Why is Jesus Better?

Hebrews 9

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Previously, in chapter 8, the author disclosed that Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry and is the mediator of a better covenant that is enacted on better promises (8:6). While the author has simply made this assertion, it now remains for him to explicate how Jesus’s ministry is “superior.” And it is in chapter 9 that the author takes up this very task.

In the 1st part of the chapter, the author recounts the old covenant ministry under the Mosaic Law. There was a tabernacle and sacred items and a place where atonement was made by priests. Yet, it says that “this is a symbol for the present time…until the time of restoration” (vv. 9-10).

All the institutions of the old covenant were limited because they “cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience” (v. 9). They mandated various sacrifices and rituals which by their nature were unable to bring the worshiper the true cleansing that was the intended goal of atonement and salvation.

But, in verse 11, the author now turns to present the superior ministry of the Messiah in the new covenant. Throughout the rest of the chapter, the author goes into great detail about how Jesus as our high priest in the new covenant has accomplished everything that the former covenant and regulations could never achieve. Everything from the cleansing of the tabernacle to the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice was done by Jesus, not in the earthly tabernacle, which was a copy of the heavenly reality, but in the heavenly tabernacle by offering himself as the “better sacrifice.”

Jesus’ sacrifice was “better” in at least two regards. First, the author says that Jesus did not offer a sacrifice many times as the high priest in the former covenant had to because he entered the tabernacle every year. Jesus entered the sanctuary in the presence of God only once. Second, Jesus did not offer the “blood of another” by bringing an animal sacrifice like the high priest of the previous covenant but rather offered his own blood as the sacrifice for sin.

As verses 13-14 say, “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?” What the author is comparing is that if under the old covenant the animal sacrifice was sufficient to sanctify the worshiper for the purification of the flesh, then the blood of Jesus must be able to do more than that.

And this is exactly his point: Jesus’s sacrifice is able to do what the old covenant sacrifices never could, and that is to cleanse our conscience from “dead works,” which are the sinful deeds that lead to death and require forgiveness and healing. The old covenant had no power to cleanse the worshiper’s heart from their sinful deeds.

But praise be to God that through Jesus and his sacrifice our minds and hearts can be washed clean of our sin and that we may with a pure conscience “serve the living God.”

-Jerry Wierwille

Application Questions

  1. Compare the conscience of a sinner under the old covenant to your conscience under the blood of Jesus. What makes the difference?
  2. How will you use your pure conscience to serve the living God today?

The Best Covenant

Hebrews 8

Monday, September 26, 2022

In verse 6 of Hebrews chapter 8, it states that Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry and therefore is the mediator of a “better covenant” with “better promises.” What then follows in verses 8-12 is the longest consecutive Old Testament quotation in the New Testament. The quotation comes from a section in chapter 31 from the Prophet Jeremiah.

Now, when the author of Hebrews says that Jesus is the mediator of a “better covenant,” it doesn’t mean that the covenant is just a little bit better. It is indeed better, but how much better? Is there a way that we could quantify the degree of “betterness” that characterizes the new covenant? I don’t think so.

The new covenant is greater and better than the old covenant to such a degree that a comparison is nearly impossible. Perhaps we might say that the distance between the two covenants is like the difference between the height of the earth’s atmosphere and then the height of the universe. As glorious as the old covenant was, it was still imperfect. But, the new covenant brings the perfection that the old covenant pointed toward and prefigured in a typological way.

And with Jesus mediating a new covenant, this indicates that the old covenant is obsolete and no longer needed since the new covenant has totally eclipsed its purpose and function. Everything that the old covenant stood for and provided—the ways that it conveyed God’s law to his people, revealed the knowledge of him, and made provision for atonement for sin—has been fulfilled and superseded in the new covenant by Christ himself.

The new covenant promises which surpass anything that the old covenant offered was prophesied by Jeremiah when he wrote, “I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And each person will not teach his fellow citizen, and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, and the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.”

Therefore, it might help to think about the new covenant as being the “best covenant” because there will not be another covenant. There will be no “new covenant 2.0” or the “new revised covenant.” Nothing that can improve the new covenant any further. God’s law is in the hearts and minds of his people, he instructs them in his ways, all God’s people know him, and he has forgiven their sin completely, never to remember it.

