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?

A Gift We Don’t Deserve

Ephesians 2

Monday, August 15, 2022

Every time I study the word “grace”, I am led to two other words that are not used in everyday language: unmerited favor. My brain is naggled when I look up the definition of one word, only to be more confused by ‘fancier’ vocabulary. I want it simple. 

Another reason, I believe, that the concepts of grace and unmerited favor is sometimes a challenge to wrap my mind around is that it’s not frequently extended in practice – from others to us or even from us to others. There is so often a string attached, an expectation to meet or a limit set. But that’s not how the grace of God works.

God knows every bit of our lives: our thoughts, words, actions; the good, the bad, and the ugly – and decides to freely offer His grace – a gift that we really don’t deserve – to us so that we can be in right standing with Him.

Teachers often have “back to school” dreams where something inevitably goes very wrong. Last night I had a dream that my supervising principal kept finding mistakes in my work. And in my dream, she was getting frustrated and I developed a growing concern for my job. Thankfully, that’s not my reality. My principal is great and trusts me to do my job well. 

God isn’t a supervisor who is tracking all of your mistakes and missteps, evaluating your every move, just waiting to see if you’re good enough to keep, or if He needs to remove you from His team.

Yes, He sees our every move and He rejoices in our successes. He also continues to love us and support us as we stumble, fall, and fail. He’s the one who lifts us up, brushes the dust off our knees, wipes away our tears, and tells us that we can do hard things because we can draw our strength from Him. 

This is grace: God’s unmerited favor.

-Bethany Ligon

Application Questions

  1. How would you describe God’s grace to someone who has never heard of it before?
  2. What do you love best about God’s grace? How has He picked you up after you have stumbled.
  3. How well do you give grace to others?

Which is Easier?

Mark 2

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Go ahead and read the full chapter, but here’s the first 12 verses we will be discussing today.

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:1-12)

”Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?” (Mark 2:9)

That question has always kind of thrown me for a loop because, if I’m being totally honest, my answer would be different from the one Jesus seems to be implying is correct.

Forgiveness is invisible. Anyone could say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ and we’d never know for sure. But healing someone, telling a paralytic to ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’… well, we would see pretty quickly if that took or not.

I once read that “forgiveness becomes real to you as you believe it, not as you see it.” I think what that means in this context is that the lame man couldn’t see Jesus’ forgiveness. He had to choose whether to believe it was true or not, whether Jesus was trustworthy or not. That’s very different from believing that Jesus had healed him…after he was up walking around.

And now I can see why the former would be so much more difficult. It’s harder to trust what we can’t yet see.

Kind of reminds me of the ‘we walk by faith not by sight’ (2 Cor. 5:7) and faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see’ (Heb. 11:1) verses. God does not provide us with ‘grace-received’ certificates to prove our forgiveness, our salvation. We either believe it or we don’t. We either experience the joy, peace and burden-lifting that grace brings… or we don’t.

Jesus, help us to trust today that you know what’s best for us even when we can’t see it. We want to experience the lifting of burdens in our lives, and to feel the peace and joy that eludes us when we believe what we see instead of what you tell us is true. We want to drop the things that paralyze us and have the faith to get up and walk.

-Susan Landry

Application Questions

  1. Have you accepted Jesus’ forgiveness? How forgiven do you feel? Jesus has already done the hard part. What can you do to accept it, believe it and feel it more and more?
  2. What things, thoughts, attitudes paralyze your faith. Will you drop them? How? What will that look like? What will it look like to get up and walk in faith? Where might your faith lead you?
  3. From verses 13-17, are you more often like Levi or the teachers? What do you admire about Levi? What can you do this week that would be Levi-like?

Betrayal, Regret, Beating, Condemning, Tearing and the Grace of God.

Matthew 27

January 27

Quite a long title, but Matthew 27 is quite a long chapter. So much happens; more than we will have the space to touch on here. 

