The Hero who Rescues Us

Galatians 1

Monday, August 8, 2022 

            Like most people, I enjoy stories about people being rescued.  There is a universal appeal to a story where it’s life and death on the line and the hero comes to the rescue.  Sometimes, it’s an ordinary person with “a particular set of skills” like the father Liam Neeson played in the movie Taken.  Sometimes it’s a group of people who pool their talents to do a heroic deed and defeat evil powers or existential threats. Think, Lord of the Rings, Armageddon, or Independence Day. Sometimes it’s a hero with otherworldly powers who is willing to put his own life and safety on the line, like Superman, the Man of Steel.  Many people have noted that Superman can be viewed as a kind of allegory of the greatest hero of all, Jesus.

            As Paul opens his letter to the Galatians he leads with Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead by God, the father.  God raised Jesus from the dead after Jesus “gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.”(Galatians 1:4).  There it is, the heart of almost every hero story.  This is the story of Jesus, God’s chosen one who gave himself to rescue us from evil.  This is not only the overarching story behind Paul’s letter to the Galatians, but it is the big story of the Gospel, the story of the Bible, and the story of life.  This is the story that is God’s story, it is history, and we are part of that story.  What I just wrote is called a metanarrative.  The post-modern worldview which has come to predominate our culture rejects metanarratives which are grand stories that explain the truth in clear terms.  There is no place in post-modernism for things like objectivity and universal truth.  You have “your truth” and I have “my truth” and “no one should impose their truth on someone else”.  Of course, this is not actually practiced by those who preach it and who are working to impose “their truths” on others as if they are right and others are wrong.  If you don’t follow “our truth” we will work to get you canceled.

            Paul has no patience for those who reject the Truth and listen to the voices of those who are trying to throw the followers of Jesus Christ into confusion by preaching a “different gospel”.  I’m sure Paul would have a lot to say about what is happening in our world today.  The loss of Truth, of metanarratives or big coherent stories around which we organize our life.  As Christians, we are part of God’s Big Story and that story is Truth.  Jesus said of himself that he is “the way, the truth, and the life.”  The Bible speaks in binary terms: good and evil, right and wrong, light and dark, male and female, lost and found, etc…  The evil one has always tried to sow seeds of doubt and contradict such clear thinking.  The evil one prefers to operate in the realm of “50 Shades of Gray.” Ever since the serpent tempted Eve by causing her to question and doubt God’s word introducing confusion and chaos into the world, there has been a war on the truth.   Jesus told Pontius Pilate “The truth will set you free”.  That was true 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, and it is still true today.

            Jesus is a True Hero sent by God to rescue us from this “present evil age” which he did by laying down his life for us.  That’s a hero worth believing in and following.  Let’s not fall for the trendy lies of post-modernism, the lies of the evil one.

-Jeff Fletcher

Questions for Discussion:

1.  What is your favorite hero/rescuer story?  What is it about that story that you find most appealing/inspiring?

2.  How does Jesus as a hero/rescuer stack up against others (fiction or non-fiction)?  How can you share the big story about Jesus with others effectively?

False Advertising

2 Corinthians 11

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Have you seen anything advertised lately that you really wanted to try? Keep this in mind. We will revisit it at the end…

     Paul in this section of the letter to the Corinthians is defending his apostleship- not by means of hearsay, but through the proof of his testimony to Christ. Through the actions of his ministry, he has demonstrated his devotion to his faith. In the latter part of the section, Paul lists out the persecutions he has suffered. He does this not for the sake of attention or for puffing up his chest. He does it to demonstrate what the life of a true follower of Christ can look like. He does so to prove through his actions, and not the empty clanging of his voice, that he is an apostle of Christ.

     Paul does make a point to call attention to the “false advertising”, if you will, of others. He even makes the statement in verse 14, “…for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

Both before and after this powerful statement of warning, Paul also mentions the servants of Satan and the deceitful workers disguising themselves as apostles of Christ and servants of righteousness. Their beautifully spun words are to create an illusion that they are something that they are not. They are to deceive and steal away those who would come to Christ.  

Going back to that product you saw advertised, what about the product appealed to you? Was it the products testability that spoke for its reliability? Or was it the colorful design and exaggerated wording? We are in a world that is saturated in advertising and overrun with so many products trying to steal our attention from the others.

