bold in sharing that.
I don’t need boldness to share my opinions about the hot topics of this day. It is easy to vent and complain and theorize about what is going on amongst friends and on social media.
No. I need boldness and grace and ample amounts of joy to share the Good News even in the face of conflict and opposition.
This is not a popularity contest. And how I am received does not deem me a success or failure. Suffering is not a sign of being wrong. We are here to proclaim the Gospel. We tend to overcomplicate it and try to figure out how to make it relevant.
It is relevant.
We needed a Savior and God sent us the only One who could do the job.
So today I pray, Lord help me to daily live proclaiming the Good News that You so loved the world that You sent Your only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life.
I love God. I love how His timing works at times. Oh sure, I don’t understand some of the delays and the lack of “suddenlies” in answer to some of my most fervent prayers, but I love how He times things to let me know He is always right on time.
This morning, my annual read through had me in 1 Thessalonians 1 and 2. This is precisely where we have been all week and just the spot where I was going to send you a message for the 6th day of the Countdown. No way could I have planned to be here as I sat in my chair and worked through my morning quiet time.
There have been days I read more and days I read less, but God knew today I would be exactly where I needed to be.
As I was reading the same passages last night and praying about what to write today, I was touched by the way Paul describes the power of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the way the Thessalonians had received the message of the Gospel.
To the cynic and the skeptic, the idea of the Holy Spirit working in an area where there are no Christians and suddenly a church is planted may seem like just an emotional hijack of a needy bunch of people. Fueled by periods in Church history where leaders were corrupt, they shake their heads at the vulnerability of people to fall for the brainwashing of a movement they deem as foolish and misleading.
Ah…but the skeptics and the cynics are wrong.
I have been given the precious gift of seeing the Church alive in other nations.
In Mexico, in Kenya twice, in Cuba; I have personally witnessed what happens when the Gospel is received through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Not clever evangelism, not staged emotional conversions.
Just the honest answering of missionaries who were called, the generous giving of those who sent them and the hearts of others that had been prepared to receive the salvation of Jesus Christ.
I have experienced worshipping God and knowing the power of the Holy Spirit move amongst us as we struggled to understand one another’s language and customs and yet were closer in heart and spirit than people I have known my whole life because we shared the bond of the Spirit.
Paul preached and taught for three Sundays in the synagogue. A few Jews, many Greeks and a large number of influential women believed, received and the Church was started amidst a flurry of controversy that included an angry mob, a riot, a violent persecution of the new believers and Paul’s hasty exit to avoid being killed.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ will bring huge transformations. When received into the hearts of those who have been prepared, it will cause upheaval to those who are opposed to God. It will so take over the one who believes that persecution does not strike fear nor sow doubt, but puts steel in the bones and incites prayers for boldness to proclaim even more the Good News of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins.
I personally love that Paul noted a large number of influential women.
I know there are some men who read this, God bless you…you are so much of an encouragement to me that God is speaking to all of us who believe…but ladies….you have great influence.
Your words and your attitudes and your resources have great power on those around you. It is usually women who are dominating social media these days and our culture is endeavoring to ramp up the number of women in positions of leadership.
Use your influence for the Kingdom.
Let your words be seasoned with grace, truth, salt…all the good stuff we are told is available. Remind yourselves constantly of another teaching of Paul found among other places in Colossians 3:2 – keep your thoughts on things above and not on things of this earth.
I pray we will all, men and women, who have received Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, be KINGDOM minded in all that we do.
Blessings to you on this Second Sunday of Advent <3
This year, as you know, I felt led to use 1 and 2 Thessalonians as my focus for the 25 posts leading to Christmas Day. It may not seem like the normal Advent passages, but Paul was addressing the Church in Thessalonica about how to live while waiting for the return of Christ.
So actually those are the perfect verses for us to focus on since Advent is not only remembering the coming of the Messiah as the baby born in a manger, but also to look with anticipation and hope for His Second Coming.
The first week of Advent is about “HOPE” and as I was reading in several different study Bibles this week, I found some wonderful and encouraging words about hope and waiting.
First is this offering from The New Spirit Filled Life Bible, edited by Jack Hayford:
Hope; elpis: Strong’s #1680: Hope, not in the sense of an optimistic outlook or wishful thinking without any foundation, but in the sense of confident expectation based on solid certainty.