The light of the new covenant is so far greater than the light of the old covenant that the old covenant simply pales in comparison. The well-known colloquial idiom, “It doesn’t even hold a candle to it” seems apt to apply here where if we imagine the new covenant having the glory and radiance of the sun, then what source of light can compete with it. The old covenant is like the moon, when reflecting the sun, the moon provides just enough light to walk around at night and see most objects near you. But it is still dark, and the potential to stumble or trip is very real. However, the light of the new covenant is like noon day where everything is illumined, and we now walk with full vision of what is before us.

The new covenant is better in every way, and we are able to receive and experience all of these better promises it has to offer. Let us count ourselves blessed to have a Savior who mediates this superior covenant that we can enjoy.

-Jerry Wierwille

Application Questions

  1. What are the differences between the old covenant and the new? (You can find several differences in this chapter alone, but
  2. Why do you think the all-knowing God didn’t just start out with the best/new covenant?

A Reason to Believe and a Reason to Hope

Hebrews 2

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

I love this chapter in Hebrews! It outlines the very reason that I am a Christian, the reason that I believe in Jesus and follow his teachings. It says in verse 2, that the Lord first declared himself. When Jesus was on earth, he taught in the synagogues and proclaimed to be the Messiah spoken of in the prophecies of Isaiah. He proclaimed himself to be the Son of Man spoken of in the prophecies of Ezekiel. We know that he did because we have the firsthand, eyewitness accounts in the first four books of the New Testament. Here again, the author of Hebrews is adding his account (Hebrews 2:4). More importantly than all of this, God adds his own testimony by performing signs and wonders through the apostles, and even among disciples of Jesus today. It’s for this reason that I believe.

Remember yesterday’s passage that proclaimed the great glory and exaltation of the Son of God. The author tells us to pay attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Keep that picture that he painted in your mind. The greatness of God himself has been given to Jesus. You have heard what has been said of Jesus from your friends, your pastor, from the gospels and from the Holy Spirit. Hold on to these things; cling to the faith.

In the next section, the author draws our attention to another psalm like in the first chapter, but this time, he uses it to speak of all mankind more broadly, not just the man, Jesus. God is so much higher than we are. We can’t even wrap our minds around what it means to be Spirit and dwell in heaven. And yet, God cares for us mere mortals. We are lower than angels in that the angels are in the presence of God, but it says that all things have been subjected under man’s feet. It’s clear that this isn’t talking about the current state of the world. There are countless things that aren’t subject to man’s authority: disease, death, hunger, poverty and all kinds of injustices. This is just what the author says in Hebrews 2:8. But we do see Jesus. And just like we read yesterday, everything was given to Jesus. He is the heir of all things and is made higher than all the angels. While Jesus was here, he appeared lower than angels, a man mocked and rejected, but now he is exalted with a crown of glory.

Though Jesus was the first to be glorified, he was the pioneer of salvation, he is not alone since salvation is available for all who believe in his name and we all can become sons of God, brothers and sisters of Christ (Hebrews 2:10-13).

This final section of the chapter is poetic and beautiful, but its real beauty comes through the deep truth and hope that it can bring to our lives. Jesus, though he was perfect and blameless, was put to death. In doing so, he destroyed death itself and freed all of us from the slavery of the fear of death. When you believe in Jesus, you are made free because you don’t need to fear death because there is life for all who are sons of God. We saw it first in Jesus. We saw him raised from the dead and ascend into heaven. This is the fate that awaits us as well. We can relate to Jesus in every way even though he is so highly exalted. He suffered temptation, suffering and death, just as we all will, but we have a hope for life that is to come, a hope that is true, because it was attested to us by God, through his son.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Questions for Reflection

  1. What is the meaning of verse 1? What do they need to pay more careful attention to? Why? Is it still true today? Is it still true for you?
  2. How would you explain Hebrews 2 to someone who has never heard of Jesus before?

Before-and-After Transformation

Titus 3

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Though I had never met the woman in person, I was pretty certain it was her. I’d seen many photos of this wellness coach, and I had always been stunned at her story: she lost nearly 200 pounds by following the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) plan, which I try to also follow for health reasons, and was now a weightlifter as well. Something about her smile was distinctive and very recognizable. I knew she lived in this general area, so it wasn’t too far-fetched to think it could be her. As we got off the hotel elevator together, I summoned up the courage to ask: “Excuse me, are you a THM coach?” She looked stunned, but kindly replied, “Yes, I am…” I explained that I recognized her from the social media pages and was awed by her story. She gave all the glory to God for helping her become healthy. We said a few more words and then parted ways. Later that night, she posted humorously on the group page that she was now a B-List celebrity because she had been recognized in public looking a bit disheveled on her way back from the hotel waterpark, and then I formally introduced myself on social media as well. 

