2 Chapters; 2 Books

2nd & 3rd John


Today, you are racing through two books at a blazing speed. Some of the shortest books in the Bible by word count, verse count, chapter count. However, a sad reality happens with Biblical books. The smaller they are, the less they are read. Out of the top 10 least read books on BibleGateway, you have read three this week. Jude is number 8 on the list of least read books. Though Obadiah takes home the #1 spot, 2 John and 3 John take spots 3 and 4, respectively. It’s sad, because what we get in 2 John and 3 John is the same God-inspired message, just in much smaller, some would say, bite-sized portions. 


Let’s talk about the letter’s collectively. Both are written to smaller groups than 1 John. 1 John was to a general audience; 3 John is to one man, and 2 John is to one woman, or one church. Either way, 2 John’s statements make sense. John says that he is joyous that some “children” are walking in truth. In 3 John 4, we see that this is his greatest joy. Walking in truth means believing in Jesus and following his way of living. Those young people he loves, who he has “raised in the faith”, his “children”, he loves to know they have remained faithful to Jesus.


We have already talked about this remaining faithful. You must follow the commands of Jesus. It is not a new commandment but an old way. LOVE our brothers and sisters, one another in the body! If you don’t understand loving a brother and sister, you don’t understand the gospel. John is clear. This is THE commandment of Jesus. 3 John gives us an example of this. John is commending Gaius for supporting the work of brothers and sisters who were passing through preaching the gospel. He welcomed them in, allowed them to teach, gave them money and sent them on their way. This was the right thing to do. And a man named Diotrephes DIDN’T do the right thing, but in jealousy and out of a lack of love, did not support them and kicked out those who helped them. 


But Diotrephes isn’t alone in harming the message of Jesus. Diotrephes wanted to be the top dog, and his ego was hurt that respected teachers were coming into town. He wanted to be the greatest in the eyes of the church. His arrogance earned him disapproval from John. Moreover, John’s CONDEMNATION is poured out onto those who are deceivers, false teachers. People come along who are denying that Jesus came in the flesh, that he was born in the Little Town of Bethlehem on a Silent, Holy Night. John roundly condemns this attitude, this belief. 


We don’t have people claiming that to us, but we can learn from this. John encourages “the woman” to compare the claims of these “teachers” with the claims of the apostles. If they didn’t match up, follow the trusted source. For you, test the claims that you hear about God, Jesus, the world, the afterlife, against the claims of those who have known and followed God, in scripture and the church. Trust those who have known and experienced God over those who want to be “first among everyone”. Don’t let false teachers and “Big-Headed-Egoists” harm THE faith or harm YOUR faith. 


My brothers and sisters, I am glad to have been reading along with you this week, this week when we remember the birth of Christ. Whether we celebrate together or separately, we are bound together in love, affirming together the truths of Jesus and his message of eternal life. 


May you love your brothers and sisters in faith. 

May the church you call home be a beacon of love in a hurting world. 

May you never be divided by the arrogant or the false teachers, but if they try, may you stay true to the faith of scripture. 

My brothers and sisters, may you forever live in the words of 3 John 2 – Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.


May you prosper in all respects. 

-Jake Ballard
————————————————————————————————(Jake Ballard is Pastor at Timberland Bible Church in South Bend, IN. He lives in the Michiana Area with his wife and three kids. If you’d like to say hi you can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jacob.ballard.336  You can also hear more teachings on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/TimberlandBibleChurch or at YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs_awyI1LyPZ4QEZVN7HqKQ/videos. Finally, Baby Yoda/Grogu is the best Star Wars Character hands down; change my mind. I look forward to hearing from you!  God bless!)

Today’s Bible passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – 2nd John & 3rd John.

Tomorrow we begin the final book and read Revelation 1-3.

Merry Christmas

1st John

On Christmas, it’s appropriate that we read 1 John. It may seem better that we read Matthew or Luke, but 1 John distills the life and teaching of Jesus from the perspective of an old man. If we want to hear an old, inspired teacher dispensing his wisdom, John (and the books attributed to that name) are books to which to turn. 


