Good News Youth Devotional

By Dr. Samuel Sarpiya (Quebec, Canada)

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 “…you faith is growing more and more…”

Brethren generally consider it inappropriate to boast. But wait a minute grandparent have a tendency boast. Paul, also had a tendency to boast, as we see from some of his writings, but he is boasting about something that we all could be proud to boast about. He was bragging on the church in Thessalonica, saying, “Grace and peace to you from God the father of the Lord Christ. We ought to always thank God for you brothers rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecution and trials you are enduring.” (NIV)

I am wondering what we as the Church of Brethren can brag about? What the youth and young adults in our Church can boast about? I am not just referring to bragging from the older folk’s point of view. I wonder also if we are creating room for our youth to brag about the church they are inheriting from us?

It would also be easy to hear someone brag about how they are surviving a pandemic but rarely would we hear them brag about other people’s faith and ability to hold on in the midst of this challenge.

Good News: God is the one that can brag about our faith and how it is growing. But we can be that answer by bragging on the church that is not built on pleasing those who provides finances to sustain it locally and globally, but to be able to brag about a church that we are building for the next generation.

Discussion Question: What are you excited about in your relationship with the Lord and you want your friends to know about right now? Can you brag about the church you are inheriting? If not, why not? What would you want to see in the church that would make you brag about it?

Go one step further: The church is Thessalonica had remained faithful to the gospel as they understood it, so, their faith was making an impact in their community, that was how the news got to Paul. As members of the church, when you increase your grasp of scriptural teachings, it will manifest itself in your growth. It would also impact your knowledge of God and the community.

For the church to remain faithful, we must be able to provide a unique ministry. As we find out way during the pandemic, what does the church bring to your life? What witness does your faith have in your community?

Like Paul, I pray for… that your heart be tuned and hinged on Christ, who brings the growth. Amen

Good News Youth Devotional

By Ella Attelus (Church Secretary and Youth Leader at Miami Haitian Church of the Brethren(FL))

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 “…give thanks in all circumstances…”

“Wow, Is the virus really that serious? Do we really have to shut down?”
“We have to stay home for 30 more days! No youth group, No graduation, virtual school, no senior activities.”
“Is the mall really closed? I am so upset!”
“How many people in my community tested positive? How many people is out of work?
“This is getting scary! This cannot be life, God we need you!”

Who else’s mind is going a thousand miles a minute? Mine sure was. The world is at a stand still and no one knows what to do. No one knows what decisions to make. No one knows what is next. All that is going on around us makes it so easy for all the faith we have, to vanish. It makes it easy for our hearts to be troubled and gratitude now being out of our hearts. For some of us its easy to pray for some of us it is hard to pray. As believers in Christ sometimes we need a reminder of what God’s word says and what God’s will is.

In 1 Thessalonians the Thessalonians struggled with many afflictions, but they also had faith. Timothy, on behalf of them, expressed to Paul how grateful and thankful they were for him and still had faith amid what was going around them (1 Thessalonians 3:4-10). Paul also expressed his gratitude to the people and at the same time giving them comfort and reminding them of the coming of Christ. Reminding them who they are in Christ, “…children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” He also tells them to encourage one another, “build each other up….to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:5,11 &12). In his final Instruction to the Thessalonians Paul gives them comfort by telling them to rejoice always, stay in prayer and “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)

The scripture parallels to what we are going through right now. Paul reminds me of our pastors, deacons, ministers, youth leaders, etc. who are always trying to find new ways to keep us connected spiritually. They are constantly calling us, sending texts, praying with us making sure our spirits are quenched. Just like Paul reminded the Thessalonians to encourage one another we must also do the same for the leaders who are in the position to seek the discernment of God on our behalf. Paul also reminds us to acknowledge those who work hard among us, the essential workers. Those in the Front lines, the scientist, nurses, doctors, grocery store workers, police officers, fast food workers, etc.

Good news: We must thank God that these people are here making sure we have all the essential things that we need. We must stay focused, not lose faith, praise God, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for us.

Go one step further:

Prayer Activity: Daily Thanksgiving
Materials: Small Basket or Bowl, Paper, pencil/pen
-Think about all the people you want to thank God for. The essential works, your pastor, a church leader, family member, etc.
-Take a few sheets of paper cut it in big or small pieces (depends on the amount of people)
-Write a name on each paper, fold each paper into a few folds, place them in a bowl or basket
-Shake the bowl/basket Place bowl/basket on nightstand or near door
-Every night or every morning as you pray and in worship with God. Pick 1 name out of the bunch and pray for them, thank God for them.

