You Follow Me!

John 21

April 18

After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. He answered yes three times. Then Jesus told Peter how he would die—apparently by crucifixion. Peter wondered about how it would go with John. So he asked Jesus, “What about this man?” Jesus brushed off the question and said, “What is that to you? You follow me!” Here’s the whole exchange.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at the table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:18-22)

Jesus words “None of your business, follow me” are sweet to my ears. They are liberating from the depressing bondage of fatal comparing. Of looking at someone else’s life and feeling inadequate.

I was encouraged by Jesus’ word to me (and you): “What is that to you? You follow me!” Peter had just heard a very hard word. You will die…painfully. His first thought was comparison. What about John? If I have to suffer, will he have to suffer? If my ministry ends like that, will his end like that? If I don’t get to live a long life, will he get to?

That’s the way we sinners are wired. Compare. Compare. Compare. We crave to know how we stack up in comparison to others.

That word landed on me with great joy. Jesus will not judge me according to my superiority or inferiority over anybody. No sibling. No friend. No ministry. These are not the standard. Jesus has a work for me to do (and a different one for you). It is not what he has given anyone else to do. There is a grace to do it. Will I trust him for that grace and do what he has given me to do? That is the question.

I hope you find encouragement and freedom today when you hear Jesus say to all your comparisons: “What is that to you? You follow me!”

Learning to walk in freedom with you.

-Andy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In what areas do you most often fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others? When you compare yourself to others, do you more often see yourself on the shorter end of the stick or above others? What is the danger in either direction?
  2. How can we remember and put in action Jesus words: “What is that to you? You follow me!”
  3. What adjectives would you use to describe Jesus in this chapter? What are his priorities? Page through the previous chapters of John asking the same questions? How can you seek to be Christ-like this week? What work does Jesus have for you to do?

Do You See?

John 20

April 17

Do You See? Have you recognized Jesus’ resurrection? Is it a foreign idea to you?

Here’s the issue: In verse 8 it says, “Then the other disciple [John], who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed” (John 20:8). What did he see? What did he believe? Jesus wasn’t there—just some cloths that he left behind.

Compare this to Mary in verse 18: She has met Jesus in the garden and spoken to him. She returns to the disciples and says, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18). We don’t have Mary’s direct evidence. We are more like John in the tomb—there is evidence, and either we see through it or we don’t. The issue is: Do you see? The issue is: Do I care? Do I find that idea helpful? Do I feel that it helps me flourish as a human being? And if it seems like it doesn’t, then I will just view it the way I view UFOs and possible life in some distant galaxy—I just don’t need to bother with it.

Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ followers, goes to His tomb only to find that He’s not there! Jesus appears to Mary and several others, fulfilling all that He had said about rising from the dead.

Either you see Christ risen and that changes you or Christ’s death is some obscure event that happened in the past.

The reality is Jesus is alive! He is risen! He can change us like he promised. We have no hope of changing ourselves. The only way we can put away sinful habits is through a relationship with Jesus made possible by His death and resurrection.

On the cross, Jesus clothed Himself in our sin. When Peter and John looked into the empty tomb, they saw Jesus was not there and He had left His burial clothes. John 20 shows us that Jesus left our sinful nature in the grave when He rose from the dead.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

We do not have to be controlled by our desire to sin. Not only do we not have to be clothed in sin, the resurrection means we get to be clothed in something better. In Colossians 3:12, Paul says, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Following Jesus allows us to put away our old lives and begin new ones.

If you think this does not matter to you, remember, those who are in Christ—that is, who believe on him, and belong to him, and receive forgiveness and reconciliation from him—will be raised with him. And Paul says in Philippians 3:21 that Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” This is not a UFO, or irrelevant life on another galaxy. This is what will happen when God judges the world by a man, Jesus Christ.

Do you see?

-Andy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you see that Jesus is alive? What evidence leads you to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and is living today?
  2. What does it mean to you that you don’t have to be clothed in sin any more? Are you still? What does one do to make the transition from living the old life to the new? If you aren’t sure, who can you talk to about it?
  3. Who do you know who needs to see? What can you show them about Jesus – today?