Betrayal and Regret

Yesterday, we read about the two betrayers of Jesus. I want to finish that story thread. In the first portion of Matthew 27, we see Judas regret betraying Jesus. But Peter also regretted what he did. He went out from the courtyard and wept bitterly. However, it is not in the betrayal that these men were different, but in trusting the grace of God. 

Judas, in an act of cowardice and pain, hung himself. For those of us who have been harmed by a friend or family member taking his or her own life, we all know that the act is coming from a place of pain, hurt, and torment. In some more clear moments, we also see the selfishness of the act, the self-centered-ness of it. I know this is a painful topic, but please hear this with all love and grace : Judas is at his worst in this act. All Judas focuses on is his own pain, his own hurt, his own shame, his own betrayal, and therefore takes his own life. He acts in a way to stop what he did and the consequences acting upon him. Not every suicide is like this, but Judas’s suicide clearly was. His regret cost him everything. 

Peter, on the other hand, does not focus on himself. Peter sees the pain of his master Jesus, the hurt Jesus is enduring, the shame Jesus is feeling, the fact that Jesus is being betrayed. Peter regrets his choice, but he also trusts in the grace of God. That grace is not free. It costs Peter everything, even his own life. But it gives so much more. Grace is Jesus sitting across the fire from Peter after breakfast and saying “Peter, do you love me?” Grace restored Peter to a place of leadership among his brothers. Grace is what led Peter all the days of his life. Grace is what will raise Peter in the last days, and will say to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Peter believed, in his worst moment, in the moment of his greatest weakness, that the grace of God could reach him even there. 

Beating and Condemning

It is the grace of God that pushed Jesus to be condemned. The crowds shout for his death, though they cannot even find a compelling case against him even among the liars. The crowds get a prisoner back free for appeasement and they want the insurrectionist Barabbas rather than Rabbi Jesus. Pilate washes his hands of the matter, but he is as guilty as those who claim the blood of Jesus on their heads. 

But we stand in no better place. The blood of Jesus covers our heads. We circle the King enrobed in scarlet, asking him to prophesy and speak who hit him. But he remains silent. But it is the grace of God that he remains silent. He knows that the blood on the heads of the Jews, the blood on the hands of the soldiers, the blood that covers each one of us as we stood condemning him, is the same blood that will wash away their sins. He could call twelve legions of angels to rescue him (Matt. 26:53) but instead he remains silent so that his death might save the world. It is the grace of God that held Jesus to the cross, not the nails, nor the Romans or Jews. Grace.

Tearing the Veil

At the death of Jesus one of the immediate effects was the tearing of the veil. This seems like a minor detail; of course in the midst of darkness, earthquakes, and storms there will be some torn tapestries. But this is not a small thing. This is the veil in the heart of the Temple in Jerusalem. In the temple was the holy place. Inside the holy place, behind the veil, was the holy of holies, where at one point the Ark of the Covenant sat. When the Jews would sacrifice, the priest would go into the Holy Place and sprinkle the blood of the bull before the veil. 

The death of Jesus brings about the end of sacrifices. There is no need to continue to sacrifice and have the blood sprinkled before the veil. The veil is torn. But even more glorious and gracious, the Holy of Holies is no longer kept away from people. The center point of the dwelling of God on the Earth was in the Holy of Holies. But because of Christ, God dwells in us. We, the collective church, have become the temple as we are built together in love. (1 Cor. 3:16, Eph. 2:21) It is by the grace of God that the Veil was torn and the dwelling place of God is now in the hearts of people, just as one day the dwelling of God will be upon the earth. 

In the midst of earthquakes, darkness and storm, some may think it was the terror, or madness, that drove the Roman soldier to say, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

But I don’t. I think it was the grace of God.

