Something Better

Hebrews 11

Thursday, September 29, 2022

The opening verse of this chapter sets forth the premise of what is to follow: “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen” (v. 1). The author will go through no less than 10 explicit individuals, and mentioning a list of several more, who exhibited faith in their life. And then the chapter concludes by saying “All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us” (vv. 39-40).

The chapter’s conclusion draws together the litany of exemplary witnesses by tying it to the faith that they share with the audience. And while the exemplars of old had not received the promise, it was by no fault of their own, but it was determined beforehand by God that in his grace, he planned for “something better” to be available to the readers that was not available in the past to all those faithful witnesses that were mentioned. And that “something better” was “to be made perfect” (v. 40).

Now, to modern readers the idea of being made perfect might not be the same as the biblical idea of being made perfect. In Hebrews, the idea of “perfection” entails the definitive forgiveness and putting away of sin, purification and consecration to God, and glorification (i.e., resurrection). And so, to be “made perfect” refers ultimately to eschatological salvation that is bestowed on the worshiper through the high priestly ministry of Christ (cf. 10:14).

But let’s think for a moment, why does the author need to go to such a great length throughout the chapter to simply demonstrate that believers prior to the new covenant did not receive what was promised? Why make the emphasis so extravagant?

One reason for the author’s inclusion of such a long description of exemplars of the faith is to celebrate those who stood with faith looking forward to the promise, but yet not receiving it in their lifetime. The testimony of all these witnesses is that “Faith holds onto the promise, even when the evidence of harsh reality impugns its integrity, because the one who promised is himself faithful” (William Lane, Hebrews [WBC], 395).

I think we have all probably dealt with times when we are holding on to faith, but it doesn’t seem like anything is happening or changing, and we didn’t actually get to see the outcome of our faith. This is what it was like for the believers in the old covenant who looked forward to the coming Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s promise. But we don’t have to look forward since Messiah has already come and has begun to fulfill what God promised.

Therefore, while we have not been “made perfect” yet to the fullest extent of what God has planned for those who trust in him, in Christ we have the definitive sacrifice for sin, the cleansing of our conscience, and a taste of the powers of the age to come. Let us continue to hold fast to our faith in hope of what God has promised that is yet to come: resurrection and final victory over the power of death, so that those who stood by faith before us can also be made perfect with us in God’s coming kingdom.

-Jerry Wierwille

Questions

  1. What encouragement do you gain from reading of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11?
  2. Which heroes of the faith are you most looking forward to being with when we together receive God’s promise and reward at the resurrection and coming Kingdom? Why?

A Reason to Believe and a Reason to Hope

Hebrews 2

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

I love this chapter in Hebrews! It outlines the very reason that I am a Christian, the reason that I believe in Jesus and follow his teachings. It says in verse 2, that the Lord first declared himself. When Jesus was on earth, he taught in the synagogues and proclaimed to be the Messiah spoken of in the prophecies of Isaiah. He proclaimed himself to be the Son of Man spoken of in the prophecies of Ezekiel. We know that he did because we have the firsthand, eyewitness accounts in the first four books of the New Testament. Here again, the author of Hebrews is adding his account (Hebrews 2:4). More importantly than all of this, God adds his own testimony by performing signs and wonders through the apostles, and even among disciples of Jesus today. It’s for this reason that I believe.

Remember yesterday’s passage that proclaimed the great glory and exaltation of the Son of God. The author tells us to pay attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Keep that picture that he painted in your mind. The greatness of God himself has been given to Jesus. You have heard what has been said of Jesus from your friends, your pastor, from the gospels and from the Holy Spirit. Hold on to these things; cling to the faith.

In the next section, the author draws our attention to another psalm like in the first chapter, but this time, he uses it to speak of all mankind more broadly, not just the man, Jesus. God is so much higher than we are. We can’t even wrap our minds around what it means to be Spirit and dwell in heaven. And yet, God cares for us mere mortals. We are lower than angels in that the angels are in the presence of God, but it says that all things have been subjected under man’s feet. It’s clear that this isn’t talking about the current state of the world. There are countless things that aren’t subject to man’s authority: disease, death, hunger, poverty and all kinds of injustices. This is just what the author says in Hebrews 2:8. But we do see Jesus. And just like we read yesterday, everything was given to Jesus. He is the heir of all things and is made higher than all the angels. While Jesus was here, he appeared lower than angels, a man mocked and rejected, but now he is exalted with a crown of glory.