Known by Your Love

John 13

April 10

Do the people you pass in your daily life know that you follow Jesus? Your coworker in the adjacent cubicle, the cashier at the grocery store, your neighbor down the street? How do they know? It’s probably not the length of your prayers, the Bible verses you have memorized, the fancy church jargon you use, or the gourmet casseroles you bring to your church potlucks. 

They will know you by your love. 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Following Jesus isn’t about knowing the most, but loving the most. 

Love is our faith in action. It might not always make sense to unbelievers, especially in the midst of our self-obsessed culture. 

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44). 

Sell your possessions and give to the poor (Luke 12:33). 

Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10).

Look after orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). 

Carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). 

We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16). 

When we love—even when it doesn’t make sense—we show our allegiance to Jesus. He is the perfect personification of love. This week, we celebrate the love he showed on the cross, where he bled and died to win your heart, where he was scoffed at by a world who couldn’t make sense of such great love. 

If we’re followers of Jesus, we’ll do as Jesus did. We’re called to pour even when our cup is empty, to give when it hurts, to expect nothing in return, and to lay down our lives for others. By this, the world will know you belong to Jesus. 

-Mackenzie McClain

Discussion & Reflection Questions: 

  1. Who will you show this nonsensical love to this week? How will you do it?
  2. Loving others cost Jesus his life. What might loving others cost you?
  3. By being known as a follower of Jesus, people will make assumptions about who Jesus is based upon how they see you act. What implications does this have for how you live your daily life? 

Believe the Works

John 10

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.

John 10:37-38

In chapter 10 we get to see Jesus once again being challenged by the Pharisees. His reply here reminds us that our actions matter more than our words. He tells them that since they don’t believe his words, to judge him by his actions.

This mirrors what Jesus said in Matthew 7:

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

And also what we read in Proverbs 20:

Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.

It also reminds me of this saying a friend shared with me several years ago:

I don’t trust words. I even question actions. But I never doubt patterns.

You see, people can lie with their words. They can even act in the ‘right’ way and mislead you…for awhile. Eventually, if we are looking for them, patterns reveal themselves.

Not only is this something we should be aware of and be watching for in others in order to live a discerning life; but also something that we should be aware of in our own life. I’m wondering if we could confidently say, “Even if you don’t believe my words, watch my actions. That will convince you.” Paul said something like that to the church in Corinth when he wrote:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

After Jesus issues his challenge to the Pharisees and the others listening, we’re told that he goes away from them, but many people followed him to where he went. Then we’re told that:

And many believed in him there.

I guess his actions spoke for themselves.

-Susan Landry

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. Discuss the idea of not trusting words, even actions, but watching for patterns. Why is this important?
  2. Why is it so scary to think about telling people they could ignore our words and just watch our actions? Why do you think Paul was confident enough to say that?
  3. Take some time to look for patterns in your own life.
    1. Look for patterns that may reveal things you want to change.
    2. Look for patterns that show positive traits that could point someone to Christ.

Reminders

Isaiah 63-64, Titus 3

Life is so busy and complicated that I have to create lots of reminders for myself.  Fortunately, my phone and computer and watch all have features where I can set reminders for myself.  “Doctors appointment Tuesday at 3:00.  Take the garbage to the dump on the way to work in the morning.  Stop by the store after work and pick up some milk and bread.” I can even set reminders months or years in advance.  I can set alarms to remind me that in 2 hours I have a meeting.  In 1 hour I have a meeting.  In 15 minutes I have a meeting.  The Meeting is now starting.  Maybe I’m too busy or maybe I’m getting old, but I find myself more and more needing reminders.

Do you ever need reminders?  Little kids need to be reminded to brush their teeth, make their bed, do their homework.  What do you need reminders for?

The Apostle Paul thought reminders were important for Christians.  I guess he understood how easy it can be to forget what’s important when we are busy living life and doing  what’s necessary or urgent.  Do Christians ever forget important things about God, about Jesus, about how we are supposed to live?  Yep, we sure do.

In Titus 3 Paul tells Titus to remind the believers of some important things.

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” -Titus 3:1-2

Those reminders were important in the first century when Christianity was brand new and people were still learning the basics, but it’s been 2000 years.  We’ve certainly got being a Christian all figured out by now, don’t we?  Do we really need to be reminded to obey people in authority?  Do we need to be reminded to always be ready to do good?  Don’t all Christians always do what is good?   Certainly we never  slander or falsely accuse someone of wrong doing.  I’m always peaceable and considerate and gentle toward everyone, aren’t you? (My tongue is in my cheek- that means I’m kidding).

