Stuck in a Quandary

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 17 & 18
Psalms Reading: Psalm 37
* New Testament Reading: Romans 7

Romans 6 talked about God’s requirement that Christians die to sin.  Romans 7 points out that we can’t do this in our own power alone.  Romans 8 will give us the solution.

But today, we’re stuck in a quandary.  We know that God requires that we put to death the sinful nature in our life.  How do we do that?  The obvious first thought is by following a long set of rules.  (We call this Legalism – the idea that we can get right with God by following a bunch of rules.)

For a while, things seem to go along well.  We’re following the rules, and we feel more spiritual.  We develop a long list of “dos” and “don’ts”.  Over time, the list grows, and it gets harder and harder to follow.  The problem with this is that it addresses our actions, but doesn’t change our hearts.  In our mind, we want to follow God, but our sinful nature wars against our mind, wanting to do whatever our sinful nature wants.

Paul said it like this in Romans 7: 15, “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do,  I do not do, but what I hate, I do.”  And in 7:19, “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep doing.”

Over time, it gets harder and harder to follow all the rules.  If we carry legalism to its logical conclusion, eventually, either we get to the point where we just pretend (we become a hypocrite), or we abandon the whole farce and just walk away. 

Paul sums up the desperation like this in Romans 7:24, “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  If we are perfectly honest, I suspect all of us who profess to be Christians have experienced this.

Fortunately, the chapter doesn’t stop there.  Paul goes on in 7:25a, “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  We don’t get into the details until Romans 8 of how we can not just overcome, but be “more than conquerors.”

In Romans 6, Paul said that we must die to sin.  Here in Romans 7, he goes on to say that we also die to the law.  This may seem crazy, since God’s law was good – pointing out what sin was.  So we’re not bound by the law, and we’re not free to continue to sin.  What is the solution?  

We’ll find out tomorrow.  

Spoiler alert:

Romans 8:10-11 says, “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.”

-Steve Mattison

Reflection Questions

  1. What has your experience been with your sinful nature? What good do you want to do that you haven’t? What evil have you done that you didn’t want to do?
  2. Have you had any experience with legalism? How did you do at trying to follow every rule? Where was your heart? Did you tend more towards hypocrisy and going through the motions or giving up and walking away from God?
  3. What is God’s desire for you? How do you know? What does He reveal about Himself in your reading of His words today?

What are You a Slave of?

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 15 & 16
Psalms Reading: Psalm 36
* New Testament Reading: Romans 6

Romans 5 talks about God’s amazing grace, and how we can be made right with God despite our ugly sinful past, because Jesus’ death paid for our sins.  Romans 6 starts by asking a ridiculous question, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”  Paul then answered the question in verse 2, “By no means!”.

Paul went on to say that when people really accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they die to sin, just like Jesus physically died.  And since Jesus was raised up to a new (eternal) life, our life should be radically different – a new life to be lived for God.  Romans 6: 11-12 says, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.”  This means we must actively resist sin in our lives, and instead deliberately choose to live a life pleasing to God.  This isn’t just a good idea, it’s required for true Christians.

Paul offered an analogy that everyone in his day would have been very familiar with: slaves.  Slaves must obey their masters.  A person living a life of sin is in rebellion against God and is a slave to sin, and therefore can’t follow God.  By accepting Christ and dying to sin, a person can then be a slave to God.  Paul then made the argument that, since you’ve been freed from slavery to sin, you can’t serve sin anymore – sin is not your master any more.  God is now your master, so you must obey Him.

Romans 6:21-22 goes on to say, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?  Those things result in death!  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

This is a pretty stark contrast.  Your life used to be filled with sin.  You did lots of things you are now ashamed of.  And oh yeah, the result of that lifestyle is death.  God has liberated us from sin to become a slave of God – which causes us to live a holy life, with the result culminating in eternal life in the coming Kingdom of God.

Paul closed the chapter with a verse that is likely familiar, Romans 6:23, which says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When we work, we earn wages.  We deserve what we get paid because of the work we did.  Similarly, we will get “paid” for the life we live.  If we persist in our sin, the wage we can expect is death.  Thanks anyway, but I’d rather accept God’s gift.  But we can’t get God’s gift just because we want it, we must turn from our life of sin, and become God’s slave.  Only then can we receive His gift of eternal life.

So, the choices are sin and death, or a life of service to God and eternal life.  Some consider this a tough choice.  Which will you choose?