-Jake Ballard

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. To be very clear: if you are struggling with mental issues, especially thoughts of suicide, get help today. You are loved, you are cared for, and no one wants you to go that way. During the pandemic, anxiety, depression, and self harm levels have also risen. You are not alone! Your church family and pastor love you, as do your brothers and sisters here on SeekGrowLove. If you do not have a safe person to contact in your family or church, please reach out to the national suicide prevention hotline : 800-273-8255 or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org OR you can call or text the crisis text line : https://www.crisistextline.org
  2. There was strain of the devotion today that implied we were guilty of the crucifixion of Jesus. While we weren’t there, and it may not be our ancestors (because guilt isn’t passed from parent to child that way), it is because of our sins that Christ died. Have you ever considered your actions worthy of this kind of ignoble death? Do you recognize that the love of Christ FOR YOU kept him on the cross? Do you see the grace of God FOR YOU that allow his son to be a sacrifice? 
  3. While those questions are difficult, do you also see the grace of God in tearing the veil? Do believe that God himself dwells IN YOU and especially in US as we gather as believers? What amazing grace we see from God in being and becoming his temple. Have you said along with the Roman Centurion by the grace of God, that Jesus truly is the Son of God?

Untitled Thoughts About Galatians 4 – or – If Jesus hands you a burger

Galatians 4 (& Ecclesiastes 7-8)

“All this I observed, applying my mind to all that is done under the sun, while one person exercises authority over another to the other’s hurt.” (Ecc 8:9)

As you are all aware, the United States has a deep and dark history with slavery. Generations of family wealth were built on the blood, sweat, and tears of slaves. We abused our power and took advantage of others for our own gain. Thankfully, although through great struggle, we abandoned the practice.

But we still feel the ripples of our past today. Slavery ended, but it took many, many years before everyone could say they had the same fundamental rights. It takes a long time to recover from being held down as a people for so many years, especially as those in power do everything they can to stay in power. It is painful to see that senseless acts of racism and hate still happen, and that the systems and powers still propagate forms of racism. I do not claim to know what the solutions are, but there is still a lot of work to be done to correct our great wrongs.

The United States wasn’t the first nation to have a practice of slavery. For an example, let’s go back in time to the exodus. You probably remember the story, but if not, it’s… in Exodus. Moses and the Israelites were miraculously delivered from slavery in Egypt. This was an important memory for the Israelites and was commemorated by the Passover meal. In fact, we trace our tradition of communion back to one particular Passover meal that Jesus had with his disciples.

If we move forward to the time when Paul was writing to the Galatians, slavery was a thing then too. It was a normal part of the culture. Although, compared to what the United States did, it was milder. Think more along the lines of indentured servitude. It was not a good situation to be in, but it was not to the level of horror that we took it.

Unfortunately, the practice of slavery is still alive and well in our world. There are more slaves in the world than ever before. Usually we call it “human trafficking” now, but the concepts are not that different. It is about owning people. The mindset that you can own a person and profit from them is big business, and it’s terrifying to think about.

We come to Galatians 4 and see that Paul is drawing a strong connection between following the Jewish law and being under slavery. This seems to fly in the face of what we have seen elsewhere in scripture about the law. The law is supposed to be a good thing that was received from God. For the Israelites, it was an important pathway toward connecting with God. Jesus himself upheld it as something good (Matt 5:17 and surrounding verses). In Galatians 3, Paul seems to agree it was good, and even necessary for a time. But if we have a chance to corner Paul and ask if he thinks the law is good or bad, he’ll probably say “Yes!” There are two sides to this.

Usually you don’t think of things as absolutely good or bad. You compare them to other things or judge them in context. A burger is better than salad. It is savory with lots of protein and fat. The salad is better for providing micronutrients and some fiber, otherwise it is worthless. I would put a tomato slice and lettuce on the burger and call it a day. If you are hard pressed for finding food, then a salad is better than nothing. But if you had access to a burger, then you would not bother with a salad. I am the least picky eater I know. I can enjoy and see the value in a salad. They are a good thing. But there is just no comparison to a burger. A burger wins every single time.

