Daily Devotions

Congregational Motivation

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“But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love.” (1 Thessalonians 3:6a)

 

Competition between churches is beneath the dignity of our corporate call from God. In a society that often denies God, we should be celebrating the successes of other congregations. When Christianity went out of vogue, and memberships declined, jealousy became too common. Rather than continuing to reach out to those outside the faith, churches have too often sought to compete, trying to shuffle the Christian deck by taking members from each other’s congregations. This has created a church popularity contest, in which theology has often been sacrificed on the altar of consumerism.

 

Timothy came to Paul and shared the growth and mission taking place in the church at Thessalonica. They rejoiced in the people who now experienced life anew through Jesus Christ. At no point were Timothy or Paul concerned with growing an institution. What made the Christian faith unique and impactful was the Good News of faith and love that transformed lives.  Rather than trying to outdo other congregations in developing the best market strategy, our task should be to live the Good News, so others will want it, too. We express the Good News through sharing our faith and expressing God’s love.

 

Today, pray for our congregation. Do not pray for our budget numbers to increase or for more new members than the church down the street. Pray that each one in our church family hears the Good News, renews their faith, and expresses that faith in love. Then, prayerfully focus on your own faith. Ask yourself, “Do I express the Good News with stronger faith? Am I a loving person, even in unloving situations? Then ask God to strengthen your commitment, so you can share that Good News with others. If we do that, the church’s finances and membership numbers will no longer be an issue. Praise God!

The Ballast and Shield

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“Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10b)

 

I was nine years old, when it felt like my world came crashing down. I was about three months into my 3rd grade year in school and we were living in Aurora, Colorado. The previous year my father was in Viet Nam, so we were living with my grandparents in St. Cloud, Minn. We had so much fun living with my grandparents. My grandfather was a wonderful man. We would go to work with him sometimes, or help him serve pancakes at Lion’s Club breakfasts. We went to church every week. I was proud to be his grandson.

 

I remember the shock of seeing the tears in my mother’s eyes as she interrupted my school day, saying we needed to go. We immediately got on a plane for Minnesota. Now, I cannot remember the moment I was told my grandfather died. I remember the horrifying events in little pictures in time. I remember hugging my grandmother and her not letting me go, almost crushing me. I remember seeing my grandfather in the casket and wanting to touch his hand, but not wanting to upset my mother. I remember being upset, when told I could not attend the funeral. More than anything, I remember the empty pit in the bottom of my stomach, and the feeling that nothing would ever be the same again.

 

In some ways things were never the same again. My grandfather’s death left a gaping hole in our family that never really got filled. My mother would remain fragile for a number of years, and in some ways remained so the rest of her life. I remember knowing, from that moment on that life was fragile, and my safe, protected world no longer existed.

 

Yet, I also became old enough at that time, to understand that God took my grandfather to heaven, where he was alive. I knew that the Holy Spirit watched over us, would take care of us, and make all things better. As I no longer had my grandfather to rely on, I turned to God for my strength. Church became important during that time. I couldn’t have articulated it then, but I knew I felt safe in church and I knew in my little heart that God was there with me in worship.

 

Sometimes, I wish I had that childlike faith now. I simply trusted God’s Spirit to work everything out. The Apostle Paul, in this passage, talks about Jesus being like a ballast and a shield. Jesus is a ballast that holds us up in difficult times, and a shield that keeps destruction away. This is how Jesus “rescues us from the wrath.” I remain grateful to God for protecting 9-year-old me with the Divine ballast that held me up, and the shield that protected me from despair.

 

Today, think about a moment in time where you were faced with pain. Remember the feelings of anguish and the lack of control. Then, reflect on how God provided the ballast and shield that allowed you to endure and, in time, thrive again. Offer God your prayer of thanksgiving and renewed commitment to keep your faith at the center of your life. This way, the next time you must suffer, you will trust that God’s ballast and shield will keep you safe physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

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