Though Jesus was the first to be glorified, he was the pioneer of salvation, he is not alone since salvation is available for all who believe in his name and we all can become sons of God, brothers and sisters of Christ (Hebrews 2:10-13).

This final section of the chapter is poetic and beautiful, but its real beauty comes through the deep truth and hope that it can bring to our lives. Jesus, though he was perfect and blameless, was put to death. In doing so, he destroyed death itself and freed all of us from the slavery of the fear of death. When you believe in Jesus, you are made free because you don’t need to fear death because there is life for all who are sons of God. We saw it first in Jesus. We saw him raised from the dead and ascend into heaven. This is the fate that awaits us as well. We can relate to Jesus in every way even though he is so highly exalted. He suffered temptation, suffering and death, just as we all will, but we have a hope for life that is to come, a hope that is true, because it was attested to us by God, through his son.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Questions for Reflection

  1. What is the meaning of verse 1? What do they need to pay more careful attention to? Why? Is it still true today? Is it still true for you?
  2. How would you explain Hebrews 2 to someone who has never heard of Jesus before?

Before-and-After Transformation

Titus 3

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Though I had never met the woman in person, I was pretty certain it was her. I’d seen many photos of this wellness coach, and I had always been stunned at her story: she lost nearly 200 pounds by following the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) plan, which I try to also follow for health reasons, and was now a weightlifter as well. Something about her smile was distinctive and very recognizable. I knew she lived in this general area, so it wasn’t too far-fetched to think it could be her. As we got off the hotel elevator together, I summoned up the courage to ask: “Excuse me, are you a THM coach?” She looked stunned, but kindly replied, “Yes, I am…” I explained that I recognized her from the social media pages and was awed by her story. She gave all the glory to God for helping her become healthy. We said a few more words and then parted ways. Later that night, she posted humorously on the group page that she was now a B-List celebrity because she had been recognized in public looking a bit disheveled on her way back from the hotel waterpark, and then I formally introduced myself on social media as well. 

“Before-and-after” posts almost always entice me to stop scrolling and read into the story. Whether it is a weight loss, home makeover, cake decorating challenge, hairstyle tutorial, or hoarder-to-minimalist success story, I feel so thrilled watching a transformation take place. I think we all love a good change for the better, yes? Perhaps that’s why I’m fascinated with the metamorphosis of butterflies too! 

Paul tells us how our “before-and-after” should look, beginning in Titus 3:3: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” That is who we used to be, but that is not who we are now! He continues, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” So, what do we do now instead of all those behaviors we used to do before we were saved? Paul says, “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.” 

Before God saved us, we were overcome by all sorts of sinful behaviors. But now that  we have experienced the kindness and love and mercy and grace of God that we did not deserve, we need to devote ourselves to doing what is good. 

We have known since we were children sitting on Santa’s lap that we were supposed to be good! But what exactly does that mean in a biblical kind of way? Hop back up to verse 1 to find a bit more guidance. “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” This list seems to be at least a partial, but still challenging, description of “doing what is good”, don’t you think? 

Paul urges yet again – it must have been such a problem in their society as it is in ours! – to avoid foolish talk (verse 9). I’ve noticed this theme throughout 2 Timothy and Titus; it is a good reminder that we need to pay careful attention to watch what we say, making sure our words are edifying. We are called to be representatives of Jesus in everything we say and do. 

-Rachel Cain

Reflection Questions: 

What does your “before-and-after” look like? Maybe, like me, you were raised a Christian and don’t have a dramatic story to tell. But God has still saved you by his grace! Write out your salvation story and testimony, so that you will always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have. (I Peter 3:15)

In this scripture, Paul calls believers to “do what is good”. What are some specific good things you think God is calling you to do in this season? 