The law is like the lettuce that the Jews had to live on until they had burgers. It was the best option for a long time, and it was a blessing from God. But now that we have grace, the promises of God, and the spirit through Jesus, the law looks pathetic in comparison. After a bite of that burger, you won’t go back. Taste and see!

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Gal 4:4-7)

Paul is saying it is better to be a child and heir than to be a slave. Because of what Jesus has done, your status has changed from a slave under the law to a child of God and an heir of his promises. If you’re a child and heir, with rights and a large inheritance, you wouldn’t think of going back to having nothing.

You can imagine that trying to follow the letter of the law would feel burdensome, like it owned you. And the law has a way of making you hyper-aware of your sin. And sin is all tangled up with death. Thankfully we are filled with and are influenced by the spirit of God to help guide us. If we keep in step with the spirit and make ourselves vessels of God’s love, we don’t have to worry about breaking God’s laws. It is like they take care of themselves.

Starting in Galatians 4:21, Paul gives us an allegory of the slave woman and the free woman. He’s presenting us with a crossroads of sorts, but the choice should be easy. Of course if Jesus hands you a burger, you take it, and don’t bother with the salad. Why be a child of the flesh when you can be a child of the promise? Why be a slave when you can be free?

With all of this influence from Ecclesiastes lately, I can’t help but think Paul would say being slaves to the law is like chasing after the wind.

-Jay Laurent

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at Bible Gateway here – Ecclesiastes 7-8 and Galatians 4

You Forgot Your Membership Dues

Ecclesiastes 3 & 4 and Galatians 2

What we know as Christianity started as a movement within Judaism. The first Christians were Jews who became part of this new movement that Jesus started. They recognized not only that Jesus was a great guy with revolutionary ideas, but that he was also the son of God and the messiah, and that his death and resurrection shifted the course of history.

The Jews had certain traditions and customs to stay right with God and set themselves apart. They followed the law of Moses as closely as they could and worshiped at the temple. The males were also set apart physically by one particular practice called circumcision. Within a different age and culture where public nudity wasn’t that rare, you might be able to tell if a guy was Jewish by catching a glance. It sounds completely strange to us now, but it was an important marker that set them apart. Over time, the idea of circumcision didn’t just mean cutting off some skin, but started to symbolize all the things the Jews did to set themselves apart as belonging to God.

Through Jesus, the grace and promises of God that belonged exclusively to the Jewish tribe for millenia were suddenly being extended to the entire world of uncircumcised gentiles. Imagine how scandalous this would have seemed to the Jews. The gentiles didn’t have their penises cut a certain way (literally uncircumcised), but also, they hadn’t done anything else that a Jew is supposed to do to live out being the image of YHWH (metaphorically uncircumcised). It doesn’t seem fair because it isn’t.

Naturally, this caused some conflicts and disagreements in the early church. Some thought that in order for them to be truly justified, the gentiles would need to be circumcised and follow the law. You might say they would need to become Jews. Others, like Paul, thought that the gentiles didn’t need to do this. Paul had already shared the gospel with the churches in Galatia and told those gentiles that they were just fine not becoming Jews. Then others came along to them saying that they were doing it wrong and that they had to become Jews to be in the club.

When Paul heard about this, he knew he had to write this letter to the Galatians. You can almost feel his frustration bleeding through the pages. Paul says in chapter 1 that if anyone (even an angel) comes around preaching a different gospel than what he originally shared, they should be “accursed.” Those are strong words.

Paul mentions in chapter 2 that he had a big argument with Cephas about this issue. Cephas was hanging out with the gentiles until he came under pressure from the people who insisted the gentiles needed to be circumcised. So he separated himself from the gentiles to avoid criticism. Paul was rightfully disgusted by this two-facedness.

According to Paul in Gal 2:16, we aren’t justified by following the law, but by faith in Jesus (or by the faith or faithfulness of Jesus, some interpreters suggest). Jesus loves us and gave himself for us. That is how we received that grace. If we are made right with God by following the law and being circumcised, then what did Jesus die for? We can’t earn grace by jumping through hoops. It has already been given to us. The gentiles had already received the grace through Christ and were walking in the spirit. Paul was not going to let someone come along and say what they had was not real and try to heave them back to square one.