It is the same with who we put our trust in. Sometimes the advertisements of Satan are much more appealing. It can be difficult to choose the beautifully created bowl of fruit over the decadent devil’s food cake. But in the end, one nourishes and sustains us and the other satisfies us for only a moment.

-Hannah Deane

Application Questions

  1. In what ways do you see Satan working to convince the world and Christians that what God said is good is actually bad, and what God said is bad is actually good? How does evil try to look good – masquerading as an angel of light?
  2. What lies of Satan have you believed?
  3. How can we protect ourself from being deceived by Satan as Eve was?
  4. What role does knowing and loving the truth play in fighting temptation? What truths do you find in Scripture that can help you be strong and wise against temptation?

Stiff-Necked Stubborn People

Acts 7

April 25

Acts 7:51 – You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! (NIV)

Stiff-necked…bull-headed…stubborn…headstrong…obstinate…when we use these kinds of words to describe someone’s mindset, it’s never a compliment. 

For a brief moment, let’s put ourselves in the sandals of the Jewish leaders that Stephen is speaking to in Acts 7. They had the strongest of convictions. They truly believed that what they stood for, what they expected others to conform to, was to follow the Law given to Moses, rather than to submit to the teachings of Jesus. 

As believers we are also called to hold fast. To stand firm. To believe and not doubt. So what’s the problem?

The Jewish leaders were putting their faith in a system, rather than the Spirit of God. They believed that by following all the rules set forth in the Law, that they would be saved. Stephen is trying to convince them that instead, they need to submit to the Holy Spirit in order to be saved. 

Changing the way that you think about something, especially about a conviction you have, is not easy to do. But that’s exactly why we need to rely on God’s power instead of our own wills. The Holy Spirit is a gift given to us to soften our hearts; to transform our minds, to reveal truth. If we can be more committed to being sensitive to the messages God places in our inner beings, than we are dedicated to a system of rules and regulations, we can finally live the lives that God calls us to experience.     

It’s time to put aside your own system of beliefs. The abundant life starts with seeking God with all your heart.

-Bethany Ligon

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How would you describe the difference between being stubborn and standing firm?
  2. Can you think of a time when your convictions made you stiff-necked, and you missed (or nearly missed) an opportunity to be led by the Holy Spirit? If you can’t think of a specific time, what might it look like?
  3. What do we learn about Stephen in Acts 7? What do we learn about God in Acts 7? How can what we read in this chapter change our mindset and actions this week?

Love and Truth

Matthew 15

January 15

We have used the word love to describe Jesus and his ministry many times in the last few days. And that is certainly true. But we would be creating a grievous error if we thought love was all that mattered to Jesus. Jesus’ ministry was about love and truth. Truth and love.

In Matthew 15 (and throughout the gospels) we don’t see a soft and cuddly pushover full of love and open arms. Indeed, Jesus is still love, but that includes love for the truth and love for those being led astray by deceit and human traditions. And sometimes love looks a little harsh when it is armed with truth.

The teachers of the law in Jerusalem were so curious about this Jesus. A delegation was sent to find him and question him. It would have been an 80-90 mile hike, or a 4-7 day journey from Jerusalem to the Gennesaret valley west of the Sea of Galilee. They were committed to this search for answers. How will they be received by Jesus?

There were a lot of Jewish laws and traditions about what to eat and not eat and what needed to be done surrounding the meal (like ceremonial washing of hands). The disciples and Pharisees were shocked to hear Jesus say that it wasn’t what goes into a mouth that makes you unclean, but what comes out of it. The disciples were also a bit surprised, I think, that Jesus answered the Pharisees the way he did, asking him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (Matthew 15:12). It is certainly NOT our purpose to try to be as offensive as possible when in religious discussion. And, it is wise to remember we don’t have all the wisdom of the Son of God. But, neither ought we be willing to keep the saving truth from those that might disagree with us, just because it would be more polite – or loving – to be silent.

How will you mix love and truth as Jesus did?

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Jesus warned against following traditions of men that lead you to break the commands of God. What are some examples of how this could happen today? What are the benefits and drawbacks to following the traditions of men? What are the benefits and drawbacks to following the commands of God? Which would you rather follow? What will that look like this week?
  2. When is tradition a good thing? When is it a bad thing? Are there any traditions you are currently following that are not helpful in drawing you closer to what Jesus wants to see in your life?
  3. How can you bring truth and love into the lives of your family and those you are closest to? How can you bring truth and love into the lives of those who may not understand you or may outright oppose you?

