The Early Church : The Purity and Persecution of the Early Church

Acts 5


Today, I’d like to focus on two more aspects of the church, both of which defined the church in its earliest days: purity and persecution. 


Purity


Yesterday, we read how God used his church to care for the least fortunate. No one in the church had any need. One of the ways this was accomplished, remember is that those who had property would sell it and give the proceeds to the church. There was no demand or command to do this, but those who did were honored by the church. In Acts 5:1-11, we read about a husband and wife duo who tried to buy the affection of the church. They sold a piece of property, but kept back a portion. But that wasn’t the problem. In verse 7, Peter asked Sapphira whether this was ALL the money they received for the land. THAT was the lie. They wanted everyone to think they were just as good as those who gave ALL their money to the church. 


But the church is not about building up our own ego. The church is about caring for those who need help. When Ananias and Sapphira lied, they lied to the Holy Spirit and they lied to God! In our world, some use church or religion for their own status. God has shown since the birth of the church that he’s not fooled. He desires to keep his people pure, focused on his mission, his goals, and not on themselves. 


Persecution


The disciples kept proclaiming Jesus. Those who were powerful were being told there was someone more powerful. Those who denied the resurrection were shown there was a resurrection. Those who considered themselves righteous were proven to be wicked. That is going to make people mad. They had told them that they couldn’t preach in the name of Jesus, but the apostles reply “We must obey God rather than human beings!” What an AMAZING testimony. They are not worried about people. They aren’t worried about the commands of men, of governments, of those who can kill the body but not the soul. 


God said “Go!” and so they go. Jesus said “Disciple others!” and so they disciple. The Holy Spirit gives them words and so they speak. 


Because of this, they were flogged (v40) and ordered not to speak. And the reaction of the disciples is fascinating. They were rejoicing. Rejoicing because they were counted worthy to suffer disgrace. Counted worthy to suffer. God thinks of them highly enough to be humiliated. 


Because in our humiliation, in our suffering, in our rejection, we look most like Jesus. God reverses our fortunes in the same way that he raised Jesus from the dead and sat him at his right hand.

In our humiliation, God gives glory. 

In our suffering, God gives joy. 

In our rejection, God gives acceptance. 

In our weakness, God gives Jesus. 

May you, my brothers and sisters, be more like the early church, today. 

May the message fill your mouth and the mission compel your feet. 

May the Spirit of God give you power and the love of God give you passion.

May the dedication of the apostles and the purity of the church define your own worship of God. 


May you do all this so that God is glorified, Jesus is honored, and many find faith. 

-Jake Ballard

Jake Ballard is pastor at Timberland Bible Church. If you’d like to hear more from him, you can find Timberland on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TimberlandBibleChurch/ ) and on Instagram (https://instagram.com/timberlandbiblechurch?igshid=t52xoq9esc7e). The church streams the Worship Gathering every Sunday at 10:30. Besides studying and teaching God’s word, he is raising three beautiful children with the love of his life, plays board games and roleplaying games with amazing friends weekly and recently celebrated both Cinco de Mayo and May the Fourth (Be with you). If you’d like to reach out to talk Bible, talk faith, or talk about Star Wars, look Jacob Ballard up on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jacob.ballard.336 )or email him at jakea.ballard@yahoo.com
God bless you all!

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 21-22 and Acts 5

Church Potlucks

Deuteronomy 15-16

“Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose…No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.” – Deuteronomy 16:16-17

Church potlucks! We at Lakeshore Bible Church in Tempe, AZ, love our potlucks. 

By my estimation, in the last 12 months, due to the pandemic, I figure that we have missed out on at least four or five regularly calendared potlucks. 

Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, plus two church congregational meetings/potlucks. I miss the casseroles, the crockpot meatballs, the pies and cakes. Who doesn’t love potlucks?!?

As I was reading through Deuteronomy 16 today, it struck me that the festivals that God commanded His people to celebrate were week-long church potlucks!