There was a lot hanging in the balance. What if Paul and others had not intervened, and the gentiles had been convinced they should become Jewish for all intents and purposes? Would Christianity among the gentiles have died away, leaving just a sect of Judaism? The message may not have spread like it did. Maybe everyone who believed Jesus was the messiah would have quietly died out and we never would have even heard the good news today. All we’d read about is some first century Jewish insurrectionist being executed by the Roman government and his strange but brief cult following.

No wonder Paul was frustrated. He knew that having the gospel twisted in such a way could have been the demise of the church. Thank God that Paul channeled his anger and pain in this matter to write an important letter of correction and encouragement. And thank God that it has been preserved and passed down so that we are able to read it today.

-Jay Laurent

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages on BibleGateway here – Ecclesiastes 3-4 and Galatians 2

The Law of the Letter or of Life

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

Job 3-4, 2 Corinthians 3

The Olympics are going on in full steam with the final days approaching this week. Though I’ve never been one to follow gymnastics, swimming, track, or fencing, when the Olympics comes around, I’m glued to the screen watching people strain towards earthly glory in the form of a gold, silver, or bronze medal. Today, I was watching the morning news, and Caleb Dressel was doing an interview. When asked about how he took care of his mental health, he said that the first thing he did when he got back home from a big event was to not think about swimming for at least two weeks. When he got home, he wasn’t a medal winning athlete; he was just himself. He said if he didn’t do this, the pressure would be too much. He would start to go after an unattainable goal that would ultimately lead him down a dark path. 

Though we can pursue earthly achievements in our careers, finances, homes, sports, hobbies, etc., we are called to live with eternity in mind as Christians. A gold medal, large retirement account, promotion, or degree is not the pinnacle of our life. The way that we live now is working towards that final goal which will come when the trumpet sounds. As I talked about earlier this week, we can rest in assurance that this goal has already been achieved. The victory is won, and we wait for Jesus to come. 

I can say that… but in my heart of hearts, sometimes it’s hard to live like that is actually true. I like to be in control, and for the things that I’m actually good at (which is not sports), I like to be one of the best. I will go all out. And, so in my Christian walk, I can fluctuate from being distracted and worried about the cares of the world and being so legalistic that I stifle the relationship that I’m trying to work towards. When I make it about me, I can go down a wrong path – just like Caleb Dressel. I can’t do anything to add to the accomplishments of Christ, and so all of my actions where I am trying to be the ‘best’ Christian ultimately burn me out and leave me empty – and they can actually leave me further away from Christ (like the Pharisees). 

In 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Paul writes, “17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

We don’t have to live by the law of the letter anymore. We can live in the freedom that comes from living in the Holy Spirit. We are not changing ourselves on our own power; we are relying on the power of God. And, God can do so much more than any man – Olympic medal winning or not. When we rely on him, we have the victory! Whose power are you living in?

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 3-4 and 2 Corinthians 3 .

To Die in Peace and Hope

The Death of Abraham
Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 25 & 26 and Matthew 13

After serving God for 100 years, “Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years”.  This fulfilled a promise God had made to him in Genesis 15:15, when God had promised Abraham that he would die in peace at a good old age.

In addition to a great quantity of life, I think Abraham had also enjoyed a great quality of life for all those years.  At the end of his life, he could look back with satisfaction, and even then could still look forward with anticipation to God’s promises.  Promises including: Abraham and his descendants would inherit the promised land forever, his descendants would be as numerous as the sand and the stars, and that all nations on earth would be blessed through him.

I suspect only a small minority of people can face death like this.  I’m guessing most look back at their life with regret, and look ahead with fear.