To tell the truth, I still need to be reminded all of those things.  Just because I’ve been reading the Bible for over 50 years doesn’t mean I always remember to do good.  I still need to be reminded to be considerate and gentle, and so do you.  That’s why Christianity was never designed to be lived in isolation, but in community.  We need each other.  There’s a passage in Hebrews (a different book from today’s reading,  but important) Hebrews 10:24-25 says that Christians shouldn’t get out of the habit of meeting together, because we need to encourage (I think Hebrews says “spur one another on”, like a rider spurs on a horse) each other.  

Following Jesus is hard some times.  Being obedient to God is hard some times.  Remembering to do good and be gentle is hard sometimes.  I need help, I need encouragement to keep on doing what is right.  I need you, and you need me, we need each other.

I’ve read the Bible many times in my life and I need to keep on reading it to help me remember all the important things I need to remember.  Today’s readings in Isaiah 63-64 and Titus 3 remind us both about God’s wrath and about God’s mercy.  God has both.  God hates sin, he hates it when his children are brutal to each other.  He hates it when his children fight and argue.  He hates sin because he loves us and he knows that sin hurts us.  We hurt each other when we sin.  No parent likes to see their children hurt each other.  We learned that from our Father, God.

So keep reading your Bible and keep coming to Church and meeting with other believers so that you can remind them and they can remind you to keep on following Jesus.

“Hey Siri  set a reminder for 7 a.m. tomorrow:  be considerate and gentle to everyone.”

“Alexa, remind me to get up for Church Sunday at 8:00.”

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 63-64 and Titus 3

Governing Authorities

2 Chronicles 27-28 and Romans 13

In today’s reading, we read about Jotham, in 2 Chronicles 27:6, that “Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God.”  Then about his successor, Ahaz, in 2 Chronicles 28:19, “The Lord had humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had promoted wickedness in Judah and had been most unfaithful to the Lord.”

Then in Romans 13:1, we read, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Wait a minute, in the Old Testament reading, we read about a good king, and the blessings that came because of his faithfulness, then we read about a wicked king, and the punishment that came because of his unfaithfulness.  And then in the New Testament reading, we’re told to submit to all governing authorities, because God has established them?  This doesn’t seem to make sense.  Shouldn’t we submit to good rulers, and rebel against bad rulers?

As intuitively right as this seems, this isn’t what God commands us to do.  By submitting to authority, God isn’t telling us to take part in their sins, or even endorse their sins.  But we do need to submit to governing authorities.  Period.  I have known of Christians who refused to pay taxes, because they alleged those taxes went to fund wicked practices.  But God demands submission.  We, as Christians, need to submit to ruling authorities.  We must pay our taxes (in this example), because that is our responsibility.  We aren’t responsible for how those taxes are spent.  Judgement for that will fall on someone else’s head.

Romans 13:2 goes on to say, “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.”  You may complain about my pointing this out, but God is the one who said it, so if you have a complaint, take it up with Him.  This clearly says that civil disobedience is sin.  Period.

Romans 13 goes on to say in verse 7, “Give everyone what you owe him.  If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”  I’ve seen Christians who have a bumper sticker that says, “Not my president.”  I think that bumper sticker should really say, “I claim to be a Christian, but I am a hypocrite.” or “I refuse to obey God.”  

The problem is, many Christians think that this or that political party will save them.  They don’t seem to realize that all human rulers are wicked.  Instead of getting so worked up about politics, we should focus on the end of Romans 13, where we’re told in verse 11, “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

The bottom line is this… Jesus is coming soon.  Don’t get so worked up about politics, or following this leader or that leader.  Wake up.  Follow Jesus.  His return is very soon.  Don’t love this world or the things of this world.  Be zealous for Jesus!

I’ll close with Luke 21:28, “…Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”


–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 27-28 and Romans 13

The Early Church : The Growth of the Church

Acts 4


If you are an older reader, especially who was around for the 70s and 80s, you probably remember the Church Growth movement of the 60s and 70s. During this time, many people in the church focused on increased numbers; more people in the pews. In the 80s and 90s, the big push was for “seeker-sensitive” Christianity, making churches open and safe for those who were just beginning to seek Jesus. The impulse to grow and have more people come to Jesus is not wrong in any way! One way to define the mission of the church could be “more Christians, better Christians”: growing in quantity and quality. Both are important. A lot of really mediocre Christians, with no intention of acting and being better, is bad; a handful of super quality Christians, with no intention of growing, is bad.  