Here are the similarities:

1 – Church-wide Community. God called the Israelites to gather together at specific times each year at a specific place for a special occasion. 

  • The Feast of Unleavened Bread was to remember how God brought the Israelites out of Egypt without much notice.
  • The Feast of Weeks is also known as the Feast of Pentecost or the Feast of the Harvest. During this seven day celebration, the people were to show joy and thankfulness for the blessing of the year’s harvest.
  • The Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths) is for remembering the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, when the Israelites lived in tents for 40 years.

Likewise, we get together today, we often gather to celebrate a special holiday or occasion.

2 – Food! What is a celebration without food? During the three festivals mentioned in today’s reading passage, people are instructed with what to eat and how to prepare it. 

3 – Ceremony of Remembering. At each of the festivals mentioned in Deuteronomy 16, part of the time was dedicated to remembering what God had done for His chosen people. 

What I so appreciate about church potlucks today is the opportunity to sit down with others and spend time in conversation over a meal. Sometimes, these conversations are about current life events. But other times, these conversations include recollections of years gone by; how God acted on our behalf; and how our lives changed as a result. 

While we may not have special ceremonies of remembrance during a church potluck, God’s prior interventions and current activities in our lives certainly are exchanged.

So while I might be stretching it a bit to do a direct comparison between the three feasts and today’s modern church potlucks, let’s not forget that it is God’s intention for His people to gather regularly and remember all the things He has done for us!  

-Bethany Ligon

You can read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 15-16 and Luke 16

Blessed are…


Luke 6

Recently, both my Sunday School and Wednesday night groups went through the first part of Matthew, chapter 5. This is the beginning of Matthew’s rendition of “The Sermon on the Mount”, and it starts with “the Beatitudes”. It is a list of traits that show who are the blessed ones. When you read the list of the eight “Blessed Attitudes” in Matthew, you could easily see implicit commands. Be more poor in spirit, be more gentle, hunger and thirst for righteousness better. Something like that. 

In the recent years, I read an interesting take on the Beatitudes in Matthew. This author said that the first four are brokenness and oppression that no one chooses, and that God is on the side of those oppressed ones. This would seem clear with “mourn” (Matthew 5:4); but if poor in spirit means “impoverished of God’s goodness” rather than “humble”, we could see that this would be a rather impressive switch. 

The reason I bring up this reading in Matthew is because Luke doesn’t need a ton of interpretive work to see the blessedness of the broken. In your reading you read Luke 6. This is part of the passage we read:

20 And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

22 Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.

23 Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. 

24 But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.

25 Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.

Blessed are the poor. Not the poor in spirit, the humble, the ones who recognize their own spiritual poverty.

Jesus blesses those who don’t have coins to rub together. 

Because God wants to give them a kingdom. 


Blessed are you who hunger. No hunger for righteousness, thirst for truth, and desire the goodness of God. 

Jesus blesses those whose stomachs are growling. 

Because God wants to give them food for now and eternity.


Blessed are you who weep. Not mourn over the sins of the world and the things that drag us away from God. 

Jesus blesses those who cry because of stress, pain, heartache, and loss. 

Because God will give them laughter. 

Blessed are you when you are hated because of Jesus. 

Jesus blesses those who are only trying to follow in his footsteps in the middle of a world that may hate them. 

Because God has a great reward in heaven, waiting to be given. 


And Jesus follows up with some strong language : woe to the rich, the well-fed, the laughing, and the well-thought-of. Those who have all the blessings this world has to offer don’t share any in the world to come. 

What does this have to do with you?

Jesus clearly doesn’t want us to suffer needlessly. He never wants anyone to suffer needlessly.

And part of what we are called to do is to end the needless suffering around us. 


Jesus told his disciples “you will always have the poor with you”, and what that text is really saying is “never stop giving to those who need help.” (Deuteronomy 15:11) 

God is on the side of the poor; He will bless them in his kingdom, but he is using YOU to alleviate their poverty now. 