You may be wondering how Abraham could die in peace, with peace.  I believe it all comes back to his relationship with God.  We’re told that Abraham was God’s friend (2 Chron 20:7, Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23).  In Hebrews 11, we’re told that Abraham died in faith, having not received what was promised, looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

You may be wondering how Abraham developed such a close relationship with God. I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t by following the law.  He died hundreds of years before God would give the law to Moses.  He didn’t become righteous by circumcision, because he was declared righteous years before he was circumcised.  Back in Genesis 15, God made a promise to Abraham, and in verse 6, “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”  Abraham became right with God, because Abraham believed God.  And in so doing, Abraham became a model of how all of us can become right with God.  Paul used this example in Romans 4 to argue that all are justified through faith alone.

Ephesians 2: 8-10 tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

In chapter 2, James used Abraham as an example to demonstrate the importance of proving faith by deeds.  We aren’t saved by works, but those works prove our faith.  And lack of works proves lack of faith.

Abraham left quite a legacy.  When God reiterated His promise to Isaac, as recorded in Genesis 26:3-6, we read, “…I will be with you and will bless you.  For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.  I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, BECAUSE (emphasis added) Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees, and my laws.”  Did you catch that? All of this was because Abraham was faithful to God.

The New Testament starts with, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.”  God had promised Abraham that all the world would be blessed through him, and God kept his promise.

I’d like to leave you with a few questions..

Have you thought about preparing now to face death when it comes?  Ecclesiastes 12 encourages us to start young.  Ecclesiastes 12:1 says, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.”  Verses 13-14 go on to say, “Now all has been heard;  here is the conclusion of the matter:  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

Are you living by faith?  Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  And are you demonstrating your faith by your actions?

Finally, what legacy are you leaving?  Exodus 20: 5-6 says, “…I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  

–Steve Mattison

Twice Written, Twice Shy(ing away from sin)**

Jude & 2 Peter

Today, I would encourage you to read the material (Jude, 2 Peter) BEFORE the devotion, if you don’t already do that. Go do that. This can wait. 
You may be saying to yourself, did I just read the same thing twice?  They are very similar.*


I’ve written this before, but in scripture, when something is repeated, IT IS IMPORTANT. In Ancient Cultures, reading wasn’t the norm. The people in the time of Jesus and before were oral cultures, and repeating oneself in written form was a way to emphasize important points. What’s happening in Jude and 2 Peter is God “repeating himself” for our benefit. 

Jude and 2 Peter are both focused on false teachers bringing in destructive teachings among the people of God. Jude tells us that these people “creep” in “secretly”. They are teaching two general ideas : they are denying Jesus as Messiah and Master and they are turning grace into immorality and sensuality. These are twin ideas. These people were declaring that Jesus was not the only one who could save us from our sins (Messiah) and had no place in telling us what was right and wrong (Master). The false teachers seemed to have held the view that sin was not “real”; there was not one thing that was right and another that was wrong, but all were saved by the grace of God, and all would be permitted to spend eternity with him. All action was permitted. 


We are still talking about the ancient world, though I know how similar it sounds to our own. Jude and Peter are warning us to not be seduced by these ideas. Instead, FIGHT for the faith. Don’t let those who would water down the gospel win. In love, speak truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You contend because those who are teaching these false things are bound for destruction. THEY should have known better, but YOU DO know better. Don’t let others go down this same path, but watch out for yourself. Peter says to live with all godliness and righteousness. Jude says to build yourself up in faith and keep yourselves in the love of God. 


My brothers and sisters, may you see in Jude and 2 Peter faithful authors speaking to the same truth : there will always be someone trying to convince you that Jesus is not the Messiah, and their way to live is the best (either by adding commandments or removing standards). May you turn away from these false teachers. May you see two testimonies about the dangers of these heresies and sins, and may you make sure to be doubly cautious before following an unknown teacher. 