What did growth look like in the early church? In Acts 2, we read one example of growth. In verse forty-one, we read these words : “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” 


Three

THOUSAND?!


Peter must have had a very clever marketing strategy. He must have understood his target demographic. I wonder who his social media manager was and who worked his SEO. Of course, it’s none of those things. Those things aren’t bad; but anachronistic. Peter must have given them something else.  We do know why so many came to faith that day. 


He gave them Jesus. 

Jesus said “And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) We lift up Jesus, we tell others of what he has done and how great he is, and he draws people in. 


In Acts 4, we see the qualitative growth of the church as well. After Peter and John are told not to proclaim the name of Jesus, they prayed to God. And God causes them to grow. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke boldly. They shared all their possessions, they cared for one another, they made sure that everyone was taken care of. 


The early church, by lifting up Jesus and living the way he lived and taught, grew in number and in character: more Christians, better Christians. When we look to our own churches, we should pray that we see the same growth, the same kind of growth, that the church got in Acts. We should be praying that God would use us to tell more people about Jesus, so they can come to know him, and we should be praying for God to make us better followers of Jesus today than we were yesterday. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 19-20 and Acts 4

Allegiance to the King

1 Samuel 7-8 and John 19

            When I was a kid in public school back in the dark ages, we used to begin each school day by standing at our desks, placing our hand over our heart, facing the United States flag and pledging our allegiance to that flag.  We did it day after day, year after year.  I never thought much about it, it was just something you did.  In music classes we sang “God bless America, land that I love…”  Then in 6th grade we had a new kid in the class named John.  I didn’t like John very much- as an early bloomer I had actually been the tallest kid in the class for the previous couple of years (with the exception of Linda, a freakishly tall girl).  But among the boys I was the tallest which was a great help on the basketball court where I ruled during recess and after school.  But tall, lanky John was a good 2-3 inches taller than me.  Fortunately, his height did not translate into coordination and he wasn’t any good at basketball, so I still ruled supreme there, but it was still annoying that my height domination had been superceded.  (Fun fact, I stopped growing after 6th grade, so while I was a massively tall presence on the basketball court at 5’10” in sixth grade, by the time I hit 9th grade, still 5’10” I was too short, not quick enough and didn’t have a good enough outside jump shot so I didn’t bother to try out for the high school team.  Post-up skills don’t go very well with being NOT the tallest kid on the team). 

But I digress, back to lanky, uncoordinated taller John who wore clothes that looked outdated and never seemed to comb his hair, and was just a weird kid.  What really set this weird kid, John, apart was that when the rest of us stood by our desks to pledge allegiance to the flag every morning, John didn’t stand.  What is with this strange outlier among us?  Eventually, I discovered the reason for this.  John said he didn’t stand for the pledge of allegiance because he was a Jehovah’s Witness and it was against his religion.  His parent also didn’t vote, and they didn’t celebrate their birthdays or Christmas.  I was quite relieved that I wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness.  I got to celebrate my birthday and Christmas, I didn’t have to be the odd-ball sitting during the pledge,  and my parents got to vote for Richard Nixon as President.  (that didn’t age well, now, did it?).

It was at that time that I first became aware that for some religious people there was a connection between their religious faith, how they worshipped God on Sunday, and other parts of their life like politics.  It’s been nearly 50 years since I learned that Jehovah’s Witnesses like John didn’t pledge allegiance to the flag, but I still remember that day I learned it.

What do we mean by allegiance?  Webster’s dictionary defines allegiance as:

“the obligation of a feudal vassal to his liege lord, the fidelity owed by a subject or citizen to a sovereign or government. Devotion or loyalty to a person, group, or cause. allegiance to a political party. Synonyms:adhesionattachmentcommitmentconstancydedicationdevotednessdevotionfaithfaithfulnessfastnessfealtyfidelityloyaltypietysteadfastnesstroth.”

That’s a lot to unpack but for our purposes look at some of those synonyms like commitment, devotion, faith etc… those are all clearly religious words.  For many people their flag represents their nation, their family, their people, their way of life, all that matters to them.  Particularly those who serve in the military often have a ferocious loyalty and allegiance.  The Marine Core motto is Semper Fi, Latin for Always Faithful.

What does any of this have to do with today’s readings?  In his books Salvation by Allegiance Alone and Gospel Allegiance, Matthew Bates makes the case that the Greek word “pistis”, which is often translated “faith” into most English translations of the Bible should more accurately be translated “allegiance.”  Salvation, then is transformed from simply faith in Jesus Christ to Allegiance to Jesus as Christ, or more precisely, Allegiance to Jesus as God’s anointed King.  What does it look like to place your allegiance in Jesus as God’s anointed King over the whole earth? 

In today’s readings in 1 Samuel and John’s Gospel the concept of king and allegiance come to the forefront of both narratives.  During the time of Samuel Israel transitioned from being led by various judges: Gideon, Deborah, Samson and others to a place where they demanded to be led by a king.  Their stated reason for wanting a king was interesting as they wanted “to be like all of the other nations.”  Think of the teenager who makes a request to a parent and when rebuked comes back with “but all the other kids are doing it.”   Samuel took the people’s request for a king as a personal rejection of his leadership, but God pointed out that HE had been their king since they left Egypt and that this constituted a rejection of Him, not Samuel.  God told Samuel to go ahead and give the people what they wanted, a king, along with a word of warning- kings require those in their kingdom to show them a high level of Allegiance, and if you get a narcissistic, proud man as king you will regret it as he will use his power to enrich and empower himself still more.  “Yeah, but we still want to be like everybody else.”

So begins the next phase of Israel’s history in the time of the kings and in coming weeks you will read about those king’s like Saul, David, Solomon and many others.  You will see how even the bravest and godliest, like David and the wisest, like Solomon, misused their power and privilege and eventually the kingdom split, then was taken into captivity and constantly battled the empires and kingdoms around them.  Having a sinful king was no better than a judge.  How much better it would have been if they had simply given their full allegiance to God as their king.

In the Gospel of John Israel gets a do over.  God has given them His own son, Jesus, the sinless human representative of God to be their king.  After Jesus is arrested and brought before Pilate to be judged and sentenced Pilate looks to persuade the Jewish people to change their minds about Jesus.  “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar” the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.”

In the account in Samuel, Israel rejects God as their king so that they can be like everybody else.  He gives them that choice.  In the Gospel of John, a thousand years after they rejected God as king, God’s son, Jesus,  is presented to them as their king, and once again they decisively reject God’s anointed King. Instead, they demanded that he be crucified.  They declared their allegiance that day to Caesar, I guess because they wanted to be like everybody else.  Not much changed in 1000 years in Israel.

2000 years and half a world a way we still have the same choice.  To whom will we give our allegiance?  Will we give our allegiance to the principalities and powers of this age.  Will we give our loyalty to trying to be like everybody else, going along with the crowd, whatever direction the crowd decides we should be going?  Or will we give our allegiance to God’s anointed king, Jesus?

            If you are a Christian living in this world you are a resident alien living in exile.  Your body may be in Ohio or Indiana or Virginia or India, but your citizenship is in Heaven because that’s where your King is currently living.  One day King Jesus will return from heaven to earth and reign right here on earth during the renewal of all things (See 1 Corinthians 15:20-24).  But for now, you and I are living in exile and while  living in exile we should strive to be respectful and law abiding in areas that don’t conflict with our primary allegiance to King Jesus (See Romans 13).  You can be a good citizen in many ways, but never forget that if you are a follower of Jesus, your allegiance is to him first and foremost, not to your country, or your family, or your friends, or your culture or fashion or whatever seeks to define you.  Your allegiance must be to Jesus.

            Can you be a Christian and still pledge allegiance to the US flag?  My childhood classmate John thought, “No, you can’t” and Christians may not always agree on these kinds of questions, but there should be no doubt in your mind as to whom your ultimate allegiance is due, Jesus Christ the King, and God our Father.

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 7-8 and John 19.