The New Spirit Filled Life Bible, edited by Jack Hayford, Thomas Nelson Bibles, 2002
He goes on to say that our hope for the return of Christ is based on the solid foundation of prophecies spoken throughout Scripture, and the promise of Christ Himself that He would return. There are numerous resources to back up the weight of this. It is not wishful thinking or a fairy tale.
The prophecies of Scripture are backed up with actual events that solidly confirm God will accomplish His complete plan. Our hope is grounded and founded and we hold to it by faith. We look with Hope to the Return of Christ and for all things to be made new and right. We look for justice and mercy and for a new heaven and a new earth.
So we wait for that.
Which brings me to our second quote, this one from Eugene Peterson in his study bible:
Waiting is an activity with impressive documentation throughout Scripture, yet it’s astonishingly ignored in most constructs of how to live the Christian life. Waiting is not a passive occupation but an active and hopeful orientation toward the activity of God for which there is no present evidence. Refusal to wait is a refusal to trust.
Eugene Peterson, The Message Study Bible, NavPress 2007, 2012
I had some waiting to do this past week.
My desktop computer, which holds the archive of both many words typed and many memories captured in photos, was on its last leg. It would shut down randomly and often as I was working, the dreaded spinning color wheel would appear and remain for far too long forcing me to eventually turn it off and try to start up again.
My #1 supporter and financial benefactor for low these nearly 40 years said we needed to get me a new one and took me off to Best Buy last week to purchase a new one. With our current restrictions, we had to make an appointment to bring the old and new in to the Geek Squad to make the transfer.
As I was attempting to close down all the open tabs, it would freeze and close out repeatedly. I knew I needed to get things in shape to take it in and I sat in front of this piece of technology that I will never understand and felt so helpless. I spread open my hands and expressed to God my need for His help, my need for the techy types to be able to make it work and finally I was able to close things out and sign off.
We took it in and handed it over one night. The fellow behind the counter said unless they could get it to stay active, the transfer would not happen. Once again, I felt so helpless. Even the experts might not be able to work the magic needed. So I asked a few close friends to pray, for the computer and for me.
In the days following, there were times when I let myself think what would happen if every word and picture was lost. Once again I would spread out my hands and release the possibility to God. I knew Russ and my team were praying when they thought of it and I was forced to trust God for the outcome. Whatever it looked like. I would trust Him.
The day I was to pick it up I got a call saying the transfer had failed. They were going to clear everything off and try again. Back to my knees, back to my hands spread wide; I fought the tears and fears of the loss of my journey logged on those megabytes of data. And I chose to trust.
Yesterday they called to let me know it was successfully completed. I cried again and let my prayer warriors know. Our Rachel responded:
“You looked to Him.
And we claimed He would hear our requests.”
Rachel Maxwell, who I hope to be like when I grow up <3
My friends, Advent is about a waiting that supersedes all the other waitings of our deepest longings.
An end to Covid
The birth of a child after so many losses
The cards we ordered and need to get in the mail
The salvation of one who seems lost
The last piece of a project that will end many days of hard work
Our little ones to internalize the good behavior and kindness we are teaching daily
An end to injustices
We are waiting for all kinds of things, big and small.
But Paul was talking about the idea of waiting for the Return of Christ. To the early Church, this was a reality that at first blush was intense…but as the years passed, began to lose its fervency. They got comfortable in their Christianity and forgot the point of it all.
I have to confess, it is usually during Advent that I am more likely to think about and anticipate Christ’s Return. The rest of the year I spend most of my time waiting for insignificant things like websites to load on my computer, a coffee at the drive through or any number of things that I want to have happen right now but have got wait for.
In chapter 1 of 1 Thessalonians, Paul brags on the Church of Thessalonica because others were talking about how they were faithful. How they had deserted their idols and were now embracing and serving God. He talks about the marveling at their expectation in the hope of His Return.
I want to be like that.
I want to spread out my hands and admit that I have no idea how it will happen, but I am waiting in expectation that it will.
How about you?
How about if this Advent season we spend time pondering more about this great Hope we have?
This season is full of so many fun traditions, but in the midst of these, let us be the Church who is looking forward to the whole reason He came in the first place.
We can apply Rachel’s words again:
You looked to Him. You waited. And we claimed He would hear our requests.
Let us pray for one another as we wait for His promised Return.