Walking in the Truth

2 John 1

John writes about those who have “come to know the truth” and that he is rejoicing to see some young family members “walking in the truth” (vv. 1, 4).  This “truth” is not some list of doctrines or deep theology but a simple commandment: “that we love one another” (v. 5). Sometimes we can overcomplicate the “truth.” Now don’t misunderstand John; the truth in Scripture is very deep and has many levels. It is not merely comprised of this one commandment. We might say that whatever Scripture reveals on any subject can be constituted as “truth.”

As John wrote about in his previous letter (cf. 1 John 5), biblically speaking love is not predominantly this passionate emotion of desire as some might think of it. Rather, the love that John is talking about is intricately bound together with obedience. And therefore, this is why he says, “And this is love: that we walk according to his commandments” (v. 6).

Why is this so important to John that he is reiterating it again here in his 2nd letter? The reason is likely part of his subsequent warning about the “many deceivers” who are in the world (v. 7). There are many forces at work in the world vying for our attention and our devotion. John raises the danger about these “deceivers” and how they can lead someone astray from the truth, for he declares that “everyone who goes too far and does not remain in the teaching about Christ does not have God (v. 9).

We need to be aware and watch ourselves concerning those who do not “bring the teaching about Christ.” John is very stern about not entertaining deceivers in our homes. The adversary works in subtle ways and sometimes these deceptive influences can come from unlikely places and people who may not even be consciously or intentionally opposing God and the teaching about Christ, but nonetheless are stealthily subverting the message of the good news with criticism, skepticism, or mockery.

Let us be careful to recognize these evil works and not lose our focus on living according to God’s commandments.

-Jerry Wierwille

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Hosea 9-11 and 2 John

Be the Right Person

At the Right Time in the Right Place

Daniel 11, 12

     Have you ever been the right person at the right time in the right place?  My wife and I were driving home one evening after dark.  We came upon a slow- moving vehicle that was being driven rather erratically.  It swerved from side to side.  It would speed up for a moment and then slow way down.  We even witnessed this vehicle cross the center line several times.  Oncoming vehicles sometimes were forced off the road to avoid this driver. We thought that we were about to see a terrible accident. Of course, this driver was impaired in some way.  I am sensitive toward the subject of drunk drivers.  I was badly injured and my best friend killed by one many years ago.  Of course, we called 911.  However, while my wife was talking to the 911 operator, we noticed that a police cruiser was sitting in a parking lot next to the road.  We pulled alongside and described the situation.  To their credit, the officers quickly sped off in pursuit and had the vehicle pulled over in less than a minute.  The driver, a middle aged woman, was clearly inebriated.  We hope that we helped to save some family from a devastating tragedy that evening.  Perhaps, our decision to get involved may have even saved that drunk driver from a life of guilt, prison, or from death itself.   However, we did nothing more than what many people would do.  If you found yourself in a similar situation, I know that you would act.  The right person is often given the right place and the right time to act, to get involved.

     The book of Daniel often describes events that are earth shattering and world changing.  People often get caught up in forces that are beyond their control and they feel helpless.  However, the book of Daniel also gives examples of those individuals who rise to the occasion by standing for their faith.  These individual acts of faith actually change the course of events: Daniel refused to eat the king’s food, Meschach, Shadrach and Abed-nego refused to bow to the image, and Daniel broke the law and risked the lion’s den to pray to the LORD. 

Daniel 11 and 12 describe the incredible times and events that will occur at the end of this age.  Forces will be at work that will be beyond our control.  Yet, it is still a moment for individuals to make a stand.  According to Daniel and the book of Revelation, the time of the end will be characterized by great deception.  Many people, even believers, will be fooled and tricked by the antichrist.   Daniel 11:32 reads, “By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant…..”  However, some make a stand.  Daniel 11:32 continues, “….but the people who know their God will display strength and take action…”  They will be the right people at the right time in the right place.