Jesus told his disciples “you give them something to eat” (Luke 9:13), and the early church made sure that every person was fed and taken care of. (Acts 2:44-46)

God is on the side of the hungry; He will give them food in his kingdom, but he is using YOU to feed them now. 


Jesus always encouraged and comforted his disciples (John 14), and the church lived life together, weeping together so they could rejoice together (Romans 12:15). 

God is on the side of the weeping; He will give them comfort in his kingdom, but he is using YOU to comfort them now. 


Jesus said “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) and that “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)

God is on the side of those hated for his son; He will bless them beyond all measure in his kingdom. 


Your call is to be a great blessing to all those whom God desires to bless. May you bring blessing wherever you go; you are blessed to be a blessing

-Jake Ballard

You can read or listen to today’s Bible reading at BibleGateway – Numbers 31-32 and Luke 6

Giving and Serving

Numbers 7-8 and Psalm 38-39

The Tabernacle played a very important role for the Jews before the Temple era.  The Tabernacle served as the central area where the Jews worshiped God.  Therefore, it was important that the Tabernacle was well taken care of.  We discussed two days ago that the Levites were responsible for the upkeep of the Tabernacle.  Although not all the tribes participated in the actual work of the upkeep of the Tabernacle, the tribes did provide gifts for the Tabernacle.  When we think about the church today, we may not all partake in the physical upkeep of the church building.  However, we should follow the example set in Numbers 7, and everyone should provide for the needs of the church.

After 88 verses describing the different gifts that the tribes presented to the Tabernacle, Moses communicates with God.  Moses went into the tent of meeting (the Tabernacle), and God spoke to Moses from above the mercy seat that was on the Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God to the Israelites, and it was an extremely important artifact for the Israelites.  I, along with Indiana Jones, have often wondered where in the world the Ark of the Covenant is located today. 

Chapter eight talks more about the responsibilities of the Levites.  Not only were the Levites responsible for the upkeep of the Tabernacle, but they were responsible for serving the people of Israel at the Tabernacle.  The upkeep of the Tabernacle and the upkeep of our church buildings are important, but it is all for naught if we neglect the people of God.  Therefore, let these two chapters serve as a reminder to provide for our church buildings, but also more importantly to care for the people of God.

A note from Psalms:

“But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” Psalm 38:15

Praise God that we serve a good God who hears and answers our prayers.  God may not always answer our prayers the way we want or expect to, but he will provide an answer.  Sometimes, we need to remember to wait on the LORD.

-Kyle McClain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Numbers 7-8 and Psalm 38-39

Confessing & Confronting

Leviticus 3-4

Yesterday, we looked at the seriousness of sin and the reason why the Israelites were expected to offer sacrifices for those sins. Before we continue on, I want to offer some helpful advice for reading the first few chapters of this book, so that you don’t become overwhelmed. There are only five sacrifices listed here: the burnt offering (ch. 1), the grain/cereal offering (ch. 2), the peace/fellowship offering (ch. 3), the sin offering (ch. 4-5), and the guilt offering (ch. 5-6). Each of these sacrifices are included for different purposes, not always for sin, and all of them have their own process of being offered. Usually a good study Bible will point this out, but just in case you don’t have one, I wanted to offer this to help you along the way.

Have you ever considered how your sins have affected someone else, whether in your family or in your church? When you act out in a sinful way, you are not only affecting yourself, but are infecting the entire community that you are involved in. Leviticus is very strong in chapter 4 on this point, and calls out the leaders and the congregation in the same breath. For those leading churches, homes, or any other area of life, you are responsible for those whom God has put under your care, and when you sin, you are affecting everyone. In Leviticus 4:3, it states that when the anointed priest (i.e. the leader) sins, he brings guilt on the entire congregation. What a responsibility! Maybe that is why the New Testament is so strong on the moral qualifications of those who want to be leaders in the church (see 1 Timothy 3).