-Jake Ballard
—————————————————————————————————*If you would like to see a pretty decent analysis of why they are similar, you can read this article here : http://exegeticaltools.com/2020/05/15/the-literary-relationship-between-2-peter-and-jude/ The author of this devotion does not necessarily endorse everything said on the site (of course) or even the implicit conclusion of the article. (I think Jude wrote first, and Peter copied and riffed on his writing.)
** To the Tune of Last Christmas by WHAM! (Merry Christmas Eve)

Today’s Bible passages can be read on BibleGateway here – 2 Peter & Jude

Tomorrow we will read 1st John.

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear”

Daily reading: 1 Timothy 1-6

In the movie Elf, Buddy the Elf is taught the Code of the Elves, which the elves all recite and know by heart. Number three on the list is about spreading Christmas cheer, and by the end of the movie, Buddy has spread that message to lots of people.

In the book of 1 Timothy, Paul explicitly tells us his purpose when he says, I am writing you these instructions so that…you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church.”

So, in essence, Paul’s giving us the Code of the Church. And what are some of the things in that code?

  1. Remember you’re a big fat sinner (ie: Grace)

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1:15)

Before we say a word to anyone else, our perspective on ourself needs to be right.

Unfortunately, there seem to be an awful lot of believers out there who don’t seem to see themselves as Paul did. They might rephrase this verse to say, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—praise the Lord I’m not like them” or if we’re really honest, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—thankfully I’m not as bad as the worst of them.”

And although I don’t really believe most Christians would actually rephrase Paul’s writing in those ways, our attitudes do it for us. Brennan Manning, one of my favorite authors said, “Jesus came not only for those who skip morning mediations, but also for real sinners–thieves, adulterers and terrorists, for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams.”

The lyrics to the song, “Come to the Table” are a lovely picture of recognizing that we are all sinners redeemed, and that our unworthiness does not exempt us from a seat at the table of mercy.

Must sin be called out? Of course. With a heaping side of grace.

Grace first. Grace always.

More on that later in the code.

2. Pray for your leaders

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  (2:1-2)

Pray for them (ARROW) THAT…

The code dictates that we’re praying for leaders that will enable us to live out a Biblical faith.

Here’s a resource that can help you do that if you’d like.

3. Take church leadership seriously.

If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? (3:5)

Chapter three is almost entirely devoted to this piece of the church code, laying out indicators of what believers should look for in church leaders. This much real estate in Paul’s letter should tell us that it’s something that he found important, and should therefore garner our attention as well.

4. Train yourself to be godly…because it doesn’t come naturally

..train yourself to be godly.  (4:7)

Training involves work, often times painful work.

As we alluded to in step one of the code, identifying sin is a part of responsibility of the believer. Both in our own life and for one another.

Paul writes in other places of ‘walking in the Spirit’ vs. ‘walking in the flesh’. Walking in the flesh could be described as doing what comes naturally to us, and that is frequently (almost always) not the same as what God would call us to.

This is why we need to train ourselves in it. Despite all the Chuck Norris jokes to the contrary…Chuck Norris wasn’t born all ‘Chuck Norris-y’. He has trained and worked hard physically to attain the physical strength and skills he has.

While we do want to train hard and push ourselves and one another to greatness, the underlying foundation must always be love. It must always be grace. (See #1 of the Code)

5. The church takes care of its own

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers,older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters (5:1-2)

Much of chapter 5 centers on the care of widows in the church, something we may deem a waste of Paul’s time. However, it shows a real care and elevation of women. A woman whose husband had died could become desolate very rapidly, and this was to ensure that this not happen to believers.

Although the specific issue of widowhood may not be as relevant to us today, the idea that God expects believers to provide for their family has not changed. Also unchanged is the notion of the church family stepping in for believers without blood-family to support them.

Good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever. (5:25)

Our church code of conduct may not be quite as catchy as the one Buddy the Elf learned in the North Pole, but ours has a far more lasting impact…and no tights required!

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Timothy

Tomorrow we will read Titus 1-3.

%d bloggers like this: