Identity: From Death to Life

If I’m honest, today left me feeling weary, burdened, and frustrated along with bit of grief. I know we all have days like that from time to time as it’s just part of living in a broken world. As easy as it is to fall into a pattern of lamenting about how awful our day was and wondering if it’ll ever get better, God wants us to respond by giving Him our burdens, worries, grief and concerns. It’s much easier said than done, but if we have faith that God has created us in His image, instilled purpose in us and loves us to the point of adopting us as His children, then can’t we trust Him with our day-to-day struggles, too? Not only that, but as children of God, we believe in the hope of eternal life in the Kingdom where there will be no more trials, pain or obstacles because Jesus overcame them all!

Matthew 6: 31-34

So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (CSB)

This passage is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and Jesus, God’s son, is telling us that God knows exactly what we need and will provide accordingly. This isn’t limited to just physical needs such as food and drink; rather God will always take care of us in all aspects.

John 3: 1-6

There was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to him at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform these signs you do unless God were with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 “How can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. (CSB)

Once we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior and submit to God’s authority over our lives, the Holy Spirit starts to work within us and we then become a child of God. If we are a child of God, Galatians 4:7 tells us, “So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.” (CSB)

The word “slave” is referring to being a slave to sin. We are no longer bound by sin’s punishment of death, but instead we are redeemed through Jesus and therefore able to inherit the gift of the Kingdom! (Romans 6:23)

God’s redeeming grace brings us from death to life. How incredible is that? I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on what has been weighing you down lately. What burdens have you been carrying that you need to surrender? Maybe a circumstance where you don’t have all the answers and don’t know how you’ll make it through? Maybe a strained relationship? Maybe a pattern of sin that you need God’s help to break? Whatever the situation may be, we know that the same God who fulfills His promises (Joshua 21:45; Numbers 23:19) is the God who made us. And because He never fails, we can rest in Him until the end of the age when we inherit the gift of the Kingdom.

-Caitie Wood

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway here – Isaiah 3-4 and Ephesians 5

The Best Shape for a Table

Galatians 3

Sometimes when you read a section of the Bible, something in particular sticks out to you. As you think about it, several other thoughts bloom from it. I love Ecclesiastes, but there are 4 verses from Galatians 3 that stole my attention.

“…for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29)

Paul is letting the Galatians know that any lines that divide people do not exist under Christ. Anyone who calls Jesus “Lord” is right there with him as an heir to the promise, as much of a child of God as any other child of God. As much of a child of God as Jesus himself!

Does this seem too good to be true? Is it too radically inclusive? As we’ve explored, some of the early Jewish Christians scoffed at the idea of including the gentiles without making them meet certain conditions. That’s like saying that in order to have access to God, you have to be like me. How would you feel if I expressed that I was part of the “in” crowd that has particular boxes checked, and unless you also have them checked, you’re an outsider without proper access to a relationship with God? Do you sometimes think other Christians are not real Christians because they think differently than you do or have other ways of doing things?

What other categories might Paul have included in his list if he were here today in our culture? Would he have said there is no Republican or Democrat, no conservative or liberal, no boomer or millennial? No black, white, brown, or any other skin shade or culture you can think of? No rich or poor, young or old, dumb or smart? No Catholic, Lutheran, or Pentecostal? No introvert or extrovert? No lawyer or plumber? No young earth, old earth, or evolutionary creationists? No five-point Calvinists or process theologians? I can go all day.

How does it make you feel that everyone belonging to Christ is equally a child of God? Is it a liberating and empowering thought, or does it ruffle your feathers a little? How does it sit with you to know that females and males equally carry the image of God (Gen 1:27)? Can you handle that those with political views different than yours have a place at the table with you? Are you uncomfortable that you are a brother or sister in Christ of someone who doesn’t have the same doctrine as you, or has less money than you, or has a thousand times the money you have? Through Jesus, God extended his promise out to anyone who would accept it. Who are we to try to take that away because of dividing lines that were already erased?