It is not just the leader who affects the whole congregation, but the people that are being led also. Leviticus 4:13-21 discusses how the whole congregation is responsible for the sin that takes place within their midst. This truth still carries on today; whatever you do in sin affects those within your community. From “minor” sins like lying and gossipping, to “major” sins like being sexually immoral; these all have results and those results are deadly. The whole congregation of people has an obligation to confront the sin in their midst (in a loving way) and remove that practice from their group (see 1 Corinthians 5).

Church, we need to do better about both confessing sin and confronting it within our midst. When we allow sin to continue unchecked in our churches and homes, we are allowing a deadly cancer to affect everyone within. Leaders, you are responsible for making sure that the people you are leading are taken care of and being as holy as possible for God’s presence. Those of you who are being led, you have a responsibility for keeping your leaders accountable and for doing everything you can to personally confess and deal with your sin. We can all improve in this area, as difficult and awkward as it can be to admit to our faults. However, there is much peace and healing that comes from confessing and confronting the sins in our lives (James 5:16).

-Talon Paul

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 3-4 and Psalm 7-9

Sin is Serious – And So is Mercy

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 35 & 36 and Matthew 18

I have watched just enough mobster movies to know the awful fate of those who anger the mafia boss and receive the “cement shoes” treatment. That is the vision that always comes to mind when I read of the seriousness of leading a child to sin. “And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me;  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5,6 NASB) Jesus was giving a pretty heavy answer to the disciples who had asked who would be greatest in the kingdom. He answered that instead of trying to be great, they should focus on being childlike instead – not immature (we see enough of that), but humble, knowing that they don’t know everything and they need a Father and a Savior. And while the child is standing in their midst – Jesus commends those who welcome a child and blasts those who recklessly (or accidentally?) lead a child to sin. As a parent and a Christian this is a strong warning that I will be judged based on how I am spiritually leading and guiding God’s children. I do not know where the line will be drawn. We might be able to safely point out some cases that would definitely receive Jesus’ condemnation (those who exploit children and youth for sex trafficking, pornography, cults or gangs). But what of the parent who signs their child up for the youth sports, campouts and Sunday morning jobs knowing it will take them away from opportunities for God’s little children to grow closer to Him? I don’t know. But it seems wise to do my best to err on the side of caution. What else can I be doing to spiritually guide His children away from sin? Life is easier when you don’t feel the weight of a millstone around your neck or cement hardening in your shoes.

And, if that isn’t scary enough – Jesus broadens the picture next – to all people and sinners and the extreme measures that need to be taken to keep oneself from falling into sin. “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:7 NIV). And then comes the gruesome cutting off of body parts that causes you to sin. This gives a strong mental picture of doing whatever it takes to hold oneself accountable and keep oneself from sin. If your eye causes you to sin, cut it out, to save yourself from judgment and hell. This is definitely true in a metaphorical sense. We need to do all we can, even what would be considered extreme measures, to keep ourselves from sin. And, sometimes that will mean cutting off the influence some people hold over us – cutting off a friend or family member or social media/entertainment who entices us to sin. It’s a hard thing to do, just like cutting off your hand – but it could save your eternal life. And, we must watch ourselves to make sure we are not the ones enticing others to sin!

While I love the parable of the lost sheep and it hurts to skip over it…I am going to skip ahead to the next two passages in Matthew 18 which both deal with the brother who sins against you. Having just established the seriousness of sin, the consequences for those who lead others to sin and the extreme measures we are to employ to keep us from sin – it is easy to assume that the best course of action is to shun all sin and sinners. But, wait, what kind of cut off, silent, lonely, bitter world would that be? While we are all sinners – God gave us a way to be forgiven and to restore relationships. Jesus begins to explain it here.