Frozen by Fear. Let Loose by Love.

2 Timothy 1

Sunday, September 11, 2022

The pale princess cowered in the corner of her frigid room. Though she had been living a solitary life for many years for fear of people discovering her secret, Elsa was now summoned from her self-imposed prison for her coronation. 

“Conceal; don’t feel. Put on a show. Make one wrong move and everyone will know…”

If you’ve seen the movie Frozen, you know that Elsa had some sort of mystical power that could create and manipulate snow and ice. She had hidden it for a long time, but a stressful situation at the coronation event caused her to lose self-control, divulging her secret to her entire kingdom and initiating an eternal winter in her kingdom. Afraid that people might turn on her, Elsa abdicated her right to the throne by escaping to the mountains to “let it go”, seemingly embracing newfound freedom resulting from the revelation of her secret. The story continues with ups and downs, laughter and sadness; however, at the end of the movie, Elsa discovers that the way to control her powers is not fear, but rather love! 

What does this have to do with 2 Timothy 1, you ask?  Well, in this letter (which is believed by many scholars to be the last correspondence that Paul penned before his death), Paul is reaching out to his young protege, Timothy. He wants to remind Timothy of the gift of his salvation, and give him some warning and encouragement for the trials that are yet to come as a follower of Jesus.  

Paul begins by reminding Timothy where his salvation journey began, being taught by his grandmother and mother. Paul then reminds Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” (verse 6). Elsa squelched her gift, but that is not the way God wants us to live in regards to our salvation. God gave Timothy, and us, a free gift of salvation, and He desires for us to fan it into flame! God longs for us to embrace His gift, to share it with others. What happens to a fire when you fan it, blow on it, nurture it? The fire grows! If you want to have a fire to keep you warm while you’re camping, you have to tend to the fire: replenishing wood as it burns down, blowing oxygen into it to get the fire rolling again, etc. Likewise, we need to actively be nurturing our gift of salvation, tending to our relationship with God each day, and sharing that gift with others, rather than hiding our gift like Elsa did. 

At the conclusion of the movie, Elsa is elated to learn that love, rather than fear, is the best way to manage her powers. Verse 7 continues, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” God’s design does not include us living in a constant state of fear. When we accept His gift, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. In fact, we normally think of hate being the opposite of love (and sometimes it is), but scripture also indicates that fear and love are opposites (“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” I John 4:18). Paul wanted to remind Timothy to not focus on fear in the difficult times ahead, as God’s gift does not include fear; rather, focus on power (the Holy Spirit), love (God IS love – see I John 4:8), and self control (a fruit of the Spirit, along with love, that is produced in our lives when we are seeking Him).

In verse 8, Paul advises Timothy to not be ashamed to be a follower of Jesus, but to be ready to suffer for the gospel “by the power of God.” God’s power is promised to us even through the suffering, because we were saved and “called to a holy calling”. Just like Elsa’s powers had a purpose (which was further revealed in the sequel), God has a purpose for us, and He wants us to be strengthened and willing to partner with Him – through good times and bad – to fulfill our calling to His purpose. 

I’ll close with this 1883 hymn by Daniel Whittle that some of you might remember, which is based on verse 12: 

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.


But “I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”

I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.

I know not when my Lord may come,

At night or noonday fair,

Nor if I walk the vale with Him,

Or meet Him in the air.

-Rachel Cain

Reflection questions: 

 – What are some practical steps you can take to “fan into flame the gift of God” in your life? 

– Reflect on some events in your life that led you to following Jesus. How can you use those experiences to encourage others to walk in faith and love instead of in fear? 

Does the Truth Matter?

2 Thessalonians 2

Saturday, September 3

This chapter comes with some very big warnings.  From the very beginning of the chapter to the very end, it is full of warnings not to be deceived.  If this was such a big problem 2000 years ago, how much bigger is it now?  We need to heed all of these warnings because just like the Thessalonians, we also have others trying to deceive us in every step of our lives.