Good News Youth Devotional

By Joy Murray (Coordinator of Children, Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Virlina District)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 “…let us be alert and self-controlled.”

1 Thessalonians was written to encourage a rather new congregation (possible around 2 years old). The “day of the Lord” that Paul talks about is Jesus’ second coming that He told them about in John 14:3. Since Jesus ascended into Heaven, people have been anxiously (in a good way), expecting His return and trying to predict when He will come again. Paul is reminding them that this coming will happen unexpectedly. All too well, we understand how our plans for what will happen in the days ahead, may change! God’s ways and timing are not the same as ours (see Isaiah 55:8-9, Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8). Paul did not want them (or us) to be caught off guard. When all seems to be going well, it will happen somewhat unexpectedly – as unexpectedly as coming home one night to find a thief at your house (you know it could happen, but you don’t really expect it). Paul warns us to be alert. Be aware of your surroundings and ready to quickly respond. Again, this is something we are becoming accustomed to doing anyway, these days. He urges us to have self-control. Don’t do what you want to do, just because you want to. Have control over your impulses, desires and emotions. We are reminded to trust God and seek His will, and He will lead us. (Proverbs 3:5-6). Choosing to do God’s will instead of your own is self-control. Oftentimes, when someone is going to do something they know is wrong, or shady, they will choose the darkness of night to try to do it, thinking they have less chance of being caught. That is the opposite of how we, as Christians should be acting. We are protected by God’s armor of faith and love and we have as our hope, the helmet of salvation. Jesus died so we can spend eternity with Him. Let’s share this Good News with everyone! Let’s have a strong relationship with God! Let’s encourage and build one another up!

Good News: Jesus wants us to spend eternity with Him, so be ready, alert and self-controlled!

Discussion Question: Think about how you feel when you are preparing for someone special to come and visit. What do you be sure you do or don’t do? How do you prepare for them? Who do you call to let them know about your special visitor? Have you told that person about Jesus? Are you ready for Jesus?

Go one step further:

Good News Youth Devotional

By Andy Duffey (Pastor at the Antioch Church of the Brethren (VA))

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 “…we will be with the Lord forever…”

Resurrection is complicated. Its about looking backwards (Jesus’ resurrection). It’s about looking forwards (Our own eternal resurrection). And it’s also about looking around. Resurrection is happening all around!

When Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians, one of his goals was to encourage folks living under pressure. He wanted to remind them that whatever life was like for them NOW, it would not ALWAYS be that way. What Jesus started when he left that tomb behind is still going on. Death will not have the last word. Life does. God does. Love does! So we have this amazing life to look forward to, not just everlasting life, but life “with God,” who is by nature, perfect love. No more death. No more evil. No more shame. This is the vision Paul uses to give hope…

Good News: No matter what pressure we face, Jesus’ resurrection promises us life with God forever, beginning now!

Discussion Question: What do you hope life with God will be like? How can you begin living “life with the Lord” right now?

Go one step further: Spend some time imagining life in perfect relationship with God and God’s new creation. Draw a picture of what you imagine life will be like in the new creation. Picture your resurrected self. Picture God/Jesus/the Spirit. Picture the rest of the world. Place this picture somewhere to remind you of the hope we have, even when times are hard.

Good News Youth Devotional

By Jason Haldeman (Minister of Faith Formation at the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren (PA))

1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 “…may the lord make your love increase and overflow…”

In this section of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he is remembering those he had spent time with in Thessalonica. He writes to them about how he had been missing them and worried, however, he had just received word from Timothy that they are doing well. This makes Paul happy and he wants to continue to encourage and support them. He says “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else”. Paul offers this prayer of encouragement to people he loved and wanted to be near to, but was unable to be with them.
Many of us find ourselves in a similar situation today, longing to see one another perhaps a friend, or family member but are unable to do so. The wonderful thing is that God’s love knows no bounds and while separation of geography or “stay-at-home” orders may keep us physically distanced, the love we may hold for one another cannot be contained or confined. May we be reminded that when we feel lonely or do not have enough energy or love to give out to others, we can always turn to God as the ultimate source. God is the ever-flowing stream, the bottomless well, the never-ending faucet of love, because God is Love. We can take the time to fill ourselves up on God’s love and let it overflow to those around us, everyone, near and far. This may not always be easy, but it does start with trusting God as our source of love and knowing that it is abundant and will never run out.

Good News: Love comes from God, it is an endless and infinite source that can fill us up and overflow from us to others.

Discussion Questions: What are ways that you can overflow God’s Love to those around you? How do you refill yourself on the Love of God?