“Before-and-after” posts almost always entice me to stop scrolling and read into the story. Whether it is a weight loss, home makeover, cake decorating challenge, hairstyle tutorial, or hoarder-to-minimalist success story, I feel so thrilled watching a transformation take place. I think we all love a good change for the better, yes? Perhaps that’s why I’m fascinated with the metamorphosis of butterflies too! 

Paul tells us how our “before-and-after” should look, beginning in Titus 3:3: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” That is who we used to be, but that is not who we are now! He continues, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” So, what do we do now instead of all those behaviors we used to do before we were saved? Paul says, “I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” 

Before God saved us, we were overcome by all sorts of sinful behaviors. But now that  we have experienced the kindness and love and mercy and grace of God that we did not deserve, we need to devote ourselves to doing what is good. 

We have known since we were children sitting on Santa’s lap that we were supposed to be good! But what exactly does that mean in a biblical kind of way? Hop back up to verse 1 to find a bit more guidance. “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.” This list seems to be at least a partial, but still challenging, description of “doing what is good”, don’t you think? 

Paul urges yet again – it must have been such a problem in their society as it is in ours! – to avoid foolish talk (verse 9). I’ve noticed this theme throughout 2 Timothy and Titus; it is a good reminder that we need to pay careful attention to watch what we say, making sure our words are edifying. We are called to be representatives of Jesus in everything we say and do. 

-Rachel Cain

Reflection Questions: 

What does your “before-and-after” look like? Maybe, like me, you were raised a Christian and don’t have a dramatic story to tell. But God has still saved you by his grace! Write out your salvation story and testimony, so that you will always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have. (I Peter 3:15)

In this scripture, Paul calls believers to “do what is good”. What are some specific good things you think God is calling you to do in this season? 

Am I Greek?

Titus 2

Friday, September 16, 2022

During our most recent homeschooling year, my children and I studied world history from Creation through Greek civilization, reading the biblical accounts alongside mainstream history that was happening synchronologically.  It was so interesting to see all of the historical events weaving together to validate the Bible! When we studied Greece, we also learned about the Greek gods and goddesses, which proved to be a great opportunity to reinforce to my children the concept of false gods and idols. It also allowed for discussions about why we follow YHWH, the one true God.

Titus, to whom Paul wrote this letter, was a Greek convert to Christianity. He was leading a church, and there were a lot of problems within it. The gods of the Greeks were corrupt (for example, Zeus, the main god, was a promiscuous liar), and the Cretan Christians were getting mixed up with the qualities of the Greek gods versus the one true God, as well as copying the behaviors of the people around them. As such, there were many issues that needed to be addressed to maintain order in the church and help the new Christians get back on track with Jesus. Paul specifically speaks of men and women (both young and old), as well as slaves, with different ideals that were specific to their situation. However, all of the things Paul listed are qualities that we should all aspire to attain. I like the way The Message records verses 1-10 (I’ve put in bold the main actions):

“Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, trustworthy in your teaching, your words solid and sane. Then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around. Guide slaves into being loyal workers, a bonus to their masters—no back talk, no petty thievery. Then their good character will shine through their actions, adding luster to the teaching of our Savior God.”

Yet again, though written for a certain people in a specific time, we are not that different from the Greeks; we, too, have idols, are prone to wander, and can easily be misled by the culture around us. All of these qualities Paul listed are still admirable ambitions for all of us today! Which ones will be your focus in the coming weeks? 

Much of Paul’s advice to the Cretan church involved the older people being good examples and leaders to the younger people. There is an old saying that goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” meaning that it is important for the child to have many good influences, as well as for the parent to have support in the difficult journey of parenting. No one could have prepared me for the mental and physical exhaustion that accompanies the wonderful joy of being a mother – and it isn’t getting much easier as my children grow older, either! I know I need help sometimes and have been grateful to some wonderful ladies in my church family (and actual family) who have come alongside me to offer help when needed. There is someone out there who can benefit from your prayers, your stories, your listening ears, and your godly wisdom, and there is likewise someone more experienced in the faith who could be all those things for you as well. 

Paul ends by reminding us that we have been saved by grace, and through our salvation, we are called to deny the passions of this world, striving to “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives”. But that is not all! We are still waiting for our promised hope, when Jesus will return and redeem us again, bringing us into the Kingdom as his family. That is our goal. That is our hope. That is our happy ending. We must stay focused on the goal, spread the good news, and seek strength to live for God during this life, no matter what it may bring.

