“Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you're in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father. It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn't just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5 (The Message)

For the past two devotionals and again this week, I am encouraging you to delve much more deeply into the Bible. The purpose of the DTQ Monday Memo devotional is to inspire and encourage you; it is also to model for you the importance of “Faithful Bible Teaching - we accurately handle Biblical truth, regularly coaching kids to apply it in their lives.” For us to unclutter the gospel, we must become students of the Bible in new ways, at deeper levels, that provide context and perspective for young people.

Two weeks ago, I asked you to read the book of James; a chapter each day (repeatedly) for five days. Last week, we plunged into 1 Peter about the true meaning of our being “living stones” in the Kingdom of God. This week, I challenge you to read all of 1 Thessalonians, again and again. Let it sink in slowly. Consider the parallels to our ministry with Deaf teenagers. Paul reflects clearly the priorities of a relational ministry such as Youth for Christ/Deaf Teen Quest. Thessalonians is full of such gentleness and the love of Paul for these dear friends who have come to mean so much to him. Like the book of James, this Epistle (letter sent to a group) is divided into five chapters and is easy to read through in a single setting.

Instead of my giving you the background information on Thessalonica (Thessaloniki), research it yourself. Many Bibles provide background information at the beginning of each book. Find a commentary. Check Wikipedia. Run a search on the internet for other bits of information. Go to biblegateway.com and explore the resources you can find there. Try to get a picture in your mind of the environment surrounding this new church start. Imagine what like must have been like at that time. For those who loved the movie “300” based on the book “Gates of Fire”, look for a connection with Thessalonica. Imagine the impact of having this story in your shared, community history.

First, read Thessalonians as though you lived in Thessalonica 2000 years ago. Then, read it as though you are the one receiving the letter personally in today’s world. Then read it as if you were writing it for your teenagers or younger leaders. Next, read it as though I were writing it as the DTQ national director and sending it to your local DTQ ministry. Finally, read it prayerfully, for what it truly is, a letter from the Lord to each of us as part of a missional community.

Next week, we’ll return to the devotional format with which you are most familiar. We always try to “stretch” you a little as we strive to inspire you for good works (Ephesians 2:10, 1 Timothy 6:18). We are teachers of the gospel and judged by a higher standard (James 3:1). But for these past three weeks, we wanted to challenge you to a deeper conversation with James, Peter and Paul as part of a greater understanding of Jesus.

There are two primary characteristics that have always impressed me in leaders.

One is the ability to focus on the person with whom you are in conversation. It is not easy; I always want to speak quickly and give the answers, but it is a great experience for others to feel your complete attention when you are with them. James says to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). This is an important lesson for me to continue to work on in my own life.

The other characteristic is to take incredibly abstract, difficult concepts and make them understandable to the average person. Many scholars in the faith, C.S. Lewis, J.B. Phillips, William Barclay, Dave Rahn, all share the gift of being able to dip water out of bottomless wells and cool the thirst of others nearby. I think we all can learn these skills by making this effort an important value of our ministry: listen well, study deeply, share simply.

I pray that this three-week departure from our traditional devotional style will remind you to drink deeply of the scriptures as you pursue deaf and hard of hearing young people with an uncluttered sharing of the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.” James 3:13) In the words of Paul and from my heart, “Every time I think of you, I thank God for you.” I am honored to work alongside you as together, we serve our Lord. AMEN

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