John is old and he is concerned with the most important things in life. He testifies about Jesus, the light who comes into the world, to fulfill the joy of himself and his readers. Joy is a chief concern of the old man. Jesus doesn’t turn us into a curmudgeon. That’s because Jesus brings us to a God who is greater. 
A God who is light.  A God who is love.  That’s a God of Joy. 

If we want to be in Christ, to have this God who fulfills joy, to be counted among the children of light and love, we must keep the commands of Christ. We must walk as Jesus walked. But what is the command. When John says the old command they have heard from the beginning, he is not referring to the law. He is referring to the command from the beginning of the teaching of Jesus. The message which we have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.(3:11) Just as Christ laid down his life for us, we should be willing to lay down our life for our brothers and sisters in love (3:16). We believe in the name of Jesus and love one another, just as Christ commanded us (3:23). More verses that tell us to love one another because of the love of God : 4:7-8, 4:10-12, 4:19-21.


The command is to love our brothers and sisters. 

But we are also commanded to NOT love the world. Of course, this doesn’t mean to not love people. The “world” according to John, are all the things that are not of God: sin, power, money, control, hate. We so easily love sin, which gives us momentary pleasure, usually at another’s pain. We love power and money and control, so that we can continue to sin without consequence in this world. And hate allows us to have superiority to others even as we hurt them, because we think we are better. 


AVOID THAT. Avoid those idols!

Know that if you keep the command to love, if you believe in the name of Jesus, and allow him to guide you in light and love, the God of joy is going to give you a joy that lasts forever. We are promised eternal life. 


May you, my brothers and sisters, experience the JOY that God gives. 

May you LOVE one another, as is the command of Christ. 

May you avoid sin and the love of the world, and have PEACE in yourself.

May you experience eternal life, both now and forevermore, and have HOPE. 

And with that HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE, may you have a very, very…


Merry Christmas!

-Jake Ballard

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

Tomorrow we read 2nd & 3rd John.

“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)

“This time the mission is a man.”

Daily reading: Titus 1-3

In the movie Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks’ character spends the bulk of the film working to save the life of one man, Private James Francis Ryan, who is slated to be sent home after his three brothers have all been killed in combat. Near the close of the film, Hanks leans in to Matt Damon, who plays Private Ryan and whispers his last words, “Earn this.”

The final scene of the movie is both touching and convicting. Ryan, now an old man, stands at the grave of the man who gave his life to save him and he weeps. He looks to his wife, “Tell me I’ve lived a good life,” he says, “Tell me I’m a good man.”

(Here’s the scene, if you want to give it a watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZgoufN99n8)

For him, the reality of living a good life in response to the sacrifice that was made on his behalf was tangible because he had looked in the eyes of the man who died in his place. I think, perhaps, we miss something because we can’t do that, don’t you?

Paul wanted us to think about doing good with our lives. It seemed to be important to him.

His letter to Titus is not long. It’s only 46 verses. But almost 1/5 of them talk about doing what is good (17.5% for you math heads out there).

“I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.”

Our lives as believers preach louder than any Bible verses we post to our Facebook pages or how pious we consider ourselves to be. Perhaps that’s why Paul concludes his letter to Titus with the reminder that,

“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”

We all know that we can’t earn salvation, but we can earn (or lose) other people’s trust.

— The way that we speak to, and about, our parents or our spouse could make someone want to know more about the God we serve…or less.

— The integrity we exhibit at work might make them want to pick up a Bible…or never set foot in a church.

— Our gentleness, kindness, and considerate behavior may be the thing that draws someone to experience the love of God for the first time…or they might come to believe that God is rude and harsh and uncaring.

To put it another way… why would your unbelieving boss want to consider Christianity if you are the laziest employee they have? Or… Do you think anyone cares how many Bible verses you know if you make everyone around you feel like garbage?

We can all fall into the self-focused trap far too easily. So here’s your reminder that (and you might need to sit down for this): It’s not about you.