 To be able to keep from being deceived, we must first know the truth.  In John 8:31-32, Jesus says, ‘“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’  According to these verses, the very first thing we need to do to keep ourselves from being deceived is to hold to Jesus’ teaching.  To do this, we need to first know what Jesus taught and to obey it.  When we hold to the teachings of Jesus, we are really his disciples.  Then, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.


In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul writes that the Thessalonians were “saved… through belief in the truth.”  The Thessalonians not only knew the truth, they also believed it.  For this reason, they were saved.  We also can be saved when we know the truth and choose to believe in it.  But, if you choose not to believe in the truth, there are serious consequences.


In verse 13, Paul writes, “[S]o that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”  It is a matter of life or death, whether or not you believe in the truth.  If you believe in the truth, you can be saved and have eternal life in the kingdom.  If you do not believe in the truth, however, you will be condemned and will perish.


Verse 15 says, “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”  Paul has told us what our choices are.  The choice to believe in the truth or to not believe in it.  He urges us, then, to stand firm and hold fast to the teachings.  When we hold fast to the teachings, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.  It’s not a trivial decision!  It is life or death, so choose the truth!

-Kaitlyn Hamilton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How can you be sure you are not being deceived?
  2. How are you following Jesus’ teachings, not the pastor or creeds or traditions, but following Jesus’ teachings?

The End of Division

Galatians 3

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

            I don’t know about you, but to me, it feels like the world is really divided right now.  More divided than we’ve been in a long time.  Liberal vs. Conservative.  The liberals call the conservatives Fascists or Nazis, the conservatives call the liberals Communists.  We are divided between theists and anti-theists, or some would divide us as racist or anti-racist.  Still, others would divide us as binary or non-binary, pro-live or pro-choice.  Living in perpetual states of division is stressful, painful, and exhausting.  In the words of Rodney King during the L.A. racial riots of the early 1990’s “Can we…can we all get along?”

            That’s kind of what Paul was saying to the Galatian Christians.  There was division going on in their Church.  Paul taught them that we are saved by putting our faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God who died for our sins and whom God raised from the dead.  This salvation is open to everyone who believes, young or old, male or female, Jew or Gentile (non-Jew).  As Paul was traveling on his mission to other places in Asia and Europe to share the message of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God with as many as he could, he received reports that people had come into the Churches in Galatia insisting that Gentile believers must begin practicing Jewish law in order to be saved.

            Paul was pretty angry with the Christians there who were being led astray by the teaching of these “Judaizers”  (people who insisted that Gentile Christians must practice Jewish Law in order to be saved).  Paul calls them fools and victims of witchcraft for allowing themselves to be taught something so clearly contrary to the gospel that he preached to them previously.

            Paul goes back and shows from the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) that even back in the time of Abraham God made his plan very clear.  God always planned to bring salvation not only to the Jews who were descendants of Abraham but also to Gentiles who were not biological descendants of Abraham.  Paul shows that God called Abraham long before the Ten Commandments and Ceremonial Laws were given to the Jewish people.  As Jews, they were always recipients of God’s grace.  The Law was never a precondition to them being chosen as God’s covenant people.  Paul wants it to be clearly understood that for the Gentiles they are brought into God’s chosen family not on the basis of observing Jewish ceremonial law or even moral law, but on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ.

            In Christ, old barriers and divisions come falling down.  We all become a part of the one family of God through Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter our nationality, our age, our sex, our citizenship status or our righteousness according to the law.  What matters is that we come to Jesus Christ and have been clothed in Jesus Christ.

            Later in Galatians Paul will talk about what it means to crucify the flesh and to live according to the spirit and produce virtuous actions by the spirit, but the fruit is a result of salvation, not the precondition to being saved.

            The only true way to end division in the world is by becoming one with Jesus Christ through faith.

-Jeff Fletcher

Questions for Discussion:

1.  What are the kinds of things that divide Christians and Churches today?  What action will you take to help remove divisions where you worship and serve?

2.  Why is it important to understand virtue as a result of salvation rather than as a precondition to salvation?

How Do You Save the World?