First, if a brother sins against you – go and talk to him. Matthew 18: 15-17 goes through an important series of steps to work towards either resolution or healthy distance and cutting off -and it starts with talking to the “offender”. Too often when we feel someone has sinned against us we talk to others about it. I know I am guilty of this and need to do a better job of lovingly confronting the person I have an issue with – first. So the steps Jesus laid out are: talk privately to the person, if he doesn’t listen take 1-2 witnesses and try again, if he doesn’t listen tell the church, if he still doesn’t listen cut him off. The goal is always to win him back to ‘God’s saving side’, not to humiliate, point fingers or feel better about ourselves or peace at any cost. But, sometimes repentance doesn’t happen, and then we must be willing to cut the ties that would bring others down to sin as well.

So, let’s assume we correctly followed the steps Jesus left. Peter asked how many times he needed to forgive a brother who sinned against him. He thought 7 sounded like a lot. But Jesus said no – 77 or 70 x 7 or whatever number you want to use to remind yourself to keep forgiving – the same way you want others to forgive you. And the same way God has forgiven you. I think we can safely assume this is not the brother who was unrepentant and cast out of the church, but a brother who was repentant and seeking to live a godly life – but still tripped up – like you and me. And so Jesus lays out the powerful Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (make sure you read it again). Now the harsh words and judgment are not for the sinner who tripped up, or even the one who caused him to sin, but for the one who didn’t forgive. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.” (Matthew 18:32-34).

It isn’t that sin is nothing – and easily forgiven. Sin (of all kinds) is something huge and serious and able to block us from eternal life. If we could see how much our sin hurts others, handicaps ourself and damages our relationship with God we might more readily run from it. But we don’t always, and God in His mercy still lays out a way for us to restore a relationship with Him, ultimately it would cost Him the death of His Son Jesus. To accept the forgiveness offered to you, but not extend it to others puts you again in grave danger. Sin is a big deal – and so is mercy.

-Marcia Railton

“That’ll do, Pig.”

Daily reading: 1 Peter 1-5

When Jesus told Peter to ‘Feed my sheep,’ he was commissioning him as a shepherd. And in the book of First Peter, we see a part of the fulfillment of that commission.

There are believers (the Lord’s sheep) scattered throughout Roman provinces in Asia Minor, and Peter is writing a letter to be routed amongst them.

There was a movie out in the 90’s about a pig that herded sheep. When the sheep dogs on the farm did their job, they demeaned and scared the sheep into submission. But sweet little Babe the piglet just asked them nicely and off they marched in lines for him.

Sheep of a different flock, however, didn’t know this sweet pig, and saw no reason to listen to him. That is, until, Babe received word from his pasture back home of the secret words to tell these new sheep that he was on their side. ‘Baa, Ram, Ewe’

We are an individualistic bunch of sheep, I think. 

Maybe it’s just me. Reading the book of First Peter with the eyes of a flock, a group, instead of reading it just for me, I see it somewhat differently.  There’s a definite theme coming through it all that it seems Peter wanted these sheep in his scattered pasture to remember:

There’s more than this.

  • Seek the holiness of sincere love for each other, because you’re like perishing blades of grass and God’s ways endure. There’s more than this way of loving.
  • You might feel rejected, but you are chosen. There’s more than this world’s acceptance.
  • Live to please God not the society you live in. There’s more than this wisdom.
  • God cares about how you treat your family. There’s more than your own perspective.
  • Compassion and humility never go out of style. There’s more to be gained through suffering than we can often see.
  • Wake up, pay attention, Jesus is coming back and you need to be ready. There’s literally more than this world coming one day.

Peter may not have needed to say ‘Baa, Ram, Ewe’ to unite the scattered sheep of his day, but perhaps we need a reminder that we, too, are a scattered flock.

Friends, there’s more than this.

Do you feel the sincere love of the body of Christ? No? Don’t wait for someone else to ‘do something’ about it. Everyone else is a perishing blade of grass just like you. Authentic love doesn’t start with a social media campaign; and it doesn’t start with the whole church, it starts with a few individuals. Be those few.