 Daniel 11:33 adds, “Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many….”  Yet there will be a price for this courage.  Daniel 11:33 continues, “…yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days.”  However, Daniel 12:3 makes this promise: “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” 

We live in a time of great confusion.  We have become strangers to God while we worship the idols that we have created.   Many people fear the future and wonder how it is all going to end.  For all our worldliness, our country is confused about sexuality and gender.  People have forgotten what is right and what is wrong, what is truth and what is false.  This world needs a voice of reason.  It needs truth.  It needs people of courage and faith.  The answers are “hidden in plain sight.”  They are right here in the Bible.  Insight will be found by those who are looking for it and by those who thirst for it.  Those who have insight will shine like the stars.  Be the right person so that you can act when the right time and the right place comes to you.

-Scott Deane

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Daniel 11 & 12 and 1 John 1

FALSE

2 Peter 2

We do NOT like to be told our actions are wrong or that our understanding is false. Many people today fight against the idea that there even is “true or false”, “fact or fiction”, and “right or wrong”. The Bible, however, very clearly teaches us that there is a difference between each of these. 

In 2 Peter 2 we read that there have always been people, and even angels, teaching what is not correct and there have always been consequences for these false teachings. There are angels “held for punishment”, the ungodly caught in a worldwide flood, and cities reduced to ashes all as a result of teaching and living by what is NOT TRUE. 

The good news is that we have the option to read and understand what is TRUE. Verse 9 tells us that God “knows how to rescue the godly!” This is incredible news as we read about the destruction of the ungodly false teachers and prophets. When we teach we need to be certain that what we are teaching is the truth we find in the Bible. When we make choices we need to be sure they are guided by these same truths and NOT by the false teachings of the world. 

Peter even tells us that the false teachers will promise freedom, while being enslaved by their own false teachings. It is possible to get away from the grips of these false teachings but it is not always easy to stay away. Peter describes it by quoting Proverbs 26:11, “A dog returns to its own vomit…” this is quite the disgusting thought but it is quite accurate. A dog will return to eat what its body has already rejected and a pig will go roll in the mud after it was just cleaned off. We tend to do the same thing, hopefully not literally! Temptations and the false teachings of the world are not easy to resist but Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that God will give a way out of any temptation we face. That way out may not be easy, it may not be pleasant, but it will be there; and it will be far better for us. 

Don’t be like a dog or a pig! Avoid the false teachings this world has to offer and live your life in the freedom that can only be found serving The LORD God Almighty and His Son, Jesus the Christ!

-Bill Dunn

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 11-12 and 2 Peter 2

Taking God’s Message to the Rebels

Ezekiel 1 & 2

When I think about responding to God’s direction to “go and make disciples of all nations”, the last place I want to go is into a hostile community. 

And yet this is exactly what God commands Ezekiel to do.

Israel is described as being rebellious. They know what God requires of them, but they flat out refuse. Instead, they partake in all sorts of immoral acts that God detests. 

But God sees Ezekiel as one whom he can trust to deliver a message. And God tells Ezekiel to not be afraid; that whether or not Israel listens, Ezekiel needs to be bold and speak. 

Have you ever had to deliver a difficult message to an individual or a group? You know what you have to say won’t be received well, but you still have to say something? Maybe it’s to a friend at school or work. Maybe you’re a supervisor and you have to correct your employee. Maybe it’s a family member who isn’t doing what they should be doing.

Holding others accountable for their actions can be very challenging, especially, when the others haven’t asked for you to do so. It’s even more stressful if you’re seen as the enemy. 

So how do we go about entering a hostile environment to deliver a difficult message?

The first thing you can do is to pray. Confirm that it is indeed a message that God wants you to give. Pray that you’re given the words that God needs you to say. Pray that the recipient of the message will be soft-hearted. 

Second, remember to be compassionate. This isn’t the same as “giving in”, but you do want to remind the recipient that you are there to help and support them. 

Third, keep the message brief, to the point and honest.

The recipient will most likely not react well, so you will also want to acknowledge their frustrations, while helping them see a way forward. 

Finally, remind the individual of God’s love for them. They can have forgiveness if they are willing to repent. If they are open to it, offer to pray with them.

There will undoubtedly be times when God asks us to have difficult conversations with others. Do not be afraid to speak the truth in love.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 1-2 and 1 Peter 2

Battlefield of the Mind

Jeremiah 21-22 and Hebrews 2

Going to God is easy when it’s something good. It’s easy when it’s something you are proud of, but what about those times when you are going through something hard or you did something wrong? Why is it so hard to go to Him then? We shouldn’t feel scared or ashamed to admit when something bad happens, we should feel comfortable telling God all, the good and the bad.