Go one step further: Reach out and let your love overflow to someone. Who have you not spoken to or connected with in some time? Take a moment and send a random text, message or phone call to someone. Maybe a friend you have not seen in weeks or years? Perhaps you have a relative you have been meaning to call. Reach out! Cannot think of anyone to send a message to? How about sending an encouraging message to a random stranger and receiving one in return? Check out
Let Love overflow, and know there is an endless supp to replenish you!

Good News Youth Devotional

By Gimbiya Kettering (Writer, Washington DC)

1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 “Indeed you are our glory and joy.”

To those followers of Christ, the ones who had known him as man walking, eating, and sleeping, the weeks between the Resurrection and Pentecost must have felt barren. Jesus is risen. But to those who had touched the miracle of God made flesh that human Jesus was gone. Gone, too, were the miracles of the blind seeing, walking on water, and the water into wine. The world around them must have felt unchanged – the Roman Empire still an Empire, the poor and oppressed were still waiting for justice and freedom, and suffering continued in the forms of war and disease, and the dead did not rise from their tombs.

If it is easy to find faith in times of signs and miracles, then it is also easy to lose faith in ordinary times.

These are ordinary times. Covid-19, as it ravages the lives of individuals, the networks of families and communities, and whole countries is a uniquely devastating disease in our lifetimes. But history has been formed by plagues and pandemics. It was the diseases brought by Europeans that killed millions Indigenous peoples so that “the Americas” seemed ready and prepared for colonialization and settlement. It was the plagues in Europe before that brought an age of empire and domination. We are not the first peoples to pray, or not pray, in the midst of pandemics for miracles and hope and peace.

In the centuries since that first Pentecost, many denominations have searched to add meaning and richness to these weeks. Eastertide is named as a time for reflection and discernment as we await the gifts of the Spirit and the miracle of the good news spoken in every language. But this is a theology of hindsight. To those who would become the foundations of the early church, those weeks were not spent waiting for a predetermined outcome. They were a time much like ours when faith was like a darting, winged thing that flies from us when we run towards it. There is no certainty that is more than a figment. Nor can we be certain, if it is real, that we can catch it. This is not the same as being without faith.

Paul opened so many of his letters open with saying he missed the people he knew and had visited. I never understood that before this. I miss you. I know your lives and faiths are shaped by this pandemic, the loneliness of quarantines, the economic devastation, and the deaths of so many loved ones. It is hard to find the stillness of reflection or the strength of discernment. Still, it is spring and my children delight in the glory of creation. We catch ladybugs to set them free. Under the dry leaves there is a broken, sprouting acorn that looks like my hopeful heart. When we blow dandelion puffs, it is my prayers that catch the winds.

Good News: Through our fears and uncertainty we can have hope in Christ

Discussion Question: For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presences of our Lord Jesus when he comes? (1 Thessalonians 2: 19)

Go one step further: If you can, go out into the glory of creation and observe the hope in the details of spring. If you cannot go outside, draw or write or paint from the memory of spring that makes you feel free.

Good News Youth Devotional

By Maddie Sweeny (Camp Emmaus Counselor (IL))

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 “…encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God…”

In this section of Paul’s letter to the people of the Thessalonian church he just finished thanking and praising the people for their good faith and has moved on to reminiscing on how he discipled them. Paul talks about how he, Silas, and Timothy came to their village with only honest intentions and the purpose to share the Good News with love in their hearts. Paul and the others work side by side people of this church as equals without burdens. While working side by side, that is when they shared not only the God’s Good News but their own lives as well. Paul was willing to get personal with the people. Paul and the disciples nurture the people’s spiritual growth and show the people love like a parent while encouraging them to live a holy life. Paul’s description in this letter on how they earned the trust and built relationships with the people of the Thessalonian church is a good lesson on how we can build relationships and disciple within our community. Again, Paul emphasizes how he worked side by side with the people instead of using their authority as apostles of Christ to gain trust. Just being a good student or working everyday with others and being a good example of Christ can help encourage others around you to the path of Christ. Are you a good example of Christ in your everyday living? What are some things you can do to improve that if you feel that you are not? Do you ever feel discouraged when talking about your faith among your friends? Paul too had moments where he suffered and had opposition while trying to spread the Good News, but God will give courage to keep going. Overall, Paul shows us, with God in your heart, that providing love and being humble goes a long way, can help build strong connections, and provide the way to live a worthy life.

Good News: Sharing the good news of Jesus means spreading love

Discussion Question: Who in your community reminds you most of Paul in Thessalonica? What are somethings people have done or said to make you open to new ideas?

Go one step further:

Good News Youth Devotional

By Eric Landrum (Lead Pastor at the Lititz Church of the Brethren (PA))

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 “…your faith in God has become known everywhere…”

First impressions are a big deal. As Paul begins his letter (and likely one of his earliest letters) he is so grateful for the followers of Jesus in Thessalonica and the impression their faithfulness had made in his own life and ministry. Paul is energized and inspired by this body of believers and the incredible work they are doing. He can clearly see how the work of God is alive and well and being led by the Holy Spirit there. He points out that because of their commitment to live as imitators of Jesus, their work is having a lasting and meaningful impact on those around them. Because they follow Jesus with their whole hearts their faith in God “has become known everywhere.” They are role models for a gospel way of living. What high praise to receive from a guy like Paul!

It is wonderful when we see the fruit of the Spirit, isn’t it? We can make such a stunning first impression on the people around us when we extend kindness, patience, and genuine care to our neighbors by imitating Jesus. Paul points out that the believers in Thessalonica had three important characteristics: faith, hope, and love. Can the same be said for your life? What about your church? Paul will spend the rest of his time in this letter encouraging the followers to keep up the good work and remain a source of positivity and we can hear that encouragement even today. Go forth! Be a role model! Live in such a way that your faith in God is known everywhere! Talk about a fantastic first impression.

Good News: God has chosen you to be a role model for others and an imitator of Jesus!

Discussion Question: Who has served as a role model for you? How did their behaviors and living teach you about God?

Go one step further: Paul’s time in Thessalonica wasn’t always smooth sailing. He was actually locked up when he first arrived! You can read more about his time in this famous Greek city in Acts 16 and 17. If you’d like to know about the entire letter, check out this video which gives you an overview of 1 Thessalonians

Good News Youth Devotional

By Valarie Kline (Pastor at the Pleasant Chapel Church of the Brethren (IN) and district youth advisor in the Northern Indiana District)

We know it’s important to pray, & many times we may think, “I’ll pray for that….later.” But, we need to be intentional about spending time in prayer. Setting aside a specific time to do so is important. Yes, we can & should pray throughout the day, but if we don’t set a specific time (like in the morning, after school, or before bed), it likely won’t happen (at least, not as effectively as it could). Not only does God command us to pray, but God wants us to pray. The God of the universe loves to spend time with us….with you. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?

Intercessory prayer is praying on behalf of others. Andrew Murray (1828-1917) wrote, “Intercession for others is the most perfect form of prayer; it is the prayer Christ prays on His throne.” That’s another wonderful thought. Jesus is praying for us even now (see Romans 8:34 & Hebrews 7:25)! Robert Murray McCheyne shared, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.” Christ is praying for us, and we can and should pray for others, too. We’ve been given an incredible opportunity and privilege to do so.

Good News: We can pray to God on behalf of others, and we can bless them through our prayers (whether they ever know it or not).

Discussion Question: What are some ways you’ve seen prayers answered?Who is somebody you can pray for, & will you make a commitment to do so? Will you set aside a specific time to pray each day? If so, when will that time be?

Go one step further: Try the M&M prayer.

Good News Youth Devotional

By Seth Hendricks (Pastor of Youth & Congregational Life at the Manchester Church of the Brethren)

Colossians 2:8-23 “…the reality is found in Christ.”

Friends, you do not need me to tell you what a unique time we are living in. I imagine we will be hearing and sharing stories, memories, etc…about this specific time in history for many years to come. However, what will the fruits of this time bear? Does it feel like your life has radically changed? How are you living into these new realities?

As followers of Christ, those last two questions are particularly interesting to reflect on in these times. Of course things have changed dramatically and new realities exist, and yet, this should not be unfamiliar territory for us, right? This letter in Colossians is not just a reminder of that but a connection point back to the early church. Followers of Christ who don’t just need a reminder, they need a reality check. To summarize: Hey Colossians! Stop seeking to find life in what the world offers. Remember your baptism? Your call into new life, to be radically changed from dead and old ways? This reality, this fullness of life is found in Christ.

So maybe this unique time can also be a reality check for us. When we become overwhelmed by the rapid changes and shifts to our day to day realities, remember we are called into these kinds of places. To live into the reality that is found in Christ. A life in all its fullness.

Good News: We can do this! We are equipped to shine bright in these times. Remember, the fullness of life that is found in Christ.

Discussion Question: In these times, where are you uncovering and awakening this fullness of life?

Go one step further: