December 12 – December 18, 2017

WORD

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  19Do not quench the Spirit.  20Do not despise the words of prophets, 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.  23May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Reading Scripture to Know:

  • What is happening/being said? (Observation)
  • Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
  • What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
  • What does it mean? (Understanding)
  • What does it mean for us? (Application)

Reading Scripture to Grow:

  • What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
  • Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
  • How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
  • How does this Scripture reveal God?
  • How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
  • What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?

Scripture Reads Me:

  • This passage makes me feel…
  • This passage makes me think about…
  • This passage reminds me of…
  • This passage teaches me that God is…
  • This passages teaches me that I am…
  • This passage challenges me to…

Reflection: Test everything; hold fast to what is good.

Have you heard of the Bereans (also spelled Beroeans)?  They are only briefly mentioned in the Bible, but they have a powerful witness.  We read about them in the book of Acts.  Paul visited them during his missionary travels and preached the gospel to them.  In Acts 17:11, Luke writes this about them: “they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so.”  They were happy to hear the good news of God, but they were so devoted to God’s Word and work throughout history that they wanted to make sure that this new message fit with what they already knew about God.  They knew that God would fulfill the promises God had made and not contradict Godself.  They had also come to know God’s character through allowing the Word of God to “dwell in [them] richly” (Colossians 3:16).  This allowed them not to be tricked or duped by anyone’s teaching.  They already knew God’s teaching so well that any new teaching would be easily discerned to be correct or false.

How well do you know God’s Word and God’s work in the world?  How well do you know God’s character?  Oftentimes we can think we know these things very well, only to be surprised by what is actually in the Bible (and by what is not in the Bible that we thought was in there!).  This is why Paul is reminding the Thessalonian Christians to “test everything” they hear and experience.  Just as the Bereans had tested Paul’s message with Scripture, the Thessalonians were being encouraged to hold everything up to the light of Christ and Christ’s Word.  If it fit with the message of the gospel, then it was good and they should “hold fast” to it.  If it did not fit with the message of the gospel, then it should be avoided or discarded.

It is not surprising that Paul is writing this advice to this specific church.  Paul had gone to Berea directly after he had traveled to Thessalonica.  While in Berea, some troublemakers from Thessalonica came to disrupt his ministry in Berea.  Evidently, there was a strong resistance movement to the work of Paul in that area.  This resistance movement was spreading false teaching to corrupt the message Paul had faithfully delivered.  Therefore, the Thessalonian Christians needed to be on guard and look to the witness of their brothers and sisters some 40 miles away in Berea.

There are a lot of messages being broadcast to us in our world that claim to represent truth, that nevertheless contradict the Word of God.  Some of these messages even “gain steam” in the Church.  We need to thoroughly examine what we see and hear (and what is taught and preached) and test its value.  We can only do this if we know the Word of God and the character of God revealed in Scripture.  Be like the Bereans and equip yourself with a clear understanding of the Word of God by devoting yourself to reading and studying Scripture.  Then you will truly be able to discern between what is good and what is not of God.

SPIRIT

Prayer Focus: Pray without ceasing.

This seems to be a challenging standard that we could never possibly live up to – that is, until we understand the depths of the nature of prayer.  If we just believe that prayer is talking to God, specifically to ask God for something, then yes this is an impossible goal.  However, when we understand prayer as listening to God while being aware of God’s presence with us, then we can pray without ceasing.  As you pray this week, pause for moments of silent awareness of God.  For every minute you speak to God, spend two minutes listening.  The more you do this, the more you will notice God in the everyday aspects of life and the more you will hear the voice of God guiding you.  In other words, you will find yourself praying more and more!

Meditation Focus: The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

What is Paul promising in this statement?  Will God do for us whatever we ask, even if it is just to indulge our own will?  Or is the “this” at the end of this statement something specific?  It seems to specifically point to our sanctification that Paul mentions earlier.  How is God faithfully making you holy?  Sit with this question this week and ponder what it means to be made holy by God.  How might you receive this faithful work of God?  How has God’s faithfulness in other ways prepared you for your sanctification?

Journaling Focus: Do not quench the Spirit. 

Imagine the Holy Spirit as a great fire burning within you and producing a holy energy that fuels your faithful discipleship to Jesus Christ.  What fuels that fire?  What are the things that you do that allow you to access that holy energy?  Write about these things and think about how you can continue to stoke that fire and how God can add more and more fuel to it.  Now consider the cold waters that you throw upon that fire that threaten to quench it and drown it out.  What do you do that causes the holy energy within you to wane?  What can you do to avoid these Spirit-quenching temptations?

Holy Action: 

Find a way to rejoice that seems fitting to you and that express to God the joy you feel in God’s presence.  Perhaps you will want to sing a song to God or dance before God.  Maybe rejoicing will involve a silent moment of reverent pause or a laugh with a friend or family member as you review all the blessings God has given to you over the year.  However you feel led to rejoice, rejoice in God this week!

Breath Prayer: Father, we live through you alone.

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