Known & Loved

Luke 22:39-71

After Jesus finished the Passover meal with his disciples, he retreated to the Mount of Olives, which is just outside of Jerusalem, to pray. While there, he was arrested by a crowd led by Judas, one of his own disciples. Jesus’s choice to stay at the Mount of Olives was significant for two reasons: 

  1. Jesus knew Judas would betray him. 

In a previous conversation among the disciples, Jesus predicts that one of the twelve would betray him, even calling out Judas by name (John 13). The very night of the Last Supper, he makes a similar remark: 

“The hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table” (Luke 22:21). 

  1. Judas knew Jesus would be at the Mount of Olives. 

During the week leading up to Jesus’s death, he and his disciples had spent every night at the Mount of Olives: 

Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives” (Luke 21:37). 

Judas surely knew where Jesus would be on this particular night, yet Jesus didn’t try to hide. 

Instead, Jesus invited Judas to his table to eat dinner together. 

Jesus stayed the night in the very place Judas knew he would be. 

You and I were a lot like Judas. We were full of ugly thoughts, misguided intentions, mixed-up priorities, and shameful feelings. Jesus saw our filthy sin, yet he invited us into his presence to give us freedom from it. The greatest irony is that the person who knows our flaws best, loves us the greatest. 

You are fully known, and yet you are deeply loved.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

-Mackenzie McClain

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 29-30 and Luke 22:39-71.

Loving the God who Loves You

Deuteronomy 13-14

You have been hand-selected to be a highly-valued and cherished child of the Most High and living God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. 

Do you believe that? I mean, do you truly and wholeheartedly accept that this is true?

So many people long to have confirmed that they belong and that they have purpose.

You, my friend in faith, have been confirmed for both! 

As if the verses from today’s reading don’t state it plainly, let’s look elsewhere in the New Testament. According to Ephesians 2:19, You are a member of God’s household.

And in the same chapter, just 9 verses before, it declares that you are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to accomplish! 

If you accept your position and your purpose, then you need to start acting like it. 

  • Honor God by worshipping Him alone; avoid and get rid of anything, or anyone, that could lead you astray. (Deuteronomy 13)
  • Honor God by taking care of your body. (Deuteronomy 14:1-21). While this section of the chapter is referring to clean and unclean foods, something that the Israelites had to pay close attention to, we can extend the meaning to modern times and consider what we put into our bodies. 
  • Honor God with your stuff and by being generous to those in need. (Deuteronomy 14:22-29) 

Friend, God loves you more than you can possibly imagine. Love Him back, with all that you are. 

-Bethany Ligon

You can read or listen to today’s Bible passages at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 13-14 and Luke 15

In His Presence

Leviticus 25-27 and Psalm 31-32

We have learned so much as we finish the book of Leviticus. Chapter 26 begins with a warning from the LORD. The Israelites are told not to make any object to became an object of worship. We can look at the Israelites throughout their history and become very critical. They succumb many times to the worship of idols. Every generation had to make the choice to follow the LORD God or to worship the false gods that the Israelites had allowed into their culture. Even future Kings would face this choice and unfortunately many choose to devote their lives to idols.  But I also have to wonder if we are not making that same choice today? Are there false gods in our lives? For example, we don’t create our own electronic devices and bow down to them, but perhaps we spend hours surfing, checking out what is on social media, texting, gaming, … When something is receiving our focus and taking our attention away from God, we should consider it a negative. We are allowing something to get in the way of our relationship with God. Anything or any person that negatively affects our connection with God is a modern-day idol.  In Colossians we are told that sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed are idolatry. (Col. 3:5) It states that we should put these actions to death. But it is not enough just to remove the idols, we need for God to change our hearts.  When our hearts are filled with love for God, our actions start to align with what God wants us to do.

As God explained to the Israelites, they needed to observe His Sabbaths, show reverence for His sanctuary, follow His decrees and obey His commands to receive amazing blessings. Then He would walk among them, He would be their God and they would be His people. How incredible is that?! We are presented with a choice to make today as well. We can enter into a loving relationship with God. We can ask Him to make our love for Him and others strong. We can invite God to be the center of our lives. We can place our focus on His Son Jesus Christ. We can live in His presence by the power of His spirit. God is still reaching out to us, His people. He offers us blessings and the greatest one is to be in His presence.

