Finding the Edge of Infinity

Romans 6

May 22

Observable and theoretical astronomy both confirm the universe is indeed infinite.  It just keeps going, and going, and going in every possible direction. There is no place within our existence you could plant your telescope and see what lies beyond.  There is no edge.  There is no boundary.  Even for those who make no concessions for God who brought this all to be “in the beginning,” this can be both a mind-boggling and mind-numbing contemplation.  

Such are qualities of an infinite God. Specifically, Romans 6, speaks to God’s infinite grace.  It expands in all physical locations, to every generation, in every moment.  No matter where we find ourselves, no matter what we’ve seen, no matter what lies in our past, we will not find a place within our own existence that God’s grace cannot live in. It, too, is both mind-boggling and mind-numbing.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:1-2

To know God, is to know grace, but to know grace is to know sin.  Ironically, Paul states we should actually use less grace, even though we have the knowledge that the mercies of God are infinite.  This is because he has counted the cost of using an infinite amount of grace versus living a life in accordance with the laws of the Heavenly Father.  Unrepented sin, no matter how great or small, creates separation from God, an expanse as large as the universe.  The great irony is the further you settle into a life of sin, the less likely you are to seek God’s forgiveness. God’s grace is flowing abundantly like water from a tap, yet continual, habitual sin becomes a drain that siphons it away, never allowing the vessel to fill.  We gain nothing by exhausting the grace of God.  We have the same empty vessels with which we started.  Sin only further entangles and enslaves; and eventually, we become entrenched in wickedness instead of righteously restored through the blood of Jesus Christ.

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. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. – Romans 6:11-13

Paul encourages us to plug the drain. Stop the habitual sin, or “building a testimony”; or creating a who’s who of things you’ve done. Set yourself free from sin and death and submit to and live for the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ that leads to a life more abundant, and ultimately, a life that is as infinite as the heavens. You can be filled with Living Water, ready to carry his words of grace, comfort, love, healing, and love wherever and whenever in the universe he calls you to – the place you now stand or the ends of the Earth.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:22-23

-Aaron Winner

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Have you found sin to entangle and enslave? How else would you describe the power of sin?
  2. In Aaron’s illustration, how do we keep God’s grace from running down the drain?
  3. Do you appreciate God’s grace for you? How will you thank God?

Hopelessly Lost – Until…

Romans 3

May 19

In continuation from chapter 2, Romans chapter 3 describes the dire predicament we, the human race, find ourselves in. We are hopelessly lost, together guilty of every evil. And not one of us is truly good. Not one of us is righteous, not one of us deserves to be saved. 

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20

These verses are pretty devastating. Ever since Romans 1:18, Paul has been making it clear that this world is in a gruesome state of being. Jews and Gentiles alike, we all are held accountable for our actions, and we all fail miserably at living up to God’s standards.

 But then comes the good part. The system God put in place doesn’t require us to earn anything. We couldn’t possibly earn the gift of salvation on our own. That’s why it’s a gift. Salvation and a relationship with our Father is not something we get for being good – no one on earth is “good,” not by God’s definition. 

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Romans 3:23-25

This is such a powerful verse. Jesus is the only way to righteousness, eternal life, and ultimately, God. And we can only accept Christ (and God’s gift He gives to us through Christ) by faith. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And in Acts 4:12, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, declares, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” 1 Timothy 2:5 also lays it out pretty clearly, saying, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” The list goes on and on. God clarifies in abundance throughout His word that as messed up as we are, He wants us to be saved, and Jesus is the way He’s given us to receive salvation. It’s not by our own goodness or worthiness, for none of us are good or worthy. 

As one final note to think about today, this ↑ does not in any way contradict what the last couple of chapters have expressed. In order to accept this gift, we also have to live in accordance with God’s word. Obedience displays both our appreciation and acceptance. Constant disobedience and rejection of God, neglecting the whole repentance part, only stores up His wrath for the day of judgement (Romans 2:3-11). It is such a joy to be loved by a God who so tremendously desires to have a relationship with His children, and provides an amazingly in-depth book of guidelines to receive His promises and live both now and forever in fellowship with Him.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As discussed in verses 5-8, how does our unrighteousness show the righteousness of God?
  2. Is the idea that evil is justified if it brings about good a biblical idea? What would Paul’s response be? 
  3. If the gift of grace is free, then why must we accept it and live for a purpose greater than ourselves?

Living Water

Revelation 22

Revelation 22 1 NIV

First off … Revelation 22 is so deep and glorious that I feel inadequate to even write a devotion about it.

The scene portrayed here as Pastor Jake talked about is the main point. This is what the  whole book of Revelation is pointing us to and even the entire  Bible.