In Hebrews 2:7-8, it says, “You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.” These two verses specifically talk about how God created humans just a little lower than his angels. He created us with glory and honor. That glory and honor doesn’t go away because we made a mistake.

Jeremiah 21 is all about God rejecting Zedekiah’s requests. Just because God rejects a request doesn’t mean he thinks you are a horrible person. Going along with telling God all, people aren’t built for guilt. God didn’t create humans to be guilty; he expects us to tell him everything. And when I say not feel guilty I mean he knows we aren’t going to be perfect human beings. Failure is normal. A lot of the greats in the Bible failed but God still held them to a high power. An example of this is David who committed a lot of sins and God still said he was a good man. Peter denied Jesus 3 times but he’s one of the greatest apostles. The reason being was they still came to God in their bad situations. Many of the people in the Bible did bad, but they came to God and did more right by him. People aren’t wicked just because they did one thing wrong. It’s okay to be weak as long as you admit to it and repent.  Turn from your sin and return to God. God was still giving Zedekiah another chance to turn from his sin before judgment came. Will he take it? Will he choose life or death? Remember that the devil can get to you easily, it’s the battlefield of the mind. 

-Genesis Dylewski

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 21-22 and Hebrews 2

Don’t Withhold the Cure

Jeremiah 9-10 and Psalms 99-101

The Old Testament prophets who spoke for God, including Jeremiah, were entrusted with preaching a lot of doom and gloom. Because God’s children had strayed from his commands, judgment would be coming and the people needed to know. I loved Jeff Fletcher’s illustration in his devotion yesterday of a doctor who could be charged with malpractice if he knew the sick condition of a patient’s insides and knew how to fix it and what changes the patient would need to make in order to cure the potentially deadly ailment, and said nothing. This would be like the Christian who sees the broken sinful world and pretends everything is okay. Don’t withhold the cure.

Jeremiah paints a very vivid picture of a world that is not okay. Chapter 9 opens with the prophet mourning the sinfulness of God’s people. He would love nothing more than to pack up and go to a desert retreat where he could get away from and forget this crowd of unfaithful people. Can you relate? But, rather than abandoning the people in their sin, Jeremiah continues passionately speaking truth for God, over and over, even though his words often seem to fall on deaf ears. He still must speak and write and hold out the cure to these wayward people.

God has had it, too. He aptly describes the situation this way:

“It is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:3b NIV)

and again, “They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sining. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:6 NIV)

It sounds to me like God and Jeremiah are describing the sad state of affairs in 2021. So many lies and deceptions abound when attempting to justify and explain and even celebrate sin and sinful lifestyles that fester and grow when individuals and nations and societies have turned their backs on God.

It is as though God is left without a choice. “What else can I do because of the sin of my people?” (Jeremiah 9:7 NIV) “‘Should I not punish them for this?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?’ ” (Jeremiah 9:9 NIV). God had drawn up the rules long ago with blessings promised to those who followed and curses to those who stubbornly disobeyed. Many chances had been given. Prophets had been sent to remind the people of the deadly disease and of the cure – repentance, turning away from sin and turning back to God. But these were a very stubborn people who took delight in continuing in their sin and lies and more sin and more lies.

God had given mercy. God had given reminders. God had given prophets. God had stretched out the cure. But, to no avail. So, God says – it is time. It is time to teach your daughters how to wail – death and destruction is coming. (Jeremiah 9:20,21).

Towards the end of chapter 9 an interesting section seems almost out of place…

 This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV)

Perhaps it was written more for us who would be reading Jeremiah centuries later, to remind us of the choice we have. And, the great opportunity we have to boast about our God, our Creator, Our YHWH. He created the cure. His Son is the cure that was not yet available in Jeremiah’s day. Sin is the same and comes with the same consequences – death. People today need to know about the cure. They don’t need to hear you bragging about your dinner, your kids, your car, your job, your grades, your house, your ______ (on social media or at the checkout line). They need to know about the LORD our God who exercises kindness AND justice and always righteousness. The Psalms passages today have some great examples of boasting about our God while holding out the cure. How can you hold out the cure today to a nation and world that is unknowingly in the stages of the deadly disease of disobedience?

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 9-10 and Psalms 99-101

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