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?

Our Hope in God’s Promises

Acts 26

May 14

Once again, Paul has a chance to give his testimony.  He is respectful.  He boldly states “it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today.” v.6

God promised the Israelites blessings. 

Genesis 12:3 -I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you

God promised the Israelites redemption. – A savior messiah who would be the once and forever sacrifice for sin.    

Deuteronomy 18:15 – The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.   

Romans 3:23-25 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.”  

Psalm 16:10  – Because of this, all men have the hope of eternal life. 

Titus 2:14- who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Paul stayed focused.  And so must we.

God promised the Israelites land. 

Deuteronomy 34:4 – the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 

Blessings, redemption, eternal inheritance in the kingdom on earth.  These promises are ours as well.

-Annette Osborn

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Reading Paul’s testimony in Acts 26, what are you most impressed by?
  2. What promises of God give you great hope?
  3. How can you share that hope with others?

One Goal

Acts 21

May 9

Unlike many Jewish leaders, James and the elders were not jealous of Paul’s success among the Gentiles.  But they were aware that not everyone was so accepting.  To head off problems, the elders asked him to pay the costs of men completing a vow.   Likely a Nazirite vow, this voluntary, temporary commitment to total dedication to God required extensive sacrifices, including a female lamb, a male lamb, unleavened bread, loaves of bread, crackers, oil, and a grain and drink offering.   

Paul wasn’t buying acceptance. In 1 Corinthians 9 he writes “19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”  He had one and only one goal….to win others to Christ.  Let’s be as focused as Paul.

-Annette Osborn

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. If people who knew you were to guess what your main goal was, what might they guess? Would they be right?
  2. How have you become “like others” (while remaining true to Christ’s law) in order to be able to share the good news with them?
  3. What group(s) of people would you want to be accepted by, so that they are willing to hear from you about Jesus Christ? How can you go about this mission?
  4. What was Paul willing to do, and willing to give up, in order to reach more people with the saving gospel? What are you willing to do, and willing to give up, for the same purpose?

At the Feast

John 7

April 4

A bunch of years ago, when my boys were younger, we did a study on Biblical holidays. We were homeschooling at the time, so we incorporated it in that way, but this study would make phenomenal family devotions as well (or even a Sunday school class!).

The book we found was dense with activities for all ages as well as full of interesting information. For example, I hadn’t known that among Biblical holidays, the spring celebrations pointed towards Jesus’ first coming, while the fall holidays point to his second coming.

Spring Holidays

Passover and the Feast of the Unleavened Bread Passover remember the deliverance from Egyptian bondage. An unblemished, firstborn male lamb was sacrificed. Leaven symbolizes sin. Unleavened bread speaks of sanctification. Jesus was slain on Passover as our sacrificial lamb, releasing us from bondage. He is the ‘bread of life’.

The Day of Firstfruits reminded the Jews that God gave them the land, and the harvest belonged to him.  1 Corinthians 15 tells us that Jesus is the Firstfruits, his resurrection was the first of the harvest. And the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) is a remembrance of the giving of the law took place. It’s celebrated fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits.  Fifty days after Jesus arose, the Holy Spirit came upon believers, writing the law on their hearts.

Fall Holidays

The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement are two separate holidays, but celebrated just 10 days apart. These are the holiest days of the Jewish year. Unlike other holy days, they don’t celebrate a season or historical event, but are a time to look inward towards spiritual growth. We are told that Christ’s return will be with the blowing of trumpets, and on that day, atonement will be made for sin.

The Feast of Tabernacles (or the Festival of Booths) was historically kept as a remembrance of the Israelites dwelling in tents in the wilderness as they wandered on their way to the promised land. When Christ returns and establishes his Father’s kingdom on earth, God’s covenant with Abraham to give his descendants the promised land will be fulfilled.

John 7

And this is where we find Jesus in John chapter 7: at the Festival of Booths. The Hebrew name for this holiday was Sukkot (which means tabernacles). Tabernacles were portable, like a tent.