Missing Jesus by an Acre

            In the book of Mark, chapter 10, we read this story about a devoted Jew, who understands that Jesus is someone special. He comes to Jesus and asks a really good question, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). We know, having the luxury of being able to look back on all of Jesus’ teachings, that following Jesus and devoting our lives to him is what gives us the right to become children of God and heirs to eternal life. This is exactly what Jesus wants this unnamed man to do.

            Jesus asks this man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, and then to come and follow him. Imagine being this man. Imagine owning 1,000 acres of land, filled with livestock, fields, barns and equipment. All of which would be worth millions of dollars. I mean, this is everything you have, maybe you inherited it from your father and plan on passing it to your children. This could have been in the family for generations, and with what we know of inheritance of Jewish property in the time of Jesus, it most likely was. Then Jesus asks you to sell all of it and give the money to the poor! Imagine what you would have done in his situation? Better yet, imagine what you have to lose?

            I don’t want you to miss Jesus by an acre. By that I mean, I don’t want you to miss following Jesus because of something that you’re holding onto in your life. The sad and ironic things is, later in the chapter Jesus says these words, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). There is nothing this unnamed man could have given up that he wouldn’t have received multiplied back to him in kingdom. The same goes for us, anything this world can offer, anything we have, is not even worth being compared to the riches of the kingdom.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 25-26 and Mark 10

Your Work, Labor & Endurance – through Faith, Love & Hope

1st & 2nd Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 1:3 – We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.


Work Produced by Faith

Faith is defined as having a firm belief, complete trust and confidence in something. As a Believer, our faith is determined by the extent of which we believe that God is who He says He is and that His son, Jesus the Messiah, was born of a woman, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for the redemption of your sins, was raised to life, is currently sitting on a throne next to his Father, waiting to return again to reign in the Kingdom. IF you and I believe all of that – then our day to day life will be a compilation of evidence of acts done in faith and by faith. 


James makes the claim in the third chapter of his letter “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1) that “in the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (3:17). And in verse 26 of the same chapter, James writes, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead”. 


The Thessalonians didn’t just accept the gospel message, they acted on it. Jesus was both their Savior and their Lord, meaning that they were obedient to the call on their lives. They were doing the work that God had prepared in advance for them to do (Ephesians 2:10). Likewise, when we accept the gospel message for ourselves, we have to respond. Jesus tells us in the book of Luke that we must take up our cross (do the work) and follow him (9:23). 

Labor Prompted by Love

Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”. Have you ever wondered why these four domains are identified? Have you ever loved someone so much that there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do for them? You sacrifice all that you have in order to serve them, sacrifice for them, and labor for them. In the following verse, we’re told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Sacrificing ourselves for family members and close friends is one thing…serving and laboring for others beyond our closest relationships is quite another. 


This is why we’re told to love with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength – because it’s not easy. Sometimes loving another is labor. It’s hard work. It’s humbling ourselves by putting our own desires off to the side in order to honor others. But it’s what we are called to do. And it is possible if we lean into the strength that is provided through our faith in Christ. 

Endurance Inspired by Hope

One of my favorite types of exercise is a 20 minutes HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout. I like it because I don’t have to do it everyday, it’s quick, and efficient. And I get to rest for almost half of the time during the “down” intervals. If I were ever called upon to do something that took longer than 20 minutes, I would be gassed! I do not have the endurance for it. And I have no enthusiasm to train for it! 


Walking out your faith knee deep in “works produced by faith” and “labor promoted by love” is not for the faint of heart! It’s not a one time deal. And unlike my HIIT workouts, it’s an all-day, everyday kind of commitment –  for a lifetime! This requires an endurance that cannot be faked nor manufactured. The only source for the necessary fuel to keep this faith-centered life going is HOPE. A hope that has a foundation on the love God has for us. When we stay zeroed in to that – we are able to dig deep and and go the distance. As Paul says in his second letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. We can have a FULL life that gives us the endurance needed to do the good works. 


The Christian life is not for the wimpy. In this single verse out of 1 Thessalonians, we are told that we must work, labor, and endure. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t seem very comfy. It’s not a life of luxury and indulgence. The ONLY way that we will be able to sustain this day to day living is doing so out of Faith, Love, and Hope. May these virtues fill your heart today.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1st Thessalonians & 2nd Thessalonians.

Tomorrow we will read Acts 18:19-19:41.

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