-Rachel Cain

Reflection questions: 

-What does it mean to you to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life? Are there any changes you need to make to do so?

– Is there someone younger than you (or younger in the faith, rather than in age) whom you could mentor? What about a godly person who might be willing to mentor you? Invite each of these people into your life.

Potty Talk

Titus 1

Thursday, September 15, 2022

POOP.

That was the very first word my then-4-year-old son taught himself to write, all on his own. (Proud homeschooling mama here…)

Like many boys his age, he was fascinated with all things disgusting. It was rare for even a few minutes to pass – especially at supper time! – without him making reference to some sort of bodily function, and laughing hysterically at the mere mention of it while the rest of us just prayed it would stop. My other son, now four years old, has followed suit and is also obsessed with preschool potty humor. To him, every funny noise is flatulence; every repulsive smell must be lingering from the bathroom, and it is all hilarious. Even if we explain that the sound was just a balloon releasing air or the smell was simply spoiled food, he entertains himself for a long while with the (pleasant?) thoughts of bodily functions in the house. He cannot seem to get his mind away from potty talk. 

As humankind, we, too, can become stuck in thought patterns or ideas and continue to feed those beliefs. In verses 15 and 16, Paul writes to Titus, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Now, I am not at all implying that innocent preschoolers have corrupted consciences; that was simply a humorous and relatable example about what happens when our minds are focused on one kind of thing. However, there are many people who continue to feed, to themselves and others, lies and negativity and unpleasant thoughts, which are contrary to God. As believers, we are called to live pure lives, demonstrating the redemption of Jesus’ sacrifice. We can claim to know God, but if we deny him by living without pure motives, we have lost our testimonies and are guilty of corrupted minds. Paul calls those kinds of people “detestable, disobedient, unfit for doing anything good.” Ouch. I don’t want those labels assigned to me. When my mind begins to dwell in negativity, judgmentalism, or even perversion, God often brings these lyrics to my mind: 

Give us clean hands; give us pure hearts. 

Let us not lift our souls to another… 

Oh God, let us be a generation that seeks, 

seeks Your face, O God of Jacob. 

In this book of Titus, much like he did in 2 Timothy, Paul is addressing the issue of “meaningless talk and deception” among rebellious people. Such tendencies must have been rampant then as they still are today. He calls believers to rebuke people who demonstrate this behavior so they will be “sound in the faith.” He also sets high standards for leaders within the church in verses 6-8: “An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” 

Whew! I’m glad I’m not expected to follow such stringent guidelines, aren’t you? Not so fast. Though these qualifications are given to a specific church, they can still be applicable guidelines for our church leaders – and attenders! – today. Since our leaders are also human and prone to stumble like the rest of us, we must continue to pray for them as they seek God and lead His people. And, as Christians aiming to honor God and constantly growing in our faith, we too should aspire to live up to similar expectations as we serve and connect with our local bodies of believers. I’ll close with this verse that seems to fit with this passage and is a good reminder about how we should think (and therefore how we should behave, since our thoughts influence our actions): 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.

Philippians 4:8-9

-Rachel Cain

Reflection Questions: 

With which of the qualifications in verses 6-8 do you most struggle? Pray for God to help lead you to overcome it. 

Most of us who are reading this claim to know God, but have denied him by our actions at times. What are some ways you have done this? Ask God for His strength to live fully for him.

Want to Get Rich?

1 Timothy 6

(Today’s devotion will be on 1 Timothy 6. Tomorrow we will jump back to 1 Timothy 5. Thanks for being flexible with us!)

Friday, September 9, 2022

 “Hey Jesse are you going to buy a lottery ticket?” A group of my coworkers had been talking about the jackpot because the lottery had reached over a billion dollars. The conversation that followed that question was followed with speculation of what the group of us would buy or what we would do with the money. Many, if not all, said they would have quit their jobs and bought extravagant things. Some even said they would invest it and be smart with the money. And some said they would give most of it away and keep enough to live on for the rest of their life. My answer to the question was “No, I mean of course it would be nice to have that money but I know I would probably spend all of it and end up in debt, broke, or dead.”