May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. 1 Thessalonians 3:13

-Rebecca Dauksas

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 25-27 and Psalm 31-32

Making Breakthroughs

In Exodus 21 and 22 God lays down many laws for the Israelites to follow in order to try and establish them as a functioning and stable nation.  There is a lot in there about how to judge between two people when somebody is injured, or commandments to respect parents and authorities, or punishments for thieves.  Some of the laws, like the ones about how to deal with slaves, are quite outdated, but I think some of them can be very beneficial to us even today.

Exodus 22

21 “You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.

I think this is a good message today for how to treat foreigners and to help us realize that every person is a child of God and has value in his eyes, and that Jesus died for them as well.  But I think it also can apply to us when we look at unsaved people, because at some point in our lives we were all wandering away from God, and so we really cannot judge others who are currently living outside of God’s will too harshly, we need to humbly chase after them with love in hopes of helping them to find the grace of God that we have, not hit them over the head with a Bible so that we can let them know how wrong they are.

Meanwhile during Jesus’ ministry he is healing people and miraculously feeding thousands of people and is starting to get through to his disciples.  

Mark 8

15 As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”

16 At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. 17 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? 18 ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all? 19 When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”

“Twelve,” they said.

20 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”

“Seven,” they said.

21 “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.

Even after he had produced food out of nothing they were still thinking about physical food, not the deeper meanings of Jesus’ messages, but just a few verses later we see a breakthrough with Peter.

Mark 8

27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”

29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”

I can imagine the relief that Jesus must have felt knowing that finally these think-headed, hard-hearted, best friends of his were starting to understand that he was doing something much deeper than just feeding people.  He was changing their hard hearts to love others the way he loved them.  He feels that same joy when we spend time studying his word and spending time with other believers and start to understand and reflect him more.

Chris Mattison

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 21-22 and Mark 8

Darkness

Exodus 9-10

                In today’s reading the plagues continue:  livestock, boils, hail, locusts and darkness.  The plagues reap destruction on their food supplies and on their bodies.  God declares to Pharaoh His purpose for sending the plagues: “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16)

                Once again, Pharaoh continues his predictable response: plague comes, Pharaoh says he repents and will let them go, the plague is lifted, Pharaoh hardens his heart and refuses to let them go.

                All of the plagues are bad but the 9th plague is of particular interest: darkness.  In my younger days I sang with a choir and performed Handel’s Messiah.  I was given the privilege of singing the bass recitative: “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth…” (If you’ve never listened to it check it out: “For Behold…The people that walked in darkness”, Philippe Sly, Julian Wachner – YouTube )

                The next year I was in college at George Mason University and we sang Handel’s Israel in Egypt and I sang the bass recitative “He sent a thick darkness over the land, even darkness which might be felt.”  Nearly 40 years later I still have vivid memories of our first performance of this, I was battling strep throat and spent the whole day nursing my throat with honey, lemon and salt water so that I could sing my solo that night (check it out here: Israel in Egypt, HWV 54, Pt. II: Part II: He sent a thick darkness over all the land (Chorus) – YouTube)  In fact you might want to listen to the entire Oratorio Israel in Egypt by GF Handel.

                In both of these Handel works with the Biblical texts and colors them with the accompanying music.  You can almost feel the darkness.  What does three days of thick darkness feel like?  How disoriented would it be for an entire nation to be blanketed in darkness?

                Jesus later used darkness to get Saul/Paul’s attention.  Saul was blinded for three days (Acts 9:9)  until Ananias prayed over him and the scales fell from his eyes and his sight was restored.  Paul responded by literally “seeing the light”  and he become a lifelong follower of Jesus Christ.  He immediately got up and was baptized into Jesus Christ.

                What happened after Pharaoh came out of three days of darkness?  You guessed it, his heart was once again hardened.  It was harder than ever.  After 9 plagues, 9 times God gave him a chance to repent after seeing God’s power at work. 9 Times Pharaoh had the chance to proclaim God’s greatness to all the earth.  9 times Pharaoh hardened his heart.

            Psalm 103 reminds us that:

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.

                God balances His love and desire to see justice for the oppressed with his compassion and gracious love for the oppressor.  In the story God loves both His oppressed people Israel represented by Moses and He loves His children mired in pride and power who oppress his people, the Egyptians represented by Pharaoh.  God demonstrates His patience to Pharaoh by giving him 9 chances to repent.  God also demonstrates His love and faithfulness to Israel by limiting Pharaoh.

