9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.
11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
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: And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness…
In Hughes Auditorium, the chapel for my alma mater, Asbury College, students would gather three times a week for worship. As we gathered, we could clearly see the words “HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD” inscribed in large letters above the organ pipes (see photo above). Holiness was taken very seriously at our school. Asbury was founded by preachers from the Wesleyan Holiness movement. We even had a yearly “Holiness Conference” in the spring, in which speakers would come and lecture on the importance and practices of holiness.
But what is holiness? At its basic level, holiness means to be set apart for special use, pure, and upright (Hebrew q-d-sh and hagiosmos in Greek). In other words, we experience holiness when we set ourselves apart for God’s purposes and purify our lives by keeping ourselves pointed straight toward God in our intentions and devotion. This is no easy task – we do this only by staying connected to the Holy Spirit. But the good news is we are not tasked with making ourselves holy by our own strength. After all, we can’t! It is the power of God’s love that takes us out of our sin and death and places us within the power and peace of his grace.
I have long understood it this way: holiness is like a canoe in a river. The river is the Holy Spirit, running with the current of the divine will. The canoe is those practices that connect us to God – like prayer, Scripture reading, service, worship, etc. We can walk along the riverbanks on our own effort and energy, but we will not necessarily get to where the river is going. We might get tripped up by the rocks alongside or stuck in the muddy marsh beside the river. But if we only get in the canoe and let the current drive us, then we will get to where the river leads.
As we begin this holy season of Advent, keep yourself in the canoe along the waters of the river. Keep connected with God in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the season. Find holiness by daring to go a different way than the world around you. Allow the Holy Spirit to direct and guide you. In so doing, be set apart for God’s presence, purposes, and pleasure.
Journaling Focus: …that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
Sometimes it is difficult to look at our lives and imagine them being “blameless.” Yet, God would not direct us to something that was impossible to experience. How is our human understanding of being “blameless” different from God’s understanding of this concept? What would it look like for you to be “blameless”? How does all this connect with the second coming of Christ? Reflect on these questions as you journal this week.
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Read and sing the hymn Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus. By following the link, you can access the text and audio files for the hymn. Pay special attention to what this hymn says about why Jesus came to us. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face…
Is there someone in your life whom you have not seen in some time? Do you long to see them face to face? Pray for that beloved person this week. Ask God to open their eyes and hearts to his will for them. Trust that they will experience the presence of God in a powerful way this week. May the Holy Spirit carry your love and the love of God to them on your prayers.
Meditation Focus: And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.
In the Dr. Seuss book, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, we learn that the Grinch’s heart was two sizes too small. Yet, by the end of the book, his heart had grown three sizes – bigger than a normal heart! Of course Dr. Seuss is using this image to describe the growth in love that the Grinch is experiencing. This week, imagine your heart growing. What would need to fill it to make it grow? How might your love increase – who needs that love and how might you give it? Imagine God filling your heart with those people and things God loves dearly and experience your heart growing three sizes!
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- How had love driven your actions?
- How has God invited you into a new experience of holiness?
- In what ways has God brought you joy?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Send a card to a good friend – perhaps one you have not seen in a while. In this little note, express your gratitude for your friend. Let them know how they bring joy to your life. And be sure to express both your love and God’s love for them.
Breath Prayer: LORD God, set us apart for you.