-Steve Mattison

Reflection Questions

  1. What are you a slave of? Are there any changes in your life that ought to be made?
  2. Are you prepared to receive the wages of your sins? Or have you accepted the gift of God? If so, how and what difference does that make in your life?
  3. What does God reveal about Himself and His heart in today’s Bible reading? What kind of Master is He?

Is it Worth It?

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 13 & 14
Psalms Reading: Psalm 35
*New Testament Reading: Romans 5

Some may be tempted to think the burden of living a Christian life just isn’t worth it.  Life is boring, you can’t have any fun, and all the rules make life almost not worth living.  If someone ever thought that, Romans 5 is for them.  This is an exciting chapter in an exciting book.

Romans 5 talks about justification – which refers to how a person can be declared righteous before God through faith in Jesus Christ.  The first half of Romans 5 talks about the benefits of being justified, and the second half tells how justification is possible.  

You might think the benefits are just for the future, limited to eternal life in God’s future kingdom.  Think again.  There are real benefits to living a life completely sold out to God right here and right now.

Romans 5:1 starts out in the past tense, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Chapter 4 pointed out that being justified before God has always been through faith, not through works.)  If we’re living the life God called us to live, and we are living by faith, we have been reconciled to God through Jesus.  If we meet the criteria, whatever else we have done in our past is forgiven, and we have been declared righteous.

We’re told the alternative in Isaiah 48:22, “There is no peace, says the Lord, for the wicked.”   Peace with God versus no peace.  Let me think, which should I choose?  I want peace!  When you live a life of sin, you’ve declared war against God.  If you’re currently at war with God, how’s that working out for you?  Consider peace.

Romans 5:2a continues by talking about the present, “through whom [speaking of Jesus] we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”  In the Old Testament, Jews didn’t have direct access to God.  Only priests could even enter the tabernacle, and only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies only once a year.  And Gentiles couldn’t even come into the inner courtyard.  Through Jesus, we have gained access to God’s grace, and ultimately to God.  And this is for today, not just in some distant future.  We can boldly approach His throne of grace, and pray directly to God in Jesus’ name.

Romans 5:2b tells of the future “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”  When Jesus returns, the faithful will live eternally with God.  That’s not just a “hope” in the ordinary meaning of the word, that is our assurance.  And in the assurance for our future, we can rejoice today – no matter what problems today may bring.  Again, I want that tangible benefit today.  Especially when times are tough.

The next passage points out that we won’t be immune from suffering, just because we have a great relationship with God.  But instead of destroying us, that suffering will be for our benefit, building Christian character, and making us more firm in our future hope.

Romans 5:5 finishes this paragraph by saying, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  As we wait for our future hope, we also have the love of God in our hearts today (that goes right along with the peace above).

The next section tells us that God loved us so much, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  We didn’t deserve it.  In fact, since we were at war with God, we deserved only death.  That shows how much God loved us, even when we were in open rebellion against Him.  So since we have been justified, we have been reconciled with God, and He will save us from His coming wrath through Jesus’ blood.

I’d say all of this is a powerfully compelling reason to live a Christian life today, completely sold out to God.  Even if there wasn’t a future reward (which there is!).

The rest of Romans 5 tells us how we are justified, but first, it reminds us how sin entered the world.  Adam sinned, and all of his descendants inherited his punishment – death.  You might think that isn’t fair.  Honestly, God was gracious in establishing this pattern, and I’ll explain why.  If each of us had the opportunity of never dying in this current age if we just didn’t sin, we’d still all sin, and all die.  So the result would be the same as inheriting our punishment from our first ancestor.  But since God established the pattern of one person earning something, and many others inheriting that… God was able to use the same pattern to have Jesus live the only perfect life, and to have his spiritual descendants inherit His reward.

This shows God’s incredible grace.  One sin caused innumerable deaths, even for those before Moses (when the law was given) who didn’t break a specific law of God.  But Jesus’ one act of obedience – paying the penalty for sin with his perfect life – was after a seemingly infinite number of sins.  Romans 5:19b says, “…so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

The bottom line is this:  Only Jesus deserves eternal life, because only Jesus lived the perfect life God requires.  Jesus wrote us into his will with his blood, leaving his reward (eternal life) to those who would believe in him and live the life God called them to live.  Jesus died to put the will in effect.  He now lives, and is distributing some of the benefits of that will to believers today including: 

  • Peace with God
  • Access to God’s grace and to God himself
  • Hope today for a future in God’s kingdom
  • Building Christian character through suffering
  • God’s love in our hearts

The final distribution of Jesus’ will will be at the Great White Throne Judgement when Jesus will judge the living and the dead.  Those whose names ARE NOT found in the book of life will be thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death.  Those whose names ARE found in the book of life will have God “wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” (Revelation 21:4) And will get to live with God and Jesus in paradise forever.