Peter later picks up this same theme in II Peter 3:9-10- “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.”

God was patient with Pharaoh, “Love is patient”.  But God was also merciful to Israel, God’s love and patience have limits.  Pharaoh was about to discover the limits of God’s patience.   It would cost him and all of Egypt their firstborn sons.

                How will America and the world respond to our current “plague” the Covid-19 Pandemic?  Will we soften our hearts and repent and turn to God and forsake our sins and put our full faith and trust in God?  Or will we harden our hearts again?  How much longer will God be patient and give opportunities to repent?  When will God finally say- it’s time to fully and finally set my people and all of the earth free from this dreaded curse of sin and death?  It’s time to bring about the final judgment?

                I don’t know and you don’t know.  But learn the lesson from Pharaoh and don’t test the limits of God’s patience and mercy.  May the scales fall from our eyes, may the thick darkness of sin and unbelief that covers our land be lifted.

-Jeff Fletcher

Links to today’s Bible readingExodus 9-10 and Mark 2

Blind Guides

Today’s Bible Reading – Matthew 23 and Genesis 45 & 46

Yesterday we got to spend our whole devotion thinking about a great party and the thrill of receiving an invitation from God to honor His Son. Today – no such fun. The parties and parables are gone and today, in Matthew 23, we read only of strong warnings, harsh words, and blasting condemnation. This is the last recorded time in the book of Matthew that Jesus addresses the crowds. This is what he is going to leave with them – too important to not say. Anyone who believes Jesus would never condemn because he just loved people no matter what, just full of overflowing forgiveness and love, could benefit from a little sit down with Matthew 23.

It is clear that Jesus was not happy with these Pharisees and teachers of the law. He starts by warning the crowd to not be like the Pharisees as he begins describing them: they don’t practice what they preach, they make it harder for people to be godly, they love being honored by men and they pridefully exalt themselves. And then, speaking directly to the Pharisees and teachers of the law he lets loose on what has become known as the “7 Woes”. Six times he will begin with “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” and once with “Woe to you, blind guides.” Jesus uses some choice language to describe these men: son of hell, blind guides, blind fools, blind men (notice a pattern?), snakes and brood of vipers.

So, what in the world were these people doing that was so bad to receive this 7 part hellfire sermon. After all, we know Jesus often responded to people’s sins with mercy, grace and forgiveness and the all-important chance to start over. He hadn’t called the lying cheating thieving Zacchaeus a son of hell? What was different here?

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were supposed to be the ones to guide people to God. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary suggests there were about 6,000 Pharisees at the time – mostly middle-class businessmen who had devoted themselves to being separate – becoming the religious leaders who would show the Jews how to please God. And, some were indeed authentic in this quest (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea are two named in Scripture). The crowd gathered was likely shocked to hear Jesus speaking of and to the Pharisees in this way because they had been taught (at least by the Pharisees themselves) to revere the position and spiritual leadership held by this Jewish sect.

What started out as a good goal became warped and ungodly. As the Pharisees kept puffing themselves up there was no room left for what really pleases God. They had become blind guides. And it is obviously very dangerous to follow a blind guide. They could lead you straight to somewhere you don’t want to go. And that is exactly the warning Jesus was giving the Pharisees and the crowd. “You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13 NIV).

The Pharisees loved the law and specialized in knowing and enforcing each and every little detail of a long long list of do’s and don’ts. This, they thought, would make God happy. But all the while they neglected the larger heart issues of justice, mercy and faithfulness. They mastered in the dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s, but failed to see that the novel they were writing with their lives was tearing down every attempt others were making to please God. They were quick to point out other’s errors, but saw none of their own. It became most important to them to look good before man. So important that they forgot about how to actually look good before God. They were puffed up and proud, greedy and selfish.


It is easy to read this chapter and shake my head and point my finger and say, “Boy, I’m glad I am not like one of them.” But, in so doing – I become like one of them.

Dear God, help me to do what is right – with a heart that is right. May I see the error of the Pharisee’s ways – and my own – and work to clean up my own insides. Help me be humble and not seek the honor of men. Open my eyes to who you are and what truly pleases you. Open my ears to the teachings of your Son, to not just know it but to live it. Help me guide others to you, not armed with a legalistic checklist, but with a heart of justice, mercy and faithfulness. In your precious Son’s name, I pray.

-Marcia Railton

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.