Examining God’s Credit System

Romans 4

May 20

We often hear the phrase, “Faith without works is dead,” quoted from James chapter 2, in sermons and lessons about the importance of DOING. Now these are a wonderful set of verses, however, Romans 4 clarifies that works without faith are also dead. Our works, and the goodness of our works, are measured on a human scale; any good deed one might do could have any number of motives. God looks at the heart, not our outward performance, in order that we may be saved by grace and not by our own works. 

“And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteous” Romans 4:5

Paul admits that Abraham’s works are impressive; he displayed his righteousness in the way he lived. However, his works alone were not what made him righteous in God’s eyes. God sees much more than we ever could. Abraham was promised that he would be the father of many nations because of his righteousness of faith, for it is true belief in our LORD that determines godly righteousness, and God saw that Abraham truly believed. 

This is such a beautiful thing, because this process of forgiveness and redemption and justification applied to Abraham “not just for his sake alone, but for ours also” (Romans 4:23-24). We are justified not by works, but by faith, because 1. our works could never cut it, and 2. our works are a faulty means of character assessment. Because God looks at our hearts to determine our righteousness, our hearts are what we need to keep in check. Don’t sully your good works with a hardened heart. Every good work we do should be done for the sake of serving our Father, and not for the purpose of serving our own selfish desires, greed, and self-centeredness. Good works need to sprout from a pure motive, or else it’s no longer a good work. I thank God that we, like Abraham, may be counted righteous by our faith, and hope that we all will strive to be just as intentional in our inward thoughts, emotions, and faith (what God sees) as we are in our outward actions, words, and works (what man sees). 

-Isabella Osborn

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do verses 5-8 give us hope? Who is justified under this blessing?
  2. If godly righteousness does not come through the law or works, but by faith, then why is it sometimes so hard to attain godly righteousness?
  3. How can you grow in godly righteousness? 

Our Hope in God’s Promises

Acts 26

May 14

Once again, Paul has a chance to give his testimony.  He is respectful.  He boldly states “it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today.” v.6

God promised the Israelites blessings. 

Genesis 12:3 -I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you

God promised the Israelites redemption. – A savior messiah who would be the once and forever sacrifice for sin.    

Deuteronomy 18:15 – The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.   

Romans 3:23-25 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.”  

Psalm 16:10  – Because of this, all men have the hope of eternal life. 

Titus 2:14- who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Paul stayed focused.  And so must we.

God promised the Israelites land. 

Deuteronomy 34:4 – the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 

Blessings, redemption, eternal inheritance in the kingdom on earth.  These promises are ours as well.

-Annette Osborn

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Reading Paul’s testimony in Acts 26, what are you most impressed by?
  2. What promises of God give you great hope?
  3. How can you share that hope with others?

Peter was Sleeping!

Acts 12

April 30

Acts 12:6 – The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.

Have you ever been so excited about something that is scheduled for the next day that you couldn’t sleep? Or something that you were dreading that made sleep impossible?

Imagine for a moment that you were scheduled to be executed in the morning for a crime that you didn’t commit. Do you think that sleep would come easily?

I would probably not sleep a wink and yet, we read in Acts chapter twelve that this is exactly what Peter was doing. And to make the situation even more uncomfortable, he was sleeping bound with chains, to a man on his right and another man on his left. 

How was Peter able to rest so soundly the night before his scheduled death that an angel of the Lord had to strike him to wake him up?!?

This is what trusting in the Lord looks like. This is what peace that passes all understanding looks like. This is what believing in God beyond your current circumstances looks like. 

Peter had every reason to believe that he was going to be next on Herod’s list of disciples put to the sword. But Peter also had every reason to believe that the same God who rescued Daniel from the lions’ den was more than capable of rescuing him from barracks guarded by four sentries. 

The next time you are facing circumstances that appear beyond your control, remember that you serve a God who positioned a young shepherd boy to slay a giant with a slingshot, who parted the waters of the Red Sea and closed them back up again, who caused the lame to walk and the blind to see. And if God is capable of doing that…He is capable of seeing you through your trials too. 

Believe and do not doubt.

-Bethany Ligon

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1 Is there a time when you were in a super stressful situation, but you were able to experience peace beyond understanding that comes from God? Thank God for His peace and presence. How can this be a part of your testimony of God’s greatness?