There’s more than this way of loving.

Have you felt rejected? Alone? Broken? Empty? Peter’s response to the scattered flock on this issue was to remind them about Jesus, and of this: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

It seems that acceptance begins with mercy. Mercy comes after repentance. Repentance comes after we own up to our sin. This world tells us to own our sin. Big difference.

There’s more than this world’s acceptance.

Along those lines, if the wisdom of this world affirms all of your choices, you might want to question if God would. Living to please God rarely aligns with the wisdom of this world.

There’s more than this wisdom.

Perspective is a powerful influencer, and seeing our family solely from the lens of our own perspective is not only selfish, but dangerous. We can fall into the trap of living for ourselves even while fooling ourself into thinking we are part of a team. How lonely. How unfulfilling. And definitely not God’s best for us.

There’s more than your own perspective.

Suffering is difficult and hard and it stinks. Anyone who says to say ‘Praise God!’ for suffering is a liar or a robot (or a lying robot, perhaps?). Jesus didn’t even want to suffer, he asked his Father if he could avoid it if possible.

Finding peace in the midst of suffering, finding joy in God’s provision during times of suffering, and praising God during suffering are all very different than praising him FOR the suffering.

There’s more to be gained through suffering than we can often see.

Peter quotes a Psalm and tells these scattered sheep that they must seek peace and pursue it.”  Compassion, humility, gentleness, sympathy, blessing… these are all active. A person who is actively pursuing peace, especially when suffering abounds, will stand out. Maybe that’s why Peter suggests it?

People loving differently, repenting of sin, showing mercy, treating their families differently, being the most kind, compassionate, gentle, humble, easy to get along with group of people anyone ever met…yet not compromising God’s standards, not backing down, standing strong against the roar of evil around them, refusing to be devoured — Those people would garner attention.

There’s literally more than this world coming one day.

Wake up, pay attention, Jesus is coming back and we need to be ready.

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Peter

Tomorrow we begin the book of Hebrews (chapters 1-6)

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear”

Daily reading: 1 Timothy 1-6

In the movie Elf, Buddy the Elf is taught the Code of the Elves, which the elves all recite and know by heart. Number three on the list is about spreading Christmas cheer, and by the end of the movie, Buddy has spread that message to lots of people.

In the book of 1 Timothy, Paul explicitly tells us his purpose when he says, I am writing you these instructions so that…you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church.”

So, in essence, Paul’s giving us the Code of the Church. And what are some of the things in that code?

  1. Remember you’re a big fat sinner (ie: Grace)

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1:15)

Before we say a word to anyone else, our perspective on ourself needs to be right.

Unfortunately, there seem to be an awful lot of believers out there who don’t seem to see themselves as Paul did. They might rephrase this verse to say, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—praise the Lord I’m not like them” or if we’re really honest, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—thankfully I’m not as bad as the worst of them.”

And although I don’t really believe most Christians would actually rephrase Paul’s writing in those ways, our attitudes do it for us. Brennan Manning, one of my favorite authors said, “Jesus came not only for those who skip morning mediations, but also for real sinners–thieves, adulterers and terrorists, for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams.”

The lyrics to the song, “Come to the Table” are a lovely picture of recognizing that we are all sinners redeemed, and that our unworthiness does not exempt us from a seat at the table of mercy.

Must sin be called out? Of course. With a heaping side of grace.

Grace first. Grace always.

More on that later in the code.

2. Pray for your leaders

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  (2:1-2)

Pray for them (ARROW) THAT…

The code dictates that we’re praying for leaders that will enable us to live out a Biblical faith.

Here’s a resource that can help you do that if you’d like.

3. Take church leadership seriously.

If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? (3:5)

Chapter three is almost entirely devoted to this piece of the church code, laying out indicators of what believers should look for in church leaders. This much real estate in Paul’s letter should tell us that it’s something that he found important, and should therefore garner our attention as well.