So, is it worth it to live a Christian life?  As for me, absolutely!  Sign me up!  

What do you think?

-Steve Mattison

Reflection Questions

  1. Is it worth it to you to live a Christian life? Why? What benefits do you receive? What is the alternative and the consequences?
  2. What do you know about God from your reading today? Thank Him.

Bought with the Blood of the Lamb

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 11 & 12
Psalms Reading: Psalm 34
New Testament Reading: Romans 4

We have been bought with the blood of the Lamb. What a glorious thing! Praise God!

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 NASB 1995)

As you probably noticed, all of today’s readings tie together beautifully to point to God’s plan of redemption for mankind. We get a glimpse of this plan in Exodus 12 when the Israelites are spared from the angel of death by painting the blood of the passover lamb on their doorposts.

12 On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the Lord! 13 But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt. (NLT)

In Exodus 12, the specificity of the condition of the lamb—that no bone shall be broken—is significant.

43 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the instructions for the festival of Passover. No outsiders are allowed to eat the Passover meal. 44 But any slave who has been purchased may eat it if he has been circumcised. 45 Temporary residents and hired servants may not eat it. 46 Each Passover lamb must be eaten in one house. Do not carry any of its meat outside, and do not break any of its bones. 47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate this Passover festival. (NASB 1995)

Psalm 34 also mentions how the righteous will be redeemed and we see another reference to no bones being broken.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,

But the Lord delivers him out of them all.

20 He keeps all his bones,

Not one of them is broken.

21 Evil shall slay the wicked,

And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,

And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. (NASB 1995)

Just like no bone was broken on the Passover Lamb, so too the scriptures tell us that no bones were broken on Jesus at the time of his crucifixion and death.

John 19

33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. (NASB 1995)

Romans 4 reminds us that we can be credited as righteous through our faith in Christ Jesus and that is the only way.

6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those

    whose transgressions are forgiven,

    whose sins are covered.

8 Blessed is the one

    whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” (NIV)

Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for us and for that I am forever grateful!

23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (NIV)

I was recently listening to a podcast that reminded me what a literary genius God is. Who else could seamlessly tie together this amazing story written over a course of some 1500 years? What other book has done the same thing? I had never thought about it that way and it gave me an even deeper appreciation of our amazing Heavenly Father and His word. To think, we get to be part of this amazing story if we so choose. The choice is ours. His story is ultimately a love letter to us. What could be more beautiful than that?

Reflection Questions:

  1. Will we return the love that God has so generously bestowed upon us? He poured out His heart in His love letter to us. Will we stay the course and remain faithful?
  2. What do you learn about God in His love letter to you today? What does He want you to know about Him?

Trusting God

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 5 & 6
Psalms Reading: Psalm 31
New Testament Reading: Romans 1

In today’s reading in Exodus, Moses gives us yet more examples of how not to talk to God. In chapter 5, we witness the irreverent tone Moses uses with the God of the universe.

22 Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (NIV)

Maybe he needed another reminder that he was standing on holy ground. God then clearly lays out His plan to Moses for delivering the Israelites. He explains that He will use the force of His strong hand to make Pharaoh let the people go. 

Since Moses seems to forget He is conversing with Almighty God, God reminds him in chapter 6:

2 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord; 3 and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, Lord, I did not make Myself known to them. 4 I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. 5 Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. (NASB 1995)

The NASB 1995 translation gives the following footnote concerning verse 3: Heb YHWH, usually rendered Lord.

Just think, Moses was privileged enough for God to utter His name to him! If this were a work of fiction and I had to write Moses’ response, I would want it to be a picture of Moses falling to his knees and begging for mercy for questioning God and not showing Him the praise and honor He is due. Unfortunately, even though God equips Moses with the very words he should say to the Israelites, Moses lets his fear of man overtake his fear of God. He becomes argumentative with God in verse 12 and 30 of Exodus chapter 6.

12 But Moses spoke before the Lord, saying, “Behold, the sons of Israel have not listened to me; how then will Pharaoh listen to me, for I am unskilled in speech?” (NASB 1995)

30 But Moses said before the Lord, “Behold, I am unskilled in speech; how then will Pharaoh listen to me?” (NASB 1995)

Moses’ fear was misplaced and showed a lack of trust in God and a lack of recognition of God’s might. He was more fearful of man at this moment and clearly didn’t trust God to come through for him. The Bible makes it clear that we must not let fear of man cause us to disobey God. Psalm 118:6 and Matthew 10:28 are great examples.

