Sin is Serious – And So is Mercy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Marcia Railton

How to Get a Spouse

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 23 & 24 and Matthew 12

In Genesis 24, we find the story of Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for his beloved son Isaac.  It’s interesting that the story of creation as recorded in Genesis 1 required only 31 verses, but that this chapter about a wife for Isaac, with its 67 verses is the longest chapter in Genesis.  In addition to the obvious story we read in this chapter,  I think there are additional things we can learn from this chapter.  As I read about the story of finding a wife for Isaac, I see a parallel with GOD (Abraham in this story) finding a bride (the church for Christ, Rebekah for Isaac) for His beloved son, Jesus (Isaac in this story).  I also see lessons for us to consider when seeking a spouse.  This will get long, but I’ll try to touch briefly on the story, the comparison with God, and application for marriage.

Abraham had been following the Lord for 65 years by this point in our story.  Abraham wanted to arrange the marriage for Isaac to the right wife, before he died.  The story starts with Abraham giving instructions to his servant.  Genesis 24: 3-4 says, “I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I’m living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

The servant travelled hundreds of miles (possibly nearly 500 miles) with servants and 10 camels loaded with gifts to get to where Abraham’s relatives lived.  Once he got there, before doing anything else, he prayed, as recorded in Genesis 24: 12-14, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today and show kindness to my master Abraham.  See, I am standing beside this spring and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.  May it be that when I say to a girl, “Please let down your jar that I may have a drink. And she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ – let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.”  He not only prayed, he also asked for a sign to know who was the right one.

While he was still praying, Rebekah came out to draw water.  He asked her to give him some water – which she did, and then went ahead and watered his camels too, without being asked.  (Note:  a single thirsty camel can drink up to 40 gallons of water – she was obviously a hard worker.)  During all this, the servant just watched quietly and waited.  

He then asked, “whose daughter are you.”  Once he found out she was related to Abraham, he immediately bowed down and worshiped God.  When he did this, Rebekah ran back home to tell her mom what happened – leaving the servant at the well.

Rebekah’s brother, Laban, came out to invite the servant to come home with him.  Before the servant would even eat, he wanted to tell the reason for his visit.  Once he told them about Abraham, and Isaac, he asked the family if Rebekah could marry Isaac.  They decided to leave that up to Rebekah, who said, “Yes.”

The servant gave both Rebekah and her family many gifts.  The servant also told how rich Abraham was, and that he had given everything to his son Isaac – indicating how rich Rebekah would be once she married Isaac.

The next day, the servant wanted to take Rebekah and go back home.  Her family wanted to wait a while.  They asked Rebekah, and since she was eager to go too, they left right away.

As soon as they got back to Isaac, the servant gave an account to Isaac of all he had done.  Then Rebekah married Isaac, and they lived happily ever after – or at least, “So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”

Parallel:  I see similarities between Abraham as a loving father, and God.  And between Isaac, who had a miraculous birth, and was obedient to the point of being sacrificed, and Jesus.  Rebekah, the bride for Isaac, reminds me of the church as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-24).

Neither Abraham nor Isaac went to find a bride, instead, Abraham sent a faithful servant, who swore to be obedient to Abraham’s wishes.  The unnamed servant referred to Abraham as “my master” 19 times in this chapter.  Everything he did was to obey and serve his master.  (We would do well to take this to heart ourselves, as servants of God.)  Neither God nor Jesus are physically present today to build the church.  God sends faithful servants to invite “sinners” to become “the bride of Christ”.

The servant was eager to complete his master’s mission.  Once the bride accepted the invitation, she too was eager to complete the task.  I think it’s imperative that we faithfully serve God eagerly.  Also, once a person decides to accept the invitation to join God’s family, I think it is imperative they respond quickly, otherwise, they may slip away.

The servant gave gifts that were sort of a down payment of immeasurable wealth Rebekah would receive once she joined the family, which is reminiscent of 2 Cor 1:22 which says God’s Holy Spirit in believers is a deposit, guaranteeing the promise that is to come.

Finally, when the servant got back, he had to give an account to Isaac, which reminds us that one day, each of us will have to give an account of our lives (Romans 14:12) and even for every idle word we say (Matthew 12:36).  Will we be a “good and faithful servant?”