Jewish families build a temporary little hut or shelter in their yard called a sukkah. The roof covering must be made of something that used to grow in the earth. It can be made of palm leaves or bamboo sticks. The walls can be made of any material that can hold up to the wind. (Leviticus 23:33-43) It is traditional to eat meals in the sukkah. Some people even sleep in them during the week-long celebration.

When John wrote this, he would have known that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Jews hoped for. It’s interesting that he highlights in this text the conflict between those that accept Jesus and those that do not. It’s interesting because, really, that’s what our ultimate choice is, isn’t it? The choice that will determine our eternal future.

The fact that this happens at the Festival of Booths, which looks ahead to the fulfillment of God’s promise to establish his permanent kingdom on the earth (ie: no more wandering) I don’t think was a coincidence. Those who accept Jesus will get that permanent place in the kingdom and those that do not…well, they won’t.

Living Water

Jesus’ words were never said without purpose, and he often used the environment around him to teach. One part of this celebration at the time of Jesus was a water ceremony. Priests would gather water from the Pool of Siloam into a golden pitcher and walk to the Temple while the crowds recited Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” They would then pour the water out on the altar.

Knowing that makes Jesus’ words in John 7:37-38 even more meaningful:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”

When Jesus revealed himself as Messiah to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, he told her about the living water too:

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

Her response was perfect:

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water”

-Susan Landry

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. Why do you think there was so much skepticism about Jesus and his teachings?
  2. Do you think you would have been a skeptic, or instantly on board with Jesus and his teachings? Why do you think that, and are you satisfied with that response? If not, what needs to change?
  3. Why do you think God instituted the Biblical holidays/feasts/festivals? While we are not required to celebrate them, what might the value be in understanding them better?

Spend your Light on the Eternal

John 6

April 3

Jesus had just fed 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Pretty amazing. It’s no wonder the crowds tracked him down the next day:

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.

John 6:25-27

Isn’t that the truth of human nature? We are led by our cravings, our desires. Paul frequently refers to this as ‘the flesh’. Another way to say that is just doing what comes naturally to us. Jesus is telling the crowds (and us) in this short exchange that the things that come naturally to us will perish. But, he adds, there is something that lasts.

He’s calling for a perspective shift.

Another time he did that was in the home of his friends, Mary and Martha (Luke 10). We’re told that Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she is a little put out that her sister is simply sitting with Jesus, listening to him.

Jesus doesn’t scold Martha, he sees her. He acknowledges all she’s doing, even validating what she was feeling  distracted. He says, “You are worried and distracted by many things, there is need of only one thing.” He’s telling her to focus on what’s most important now…the rest is a distraction from what really matters.

Martha wanted to serve the Lord with her actions, but it seems that she was striving to do that at the expense of simply spending time in his presence. And at that moment, just being with him was the most important thing, it’s what would last.

…Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life…

This isn’t an instruction to not do jobs that provide our groceries. Paul, after all, tells the Thessalonians that “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” What it is, is an instruction to hone our focus, to pay attention, to look up.

Sometimes we need to take our eyes off of the busy-ness, off of the tasks (even really important and valuable tasks) and take a moment to look for the eternal. Sometimes the eternal may be in the tasks, perhaps with an attitude shift. Other times the things that matter most might include being still for a time.

I love this poem by John Milton:

When I consider how my light is spent,

   Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,

   And that one Talent which is death to hide

   Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present

   My true account, lest he returning chide;

   “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”

   I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need

   Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best

   Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state

Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed

   And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:

   They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Milton began going blind in his early 40’s and this poem is a bit of a lament at his fate. Maybe you’ve felt like that before…wondering how you could possibly serve God in the circumstances you find yourself in.

The wisdom of the last few lines of the poem is just the perspective, I think, Jesus was pointing us to. God doesn’t need our gifts, he’s the King. We can serve him in our running around without rest; and we can also serve him in our stillness. The key is our perspective, it’s the considering of the moment rather than simply doing, simply being. Living intentionally.

Jesus wanted the crowd to pursue him because of who he was and how their lives, their eternity, could be changed because of him…not because their stomachs were empty. He was asking them to consider what they were spending their light on.

He wanted Martha to take a breath and just be with him, instead of being distracted by other things (even well-intentioned, important things). She needed to consider if she was, in that moment, spending her light on the eternal.

Today: Consider how your light is spent.

-Susan Landry

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. Do you find it easy or difficult to be intentional in the way you live? Why do you think that is?
  2. Are you in a season of serving God with a lot of busyness/tasks or a time of serving him in the standing and waiting? How can you be more purposeful in whichever season you find yourself?
  3. Consider taking out your calendar or planner and praying over it, asking God to show you ways you can be more intentional in the way you spend your time. (It’s been said that our true priorities will always be seen on the pages of our planners/calendars – how could this work similarly for screen time?).
  4. Try starting your day with a short prayer asking God to help you focus on what matters that day.

If You Knew, You Would Ask

John 4

April 1

Humanity has been battling social status and hierarchy since sin first ever entered the world. Humanity tends to do everything it can to climb to the top to be seen as great and to push others down. Unfortunately, this resulted in billions of people being put in a place of oppression, neglect, poverty, abuse, and all other kinds of horrors. This was also the case for the woman we read about in John 4. She was a woman, which unfortunately meant that she was a second class person in biblical times. On top of that, she was a Samaritan, which was a people who the Jews hated. As if that wasn’t enough, she wasn’t even allowed to associate with the other women due to her poor reputation. She was just about the lowest one could be in their culture.

Despite this, Jesus has a conversation with her at a well. Here is Jesus, who is culturally considered to be at the highest end of social status: male, Jew, teacher of God’s law, prophet, and even a miracle worker. Culturally, people would wonder why on earth would Jesus be around a Samaritan woman, let alone talk with her? As if that wasn’t strange enough, he even asks for a drink of water from her! He wanted to be around her, talk with her, and even ask a favor from her. This was unheard of in their day. She certainly felt this way when she asked, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”

Jesus’ response was profound, powerful, and broke every single cultural understanding she ever had, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Jesus was willing to “ruin his reputation” by talking with her, and he was even suggesting that he would give her the most precious gift of all. Jesus had no care and regard for social status, he knew it was a byproduct of a prideful, arrogant, and sinful world. He was much more interested in saving people to become God’s children.

I love the conditional phrase Jesus gives in his response, “If you knew.” If she truly understood she was talking to her Lord and Savior, she would have known it was completely okay and expected of her to humbly receive the undeserved gift of grace.

I think we would all do well to remember this story’s valuable lesson. Jesus’ love is not determined by your level of “goodness” you have achieved in the church. Jesus’ grace is not dependent on your social status in God’s kingdom. Jesus’ value for you will never change. Therefore, we ought to accept that we can’t climb up the social ladder to earn Jesus’ good graces. Instead, we need to humbly ask him for a drink of the “living water.”

-Isaac Cain

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you know the gift of God? If so, how would you describe it to others – and specifically to whom will you share it? If not, who can you ask about it?
  2. How does Jesus’ example challenge us to break social, ethnic and religious norms, prejudices and barriers? How can you follow his example?
  3. Re-read the passage looking specifically at the Samaritan woman: what she does (and doesn’t do), the questions she asks and her replies. What do you think she is feeling as the story progresses? How is she an example for us?
  4. What does Jesus reveal to her? How does this information change her? Has this information changed you? Should it?
  5. What did Jesus mean when he told the disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (vs. 34)? How important is doing the will of God to you?

Which Game Are You Playing?

John 3

March 31

If you ever wondered what an authentic and calm discussion between a Pharisee and Jesus would have looked liked, you’re in luck. That is exactly what we see here in John chapter 3. This Pharisee, named Nicodemus, thought that perhaps there truly was something special about Jesus from Nazareth and wanted to sit down to chat with him. Nicodemus was still concerned about his reputation and status with others, so he made sure he did it at night so that no one else saw him speaking to Jesus. 

Jesus had a particularly notable response when Nicodemus mentioned that he believed Jesus truly did come from God, “I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This is a confusing statement to Nicodemus. Jesus clarifies, “Unless one is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” Jesus is making a hard line in dirt that distinguishes between those who are in God’s family and those who are not. What is that line? The status of your rebirth. Are you living the life of the “flesh” or are you living the life of the “spirit”? If you’re living in the ways of sin, there is no way you can receive the kingdom of the spirit and vice versa.

I want you to imagine with me for a moment. Let’s say you’re at a track and field event full of varying sports. As you might know, there is a 1st place medal, 2nd place medal, and 3rd place medal for each event. Would you be surprised to see the first place medalist for the 400 meter dash ended up being a discus thrower? It doesn’t make sense that someone would win the medal for a game they have never played would it? Wouldn’t they receive the reward given for their specific event? 

The same goes for our eternal reward and destination. There are only two “games to play” in this event called life. We can either dedicate our lives to the ways of this world or we can dedicate our lives to the ways of God’s kingdom. Jesus gives us the warning here that we should not expect to receive the “1st place medal” of God’s kingdom if we are still playing the game “of the flesh.” Why would we ever expect for God to give his kingdom to those who reject it? He wouldn’t. We all sin and we all make mistakes, but the difference here is what game we are practicing. To be born of the spirit is to be playing a completely different game from those who are only born in the flesh.

So in these years that you have right here and right now, you have a choice to make—what game will I play and practice? Will I be born again in the spirit, pursue God, and in the end receive His kingdom? Or, will I stay in the flesh, pursue the enemy, and in the end receive eternal death? I encourage you to make the conscious and daily choice to die to yourself in order to be born of the spirit. 

-Isaac Cain

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Have you ever tried playing both the flesh and the spirit game at the same time? Explain what that might look like. What happens?
  2. What is one way you can challenge yourself to die to the flesh today? And how will you replace that with following the spirit and pursuing God?
  3. Also in this chapter, both Jesus and John say one must believe in whom to receive eternal life? What will happen to those who reject the Son? What might that look like?

Tough Love

John 2

March 29

When you happen to see paintings of Jesus, how is he typically depicted? Often, he is shown as a tender, gentle, and soft man holding children on his lap or reaching his hand out to grab Peter’s hand while drowning. This can give us the idea that Jesus didn’t have an intense and confrontational bone in his body. Boy is that far from the truth! There is a whole other side of Jesus we often don’t depict.

The chapter starts with his first miracle: turning water into wine at a wedding. After this, the scene shifts to an exciting interaction Jesus had while in Jerusalem during the Passover feast. When he entered the temple, which was THE place of worship for the Jews, he noticed something that bothered him greatly. There were people selling oxen, sheep, and pigeons in the temple courtyard. There was even a section of people who were money changers. An entire market and part of the Jewish economy was founded on deceiving and cheating people into getting the “better sacrifices” for temple service. If you wanted to be in the presence of God and worship, you had to have money. What is even worse was they were not even trying to hide, they were out in the open in the middle of the temple! You know how we tend to feel when we see those well known televangelists who spiritually abuse or deceive people to get material wealth? That is how we should feel about what these people were doing in verse 14. 

What did Jesus do when he saw this happening? Before I answer that, I want to take a minute to depict what our culture might imagine Jesus’ answer to be based on all the soft and gentle paintings. “Oh guys, you know what, that is probably not the best course of action to take now is it? I’m not going to make you do anything, but I really hope you reflect on your actions and stop cheating people for personal wealth by means of spiritual abuse. What do you say, will you stop now? *proceeds to give them all hugs*” Sounds silly and ridiculous doesn’t it? Fortunately, we see Jesus respond quite differently:

“Making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

Way to go, Jesus! That’s my Lord and Savior! Jesus was not the kind of man who put up with injustices and evil. Like his father, he made sure righteousness was upheld and wickedness was put to an end—one way or another. There is something important to learn from Jesus’ actions here. This wasn’t shown for us to think “Oh wow, that was a bad moment when Jesus lost his cool.” No! There is important wisdom and teaching of who God is, how His kingdom is, and how we are to act like His kingdom’s citizens. The lesson from today talks about the side of love that is not focused on enough. This is the kind of love that is not afraid to turn over tables and drive out wickedness on behalf of the cheated. This is the kind of love that is willing to say the difficult truth to someone who so desperately needs to hear it. Jesus truly is the soft and gentle image that we so often see, but he is also the table turning, whip cracking, and bold image too. 