4. Train yourself to be godly…because it doesn’t come naturally

..train yourself to be godly.  (4:7)

Training involves work, often times painful work.

As we alluded to in step one of the code, identifying sin is a part of responsibility of the believer. Both in our own life and for one another.

Paul writes in other places of ‘walking in the Spirit’ vs. ‘walking in the flesh’. Walking in the flesh could be described as doing what comes naturally to us, and that is frequently (almost always) not the same as what God would call us to.

This is why we need to train ourselves in it. Despite all the Chuck Norris jokes to the contrary…Chuck Norris wasn’t born all ‘Chuck Norris-y’. He has trained and worked hard physically to attain the physical strength and skills he has.

While we do want to train hard and push ourselves and one another to greatness, the underlying foundation must always be love. It must always be grace. (See #1 of the Code)

5. The church takes care of its own

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers,older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters (5:1-2)

Much of chapter 5 centers on the care of widows in the church, something we may deem a waste of Paul’s time. However, it shows a real care and elevation of women. A woman whose husband had died could become desolate very rapidly, and this was to ensure that this not happen to believers.

Although the specific issue of widowhood may not be as relevant to us today, the idea that God expects believers to provide for their family has not changed. Also unchanged is the notion of the church family stepping in for believers without blood-family to support them.

Good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever. (5:25)

Our church code of conduct may not be quite as catchy as the one Buddy the Elf learned in the North Pole, but ours has a far more lasting impact…and no tights required!

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Timothy

Tomorrow we will read Titus 1-3.

“We are Church”

Daily Reading: Ephesians 1-6

The tagline might read: This motley crew of misfits does nothing but bicker and fight amongst themselves…is it Guardians of the Galaxy–or us?

In both cases, establishing a sense of identity leads to unity and purpose, and some big winning.

Ephesians 1-3

If Ephesians were an epic movie experience, the first half would establish how God sees us, our true identity. We’d hear our characters use words like chosen and included, forgiven, grace and saved. We would watch them go through a transformation from dead in transgressions to alive in Christ.

Somewhere in this segment, God would find an intensely personal way to show one of our characters “the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus,” … and I would definitely cry.

Ephesians 4-6:

As we prepared for act two, our characters (and we, ourselves) would recognize the real meaning of it all, and we might finally “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.”

Taking hold of the fullness of the love that Jesus has for us. Really understanding this love that goes beyond how much we know. Big stuff. That’s why this flick is such an epic.

Knowing who we are changes how we live and how we treat others, and that’s where the second half of the story leads.

When we are able to see ourselves through the lens of this all surpassing love, we can be humble, gentle, patient, speak and act in love; and things like bitterness, anger and rage take a back seat to kindness and compassion.

There’s a scene at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (that I always rewind and watch a second time if I’m alone). It’s just a short conversation between Rocket and Peter.

Rocket : He didn’t chase them away…Even though he yelled at them, and was always mean… And he stole batteries he didn’t need. 

Peter [Realizes Rocket’s talking about himself, not Yondu]: Well, of course not.

{Gulp} {Tear} This team of individuals, unable to get along at the start, becomes not only a team but a family. And this moment of tenderness makes me cry every single time. Every time!

When the struggle is no longer against one another, we can fight the real battle…together, perhaps?… and win.

The true enemy is the darkness of evil, not each other. But we can only truly realize that, truly embrace that, when we are able to see ourselves in the light of our true identity, as God sees us. Until then, we’ll keep losing ground and wondering why.

Ephesians has no talking Racoons or Trees with attitude, but there are definitely supernatural powers and epic battles.  And like any good superhero movie, the heroes sometimes need little reminders now and then to live up to their potential. That just might be how this lesson will fade out…

“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

– Susan Landry

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ephesians 1-6.

Tomorrow we will read the book of Philippians.