I think the lottery is a good example of what the world reaches for but doesn’t understand. Money may be able to buy you a boat, a cool new car, house, vacation, or whatever. However those things are only temporary and don’t satisfy the one thing we all strive to achieve in our lives. CONTENTMENT. No, not fugitives selling wintergreen lifesavers out of a tent, but contentment. The understanding of knowing what you have right now is enough. Just read what Paul in 1 Timothy 5:6-9 says “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.”

Money is not bad, however if you aren’t content without it, what makes you think you will be content with it? I can tell you from experience you won’t be,  unless you are trying to attain only to godliness first. Then everything else ordinarily falls into place and we become content. Something I struggle with, and I am sure you do as well, everyday. The understanding that God takes care of His people when they are seeking him is scattered all throughout the Bible. My favorite example and probably most prominent is Matthew 6:33 “Seek ye first the kingdom of god and his righteousness, and all these things shall be handed unto you.” (I recommend reading the whole chapter to get the gist of what “all these things” Jesus is speaking about. No the lottery isn’t one of those things.) Seeking God is where we find our ultimate contentment. With him we don’t have to worry about plunging ourselves into ruin and destruction as many of the past lottery winners have done. Instead, we live our lives knowing we are content.

-Jesse Allen

Application Questions

  1. What do you think Paul meant when he said, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)?
  2. How does your contentment rank? Without ‘getting’ any more – how can you boost your contentment level with what you have right now?
  3. Explain how the Love of Money can be the root of all kinds of evil. Have you seen an example of this?

Grace Poured Out

1 Timothy 1

Monday, September 5

It is easy to make mistakes when you don’t know you are making them. My job is GIS mapping, and I create maps of construction permits, plans, and various other things. These maps usually take between 9-18 hours of work to complete and they are needed in order for us to move to another project. The other day I finished a project and went to start another one and accidentally switched the new project for the old one and rewrote and saved over my completed project! Before I could realize my mistake I had completed the next project in the same file, therefore losing my project all together. This is a big mistake that can delay a project by 1-2 days. Fortunately for me I am new and it was my first time doing this, so with that I was given a lot of grace, and was just asked to do the project again. A lot of mistakes come from doing something new and not knowing what we are doing.

Paul in 1 Timothy 1:12-14 admits that he had acted in ignorance when persecuting the Christians. He had no idea that he was in the wrong and kept going, similar to a botched project. He admits his fault and God gives him grace by placing him in charge of all those who he was persecuting. Paul says in verse 13 “. . . yet I was shown mercy because I acted in unbelief”. When he was persecuting the Christians he had no idea of God’s plan, he refused to admit he was wrong, but God shows him mercy through recognizing he may not understand what is going on. Many of us make mistakes without knowing they are mistakes until it is too late. This is true especially with God, God gives us mercy everyday when we are making mistakes. Even the big ones and even if we repeat the mistake God still is good and forgives us.

-Jesse Allen

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What spiritual truths or expectations were you once ignorant of?
  2. How did God get through to you – and show you grace for your past mistakes?

Rejoice Always

1 Thessalonians 5

Thursday, September 1, 2022

I have always loved 1 Thessalonians 5:16.  It is a very short verse.  In fact, in Greek, it is the shortest verse with only 2 words that combined have a total of 14 characters, whereas John 11:35 is 3 words with a combined total of 16 characters.  However, this verse has a big message behind those two words.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 is all about joy.  It commands you to have joy and to express it all the time.  This is a command that is repeated throughout many other passages in the Bible, including Philippians 4:4 and Psalm 32:11.  But, how many of us are constantly showing joy?  We all have times in our lives when it is hard to show joy.  For some people it may be the morning when they just woke up.  For others it might be right after finding out bad news.  Whatever it may be, you have had it try to stop you from feeling joy.  But, we need to each make the choice to choose joy.  In choosing joy, you are choosing to focus not on the problems you are momentarily facing, but on the gifts that God has given you.  We need to not choose joy sometimes, but all the time.


However, having joy all the time only partially fulfills what you are being commanded to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:16.  You are supposed to be rejoicing!  Rejoicing is more than just having the feeling of joy.  It is expressing that feeling of joy.  When I think of showing joy, I think of the song “I’ve Got Joy,” which says,


“I’ve got joy down in my heart,
Deep, deep down in my heart!
J-O-Y down in my heart,
Deep deep down in my heart!
Jesus put it there
And nothing can destroy it!
I’ve got joy down in my heart,
Deep, deep down in my heart!”