Psalm 118:

6 The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? (NASB 1995)

Matthew 10:

28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (NASB 1995)

In sharp contrast to Moses, David demonstrates his trust in God and a recognition of God’s lovingkindness in Psalm 31:

14 But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord,

I say, “You are my God.”

15 My times are in Your hand;

Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.

16 Make Your face to shine upon Your servant;

Save me in Your lovingkindness.

and

23 O love the Lord, all you His godly ones!

The Lord preserves the faithful

And fully recompenses the proud doer.

24 Be strong and let your heart take courage,

All you who hope in the Lord. (NASB 1995)

It certainly seemed that David knew God on a much more intimate level and actively praised His amazing attributes. The scriptures tell us he was a man after God’s own heart. For all the flaws David had, that is pretty special to be described in this way.

Acts 13

22 After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’

May our faith always be bigger than our fear. May we be more like David when it comes to relying on God and trusting His character. 

Romans chapter 1 has great words of admonition concerning what our faith should look like:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

-Kristy Cisneros

Reflection Questions:

  1. How can you deepen your prayer life with God to have it look more like someone after God’s own heart?
  2. On most days, which is bigger: your fear or your faith? 
  3. What picture do you get of God in today’s reading?

God Makes Holy Ground

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 3 & 4
Psalms Reading: Psalm 30
New Testament Reading: Romans Introduction Below

These words in Exodus 3:5 always give me pause:

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (NIV)

In this situation, Moses saw a burning bush that was not being consumed by the fire and walked over to investigate it. He hears God’s voice from within the bush and approaches it, but God reminds Him of some important boundaries and guidelines (don’t come any closer, take off your sandals, remember this is holy ground). In verse 6 we read, 

6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. (NIV)

If you stop here, you would think Moses gets it. He recognizes he is hearing from God Almighty. Yet, somehow, it doesn’t seem to completely sink in for him. I say that because Moses proceeds to pepper his conversation with God with all kinds of doubt and questioning.

God acknowledges that he has seen the suffering of His people and shares His plan with Moses in verse 10:

10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (NIV)

Moses has the audacity to question God. 

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (NIV).

As we read on, we see many instances of “But God, what about this or what about that.” 

I would like to contrast this dialogue between Moses and God with David’s words of praise in  Psalm 30.

1 I will exalt you, Lord,

    for you lifted me out of the depths

    and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

Lord my God, I called to you for help,

    and you healed me.

3 You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;

    you spared me from going down to the pit. (NIV)

David gives God the praise he is due. 

-Kristy Cisneros

Reflection Questions:

  1. In reflecting on today’s reading, are you more like Moses or David?  
  2. If you find that you fall into a Moses mode more often than you would like, what steps could you take to be more like David?
  3. There have been many different human responses to God – some good, some bad – but what do we learn about God Himself in these passages? How does having a better understanding of who God is and how He works help us have a proper response. Is there perhaps something Moses didn’t understand at the time about God?

For our New Testament reading, we will be spreading out the gospels throughout the year, and reading Acts after we read Luke, so tomorrow we will jump ahead and begin reading the book of Romans, one chapter a day. In preparation, enjoy this

Romans Introduction

I’ll start by saying that I love the book of Romans.  It’s among my relatively few favorites.  

Similar to the book of Exodus, the book of Romans talks about slavery.  Slavery to sin, and deliverance from that slavery.  The book of Exodus records God’s laws for his people; but the book of Romans shows that no-one is able to obey that law completely.  And because nobody is able to follow God’s laws completely, all of us deserve to die.  Fortunately, the book of Romans also gives the antidote.

In the Book of Romans, we find what some call the “Roman Road to Salvation”.  There are a few variations, but it goes something like this…

  1. Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of GOD.”
    • Do you recognize you are a sinner and have disappointed GOD?
  1. Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of GOD is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”
    • Do you recognize the punishment for sin is eternal death?
      • Do you want this gift of eternal life that GOD wants to give you?
  1. Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
    • Do you believe Jesus died to pay the punishment for your sins?
  1. Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
    • Do you believe God raised Jesus from the dead?
      • Do you agree to make Jesus Lord of your life?  This means living a life like he lived.
  1. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”.
    • Do you have peace with God?  If not, go back to step 4.
  1. Romans 12:1-2 describes the metamorphosis that takes place in all true believers, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
    • Does this accurately describe you?  If not, go back to step 4.