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

 Galatians 2

            The following story is based on a Poem by Loren Eiseley called The Star Thrower:

Once upon a time, there was a man walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead, he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?” The young man paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I guess I should have asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

“The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.

“But young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. “It made a difference for that one!” https://starthrower.com/pages/the-star-thrower-story

            How do you save the world?  One starfish at a time.  That seems to be how God does it.  When you look at the history of salvation as revealed in the Bible, God often begins the work through a single person.  When God decided to create one special nation who would enter into a personal, covenant-based relationship with Him, He began with one man, a man named Abram (later Abraham).  God entered into a special bond with Abraham and promised to make him into a great nation that would eventually bring blessing to all the earth.  Abraham was the father of the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people.  Israel’s mission as God’s people was to be a light to all the nations of the world. 

            Israel struggled to fulfill that calling from God and became very inward-focused.  They elevated their unique relationship with God and emphasized their “set apart” status, worn as a badge of superiority.  They lost the mission imperative that God first gave to Abraham.

            God always had the heart to reach all people, not just descendants of Abraham by birth.  When the time came to expand his relationship with all humans and open the doors of salvation to the nations not descended from Abraham, God again started small.  Through one man, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only begotten Son, God would open the doors of salvation to people from every nation.

            It was difficult for many of Abraham’s descendants to grasp that in Christ, God was extending his saving hand to all people.  One of the issues the early church wrestled with was “what is necessary for one who is not a descendant of Abraham, not from the nation of Israel, to do to become a member of God’s chosen people?”  The church agreed that they needed to be baptized into Jesus Christ and be obedient to Christ as their Lord and observe the basic commandments to not worship idols, not steal, kill, commit adultery or misuse the name of the Lord.  But still, for many of the descendants of Abraham who had lived separated lives, eaten special kosher food, and not shared meals with Gentiles, it was very difficult for them to imagine embracing those Gentiles, whom they had previously considered to be nothing better than dogs, as equals in the sight of God.

            While Peter, James, and the other Apostles continued to make their primary focus on sharing the message of Jesus Christ died and risen and coming again as King with their fellow Israelites, the Apostle Paul was called by God to bring that same message about Jesus to the Gentiles.  Through Paul’s preaching and missionary work, God’s kingdom was expanding to include people from every nation, and language on earth.  God made it clear to Peter in a vision that the dietary laws that they followed as Jews and the physical act of having all males circumcised were not to be a requirement for Gentiles coming into the Church.  You didn’t have to become a Jew in order to become a Christian.  But this did not sit well with many Jewish Christians who found it challenging to let go of those old prejudices and barriers.

            Paul’s letter to the Galatians was written to correct his fellow Jewish Christian and convince them to change their attitudes and practices in relation to Gentile Converts.  When they tried to make the Gentiles become Jews when they became Christians, Paul called this a “different gospel”.  They were creating unnecessary barriers to salvation.

            Do we today put up unnecessary barriers to salvation for people who are outside of the Church?  Sometimes we place our cultural preferences and traditions in the same category as the message of Jesus Christ and require others to jump through those hoops in order to be accepted into the Church.  When we create extra requirements beyond the basic teaching of the gospels and expect people to meet our cultural expectations in order to be saved, we are preaching a different gospel and keeping people away from Jesus and his saving love.

-Jeff Fletcher

Questions for Discussion:

1.  What can the young man in the Star Thrower teach us about going about the overwhelming task of rescuing the world from sin?

2.   What are some unnecessary barriers to salvation that you have observed in church or in your own witness to unbelievers?

Crucify Him!

Mark 15

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Chapter 15 of Mark reaches the climax of the story of Jesus, but of course not the end. It’s the pivotal part where the prophecies he had been teaching of his death and sacrifice for our sins will come to fruition. No doubt, you’ve heard this story a thousand times, and for good reason. This event, the sacrifice of the lamb, is the only reason we are allowed to undeservingly reach salvation. What’s more impressive is that this story, just like virtually every other parable and sermon Jesus gave, can be interpreted to apply multiple lessons to our lives.