The vision described  is magnificent and has a great implication on our lives in the here and now. Verses 1-2 point us to this river of life that is going through the middle of the thrones of God and Christ. Just imagine the throne of God on earth with his son seated next to him. Through the middle of these glorious, holy and spectacular thrones is a river flowing from it. The scripture says this river is bright like a crystal. Have you ever held a crystal in your hand? It’s a beautiful stone that has a certain awe-inspiring quality to it. Now, imagine a river with the same breath-taking quality flowing from the throne of God and Christ! When I imagine this scene, I see everything I hope for wrapped up before me. Imagining being in the presence of a holy God where I in my sinful flesh have no business being near and seeing this stream descending from them overwhelms my heart with gratefulness for the grace of God.

The river in this vision is feeding the Tree of Life. The same Tree of Life that we see in the beginning with Adam and Eve. The tree needs to be connected to this river simply to be alive. This tree is pretty crazy though because I don’t know about you but I have never seen a tree produce 12 different kinds of fruit. I have never even seen a tree produce two different kinds of fruit. There must be something special about this river that it has the capacity to produce twelve different kinds of fruit on one tree.

When we look at the tree and its fruit, we must conclude that without this river, this tree and its fruit would not exist.

When we examine our world today if a tree or plant doesn’t receive the water it needs it will die. There is even a great example of a plant dying from lack of water in my living room right now. It is a proven fact that trees need water.

In the same way so does the human soul. But not physical water, living water. The greatest mistake we can ever make in our lives is when we disconnect from this river that is flowing from God and Jesus. Sometimes we think that the busyness of our lives doesn’t allow us to spend time with God on a daily basis. We think that today I don’t have time to spend with or connect to the river or well that never runs dry. The tendency is to think that I can skip a day or a week and still be fine. We think “After all I’m still doing fine” and its only when we are hurting that we run to God.

We were made for so much more than just existing, though. We, like this tree, were made magnificently to produce multiple different kinds of fruit. I feel like personally I short change myself and my whole existence when I don’t go to the river and well to fill my soul. When we go to God or the river we can allow ourselves to be changed from the inside out by God. Then we start to produce in hearts and in souls this natural fruit  that can come from nowhere else but God. This fruit externally manifests itself in the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5.22-24).

In verses 3-5 it talks about how God will be the light of the world and there will no longer be need of lamps or a sun. God isn’t dwelling on the earth yet; instead, he is allowing us to be the lights in this world. The only way this happens in our lives is through this connection to living water. We simply cannot be the lights in this world without the connection to these waters of life.

So, I encourage you and I frankly am encouraging myself to stay connected to these waters and don’t let the days go by without connecting to God. When we do, we will become the people God created us to be with lives that shine lights reflecting the God we serve.

Daniel Wall

Departure

2 Timothy 4 8

Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”  Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” – John 13:36-37

“It’s time to go!” says a voice calling from the driver’s seat indicating you might be left behind if you don’t leave now.  A friend or a family member receives your last look, a last hug, a last “see you later”, and maybe a tear or two.  It never gets any easier to say goodbye to people we love, yet such is the nature of life.  To move in the direction of God, often means to experience seasons of friends and family being at varying distances. I would imagine it was difficult for Jesus to say goodbye to his friends like Lazarus, his mother, Mary, and the eleven remaining apostles whom He spent a great deal of time with on this earth. But He was called to be somewhere else, to mediate between us and God (1 Tim 2:5) and to prepare us for a time when He can be with us all who love Him and keep His will.

In Revelation 19, we are given a picture of the marriage supper of the Lamb.  This is an event where the church will be reunited to celebrate with Christ – altogether, simultaneously, fulfilling the promise in Hebrews that no one would be left out but “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” – Hebrews 11:40 – Not only will we be reunited with our loved ones from our present, but also those who departed from us along the way, that fell asleep in Christ (1 Thes 4:14). We have been told this, so we don’t give up.   We fight the good fight .  We have the endurance to be different.

“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” 2 Timothy 4: 7,8

“If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”  John 15:11

But for most of us, and potentially all of us reading this blog, today is not our last day of breath, but a day we leave behind someone we love, either through proximity or heaven forbid, through physical death.  So how can we make sure we don’t forget about this promise to be reunited with the ones we love?

1. Seek His word in your life. First, this means reading your Bible.  It is not an instrument to be used solely on Sundays and Wednesdays and at church camp.  We are told that the word of God in the scripture is alive and actively ready to convict and confirm on thoughts, motives, and actions (Hebrews 4:2).  You are called to live out every day for Christ, so this means the Word of God must be present.  Reading and subscribing to this blog is a great start, but so is a Bible reading plan, or verse of the day bookmarks.  Also, spending time in prayer is a way to monitor your spiritual life and receive direction and confirmation from God.  As we seek to become more spiritually mature, we begin to thank God for a lot more, recognizing the blessings in our life that change the way we pray for the things we desire.  We can pray for God’s will, or in His will, as we wait because we recognize that we are already truly blessed.  This is a discipline, an exercise program.  If you have been a spiritual couch potato, don’t expect to run a Bible marathon or become a prayer warrior overnight.  Even introducing the smallest of these disciplines will begin to make a dramatic difference into your spiritual health.