-Steve Mattison

Obedience in the Face of Fear

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 1 & 2
Psalms Reading: Psalm 29
New Testament Reading: Matthew 28

For me, the theme of today’s reading was obedience in the face of fear. If God is calling us, the only right answer is obedience. In yesterday’s reading of Matthew 28, we read about the agony Jesus experienced on the cross and how he alone had to bear the crushing weight of humanity’s sins. Jesus felt fear on the cross, but that did not stop him from responding with obedience to God’s plan. In Exodus 1 and 2 we learn that Israel is becoming a formidable threat to Egypt. Pharaoh tries to minimize this threat by ordering the Hebrew midwives to kill any newborn boys right after they are delivered. The Hebrew midwives would not hear of taking part in such an abomination. They were obedient to God’s laws and the result was victorious. In Exodus 1 we read,

20 So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. (NLT)

We read about more bravery in Exodus 2 when Moses’ mother kept the baby Moses hidden for three months. She then concocted a plan to place him in a basket among the river reeds. Moses’ sister Miriam hung out to see what would happen. As the story goes, Pharaoh’s daughter finds him and takes pity on him. I have to think Moses’ mother and sister had to have been afraid when they went to execute their plan, but they felt the fear and did it anyway. 

I think the acts of boldness of the Hebrew midwives and Moses’ mother and sister demonstrated that they must have had a healthy and reverential fear of God as David did. 

In the first two verses of Psalm 29, David highlights God’s splendor, glory, power and might.

1 Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings;

    honor the Lord for his glory and strength.

2 Honor the Lord for the glory of his name.

    Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. (NLT)

Following God often requires boldness and not letting our fears overshadow what God has called us to do. We have a special reminder in verse 11 of Psalm 29 that God equips us during hard times:

The Lord gives his people strength.

    The Lord blesses them with peace. (NLT)

If we trust in God’s goodness, we know that He has our best interest at heart and will supply us with the strength we need. Therefore, feel the fear and be obedient anyway.

-Kristy Cisneros

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you struggle with being obedient to God’s calling? Do you feel fear overshadows doing the right thing? Pray to God to deepen your trust. As we learned in yesterday’s reading, it is important to trust in God’s timing and goodness— even in the face of fear.
  2. What do we learn about God and His character in our Bible reading today?

This Only Do I Seek

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 49 & 50

Psalms Reading: Psalm 27

New Testament Reading: Matthew 26

(Sorry, if you didn’t receive this earlier today – it seems to have appeared on wordpress and facebook this morning, but not to the email list…Or, sorry if you DID receive it earlier this morning and this is now a repeat.)

If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?


For some of you, the answer might be a trip to a neat destination (Ireland seems pretty awesome). For others, it might be to finally marry that person of your dreams. Maybe you would ask to have children one day, or for your current children to have successful lives. If you’re in some financial difficulty, like so many are, maybe you’d wish to just be debt-free. None of those things are bad of course! However, they aren’t the most important thing; and thankfully, you don’t need to have a magic genie in a bottle to acquire the most important thing. It is readily available to each and every believer right now.


In Psalm 27, the author (likely not David due to his references to the Temple) states that the only desire he is seeking after is to be in the presence of YHWH in His holy temple. For the author, God’s presence was the most precious gift one could ask for; it surpassed all the greatness to be found on earth. For in God’s presence, one can finally be at rest and peace (see Psalm 23), and receive the forgiveness of sins that all of us long for (see Psalm 25). Being in God’s presence is everything; and thankfully, it is readily available to us.


In the New Testament, Jesus says that “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20), and wherever Jesus is found, God’s presence is found, too (see John 1:14; 14:9). If you truly want to experience God’s presence today, the greatest gift that you could ever experience in this life, it is available with other believers. When we gather together to worship, to serve, or even to eat a meal, the presence of God is there. We feel closest to God when we are surrounded by our brothers and sisters in the faith, gathering together in Jesus’ name. And while you can pray to God in private by yourself, you will never experience His powerful glory if you remain alone; we need to prioritize time together as believers (Hebrews 10:25). We were not designed to be alone (Genesis 2:18), but to enjoy fellowship with each other.

Brothers and sisters, come and join with your fellow Christians today and this week. There is no greater gift on earth than what you can experience there.