For instance, when bombarded by accusations and insults from the chief priests, Jesus stood firm in his teaching of remaining non-confrontational. “But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.” Mark 15:5. Jesus is able to remain non-confrontational when all he had to do was respond with a single truthful testimony. He refrained, knowing that all of humanity needed his sacrifice, as God willed it. Could you remain truthful and non-violent when the worst of life is hurled at you? How about when what’s being said is so obviously false, yet they won’t back down?

“’What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked them. ‘Crucify him!’ they shouted. ‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’” Mark 15:12-14. Here, the people are accusing Jesus only on the basis of rage. There is no reasoning behind their decision, only malice. They refuse to listen to any voice of reason, as they are blinded by their own lust for destruction. Don’t be deceived by the masses and be sure to think critically for yourself. Never take someone else’s words as absolute truth without a grain of salt.

Nowadays, especially with the internet, people are more connected than they have ever been in all of human history. We see news quicker, respond quicker, think less, and react according to what we think other people would want. Whose opinion is the only one that ultimately matters? God’s, of course. Just like the members of the court who accused Jesus in an effort to please themselves, we lose sight of the only thing that matters. What’s worse is that we mock Jesus in our stupor as well; just like the court of those who crucified Jesus.

“They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’” Mark 15:17-18. They mock him for they do not know who they mock. Do you mock Jesus with your words or actions?

Mark 15:31-32 says, “In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” They mock the power of Christ because they do not believe what they cannot see. Even other people condemned to die with him are heaving insults at him because they cannot see beyond themselves or their own understanding. And look what it did—it sent our only hope of salvation into the most miserable state a person can physically endure.

“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’—which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” Mark 15:34. They sent Jesus into this state, and it is by their actions that they will be condemned. Jesus was blameless and had every right to scream from the depths of his soul at the nature of his torture. Do you ever feel that God has forsaken you? Sometimes it seems like He has left us because we don’t see His guiding hand. Be thankful for the things that you have and do not need and be thankful for the things you do not have but do rightfully deserve as a result of your sins.

Mark 15:39 says, “And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the son of God!’” Only after seeing it can they believe, because although they see, they do not look. Remember not to be led in your thinking by the masses, for they do not know the manner of which the things they speak. Take heart in your suffering, for the true prize still awaits.

-Mason Kiel

Application Questions

  1. How are you at staying truthful and non-confrontational when you are wrongly attacked?
  2. What does Jesus’ sacrifice mean to you?
  3. How do we remain thankful in our darkest hour?

A Scary Word

1 Corinthians 2

June 3

Here at the Oregon church we have really been focusing on evangelistic outreach. No other word puts quite the fear in the heart of a Christian like the world evangelism. There are many anxieties that come with the idea of evangelism: sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. There is the fear of rejection. There is the worry that you might look foolish. There is maybe a concern that you won’t say the right things. Maybe there’s a worry that you don’t know enough about the Bible and therefore you aren’t qualified to reach out to people about Jesus and the kingdom. There is just a lot of worry that goes into it.


A lot of the fear and anxiety that comes from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with people is that we can make it about us. Look above at what was said about the fear of sharing the gospel: every fear and anxiety that was mentioned about sharing the gospel is because we focus on how it affects us. We make it about our rejection, or our feelings or our knowledge. God has made the gospel so simple and yet we can be so afraid of it. And when I say we are afraid, I’m talking about me too. Just because I’m a pastor doesn’t mean that I don’t have fear and anxiety about sharing the gospel. You don’t need a PhD in theology to share the gospel with people. You don’t need to have a deep understanding of Levitical dietary laws, or a complete understanding of ancient Greek. The gospel was made understandable so that no matter who we talk to they can grasp it. We tend to make it more complicated than it has to be.


Paul makes this very point in 1 Corinthians 2. He says: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).