I had kind of an ‘a-ha’ moment in Sunday morning worship not too long ago when we were singing the song, Awakening. Some of the lyrics say,

For the world You love
Your will be done
Let Your will be done in me

Praying for God’s will to be done in your life is a good thing no matter what. But it hit me over the head that Sunday morning that the purpose of Him wanting to do his will in my life wasn’t just for me. “For the world you love…”

While we can’t ever “Earn this” we can embrace the passionate and intentional living that Private Ryan embraced and regularly examine ourselves with questions like he asked…Am I living a good life?

Or more specifically… Is how I’m living drawing people towards God or repelling them from Him? Am I reflecting Him accurately?

Am I devoting myself to doing what is good?

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Titus 1-3

Tomorrow we will read 1st Peter 1-5.

“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.

Humility

Romans 11-13

I am a fairly humble fellow.  I do not stand out in a crowd.  I do not try to draw attention to myself.  In fact I don’t like attention.  I don’t consider myself arrogant and  I am very aware of my flaws.  And yet, there are still times when I allow myself to feel superior to others.  Maybe we all do that at times?

No matter how many flaws we have, all of us are better at something than someone else.  And in those moments where we take notice of that, it is easy to allow our egos to puff up a bit, isn’t it?  Maybe that is even especially true for those, like me, that are more keenly aware of our shortcomings than our triumphs.

Paul touches on humility several times in chapter 12, and typically when I read these passages, I instantly think about people that are very arrogant, and think, “this doesn’t really apply to me,” or “I’m doing fine in this area.”  But then (sometimes) I think about the thoughts that I opened with.

Beginning in verse 3, Paul says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”

 There you have it.  Each of us should NOT think of ourselves more highly than we ought.  Well then how highly SHOULD we think of ourselves?  Frankly, I would say pretty high, because we are each pretty incredible creations of God.  And we have each been blessed with many abilities and talents.  But as Paul points out, we have all been given DIFFERENT abilities.  And it is key to remember that we have been given those abilities.  We didn’t do anything ourselves to acquire natural abilities.  Some people are born with great musical talent.  Others with sharp intellect.  Still others with amazing athletic skill.  Paul here is speaking primarily of spiritual gifts, but all abilities and talents are indeed granted by our Creator.  I really appreciate when I see gifted athletes giving credit to God for their abilities during post-game interviews.  I am not always sure how sincere they are, but the message is true regardless.

In verse 10, Paul says to Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one other above yourselves.  This is an outward extension of humility, and here, should be motivated by love.  How often do you honor others above yourself?

Finally, Paul comes back to humility again in verse 16.

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.”

We should not just be showing humility to the people we are comfortable being with, or the people that are “our kind of crowd.”  We should be showing humility to, and honoring above us those whom we would consider to be of low position. 

Again, this is the example Jesus left for us, and it is a humility that is motivated by love, which Paul sums up perfectly in verses 9-21.

So, think of yourselves very highly, as an amazing creation, but do not think of yourself more highly than someone else.  That is when you are thinking of yourself more highly than you ought.  It’s about recognizing that God has given each of us different gifts, to be used to His glory.

-Greg Landry

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Romans 11-13.

Tomorrow we will finish the book of Romans (chapters 14-16).

Love others and tell them about Jesus

1 Corinthians 12-14

Happy December everyone!!

Most everyone following this blog has probably read through these passages today… each chapter could have its own devotional!  Within these we have the passage on Spiritual Gifts, we have the Love chapter, and we have one of the more argued and misinterpreted verses regarding women in the church – all in one day! 

The not so crazy thing about all these chapters is how at the heart of each of them, there is one message that prevails: Love others and tell them about Jesus.  Whether it is an outsider, a fellow believer, a spouse, or anyone you meet… we are told to show them love and tell them about Jesus.

When discussing the spiritual gifts Paul talks about the importance of each member of the body being placed exactly where God wants them (12:18) and remaining united within the Church (12:25).  I have usually heard these verses used to showcase why everyone is equally important within the Church and that you should never compare yourself or your gifts to someone else’s.  However, Paul gives a pecking order in verse 28: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages…   At first this can seem a little harsh, especially if you’re a helper or someone who speaks another language!  And it is harsh, if you stop reading there.