-Talon Paul

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. What verse from Psalm 27 would be a good one to have on your refrigerator and in your heart this week? Make it so.
  2. What are the benefits of being together with your Christian brothers and sisters? List as many as you can. In what ways can you make more opportunities and time to do this more and more?
  3. What do you learn of God in your reading today?

Put IT to Work

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 47 & 48

Psalms Reading: Psalm 26

New Testament Reading: Matthew 25

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a parable about a man who entrusts his money to three of his servants while he is away. They each receive a different amount of wealth: 10, 5, and 1. The master doesn’t instruct them on what to do with it; he simply leaves it in their possession and takes off. The first two double their money: the 10 now having 20, and the 5 now at 10. However, the servant who only had 1 chose not to risk losing it; he chose to bury it in the ground so that his master wouldn’t be upset with him. He was terrified of what his master might do to him if he was to lose his one and only amount of money. Unfortunately for him, this was the wrong choice and he was punished for it, because he could have made at least a little amount from it at the bank.


The parable is revealing of our Christian walk as well. Our Master, Jesus, has entrusted us with different things in this life to use and bring others to saving faith. Some of us have more money and opportunities than others, but every single one of us has been entrusted with something. You might have money, people, a position at work or school, a certain hobby, physical health, or a variety of different gifts. Jesus expects us to use whatever we have been given for the sake of the Kingdom of God. He doesn’t want us to waste it, and honors it when we give it a shot (did you notice that both of those who tried doubled their investment?). When we choose not to make an attempt, we are operating out of fear, which is the opposite of what Jesus and God empowers us with (2 Timothy 1:7).


What have you been entrusted with by your Master? Take some time to write down what skills, people, and possessions you have been given in a column on a piece of paper. How can you use that to further the gospel message of the Kingdom? Take some time to brainstorm and write down in a separate column next to that first list any ideas that come to mind.


You’ve been given something; don’t waste it. And Jesus is with you always through the process, so don’t fear anything (Matthew 28:20)

-Talon Paul

Reflection Questions

  1. Take some time to create your two columns: What have you been entrusted with by your Master? and How can you use that to further the gospel message of the Kingdom? Return to it throughout the weekend with more thoughts. What have you been given that you never considered using to spread the good news of the Kingdom?
  2. Has fear stopped you from using your talents? What should we be most fearful of (men, what others think, what if I mess up – or – what will happen when the Master returns)?
  3. What can we learn from the other two parables in Matthew 25?
  4. What do we learn of God and His Son Jesus in our reading today?

And then The End will Come

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 45 & 46

Psalms Reading: Psalm 25

New Testament Reading: Matthew 24

I am practically lost without an instruction manual. I have relied on instruction manuals for everything, from constructing Legos and Bionicles when I was young (does anyone remember those?), to building cheap furniture from the department store. Instruction manuals bring order to the chaos; they provide a clear path forward to your desired goal. I admire people that can “wing it” and still accomplish their task without a set of instructions; I am not one of those gifted people. However, I believe that instruction manuals are a good analogy for our Christian life and purpose moving forward; after all, Jesus gave us clear instructions too.


In Matthew 24, we find one of the most interesting and debated texts in the entire Bible. There are details that depict what is going to happen when the city of Jerusalem is conquered by Rome in 70 AD, and there are details about when Jesus will come again on the clouds of heaven to establish the Kingdom of God. Books on top of books have been written about this passage, and its parallels in Mark and Luke; however, not enough has been said about the practical instructions Jesus gives to us here among all the chaotic images described. In verse 14, we are told that, in the midst of all the craziness, we Christians have one job: to share the gospel of the kingdom to the whole world. In fact, Jesus tells us that he will not return until this job has been accomplished.


Brothers and sisters, the greatest contribution you can make in this life is telling someone else about God’s coming kingdom. It is in this message that true salvation is found. It is in this message that God will redeem humanity and the earth. It is in this message that your sins can be forgiven. This message needs to be shared not just in other countries, but with your friend, your neighbor, and everyone else in your life. This is our only mission in life as Christians before Jesus comes back: let’s follow the Great Instruction Manual given by Jesus by sharing the same message that he shared (Luke 4:43). You can truly save a life.

-Talon Paul

Reflection Questions

  1. What are your thoughts and feelings as you read Matthew 24? In your opinion, what is the best part of the chapter? What do you find of great value?
  2. Reading through Matthew 24 what instructions, warnings and promptings do you find from Jesus?
  3. What are you doing to share the good news of the coming Kingdom? What might Jesus like to see you doing this month that you haven’t already been doing?
  4. What did God reveal about Himself today in your reading of His words?
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