Paul was an extremely well educated man. He was well studied and well read. He knew the Hebrew Bible in profound detail. He was someone that could have really made the gospel presentation more complicated than it should have been. But instead of making a mess of things he says to the Corinthian church that he didn’t come with lofty speech or wisdom. He decided to know nothing besides Christ and him crucified. What Christ accomplished on the cross is of chief importance. Christ died as a substitute for you and me and he rose on the third day. He did this so that one day we can be in the kingdom of God forever. The components of the gospel are easy to remember this way: the kingdom, the cross and the resurrection. The other doctrines of the Bible are important but only believing the gospel is what saves us. The good news of the kingdom of God and our entrance being purchased by the death and resurrection of Jesus is what matters above all else.


Paul continues in the section by saying that we don’t use lofty wisdom and persuasive arguments in order that we aren’t relying on the wisdom of man. Wisdom is important, but ultimately the best and truest wisdom comes from God. The gospel is simple in order that we can fully rely on the power of God to work through us to share to those around us. God is saving the world through His gospel and we should want to be a part of that.


We don’t need to make the gospel more complicated than it is. The simple message of the death and resurrection of Jesus purchasing our gift of eternal life if we believe in him is as easy as it gets. Sharing the gospel doesn’t have to be scary either. It comes from the concern and urgency of wanting people to be in God’s kingdom. It comes from the outpour of our lives as a demonstration of the saving power of God working wondrously through us. Let’s choose to know nothing but Christ and him crucified and share that to a hurt and broken world. Let’s be the people that God works through to reconcile His creation back to Himself.

-Nathan Massie


Application:

  1. To remember that the gospel has been made simple so that we can share with everyone: the kingdom, the cross and the resurrection.
  2. To realize that God is the one who is working through us to share the gospel to the world. It’s His power and not our wisdom that makes the gospel effective.
  3. To realize that the gospel is the power of God and it is of chief importance since believing the gospel is what saves us.
  4. To pray about our anxieties and fears about sharing the gospel and to ask God to give us the strength to share even when we are afraid.
  5. To recognize that when we share the gospel we are making an eternal difference in the life of the hearer.

There is No Difference

Romans 10

May 26

One of my favorite childhood stories is The Sneetches by Dr. Suess.  It tells the tale of two groups of the same fictional creature that are cliqued together by the presence and the absence of a green star on their bellies.  Those with the stars participate in exclusive events, while those without are excluded. More conflict follows, and you’ll love how it ends — But don’t take my word for it. Be warned there may be spoilers ahead.

Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. – Romans 10:3-4

Christian of the 21st century have the tendency to be the star-bellied sneetches, or the modern-day pharisitical Jews. We are really good at identifying each other through our branding, participating in exclusive events together, and making sure others know they are not on the same level as us. We believe through family heritage, denominational existence, or culture perpetuations that we have increased in value and rarity like a fine wine. By comparison, we may look at others struggling with more physically or mentally identifiable sin, rolling in the hot mess of their struggles, and working through the consequences of poor choices, and keep them on the outskirts because they are a little too rough around the edges. Be informed. We all are the same sinful species.

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him – Romans 10:12

Again I say, woe to you, Christian.  You may be in a different position, but it is like comparing one steaming pile of muck to another. We are rotting stacks of stench that stink, stank, and stunk.  Polishing one pile of manure doesn’t make it more appealing than the pile to the left or right. However, one thing is true.  With age, compost makes some pretty fertile soil. In this process of breaking down, we come to terms with who we really are in Jesus Christ and can grow the seed of the Kingdom of God.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. – Romans 10:9-10

Our eyes shouldn’t be focused inward on our marshmallow roast, but rather outward, leading others to the saving conversations about the grace of Jesus Christ. There are so many who already know Christ but are ashamed to try to live more abundantly because of the odor their life is currently putting off.  It is good to remind them you’re a decaying mess too.  Love like Jesus. The bigger the trash-fire, the greater the compassion, cause Lord knows we need it too.  The same creatures with the same Lord.

-Aaron Winner

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What stood out to you most in today’s chapter and devotion?
  2. Have you ever been guilty of a “better than…” attitude? Is that a good way to attract more people to become followers of Jesus? How can you improve?
  3. How pretty are your feet? Re-read Romans 10:12-15. How and where can you take the good news beyond your saved little circle/clique to the hurting world who is just like you?

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