Application for marriage:  Christians should not marry non-Christians.  2 Corinthians 6:14 says that believers should not be unequally yoked to unbelievers.  1 Corinthians 7:39 says that if a woman’s husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wants, but only a believer.

Christian’s should pray for God’s direction, ask God for confirmation, watch the person’s character to see if this may be the right one, verify they are a hard worker and they are in the right family (the family of God) – all before ever considering asking (or accepting) “will you marry me”.

–Steve Mattison

Times will be Tough; Keep the Faith!

2 Timothy 1-4

I wish I could tell you that after you are faithful, after you have lived a life dedicated to loving God and loving people, that everything is smooth sailing. I wish I could make and keep a promise that you will never get sick, never be poor, never be mocked, never be persecuted, for the faith that you have. But, the truth is that we live in a world full of sinful people, a world full of broken people. We may even be the cause of some of our pain. When the world gets tough, when life is hard, what are we supposed to do?


Paul addresses these questions in his second letter to Timothy that we have in scripture. We need to recognize that, when Paul is writing this letter, he is currently under arrest for his faith. He had spoken the name of Jesus and the Jews arrested him. Because he was a Roman citizen, he appealed to Caesar for his trial. Instead of walking free, he was bound, shipped around the Mediterranean, shipwrecked, and transported to Rome, where he was kept under house arrest. (Before, I thought house arrest didn’t sound bad, but 2020 lockdowns have drastically changed my mind.) In the midst of all this, everything that Paul is going through, his message to Timothy, a young pastor, is “Keep being faithful to the Gospel message.” Even though that message is the very thing that has Paul in chains, as he follows God’s will to be in Rome, Paul knows that the Gospel is the only source of life. The Gospel message of Jesus tells us about God’s Kingdom, both later over the whole world and in our hearts now, how to live as a citizen of that kingdom today, and how to be given eternal life in the future. No amount of suffering now can compare to the hope, peace, love and joy that come through the Kingdom Message. 


Paul notes to Timothy that this doesn’t make life easier. In 2 Timothy, we can almost hear the sadness in Paul’s words as he notes that his friends have left him. He’s not angrily ranting, but sadly noting that his entourage has turned into only the smallest, die-hard band. Moreover, Paul seems to know that his death is near (4:6-8). He is getting his affairs in order, even in case he dies before Timothy’s coming (4:9-15). He knows things are at the end. This is his farewell note before going to sleep.

So what does he say?


Teach others, Timothy! (2:2, 4:1-2) Paul wants the things that Timothy heard to be passed on to others, who will know the faith so well that they can pass it on to others. For the pastors reading this, this is CLEARLY meant for you (and me). If we are not teaching in order to create teachers, we are not doing the job he has called us to do. if you are not a pastor, there is still a calling for you in this. For our more mature readers, this is calling you to share your faith with others in such a way that it sinks down deep and molds people so that they will share their faith. And for those who are new to the faith, share your faith, but also seek out mature and faithful believers to see what they have to teach and offer you. Paul spoke to Timothy, AND TIMOTHY LISTENED TO, TRUSTED AND OBEYED PAUL. 


This is not giving everyone you meet a complex theological treatise. There is nothing wrong with complex theology; I’m a big fan myself. But Paul tells Timothy to keep the message simple to not wrangle over words or about things that don’t matter. (2:14, 16) Be FOCUSED on the things that matter because the days will get worse. You, Timothy, and you, reader, must be strong, because all those who desire to live holy lives, the best lives we can live, will be persecuted by those who don’t want to live that way. (3:12)


Finally, Paul lets Timothy know that there should not be despair at his “departure” (death). Paul knows who he is … and more importantly whose he is. Paul knows what awaits him at the coming of Christ. 
A Kingdom

A Heavenly Kingdom

A Kingdom that will come down from God on high and will last forever. 

Paul’s farewell letter is an ode to this Kingdom. He wants his Son in the Faith Timothy there. He wants those who have not yet heard the message there. His singular focus is glory to God through Jesus Christ. 


May you my brothers and sisters, be strong in the midst of difficult times. 

May you proclaim the faith boldly.

May you trust God, obey him, and serve him in his kingdom, now and forevermore. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Timothy 1-4.

Tomorrow we will read 2 Peter and Jude.

How Far Will You Go?

Acts 20:4-23:35

Acts 20:22-24  And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

That is the Apostle Paul laying it out pretty clearly.  He was willing to go to prison and give up his own life in order to fulfill the job that Jesus had given him.  And of course he did go to prison, and he did lose his life.  But what an impact he had, and even more so because of his willingness to put the gospel above his own safety.  That is one of the reasons his message stood out.

How far are you willing to go to stand for Christ?  Christians have not suffered very dire persecution in this country yet.  Some slight persecution, yes, but nothing like what Paul had to endure.  And nothing like what many Christians in Africa, China and other areas of the world have to endure today.  There is a book called Jesus Freaks that details the stories of many modern martyrs for Christ.  It’s a tough read.  As I read it, I wondered if I would have the strength and courage to continue to stand for Christ in the face of the consequences they faced.  I kind of doubted it because I am not a big fan of being tortured.  I don’t even like feeling hunger pains from missing a meal.  I’m pretty spoiled. 

But focusing on the momentary pain is holding the wrong point of view.  What is a moment compared to eternity?  Paul was focused on his goal to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus had given him.  The greeting that Jesus is likely to give Paul upon the Apostle’s resurrection is “Well done good and faithful servant.”  Sometimes I wonder if my greeting will be “I hardly knew you,” due to some of the choices I make in my life.

It is far too easy to deny Christ in little ways here and there.  Such as not telling a coworker you are praying for them for fear of offending them.  Not telling someone something like “May God Bless You” so that you don’t look too “Christiany.”  (If that’s even a word – spell check doesn’t think so.)  Or maybe if you are not willing to stand up and call a behavior wrong within a group of people that is calling that behavior right.

We as Christians are going to have a LOT of opportunities for that last one in particular in the days to come.  For example, I can envision attempts to begin to categorize sections of scripture as hate speech under our country’s current direction.  What do we do then? 

So how far will you go in those types of situations?  Will you stand up for the truth of God’s word, even if it perhaps meant going to jail?  What are the lines you are going to draw in the proverbial sand?  I encourage you to draw the lines now and stick to them.  God’s word does not change.  What you know to be true, or right or good now, is also going to be true or right or good in five years, and then again in ten years.  But society will likely say it isn’t true or right or good any more over that time span.  When that happens, we are more likely to change our own stance.  I and you have already seen this in action in the church at large in the last two to three decades at least.  That is why it is important to think upon these things now and and decide to make a stand in our minds.

Acts 21:12-14  When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

May we all have the courage and fortitude of Paul, because the temporary pleasures of this life and this time are not worthy to be compared to the eternal gift of kingdom living.  Times are only going to get tougher for Christians in this world and in this country.  Don’t deny Christ in order to experience the current age longer at the risk of losing entry into the next age later.

-Greg Landry

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 20:4-23:35.

Tomorrow we will read Acts 24-26.

Fellowship

Romans 14-16

There are a couple of verses in this section, paired with a verse from Chapter 1 that really stand out to me right now, under our present circumstances.  Many, perhaps most of you reading this are presently cut off from some of your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Either you are not attending services in person for obvious reasons, or maybe you are able to attend services yourself but are missing some members who are choosing to stay home right now.  It’s a tough time for many of us in that regard, myself included.

We are still able to meet in person at our church (though we were not allowed to for a couple of months this past Spring), but several members have not met in person with us for some time due to health concerns.   When we are cut off from each other, it hurts. 

I recently read about a study led by pyschologist Alfred Tomatis regarding a group of clinically depressed monks.  After much examination, he concluded that the group’s depression resulted from the abandonment of the twice daily gathering to sing Gregorian chants.  They lost the sense of community that came as a result of them coming together to harmonize in song.  Coming together to sing was a formal recognition of their connection and a shared moment of joy.  Many of us have been missing that.

Paul shares how important fellowship with other believers was for him, in his letter to the Roman church:

Chapter 1:11-12 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.  Similarly in Chapter 15, verse 32, Paul speaks of wanting to see his friends in order to be refreshed.

We believers are important to one another.  When it seems there are fewer and fewer examples of decency and morality in the world around us, we need each other to be reminded that we are still on the right track, despite what is happening all around us.  The most encouraging times for me are when I am able to spend the week with fellow believers at places like Midwest Family Camp and FUEL.  I always feel like I get a little bit of a taste of the Kingdom during those weeks, by being able to spend so much time surrounded by so many fellow believers.  Returning to the “real world” at the end of those weeks is often quite jarring and unwelcome for me.

Paul finishes his letter in chapter 16 by asking to have his greetings sent to several individual people in the church there.  Barring being able to see these people in person, he still was able to send them encouragement from afar.

Are there fellow believers you know that you have not seen for a while because of this pandemic?  What about other believers, or even non-believers that you know who could use some encouragement right now?  And who couldn’t really?  Today, it is so much easier to reach out to someone to give encouragement than ever before.  So there’s no excuse other than the excuses we create.  And though it is not as easy, Paul’s old fashioned method of reaching out to those far away, by letter, is still worthwhile today, and probably the most meaningful to boot. 

 I really think there has never been a better time to try to reach out and encourage others, especially those that we have been cut off from.  Try to take the time, today, to reach out to at least one person.  You may be surprised about how much impact that can make in someone’s life.

-Greg Landry

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – Romans 14-16.

Join us tomorrow as we read Acts 20:4-23:35.

Not a Blind Faith

Romans 1-3 (& Acts 20:1-3)

This is the first of 5 straight days going through the book of Romans.  That’s not much time for a book loaded with so many great refrigerator verses.  This is also my favorite book to read through, and something different stands out to me almost every time I read from it.  So my intent is to share one or two things that stood out to me THIS TIME from each section.

Romans 1:16 says, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

I hope you are not ashamed of the Gospel.  I do understand the temptation to be somewhat embarrassed or secretive of it.  Many of the ideas and truths in scripture are no longer “acceptable” in today’s progressive world.  That’s not really new, but it seems to be more true than ever before.  I think we also are often afraid of appearing foolish for believing many of the miraculous aspects of scripture, up to and including the existence of a Creator God.

1:17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.

We as believers must live by faith.  We have never seen God.  We did not witness the mighty miracles recorded in the Bible.  But thankfully, we do not have a blind faith that is not backed up by evidence.  We have had life changing experiences due to our decision to accept Christ.  We have had direct answers to prayers.  We have an abundance of historical documents and artifacts that confirm scripture.  We also have evidence of our faith all around us and even inside of us.

1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Simply put, we can know there is a Creator because we reside in His creation.  You can know there is a Creator because you are reading this right now, and YOU were created!  Well, at least that’s what scripture tells us.  But the secular world has different ideas, doesn’t it?  The secular world is only interested in what can be proven.  Or at least that is what they claim.  This is where the foolishness comes in.  We Christians are viewed as foolish for believing “a big guy in the sky” made everything in nature, when science has clearly shown that all living things have evolved from a common ancestor over millions of years.  Those who deny Darwinian evolution are mocked by its adherents.

Either the world was created or it wasn’t, and those who fall on the wrong side of belief in this area probably are foolish.  So which side does the actual evidence back?  As a side note, I have presented this very topic at churches and camps in the course of hours and sometimes days, so this is going to be a VERY abbreviated version of that.

As a Creationist, my confidence in the world being created is because everything actually appears to be created.  Staunch evolutionist Richard Dawkins even admits that (though he proposes that possibly aliens created our world).  Again, if everything appears to be created, then there is likely a Creator.

Perhaps the best evidence that living things specifically are created is the DNA found within every living cell of every living thing, including you.  This DNA is essentially a programming code, much like your computer uses, but DNA is much more complex.  Bill Gates has said that DNA is a more complex code or programming language than any of his best programmers could have created.  Languages and codes do not arise by chance, and to suggest otherwise is actual foolishness.  Beyond that, living cells themselves, as well as the systems that they combine to create, are so unbelievably complex, that they are beyond the law of probability to have evolved by chance.

So to believe in a Creator does still require faith, because we have not seen our Creator.  But it is not a blind faith, because we have ample evidence that we reside in His creation.

On the other hand, if you do not believe in a Creator, then you also must have a large amount of faith.  You must have faith that something can come from nothing (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is how big bang theorists imagine the universe started.  You must have faith that living things can come from non-living things (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is how most secular thinkers imagine life began.  And you must have faith that less complex organisms can become more complex over time, completely by chance (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is the essence of a belief in Darwinian evolution. 