2. When sleep doesn’t come and you feel anxious or worried or stressed – what would God, or Peter, suggest you fill your mind with?

3. What happened to Herod? Why?

They Thought it Could Not be Done

Acts 10

April 28

Acts 10:36 – You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling them the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

Our history books are filled with stories of people doing something that has never been done before. From Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the Moon, to Rosalind Franklin capturing the first image of DNA, to women getting the right to vote in 1920. 

For every time that something has been done for the first time, there was a time that it was believed that it couldn’t be done. 

Have you ever been told something couldn’t be done, and then you proved your naysayers wrong? 

These are the kind of thoughts I have when I read through Acts chapter 10. Up until this point in time, followers of Jesus were predominantly converts of Judaism. Cornelius the Centurion, was “devout and God-fearing”, as was the rest of his family. He was generous and prayed daily to God. He probably thought that this was as good as it was going to get. Until God gave him a vision of something more. 

Peter, along with all of the other disciples, were most likely glad to have a Roman Centurion on their side. But they too thought that because he was a Gentile, Cornelius wouldn’t and couldn’t have a relationship to God like the Hebrews could. Until God gave him a vision of something more. 

God made it clear to both of these men that the gospel message wasn’t limited to just one group of people, but that Jesus came for us all. And this led to Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, to be the first recorded baptized Gentile in all of Scripture. 

I don’t know if I will ever be the first of anyone to do something for the first time, but I am grateful that I am one of the benefactors of someone who did. And while I may never be a trailblazer, I do know that God still gives us dreams and visions for the kind of life that He longs to bless us with. Don’t shy away from a radical notion that God places on your heart. You never know how that might turn into a blessing not only for you, but for generations after you.

-Bethany Ligon

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Who do you think was most surprised – Cornelius or Peter?
  2. How has God surprised you with how deep and wide and wonderful His plan of salvation is?
  3. Who still needs to hear it and how will you be a part of sharing it with those who need to know?

Do You See?

John 20

April 17

Do You See? Have you recognized Jesus’ resurrection? Is it a foreign idea to you?

Here’s the issue: In verse 8 it says, “Then the other disciple [John], who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed” (John 20:8). What did he see? What did he believe? Jesus wasn’t there—just some cloths that he left behind.

Compare this to Mary in verse 18: She has met Jesus in the garden and spoken to him. She returns to the disciples and says, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18). We don’t have Mary’s direct evidence. We are more like John in the tomb—there is evidence, and either we see through it or we don’t. The issue is: Do you see? The issue is: Do I care? Do I find that idea helpful? Do I feel that it helps me flourish as a human being? And if it seems like it doesn’t, then I will just view it the way I view UFOs and possible life in some distant galaxy—I just don’t need to bother with it.

Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ followers, goes to His tomb only to find that He’s not there! Jesus appears to Mary and several others, fulfilling all that He had said about rising from the dead.

Either you see Christ risen and that changes you or Christ’s death is some obscure event that happened in the past.

The reality is Jesus is alive! He is risen! He can change us like he promised. We have no hope of changing ourselves. The only way we can put away sinful habits is through a relationship with Jesus made possible by His death and resurrection.

On the cross, Jesus clothed Himself in our sin. When Peter and John looked into the empty tomb, they saw Jesus was not there and He had left His burial clothes. John 20 shows us that Jesus left our sinful nature in the grave when He rose from the dead.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

We do not have to be controlled by our desire to sin. Not only do we not have to be clothed in sin, the resurrection means we get to be clothed in something better. In Colossians 3:12, Paul says, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Following Jesus allows us to put away our old lives and begin new ones.

If you think this does not matter to you, remember, those who are in Christ—that is, who believe on him, and belong to him, and receive forgiveness and reconciliation from him—will be raised with him. And Paul says in Philippians 3:21 that Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” This is not a UFO, or irrelevant life on another galaxy. This is what will happen when God judges the world by a man, Jesus Christ.

Do you see?

-Andy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you see that Jesus is alive? What evidence leads you to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and is living today?
  2. What does it mean to you that you don’t have to be clothed in sin any more? Are you still? What does one do to make the transition from living the old life to the new? If you aren’t sure, who can you talk to about it?
  3. Who do you know who needs to see? What can you show them about Jesus – today?

Object Permanence

John 16

April 13

Object permanence is a milestone babies hit when they begin to understand that an object still exists when they can’t see or hear it. When their mother leaves the room, she still exists; when their favorite toy is hidden under a blanket, it still exists, too. 

Object permanence is a skill Jesus reinforced in his disciples on their final night together, before his arrest and subsequent death. 

Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me” (John 16:16).

The disciples mourned Jesus’ death, and they rejoiced at his resurrection just three days later. Even though they could not see Jesus, he wasn’t gone forever. Just like a baby’s favorite toy hidden under a blanket, Jesus was merely out of sight for a little while. 

You and I have never seen Jesus, yet the disciples’ hope is our hope, too. We can’t see Jesus now, but we will someday—when he brings his Father’s Kingdom down to Earth. We have faith that even though we cannot see him, he is real and he is working. After all, faith is the certainty of the things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). 

Although we’ve never seen Jesus, we can see the impact of his life all over our own lives—the freedom of forgiveness, peace in unfathomable situations, victory over temptation and sin. 

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). 

We have the same hope as the disciples. We can’t see Jesus now, but we will soon. 

Jesus is coming soon. 

We will see Jesus face to face. 

-Mackenzie McClain

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Even though you’ve never seen Jesus, have you seen evidence of his existence in your life? How so? 
  2. How would you live your life differently if you were constantly reminded of Jesus’ coming return? 

Taking it By Yourself

Numbers 14

February 18

How many times do you think something at work or school is off and you need to take things into your own hands? The Israelites didn’t like what was going on in Numbers 14. They didn’t put their trust in him. They felt like they had to go beyond him and figure things out on their own. That is probably one of the worst things you can do as a Christian.

There’s so many times in a day where you just feel lost and hopeless and you just feel like you need to take a minute for yourself – but don’t be by yourself. Go into a room and pray, when everything feels wrong or off, talk to God about it. If you take a look at how the Israelites portrayed themselves in this passage., they were lost mentally, physically, whatever you want to say. They started losing trust, they started losing faith. They started believing and acting like God didn’t know what he was doing.

I find myself sometimes needing to take a step back from school and even my family and just be by myself in a room turning off my phone and just having an OutLoud conversation with God. Because when all else fails, I know I can always go back and just figure it out with God. I wish the Israelites did that in this passage. If they took a minute and had a conversation with God trying to work through everything, maybe they would’ve found what they were looking for.

Take a look at what Joshua said, which is in verses 7-9.

“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

He was brave to go in front of everyone and say what he said. He saw the land that God wanted him to see and he understood if God was pleased with them, He would lead them into this land.

-Genesis Dylewski

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How well do you feel you trust God when faced with difficulties? When you are in the minority? When you feel like a grasshopper? When you are in a scary situation or unsure of the outcome? How do you think more time calling out to God could help boost your faith in each of these situations? What else could help build your trust?
  2. Can you think of a time you went your own way and tried to take care of a situation on your own (perhaps the “safe” way) rather than joining God where He wanted to lead you? What might you have missed out on?
  3. Which was actually the bigger threat to the Israelites – facing the scary heathen foreigners who didn’t know God (with God at their side) or siding with the majority report from the people of God (who were not trusting God)?
  4. What were the consequences of the Israelites choosing to not go where He was leading when He was leading?

10 Were Bad…

Numbers 13

February 17

I think my favorite song from our children’s worship has got to be the song “Twelve Men Went to Spy on Canaan”. Numbers 13 is that story. Maybe it’s silly to sing a children’s song now. At game night tonight we were listening to our favorite worship songs and “You Say” came on. Now I don’t know about you but Lauren Daigle is by far my favorite singer. We related “You Say” to Numbers 13. The song talks about feeling unworthy but then knowing God is there to help you through.


This can be applied anywhere – but for the 12 men, two thought with God they could do it, they could do anything. The ten on the other hand were stuck in the beginning of the song. Stuck fighting the voices that say they aren’t enough. Numbers 13:31 “But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’” versus what Lauren sings, “You say I am strong, when I think I am weak.” When you are stuck in a rut and think you can’t do the hard things, think about the twelve men. Do you want to be like the ten or the two?

