Eugene Peterson’s book Eat this Book teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our early Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. This passage from The Message recounts Paul’s first visit to the church at Thessalonica and focuses on the need to speak honestly, without mixed motives or hidden agendas, caring for the listeners as a “mother cares for her children. Read the passage at least twice and then work through the Chewing and Digesting sections
PASSING ON THE MESSAGE
1-2 “So, friends, it’s obvious that our visit to you was no waste of time. We had just been given rough treatment in Philippi, as you know, but that didn’t slow us down. We were sure of ourselves in God, and went right ahead and said our piece, presenting God’s Message to you, defiant of the opposition.
3-5 “God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message. Be assured that when we speak to you we’re not after crowd approval—only God approval. Since we’ve been put through that battery of tests, you’re guaranteed that both we and the Message are free of error, mixed motives, or hidden agendas. We never used words to butter you up. No one knows that better than you. And God knows we never used words as a smoke screen to take advantage of you.
6-8 “Even though we had some standing as Christ’s apostles, we never threw our weight around or tried to come across as important, with you or anyone else. We weren’t aloof with you. We took you just as you were. We were never patronizing, never condescending, but we cared for you the way a mother cares for her children. We loved you dearly. Not content to just pass on the Message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did.”
♥ This letter was written to a community of believers who had been Christians for only a short period of time – perhaps even a matter of months. The book of Acts tells us that during his first visit in Thessalonica, Paul preached in a Jewish synagogue on three successive Sabbath days. He evidently stayed in the city for sometime to continue his work with the Gentiles. He was so successful in winning converts to Christianity from both Jews and Gentiles that he had to leave the city to protect the newly formed Christian community from persecution. Because sickness prevented him from returning, he sent Timothy to visit the group and report back. When Timothy brought back good news about the stability of the group, Paul write his first letter to them.
♥ Before his conversion, Paul was an arrogant man. This letter may sound a bit arrogant at first reading, too. However, Paul has been on a journey of becoming like Jesus. A persecutor of Christians, he had been put through many trials since he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, not the least of which was reconciling with Peter and the other disciples after his conversion. He also feared for his life from the Romans and religious teachers who had supported him when he killed Christians, but left no stone unturned looking for him when he began preaching Jesus. Paul is a powerful example of plunging into the unknown to bring the gospel message. And he is a model of living a life of integrity as a disciples of Jesus that he recommended to the Thessalonians.
Fasting is mentioned many times in Scripture. Usually it involves going without food so we can focus on God. But we can also abstain from negative things as well so that our hearts are undivided and in God’s will. Here are some suggestions for fasting this week.
♥ Fast from lunch for two days this week and use your “lunch break” to pray that you will not look the other way or walk by anyone in need this week.
♥ Choose a day this week to fast from “ mixed motives” and “hidden agendas” and “flattery” and “smoke screens” (1 Thess. 2:5) When you feel that you need to use these methods to manipulate someone or get what you want, choose to tell the truth instead, no matter what the consequences. Confess these temptations and/or actions before you go to sleep.
♥ Choose a day this week to fast from “throwing your weight around” or “coming across as someone important” or being “aloof” or “ patronizing” or “condescending” (I Thess. 2: 4-8). When you feel this way, say or do something loving instead.
♥ Find an accountability partner and share your experiences with these soul-training exercises with your partner.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
” If we want to have all our bases covered before we act, nothing exciting will happen. But if we dare to take a few crazy risks because God asks us to do so, many doors, which we didn’t even know existed, will be opened for us.” (Henri Nouwen )