Do not be ashamed of the faith that we hold dear.  It is indeed a faith-based belief system, but not a blind faith.  And keep in mind that those that do not share our faith have also been created by our Great God, and are also loved by Him.  If we have opportunities to share our faith and the reasons we believe with non-believers, I sure hope you will take them.  In the end, they will be without excuse if they have not accepted Christ, but what a shame it would be if they had an opportunity to hear truth from someone like you, and you passed on that opportunity.

-Greg Landry

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 20:1-3 and Romans 1-3.

Tomorrow we will continue with Romans 4-7.

We are the Temple of God

Mark 11 & John 12

Tracing the history of the temple of God throughout scripture is a fascinating study. The temple of Jerusalem and Jesus’ pronouncement of judgement on it comes into focus in our passage today. Before we look at this pericope in Mark and John, I want to give a brief overview of the history of God’s temple leading up to this point. 

The first time we hear of a structure that God dwells in is the tabernacle in Exodus (read Ex. 25-40). This was not a temple but a portable structure that represented God’s presence among his people. This was used for hundreds of years until the time of Solomon. David (Solomon’s father) desired to build a temple for God but God wanted Solomon to build it. The construction and dedication of the first temple can be read in I Kings 6-8. However, after Solomon the people of Israel engaged in generational sin and idolatry for hundreds of years and in 586 BC, the glorious temple that was erected was utterly destroyed by the Babylonians. Roughly 70 years later (516 BC) a second temple was constructed and it is in this second temple that our passage takes place in. 

Why does Jesus flip tables over and make a ruckus? Because the temple was originally meant to be a sanctuary of holiness and worship to God. However, it morphed into a commercial center for trade, business, and politics. The glory and holiness of God was lost. So Jesus as the rightful king of Israel pronounced God’s judgement upon the temple. Forty years later (AD 70) the temple would be destroyed again, this time by the Romans. 

You may be wondering – was another temple built? No. But Paul teaches in his letters, the church, the group of redeemed human beings in the Messiah, now become the temple of God. Whereas God’s presence filled the tabernacle and previous temple, now his presence dwells among his people by means of his holy spirit. Whereas the previous temples were places of worship and holiness now the church is the epicenter of worship to God. Listen to the apostle Paul:

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” – I Cor. 3.16-17

-Jacob Rohrer

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Mark 11 & John 12

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 22 and Mark 12.

2 Fathers?

John 7-8

Okay, let me start by saying, it was SO hard deciding where to even start when I was writing today’s devotion. There is just so much meat in these two chapters, and I highly recommend that you set aside enough time today to really dig into these scriptures.

In today’s first chapter, John 7, we watch as Jesus instructs his disciples to go to the feast without him, because the Jews do not hate the disciples as they do Jesus. Eventually Jesus goes, but in secret. He went to the temple and began teaching, aware that if he were to make himself known to too many people, things wouldn’t end well. Which of course, in the long run, they didn’t – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As Jesus said, his time had not yet fully come. This is one of the reasons he was often so discreet. He couldn’t yet draw too much attention to himself, because he knew that would almost immediately lead to his death. This is important to note because he was not done with his time on earth; he knew there was more to accomplish before fulfilling the prophecy. And so he did, showing as much love and kindness as possible,
and bringing thousands and thousands of people into the light. (And in doing so, setting an example for us to do the same.)

We could, of course, continue to talk about this one chapter for days and days,
however, there’s also a ton of good stuff worth addressing from the next chapter, John 8. This one’s actually jam-packed with wise words and food for thought… so let’s dive in.


The first little section in John 8 is the story of the adulterous woman, which is
definitely a good one and can teach us a lot. However if you don’t know already, this story was not in early manuscripts of the book of John, and was likely not written by him. Regardless, the important take away of this story is that none of us have the right to judge another, for we all sin, and we all deserve forgiveness. What stood out to me most though, is that Jesus said “I do not condemn you, either. Go…” which of course is the point of the story, but then he said, “From now on sin no more.” We can’t forget this part in Jesus’ line of thinking. Yes, we can be forgiven, but that doesn’t mean just getting away with something and then going and doing it again. It’s also about repentance; turning yourself around and doing things different from there on out. That’s maybe the most important step: what you do after the fact.