-Genesis Dylewski

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. When have you felt like a grasshopper? (30:33). When have you believed the voices telling you that you are not enough? How do you do battle against them? What truths would God have you believe?
  2. How can remembering what God has done in the past give you confidence for the battles ahead? List 5 of your favorite victories God provided in the Bible. List 5 instances of God’s power, faithfulness and love in your life or those you have known personally.

In God’s Flow Zone

Lamentations 3-5

Accomplished athletes, musicians and artists alike are often asked what it means to be “in the zone”. In psychology circles, being “in the zone” is referred to a state of flow – when an individual is completely absorbed in doing a challenging, yet doable, task. They are somehow able to shut out all of the external noise and distraction to focus on the very present moment to do one thing. 

Performers and entertainers are not the only ones who are able to find their flow. Scientists and mathematicians; emergency responders; and everyday average Joes like you and me are able to concentrate so intently on a task that time just seems to slip away and we find ourselves doing something extraordinary.

As I meditated on Lamentations chapters three through five, I couldn’t help but be bombarded with how devastated the author was over losing their home, being held in captivity, and witnessing depravity all around him.

And yet, right in the middle of all those laments, there are these verses that stand out, that give hope and encouragement.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore

I will wait for him.”

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him;

it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Lamentations 3:21-26

How is it that the author, in the midst of all the calamity, is able to break out these words of great expectation?

Maybe, the author was just for a moment, able to quiet his thoughts and instead of focusing on the turmoil he and the other captives were facing, meditated on God’s character. As he penned these words, he found himself in a state of flow of sorts.

Whenever we find ourselves in difficult situations, it is so easy to concentrate on all that is wrong; all that pains us; all that is overwhelming. 

But what if, instead, we were able to quiet our minds, to completely block out all of the negativity, and just simply rest in the quietness of God’s character: his love, his compassion, his grace and mercy, his forgiveness, his holiness, his faithfulness. 

This is the space where we are able to renew our hope, to find the strength to dig deep and do the hard things, to press on through the challenge having complete confidence that God is ultimately on our side; that He is bigger, greater, higher than anyone or anything that we may be facing. 

If you are in the middle of a difficult circumstance, you may be tempted to lament all day long to anyone who is willing to listen. Instead, I urge you to refocus your thoughts and “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”. (Colossians 3:2) Find yourself in God’s flow zone. Here you will experience the peace that passes all understanding.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Lamentations 3-5 and 1 Peter 1

Seek and Find

Jeremiah 29 & 30 and Hebrews 6

Have your parents ever planned a big surprise for the family. Maybe a big trip that everyone is excited about and looking forward to. They will do whatever is possible to make it happen. My mother would always say “Lord’s willing” on the off chance that something unforeseen would happen. With God, we don’t have to worry because if he says something will happen, it WILL happen. The Israelites should know this by now, but just like us, sometimes it’s hard to get things through to them.

Jeremiah 29 is a letter from Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon. We all know Jeremiah 29:11, it’s on lots of items from shirts to artwork, because it has a great message, but continue to read on, the whole passage is just as meaningful. It’s like a love poem written to His children. It starts in verse 10 when He tell them he will bring them back after 70 years, just like He promised. Jeremiah 29: 11-14 says “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will let Myself be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.”

Even after all that happened and the fact that they had followed after other gods, the one true God had not given up on His people and He had good plans ahead for them. They just needed to trust Him. We need to all learn to lean on and trust God during the times when we may feel like we are exiled and in captivity. God has good plans for His children. But we have to do our part, it says that we need to call on Him, seek Him, and search for Him with all of our heart. If we do that, He says “I will let Myself be found by you.” He is going to restore them and bring them back to their promised land. These chapters deal with the future prosperity of Israel that God has promised them. In Jeremiah 30:24b it says “Until He has performed, and until He has accomplished the intent of His heart; in the latter days you will understand this.”

We can rest assured that God’s promises will happen, just as He has said, and one of His promises is that He will give us a hope and a future. In Hebrews 6, we learn of better things that are ahead for all believers, we have assurance of our hope of salvation.  It tells us that Abraham waited for the promise of God to be fulfilled just like we must and it tells us to be imitators of those who persevered through faith and patience who will inherit the promises.  Jesus has gone before us as the first fruits of those resurrected to eternal life and is in heaven acting as our high priest. A better day is coming for all of us when Jesus returns to this earth to set up his Father’s kingdom.

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 29 & 30 and Hebrews 6

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