Now What?

Luke 23:26-56

Imagine this: one day, a man approaches and asks you to follow him. Perhaps he astonishes you with a miracle or shows you undeserved kindness. Bewildered and intrigued, you leave everything behind to follow him. For three years, you have no home nor income, but you witness incredible miracles—from calming storms to raising a dead man to life. You yourself were given authority to drive out demons, cure diseases, and proclaim the coming Kingdom of God. This man turned your brokenness into purpose; finally you belong. Then, in a chaotic turn of events, the man is called a criminal and is nailed to a cross. You deny him and watch him die. 

But all those who knew Jesus, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. (Luke 23:49) 

The day following Jesus’s death must’ve been a quiet one for his followers. His body was still buried, lifeless. They were grieving for the man they loved, but also probably for the way their lives would inevitably change. They were left wondering, Now what?

That same question still applies to us today: Jesus died, so now what? Every year, we dedicate a weekend to remembering Jesus’s death and subsequent resurrection. We grieve the way he suffered and rejoice in his triumph over sin and death. Jesus’s sacrifice should change the way we live our lives! Yet, it’s too easy to forget about the weight of his suffering and significance of his victory as we return to our normal lives. 

As you await tomorrow’s celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, find a quiet moment to  reflect upon this question: 

“Is what you’re living for worth Christ dying for?” -Leonard Ravenhill

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

-Mackenzie McClain

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Deuteronomy 33-34 and Luke 23:26-56

The Not Last Supper

Luke 22:1-38

God is an epic story-teller. One trick up every story-teller’s sleeve is repetition, only each new repetition brings a new twist. The story in today’s chapter is titled, The Last Supper, implying that other suppers preceded it. 

The first meal of this kind is found in Exodus; the Israelites were captive to Pharaoh in Egypt, who worked them ruthlessly.  God sent a series of plagues to convince Pharaoh to let His people go, which would culminate in the death of all firstborn sons—people and livestock alike. To save the Israelites from this horrific plague, God gave specific instructions to Moses and Aaron:

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (Exodus 12:12-13)

The Israelites with the blood of the lamb slathered on their door frames were safe, as the angel of death passed over their houses. God ordered the Israelites to commemorate the day God saved Israel, and they did so every year. 

Over one thousand years later, in the week leading up to Jesus’ death, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples in Jerusalem. This time, there was a new twist. Jesus gives new meaning to the emblems eaten that meal: 

And he (Jesus) took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20).

Jesus’s body was given for you, his blood poured out for you. His sacrifice marks a new covenant in which Jesus’ death atones for the sin of the world: 

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

Have you ever read a story in the Bible with a hint of jealousy, wishing you, too, could have witnessed that moment? I know I have. I had a seat at that table with Jesus, eating and drinking, hearing his wisdom, and honoring his upcoming sacrifice. The good news for us is that “The Last Supper” isn’t really Jesus’s last supper: 

And he (Jesus) said to them (the disciples), “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16)

It’s another feast with another twist. This time we’ll be eating and drinking in physical communion with Jesus, but in the Kingdom of God. I am excitedly awaiting that day, but in the meantime we have the honor of commemorating Jesus’ sacrifice regularly through Communion. The next time you take Communion, do it in remembrance—and in sweet anticipation—of all Jesus has done and is yet to do. 

-Mackenzie McClain

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 27-28 and Luke 22:1-38

A Way was Made

Leviticus 1-2

At the end of Exodus, after the Tabernacle has been finally built, God’s glory comes to rest in it, but Moses is unable to enter (Exodus 40:35). However, at the beginning of the next book, Numbers, Moses is speaking with God in the Tabernacle (Numbers 1:1). This middle book, Leviticus, is the explanation about what is necessary to come into God’s presence and enjoy His fellowship. Since God is so holy and separate from us, there are things that we are expected to do in order to come into His presence. Thankfully, out of His love, mercy, and desire to be with us, God provided a way for us to come before Him, both for the Israelites back then and for Christians today.

Immediately in Leviticus 1 and 2, we find descriptions of different animal sacrifices and what is necessary to perform certain rituals in God’s presence. Since we don’t have a Tabernacle or Temple to worship in, and we don’t perform animal sacrifices anymore, how is this really relevant for us?

In Leviticus 1:4, we are told that these animals are dying in the place of the person who is offering it to God. The truth of these sacrifices is simple: sin is serious and deserves death. Whenever you do something that is contrary to God’s laws, both minor and major, it is offensive to the One who gave you life in the first place, and we deserve death for it. The mantra of our age that “everyone is naturally good in their own way” is simply not true; we are all broken, sinful, and corrupt human beings in need of God’s saving grace. For the Israelites back then, the answer to the problem was an animal sacrifice to cover their offense against God; for us today, it is the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ that is sufficient.

The New Testament continues the teaching that sin is serious, offensive to God, and deserves death: “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a) We cannot forget the seriousness of our situation, because when we do, we lose the power of the gospel. The good news for us is that we don’t have to die for the things that we did; Jesus died in our place, like the animal sacrifices in Leviticus. “… but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b) The sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient to cover over every sin that we have ever committed or will commit (Hebrews 10:10). We need to thank God for providing a way out for our sinfulness, both in Leviticus and today through Jesus Christ. Through this sacrifice, we can enter the presence of God and enjoy fellowship with our heavenly Father (Hebrews 4:16).

-Talon Paul

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 1-2 and Psalm 4-6

“This time the mission is a man.”

Daily reading: Titus 1-3

In the movie Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks’ character spends the bulk of the film working to save the life of one man, Private James Francis Ryan, who is slated to be sent home after his three brothers have all been killed in combat. Near the close of the film, Hanks leans in to Matt Damon, who plays Private Ryan and whispers his last words, “Earn this.”

The final scene of the movie is both touching and convicting. Ryan, now an old man, stands at the grave of the man who gave his life to save him and he weeps. He looks to his wife, “Tell me I’ve lived a good life,” he says, “Tell me I’m a good man.”

(Here’s the scene, if you want to give it a watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZgoufN99n8)

For him, the reality of living a good life in response to the sacrifice that was made on his behalf was tangible because he had looked in the eyes of the man who died in his place. I think, perhaps, we miss something because we can’t do that, don’t you?

Paul wanted us to think about doing good with our lives. It seemed to be important to him.

His letter to Titus is not long. It’s only 46 verses. But almost 1/5 of them talk about doing what is good (17.5% for you math heads out there).

“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.”

Our lives as believers preach louder than any Bible verses we post to our Facebook pages or how pious we consider ourselves to be. Perhaps that’s why Paul concludes his letter to Titus with the reminder that,

“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”

We all know that we can’t earn salvation, but we can earn (or lose) other people’s trust.

— The way that we speak to, and about, our parents or our spouse could make someone want to know more about the God we serve…or less.

— The integrity we exhibit at work might make them want to pick up a Bible…or never set foot in a church.

— Our gentleness, kindness, and considerate behavior may be the thing that draws someone to experience the love of God for the first time…or they might come to believe that God is rude and harsh and uncaring.

To put it another way… why would your unbelieving boss want to consider Christianity if you are the laziest employee they have? Or… Do you think anyone cares how many Bible verses you know if you make everyone around you feel like garbage?

We can all fall into the self-focused trap far too easily. So here’s your reminder that (and you might need to sit down for this): It’s not about you.

I had kind of an ‘a-ha’ moment in Sunday morning worship not too long ago when we were singing the song, Awakening. Some of the lyrics say,

For the world You love
Your will be done
Let Your will be done in me

Praying for God’s will to be done in your life is a good thing no matter what. But it hit me over the head that Sunday morning that the purpose of Him wanting to do his will in my life wasn’t just for me. “For the world you love…”

While we can’t ever “Earn this” we can embrace the passionate and intentional living that Private Ryan embraced and regularly examine ourselves with questions like he asked…Am I living a good life?

Or more specifically… Is how I’m living drawing people towards God or repelling them from Him? Am I reflecting Him accurately?

Am I devoting myself to doing what is good?

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Titus 1-3

Tomorrow we will read 1st Peter 1-5.

With Christ

Galatians 1-3


Social conversations today sometimes revolve around issues and individuals with whom we can relate or identify. For example, I am a fan of the Arizona Cardinals and when there is an exciting play on the field, I tend to get loud. And when the team wins a game, I feel like there is some part of me that also wins, even though I watch the game from home while ironing clothes for the week ahead. If the team loses a game, I feel bad for the team knowing how hard they fought to bring home a victory for all those who choose to cheer them on! I might not ever get the chance to score a touchdown or take a ready position on the offensive line trying to protect a quarterback, but I still feel like I am part of the team. 

When I read the words written by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians, I claim his declaration in chapter 2 verse 20 as my own. “I have been crucified with Christ” is a phrase that I believe I might have written myself if I were the one penning this epistle. When Jesus offered his life on the cross, he wasn’t doing it just for himself. He wasn’t doing it for all of the believers who were alive at the time. He allowed nails to be driven into his wrists and feet and his blood to pour out for all of us. This is something that I identify with. Jesus was willing to die for me. It’s a gift that I am willing to accept so that I do not have to pay that debt myself. I claim that Jesus is my Savior.


But Jesus is not just my Savior, he is also my Lord. “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Because of what Jesus has done for me, the only response that I can have is to dedicate my life in service to him. The thoughts that I think, the words that I speak, the actions that I take, are all a reflection of what it means to “live by faith in the Son of God”. Make no mistake, I mess up often. But thankfully, because the grace of God is never ending, I can be made right again upon confession and repentance. 

And so I ask you, with whom do you identify? Is it your family? Is it your school or workplace? Is it with a professional sports team? Is it your church? While all of those people and organizations are most likely good people and places to associate yourself, remember that the ultimate person with whom you can identify is Jesus the Messiah. He died so that you wouldn’t have to. 


So what will your response to this sacrifice be? Will you align yourself with Christ? Will you choose to be on his team and play every play on the field with all of your heart? Will your thoughts, words, and actions reveal your true allegiance?

I challenge you that if you haven’t already accepted Jesus as your Savior, to do that today! And if you have already done that, remember that he is Lord of your life too. Now is the time to start living like it!  

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Galatians 1-3

Tomorrow we will read the rest of Galatians, chapters 4-6.

Achieving Spiritual Confidence Begins with Believing

Luke 10 & John 10:22-42

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. -John 10:27-28 NRSV

Rejection is something that all of us have, or will, face in this life. And, I can honestly say that it never feels great. You know that feeling where you feel like your stomach hits the floor? For a moment, it’s hard to catch a breath. In that moment you feel like you’ve lost it all. As humans, we want people to believe in us. We want to be trusted in, relied upon. And, we also hate the loneliness that comes from people choosing to walk away from us or not abide in our words. 

So, what must it have felt like for our Messiah to constantly face people who were unwilling to believe him? How did he have the strength to continue to persevere? We see in the ministry of the Son of Man, the Perfect Man, an ability to consistently rely upon the Word of his father. We see in Jesus complete confidence in God and his plan for Jesus’s ministry. And, over and over, we see Christ giving all glory to God. Jesus knows with complete clarity where his power is coming from and how important it is.

Can you imagine knowing you are the Son of God, proclaiming the gospel that you know without any doubt is true, and having your Jewish brothers and sisters threaten you with stoning? 

Fear, dismay, sadness. I can say if I had been in the shoes of Jesus at the end of John 10, I would be overwhelmed with emotion. The steadiness that we see in the Lord is astonishing, and takes an exuberant amount of courage. 

32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?”

Wow. Jesus has just laid out his cards. He is saying, “Look this is who I am. I have been sent by my father to do his good works. You have seen many of these works. And you are going to stone me now?” He is making it clear that by stoning Jesus, the Jews are going against the glory of God. WOAH. What an argument. Its clean, simple, and most importantly, transcendent. 

Although we see that Jesus escapes being stoned that day in John 10, we all know that he did have to endure the cross for us. The perfect man that did it all right covered our sin with his blood. And then, God raised him from the dead. Because of that, we have been grafted into an eternal kingdom where righteousness will reign! 

But in this life, we will continue to face rejection. We will always have people that don’t believe us. And no, we aren’t going to be perfect. But because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, we have the ability to also trust in and rely upon the Word of God. We have the opportunity to serve and be loved by our Creator. How beautiful is that? 

When we choose to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we learn what it takes to be spiritually confident. Trust in God. Trust in his Word. Proclaim his good works. That is where true confidence begins. 

-Leslie Jones

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Luke 10 and John 10:22-42

Tomorrow we will read Luke 12-13

In God’s Presence

Exodus 25-27

Exodus 25 8 NIV

                Places of worship come in all different shapes and sizes.  I have worshipped God in huge cathedrals with impressive pipe organs and altars overlaid with gold and stained glass windows.  I have also worshipped God in open-air tabernacles with sawdust floors.  I have worshipped God in a deer stand, at the beach, on a mountaintop and on a table undergoing radiation.  I have worshipped God in loud and energetic services with guitars, drums, and electronic keyboards and I have worshipped him in places with no sound at all except the flickering flame of a single candle.

                I believe God loves to be worshipped in lots of ways and in lots of places.  Even in the Biblical stories God was worshipped on simple stone altars, in burning bushes, on mountain tops and down in valleys.

                Israel was at a critical time in their formation and it was important for them to have a steady reminder of God’s presence.  God made his presence visible to them as they journeyed with both a pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night.  As they continued their journey across the wilderness, God chose to make his visible presence known to them in a portable house of worship.  This place would provide structure in the midst of their community wherever they stopped to make camp.  The tent of meeting or tabernacle would be an ongoing visible sign that God’s glory was in their midst.  And God taught them how to be a holy nation. He used various symbols and rituals of sacrifice and worship as a way to drill home to them his holiness and the consequences of sin.

                How God chose to do this is quite interesting.  He could have simply built a temple Himself in the heavens and dropped it down fully formed on earth.  However, God chose instead to invite His people to become active participants in creating this place of worship.

                First, God began with their willing desire to give.  “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze;  blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair;  ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather acacia wood;  olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breast piece” (Exodus 25:2-7).   This was not a mandatory tithe that was required; this was an offering to be willingly given and received.

                Where did the people get all of these valuable commodities?  If you will recall, as they were leaving Egypt they were given many valuable items by the Egyptian peoples – one might say this was payment to help compensate for years of slavery.  They had these items in their possession already.  Those who were willing could give them to help create the tent of meeting and the prescribed worship items inside of the temple, which included the Ark of the Covenant, the table, the lampstand as well as the material for the tabernacle itself, and the altar, courtyard and the oil to keep the lamps burning.  All of the materials were freely donated.  The people of God used their own skill to build the items from these donated materials – carpenters, weavers, stonemasons, goldsmiths and others each made their own contributions to the creation of this place of worship.  In this way, everyone in the community that wished to participate had buy in to the tabernacle.  It truly was a communal place of worship.

                Once the nation finished their journey through the wilderness and took possession of the Promised Land, they would eventually transition from a portable tent of meeting to a permanent temple under the leadership of King Solomon.  However, this tent of meeting served them well for 40 years in the wilderness and many more during the times of the judges, and king’s Saul and David.

                For Christians, we do not worship God in a tabernacle or physical temple and we do not bring sacrifices of sheep or goats or bulls for an offering to God.  For us, the Church itself is the temple of God.  I am not talking about the building where the Church gathers to worship, I am talking about the actual people who gather to worship, and we are the Church.  Jesus said whenever 2-3 gather in his name that he is there in their midst.  There is no one single right way or place to worship God.  It is wherever God’s people come together.  Christian Worship does not have to follow follow a strict pattern.  Worship is where we gather to read the word of God, pray, worship, encourage each other and exhort one another to good works, break bread and proclaim the resurrection of Jesus.  Blood sacrifices are not necessary because Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and he entered into the holy of holies once and for all and gave his own body as the final sacrifice for all of our sins.

                One thing remains unchanged from the time of Israel in the wilderness tent of meeting and the Church today.  God still welcomes us to bring our offerings from the heart as a way to say thank you.  We can still bring tangible offerings, and we can still offer our gifts and talents as ways of showing God our deep gratitude for all of his blessings to us.  It is not all that important how we worship or where we worship, but it is very important that we worship and we bring our offerings freely to worship God.

Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+25-27&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Exodus 28-29 on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Cure for Death

January 2 – Genesis 4-7

Genesis 6 11 niv

The tragedy of the Garden of Eden continues, as we see the effects of the humans’ disobedience played out in a very real way. Brothers begin to kill each other, women are taken as “prizes to be won”, destruction throughout God’s creation grows exponentially, and even angels begin to break their commitment to God, coming down to mate with human women! (Depending on your interpretation of Genesis 6) God’s solution is to “clean the slate” and destroy humanity with a flood, starting from scratch with Noah and his family. It is surprising that things got this bad, right? Well, maybe it’s not as surprising as we may think…

 

We are told in 2 Peter 2:4-10 that this event happened “as an example” of what will happen when God returns to earth again; sinful humanity will be destroyed again, leaving only “the righteous” left on earth to inherit God’s Kingdom. In 1 Peter 3:18-22, we are told that we have the opportunity to be saved from this destruction through the sacrifice of Jesus and responding in faith by being baptized. Thankfully, we are also told in 2 Peter 3:3-9 that God is being patient with us all about bringing this destruction, desiring that everybody in the world come to repentance and faith in Jesus, so that they can be saved.

 

While this may seem like a very dark devotion, it should motivate us and make us appreciate the sacrifice that Jesus made even more. It is only because of Jesus’ willingness to die on our behalf that we have the opportunity at salvation in God’s Kingdom (see Ephesians 2:8-10), not because of anything we have done. God has been gracious and provided us a way out of destruction through His son, all because He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us.

 

This story should also motivate us to share this message with our loved ones, giving them the opportunity to be saved as well. If you had the cure for cancer, would you keep that information to yourself, or would you share with everybody that you came into contact with? This message is even greater than that; it is the cure for death itself, and a promise for immortality. Why are we not sharing with people every chance we get?

 

As you go about your day today, I want you to remember three things from this story:

  1. Your actions have real consequences, so think before you act
  2. God loves you and has provided a way for you to spend eternity with Him
  3. You need to love someone enough today to share the gospel with them, giving them a chance at salvation

 

As you consider and act on these three things, I will be praying for you!

Talon Paul

 

Day 2 of 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Today’s passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+4-7&version=NIV)

 

Gifts

wise men

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

 
‘Tis the season to be giving gifts. Like the Wise Men from long ago, we present our loved ones with gifts each Christmas. The gifts that were brought before the young Messiah, held great significance. The gold was representative of Jesus’ kingship. The incense points to Jesus’ priesthood. And the myrrh was an indication of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. All three were costly. All three were given as an act of worship.
But what about the gifts that we bring to the Messiah? What is it that you and I have that can be presented to the Prince of Peace? I can think of another trio of gifts that would be pleasing:
Acts of service
Acts of devotion
Acts of faith
I may not have gold to give, but I can serve. The two greatest commandments are to love God and love people. How we choose to do that on a daily basis are acts of service. When we put ourselves in a position of lifting others up, we are making an offering that is pleasing in God’s sight.
I may not have incense to give, but I can be devoted. We are instructed to love God with ALL of our heart, and with ALL of our soul, and with ALL of our mind, and with ALL of our strength. When we stop holding back and finally submit to our Lord all that we are, the good, the bad, and the ugly, we position ourselves to be forgiven by the great High Priest.
I may not have myrrh, but I can be faithful. When circumstances don’t make sense; when we are in a season of loss; when we have given every last effort, when we don’t know what else to do, we can still be faithful and trust in the One who gave himself for each one of us.
Friends, whether today is a day that you can be surrounded by those you love or you’re in a place where your heart is hurting (maybe it’s a combination of the two), know this: whatever you have, your joys and your sorrows, out of your wealth and your poverty, in your health and in your illness, the gifts you bring will be treasured beyond measure.
Bethany Ligon

Remember Jesus

Luke 22

Luke 22 19 NIV
If you’re Facebook friends with my dad, Joe Myers, the chances are very high that you will see a post on Christmas morning about our family’s traditional Christmas brunch – steak and eggs, cheesy hash brown casserole, English muffins, and homemade Orange Julius. It’s a meal that my parents started enjoying the first Christmas that they were married, waaaaaay back in 1972. And almost every December 25th since, it’s what we have on our plates. There was one year that our family drove from Georgia up to North Carolina on Christmas morning to visit my uncle and cousins and so we ended up eating at Waffle House and it just wasn’t the same…

In Luke 22 we read about another meal that holds significance for all of us. The Passover meal was prepared every year as a way to remember the Great Egyptian Escape. In Exodus 12, God had very specific instructions for the food that the Israelites were to eat and how it was to be prepared and served. And it is this meal that Jesus and his disciples are eating in Luke 22.
Only now, Jesus is adding the New Testament significance to this meal. Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35). Accepting this bread means we will never go spiritually hungry. And the wine for this meal represents the blood of Jesus poured out on the cross for the atonement of our sins. Accepting this drink means that we can have a right relationship with God because our sins have been paid for in full.
Jesus instructs his followers to prepare this meal regularly in order to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf. And so that is what we do. We remember Jesus’ life. We remember Jesus’ death and resurrection. And we remember the promise that was made – that one day, we’ll sit at a table with Jesus and eat a meal. What a wonderful thing to look forward to.
Bethany Ligon