When we think of a round table, we think of King Arthur and Camelot. We think of the Holy Grail, the Bridge of Death, questions about swallows, Tim, witches, and very small rocks. At least I can’t help but think of all those things and so many more. Anyway, it’s a round table because it doesn’t have a head. Nobody has the seat of honor; everyone has equal status. It’s the kind of thing that elevates everyone and excludes no one. Are the Christian circles you are part of really like that?

Paul is saying that under Christ we’re all sitting at a big round table. That’s just how it is. You and I differ in important ways. Being in Christ doesn’t make us all uniform, but it does make us united. Your personality, gifts, and things that make you unique do not disappear under Christ! They are expressive of a beautiful diversity capable of reaching all the dark corners of the world.

We have a lot to talk about, and so many things to do. Will you sit at the table?

-Jay Laurent

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Ecclesiastes 5-6 and Galatians 3

Loving the God who Loves You

Deuteronomy 13-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Bethany Ligon

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

Time to Purge

Deuteronomy 7-8

Deuteronomy 7:5 – This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire.

I’m a keeper. Not exactly a pack rat. Definitely not a hoarder. But I do like to keep stuff from the past. 

For example, I have movie theater ticket stubs that date back to the 1980s! Yeah! I know. I even scrapbooked them at one point! Can you believe it?

Here’s another example. Several years ago I went through a grand purge of my closet and found a tshirt that a boyfriend from my early college years had given me. Why had I kept that? It had zero relevance to my current, happily married life and yet I still had the silly shirt.

It didn’t take long for me to decide to toss that shirt in the trash. 

As we continue our reading through Deuteronomy this week, we read about all the stuff that God is directing the Israelites to get rid of once they enter the Promised Land.

Specifically in Deuteronomy 7:5, God is referring to idols that all the “ites” nations worshipped. God tells them that if His people do not break down, smash, and burn the idols that those practices will separate them from the love of God. 

When we enter into a relationship with God, our lives begin to transform from the inside out. And for those of us who have been on the journey for some time, we realize that God is always refining our character and letting us experience a life that will draw us closer to Him. 

And sometimes that means we need to get rid of the stuff that is keeping us from having a closer relationship with our Father. That “stuff” might be actual physical materials. It might be habits or relationships. But it is also mindsets, the ideas that casually roam freely through our minds that do us more harm than good. 

“I’m not good enough.”

“No one understands me.”

“It’s too hard to accomplish.” 

“Who would want to take a chance on me?”

LIES! LIES! LIES!

Listen to me. 

You are a child of the Most High God! 

You are precious.

You are valuable!

You have a grand purpose in God’s eyes and that purpose will be fulfilled!

When God tells us to get rid of the old stuff in order to experience the new creation He has intended for us to be…THIS is what He is talking about! 

Dear Friend, Do not let old mindsets and ways of thinking separate you from the love of God. 

Believe His Word. 

Do what it says. 

Experience the life He has designed for you to live! 

-Bethany Ligon

Read or listen to today’s Bible passages at BibleGateway – Deuteronomy 7-8 and Luke 12

Dad!

Proverbs 30-31

Proverbs 30 4c NIV sgl

I doubt there are too many devotions over the last two chapters of Proverbs that are mostly aimed at the topic of Fathers, but for whatever reason or coincidence, here we are on Father’s Day – and our assigned Bible reading includes the Proverbs 31 superhero – the Wife of Noble Character.  But, I was surprised to see how many passages popped out to me regarding dear old dad and our relationship with him.

First of all, we run into an interesting passage of rhetorical questions about who can control the wind and water and established the ends of the earth?  “What is his name, and the name of his son?  Tell me if you know!”  (Proverbs 30:4 NIV)  I read some very differing commentaries on this passage and I feel a lot like the writer of this proverb, Agur, who confessed, “I am the most ignorant of men,” (Proverbs 30:2 NIV).  I do not have a full understanding of the Almighty God.  I can’t grasp His eternal greatness and power and all the deeds He has done  – and will do.  But, I am thankful that I DO know who created this spinning world we call home, the sun that warms it just right, the water cycle that refreshes it, the plants and animals that provide beauty, nourishment, and joy, and the families that inhabit it.  I marvel at the power, ingenuity and love of my Heavenly Father and the chance to be called His child.  And, I love, love, love, that He has a Son and I know his name is Jesus.  And this son Jesus would display his family resemblance to His dad by exerting power over the wind and the waves.  He would be given the most difficult but beautiful task of drawing us sinful creatures to His perfect Dad.