If we are going to call Jesus our Lord, we have to note not only what he says, but what he does. In this case, we need to note that sometimes the best way to show love is to be willing to confront what is wrong. Sometimes the best way to show love is to tell someone the cold hard truth, even if it hurts in the moment. Sometimes the best way to show love is to protect those who are not able to protect themselves. This has to be done in love of course, otherwise we may become aggressive, domineering, or even violent! This type of love is a powerful fire, that if controlled by a master, is powerful; if it falls into the hands of a careless person, it can bring about disaster.

I encourage you all today to dwell and meditate on this unique account of Jesus. Think about how this was truly loving and a pursuit of justice. Then in your own life, pray for God’s wisdom to know how to appropriately handle the fire that is this bold and confrontational love. 

-Isaac Cain

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. After this event, John records, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.'” (John 2:17 – from Psalm 69:9) Well-done disciples for knowing your Old Testament well, and finding Jesus there! What made the temple (God’s house) such a special place for Jesus? How do you rate your zeal for the Lord’s house? How do you show it? Room for any improvements?
  2. Where else in Scripture do we find Jesus prepared to do battle? How might seeing this Jesus in the future surprise people?
  3. If Jesus visited your church or community what might he see and hear that he would have to zealously act upon? What might he do?
  4. As suggested earlier, pray for God’s wisdom to know how to appropriately handle the fire that is this bold and confrontational love. What wrong/injustice does God want you to see and be zealous about? How would he have you confront it in love – but not in weakness?

Come and See

John 1

March 29

There is so much theology, hope, and amazing insight we could unpack from John chapter one, but I want to focus on a detail that is perhaps overlooked. At verses 35 and 36, we see that John the Baptist saw Jesus and shouted, I’m sure with plenty of excitement, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” There were two of John’s followers with him. One was Andrew, Peter’s brother. Out of joy and wonder, the disciples rushed toward Jesus and wanted to know where he was staying for the night. Jesus’ response was simple, inviting, even a little odd, “Come and you will see.” Keep that interesting response in mind. 

Later in verse 45, we see a conversation between two of Jesus’ disciples, Philip and Nathanael. With excitement, Philip is breaking the news that the promised one that Moses spoke about long ago is actually here, his name is Jesus, and he comes from Nazareth! By the way, Nazareth was a very small village that was looked at as a run down place where nothing exciting or important happened. That is why Nathaneal responds the way he does: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” How does Philip respond? “Come and see.” 

Now, I want to come back to both Jesus’ response earlier and Philip’s response to Nathanael. Jesus was just starting his ministry on earth. He knew that he needed to grow a following of people so that they could observe the things he taught and the way he lived. Jesus just met two strangers; he could have told them to stay somewhere else and come back and see him tomorrow. Instead, we see Jesus taking every opportunity he could to invite people into his life for one main purpose: so they could see what it truly means to be made in the image of God. We also get to see how Philip used this approach with Nathanael. Philip is evangelizing to his friend and he is met with skepticism. Rather than trying to make sure he had the right wording or seeing if he could win the debate about whether or not anything good can come from Nazareth, he decided to simply let the power of God, through Christ, speak for itself. “Come and see”.

That simple response speaks to the heart of how we should tell the gospel to those around us. We often are nervous when it comes to evangelism, because we too often try to sell the gospel to people rather than having the gospel sell itself! We need to remember that it is God who gives the increase, not ourselves. Rather than trying to come up with the perfect strategy, we simply need to bring people to the spot where they can “come and see” the incredible things God is already doing. I promise you whatever God has planned will be better than what you have planned. Do what Jesus did and invite people into your life in hopes they can see the Kingdom. Do what Philip did by pointing people towards the One who actually is worth seeing. The Kingdom seed’s growth is not dependent on you, but on God. All we need to do is ask others to “come and see.”