In the next few sections of chapter 8, we’re walked through a series of conversations between Jesus and the Pharisees/Jews. Repeatedly, Jesus (humbly) says something authoritative, and repeatedly, the Pharisees have some illegitimate reason to disagree. Jesus describes himself in many ways over chapter 8: the Light, the Son, the Truth, etc. This is who he is, always, but it is in this chapter that these attributes resulted in so many people coming to believe in him, and so many people coming to hate him. What the Pharisees failed to understand was that Jesus truly did have authority over them. He is the Mediator between God and man. When he claims all these things about who
he is, it’s not to glorify himself, it’s simply the truth, God’s truth. As the Son of God he speaks God’s truth, not on his own initiative, but as the Father teaches him (John 8:28).


Jesus has to repeat himself many times in chapter 8, because his audience is really not getting it. At one point he even asks, “Why are you not understanding what I am saying?” which I always imagine was said in slight exasperation. From this point on, he really begins spelling it out for them, and for us. In verses 38-47 Jesus refers to two fathers, ours and his. At first the Jews think he means their descendant, Abraham. He proceeds to tell them that if they were truly children of Abraham, they would be acting like Abraham, but they’re not. Then they try to refute this by saying, oh well actually no, God is our one Father. Jesus then replies with, well if God was your Father, you would love me, because He’s the one who sent me. Then he reveals that the father he was really referring to as theirs was the devil, which had to have stung, but should
really make us think. Who are we allowing to lead our lives? As children of God, are we fully giving ourselves to Him- our Creator, our Potter, our Abba.

Lastly I want to quickly mention something about 8:58. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (NASB). Many times trinitarians take this verse and try to claim that this means Jesus was around forever, making him one with God. However, it was really translated wrong, (as many verses are, due to the overwhelming amount of biased translators) and if translated correctly, would read something more like, “I am he,” or “I am the one,” which in this context, would just be referring to himself as the Messiah, existing not physically in Abraham’s time, or before, but in God’s plans for the world.

As you go through the rest of your week, pray that, being of God, you may hear the word of God, because followers of God WILL hear Him, and will know the truth (John 8:45-47), and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).

– Isabella Osborn

It’s a treat to hear from Isabella today. She is a wise and caring home-school student from South Carolina who loves loving God and others.

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – John 7-8

Tomorrow we will read John 9:1-10:21 as we continue on our journey through God’s Word. Come follow along!

Who Do You Say He Is?

Matthew 16, Mark 8 and Luke 9:18-27

As we read through the gospels we see so many different responses to Jesus: awe, fear, mocking, belief, anger, laughter, and obedience, to name a few. Some dropped everything to follow him, some were scared of the unknown and asked him to leave. Similarly, today, there are many varied responses to Jesus as well as much question and argument over who Jesus really is.

Jesus knew of the confusion when he asked his disciples – “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27) Our parallel passage in Luke has similar wording. In Matthew he asks “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13) – which is also the same question since Jesus used the phrase ‘Son of Man’ for himself 28 times in the book of Matthew.

The disciples had lots of answers, just as you would receive lots of answers if you asked a multitude of people today who Jesus was.

But, more importantly – Jesus next asked who THEY, his disciples, thought Jesus was. These were the men who had already sacrificed to get to know Jesus better. They had followed him night and day. They had seen his miracles and heard his teaching. They had been confused MANY times by this man they had been observing and what he was teaching. But, they kept asking questions and sought to understand more and more.

So, when asked, bold Peter was ready with an answer. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). And he was commended for his correct answer.

There are so many things Peter didn’t say. He didn’t say you are God the Son. He didn’t say you are the son of Joseph. He didn’t say you are a wise teacher that will probably be forgotten in a few centuries.

He said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Christ was not Jesus’ last name. Christ is a Greek term for the Messiah (in Hebrew) – both of which refer to the Anointed One. The Messiah was the long anticipated hero savior God had promised to send to the Jews. He is the Anointed One to rule over God’s new creation.

At the time Jesus commended Peter for his correct answer, but warned them not to tell others – YET. There was still so much of Jesus’ ministry to happen – including his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven.

But, now is the time to tell! Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God!

There is still more to happen in the exciting timeline of Jesus. He will return to earth. He will judge the world and reign over God’s new creation. A time is coming when, “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11 NIV). Don’t wait until then to find out who Jesus really is! Don’t blindly accept what others say about Jesus . Sacrifice and follow him as the disciples did, night and day, look into the Scriptures that reveal who he is, ask questions. Keep searching until you can say with the confidence of Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And then, tell the world to prepare them for his second coming.