Poor Agur lived at a time when this plan of God was not yet revealed, but only hinted at here and there.  So, he was left asking – “Tell me if you know?”  If you know your Heavenly Father and what His Son has done so that YOU can be called a Child of God – who will you tell today?  Make it a Father’s Day that counts by telling someone about your Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten Son and the opportunity opened for them to have a perfect Dad, too.

I am so blessed that my father (and mother and grandparents and church family) on Earth did tell me – and many others.   Thanks, Dad!  It has been an honor to respect and try to live up to my dad.  I had a good one (and doubly blessed with a good father-in-law, too!).

There is a depressing passage of those who are haughty, disdainful, teeth for swords (heard any of that lately), devouring the poor.  And the FIRST description of these evil and hurtful people are, “There are those who curse their fathers…” (Proverbs 30:11 NIV) Can you think of any ways our society may have unknowingly become quite expert in cursing our fathers.  In so many sitcoms the father figure is stripped of all respect and is a bumbling goofball.  In giving women their “rights” we have neglected the responsibility and rights of dad.  And, then it sadly happens on a personal level, too.  Even in good Christian homes, sometimes.  How can we guard against cursing our fathers?  How will we show dad the respect God designed them to receive?  (Notice I did not say the respect that they have earned).

It appears there is even punishment in store for those who mock dad.  Oh be careful little tongue what you say.  AND – Agur seems to take it even a step further – be careful little eyes how you roll.  You know, the classic eye roll when you don’t agree with dad?  Guilty.  Proverbs 30:17 says “The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures.”  Ouch.  This is serious stuff – regardless of what the “funny” sitcoms would have you believe.

Look at your own attitudes, words, actions, and eye rolls.  How are you showing respect for your father (and Christian father figures) not cursing or mocking?  Thankfulness not disdain?

Thanks Agur for the Father’s Day devotion.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+30-31&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 12-14 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan (1) (1)

 

 

Backs Turned to God, or Turning Back to God – Your Choice

Galatians 4

Galatians 4 9

Picking up from yesterday’s chapter, Paul continues to talk about heirs.   I think it is best to go back and read the end of Galatians 3 again (remember, the chapter breaks were added later – not by Paul when he was writing).  Everyone was a slave under the law.  But thankfully, God made a way that they (and we) could become His children.  By accepting Christ, one can become a child of God through adoption.

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

From slave to heir – what an amazing opportunity!  How often do we take that for granted?  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, not only have we been freed from the bondage of slavery, but we have also become heirs of God – and our inheritance is eternal life in His Kingdom.

This next section speaks of the Galatians turning their backs to God.  Paul is feeling like he wasted his time and effort with them since they have reverted to how they were before they knew God.  Paul seems to not be able to understand how they could go back.  When he was with them to bring them the gospel the first time, they were a blessing to him, but now they are causing him great distress.  Paul even goes as far as to compare it to the pains of childbirth as he is waiting for Christ to be formed in them again.  As someone who went through that last year, my sarcastic side thinks “Really, Paul?  What do you know about that?”  But my somewhat more logical side can recognize that he is using that language to convey the seriousness of his concern – both in how much he cares for them as if they were his own children, and also how hurt he is by the turning of their backs on what he taught them.

I imagine that the Galatians were not intentionally turning away from God.  But by not being intentionally focused on God, that was the result.  I know I am guilty of this.  It takes work to keep your mind and life set on God.  You may not be actively doing things that would displease Him, but by not actively doing things that do please Him, you are still going to be drifting further and further from Him.

Going back to Abraham’s story again, Paul brings up his two sons.

22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise. […] 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”[f]31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

We want to be children of the promise – of the free woman.  And the only way for us to do this is through Christ, so if you haven’t made the decision to follow him yet, I encourage you to do so!

~Stephanie Fletcher