-Isaac Cain

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How can Philip motivate you? Did he wait to introduce Nathaneal to Jesus until he knew all the details and could quote every sermon of Jesus’ backwards and forwards? How can you do the same as Philip with enthusiasm and urgency?
  2. Who do you know who needs to meet Jesus?
  3. Specifically how can you invite people into your life with the purpose of introducing them to Jesus and His Heavenly Father?
  4. Don’t wait to make the introductions until you know everything there is to know about Jesus – but how can knowing more about who He is excite you into action and evangelism? What can we find out about Jesus in this chapter – what names and titles is he given? What is the meaning of each? Does this sound like a person the world (and our family, friends and neighbors) should get to know?

Who Gets the House?

2 Samuel 7

March 9

I love David’s heart to serve and honor the Lord. He decides it is time to build an impressive temple for God to replace the tabernacle tent which had been the symbol of God’s dwelling since the time of Moses. He tells Nathan the prophet his thoughts and Nathan gives him the go-ahead. It truly sounds like a generous and highly appropriate way to honor God. Both the king and the prophet agree – it’s time for God to get a house!

However, that night God revealed to Nathan that, no, that was not what God needed, wanted or had planned. Rather than David providing a house for the Lord God, God said “the Lord himself will establish a house for you (David):  When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands.  But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.  Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:11b-16 NIV).

That’s an unexpected twist.

God doesn’t want David to build him a house. David could be disappointed or even a bit offended at God rejecting his offer and plan. Except that, God revealed a bigger and better plan. David’s son would build the house for God, but even greater, the house, kingdom and throne of David, passed down to his son would endure – forever! This was big news! A king certainly has dreams of creating an impressive dynasty – but none of them expect it to last forever. Not too many years ago David had been a shepherd boy, the youngest and least of his family line. And now he was being told he and his descendent would have a kingdom and throne that would endure forever. That’s a plan of God you don’t argue with. David gets the house.

And the really great news is that this forever house and kingdom and throne wouldn’t just benefit David and his son – but all generations could be blessed by this, including you and I and our children. For this promise for David (often referred to as the Davidic Covenant), was pointing to the coming of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God and the Son of David. His coming was prophesied as fulfilling this covenant (Isaiah 9:6,7). The virgin Mary was told, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31-33). Born in the line of David (Matthew 1:6), Jesus was worshiped as a king by the wise men (Matthew 2:2, 11). He taught of a kingdom, and he was crucified as the King of the Jews. But that is not where the story ends. Forever is still coming.

Before his death, Jesus said – “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.” (Matthew 25:31). The disciples were looking forward to this time and after his resurrection, just before his ascension, they asked him if that was when the kingdom would be restored. Jesus replied that the time was not for them to know – but that in the meantime they were to be his witnesses. Then Jesus ascended to heaven in the clouds, and the angels promised he would return in the same way. (Acts 1:6-11)

We are still waiting for the return of the Son of David/Son of Man who is also the Son of God. At Jesus’ spectacular return to earth, all the final steps will be set into motion – resurrection of the dead, judgment, the defeat of the Evil One, and the beginning of the perfect kingdom prepared for the resurrected, faithful children of God which will last forever. Can you imagine the smile on resurrected David’s face and the joy in his heart when that day comes? God’s plan and timing is always better than man’s. No – David didn’t build a house for God as he wanted. But, God is building a house through David’s family line, through Jesus Christ. Will you have a place in this house, in this kingdom that will last forever?

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Can you think of any time (past or present) where you were wanting to honor God, but perhaps it wasn’t the way He wanted you to be serving Him at that time? How do we avoid serving God the way WE want to serve Him, rather than the way HE wants us to serve Him?
  2. Do a little Bible research on the kingdom that will last forever. Where will it be? When? Who is reigning? Who is included? Who is not included? (If you want some specific verses to start your research, leave a note in the comments.)
  3. As we wait for Jesus’ return, how will you be a witness? Who else needs to hear about the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant?
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