I love singing this song and it always brings a smile to my face when everyone is doing the motions for it.  But what makes this song even better are the little changes my family has made to the song, which were inspired by our friend Jeff.  Instead of singing the lyrics, “joy down in my heart, deep, deep down in my heart,” we sing, “joy exploding out of his head, deep, deep out of his head.”  We should all have such evident joy that the only way to describe it to others is to say that it is exploding out of your head.  Not only should it be exploding out of our heads sometimes, but it should be exploding out of our heads all the time, as we obey the command to rejoice always.


However, that is not the end to the slight changes my family has made to this song.  Instead of singing the lyrics, “And nothing can destroy it,” we sing, “And nothing can contain it.”  Our joy should not only always be exploding out of our heads, but we shouldn’t let anything stop it from exploding.  Nothing should be allowed to contain our joy inside our heads!  Our joy should always be exploding out!

-Kaitlyn Hamilton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. On a scale of 1-10 how well do you choose joy? On the same scale, how well do you express that joy? One more time, on the same scale, how well do you express that joy all of the time?
  2. What do you sometimes allow to steal, destroy or contain your joy?
  3. We know life can be hard. We also know God is good. What blessings from God can you choose to focus on today? (Visit yesterday’s devotion if you need a blessing to start your list.)

To Wander or To Dwell

Philippians 4

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Our minds wander. We can’t help it. Our brain is processing hundreds or even thousands of stimuli a minute through our fantastic five senses. In the midst of a great conversation, a beautifully delivered sermon, the most engaging of lessons, or important advice, we can be interrupted by a stimulus that snowballs into full-blown distraction.  It begins with the slightest tinge of pain, a quick movement entering peripherals, a muted rapping, a whiff of a smoke, or an unexpected bitter flavor rolling across our tongue.  Our mind goes into troubleshooting mode.  It begins to play out all of the possible threads to a perceived threat and searches for the worst case scenario, so it can prepare the nervous system to react.  We place much trust in our senses but in turn, we create narratives that do not exist in order to protect our bodies from ill-perceived observation.

When we allow the responses to take over, we are experiencing, on some level, psychosis. The lines between what is fact and fiction begin to blur.  We begin to believe lies and have adulterated perceptions.  We begin to live in the dark and the undesirable.  We begin to worship terrible and disgraceful moments we have self-induced.  We think about such things, and replay them over and over again, fiction becoming “our” truth.   I know it because I have been there. On my darkest days, I contort and twist every action into a gospel of fear, pain, and anxiety.  Wandering minds, when not properly anchored to Christ, can be our undoing.  First, and foremost, if we are in this place, we must pray for God to guard our hearts and quiet our minds.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” 1 Philippians 4:7-9

Don’t take the bait.  Don’t respond to the stimulus.  Instead, plant your feet even deeper into the foundation of Jesus Christ and stay.  Dwell here, rent free.  What is true? You are first and foremost loved by God.  The Creator of the heavens and the earth is the Creator of your very life.  You declare God with your very existence because he has fearfully and wonderfully made YOU (Psalm 139:14).  What is pure? The blood of Christ has sanctified you.  While there may be sin in your life, you are washed white as snow through repentance.  There is no sin greater than the Lamb of God’s sacrifice.  (Romans 3:23-24)  What is noble? You have an inheritance that makes you a royal priesthood.  You are from an adopted bloodline that will reign alongside Christ. (Revelation 5:10)  What is lovely? How beautiful are your feet when you bring Good News, proclaiming that your God reigns and brings living peace in the midst of the tumult of life (Isaiah 52:7) What is admirable?  You have not laid your eyes on Jesus, and therefore, you are greatly blessed for your belief (John 20:29)  What is excellent and worthy of praise? On my worst days, God confronts me.  He loves and comforts me.  He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.  He doesn’t take His promises from me.  I can walk through the darkest valley.  Hit rock bottom.  And guess who’s there?  My God.  (Psalm 23) He doesn’t see me for my shortcomings. He loves the faithful, but equally loves the prodigal (Luke 15:22-24).  He is the shepherd to the ninety-nine and the one (Matt 18:12).  Do not be deceived by your senses or your wanderings.  Let your mind dwell only on these things.

-Aaron Winner

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. When has being led by your thoughts and feelings and senses led you into a troubled place? Do you often tend toward anxious thoughts? What has helped you in the past?
  2. How do you rate at bringing every situation before God in prayer and petition and with thanksgiving?
  3. What do you let your mind dwell on?
  4. What does the world say is the secret to peace? What does God say?
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