The young church in Thessalonica is enduring significant affliction and persecution for their faith in Christ. And in their communication with Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, they ask, why are they having to suffer so much? Why doesn't God stop their persecution? Paul and his companions respond that God has good purposes even in their unjust suffering and they share with them the hope of Heaven.
Paul writes a second time to the church in Thessalonica to strengthen their faith in the midst of great suffering. He praises God that their faith is not failing, but growing. We learn from their example, that faith in Christ is not static, but dynamic. Furthermore, our faith can and should be growing no matter our earthly circumstances.
At the start of every new year, we focus on the vital role of prayer in our spiritual life and in advancing the Kingdom of God. Prayer is the means by which the gospel and the Kingdom of God advances in us and in the world. In other words, prayer is God’s appointed means by which His will is accomplished, gospel is advanced and his Kingdom grows and spreads.
As we come to the end of the year and begin to look forward to the next, we emphasize our need to grow in prayer in the new year. All of us have room to grow and need to grow in our relationship with the Lord through prayer. In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul shows us just how vital prayer is to our spiritual life.
It is fitting end to 2020 to come and receive a message of hope from God’s Word. Hope is what every one of us needs. This year has been a difficult and dark year. And the gospel and all of its implications, is good news; the good news we need not just this year, but every year. When the gospel is understood, received and delighted in, it produces hope in us. Hope that is strong, hope that is able to hold us up under the weight of affliction, hope that literally changes the way we live.
Christian joy is rooted in God’s gift of salvation through Christ Jesus and the future hope that goes along with it. We emphasize joy at advent because when Jesus was born, God was confirming his promise of salvation to all peoples. However, God’s promise of salvation will not be fulfilled until Christs second coming. Salvation is both already, but not yet. This week, we reflect on the nature of that completed work of salvation from book of the prophet Isaiah as we look to a day when all God's people will rejoice.
At the heart of Christmas is love. You can’t have Christmas in any meaningful way without love. Christmas is a season of love and generosity because God is loving and generous. Christmas is about God’s love in action. The celebration of the birth of Jesus, is about the goodness and love of God appearing, that is, being made manifest, tangible, seen, experienced so as to change our lives forever.
While under siege by the Assyrians, God calls Micah to proclaim to Israel a message of judgment and hope. God is punishing Israel for their wicked idolatry and greed, yet, God's judgment will not be the final word. He will send them a deliverer, a shepherd King who will gather together again what has been scattered and restore them to an even greater peace in Israel and not just Israel, but to the entire world.
Paul continues instructing the Thessalonians in how to conduct themselves when they come together to worship the Lord. And he encourages them with the wonderful truth that God is working in and through them to sanctify them. Their growth in holiness is sure for God is faithful.
The character of the Church must be patterned after the life and teaching of Christ and the character of any given church is shaped by conduct of her people. In these verses Paul provides instruction as to how God’s people should relate to one another with a specific emphasis on what are often some of the most challenging: Our relationships with those in authority and our relationships with those who require us to dig a little deeper to love well. Through Paul's instruction we will see that each one of us has an opportunity to contribute significantly to the Christlike character of the church.