2. Find a ministry. Do the ministry.  When we become idle, when we don’t have anything to do, that is when sin gets a jump on us (Proverbs 16:27-29).  We consume junk on screens, we find people to talk about, and we become open to other forms of ungodly entertainment.  The devil can be just as busy binge-watching Netflix (that should step on some toes) or scrolling through social media (and the ones I missed the first time) as it is in those who are actively seeking out ways to do evil in this world.  This quote by Edmund Burke addressed to another statesman rings true in the Christian life too, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  It is time to find and actively participate in a ministry.  To move from the milk to the meat.  To not simply believe but to act.  Don’t know where to start?  Look at the list provided by Jesus in Matthew 25 as he separates the sheep and the goats.  Ministry is truly a win-win. When you are busy fulfilling the Word of God, there is simply less time to get caught up in the stuff that doesn’t matter.

3. Be a part of the church. We are not called to do the above mentioned things solely in isolation.  When we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we become part of a greater entity: the church.  It is not simply a building, in fact, it has nothing to do with the structure you meet in at all.  The church is full of people who are trying to do the same as you: live better for Christ.  There is a small caveat.  Like you, they are not perfect yet.  However, everyone in the church has their own unique gifting, function, and strengths.  You don’t have to do this alone.  So what if they don’t have the style of music you want at the church.  So what if there isn’t a large group of people your age in the church.  So what if your friends and family live far away from your church.  Inside your community of believers you still have a function, can be held and hold people accountable, and find ways to strengthen and edify one another for the purpose in which you’re called. It is also important to understand the church is connected beyond the group you meet with on Sundays.  Your friends at camp, your bestie from college, a group of people at a break table or lunch table can talk about and worship God together.  Find a way to connect with other believers, and you will be further shored up against evil.

4. Let the grace of God do the rest. Often times when we come back from a fulfilling spiritual experience, we are immediately presented with our greatest challenges.  The trajectory up of spiritual life will not be a perfect, upward-moving diagonal line.  Inevitably, we will always find a spiritual low after a spiritual high. Don’t let the waves of doubt and defeat toss you and capsize the great life, truth, and hope you have.  You will mess up.  You will know the good you should do and not do it sometimes (Rom 7:15-20).  You may go several days without reading your Bible, become stagnant in your ministry,  or remove yourself from the church because you feel guilty you have committed an unforgivable sin.  Don’t give up. Let God take control and understand that He gives grace to all generously.  This is a free gift, so don’t waste your time “feeling bad” or “not worthy.”  Take heart. Get back up. Seek God. Renew your commitment to His commandments because each day is a new day.  Do everything not to depart from God, and He too, will do everything it takes to ensure you will never have to depart from Him or the ones you love that have fulfilled the same call, together united at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

-Aaron Winner

Called into His Marvelous Light

1 Peter

1 Peter 2 9

It’s great to know why the author writes a book. Many times, it’s because they want to tell a story. It’s their story (in the case of auto-biographies) or someone else’s (biographies). It may be completely made up (fiction) or only slightly altered (based on a true story). But many books are not about stories but about themes. Some books are about the food we eat, or about the way economics work, or about a brief history of everything. Sometimes the authors never tell you WHY they are writing a book, sometimes it is the first thing they tell you. Anytime I read “I am writing this because” I take a sigh, because it allows me to finally figure out why they were trying to say all they are trying to say.
Peter gives us that when he wrote what would become 1st Peter. He says “I have written you this brief letter… to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God.” He then gives the command “Take your stand in it!” Peter lets us know that he is hoping to encourage us and show us the true grace of God. I think he does this (being inspired is helpful too!) But I find the most encouraging passage in the book to be in 2:9-10. I think the passage should be written down in it’s entirety. Read it slowly and let it sink it.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for His possession,
so that you may proclaim the praises
of the One who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light.
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
You are a member of a chosen race. You and the Christians in your community are not cosmic accidents but instead have been chosen by God.
You are a royal priesthood. You will rule with Christ in the coming Kingdom but you will also serve as a priest to bring worship to God.
You are a holy nation. There is not just you lost alone in a sea of disbelief, but there is an entire nation called to follow after God, who are holy, set apart of glory and honor at the end of days.
You are a people for his possession. God treasures you. He wants you because he loves you.
God has called you from darkness into his light. No longer are you unsure of where you will go, what will happen to you, or what the future holds. Instead, God sheds light on all these things. The future may still have moments of unknowing, but God will be beside you all the way, illuminating your steps.
You have become a part of God’s people; you have received mercy.
Read it again. While this letter has great theological truths, while it raises important issues between husbands and wives and Christians and their government, Peter was trying to encourage us through the knowledge of who we are!
Take courage in that you are precious and special to God.
-Jake Ballard
(I apologize for several days without a devotion.  That was my fault, due to many overlapping circumstances.  But, now we are back in business and looking forward to continuing this daily devotion.  May you be blessed by your time in His Word.                  FUEL Bible Devotions /Marcia Railton)
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