For a deeper study into who Jesus is, check out the following websites as they work through many Biblical texts and scholarship seeking a clear understanding of who Jesus is:

21st Century Reformation – 21stcr.org

One God Report (which also includes an excellent list of other helpful blogs, websites and podcasts) – OneGodReport.com

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Matthew 16, Mark 8 and Luke 9:18-27

Tomorrow we will continue on in each of these gospels with Matthew 17, Mark 9 and Luke 9:28-62.

Jesus Talks with a Samaritan Woman

John 2-4

You may be familiar with the story of the “Good Samaritan”.  But do you know the story of the “Bad Samaritan”?  You might know this better as the story of the woman at the well.

In Jesus’ day, Jews thought very little of Samaritans.  It may not be an overstatement to say the Jews hated the Samaritans.  The origin of this animosity dated back to the Assyrian invasion of Israel around 721 BC.  The Samaritans were of mixed race, partially Jewish, and partially who-knows-what.  They weren’t welcome in the Temple in Jerusalem, so they worshiped in their own temple in Samaria.  And, as Jesus pointed out, they worshiped what they didn’t even understand.

In John 4, we find Jesus arriving at a well near Sychar around noon.  Jesus waited at the well, while his disciples went into town to buy some food.  As Jesus waited, a woman came up to draw water.  I’ve heard this would have been a very unusual time to draw water – and she probably came then to avoid having to interact with others – because even the people in town would have looked down on her.

Anyway, Jesus started up a conversation with the woman, asking her for water.  In doing this, Jesus cut across all the social norms of his day.  First, Jesus was a Jew, and the woman was an “inferior” Samaritan.  Second, as I understand it, men of the day felt superior to women, and again, wouldn’t typically strike up a conversation.  Finally, Jesus was holy and the Samaritan woman wasn’t.  And religious leaders of his day felt superior to common sinners, and wouldn’t associate with them.  Jesus cut through all of those norms to interact with this woman.  The obvious reason given was because Jesus was thirsty, and the woman could draw water from the well.  I believe the ulterior motive was to share salvation with this woman and ultimately with the whole city.

Right from the beginning of the conversation, the woman was surprised that Jesus would even talk with her, since he was a Jew.  Jesus pointed out that if she understood who it was she was talking with, He could offer her something amazing – water welling up to eternal life.  Jesus told her to get her husband, to which she replied, “I don’t have a husband.”  When Jesus told her that she had had 5 husbands and that she wasn’t married to the man she was living with then – she recognized Jesus was a prophet. She said, “I know that Messiah is coming.  When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  Jesus told her directly, “I who speak to you am he.”  The woman left her water jug and immediately went into town to tell everyone that she had found the Messiah.  The whole town came out and ultimately believed – first, because of the testimony of the woman, then eventually because of their experience with Jesus.

Often, when we read a story like this, we associate with Jesus.  We may think, “I should follow Jesus’ example, break social norms, and associate with those who are “inferior” to me.”  

While this may be true, I’d like to focus on the woman, and see what we can learn from her.  Although presumably “unworthy”, and probably a social outcast, Jesus revealed Himself to her – little by little.  She first recognized he was a Jew, then a prophet, and finally the messiah.  Once she recognized that Jesus was the messiah, the savior, she immediately dropped what she was doing to go tell everyone about her experience with Jesus. Then she literally led the people of the town to meet Jesus.  Think of how little theology she knew – how few spiritual truths.  But she had found the Lord, and she wanted to tell everyone. Her enthusiasm and eagerness to tell others of her experience with the Lord puts us to shame. 

When you were introduced to Jesus, what was your reaction?  Did you tell everyone you knew about Jesus, and what he had done for you?  Did you do everything you could to bring as many people as possible to encounter Jesus?

Jesus pointed out to his disciples, “Open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest.”  He wasn’t talking about agriculture, he was talking about a crop for eternal life – people needing to come into a saving relationship with the Lord.

I challenge you to first, truly develop a relationship with Jesus.  And once you do, tell everyone you know about the good news, so they can be saved too.  The consequences are literally life and death – for eternity.  What are you waiting for?

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – John 2-4

Tomorrow we will read Mark 2 as we continue Seeking God, Growing our Faith, and Increasing our Love on our 2020 Bible reading plan.