In chapter 14 Paul continues “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy.”  Paul is telling everyone that the main goal is to spread the message of Jesus, and love others.  He doesn’t say it’s bad to do any of the other tasks or fill other roles within the church, in fact in the previous chapter he describes at length why it is so important for everyone to be unique and do the work God intends for them.  What he is also saying here is that it is everyone’s mission to tell others about Jesus and the fact that he is coming back.  Just as every part of the body functions independently with the purpose of living daily, every part of the body of Christ must function independently with the message of the Kingdom coming.

This message continues even in chapter 14 verse 34, when Paul writes that the women of the church should be silent and submissive.  In these verses it is important to remember the historical context in which Paul is writing.  At this time, women did not hold places of leadership, and women did not *generally* have a role in proclaiming the message.  Additionally, the church in Corinth had women who struggled to act as godly women, partially because their husbands and other leaders in the church also struggled to live righteous lives.  I do not think that Paul is hating on the women, but rather explaining that when the church is struggling and in need of repair, the gossiping, adulterous, and unrighteous should not have a say in the direction of the church.  He is describing the importance of church leaders to be focused on the mission.

The call to prophesy is not one to be taken lightly, and Paul wants to make sure that the church understands that.  It is also one that the church is called to eagerly strive for, for the sake of the Kingdom.  Chapter 14 verse 24 reads “But if all are prophesying and some unbeliever or uninformed person comes in, he is convicted by all.  The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall facedown and worship God, proclaiming, ‘God is really among you.’”

Let that be our goal as the Church, that anyone who walks in will have no other inclination but to fall down in worship of our great God because of our focus on His mission! 

-Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 12-14.

Come back tomorrow as we together finish 1 Corinthians with chapters 15 & 16.

Your Work, Labor & Endurance – through Faith, Love & Hope

1st & 2nd Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 1:3 – We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.


Work Produced by Faith

Faith is defined as having a firm belief, complete trust and confidence in something. As a Believer, our faith is determined by the extent of which we believe that God is who He says He is and that His son, Jesus the Messiah, was born of a woman, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for the redemption of your sins, was raised to life, is currently sitting on a throne next to his Father, waiting to return again to reign in the Kingdom. IF you and I believe all of that – then our day to day life will be a compilation of evidence of acts done in faith and by faith. 


James makes the claim in the third chapter of his letter “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1) that “in the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (3:17). And in verse 26 of the same chapter, James writes, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead”. 


The Thessalonians didn’t just accept the gospel message, they acted on it. Jesus was both their Savior and their Lord, meaning that they were obedient to the call on their lives. They were doing the work that God had prepared in advance for them to do (Ephesians 2:10). Likewise, when we accept the gospel message for ourselves, we have to respond. Jesus tells us in the book of Luke that we must take up our cross (do the work) and follow him (9:23). 

Labor Prompted by Love

Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”. Have you ever wondered why these four domains are identified? Have you ever loved someone so much that there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do for them? You sacrifice all that you have in order to serve them, sacrifice for them, and labor for them. In the following verse, we’re told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Sacrificing ourselves for family members and close friends is one thing…serving and laboring for others beyond our closest relationships is quite another. 


This is why we’re told to love with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength – because it’s not easy. Sometimes loving another is labor. It’s hard work. It’s humbling ourselves by putting our own desires off to the side in order to honor others. But it’s what we are called to do. And it is possible if we lean into the strength that is provided through our faith in Christ. 

Endurance Inspired by Hope

One of my favorite types of exercise is a 20 minutes HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout. I like it because I don’t have to do it everyday, it’s quick, and efficient. And I get to rest for almost half of the time during the “down” intervals. If I were ever called upon to do something that took longer than 20 minutes, I would be gassed! I do not have the endurance for it. And I have no enthusiasm to train for it! 


Walking out your faith knee deep in “works produced by faith” and “labor promoted by love” is not for the faint of heart! It’s not a one time deal. And unlike my HIIT workouts, it’s an all-day, everyday kind of commitment –  for a lifetime! This requires an endurance that cannot be faked nor manufactured. The only source for the necessary fuel to keep this faith-centered life going is HOPE. A hope that has a foundation on the love God has for us. When we stay zeroed in to that – we are able to dig deep and and go the distance. As Paul says in his second letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. We can have a FULL life that gives us the endurance needed to do the good works. 


The Christian life is not for the wimpy. In this single verse out of 1 Thessalonians, we are told that we must work, labor, and endure. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t seem very comfy. It’s not a life of luxury and indulgence. The ONLY way that we will be able to sustain this day to day living is doing so out of Faith, Love, and Hope. May these virtues fill your heart today.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1st Thessalonians & 2nd Thessalonians.

Tomorrow we will read Acts 18:19-19:41.

What Does Jesus’ Death Mean?

Matthew 27 & Mark 15

Why is this devotion being written? Why are you reading this devotion? Why have you experienced supernatural life change in the name of Jesus? It’s all because of what we read in today’s section of Matthew and Mark, the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel accounts give us a point of view perspective of the final moments of the Messiah’s life. Why did Jesus die? According to Jesus it’s because it was the purpose of his life (Mk. 10.33-34), Judas betrayed him, and the Jewish leadership sought out his execution. 

But when we leave the gospels and enter Acts, the epistles, and the apocalypse (Revelation) new light is shed upon old truths about what happened at the cross of Christ. The rest of the New Testament, if you will, tills the soil of what we read in the gospels to reveal truths and realities bound in the death of Jesus. The cross is like a diamond when held up to the light. Depending on which way you hold the diamond the light will refract differently and reveal different aspects of the diamond. The cross is a multi-dimensional event with a number of faith-building, worship-inducing, Christ-glorifying truths and realities for the believer to soak up in the scriptures and to be consumed by the love of Jesus and the Father. 

This morning we will look at three meanings of the cross:

1. Jesus died to demonstrate the righteousness of God (Romans 3.25)

According to Paul in Romans 3.25 Jesus’ death demonstrated or put on display the righteousness of God. What is the righteousness of God? The righteousness of God is God’s own holy, perfect, blameless, and just character and being. Sin is a capital offense against God. Because he is holy, just, and good he cannot allow sin and rebellion to go unpunished. If he did this, he would then be unjust and not good. When Jesus died his blood covered every past, present, and future sin. Jesus’ death satisfied the wrath of God. When we look at the cross it tells us not only how much God loves us, it also shows us how much God hates sin and the penalty for sin. The death of Jesus demonstrates God’s perfect judgement and character. The cross says God will not let sin go unpunished. 

2. Jesus died to disarm the powers of Satan and darkness (Col.2.13-15)

When Jesus’ blood was shed the power that satan and darkness had over humanity was relinquished. The biggest weapon Satan and spiritual darkness can have against you is your own sin and from that, guilt, shame, and other consequences of sin. But when Jesus’ blood was shed the power and slavery that sin held over humanity was broken. The blood cancelled out our certificate of debt (list and penalty of sins) therefore, the power Satan once had was taken away. This is similar to Jesus’ teaching in Mark 3.22-27. The way Jesus conquered victoriously over the power of satan and spiritual darkness is through his death. Paul says in I Corinthians 2, that had the “the rulers of this age” (spiritual powers of darkness) had known what would have happened after Jesus died they “would not have crucified the Lord of Glory”. The death of Jesus breaks the yoke of slavery and oppression over our lives, we are rescued from the power of satan. 

3. Jesus died to provide us an example to follow in our own Christian walks (I Pet. 2.21)

Jesus, though he was tried and executed unjustly, still endured the cross to save his sheep (John 10). He surrendered his privileges and his rights and humbled himself for the eternal benefit of others. Likewise, we as Christians should consider the plight of Jesus and imitate him. When we are treated unjustly and unfairly we should not return evil with evil but instead love. When we suffer for doing the right thing we ought to entrust ourselves to God as Jesus did to his Father. 

When you read Matthew 27 and Mark 15 these three realities among others are present when Jesus breathed his last on the cross.

-Jacob Rohrer

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Matthew 27 & Mark 15

Tomorrow’s reading will be Luke 23 and John 18-19.